"How are your legs today?" asked Adzim over G-Talk.
"Legs? What are those?" I replied.
My legs are shot. Here's why:
4.30am on Sunday morning, I found myself outside my apartment with Adzim loading our bikes onto Laif's truck for the two-hour drive to Simpang Pulai. The menu: Simpang Pulai - Tapah - Ringlet - Tanah Rata - Brinchang - Kg Raja - Simpang Pulai.
Approximately 180km with 60+of those uphill, +/-3000m elevation gain.
Sounds yummy, no?
I thought so too.
7.30am, we rolled on what was to be a long long long day.
WARNING: because it was a long long long day, this post will be long long long too.
Simpang Pulai - Tapah
It all started friendly enough. We rolled out of Simpang Pulai and headed south towards Tapah. Terrain was flat with some small rollers. The pace, initially, was an easy 30-32km/h. Nice and friendly.
At about 15km in, I was thinking, "Wow! These Ipoh and Penang boys sure are friendly. Back in KL, the pace would have been murderous by now!" Ooops... thought too soon. That was when the pace really picked up. They started hammering away at 40-45km/h. I was losing ground fast. Then Vong Vong Vong picked me up and helped me bridge the gap. Behind was Laif, Andrea, and Adzim.
As we caught up to the front peloton, Adzim said, "You realise this is a recipe for disaster."
I nodded. With 60km of climbing still to come you don't want to blow your legs up trying to keep up with the leaders. So, we let them go and were cruising along at a more comfortable 30-32km/h. Until...
A motorcycle came up to us and offered us a pull to Tapah. We were about 15km away. I hadn't realised all this was happening, happily sucking wheel and sucking on my Powergel. I looked up and BAM! the speed was up again at 40km/h! I hung on for dear life, but with about 5km to go, I let go. Just couldn't hang. "Oh well," I thought. "I'll catch you in the mountains.
At Tapah, we stopped at a petrol station for a quick rest and refill. Ride stats so far:
Avg Speed: 31.5km/h
Tapah - Ringlet
From here, we got only about 5km of flat roads to tease us before the big climb. So we happily pedaled along, enjoying the scenery, chit chatting away. But as soon as the road pointed upwards, I went backwards. There was no way I could hang with likes af Adzim and Andrea. They just dropped me like I was standing still.
I laboured on with this dude on a Specialized Tarmac for company. It was complete heads-down-just-pedal-your-way type of riding. No conversations, no nods of the head. Just pedaling and huffing and puffing. Found the rest of the gang waiting for me at the waterfall at Lata Iskandar. Kinda felt bad for holding them up. As soon as they got on the bike, they disappeared. Man... how do they do that?
This time, I had Laif for company. I suspect the hard efforts earlier had taken a toll on his legs. We struggled up to the Perak/Pahang border. At this point, I still refused to shift to my 25t cog, insisting on going on my 23t. But with about 3km to go, I relented.
These kilometres just seem to go on and on and on. There was no letting up. It wasn't particularly steep, it was just long and relentless. With about 1km to the border, Laif disappeared up the road, I just couldn't hang on. I was standing up, sitting down, standing up. Just couldn't make up my mind. Finally, I saw the sign that separated Perak from Pahang, and boy, what a relief! It was now just a downhill cruise to Ringlet.
Avg Speed: 17.8km/h
Ringlet - Kg Raja
We had a quick stop at Ringlet, refilled the water bottles, emptied our internal water bottles and we were off. This is where the climb gets really steep, especially the last 4km before Tanah Rata.
As usual, as soon as the road pointed upwards, Andrea and Adzim were gone. And Laif had dropped back to fix a puncture. The climb was painful but scenic. Some of the scenery included those riders who had blasted off the pack at the beginning, now, they were struggling to make it up the hill. Seriously though, it was some gorgeous scenery riding high and above the tea plantations. No pix though, didn't bring my camera. Even if I did, I wouldn't be able to snap any anyway, since I was a bit too busy climbing.
It was a good thing I didn't bring my camera because as soon as I arrived at Tanah Rata, it was raining. I had contemplated waiting for Laif but it was too cold just standing still so i continued to Brinchang. I've done the climb from both ends so I know what it was about but this short 4km stretch between Tanah Rata and Brinchang was an unknown quantity for me. Fortunately, It wasn't too bad. Just cold, cold, cold. I can't believe some were riding in this weather in trisuits. They must have been freezing!
I got to Brinchang, then climbed up to the Equitorial Hotel. There were riders turning back at this point, saying it was too wet to descend to Kg Raja and they were going to wait the rain out. I just wanted to get to a lower altitude so it won't be so cold.
So I continued on to Kg Raja on what must have been the slowest descent in the history of cycling! I was constantly on the brakes. At times, I was going 12km/h! Downhill! That 23km from Equitorial to Kg Raja took me close to an hour and it was mostly downhill. I was shivering, my nose was running and I had absolutely no feeling in my right hand. I had to look at it to make sure it was still there.
I got to Kg Raja and I was like a block of ice on wheels, at least I felt like it.
Avg Speed: 14.9km/h
Kg Raja - Simpang Pulai
After some hot tea, and some nasi goreng, I was ready for the home stretch. Laif had caught up with me after fixing his puncture, so we started the long 64km trek home.
But first, more climbing! It's a 3km climb just getting out of Kg Raja! And once we hit the T-junction at the top of that hill, we still had to climb some more! But as soon as the roads pointed downwards, we had some fun. Luckily the roads were dry too, otherwise it would have been a very slow descent. As it was, we coasted down and picked up some good speed even without pedaling. At one point, on a long, steep, straight section, I hit 70.2km/h! Fastest I've ever been.
We got into Simpang Pulai a whisker after 5pm. I was tired and dirty. Angel looked like we had been through Paris-Robaix, so dirty was she.
Avg Speed: 33.4km/h
When we got to the carpark, Adzim and Andrea were in the back of Laif's pick-up, waiting for us. Andrea looked fresh, like she hadn't been on the bike all day. Superwoman.
Overall ride stats:
Avg Speed: 23.1km/h
Total elevation gain: +/- 2900m
It was a long slog. This was supposed to be my one over-distance ride before Ironman, to see what 180km feels like. This was also the longest ride I've ever been on. I dunno how I'm supposed to do a full marathon right after a ride like this. I'm so going to suffer at Ironman.
But then, isn't there fun in suffering?
Would I do this ride again? Ask me again next week.