It was race day.
I slept early (well, sort of) the night before to make sure I would be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but mainly to make sure I didn’t end up flying another airplane after the Power Run incident. It would seem that my one slip-up has made me infamous, for even my team mates decided to add a little measure of security by giving me a wake up call.
For the preparation the night, I roped the unwilling hubby into pumping up the air pressure in my tyres. DT had suggested I get it up to 50-60 Psi but we couldn’t figure out why the pump was so hard to use, so we only managed 40 Psi. I figured that would do it. 40 or 50 Psi, what was the difference? I also filled up my High Sierra Lumbar Pack and stashed a few sachets of Powergels to keep me going. I guess I must have been rather anxious because I was awake a full hour and a half before the alarm went off. After tossing and turning with no respite, I decided to get up and start loading my bike onto the car. Even if I made it out there early, I figured I could put the time to good use by familiarising with the gear shifts again because December (the last time I tried riding suddenly seemed a long time ago.
It was probably a good thing I got off to an early start because I forgot how to attach the bike rack to the car. I must have been quite a sight standing at the boot of my car turning the bike rack around and around as I tried to figure out which way was up. A fifty per cent guess and I managed to get it wrong. I sort of realized when I was holding up the bike and the bar was tilted at an odd angle.
Despite the delay, I was on the road by 6am so I took the hubby’s advice to pump up the tyres a little more by using the air pumps at a petrol kiosk. It was probably not one of my smarter decisions, especially considering that I had no idea how to use those pumps. Instead of pumping air in, all I managed to do was let out the air. Figuring that it couldn’t possible get any worse, I tried again to see if I could get it working. After letting out most of the air, I gave up and drove to the meeting point where I could rope someone into helping me pump up the tyres the hard way.
Shortly after I arrived, T’s car appeared. He helped me tag my bike and helmet while I tinkered around with the bicycle pump DT had lent me for the race. I don’t think I was inspiring a lot of confidence in my fellow Red member because it was clearly evident that I had no idea what I was doing. Even so, he kept his silence and I was grateful for that for my nerves of steel had been shattered the day before as I struggled to keep in control of DT’s road bike.
SKT, MT, G, T, the Pilot and I made up two relay teams, while D went out for the full race on her own. I have to salute her. What a brave girl! Especially if you take into consideration that she landed with a flat tyre halfway through the race and had to come back to the start twice! This iron lady is simply amazing! I am in awe…
Team: The Reds (a.k.a. Liverpool)
As we walked out to Dataran Merdeka, I became acutely aware that there were no mountain bikes to be seen. Suddenly feeling rather self-conscious, I regretted my decision to decline the use of DT’s bike. Even if it gave me sores, at least I wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb (pardon the pun).
According to T, there were 8 mixed teams for the relay. To demonstrate the confidence of the Reds (never mind the fact that Liverpool won the match last night), here’s a conversation I had with T:
Me: 8 teams? Our goal should be not to come last!
T: (pause) Er… It is?
I think that said it all…
7:30am sharp the real duathletes flagged off while we stood by the sidelines cheering D on.
(G warming up before the relay flag off)
8am MT, the Pilot, SKT, A (our resident photographer), and I went off for breakfast. I ordered a roti telur and retracted the order when SKT decided he wasn’t eating anything. Never having biked in a race before, I figured I had better do like the Romans.
8:20am we made it back to the starting point and waited for our boys to come in from the 10km leg.
8:25am D completed the 10km and picked up her bike
8:30am D returned with a flat and had to borrow Op’s pump. He gave her a tube as well in case her tube had blown.
8:40am T arrived and I took off.
I felt a little wobbly taking the corners but otherwise glad that I had been elected to take the biking leg. This was a lot easier than running, or so I thought. I had barely started pedaling down Jalan Kuching when my thighs were starting to burn. Even though the road looked flat, it seemed like a lot of effort to keep pedaling on the large front gear.
By the time I hit the off ramp at the Duta round-a-bout, my legs were ready to give way. I must have been barely moving when I rode past the policemen and marshals because one of them shouted out to me that I should go faster. After more ragging about my pace, I was stating to get annoyed by the misconception of non-bikers that biking is easier than running therefore you should be able to keep going flat out. Attach a motor to my bike perhaps…
The difference in comments from the marshals:
When running: C’mon! You can do it!
When biking: Eh! Cepat lah!
The other problem I faced was not being able to ride with one hand (yes, I know, I’m unco). That meant I couldn’t reach for my water tube, let along my Powergels. When I passed the water station, I had to decline the water with a shake of my head because I couldn’t even hold up a hand to say, “No, thanks.” The only way I could drink was to get off my bike, so I held off on the fluids for the first lap.
I guess I must have been the only one who couldn’t drink and ride because when I got off my bike by the road side on the third lap, the first aid van stopped to check if I was okay. Even a rider checked in on me. How kind these people were.
The next major hill was somewhere along Jalan Duta. It’s funny how I fail to recognize the roads when I’m on a bike because I knew I’d been on this road many a time in a car. I had to drop down to my granny gear just to make it up the slope otherwise I would have been walking it. It’s amazing that I never noticed how steep the inclines on these roads were despite having driven them countless times.
All the way through, bikers were overtaking me from the left and right and I felt like a kid on a tricycle being overtaken by the big boys on their 10-speed racers. On my third lap, the bikes had stopped overtaking which I knew it was bad sign. Either I was one of the last bikes on the road, or worse, the last bike. I certainly didn’t feel any better that one of the marshals was following me on a motor bike either.
The downhill run after that climb was bliss. On my first lap, I was rather hesitant and cautious, tapping on the brakes to keep my pace in control. By the second and third lap, I was tearing down that hill because there was no way I was going to waste a precious meter of momentum on fear.
After rounding up on Jalan Duta, we cut right into Jalan Sultan Salahuddin. On the second lap, SKT lapped me as we approached the traffic lights – bloody fast, he was… I thought of the poor Pilot waiting for me at Padang Merdeka and I tried to pedal faster, but it was only for a minute before my body gave out to fatigue.
(SKT means business)
The track at this point was familiar. I had been through it on many a race before so I knew I was close to home. As I approached the round-a-bout, I received a nasty shock when I was turned away from Padang Merdeka onto Jalan Parliament for an extra leg. Jalan Parliament is another one of those deceiving stretches that seem like a flat road but is really inclined. Don’t believe me? Take your bike out there and try it. I never noticed it before either.
I made the first lap in 50 minutes. At this rate, I figured I would be lucky to finish in three hours. I really felt sorry for the Pilot having taken the last leg because he would have to run in the full heat of the approaching noon-day sun.
I would like to say I flew down that stretch along Dataran Merdeka, but it was more like the equivalent of a jog than a sprint. Somebody spotted the Liverpool jersey that I was wearing (for my team had sported the jersey to signify the meaning behind our team name – The Reds) and shouted, “Go Liverpool!”
I ought to thank that person for the support because the next thing I knew, the
Liverpool song started playing in my head and I felt energized to keep pushing. Regrettably, it was not for long. By the time I hit the uphill slope, all inspiration had drained out of me and I had to stop for a drink of water. I must have been really dehydrated because the water tasted like an elixir from heaven and I just couldn’t get enough of it.
My bum was also starting to throb and no matter how I shifted it, I couldn’t find a comfortable position to continue riding. My rear end was extremely grateful for the opportunity to get off the bike and protested vehemently when I tried to get back on to continue. Had it not been for the Pilot waiting for his 5km run, I probably would have quit at that point.
It wasn’t that my legs couldn’t take it. I mean, sure they were tired, but the fact that I maintained a constant lap time of 50 minutes was indicative that I was keeping my pace fairly steady. The part that brought on the thoughts of quitting was due to one badly aching behind. The stiff wrists might have also had something to do with it, though I think my backside was complaining the loudest.
As I rounded onto Jalan Sultan Shamuddin for the final time, they had sealed off the road to the Padang. Still at my top speed, I shouted, “Hey! Coming through!”
Magically, a portal opened up in front of me to let me through and I heard one of the race assistants mutter sheepishly, “You the last bike lah…”
For a moment, I felt quite bad making them all wait until I turned to see another bike approaching and then I felt mad that they were making excuses for closing the road early.
(While I was still out there MT hits the finishing line)
The pilot took the bib as I apologized profusely for being so slow then he ran off for the final leg of the race. MT had already completed the 5km and waiting at the tag point so I knew we were really far behind. Even D, performing the full race, had overtaken me in the biking leg despite being delayed by a flat. In essence, there was really no need for the Pilot to run, but it was all in the name of team spirit that I he took off when he did.
(The Pilot runs with great team spirit)
I wobbled onto solid ground and was surprised that my legs felt like Jell-O. My behind was on fire and even as T offered me the chair he had been sitting in, I couldn’t bear the thought of resting on my delicate bottom.
All in all, it was a great race. Another one those events that I can add to my tick list of “first and lasts”. We ran into a lot of familiar faces; the marshals who appeared more like a climbers’ congregation than marshals of a duathlon race; Op, the embodiment of the boy scouts’ motto; the team from KSH biking shop.
I caught sight of DB and P from FYC before the race – DB when she ran up to me to greet her beloved bike that was on extended loan to me, and P again later when he was approaching the finishing line. DB and P both entered the individual full duathlon – excellent stuff!
(The Team from KSH and others)
(Op after the 10km coming in to commence the biking leg)
Lucky for D that Op and KSH were there for Op had brought a spare tube and pump (mine was in the car – fat lot of good that was), while KSH kindly lent her a device required for her to replace the tubing in her flat tyre. Poor dear was almost in tears when she came to an abrupt halt in the race. I don’t think enough can be said about how well she performed in the race despite the tremendous odds working against her. D, you’re my hero!
(The Superwoman, herself)
Final thoughts? If I ever get stupid enough to ride a long distance again, I’m going to strap a cushion to my tush.
Note: All photos were courtesy of our resident photographer Ayamanna– thanks for the photos! Sorry I didn’t ask your permission to use them, but I know you’d let me anyway ;o)