People Random Chronicles

Enock Chinyenze: A 600km cycling adventure from Nairobi to Mombasa that raised $12,600

My friendship with Enock goes years back when we were graduate students at Leicester University. Sorry! I won’t say which year that was. Haaaaaaa!!

Enock is from Zim (Zimbabwe). For the last 10 years, Kenya has been his home. “I needed a stable currency environment, at the time (when he located). It was hard to make plans or progress in a hyper-inflation economy that showed no signs of ending. Incidentally, I was actually UK bound and my London office relocated to Kenya, which is how I ended up here, otherwise I don’t think I’d have picked Kenya as an economy to mitigate my ailing Zimbabwean one,” he confesses when I asked him how he found himself in Kenya.

I must confess, I used to send Enock several hundred jokes about Mugabe and Zimbabwe. He did not block me or throw a tantrum. That is how cool Enock is. Very chilled out, with no hang ups!

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Enock (which I pronounce as E-KNOCK), is one of those students who used to read ahead, submit his assignments way before deadline and read extra texts. That is the Enock Chinyenze I know. Serious, energetic, focused and hardworking. Oooh… he has an accent, a South African one that reminds you of Jacob Zuma. Haaaaa!!! (Sorry Enock).

When I asked Enock to describe himself, he said: I’m a Communications Specialist and Filmmaker who loves an adventure.” I agree. He loves adventure. Actually, his recent adventure is why I am writing about him. Read on…

Now that Mugabe stepped down as president, would you consider going back home?

Not yet. Fixing grand socio-economic problems is never that easy, as evidenced all around the world. It would be naive to assume things will change overnight in Zimbabwe.

Capital to Coast (C2C) Charity Cycle is a fundraising initiative by Baisikeli Adventures

You are a fitness junkie. What does it take to have such a great body? 🙂

I don’t know that I’d describe myself as a fitness junkie. Something they don’t tell you when you start fitness training is that it’s a lifestyle. It’s not something you achieve and then stop. The better you get at it the more your body demands of you and, as a perk I guess, the more you enjoy the process.

A good diet, which is critical to fitness, is exactly the same. It’s not a goal (a mistake I first made), it’s a lifestyle. You can’t reach your target weight and then go back to eating pizza and being a couch potato. You’re either in it for life or just don’t start. Getting a body that you feel great in is therefore a result of your consistency.

You recently did a 600km cycling feat to raise money. Tell me about the project and why you did it?

Capital to Coast (C2C) Charity Cycle is a fundraising initiative by Baisikeli Adventures and this was the third installation of the annual event. Rakesh Okuku, founder of Baisikeli Adventures, took a ride to the coast a couple of years ago as a challenge and without an agenda.

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On arrival he landed at Child of Mercy Orphanage Centre and then made a resolve to use his cycling for a good cause. Tagging along other cyclist and adventure-seekers like me, the December 26 – 31, 2017 ride raised KSh 1.3 million — a lot more than the combined previous two years. The orphanage has been constructing a dormitory for the children and needed support to finish. A year ago, the orphanage would have been forced to close down if they didn’t create more space for the children and C2C has ensured they remain open and now working towards making them a largely self-sustaining institution.

Rakesh looks at athletes that frequent his ride adventures and individually challenges them to C2C based on perceived athletic ability. It seems totally ridiculous when he proposes the ride to you but I’m one for a good challenge so I blindly signed up for it. Helps as well to have a few other riders you know also taking up the challenge, which was my fortune and motivation. But I frankly did it for fun and also because I never turn down challenges unless they don’t interest me.

What did your family (wife and children) think about the biking challenge?

My “crazy” has become “normal” so no one ever talks me out of these things. Sometimes I wish they did. Though at a scaled version, my family always jumps in on the activities I sign up to. They perhaps use me as a guinea pig to see if people actually die in the process.

How did you prepare for the challenge? Did you change your diet? Mentally? 

I do cross-fit training pretty much every day. Whilst I didn’t ride my bike enough in preparation, as I should have, cross fitness helped build my core strength and cardio to carry me through the challenge.

Mentally it was hard to wrap one’s mind around how it would be possible to complete the journey especially since the longest distance I’d ever cycled before C2C was 80km, which hurt like hell. I think I was just daring enough to do it. I am a victim of many dares/challenges and they just keep finding me in all forms.

My diet barely changes — lean meats and vegetables. What I tweak, depending on anticipated activities and training, is carbohydrate intake and healthy fats (avocados, almonds, etc). Carbs for tough workouts and more fats for long workouts. So for cycling, in addition to my lean meats and vegetables, I went crazy on carbs and healthy fats. C2C is not the time to go on a lean diet as you will need every ounce of energy. I put on 2kgs over the 6 days we were on the road and so did my team mates. Now that the ride is over I can afford to shed some weight and get back to optimum weight.

There’s a two-day rest when riders visit the Child of Mercy Orphanage Centre (COMOC) which benefits from the challenge.

How long did it take the team to ride from Nairobi to Mombasa?

It took us six days. On average we cycled 110 – 130km per day, except for a single day that had the shortest ride (68km) because we had to take a bus to avoid cycling through a national park in Tsavo and a long part of Mombasa road, which are both dangerous for obvious reasons. We were 21 cyclists (including 5 women).

Did you have any support crew? Security?

Yes, we had a support crew of professional cyclists backing us all the way. The support team included a chef that prepared all our meals and a camping master to help set up and tear down camps. The lean crew of five people multi-tasked of course in many aspects to meet the athletes’ needs. We camped in prearranged venues so, it was very secure. These camping sites would therefore be the target finish spot for the day.

Who planned the logistics of the trip?

The Founder and Lead Adventurer of Baisikeli Adventures — Rakesh Okuku.

What were your high moments?

Jumping on a bike and finding myself in the middle of nowhere and disconnected to my normal life. Some landscape views and portions of the ride are also very rewarding. There wasn’t too much time to bond during the cycle and people were of course too tired after the ride but we did find moments to bond. I like meeting new people.

What were your lowest moments? 

Not knowing whether you will make it to the end or be able to fight through the pain, aches and tough rides ahead.

Did you ever feel like quitting?

Yes, day one at the 75th km mark. It was blazing hot, was riding up steep hill and the landscape dealt me an optical illusion that made it look like I should have been going down hill but I wasn’t. Everyone confessed to have hit the wall on that spot when we spoke later. I soldiered on but made it me wonder if I could honestly jump on my saddle the next six days and repeat this. I didn’t even know if that would be the steepest hill I’d encounter. Turns out it wasn’t. If I’d known that beforehand, I’d probably have certainly thrown in the towel.
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After cycling those long distances, how did you mentally and physically motivate yourself to wake up the next morning and continue? 

The key is recovery. How you feel when you go to bed is not how you are going to feel in the morning so eating right (lots of protein) and getting enough sleep is important. It’s also critical to stretch and keep that blood circulating. You go to bed defeated but after a few groans and moans as you struggle to get out of your tent in the morning, you feel like you can take the world again (hopefully). After three days you’ve just come too far to give up so it doesn’t matter how you feel.

What kind of interesting things did you see on your trip? What surprised you the most? 

Not a lot of sightseeing to do. This isn’t quite a leisure walk in the park. Sometimes you are too beat to appreciate the environment around you. The sun in the afternoons was particularly punishing. But people cheered us all along the way — kids especially. Nobody had a clue what we were up to but 21 cyclist in our usual regalia riding through villages is I guess not a sight you see every day. We drew attention everywhere we went.

I filmed the impact of the drought in Kenya throughout 2017 so I am not unfamiliar to the water needs of most rural people. Children asking me for water while I was cycling got to me and made me see the drought in a new way I had not seen before. For a cyclist riding 6 hour plus, water is critical. While people would realise that water was life or death for me at that point, I guess this is what the local villagers go through every day. If I were to give away my water I would not make it to my destination so I didn’t. I have never understood the drought from that angle though. My temporary, self-imposed, dependency on water was someone’s everyday challenge.

In 2017, 21 cyclists participated in the challenge. Five were women.

Did you have any accidents or incidents along the way?

No. I didn’t even have as much as a flat tyre. But for the rest of my team, other than a few incidences of falling off bikes, punctures or bike malfunctions that were all to be expected, there was nothing out of the ordinary.

Having completed the 600km, what do you know now that you wish you knew when you started? 

Most of what I wished I’d known before hand is related to my comfort on the bike and preventing injuries. For shorter rides, I’ve discovered, you can get away with bad form on the bike and ill preparation. Long rides however bring all your mistakes to the fore. I’ve already begun addressing these issues and hope to be better prepared next time. I’ve already ordered a bike seat cushion, compression socks and working on my bike fit and form to prevent future injury repeats.
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Of the 6 days, which was your hardest and easiest day?

We’ve debated this over and over. Our organiser, Rakesh, has been trying to milk this intel out of us to help him improve the future experience. Unfortunately, there are too many moving dynamics and subjective reasoning that I don’t think I can answer but will try. First, every day is different. There is no comparison. This is one thing all cyclists agree on. Sometimes a morning ride can be wonderful because you are still fresh but gets horrible as you tire out. You might like off-road cycling but the heat on that day will put you off and you will regret it.

I particularly enjoyed day six. My reason is I was way fitter than when I started on day one. Even though we also climbed the steepest hill of all on that day, Shimba Hills, and experienced the hottest cycling day, I was strongest on the last day and that made my ride a lot more pleasurable. I can guarantee you most of the other athletes will disagree on my pick because they hate climbing hills, don’t like the sun, dislike off-roads or were just tired.

What kind of bike did you use?

Mountain bike. Our route was both on and off-road. If you chose to ride a road bike on tarmac, as a few did, you’d also then have to have a mountain bike for off-road. If I owned a road bike I’d probably have brought mine too.

Did all the 21 cyclists complete the 600km?

Yes. One or two cyclists were aided on a few days for various reasons but all definitely cycled over 600km. My GPS recorded 637km as total distance actually cycled.

How did you train as a team? 

There were a couple of long rides (and some on consecutive days) running up to the challenge. But we didn’t train as a team, per se. We were mostly individuals participating in the training rides. I didn’t attend any of the rides prior because in conflicted with a cross fit team series competition I had signed up to and was training for. That’s another reason why the first few days were tougher for me and perhaps I was a little ill prepared for longer rides.

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Would you do this again?

Yes. It would have to be varied though. I can’t do the exact same thing over again.

Which is your next adventure? 

I’m working on my swimming so I can attempt my first triathlon this year. I’ve also been challenged to rock climbing. I also fancy hiking a mountain that I haven’t before.

Get a recap of the challenge in the video below:

Do you have an interesting story or experience you would like to share? Write your comments below.