11-14 Sep, Malaysia (Cameron Highlands, Ipoh), 252 km
This is my eighth Bike n Blade. This charity ride is the longest in terms of days (two days to travel to and fro, by bus on 11 and 14 Sep respectively, and two days to ride) and the highest we climb: 1,500m. Everyone's a roadie (including triathletes) except a guy on a recumbent and me on my MTB.
I've a migraine on arrival. I try to sleep it off but fail. I eat a few mouthfuls of dinner, telling myself "three more mouthfuls". I want to keep my food down so I can ride up tomorrow. I want to complete my ride but leave my dinner uncompleted.
This has never happened to me on a charity ride but given this is my x ride. It is reasonable to expect that someday it would happen, just a matter of time. Rather than being unfortunate, I've been fortunate to escape it for so long.
12 Sep "Up". Cameron Highlands, 63 km
We ease out of morning rush hour to the base of the hill. Various roadies talk to me as they overtake.
"Mountain bike?" Well, this is the highlands, which means mountains, which goes with mountain bike. "Are you going to change bike tomorrow (160 km ride)?" "No, same bike, different rider," I quip.
They leave me trailing behind. It's a long climb. I think about strawberries, which grow in these hills. Being a couch potato, I like potatoes. You can slice them, dice them. Stack, drop, fry, bake, mash and freeze them. And strawberries? They go bad so fast. Squeeze them and they leave a sticky mess. Expensive and unsuited for carbo loading. Potatoes are a staple! Strawberries are delicacies, which need delicate handling.
I should stop thinking about these things. The journey doesn't get easier with these thoughts; they get harder. Enjoy the ride instead, ok?
I ask myself, "why am I doing this?" My heavy heart weighs me down. At a water point, I ask the crew if they are from The Salvation Army. "Thank you so much for your support," one says. And that's why I'm doing this. 70 cyclists, 30 crew, $320,000 funds raised for charity and an estimated $0.5m worth of bicycles. My bicycle would be the cheapest. When I unload other people's bikes, I can carry each with two fingers: one to lift, the other finger is just to balance the bike.
Lunch is served at the end of the ride. Buffet of pasta. No water. Strawberry juice is served instead!
13 Sep "Oval" 170 km around Ipoh
|Blending in with the peloton and road colour|
I stick to the second peloton at the start but get dropped. As I cycle solo, the only rider with me is a motorcyclist who draws alongside and says my jersey is the colour of the road and not visible. I agree.
At a traffic light, the ambulance crew asks if I need anything. I ask if the ambulance is air=conditioned. Of course it is. "Massage?" I ask. "Well there's a bed but you need to get your own masseuse," comes the reply.
As the day draws on, various cyclists pass by, look at my fat tyres and make passing comments such as "strong determination" and "hard core". The ambulance passes by and the crew asks "are you ok?"
I am, until I miss a water point at the 140 km mark. The support vehicle isn't there. When I stop at a coffee shop, a couple of cyclists are there. One insists on buying me a Coke. By now, lunch time has passed. I'd bananas, 100Plus, a packet of energy gel and two cereal bars.
170 km is a long way to go on rolling hills. With fat tyres. Good thing there were some nice, quiet, scenic routes to pass the time.
14 Sep Epilogue
This is the toughest Bike n Blade to date and my toughest charity ride. Cycling up Cameron is cool (pun intended) but 170 km, hot sun and rolling hills is something else.
At breakfast, J says: "I look at his tyres and I feel tired already." S: "He has downhill rims." A: "So the part you enjoy is downhill? What was your max speed?" It was 61 km/h compared to her 58.
Our bus is 90 minutes late. I go back to my room to sit in bed. I'm a couch potato :)
To round it all off, I cycle home, about 9 km away, the same way I came. I seem to be the only one using my own muscle power to get home.