Sunday, May 8, 2011

Onto The Saddle

It must have been about a year ago, during a get-together dinner with some friends shortly after running a marathon, when the subject of attempting a triathlon came up. Quite honestly, I wasn't even seriously considering venturing into triathlon—not when I'm in my mid forties.

However, that was a significant start for a friend, Teo, who suddenly became so pumped up about the idea of doing something new. Together between him and Andrew, they ended up going bike-shopping in Manila a few weeks later in conjunction with a business trip. Shortly after that, Teo's road bike arrived on the shores of Sabah. Andrew's bike, a GIANT TCR came all the way from Singapore. Since then, Teo has been pestering practically everyone around him to buy a bike. The first thing he thinks of when he wakes up each morning is who else he can pester to buy a bike.

I was still not very serious about the triathlon. So I've been ignoring Teo's constant yapping about cycling. But he did manage to convince Dr Felice to buy a road bike, and then join him and Andrew for the sprint triathlon in Miri last October. After that event, Teo became even more obsessed in the subject of triathlon. In every 10 sentences he utters, one is bound to find the word "triathlon" therein!

Well, I'm still unsure if I'm ever gonna do a triathlon, but if ever I'm gonna do it, I'd rather that I prepare well for the event. I'm not a believer of doing something just for the sake of finishing it. I want to prepare and finish it to the best of my ability. It doesn't really matter if my best is a last place finish, but I want to know that whatever I achieve, I've given 100% to achieve it.

I've been putting off the cycling thing for a while, until Andrew decided to buy a new road bike earlier this year. Since I'm not particularly concerned about brand name or whether it's the latest model in the market, I bought the bike from Andrew at RM4,300 several weeks ago. Later on, I spent a good RM1,500 on the accessories. Before the recent Borneo International Marathon (BIM), for the most part, my bike was mainly sitting pretty at home, doing absolutely nothing except for a short tryout ride with Teo one Saturday morning. I found out that although I haven't been on a bike for a good 20 years or so, I could very quickly adapt to the road bike.

Now that the BIM is over, I reckoned it's finally time to embark on some serious cycling. It happened that there were 2 groups of cyclists for yesterday morning. One was that of a bunch of triathletes starting from Tg Aru and involved some hills for a total distance of 43km. The other group was that of Teo and his friends, starting from the Likas sports complex to Sepangar Port. According to Teo, the total distance was about 40km, give and take. Since it would be something like a first time serious cycling for me, I thought that it's prudent to join Teo's group.

So at about 5:50 am yesterday morning, I went to the Esso station near my home to rendezvous with Teo and his friend Derek. Together, we rode a slow 5km to the sports complex. There we met a few other cyclists. We then proceeded on to the coastal highway leading north to Yayasan Sabah and beyond.

Just a few minutes on the highway, I could already feel my thighs burning up. And I wondered if I could last the many more km ahead. Strangely, however, my legs very quickly adapted to the new punishment, and I surprised myself when I actually felt comfortable riding between 32kmh to 35kmh. I found out that cycling is way easier than running. The only thing that troubled me was the hard seat—the pain in my ass just killed me big time!

Beyond the KKIP, there were some undulating terrains, but it did not give me too much trouble. The journey to Sepangar Port wasn't very tough. But on the return leg, suddenly the rest in the group decided to make a detour into the Navy Base. I began to worry a bit since this detour wasn't in the original plan of what was supposed to have been a "slow and easy" ride according to Teo.

Then a few hundred metres upon reaching the Navy Base, Teo suggested that we should do a short sprint—"just for fun", he said. Not wanting to be the black sheep of the group, I obliged to a sprint. At the Navy Base, we paused for a short rest, and I finished the isotonic drink in my first 700ml bottle.

It was quite a relief to have survived the outing so far. But my happiness was short-lived, as the group decided to go for yet another detour all the way into the Karambunai resort. I began to worry again. Cycling wasn't as punishing as running, and right at that moment, I felt I could have easily endured another hour or two of cycling. Except that I had a one-hour swimming lesson scheduled in the afternoon. Still, I obliged, and soon found myself at the Karambunai resort.

It was already past 8am by the time we emerged from the Karambunai resort and it was already getting quite hot in the scorching sun. Thankfully, however, it was time to make our return journey. It wasn't really a race, but I was able to average around 33kmh to 35kmh all the way back to the Likas mosque, where the leading cyclists were contemplating going for breakfast of roti canai. But this time I declined, and Teo decided to accompany me. In the end, the rest abandoned the idea of breakfast too. I reached home around 9am, feeling quite exhausted after a total of 75km ride, but nowhere near the kind of exhaustion of running marathons.

I think cycling is a good form of cardio workout, and it's entirely possible that I can also benefit from the workout for my running. But I guess I will just have to wait till my next race to find out if it does indeed help!

In the afternoon, I arrived at the pool feeling like a zombie, but that, too, was a good workout. Then last night I slept like a baby, only to wake up at 4am for a 15km recovery run with Dr Peter starting from the Likas complex at 5am. Unfortunately, during the run, my legs felt like jelly, and I had to reluctantly cut short the distance to 12km only, thus barely escaping the morning rain.

I'm feeling dead tired now. It doesn't seem like I have it in me for a triathlon—the mind is willing, the flesh is just too weak. But I just love the challenge!

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