Monday, September 24, 2007

Night of the Nutters

Friday, 21 September 2007, Genting Highlands.

Once upon a time, Chief Nutter, Steve, decided it was a good idea to run up to the top of Genting Highlands from Genting Sempah.

That's right, run.

So during the fasting month of 2006, they gathered at the McDonald's at Genting Sempah and began running. And ran they did all the way to the top. Since then, they've decided to make it an annual Ramadhan affair. I missed last year's run, but having heard all the stories from last year, I vowed to experience it this year.

It was quite an experience. A painful one.

The weather was nice and cool as we gathered at McDonald's around 10pm. By the time we got ourselves sorted out, we began actually running around 10:40pm. Almost immediately, we were faced with the daunting McDonald's hill. We ran in total darkness with no streetlights at all. The only source of light was the blinking red lights us runners had attached to our clothes.

Before long, the rest of the group had gone, so fast was their pace. I hadn't run since Desaru and my legs kept reminding me of that. So i took it easy and accompanied Senn.

About 5km from Gohtong Jaya, the road went downwards. As it went down, we were greeted by a beautiful sight, Genting Highlands in all its splendor, brightly lit against a dark sky. I tried taking a picture but it didn't coume out so nice. I only had a camera phone.

At this point, we caught up with Shazly who was accompanying his friend on hid first run. His freind was about to give up and get into the support car. After some gentle persuasion from Senn, he decided to continue. It was, after all, downhill all the way to Gohtong from here.

And because it was downhill, I picked up the pace a little bit. It was a bit of a lonely run, which gave me the incentive topick up the speed even more. By this time, the legs felt better having already run about 8km. Finished the 11km to Gohtong in 1h41m.

This is where the fun starts. Approximately 9km and twice as steep as the roads before. After a brief regroup, we headed out again. I got as far as Awana, about 2km from Gohtong when my legs gave up. So I started walking. Forunately, I had Kam for company, his legs entering the early stages of cramping. When the road wasn't so steep, we ran. When it got a bit steeper, we walked. Then at one point (I think it was at the really steep switchback. It was so steep if you were to put your hands on the road, you'd still be upright), we just stopped running altogether.

After that, it was just a matter of coming around the bend and seeing the top. Problem is there are so many bends and they all look the same. You round one bend hoping to see the end but all you see is another bend ahead. We just kept walking and walking round the corners, occasionally seeing the Tokyo Drift wannabes speeding up the road.

Finally, I saw the 700m to go sign. Bouyed by this, I decided to start running again. So off I went, but it didn't last long. I soon felt the onset of cramps. But i was determined to not finish walking, so i pushed some more, adjusting my stride a bit to avoid cramps. Slowly but surely, the numbers on the road markers dwindled: 0.7km, 0.6km, 0.5km, 0.4km, 0.3km, 0.2km, 0.1km, 0.0km.

I made it!

But i wasn't at the end yet. Our regrouping point was the Starbucks at the lobby of the First World Hotel, another 500m away. Luckily it was all downhill from here so it wasn't so bad. I arrived at Starbucks a little after 3am, almost two and a half hours after leaving Gohtong.

It was quite an expereince. Painful, yes but at the same time, fun. I guess what eases the pain is the people. Doing crazy things with like-minded people, knowing you're not the only one out there suffering helps make it a lot less painful. And these nutters are genuinely good company: Steve, Azmar, Karoline, Puzi, Doc, Kam, Ngae, Lee Nya, Ishsal, Senn, Alex, Shazly and his two friends, Rahim and a few others. If you ever feel the need to do something crazy like this, you gotta make sure these guys are around.

And the nutters will be at it again this Friday, if you're interested.

Friday, September 21, 2007

That dude is dope

I mean he's a real dope for taking dope.

In case you didn't know, 2006 Tour de France winner, Floyd Landis, was found guilty for using synthetic testosterone to boost his Stage 17 comeback in le Tour last year.

He is now officially the first ever cyclist to have his Tour de France title stripped from him. He is now officially a doper and a dumbass.

And here I was thinking his Stage 17 victory was heroic.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Saturday Night Live!

What do you do when it's fasting month but you still want to get a decent ride in?

You do it at night. And you do the KKB-Gap route.

So it was that five of us gathered in front of the 7-11 in Kuala Kubu Baharu to begin this journey into darkness. Present were me, Senn, Steve Azmar and Zabil. Senn and I were the only ones on road bikes while the rest were on their mounties. Azmar was on his touring bike.

We started at 10:30pm and made our way up to the dam. Zabil pushed the pace a bit and I was barely hanging on. Looked back to see the other three had dropped off. So we backed off a bit and made sure everyone stayed in a group.

This is one ride where it's important to stay together because once across the bridge, it was total darkness. Now, this is one place you wouldn't want to be alone at, it is seriously scary.

Anyway, we rode at a leisurely pace of about 15km/h, chit-chatting all the way to the top. It was a very nice and easy ride, and the conversations helped the kilometres go by a lot quicker.

We hit the Gap at about 12.30am and had a little picnic there. Steve took out a wedge of watermelon, Zabil brought some sandwiches. Our tummies filled, it was time to head back.

This was the part I was dreading. Gap during the day is nice and cool. At night, it was freezing. I put on a spare long-sleeved jersey and stuffed newspapers down my chest to help keep me warm. No good. I was still shivering. Need to get me a windbreaker.

The pace going down was cautious, rarely going more than 30km/h with Azmar leading the way. I dunno how he does it: we had benefit the taillight blinkers of the bikes in front to follow, he had total darkness. Still, he led us down confidently. But unlike on the way up, we rode in total silence, each of us concentrating on the road ahead.

When you descend in these conditions, it's very easy to let your mind wander. The red blinking lights in front of you can be hypnotic, causing you to lose concentration. Your mind starts to wander and you start wondering why you can't feel your right hand. I realised that my hand had gone numb. So my concentration went there, clenching my fist to get the blood flowing again.

When the feeling came back, I looked up and saw darkness. No one in sight. Not one single blinking red light.


It was scary. I know all the hantus are supposed to be tied up during the month of Ramadhan but still, being all alone in complete darkness, your heartrate goes up a few beats.

Had to pick up the pace a bit. Cranked it up, went through a few of the corners faster than i would have dared, then I saw it. First one, then another, then another. Blinking red lights! I'm saved.

Caught up with the rest of the pack and stuck to them for dear life all the way down. My right hand went numb again, but I ignored it this time. No way am I going to get dropped again.

We picked up the pace a bit when we got to the dam and continued all the way back to KKB. Except for my hitting a pothole and dropping my waterbottle as a result, the rest of the way was pretty uneventful.

We reached KKB around 2:30am, loaded up the bikes and went to the mamak shop nearby for some sahur.

A late-night ride to Frasers may seem extreme but it's really great fun if you have the right company, people who are as insane as you. This weekend, the plan is to run from Genting Sempah to Genting peak on Friday night and ride the same route on Saturday.

I seriously recommend these type of rides. It's different, it's unexpected and it's a lot of fun. Midnight train to Broga anyone?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Selamat Berpuasa...

... to all the Muslim readers out there.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Broga... Finally

150km. 4 mega climbs. That's the legendary Broga loop. People say doing the reverse loop is tough. The classic loop even tougher.

Never having been on this route before, I decided to join Adzim on this ride. And it was an epic ride.

We gathered at Batu 14 Hall at 8am Saturday morning. The day did not begin well for me. First, I discovered that I forgot to bring the wheel magnet for my computer. Luckily, I had a spare. Then, I discovered I had travelled all the way to Batu 14 with my wallet at home. So I'll be riding with no money, no ID.

Fortunately, I managed to borrow some $$$ from Mac. Doing 150k with no money to buy water and 100 Plus is never a good idea.

The crowd that gathered that day for the ride was a bunch of power riders. We had superstar triathlete Kimberly Yap, Jasmine, Elaine, Andrea, Bacin, Alex "Jesus is my Powergel", Dicky, Bacin, Faaisal, Jeffrey, Mac, Bernard, ride leader Adzim, and a couple of others. Looking at the calibre of these riders gave me an inferiority complex.

We pushed off heading towards Batu 18. The pace, driven by Kim and Bernard was an astonishing 35kmh! I was thinking, "Whoa guys!! Take it easy. We still have 150k to go!" As we turned the corner at Batu 18, Adzim reminded me that the front pack were only going as far as Tekala then heading back. So I eased off the pedals a bit and let them go.

We went through the dam area at a more leisurely pace before making a stop at Tekala. After saying good-bye to Bernard and Mac, we proceeded to Broga.

That was when the pace picked up again. Superman Simon Cross, Randy Tan, Sam Pritchard and one other rider happened to be on the same road as us and everyone wanted to follow their pace. As expected, I was dropped like a bad habit. I went all the way to Semenyih watching the pack get smaller and smaller in the distance. And I was still doing about 32kmh. At the rate they were pulling away, they must have been pulling 40+.

Luckily for me, Dicky noticed I was missing and slowed down to wait. I managed to get a draft from a scooter and soon caught up with him. Then Dicky pulled me all the way to Broga. Thanks Dicky. He was a super domestique that day, having slowed down to pull Bacin when he dropped his water bottle earlier, then slowing down to pull me to Broga. I owe you one bro.

At Broga, we said good-bye to Kim, Simon, Randy and their gang. And now it was down to just the 10 of us.

The came the climbs. The first one was short but really steep. Jeffrey attacked early on but the lost it, inching his way slowly up the hill. Andrea and Adzim went up the hill like it was flat, disappearing into the distance. I laboured along slwoly with Elaine for company. We finally made it to the top and were rewarded with a nice descent.

The second hill was more of the same. It wasn't as steep but it was still tough.

A quick rest before we came to Bukit Tangga. 4km of pure torture. It was long, labourious and hot. It just went on and on. 4km felt like 40. But what goes up must come down so when we finally hit the top, we had a good time going down. I caught up with Jasmine at the end of the descent and we worked together all the way to Klawang.

At Klawang, we had a break. Got myself two bottles of 100 Plus and two bottles of mineral water to refill my bottles. And a vanilla bun for fuel. We were all gearing up and psyching ourselves up for the 14km climb that is Peres. The extra bottle of mineral water was meant to be kept in my pocket so I can pur it on myself if I feel like I'm overheating. As it turned out, that was a very good idea.

We started the climb and I was glad I had that extra bottle. It was hot. Adzim and the ladies, again, just pulled away like it was flat. Bacin, Alex and I kept yo-yoing up the hill. First Bacin would pull away, then we'd catch up and I'd pull away, then Alex would catch up and pull away. We went like this all the way up.

Being super domestique had take its toll on Dicky's legs and he dropped back. As did Jeffrey, who clearly hadn't fully recovered from Interstate and was pushing very hard early on in the ride.

Finally, after climbing for what seems like forever, I saw the UMNO sign. At that point in time, it was the most beautiful sight ever. I was soo happy to see that sign I let out a scream of joy, much to the amusement of Alex, who was a few metres behind me.

We waited at the peak for everyone to show up. One by one, Faaisal, then Dicky appeared over the crest. While waiting for Jeffrey to come, a yellow truck pulled over. The passenger door opened and out popped Jeffrey. He really took his legs too far.

After that, we descended Peres and rode to the nearest kedai runcit to refill. Everyone had used up all their water supply on the climb. After filling up, we were supposed to have a slow-slow ride back to the car so that Jeffrey (and the rest of us) can recover. Hah! Slow-slow was 36kmh! I shudder to think what a fast pace back would be.

We finally got back to the car around 3-something. Tired, beat, hungry, but happy. It was tough but I have finally completed the legendary Broga loop. And the tougher classic loop at that. What a feeling.

Kudos to Adzim for organising such an epic ride. Now it's time to conquer the reverse loop.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

365km, 3 Days, One Helluva Good Time: The Interstate Ride Report

The Day Before

Murphy's Law: What can go wrong will go wrong. Just as i was taking my bike down to the car, I realised something was wrong with the bike. The familiar click-click-clicking of the rear wheel as it rolls was missing. I tried turning the cranks but the rear wheel wasn't moving along with it. Damn.

A quick pitstop at Edwin's solved the problem. The cassette body needed servicing and after about an hour, we were on our way to Ipoh. Good thing I caught this in KL and not five minutes before the ride starts. Phew!

Day One

At 6:30am, we gathered at the hotel lobby. 250+ riders, in their colourful cycling gear, got ready to roll. A quick briefing by Mac and we were on our way.

My first day was not without incident. At the 6km mark, some idiot directed us to turn right at the traffic light. So we followed. But I knew something was not quite right. A quick look at my tulips revealed that we had gone the wrong way. We were supposed to go straight. Managed to call out to most of the misdirected riders to turn back. I was pissed. I sprinted back towards the traffic lights in anger, the thought of leaving a Look Keo cleat implant on that idiot's face strong on my mind. We were back on track but were two KMs off the tulip guide.

Cooled down soon enough when I saw the scenery. It was gorgeous.

Somewhere along the way, I saw Ronald stopped at a support car. Decided to join him for a while and wait for Senn. Unseen by me, she had zipped by in a big pack. So after waiting for a while, I decided to move on. Caught up with a rider on a Cervelo R2.5 wearing a CSC jersey and he gave me a free pull all the way to Karai, where I eventually caught up with Senn, Mac and the rest.

Pitstop in Karai with the World Champ

After Karai, we headed off towrds more beautiful scenery. However, this was where I got into a spot of bother. My legs just refused to co-operate. And I was getting dropped by Senn and Mac. Got off the big ring and just spun in the small ring to recover until the next watering hole. Fortunately a big group decided to stop there and I was thankful for some rest. A couple of 100Plusses and some foo chok gave me the strength to tackle the daunting Bukit Berapit. It was nice steady climb, less than two kilometres long. But in the heat, it was still tough.

More beautiful scenery just outside of Karai

After the climb it was an easy ride through to Taiping. I rode with a small group till the Taiping Lake Gardens where I found myself riding solo again. Finally got to the Golf Club at around 1.15pm.

A quick shower, lunch and a nap before proceeding to the golf course for a group photo session.

A river of blue heading for the photo session

After that, we had a sumptious steamboat dinner, which unfortunately started late because the cookers weren't working. All in all tough, a satisfying first day.

Day Two

Decided not to bring my camera for this ride because I had heard that it might rain. The ride started at 7am and I started off at the very back of the pack. For the first half I rode with PK and his group. It was going at a nice enjoyable pace. The little dimple that Mac told us about was steep as hell and I saw a lot of riders getting off their bikes to push. Short but steep, really steep. After that it was a 12km cruise to the watering hole.

This was where the fun began. I pushed off with the group but soon realised I had left my water bottle at the warung. So I had to turn back to get it. And so began my mind-numbingly boring, loooong, solo 65km ride. It was tough and it really plays with your mind. And it was tiring, with no one to help you work. As it turned out, it didn't rain at all and the sun was exceptionally hot. Making the solo ride even more mind-numbing.

At the approach to Bukit Mertajam, I caught up with Senn, PK, Mac and Vong. It was such a relief to see other riders! Rode in to the hotel with them at around 1:20pm, my arms and legs covered in salt. I was pretty close to dehydrating.

That night's dinner was a bit disappointing, they ran out of food before I managed to get any. Apparently the hotel is a little inexperienced in dealing with hungry cyclists!

Dinner time but didn't get any food

The route profile for Day 3

Fish porridge to make up for the disappointing dinner

Day Three

Finally, the big day: the Penang Bridge Crossing.

We pushed off at 6:30am in a strict two-by-two formation, with the marshalls (I was one of them!) in pink manning the outside. It was tough keeping the formation with the front setting a very high pace and the back of the peloton dropping off. And some of the riders just didn't have the discipline, going around other riders when we specifically said no overtaking.

Arriving at the bridge

It was time to cross the bridge. It was very windy on the bridge which posed a problem for those with deep dish wheels, me included.

Crossing in strict two-by-two formation

And midway through, rain started to fall, so all the more reason for us to be careful out on the bridge.

Going over the top of the bridge

We made it across safely and headed to the Queensbay Mall for pictures and light refreshments, courtesy of one of the eateries at the mall. Very nice of them.

Pretty in pink: the bridge crossing marshalls at Queensbay Mall

After the short rest, the rain really fell. A lot of riders decided to call it quits and take the support cars. I stubbornly went on, having kept my camera safely in Syahiful's car. The rain was painful, pelting on your skin like bullets. Luckily by the time we got to the first climb of th day, it had stopped. But it left a pretty treacherous descent for us riders.

The climb wasn't as tough as it was made out to be. Kinda like Genting Sempah. I actually enjoyed the climb. Between the two climbs, we made a detour to the Balik Pulau Sports Complex where we were treated to lunch by some VIPs. It was quite an affair, with kompangs and speeches and really good food. The sambal belacan was especially good.

After the food, there was more cycling to be done though. Especially the mother of a climb. I was pulled all the way to the foothills by Jester, who then let me fly up the hill on my own. It was kinda like having my very own domestique.

Again, the climb wasn't very tough. Lke the first hill, only longer. It was fun just spinning up the hill, passing riders as I went along. And once we got to the top, the scenery was beautiful. I tell you, sambal belacan is my powergel!

Then came the very technical descent, with very little time to rest. One corner led to another and because the roads were still wet, I only went at about 33-35km/h. But once we hit the end of the descent though, I threw caution out the window. Managed to join a paceline, which included Mac and Jasmine and flew through Batu Ferringhi all the way to the hotel. Was almost sad to arrive at the hotel, wishing for another few km to blast through.

All smiles after another completed Interstate

A big thank you to all the organisers of the Interstate 2007. The routes were good, the accommodations excellent and the company superb. Now I look forward to next year's Interstate.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Interstate 2007 Ride Report Coming Soon...

Interstate 2007 ride report coming soon. Still trying to figure out where to start (there were so many highlights?, and yet to download pics from the camera. All I can say is it was a blast. Had loads and loads of fun. And the ride routes were excellent.