Cycling is like life. Cycling with no goal is meaningless. What meaning is there cycling in circles? Or living aimlessly? Meaning comes from direction and destination. Join me in my life's journey on a mountain bike :)

Blogging since 2003. Thank you for reading :))

Sunday, September 30, 2012

On call

Sep distance: 572 km

Tanjong Rhu, 35 km. In the morning, I attend a lecture in hospital. The speakers include a trauma surgeon and a traffic policeman. They're not just experts in their jobs, they're experts in black humour too. Those long, scratch-like marks on a torso? Tyre tracks. Under the skin, see the kidney / liver / spleen torn into pieces. And here is an x-ray of a normal pelvis. Beside it is an x-ray of a broken pelvis. And here is a photo of a mascerated limb, probably going to be amputated. Now, close your eyes and forget the images. So, do you still want to cycle?

In the afternoon, I do an urban version of a cyclocross, as if I'm on call, to help a newbie go up and down pedestrian bridges that link park connectors. "Other than fearing to cycle on the road, fearless", is the description of the newbie. Before the ride is over, I respond to another call for support. Time to go. At one point, somehow, I do 38 km/h on my fat tyres and soon-to-die bottom bracket.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Miss a turn

Woodlands, 52 km. I'm so fascinated by last week's ultramarathon that I want to revisit my bicycle patrol area. The most direct route turns out to be the most dangerous way, where an expressway exit merges into a road. Cycling on the latter where there is pavement on my left leads to traffic whizzing past me not just on the right, but the left where pavement ends and expressway exit begins. My life is on the (white) line.

A motorcyclist leaving the expressway slows down to block traffic behind him. I look back and see him waving me to filter to the side and out of the madness. Thanks, dude.

I'm wasn't in the wrong place, but being right doesn't make me safe.

And doing what you're designed to do doesn't last forever. Ask my crank. It's loose. Not the "sleep around" kind of loose. I go to a bikeshop and am told the bearings aren't able to bear much more. Just a bit more life left, then it's time to go. He tightens the crank and tells me I'll know when it's over. Service and advice for free. Thanks, dude.

My poor Little Red Tank. You've gone through so much, seven years and over 35,000 km. Your parts are wearing out, and at different rates too. Which means, you'll be going for repair more frequently, because I don't have the means to give you that kind of care at home. Unless, I send you for an overhaul, so that whatever needs to be replaced, is replaced all at one go. My wallet sighs in anticipation.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Run like crazy

Lorong Halus, 154 km. Having allowed myself to be talked out of an ultra marathon run, I decide to help others make their dreams come true. I sign up for bicycle patrol at Craze Ultra (or should that be ultra crazy?), where choice of distances include 101 km and 100 miles (160 km).

The job? An 11-hour shift to see that no runner is down and, if so, call for help. I also end up replacing stolen/blown away signage. And giving the thumbs up to runners as I cycle past, to shyly and silently cheer them on. Some smile. Others wave. Some do both. Some do none, they look ahead and keep going.

One-legged hero
On one of my patrols, I see a runner down. Cramps. In both legs. And in his gut. He doesn't even want to crawl into the shade. A few runners surround him. One gives him a towel (perhaps the only towel she has) to shield his face from the sun. Another phones for help. "I'll stay with him," I offer. The runners are relieved as the clock is ticking. A girl asks me where to get water. I empty one of my bottles into her bag and tell her where the nearest 7-Eleven is. Blade Runner and medics on wheels pass by, who adminster first aid to the collapsed runner.

I continue my patrols. At a junction where people have reportedly turned the wrong way, I sweep the area for several km, looking for lost runners, then resume patrol on the official route.

A girl passes a runner. She must've done about 60 km already."Well done," she says. "All the way," he replies. I pass an old man. His wispy white hair stands out from under his hat. I ask him if he needs anything. He wants a sip of water, so I squirt from my water bottle into his mouth. I look at his bib, he's signed up for the 100 mile run. He has over 100 km more to go. I later find out he's 70 years old.

At checkpoint 4, which I adopt as my refueling base, there's an aunty who volunteers because she is free. And a girl clocking community involvement hours - a school requirement. They prepare sandwiches, watermelon and liquid meals for runners. A thoughtful volunteer puts ice into a container, which we use to spray onto runners who want to wash their faces and/or cool down. When runners stop for food and drink, they reek of sweat and valour. None of the ladies at the checkpoint have proper meals for lunch, just biscuits and stuff. They decline my offer to buy dinner for them. Mosquitoes feast on them - the volunteers, not the biscuits and stuff.

One-armed hero
The sun sets. It is dark. Shadows are long. I peer into them as I cycle past, to see if any runners are lying down in pain. I see two runners standing, waiting for ambulance. One has bad blisters and a bad ankle. An ambulance stops to give treatment. I shine my torch to shed light. Another Good Samaritan runner comes by and whips out his far-brighter light. Conscious that the clock is ticking, I tell him I'm staying with Blister Man, but Mr Samaritan insists on staying put until Blister Man takes an ambulance ride.

Over 200 people have signed up for the ultra, including about 80 for 100 km and about 60 for 100 miles. While others have organised 100 km runs before, no one, as far as I know, has organised a 100 mile run on this little island that's about 40 km at its widest point.

I'm so inspired, I've done several marathons and, seeing ultra marathoners, I know they're a breed apart. They dress differently and behave differently. Some wear caps with flaps, and carry phones, light, food and water. Some grit, some grin and show a whole lot of heart. I'm touched some won't leave strangers behind.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Taking stock

Woodlands, 50 km. This year is horrible, horrible. There's only one year in my entire life that's worse than this. And I was born last century. That year, the two most important areas of my life went downhill. This year is pretty much the same, just that it's ranked second.

Still, this year so far, I cycled in Australia. And Malaysia. And Indonesia. And that's not all. I've got my air ticket for another long ride at the end of the year.

Today, I see a car - a big, black car - drive across a pedestrian crossing. While a blind man is crossing it. Clear as day, he sticks his white cane out as he crosses. Why did you not stop, Mr Driver? Are you blind? Have you no heart?!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Sun drenched, rain dropped

8-9 Sep, Bintan, Indonesia, 225 km

An act of kindness 
Day 1, Sat 8 Sep, 110 km. Singapore-Trikora. What's that sound? Oh, it's the alarm clock going off hours before dawn. I cycle 1.5 hours to the ferry teminal and pass the spot where three cyclists had been hit weeks ago. One died. Someone has laid a basket of flowers on the kerb. Under the street lights, the dew-laden air melds into the light grey road. At the ferry terminal, I wait. The last rider is almost an hour late. The check-in staff tells us to remove our bicycle accessories. "Say goodbye to your bike," he tells me with a laugh.

Our group of eight has two veterans from Laos and Taiwan. The rest are mostly newbies. Bike leader briefs them, then points at me and says, "If you can get ahead of him, you deserve to stay there." After an hour's riding to get out of "Bintanpore" (where prices are in SGD and as high) to the real Bintan, one of them pukes. He hurls. The locals watch, amazed. It's going to be a long day. After breakfast part 2, we cycle off. Kids wave and cheer. A motorcyclist gives me the thumbs up. I cycle ahead, mulling over work, head and heart matters. I somehow miss a turn, but don't realise this yet.

Have ice cream, will travel
I wait at a tiny, dusty shop. I figure I'm half an hour ahead. The shopkeeper chats with me. I finish my room-temperature drink. The sun burns. An ice-cream vendor rattles up on his motorbike. I ask for chocolate. It's RP3,000. He has no change for my RP50,000 note, which is the smallest I got from the money changer. I apologise. He smiles and thrusts the ice cream at me. I shake my head again, he insists again. I am amazed. I thank him in his language and he thanks me in mine. 

After an hour's wait, I call bike leader. Turns out he's just a few minutes away, having a break. He's sent the newbies ahead so that we get to the hotel during daylight. And we do. They celebrate with beer. I toast them, with ice cream. Some newbies decide to skip the ride tomorrow, including the ride treasurer. And I somehow end up being appointed treasurer - the one who handles the cash and pays the bills. My first such appointment.

Nightstop: Ocean Bay Resort

A wrong turn 
Day 2 Sun 9 Sep, 115 km. For breakfast, I have eight slices of toast, four cups of tea and two eggs. Who knows what the food and beverage situation is on the road? Near Tanjong Pinang, bike leader's sixth sense tingles. We've missed a turn. I speed back to save the others from wasted calories.

As we regroup, I tell bike leader there seems to be a shop that sells cold drinks. "I didn't say cold beer," I stress. "You seem to be right," he says after I lead them there. There is a fridge with cold drinks. I ask for ice and glasses. Bike leader says, "This is a shop, not a restaurant." He's right. I try to cancel my request. Glasses of ice appear. Sorry to impose and thank you so much for your hospitality. It's hot and sunny.

Like yesterday, kids say hello. A motorcyclist on the other side of the road beeps me. A passenger in a car give me a thumbs up. Passing vehicles give me a wide berth. Ahead, I see two Caucasians by the roadside looking at a big unfolded map. I give them directions. "Is it hilly?" one asks. I ask, "Where are you from, are you from Holland?" They reply, "Singapore". "There's nothing like that over there," I say. They have a long way to go.

Thunder rumbles, like the unhappy belly of Thor. I want to keep ahead of the rain clouds, to no avail. Rain falls. I'm wet but it's not the kind of rain that wets tyre rims. There is no time for lunch. I reach for my energy powder but it's gone, together with my reflective strip, which is the shiniest I've seen. They must have bounced out of my velcroed pocket. Bike leader pats his girth and says he has reserves but I'll die. To comfort me, he says he'll burn me hell money every Seventh Month. Thanks.

At the ferry terminal, I find out how true is the saying that it's in "Bintanpore". Prices are in Singapore dollars and Singapore rates. A couple occupy three chairs, with their bag taking up the third seat. I'm told only one seat is available. A second couple remove their bag for us. Seconds later, the first couple pay the bill and walk away. Guess you're not kind Indonesians, are you?


Sunday, September 02, 2012

The only one

Tanah Merah, 56 km. I go west to see how long it takes to cycle to a certain ferry terminal. There are three in the area, excluding the military one. And the naval base. At Changi Coast Road, the road ahead and behind me is devoid of cyclists. Where is everyone? Yes, there are many cyclists along the park connector, but they're all heading the other way. And I'm the only cyclist on the road.

When there's only one (whether person or thing), and it's gone, it's hard. Will there ever be another one? Maybe, but unlikely. And, sometimes, never.

Or perhaps, we don't know. It looks like I'm the only cyclist on the road, as far as I can see ahead or behind me. But, perhaps, out of sight, there are others on the road?

Round the bend, I see a faint, blinking blue light. What's this, blue light special at Kmart? Turns out to be a roadie. I "reel" him in on my knobbies. He overtakes and gets ahead, but not for long. At 40 km/h hour, I pass him and he catches up at a stop light. "Alone?" he asks. Yeah.  Turns out he's with some friends, who drop him. He's cycling alone to meet them several km away. When the light turns green, I drop him.

Along a busy road, a dog crosses. "Leave me alone," I scream silently at it. As I near it, it crosses again, towards me. Yikes! With traffic passing me, there's no room for evasive action. But it doesn't even look at me. I look where it's looking. A puppy, the only one. It's scared to follow mama across the road. And that's why mama (I guess it's a mama) came back. Aw, so sweet.