On her 9th Birthday, my daughter Kaia participated in her longest cycle event, a 24km trail in Kgale, organised by Life Cycle Events. There was an option to do the event virtually during the week or to come in person on Saturday or Sunday, between 7am and 10:30am. When Kaia started there were only a handful of kids and all safety protocols (social distancing, masks) were followed. Kaia is quite soft-spoken which is often mistaken for lack of confidence. But her dad doesn’t call her Iron Girl for nothing! She’s extremely adventurous – you can tell her to do anything and she gets this steely look on her face and gives it a go. We have always encouraged her to be active and alongside riding she participates in tennis, swimming, netball and running. But so far, she is happiest on her bike. As she explains in this interview, she had a bad fall two weeks from race day, but she was back riding in a few days and determined to go ahead.
“How do you know you’re scared of it when you haven’t even tried it?!” – Kaia Coyne, age 9
What kind of bike do you ride? A 24-inch hard-tail Avalanche that I got for my 8th Birthday.
How did you train for this event? I usually ride on different trails in Block 7, Sebele and Block 10 with my family. My dad makes us do time-trials, some are 1km and others are 5km. When I can’t go out on the road, we ride on obstacle courses in the yard – a lot of Figure-8s, going on and off planks as well as riding over short wooden see-saws. When I heard about the race, I started doing longer trails. My longest ride was 23km from my grandparents’ house in Ruretse, through the bush to Tlokweng and back again. The terrain was very bushy and I got quite a few sticky seeds on my socks. It was also a bit bumpy as well as uphill and downhill.
What were some of the challenges you encountered during your training? The biggest one was going over a giant, steep and rocky hill in Notwane. It was tricky getting up but I managed. As I was going down the steep side, I passed a few cows and scared one of them. And then, they gave me bad luck because I lost control of my bike. It started to wiggle and dropped down. I was left in mid-air for a few seconds and fell down on lots of rocks, face first.
How scary! What happened next? I cut my chin on the rocks and nearly broke my nose. We had to get back to the car so I had to walk all the way up with my bleeding chin as my dad pushed our bikes. But then I managed to ride down the other side which was not as steep. We had to find my mum and brother who were running and riding on a flatter trail in the area. We drove around at first but finally got her on the phone. We then drove through traffic to get to Block 7 where there is a new hospital. We waited four hours to get help. Around 10pm a nurse cleaned my chin and then the Doctor came in and gave me a sleeping potion with a drip.
Then he stitched me up. I dreamt that I was in a maze made out of jumping castles and trampolines and a doctor came in holding an injection. I tried to run away but got to a dead end and he injected me. I felt a little prick and woke up.
You were so strong and brave through it all. Were you scared to get back on your bike after this accident? Not at all. My first ride was on tarred road in the CBD and I felt good.
Then some days later I did a time trial in Block 7 and on the first lap I was a bit scared to ride through some of the ditches. But I was more confident on the second and third laps.
After all this excitement during training, what was your race experience like? Maybe start by telling us about the course? It was a 24km ride with a 4km loop that I had to do six times.
From the start, I went straight down a jeep track and there were a few bumpy bits.
Then I turned where there was an uphill and this was a bit tough. From here, I went round a cone and back down the hill in full speed. That bit was always a lot of fun!
This brought me back on the jeep track where there was a left turn into the bush on a windy single track. This was also another favourite bit of mine.
From here, I went back onto the jeep track. There was bush on one side and a ditch with water on the other side. There were also some houses. We then turned round another cone and came back all the way to the start. That was one loop which was four kilometres.
What interesting things did you see? I saw a squirrel when I was turning onto the single track on my third loop. On every loop, I saw lots of baboons as well as the mummies with the babies on their backs. And for the first time I saw a baboon picking bugs out of another baboon. I also saw cows but that wasn’t really interesting as I see those all the time. I did see a donkey cart!
At the end on my final loop, my brother was waiting with a huge balloon that said Happy 9th Birthday Kaia! I was so surprised! That’s when I remembered it was my birthday! Well, I knew it was my birthday but kind of forgot when I was riding!
He was really excited for you to finish! How did you feel during the race? I felt really good. I was a bit scared when a baboon was chasing me as I thought it would jump on me. It got tired after 10 seconds of chasing me though! I wasn’t tired, only a bit, in the last lap.
What do you love about riding? I love going in ditches, having fun and getting scratches! I love seeing animals in the bush. I have seen many cows, goats and chickens. Once I was lucky to see a rock rabbit, impala and wildebeest, as well as a few warthogs. That was in Mokolodi.
What don’t you like about riding? I don’t like going uphill on tarred roads because there is really nothing to enjoy about that… and it’s hard. Harder than going uphill on a trail. And there is no excitement. I also don’t like getting pooped on by birds which sometimes happens.
What do you think are some of your strengths? Definitely going in and out of ditches especially when I know them very well. I was disappointed there were no ditches on the race.
What would you like to improve? I would like to get better at changing my gears before obstacles. I would also like to improve on picking the right line. That’s what my dad tells me.
What advice would you give to other kids who’d like to get into riding? I would say learn the basics before you start going into bushy and rocky areas. Get confidence on tarred road first. Pedal hard in sand or else you won’t be able to get out without pushing your bike. Also, never turn when you go in a sandy patch. The sand is too hard to turn and you will probably fall. Always pick the right line – so if you’re going on a path with rocks try to go where there are less rocks. And look where you want to go. If you look at a hole, you will go in the hole.
What are some of your future riding goals? Many more ginormous, what word is bigger than ginormous? Ginormous DITCHES! Maybe when I am ten, I will try the hill I fell on. Definitely more races. I think that’s it.
Thank you Kaia for this interview! At 9, you have taught me to be brave even when I’m scared, to try things I’m not comfortable with and to do whatever it takes to get up when I fall so I finish the race.
I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, and Laura Norris Running! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.