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01 Oct, 2014

Understanding the Meaning of Beauty

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If you’ve got a career, a family with two children and all the other responsibilities that modern adulthood brings, where do you get the time to cycle? Terésa Coetzee gives us a little insight into her life.

When my alarm nagged me to get up this morning, cycling was probably the last thing on my mind. Outside, it was still dark and the birds in the white stinkwood tree outside our bedroom window weren’t even awake.

My warm bed, and my husband’s even breath alongside me, made it even more difficult for me to get out of bed.

But then, an hour later I sat on my bike’s saddle while the rubber tyres made their comforting buzz on the tar, I felt the sultry morning air on my skin in the Cradle of Humankind, I felt like the luckiest person on earth.

At that moment, I forgot about all my life’s stresses, my work stress, my worries about my children, my domestic challenges and the normal scramble which all of us working mothers must do out of necessity.

Because there are very few things that can equal the freedom I feel when I ride my bike in nature, early in the morning. This is how I charge my batteries. This is where I plan my day, where I think up my most creative stories and where I set my starting blocks for the rest of my day. Over and above that, I know that I am getting good exercise as cycling keeps me fit and healthy, and that is a huge bonus.

Later at the office, my colleagues are still amazed when I get to work and tell them I have already ridden 40 kilometres. Often, I can even entertain them with stories about what I saw in the Cradle that morning, giraffe, lions, a white tiger and often even rhinos, vervet monkeys and impalas (our Cradle ride takes us past the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve, and even gives us chance to enjoy a bit of game viewing).

The fact that I am fit has given me the added bonus that I have experienced some of the most wonderful, unforgettable experiences of my life. Last year, I rode the Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek, a seven day mountain bike stage race, and somewhere between the majestic Swartberg and the Kammanassie mountain range in the Little Karoo I really understood the meaning of beauty.

During the three day FNB Wines2Whales, I’ve witnessed the Cape at its most picturesque self and this year, during the nine day Old Mutual Joberg2C, I experienced the best nine days of my mountain biking life. I have even ridden the Absa Cape Epic, and that is an experience I could write a whole book about.

I must stress, I am not a top athlete, even if my heart believes this. As a working mother of two little boys (Xander is 10 and Benno is eight), I often have to juggle to keep all the balls in the air. And because I am a full-time journalist, I don’t have the luxury of spending hours every day training and that means I have to plan my days very well in order to cover all my bases. However, after achieving all these things, I am very sure that anyone can do anything if they are prepared to put their mind and heart in it. And the more you do during your life, the more you get done.

When I crossed the finish line of the Absa Cape Epic at Lourensford Wine Estate, Somerset West on 30 March, I was filled by so many different emotions which ranged from thankfulness to surprise. When I rode the Epic, an inner strength of endurance that I didn’t know I had was revealed to me on a number of occasions. There were a number of times, as we pedalled our bicycles over those mountaintops, when I had to dig deep within myself to find the reason why I should carry on. That very power and endurance can be found in every one of us. If I can ride the Epic, then any woman out there can do the same, all you need to do is to want it and to be prepared to work for it.

Every time I finish training, I feel fantastic and thus I am happy that I did get out of bed when my alarm woke me in the morning. But if I must be honest, the desire to train has never seized me. It is not something that is spontaneous and I have to urge myself to train every morning. It is a deliberate decision and is something that doesn’t come naturally. However, the reward that I receive on both an emotional and physical level is unbelievably high.

There was a time in my life that I would’ve far preferred lying on the couch, reading a book than training. After the birth of my two sons, I was so wrapped up in the idea of motherhood that I literally forgot about myself and let myself go. In my mind, there were literally too few hours in the day to look after my family, to work on my career as a journalist and to exercise. On top of that, our whole family loves good food and whenever my children reached another milestone of their lives, I would put on another half kilogramme. I would often go on drastic diets in desperate attempts to lose weight, but after those diets I would be so hungry that I would attack the cooking pots again.

And the bigger I got, the more my need to remain active faded and the less active I was, the larger my hesitation to do anything became. This is a very evil cycle to be caught up in.

But I eventually realised that I owe it to my family to make a dramatic change in my life.

On 18 November 2008, I rode my first Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge and as I crossed the finish line on that day, the moment was as large and glorious as the day I finished my first Absa Cape Epic. Since then, my whole life has completely changed around and I am still happy and thankful that I made that decision. Not only because I now feel much better, but that I am much healthier.

Follow Terésa’s life as a mountain biker on http://epic2012mtb.wordpress.com/.

Teresa Coetzee

Teresa Coetzee

Journalist |

Teresa Coetzee is a journalist, mother and very VERY keen cyclist. She specialises in mountain bike stage races and finished the 2015 Absa Cape Epic with ease.