By Brad Morgan (CEO, Saint Andrew’s Old Boys Association)
17 August 2016 – One of the great joys of interacting with Old Boys is to find out what Old Andreans have chosen to do with their lives. The diversity is astounding and the paths they take most interesting, so I would like to start sharing with you the stories of some of the people I come in contact with.
The first one involves Sean Fraenkel (class of 2001), who recently participated in the Karoo Dash, a 1 100 kilometre unsupported mountain bike race from Bloemfontein to Blaauwberg in the Cape. It’s a long drive by car from Bloem to the Mother City, but doing it by bike and unsupported (i.e without refreshment and overnight stops laid on by the organisers) is another thing altogether.
Sean explained it thus: “They give you a suggested route and you must pass three checkpoints. You can change the route, as long as you don’t ride any national roads.
“It’s completely self-sufficient, travelling with GPS. You look after your food and your own water. You can ride as long as you want, whenever you want. It’s a week cut-off.”
Sean had extra motivation for the event, with his mother Angela seriously ill with cancer, an illness which sadly claimed her life in late July. But with Angela fighting a brave fight, he, too, was determined to give the long race his best shot.
“My goal was to podium. I had never podiumed before. I used my mom’s illness as fuel for the race to keep me going,” he said.
The Karoo Dash was not Sean’s first long-distance event. In fact, in 2014 he had cycled across South Africa with his dogs. “That’s when the racing cycling bug really bit hard,” he shared. “This one was a real test of endurance.”
The challenge included dealing with extreme cold and extreme winds. “It was flipping cold,” Sean recalled. “In Sutherland, I woke up at four in the morning to leave and there was a 75 km/h headwind.
“I decided to wait it out, and that’s when the first snows came through Sutherland. I was interviewed at 06:30 on Cape Talk radio station with the race director. Then I found out that two people, who were trying to chase me down had left Loxton at 01:00. They hit that headwind head-on from Fraserburg. When they got to the hotel at 17:00 in the afternoon, they were stuffed.”
“I left at 19:00 and nearly turned around after 10kms, because it was flippin’ cold. Between Sutherland and Ceres, there is no cellphone reception and no accommodation. There is nothing. Because I woke up at 04:00 and I had my race face on and I was full of caffeine, I couldn’t sleep. By 03:00 the next morning, I was completely stuffed, so I dropped my bike in the middle of the road and I fell asleep on the side of the road in minus-five degree weather. My water bottles froze.
“I ran out of food nine hours in. At 13 hours, I ran out of water. Outside Ceres, I tried to flag down trucks for water, but I was wearing my balaclava, so nobody was going to stop for me.”
It was tough, he admitted: “I did cry a few times. I was broken, I was finished.”
Yet, after four days, five hours and five minutes, Sean made it to the finish and fulfilled his ambition of making it onto the podium.
“This was my first gold. My mom said to me after the race that she was very tired after all the cycling, meaning that she was supporting me during the race, which was very nice.
“It was a wooden trophy, which I put in my mom’s coffin, which was cremated with her.”
Since leaving school, Sean has worked overseas in the commercial diving industry. In cycling, he said, he has found a release from the stresses of work.
“It’s a recent thing for me to push myself this hard. Maybe it’s also because I’ve been working offshore on a boat since I was 18. When I come home, it’s a different challenge or a stress release maybe, I don’t know. It is something I found recently and I just love to push myself.”
It is something that has changed his life, pushing him into a different direction, and taking him into a different business.
Sean owns a bike shop in Tokai, called Trail and Tar, and inside the shop is the NRG – Natural Raw Goodness – coffee bar, which specialises in organic, soy-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, refined sugar-free, vegan, unprocessed and natural ingredients,
“I have put a lot of energy into my cycling, and it has made me a lot fitter and healthier person,” he said.
P.S As Old Andreans, I would like to see us supporting one another in life and in business, so this is my first step in assisting us to make that happen. My goal is to build up a business directory of Old Boys. As we helped to make one another successful in school, so, too, should we be able to support one another outside of the physical bounds of Saints Andrew’s.
This, I am sure, is what being a Saints Andrew’s boy and Old Boy is all about.