Sunday, November 4, 2007


Serendipity - a fortunate accident

those who have watched the romantic, 'divine intervention'-filled movie serendipity (starring john cusack & kate beckinsale) would be amazed by how little misfortunes can lead to one great love. in the movie, john cusack explained to kate his theory of how their paths were meant to be crossed by "some serendipi-tatous reason".

i've watched this classic hopeless romantic movie for at least 10 times in the last 6 years. every time is the same: i watch, i become love sick, and i become hopeful that there is someone out there just for me. someone who isn't afraid to plunge into the unknown with me, knowing that whatever happens we would be ok because he has me in his arms. someone who would love my quirky ways and while may not naturally accept my inner monsters, would at least learn how to tame it and lock it safe in the deepest dungeons of my heart.

while i haven't met mr serendipi-lious yet. i must admit certain great 'epic' episodes in my life occurred by accident.

seeing that it's been 6 years since i watched the movie for the first time, let's go back 6 years..

6 years ago, i met whom many know today as the person i desperately love: arif. while our meeting wasn't by chance (we just 'happened' to be colleagues), my acquired taste for escargot was.

as a kid, my more affluent cousins loved escargots. every nice dinner that i tagged along, they ordered escargots while i played it safe with lamb chops. and as a kid i always wondered what they taste like but never had the courage to try them. as i grew up, julia roberts did the famous flying escargot scene in pretty woman. as the years went by, i associated escargots with wealth, class, great taste and c'mon... it even has a sexy name... es---car---go...

so when arif started showing interest in me, my initial thoughts were "gosh! he's cute... too bad he looks like a racerboy. definitely player material". this later turned into "o dear! rich kid syndrome". but by which time i had already been swooned by him and had started working on trying to impress him with my 'class' and erm... 'great taste'. being the silly girl in infatuation (at that time) i thought "ok, my 'social status' might not be way up there, but by golly i'm going to ooze charm and fine dining!"

so finally it happened.

we went on one of our first few dates at san francisco steak house near damansara kim. not exactly fine dining, but slightly more up market. there and behold, the menu stated: 1/2 dozen escargot in creamy garlic/butter cheese melt.

my heart sank.
can't remember the exact conversation but i think it went something like this:
arif: o! they have escargots
senn: yes, they do....
arif: you said you like them, right?
senn: er... yes.. do you?
arif: honestly... never had them!
(mental note to self: next time, don't oversell about being classy enough to try exotic garden snails when in fact one has only seen what it looks like on a platter!)

senn: o! let's have something else then. it's an acquired taste.
airf: no-no.. let's order and i'll have a go at it
senn: you sure?
airf: yup!
(mental note to self: whatever you do, do not puke on your date!)

what happened next was brilliant!

i've never tried it. lied point blank to impress the guy. suffered in inner silence, waiting for the waitress to serve the dreadful escargots. feeling like on death row and just knowing the angels were laughing at my retribution.

the escargots came.
all 6 of them.

out of 'grace' i let him try first:
arif: .......
senn: is it strange?
arif: no, it's good!
senn: really?

and it was good... it was soooooo goood....

many dinners after that included the must have 1/2 dozen escargots. the best ones are served at flamanco's in plaza damansara.

serendipity - a fortunate accident.

our relationship took a break for 2 years later that year, but i took with me, my new acquired taste for slimy snails. i swear the french are the true romantics of the world to create gorgeous food out of slimy slugs.

when arif and i got together again 2 years ago, i was fresh out of a break up and dying for salvation. i had quit my job for my ex-boyfriend 3 months earlier, thinking that a change of industry on his advice would save the relationship. i searched for a new job outside my comfort industry, found one, tendered my resignation, and broke up 1 month later.

so fresh out of painful break up, feeling frumpy, quit job in industry i love and embarking on a total career shift: so much uncertainty... so much grief & loss... so many insecurities.

then i met shen.

shen was hired to replace me and what a small world: she knew arif too! for 10 years prior at that. and she also knew my ex as a childhood friend so pouring my heart out became natural.

she told me to get on with life and that i needed to achieve something. she asked what my main priority was for myself now and i said "i want to lose weight. look super hot and make him regret ditching me"

shortly after, shen and arif took me on my first bike ride.

during one of our first weekend rides, shen brought up the topic of triathlons. i still remember the short debate shen and arif had:
shen: you guys should try triathlons
arif: nah.. cyclists and triathletes hardly mix
shen: how come?
arif: well, in a way cyclists feel that triathletes are jack of all trades, master of none. at least being a cyclist, you can master something and be really good at it.
shen: well, don't knock it till you've tried it.
arif: it's an admirable hobby, i've tried it once when i was 15. but i think i'll rather be a master than a jack
shen: well, like i said. don't knock it till you've tried it.

at this point in time, arif and i were strongly drawn to each other and being the girl that never learns fast i tried to impress him... again...

the monday after that weekend's conversation i sent an email to both shen and arif. the plot was simple. just send the email, shen will reply favourably, arif will keep at being a master not a jack and i should be able to wriggle my way out by saying i don't think i can heck it alone.

my email:
guys, are we really going to do this?

shen replied:
yes, there's one coming up in april, it's only december, you'll have loads of time to train.

arif replied:
sure. why not.

damn.... and so it began.

we started training, i found muscle aches i never knew existed. i was tired. i was slugging it out. i was having loads of doubt. i was kicking myself hard each time on the way to training. "stupid senn... this is stupid. why did you have to open your big fat mouth and appear gungho. stupid. stupid stupid..."

i held out till 5 minutes before my first a'famosa sprint. reality hit but i was too embarrassed to back out. i had bought nice race stuff to hype my excitement and suppress my fear and stupidity.

kept thinking: you've done it a again... escargot syndrome...

what happened next was equally brilliant.

we finished in moderate time. had beer to celebrate and watched shen do the olympic distance the next day. and i've never felt this great in my entire life.

2 years - about 2000km on bike mileage (maybe more.. but who's counting?), 9 triathlons, 2 interstates and 1 ironman later, i am again... heartbroken and alone.

but i have had a blast.
great memories, and i'm glad i have a big mouth that made me experience things i would otherwise not have the courage to. i have learnt alot about myself, became impossibly mental when it comes to physically challenging my physically challenged body and have been blessed by so many supportive and encouraging friends.

so the next time you think your making the wrong move, suffered from foot-in-mouth disease or 'accidentally' said something you think can't possibly achieve, have faith. life might just be leading you to another great love.

serendipity - a damn fortunate accident.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chronicles of the DIVA

I've been riding my pretty Diva for almost a 6 months now..

and what a time it has been!

right from her debut ride up fraser's in may, she has proven to be a lady only few can handle. i was humbled by the fact that with wrong settings (new saddle and crank) she can be quite a pain. she can also be intimidating on steep, narrow decents. needless to say, our first ride together left me in tears and longing to return to the cow.

over the next few weeks, i struggled to earn her respect without much success resulting to doing many things for her just to ease her hostility. truly eccentric.

i did a couple of tris with her and she proved difficult. she didn't respond well if not at all, she was a total snob to me and i could hear her mumble..secretly being ashame of her new owner.

things took a turn when i decided enough was enough and i dressed her up the way that made me most comfortable. i did away with the durace crank i bought specially for her, thinking it looked really nice on her and i pushed the new saddle way forward.

the shock of being adorned by a humble compact crank and a less aggressive seating position must have hit her hard and got her thinking "o gosh! i've taken my new mistress for granted so badly and made her prove her worth in such a rediculous way that she no longer cares about making me look good anymore!"

strange, but i guess when things have always been your way, when someone was gladly giving and then suddenly that someone is fed up of being taken on a painful ride and retracts everything, you will suddenly feel humbled and very small.

things started to change when i stood up for myself with the diva.

she started responding better, in fact absolutely obedient! she was quiet, patient and ready to go when i was.

in return, i showered her with more care. i developed a fierce protection over her well being and i never let strangers touch her. and i was very proud to flaunt her beautiful curves wherever we went.

we had a total blast at this year's interstate. being the only diva made her estatic! all the admirers!

riders came up to me asking if they could take a closer look. i knew she would be happy about the attention, so i stood back a graciously allowed them to admire her at all angles. i lost count of the number of riders drooling at her sensuous curves, carrying her lightweight frame and giving her a gentle finger-flick to hear her. it didn't stop at re-grouping/start points, while riding, a pelaton will zoom pass but slow down to take a quick look and of course a courteous hello to her mistress.

i may not have been the superpowered rider she may have initially hoped to be with, but my ease and pride of owning her gave her loads of compliments and envious looks.

6 months into our relationship, we are happier than ever.

she gave me great timing at desaru and helped me survive the horrors of long weekend rides like broga reverse, klawang, bentong, bangi-pd and genting.

what started as a relationship skewed to a diva has become one of comfort and mutual respect.

i had initially fought hard to gain acceptance and recognition from my diva. even had thoughts of 'humbling' her at our next IM 2008. and she did the same by retaliating and inflicting more pain on me, making sure i knew where i truly stood in her life (which was no where next to her, and everywhere in the shadows).

but now i realised, just like any relationship, we can give all we can but we must stand up for what we want in return, in order to gain mutual respect, admiration and common ground.

while we have developed basic foundations for respect and admiration, common ground needs a lot of work. we are still in occasional clashes especially on hills she thinks i'm geared up for, when i can't deliver the power but i do believe come IM 2008 we will put our differences aside and work together towards a common goal - finishing with grace and legs for the run!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Crash Course Dummies Finale: When in rome..

do what the romans do...

in my final tribute to my dear friend, i would like to share with you some insights about things that are not related to your physical training for tris at all..

race etiquette

over my two full tri seasons, i've come to understand a couple of unspoken rules which, if followed, can ensure you do not rub anybody the wrong way. of course, if your intention is to annoy somebody, then this posting's not for you! :)

1. freeloader
getting to races are as important as racing itself. there's a number of things that you need to do before actually getting there. the main ones are registration, accommodation and travel arrangements. the key here is the bigger your group is, the lesser the cost per pax, subject to room and car space.

however, it is only polite that you do not continuously rely on others to make the accommodation or travel arrangements. it is also not very tactful and people will feel taken for granted if you inform them at very last minute that you would like to join their group.

inform early and stick to one group. do not cancel last minute to join another group as this will disrupt your original group's plan (imagine, they have rejected other friends to reserve your slot only to realise two days before race that you're bunking in with another group. their cost share has gone up and it's too late to find a replacement roomie).

if it is naturally beyond your ability to take charge of room reservation or travel, offer to help in other ways like collecting race numbers, or volunteering to bring carbo-loading fruits, or offer to sleep in sleeping bag instead of the bed. the goal here is to ensure that everybody in the group contributes so that nobody gets the 'freeloader' label.

2. know when to shut up
the one thing i like about races is, it feels like a high school reunion. Apart from the usual gang that you train with, you will always see a great deal of people that you only meet at races.

naturally, it's a great time to catch up and do some sizing up. i am always happy to see these people and can't help but be extra chatting and animated.

be as crazy as you like but know when to shut up: during race briefings.

nothing annoys participants more than a chatty group at race briefings. it is inconsiderate, disrespectful to the organisers and down right rude.

if you have a question about the route or rules, ask the organiser giving the brief. he's the one who knows best. if you ask your friend beside you, you're actually disrupting his concentration and you might be disturbing other participants as you discuss your concerns.

if you are familiar with the course, you can either pay attention in case there are new pointers or just leave the room if you would like to chat and catch up with friends. you may not hear it because you're busy chatting away, but many are actually calling you an inconsiderate prick, arrogant moron and stupid yapping monkey under their breaths.

3. you did not pay more for a bigger transition spot
we are all equals and should be treated with respect on race day. How kiasu (read: unhealthily competitive) you are is reflected by how you arrange your transition area.

i have been parked next to some really nice gals who will place their transition baskets slightly behind their front wheels, and some not very considerate ones that hang their bikes loosely and transition basket loosely as well.

depending on the space available i find those who park their bikes an inch from the opponent's transition basket and their own transition basket closest possible to their front wheels most suitable. i myself have started practicing that.

if you are the sweetie that places your basket further behind, stop this. you are very sweet but you will find it very hard to get to your basket when race starts. and the girl next to you may not be as courteous, placing her bike too close. so close, that you may topple some of her stuff usually placed on the aerobars while reaching for your basket. which of course, is worse than hogging a bit more space to begin with.

if you're the transition space hogger, stop this too. This is not your bed where you are used to hogging the blankie and getting away with it.

4. on your right!
unless you are super fast that nobody passes or laps you, learn this phrase.

when you hear somebody shouting this behind you, it means a faster rider is trying to pass you, on your right. at this point either stick your course and let him ride around you or if you are far right of the lane, quickly move left to give him space.

do not hog.

as much as you would like to feel like an elite or want to challenge for the thrill of it, avoid charging and hogging. pros are there to win big bucks and chances are, if you're not top 3 material, you'll blow your little engine before you cross the finishing line.

you can however, taste a bit of pro-haven. when you pass a slower rider, shout "on your right!" and put on your most serious face when you pass them.

very important: use phrase only if able to pass and drop them for at least a few km. if not... super shy man....

5. stopping to puke/pee/poo/pengsan
if you're on the bike and feeling nauseous, have a tummy ache or wanting to pass out, remember that your bike is like your car and other riders are car drivers themselves.

if your car tyre blows, and you're approaching a corner, what do you do?

you will first look at your rearview mirror to check who's behind you. then, you would try your best to park after the corner is done or way before the corner. either way, you will try your best to not obstruct any other car or are wary that a car may not see yours and ram you from behind... correct?

same rule applies when you're doing the bike leg.

feel a sudden need to stop?
1. check who's behind you. do not brake suddenly
2. move to the side and make sure your bike is completely off the road.

if you are careless you may cause an accident and hurt yourself and somebody else.

6. suck wheel graciously
most local tris allow us the joy of drafting some body's wheel to safe energy.

if you would like to take advantage of this remember one key phrase: you're not the only smart one out there.

in short, don't take advantage of this privilege by being 'so smart' and finding a 'victim' that will do all the work while you sit there comfortably.

this is a very hard etiquette to persuade because many have this "why should i care about my opponent?" and "i'll only do it if it benefits me... and only me" attitude during races.

a very fair attitude to have.

but i've heard a lot of stories of annoyed triathletes who've experienced freeloading suckers. it is more annoying when the sucker is a relay rider because hey! you're a freeloader... you suck on some one's wheel, a full participant at that. you ravish their energy to pull you faster but yet you do not run after. the triathlete slows down so that you can help work your keep but you slow down yourself to remain in draft!

no offense to relay riders, a pat on your back for being in the race to begin with.

so, if you're a freeloader, start pulling your weight. you may be feeling really smart about taking advantage of a fellow racer but the after race stories label you a coward, a pussy and a pure annoyance.

sucking tips: know what number represents which group before you attempting sucking their wheel. if it's an age grouper, safe to draft because they have to run after the bike and will conserve energy for that. if it's a relay number, be reminded that they will be going all out on the bike because they won't need to run after. drafting a relay may use up more than your reserved energy. let them go and find a more suitable draft group.



proof reading this post made me realise how much angst i have about 'misbehaving' participants!

i think if we all did our part to be considerate we can all benefit from, and enjoy raceday.

i apologise if some of the points have rubbed you the wrong way, but like i said, consider the etiquette tips if you don't want to be a race nuisance but if annoying others for personal gain is what you think is best race practise... then by all means, go ahead. this blog obviously wasn't written for you...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Crash Course Dummies Part 4: Falling in love with a gazelle

How many of us can honestly say we can fall in love with a gazelle, just like that?

not many i hope or you'd bring new meaning to 'animal lover'.

trick question aside, i for one am not a gazelle in love. those of you who have been following my blog would know i metaphorically mean i can't run.

i can't.


i was never a runner at school, i was never the girl jogging around the neighbourhood, and i sure as hell wasn't the one nike marketeers were hoping to reach by featuring graceful runners in funky gym clothes and long strides on their giant posters.

nope. not me.

i remember my expedition to climb mt kinabalu some 6 years ago. in my ambition to climb the highest peak in south east asia, i started going to the gym. i spent 20-30mins everyday on the treadmill, and about the same amount on the stair-master. among the group that i was travelling with, i was the most hardworking. i was also the youngest.

i still remember how i would boast to them my treadmill speed and incline setting. i would also show off my ability to climb batu cave stairs effortlessly, doing 10 repeats each time. they too were full of awe as they saw me prove my point about how strong i've become when our group tracked around gasing heights.

and then it happened.

someone said, "you're really fast at climbing, i'm curious to see how fast you run"

after telling them my routine of starting at 7 speed on the treadmill graduating to 10, sometimes 12 by the end of the 30min session, someone else said "wow... we must go to lake gardens as additional training for mt kinabalu. Senn can teach us how to run!"

....senn can teach us how to run....

i confidently, and in my most humble manner possible albeit a very very swollen ego said, "sure, next weekend perhaps?"

come the following weekend i was ready. we met at lake gardens and decided to just run around the lake seeing that it's every body's first time running together. my 'students' and i started the first loop in a happy mood. brisk walking to warm up... arm stretches to get the blood flowing, light skipping to get the heart rate up...

then we started a slow jog...

...then i started running a little faster
... a little faster
... a little faster

and just as i thought i was at a comfortable speed, similar effort to treadmill, my friends passed me. one by one.

one, by painful, one.

i'm like "wtf?? they must be running too fast, they'll tire out soon and then i'll pass them and this steady pace.."

...i never did.

we covered 3 loops that day and they waited about 15mins for me to finish my last loop. i felt so sheepish, humbled by the fact that my friends could have set me up. served me right for being so boastful.

but they were honestly impressed and thought i could share my secrets of running before actually seeing me run!

when i finally joined the group, one of them said "um... are you unwell today?" i said "no, why? was i really that bad?"

friend: well, there were loads of action, high bounce but not much stride. you kinda looked like you were running on a treadmill at high speed!

hmmm... anyway, we finally made it to the top about a month later. came back feeling all proud of ourselves only to read that 12 handicapped children under 18 made it up there during a sponsored event two weeks later in the papers.

oh well.

6 years and a few runs later, am still running the same way. except in longer distance.

so, while i ain't no run guru, i have learnt a few things that could probably help some of you wanting to start running.
1. treadmill queen does not translate road queen
if you're a gym junkie and a treadmill hogger, be aware that your performance on the treadmill has very little reflection on your performance on actual road. don't get me wrong, treadmills are great (a little boring once you've tasted outdoor running but great nonetheless). how else better to time your run? how else to better control your surrounding, terrain and watch tv at the same time?
on the road, how far and how frequent your strides are determine how fast you run. resistance is higher and terrain is not determined by buttons. weather also plays a part. running outside is definitely harder than running on the treadmill. it also gives you an opportunity to check how the race distance actually feels like to your body.

so, if you're thinking of joining an actual race, take your running outside because what you're really doing on the treadmill is jumping and spreading your legs midair for 30mins or more. the auto-rolling platform below actually helps lower resistance. it's a good form of cardiovascular development and probably even increase stamina but not good enough for actual racing.

2. road safety
if this is your first time running outdoors pay close attention to road safety. when cycling, you should ride in the direction of traffic but when you run, do it against traffic. this way you are able to see cars coming and it is also harder to be abducted when you run facing traffic.

make sure your senses are on full alert when running. i personally would love to run with music in my ears but have disciplined myself to not do so because i will not be able to hear my surroundings with the music pumping into my eardrums. if you must run with music, make sure it's either soft enough to hear other things or use only one side of the earphones.

3. glow in the dark
morning runs are the best. air is cool and it isn't sunny. but with our busy lifestyles, evening runs seem to be more feasible sometimes.

if you only run evenings, make sure you can be seen by night drivers. wear light clothing, preferably with reflective strips.

when we ran up genting at night last year, we didn't have the choice of running against traffic. so what we did was we actually wore mining headlights turned to the back so that we were more visible to oncoming cars. i attached a few tiny lights on my run cap, blinking white and red. ms christmas tree i was - very festive but very safe.

4. run buddy
it is actually highly dangerous to run alone regardless of time (more so after dark, of course). make sure you run with a buddy or two. if they're stronger runners, request shorter regrouping points or ask that they look back once awhile to make sure you're ok especially before turning a blind corner.

if you are the faster runner, make sure you do not sprint too far ahead that they can't see you if there is trouble. turn back at blind corners if you are uncertain. take the distance running back to your friend as extra mileage rather than a 'hindrance' of not completing the distance in your usual time. staying safe is far more important. besides, who has ever said "i won in my last training session with my friends"? if you are truly faster than your friends, it will be revealed at actual race day where it matters more.

if you have no choice but to run alone, do not choose a secluded route. keep to one that you know will be full of people or at least civilisation that you can run to in case of danger.

5. be unpredictable
we are, to a certain extent, creatures of habit. but try not to do this when running, especially if you fly solo. crime is hardly random and usually planned. so if you have a predictable run schedule, the baddies are able to plan their attack very easily.

when possible carry a handphone in case of emergency and always ensure at least somebody knows where you are going.

6. fall in love
i've saved this point last as it would appear hypocritical for me to advice how to fall in love with a gazelle when i myself am having problems opening my heart.

but since racing for two seasons, i have collected a few standard things that can help you find the gazelle a bit more attractive:
a: lean like you're falling
- when you run, maintain a straight spine and relax your shoulders. lean forward as if you are going to topple over. your natural instinct would be to put one foot forward to stop your fall. by maintaining this posture, your feet will naturally fall in front of each other with very little effort.
b: touch you knee and kick your butt
- as you run, occasionally reach forward to tap your knees. and when you feel like it, kick up your leg far enough to touch your butt. tapping your knees makes you remember to lean forward enough for your feet to move. the butt kicking is to stretch your legs and getting them use to longer strides.
c: hold your 'spander' straps
- many people (i'm definitely still guilty of this) move their arms too much when running. a good gauge is to imagine a line in the middle of your chest. swing your arms forward and not across this line to conserve energy. a good practise is to imagine you wear trouser 'spanders' and hold them at chest level while you run.

there are many other tips on how to fall in love. but one thing that sticks with me most is determination.

never stop running. no matter how slow. i read somewhere that one should not worry about speed. just concentrate on technique and speed will eventually come. no matter how slow my run still is, i found this point very true.

my race at desaru last weekend is a case in point.

i was running my last 8k. i was tired but have made sure i ran the entire 21k regardless of how mini my strides were. i had fellow triathlete willie with me and darling arif on the bike as escort.

when arif said i only had less than 5k to go, i found my second wind. i picked up my speed a bit more. he said "good, at this speed you'll finish in under 40-45mins". that felt good. willie kept cheering beside me. my legs were heavy but i felt sudden adrenaline coming back.

then i spotted our shadow on the road...

...gawd! i looked like one of those chubby short aunties wearing a tight corset wobbling her way to the market. only thing missing was my basket of vegetables!

it was a hard sight to look at, especially since i thought i was running full on. then i realise that willie who has been brisk walking all this while beside me....was still brisk walking!

alas, false love again.

nevertheless, i finished in good spirit and later checked that i had wobbled faster than arif did last year where he walked most of the way because of massive back pains.

so no matter how horrid you think your run is and no matter how horrid it really is... it is always faster than walking.

i may not be a gazelle in love but i suspect i'm falling... ever so slowly..but ever so surely...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Crash Course Dummies Part 3: Ride safe!

Riding with confidence can mean racing safe.

when i first started cycling, i was 5. i had a cute little tricycle, complete with ribbons, a basket and a bell. Every evening dad would take me to the park and set me free. there, i will ride alongside him and occasionally, my menacing elder brothers. as i grew older, i graduated to cycling around the neighbourhood, this time dad would either cycle or jog with me.

very standard image, right?

that's what i thought until i spoke to him in later years.

see, being so young, i have blurred and selective memories about my early riding days. but i always remembered one feeling: safe.

i always felt safe. never felt that i needed to worry. never even knew i should worry.

while all these years i thought i was just born daring, i recently realised i wasn't. i was brought up that way.. thanks to my parents (and it's actually a humbling experience when you realise your parents actually know more tricks than you do!)

when my parents decided that i should learn how to cycle, their objective was:
1. get her interested
2. make her brave

so this was exactly what my dad did:
1. catching senn's eye
my dad bought me a pretty tricycle. it wasn't a standard three wheeler, more like a mini bike, with two wheels and hooked on training wheels. honestly, i can't remember the full details but i remembered wanting to ride it because it was pretty. the basket in the front was a huge blast with me. i would carry all sorts of nonsense in it and pretend that i was delivering stuff. and it had a bell!! i was sold!

while i don't remember my very first ride, i do remember park rides and what a racket my training wheels made on the uneven pedestrian path.

mission accomplished: senn is interested.

2. introducing senn to evil knievel
i can't remember how long i had training wheels on, but i know it felt forever. and it was great. i hardly fell, i could ride faster, and i had no worries about heavy traffic (read: naughty brothers weaving around me) because when i feel like i was going to bump into something, i just stop. when the coast was clear, i just continued.

it wasn't until i was 7 and have long outgrown my 'tricycle' that my dad said time to switch bikes. i thought "what a cool idea... i want a prettier one!"

no such luck...

being tight for money, i got my brother's old bike :(

it was an ugly, rusting dark red bike. heavy and not attractive at all! and did i say, it had no training wheels??

i was sad. but had already enjoyed cycling so much i figured "rough it out till your birthday comes".

and this conversation i remember:
dad: ok senn! this is your bike now. come try it
senn: but it's ugly
dad: never mind... still got two wheels..try first... come!
senn: but it's too big!
dad: good for you. then you'll grow faster.. come!
(right about now i was feeling like a puppy being called by the master!)
senn: but i'll fall! no wheel-wheel (read: training wheels. had no idea at that time there was actually a name for it)
dad: but you haven't been using them for more than 1 year! faster la... come!

hang on....

i have never been able to describe how i felt at that point in time until m. night shyamalan directed sixth sense..

know the last twist towards the end when bruce willis found out he was actually dead?

yea...same feeling

memories of my trusty wheel-wheels.. they were there! they stopped my from falling! i would stop and they were there to help balance! they were! i swear!

think dad saw the confusion in my face.

he took out my tricycle and said "see?"

true enough. my wheel-wheels were at least 2 inches above ground. over the span of a year and a half my dad had slowly adjusted it higher from ground level to above ground without me knowing. when i dismount, the bike stood, leaning until the training wheels touched the ground. but when i rode, it was just the two wheels.

i later found out that he did the same thing with my swimming floats. i started out at 5 with fully inflated arm floats. every 2 to 3 weeks, he will inflate it a little less. by about 7 months, i really didn't need them anymore but wore them till my parents enrolled me with a swim coach at the age of 6.

how i have been conned!

it wasn't until i was 15 did the whole episode of giving your kid a false sense a security came out. i had met a classmate that enjoyed riding and decided to try it with her with my brother's 5-speed, heavy as hell road bike.

feeling cheated all this while, i asked my dad point blank: why did you trick me about the training wheels and the arm floats?

his answer was simple and one that i admit has done wonders for me.

"to build confidence"

it's strange how a small gesture like tricking your kid into thinking she's safe can build her confidence. but it's very true. when i thought i had my training wheels, my mind was at ease. i didn't worry too much about falling and focused more on things like maintaining momentum and riding straight. i wasn't afraid to look left or right while riding because i didn't have to concentrate too much on what's directly in front of me that i neglect my surroundings (read: up to no good brothers trying to race pass me). i wasn't nervous and learned sub-consciously how to manage distance like how long it will take to stop if i went at what speed.

confidence is one thing you will need to ride.

forget how lousy your bike is.
forget how slow you ride.

be confident.

confidence on the bike is not something we are born with. it is something we train ourselves to do. just like driving. and it's best to build your confidence while you are training on your bike.

as we're all too old to be fooled by "false securities", here are some tips that can help you build confidence while riding.
1. stop strangling your handlebar
a very normal thing to do when you ride on the roads for the very first time. you've never felt traffic zooming pass you before and you're worried about potholes ahead.


clenching your handlebars or getting "white knuckles" automatically tightens your entire body. you become rigid and will not be able to think fast or make sudden movements to avoid a mishap.

instead, start of with a sturdy bike. with sturdy wheels like open pros.

while we haven't addressed your initial fears of road riding, the fact that your first bike is hardly anything to shout about and your wheels are strong gives you peace of mind to 'trash it' a little. think a trusty 4x4 vs a shiny new speedster.

2. be one with the bike
think of your bike as an extension of yourself. as if you were born with wheels and riding really is like walking to you.

how does this help?

simple, think of the things you would do while walking on a busy street and apply that while you are riding.

on a busy street, you would walk as far to the edge as possible but making sure you have room left before going off road. you would also not fix your line of sight to just what's in front of you. you would look left, right, occasionally behind you to ensure your surrounding is safe.

if there's a pothole in front of you, you would either walk around it or jump over it. but either way you will still check what's coming behind you. same goes when you're on a bike. i used to be afraid of doing so because the bike swerves to the direction of my head. arif taught me to straighten my shoulders and touch my chin to my shoulder when wanting to look back. this ensures that your bike remains straight as you check your surroundings.

if traffic doesn't allow you to go around the pothole, just ride through it if it isn't crater sized. you'll hear a loud thud. at this point, if you have been strangling your handlebars, you will most probably lose balance and fall. but if you hold your handlebar correctly, the only damage is a loud thud, a possible flat, and wrist vibration. a good hold is one when it's firm enough to keep the handlebar straight, but light enough for your handlebar to move to the natural groove of the pit. this takes time and a sturdy set of wheels to master. but very useful to ensure you don't ride into traffic just to avoid a pothole.

and never ever squeeze the brakes hard as you enter the pothole (something you're more likely to do if you do not relax that death grip on the handlebar). you will most definitely fly forward.

3. ride decisively
many people think that bikes, being smaller, has less 'voice' on the road. not true.

but if you are timid on the bike, you will appear to have a smaller 'voice' and may be subject to being bullied.

if you want a louder 'voice' on the road, imagine that you are driving BUT with a little more caution because you are less visible on a bike.

we drive with confidence, we signal when we want to change lanes (by default we should!) and we learn that hesitating is far more dangerous than being decisive.

ride with a clear direction. no sudden moves.

we lost a dear rider last year on one of the sunday rides at putrajaya. those who know the route, will tell you that it's actually quite a puzzle how she got hit by a small kancil of a car from behind. for starters, it's a bright sunday morning. the particular stretch of road is relatively low in traffic. and it's a five lane highway.

five lanes.

i wasn't there when it happened but was told that the car hit her when the road started to divide into an intersection with an overhead. she had wanted to go straight, the car had wanted to keep left.

two stories:
a) moron of a driver should have been a little more patient when changing lanes.
b) she was a new rider and possibly panicked with the raging car behind her and made a sudden move thinking that she was getting out of his way.

while it would be unfair of me to say that had she stood her ground, she would not have gotten hit, (hell, simon cross is an excellent rider and he got hit!) i do feel that you need to build confidence on your bike by riding decisively. and when you ride decisively, you become less unpredictable to the zooming cars behind or around you. they can be morons and choose to cut in front or be patient and wait behind you but bottom line, they can at least sense what your next move is.

and that... means you have a voice to be reckoned with on the road.

keep practising these tips. ask your more experience riding buddies how you ride and what they think you should try out to be more confident (because strangely, experienced riders themselves find it scary to ride with riders that have low confidence or are timid and indecisive)

once you've built enough confidence on actual road riding, races would be less intimidating. especially since they would often close the roads to traffic and you would have policemen/marshals to help ensure safety.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Crash Course Dummies Part 2: Swimming lessons

For all you swimmers who have forgotten that you were once champions.

triathlon swimming is not the same as swim races. For starters, there are no race lines. Other differences include:
1. murky water
2. unpredictable currents
3. strange tasting water
4. uncivilised competitors

of all the differences above, the one you should be most wary of, is uncivilised competitors.

triathlon swimmers are like Malaysian drivers. the radio ads we hear are so true. Malaysians in general are friendly, caring and tolerant. But put them in a car and give them the keys and hell breaks loose. tailgating, honking, cutting dangerously in front.

impatient, inconsiderate and down right rude. especially in traffic jams.

a tri swim start is very much like rush hour traffic. loads of people wanting to get to their destination the quickest way possible.

so, if this is your first triathlon, the swim itself will shock you. Here are some tips that will help you prepare for raceday nightmare:
1. start at the back
you may have heard this a lot from your other seasoned triathletes. the reason is normally "because you're not sure of your swim and may be slow". the more important reason i feel is because it makes you less vulnerable to uncivilised swimmers. no matter how fantastic a swimmer you are, if you're used to proper swim lanes, you're not 'streetwise' enough to handle swim traffic on your first tri. it is totally everybody for they own out there and starting at the back, you can have a small taste of it and then brave it to the middle pack as you graduate to the front, when you're gungho enough.

2. swim the outer lane
the rule, stick to the inner lane along lined buoys for the shortest route and most efficient navigation is true, but highly inadvisable on your first tri. safety to swim close so that you can hang on to the buoys in case you're in trouble is also not good enough a reason to risk getting in the way of an uncivilised swimmer on your maiden tri. this is because every swimmer is gonna want to stick to that line and if you're slow, chances of getting hit or swam over is very high. stick to outer premises, that way you are not restricted by the buoys on the left and have the option to move to your right or left in case you're stuck in a 'swim'pede.

3. study the course and flag off system
race briefing is normally done the day before or a couple of hours prior (if you're in a sprint). if you missed both, make sure you pay attention to the briefing again when organisers repeat it just before race starts. this is important as the organiser will announce what the swim course is and how you will be flagged off. in my year of tris, there are a few types of swim courses:
a) the out and back
- very simple straight or curved swim course. stick to the back and slightly on the outer lane and you will minimise getting bumped into

b) the origami (funny shaped, like a T or W)
- normally mapped out in restricted swim area like a marina where you swim along boats. navigation is going to be hard so be extra cautious of lost swimmers crashing into you.

c) the carousel
- when the swim course involves looping it twice. highly chaotic even if you start at the back as faster swimmers will lap you. a good gauge is to be wary as you complete the first loop, that's normally where you will get lapped.

flag off normally comes in to ways: mass start and in waves

mass starts are not as frightening. if you stick to the back, you're relatively safe. but be careful of flag offs in waves. strong swimmers from a later wave will be crashing through even if your wave started 5 mins earlier. this is where swimming in the outer premise is important. you will experience higher levels of body crashes, slaps and kicks if you stick to the inner lane by the buoys and you will have no where to go as it'll be coming from the right and you can't go any further left because of the line. imagine a 'swim'pede and being caged in with no escape route.

Some friends told me that arwah zubir's autopsy included concussions. he had started at the back but my wave which consisted of relay swimmers and all women started 5 mins after. if the story about the autopsy is true, it is possible that he got kicked or slapped on the head by a stronger swim in my wave.

4. do the seaweed
notice how agile seaweed is? bending according to currents, weaving around our bodies? this is a good plant to observe for tri swimming. be alert, and move according to the body clashing. avoid being rigid.

when we're swimming, we learn to keep the body straight for maximum efficiency. each stroke mechanically in front delivering power pulls. excellent tip for lane swimming or later into the swim course when traffic begins to lighten due to differing speed. but extremely bad news if you're a newbie and have no idea what a 'swim'pede is.

'swim'pede normally last the first 200m or so. after that, traffic lightens and you can very safely practice what you have learnt about swimming close to the line and lengthening your body straight for maximum energy output. but before this 200m is over, here are some tips on how to do the seaweed:
a) forget proper swim strokes
- whether u plan to front crawl, breast stroke or do a combo, keep in mind that your first 200m ain't going to give you enough room in the sea of bodies to fully extend your strokes. don't force your body to be extended if the traffic doesn't allow. do shorter strokes, bend a little so that your body is limber. it's common physics: a softer surface absorbs impact more gracefully that a hard surface. think "my body has crumple zones..."

b) feel the chi
- water chi is nothing supernatural or spiritual. it's basically light currents you will feel because somebody is swimming too close to you either from the side or in front. enhance your senses, the water is going to be cloudy, sometimes you can't see any further than a few inches from your extended hand.after many swim starts, i notice i will always feel a sudden gush of small currents or see bubbles before something (read: foot, leg, face, body etc) hits me.

bernard's blog says practice swimming laps wearing dark goggles in late evenings. very good tip to help you enhance your senses when sight is a luxury.

c) my head is my temple
our bodies can take a fair bit of torture before caving in, but the slightest blow on the right spot of our heads and we'll be in serious trouble.

the first 200m is more survival than performance. your arms are not your pedals at this stage, propelling you forward. you arms are your shields until the madness is over. extending about half a meter in front of you, use them to gauge if there's something in front of you before you pull forward. if you feel water chi, or touch something, slow down. stop, put your head up and thread water to check your surroundings if you have to. don't worry about somebody bumping behind you because you've stopped in their tracks, at least you head is safely above water and hand slaps tend to give softer blows than full kicks. he'll be annoyed, but will not be able to swim on top of you, he'll have to go around you.

something i do, which you can try mastering is fast navigation. when i feel water chi or touch someones toes, i immediately put my head up. almost always, i will see a swimmer in front of me. i'll do a quick right look to see if there's anyone directly next to me and change my direction north-east. i never check the left. to me, left leads to the dead end buoys, and my objective is to get out of the traffic. after much practice, i have been able to do this without missing a stroke.

5) forgive thy neighbour
'swim'pede is normal and not personal. as much as i have preached about uncivilised swimmers, i have had my share of feeling teeth with my toes and soft bellies as i breast stroked. it's just the nature of a swim start. and seriously, i can't see who's behind me so it was very unintentional.

one swim, the water was clear enough and i saw a swimmer below me! now that is plain rude. but hey! he just wants to go faster.

the point of this, is not so much about how we should accept the chaos that awaits and do the best we can about it, but more about remaining calm. if you got kicked repeatedly, squashed out of your space or swam over, remain calm. getting upset and frustrated ain't going to do you any good. you lose focus, you become uptight and will forget that it's only 200m, not even half the sprint or 1/3 of the olympic distance. relax. shit happens. focus on protecting yourself, try to get out of the traffic for a more peaceful swim. you'll be safe and you will navigate better when you are calm.

my one saving grace from being fully uncivilised is that i am able to change strokes at any point without breaking rhythm. so if i'm breast stroking and touch a soft belly, i will immediate change to front crawl to avoid kicking the guy again. if i feel somebody touching my toes while i'm doing the front crawl, i do a quick right check and swim north-east out of his way.

tips aside, don't worry too much about your first tri swim. you're out there to have fun. if the situation screws up your swim, no worries. relax and know that you'll get them back next time.

besides, weren't we all champs of a mass swim start once in the massive sea called mommy's womb?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Crash course dummies Part 1

A hitchhiker's guide for tri newbies.

it's been a week and a half now since the passing of our dear friend and i've been having mental blocks on how to write my next entry.


because i have unanswered questions which i haven't a clue how to address in order to fully move on.
because it was inconceivable how careless a race organiser can be, when it comes to safety control.
because he was a dear friend and it's hard to accept that he had died in vain if nothing was learnt from his passing.
because i still mourn.

i've been gathering my thoughts, and finding ways how to keep the fond memories and move on. how to address those nagging questions (how could nobody see he was in trouble? how could he be in trouble in the first place? why the hell did he pick such a big race as his first ever?) and how i can share with other newbies or seasoned racers so that his passing was not in vain.

my entry today and for the next 2 or 3 after this, will be in loving memory of him.

Crash course dummies - Part 1: How to pick a race
i notice there are two mindsets of people when they first pick up triathlons: those in it for the fun, and those in it for the bragging rights.

neither has gotten the concept wrong and both have the right to feel the way they do.

whether you're in it for fun or bragging rights, if this is your first time, my sincere advice to you is be humble about where you start.


because it doesn't matter what your physical fitness base is. it's also irrelevant how strong a swimmer, biker or runner you are. your first race will only spell one thing:


what people take for granted most is raceday conditions and this is only natural because we train in a friendly environment either with a group of friends or solo. i'm not sure how far the 'friendly environment' part is true to you but in my past year of training, i have not heard or said "golly, did you see the way arif punched me while we were swimming laps?" or "that was a good ride, if only bernard wouldn't suck my tail all the way only to drop my in the last few kms"

so, first thing to remember:
training (swimming laps, sunday bike rides, weekend long runs) gives you zero indication of what raceday conditions are like. no matter how big your group is.

none of us would like to admit that our egos are bigger than we think. and while some of us are blessed with a caring other half that reminds us to be humble and not be so cocky, most of us are left to be victims of our own unadmitted egos.

let me be the first: i am egoistic.

my ego, while some may think is nonexistent, is there and it's huge. why else would my motto for tris be "just do it, or die trying"? when i'm struggling uphill at 3km/h, doing my circus act (read: balancing the bike), why else would i say "i rather fall off this bike because i can't balance on it anymore than to get off and push". why else would i still feel regret for my desaru race last year when i decided to pull out because my bike chained broke 15k from transition? thoughts of "senn, you should have just pushed the bike back and did the run. you could have done it. push up hill, straddle down hill. in total in would have just been a 36k run." well, had i mastered marshal arts then, i would have fought off the marshal that told me i could not continue with my bike's condition.


you may argue that because you know me, i'm just extremely determined and admirable (bless your soul for being blind because you are fond of me :D). but i'm telling you, my determination stems from ego. this may be a little deep, but the fact that i'm admitting to an ego larger than i can carry off, is already an egoistic act on my part.

my entry today is not about condemning those with egos. that would be outright silly. egos are good. egos make us push ourselves to achieve what seems beyond our reach. egos, when managed correctly makes us confident and to a certain extend make us popular in our group.

that's right... 'managed correctly'.

egos are like those things in life that can potentially be dangerous if not managed or handled properly. knives, for example, are very much like our egos. if handled correctly, it's a very useful and probably the most needed kitchen utensil, but disrespect it and it will make you bleed. petrol is another. without petrol, the only people who will make it to meetings on time in this modern world would be the gazelles in love. can you imagine being late for a meeting and saying "sorry boss, the 40k to office had to be at recover speed because of that outstation meeting yesterday"? we use petrol with great ease and take for granted that what we potentially have in our vehicles, is highly combustible liquid.

so, how is this relevant to choosing your first race?

simple: by being honest to yourself and assessing your true ego size, you can then decide whether the unpredictable race conditions may be too overwhelming for you. you do not need to share it with anyone if you're uncomfortable, but you must assess yourself.

your first tri will be like no other races that you've been in before. you're a champion cyclists and always top 10 in cyfora races, you're a national state swimmer 3 years in a row, you're a duathalon champ in your circle of friends, you're a top track runner and an excellent marathon racer or you've only started cycling 6 months ago, you plan to swim kampung style because someone said start at the back and just waddle your way through, running is not in your vocab: none of this will matter because it will not determine the raceday conditions of your first tri.

training and physical ability is half of the body conditioning for raceday. and to me, it's the smaller half. the bigger half is mental strength.

sounds dodgy, but hear me out.

training is important. train hard and your body is conditioned (read: tortured) enough to get use to strenuous exertion on raceday. but training does not condition your body to one thing on raceday: exhiliration.

imagine, this is your first tri, you've trainned all you can. you made sure your transition area is perfect, you've heard of great tri stories, you've even picked out a race bunny. but you suddenly feel nervous. butterflies in your stomach. "will i cramp in the swim? what if i forget my gels for the bike? shit! where are my gels?? ok-ok... i've placed them right. spare tube in saddle bag, CO2... hmmm... don't think of flats!"

your mind is full of anxiety, your heart is beating in your ears and the race hasn't even started. bad news.

the guy next to you and a hundred others are feeling just like you... double bad news.

exhilaration and anxiety injects adrenaline into your veins. you're on a natural high making you brave and gungho, which equals pumped up egos. everybody there is going to do their best and with pumped spirits, they will be racing quite aggressively. and in such a condition, your mental strength to remain calm and focus on completing the race without taking unnecessary risks is vital.

so, second thing to remember:
acknowledge your ego and embrace whatever size it is so you can mange it better.

when you decide to do a race, make it part of your sanity check to ask yourself "am i comfortable with the distance, or am i just signing up because my ego says i can heck it?"

Talk to those who have done the particular race and ask them how it went. admire their hero stories but make sure you find out what was difficult about it. like, was the water choppy? how did that impact them? what was it like to ride 30km/h in the rain? were they scared? what did they do to calm themselves? how would they have raced differently? think of all the negatives and learn from them.

if you have doubts after hearing all this, try a shorter version of race. if you think you can heck it, don't stop yourself. but at least now you won't be so shocked about raceday aggression.

if you're a seasoned triathlete, do your part in ensuring your newbie friends are well aware of what they are getting themselves into. gloat about your victories but pull them aside and tell them what darkness lurk on raceday. what shit to expect and how to overcome it. if you sense that your friend may be taking a risk advice them on a 'test' race (sprint distance) instead. egg them on only if you are very sure that they will have a safe race.

they will never know how raceday conditions will be like for their first tri if you do not share your experience with them. it is irrelavant how many bike races they have succeeded in, how many channels they have swam or how many marathons they have participated. triathlons, duathlons, single sports are all animals in their own right.

my cycling guru richard, actually prohibited me from joining cyfora last year because he said i lacked the experience of handling my bike and would panic because i'll be biking a mere inch away from the next guy in a heated pelaton. and he said something really sweet: "senn, don't race because it is madness, i won't be able to take care of you when i am racing and it would worry me that you're out there being bullied"

be honest with your friends and tell them what they should think about. ultimately, the decision is theirs. but at least you have done your part as a caring friend to equip them with what to expect.

you may actually be saving a life.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Desaru International tri 2007 - a tribute to Zubir

We are very proud of Zubir for starting his first triathlon race yesterday. It is unfortunate that we were unable to celebrate his first finish with him.
A small group of us would like to make our next triathlon (Desaru) a tribute to Zubir. We are proposing a minute silence AFTER flag-off in his memory.
Tribute mechanics:
1. gather at the back of swimmers at race start
2. when the gun goes off remain on shore in a minute silence while others start the race
3. we start our race in tribute to Zubir after 1 min
4. (optional) when we cross the line we can say in our hearts/own way.. "this one's for you Zubir"
Please join us/spread the word to all that you think would be interested to join our tribute. You are most welcome to copy and paste this entry on your personal blogs to help widen coverage.
We are also open to other ideas of how to pay tribute to him during desaru

Sunday, July 22, 2007

"..see you on the bike"

We lost a dear friend at the pd international triathlon 2007, yesterday.

it was to be his first triathlon race and i shared an animated conversation with him at the starting line. as the events unfold yesterday, the surreal feeling has left me in a total blur state. while i'm beginning to doubt the reality of that conversation, my memory keeps taking me back to that scene, just minutes before his age category was flagged off.

(i apologise in advance if my captions below is an ignorant way of addressing a muslim friend that has passed on.)

senn: you ready?
Allahyarham zubir: you're going to swim faster than me!
senn: no la... you're being flagged off 5 minutes earlier!
Allahyarham zubir: makes it worst! haiyo pressure... try not to swim so fast, i'll be embarassed!
senn: but you'll get me on the bike. so, see you on the bike
Allahyarham zubir: yes! see you on the bike!

- in loving memory of zubir

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"My bike's ok"...

... the true indication that the cyclist is ok after a big fall.

every cyclist falls. it's just a matter of whether it's a small (read: embarrassing) clipless fall or a high speed crash into the ditch.

i myself have had my fair share of falls. i fell so many times during my first month of cycling that mom stopped asking how my ride was and started asking "where did you leave your skin samples this time?"

for the record: my skin samples can be found at damansara heights, hartamas, sg long, tmn megah in front of boon foo's, en route batu arang, fraser's hill, putrajaya, cyberjaya and most recently pd.

save for damansara heights, cyberjaya and pd, the above were at fairly low or no speed clipless falls. most embarrassing of the lot would have been boon foo's and en route batu arang.

two falls in one day.

very possible if it's your first day using clipless and you did not heed your friend's advice to do clip-in/out exercises against a wall before trying them out on a ride.

i had bought it two days before, within my second month in riding, and decided to try them out at the next ride: boon foo's bikepro sunday ride, tmn megah-bt arang with mentor richard.

big mistake.

there i was, amongst giants. feeling humbled i decided to be at the back of the pack. richard asked if i knew how to use clipless.

"ok, first you clip in your right"


"then when we push off, you clip in your left"

i only heard, "clip in your left"

for some unknown reason, law of physics escaped my mine. i confidently lifted my left foot and before i realised how dumb i was to have both legs off the ground without momentum, i fell inches from the filthy drain, in front of boon foo's.

8 bikepro riders had clear view of me as they turned to hear what the crash was... 5 ahead tried but didn't really bother.

i was quite glad that we eventually lost the pack after some hard riding trying to hold on to them (ok, i'll be honest, we lost them before reaching the underpass tunnel heading to 1-Utama from boon foo's)

since richard didn't know the way too well using the excuse that his view was normally the back of someone's wheel all the way so he never noticed landmarks (show off...), we tried our best to reach bt arang.

we met another rider on the way and he decided to join us. en route to bt arang, he had a flat. richard way in front and i approached him while he was busy replacing his tube.

"need help?" i asked (what was i thinking! i didn't even know how to change a tube!)

as i stopped, my early lessons of left & right escaped me. i unclipped my right foot but have always had the tendency to stop with my left.

so, braked lightly, right foot unclipped, left foot still clipped, lean left to dismount as bike slowed down.

another big mistake....

i fell the moment i leaned left before my bike could come to a complete stop. i somehow ended up face in gravel, bike on top of me.

"need help?" he asked.. (what a strange conversation i thought...)

over time, i graduated to 'higher' speed crashes. the most scary one being cyberjaya one rainy sunday morning.

i have no recollection of what really happened because i passed out upon impact. all i remember is, wet road, turn left, darkness, open eyes, saw people around me and i'm flat on my back.

this is what arif remembered: wet road, turn left, push ahead, heard crash behind, thought "hope that's not senn", turned around, "senn!"

as arif and others fussed around me, picked me up and sat me on the side curve, bernard came up and said "don't worry, you're bike is ok.. how are you?"

i never fully understood what he meant then. and everybody thought it was funny how he was the only one that went straight for my bike when others went to see how i was doing.

i was only 3 -4 months old in the cycling group and thought "why would i care about my bike in a crash?" and "my bike?? my helmet's cracked in four places at the back, which could have been my coconut and he worries about my bike?? bike nazi..."

Some weeks later, arif had a high speed crash on the way back from genting peres. he got thrown from his bike, head first into the concrete drainage and broke his carbon bars in the process.

he had drafted too near the guy in front. his front clipped the rider's back and he went falling across the street towards the ditch. apart from a swelled groin, and a small cut just below his eye, he was ok. while waiting for support he told me what went through his mind:
"shit, i touched the wheel"
"shit, this is going to hurt"
"shit, is my bike going to be ok?"
"shit, if my bike is damaged, how much is it going to cost?"
"shit, if i get damaged how long am i going to be out of action?"

funny how one can think of so many things when everything is over within seconds. and again, at that time i didn't fully understand his need to think about his bike.

over the next few months coming towards this year, nothing too exciting happened and i eventually graduated from my faithful cow to the diva . by now, i have grown to love my cycling, my cow, and my new diva. i believed they spoke to me and while it sounds a bit psycho, i have hugged my frames occasionally as they hung from the bike rack at home. and it saddens me to see the cow looking like a carcass without wheels, groupset, or handlebars.

something changed in me over this year and i think i'm beginning to understand the natural instinct of placing your bike's well being before your own. your bike is so much an extension of yourself that to a certain extend, it feels like your baby. own flesh and blood to care for and protect.

although i try to separate my feelings and say "yes, i love my bike, i would be miserable without it, but my safety is more important", i think i have sub-consciously become a bike nazi like bernard.

i have no idea when or where it started creeping into my head and heart. i didn't even know how strong a hold it had on me until my crash at pd over the weekend.

we were approaching a junction in a group at the pd triathlon dry-run when fellow triathlete randy fell because of slippery tarmac. he got up and shouted "oil! oil!". we became cautious and turned left. as we turned, the rider in front of me skidded and fell. wanting to avoid him, i turned my wheel slightly but the tarmac was so slippery i skidded too.

as i fell, i somehow unclipped both legs and saw my bike slidding about two meters in front of me. this was what was going through my head:
"shit, guy slipped"
"shit, roads slippery"
"NOOOOOOOoooooOOOOOOOoooooo! diva's sliding on the road!"
"no-no-no... the paint....the frame... noooooooo....."

my heart cringed at the sight of the diva sliding... it felt endless and painful. i got up, picked the diva up and checked her on both sides.

at this point i still had the mantra "love your bike, love yourself more" and i had absolutely no idea how much of a bike nazi i've become until this conversation with arif as he rushed beside me:
"are you ok"
"ok... bike's ok"
"are you ok?
"my bike's ok"
"forget the bike! i don't care about the bike! are you ok?"
"o... errr, yea... am ok...."


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Race Bunnies

Race bunnies: the ultimate race motivators

how many of us can honestly say that we've never had this thought in our minds when we first scan our competitors on race morning?:

"ah! if he can do it, i'm sure i can"

or more brutally,
"i think i'll finish before he does"

it's really demeaning/condescending to hear our thoughts out loud but none of us really had malicious intentions when we had these thoughts. besides, if there's one thing i learnt during races is that looks can really be deceiving.

so, even though it's a 50-50 chance that our thoughts may be wrong, we still do it on race morning.

why do you think that is?

some say: healthy competition
others say: checking out your competitors build your expectations for the race
i say: picking a race bunny is one of the funnest things to do race morning

my first race bunny, and for most races that she participated after that, is karen sia.

sweet, 21 year-old and an absolute gazelle in love (read post on best athlete if you're lost about the gazelle)

i first spotted karen at the a'famosa sprint last year. being a newbie, i was scanning the scene and feeling really inadequate because everybody looked very intimidating. then i saw irregular swim strokes in the midst of people warming up in the lake.

"a-ha! a struggling swimmer!"

* i must apologise before i continue (especially to karen if she finds her way to my blog). the thought had no ill intent and being a swimmer skewed TRYathlete, a weaker swimmer is a 'joy' (read: comforting) to spot on race morning of your very first tri every.

i looked at arif and smiled: "i just found me a race bunny"

and what a motivator she was! kept tell myself "keep close to the race bunny, finishing before she does is a bonus"

i finished slightly ahead of karen that day and it was a true bonus.
(but! i must say, she has improved tremendously over the year. combine that with her natural running talent, she has kicked my ass at races countless times. you go girl!)

If you haven't officially picked a race bunny before and would like to give it a go, this is how you can start:
1. separate the fluffies from the furies
There is a difference between race bunnies and head on competitors. choosing a race bunny is like choosing your single focus goal during races, it is meant to motivate and elevate personal glory if you cross the line before they do. they are not meant to add stress to your race, that's the job of the head on competitor.

the head on competitor is usually someone on par or stronger. he's someone you will constantly have in mind during training and you find yourself checking their recorded timings to see how much more you will need to train to beat them in races.

in a nutshell:
head on competitor: you know their performance level and where you stand with them. to improve, you train hard to either match or exceed their performance.
race bunny: someone whose performance you're not sure of. on first impression, they look weaker or on par. normally somebody you have not met, so beating or losing to them at races would be an unexpected outcome.

2. save it for raceday
you should only pick a race bunny on race morning itself. having somebody in mind during training doesn't count as a race bunny. it has to be on raceday because you'll sometimes see new faces that you'll like to pick and/or sometimes realise that you're not ready to take on your predetermined race bunny and would like to switch to a less intimidating bunny.

3. be personal about your bunny
the great part about race bunnies is they often do not realise you're trying to beat them. so, they are in absolute ease with you throughout the race. choose a bunny that matches your condition on raceday. if you're feeling pumped, choose a challenging one. if you feel like crap, choose a meeker bunny.

4. death by bunny
i can't emphasise enough that a race bunny is there to motivate you, not stress you during races. as such, don't kill yourself trying to keep up or beat your bunny.

it's a good day, push hard to beat your bunny.
it's a bad day, you decide that it's a matter of surviving the race more than anything else and your bunny's just pulling away from you, relax and choose another bunny that is still on course

i've switched race bunnies regularly over the past year, sometimes i even have two or three rotative ones during the entire race course. it's strange though, as much as i have switched bunnies, it's always a thrill to see karen at races.

kinda like, you'll never forget your first race bunny thingy.