Thursday, June 28, 2007

Racy outfits

One of the things that kept me excited about doing races is the stuff you can buy in preparation of race day.

this is also one of the reasons i able to max out both my cards and grew a healthy iou account at my local bike shop, all within six months of picking up the hobby!

after almost a decade of not being active in sports, i was honestly quite reluctant to pick up cycling in late 2005 when arif invited me to, mainly because i cycled in my teens and developed ugly calves that took me years to dissolve (i was later educated on the beauty of spinning rather than hammering, a topic i'll reserve for later posts). i also did not like the fact that it was such a masculine sport, especially the bike frames.

i had since, also, threw away all my plain but reliable (read as full coverage) one piece swimsuits used during schooldays competition and graduated to pretty two pieces in various colours and provocative cuts that complement my full figure. i had and did nothing for running... as i started cycling before being introduced to triathlons, i agreed to try it out on one condition: that there was a possibility of looking pretty. I asked this question to my mentor shen and she replied "er... very limited but can be done" and that was good enough for me.

two days later, mentor shen and guru richard took me to their local bike shop and found a value for money, secondhand giant tcr bike. i preferred it to a brand new scott because it had higher end ultegras (9-speed), good open pros and a good sized handlebar.

can't say i was excited about the colour scheme though...

it was black, had the giant sticker in bright yellow, with solid blue and red streaks around the logo. the wheels were blue and the saddle was yellow (very much like a block of cheese!) with black bartapes.

i bought a pair of black cycling shorts, took the bike and went home thinking "what have i done?"

my first group ride was at putrajaya. shen had invited some of her triathlete friends and arif came along with richard and some of richard's loyal cycling buddies. it was a good mix of girls and boys. since i was the slowest, i had a clear view of their backs during the ride and boy! was i depressed... i couldn't tell their genders apart from their bikes or outfits. girls rode hard on masculine bikes, wore solid colours and if not for their small waist and bigger butt, they looked like guys from the back. and then i saw it...

one of the girls had a pink helmet on..

it wasn't the best pink i've seen: kinda too dark to be girly, too pink to be womanly. but hey! i knew she was a girl from afar.

over the next few months i started scouting bike shops for items that would match my masculine bike, trying very hard to create an aura of femininity. shortly after, triathlons came into my life and made things slightly more complicated as now i had to manage attire for three disciplines.

after three agonising months of trying to retro fit my style into my new found passion, i made the biggest mistake of trying too hard to make every colour match. the last straw came when i changed my bartapes to match the red stickers on the frame. happy to have found the exact red bartapes i stepped back to have a look when it was done...

frame: black with giant sticker in yellow, and strips of blue and red
wheels: blue (with matching blue tires)
saddle: yellow
handlebar: red

i have never been so depressed in my life! this was the kind of colour combo that would make many, including myself, wish they were blind!

i went on full battle station mode: i have become a fashion victim.

that weekend, i told arif that i am going to repaint my frame before i end up being the 'elton john' of the cycling group: borderline flamboyant cum just eccentric taste. the sweetie that he is found a pretty frame design on the projectone website (custom paint designs for treks).

a month later the cow bike was born...

the cow bike was a revolution to my sports apparels and peripherals. it was predominantly white, with black spots and a cute little pink udder at the crank area which i matched with a pastel pink saddle and bartapes.

from then on, everything i bought was either white, black or most preferred... pink. it's been a year since, and even though with my latest (pink, no less) carbon frame, i hold dear the lessons i've learnt along the way like:
1. choose your theme
sports may not be about how great you look, but it sure helps motivate you to be out there. you can chose a theme that best suits your personality, one that reflects your alter ego or even one that you would like to really stand out with.

i chose the latter.

i chose to challange the fact that girly girls do have a place in the male dominant sport. my pledge to ooze femininity in an area that even women tend to want to be masculine made me choose girly theme colours. carmen, a fellow triathlete and triathlon goddess by my standards, once commented "your whole setup is like you're acting in a movie. everything matches, everything pretty... as if you're not racing"

many who know me would be surprised today:
a) pink has never been my favourite colour!
b) i'm more feminine at races and club meets than i am outside of it!

2. select your race colours
race colours may sound shallow but it really plays an important role, especially for newbies. one main reason for me at least, is the number of photographers you meet along the race route. now let's be honest: you're a newbie, not very confident yet, and just wanting to have some fun. chances are you're a little slower than the pack, chances are the photographer's gonna take your picture, and chances are, he's gonna do it on the run course by which time you're starting to feel all sloppy and unattractive. so when this happens, wouldn't it be nice to feel like a celebrity in coordinated race colours running away from the paparazzi? plus! because photos are static and people can't tell how fast you're going by just looking at it, being captured in full race colour you appear like an experienced racer, automatically creating the perception that you are faster than you really were.

if you plan to try out triathlons, think ahead about your race colours. you can either opt to buy a bike that matches your theme, or if you're not too hot on the theme idea yet, match your race colours to your bike frame carefully (it is best to decide your race colours based on your bike frame because it's the largest item with you on raceday). chose no more than two colours. going back to my pre-painted frame days, i would have been best off with black and yellow race colours but that ain't too girly, if you know what i mean?

3. sunday clothes for sunday races
i find it hard to find pink things that match because i'm fussy to the point that it has to be the right shade of pink. and because that takes forever to comeby, i need to be careful not the wear them out during training and look shabby on raceday.

so, what i do is i have a set for training and a set for raceday. kinda like sunday clothes for church. it is important to train in your race gear occassionally so that you wear them in, but be careful not to wear them out too soon. these gears that match do not come cheap and isn't always available.

4. take your time
nothing hurts the wallet more than buying on impulse. if you haven't decided a theme or race colour, do not spend too much building your race wardrobe. unless of course you have no intention to practise points 1 - 3, which makes me wonder why you're still interested in today's post, then buy away as you see.

buy the neccesities but hold out on major purchases until you have found your race gear calling. i made the mistake of buying as i went and to be honest, i only use 20% - 30% of the items i bought now. i had been impatient and am literally paying greatly for it.

to emphasise this point, it took me an entire year to complete my girly pink look so there really isn't a rush. committing to the ideal raceday look is like getting into a long term relationship. it can be tiring and sometimes make you wonder if it's worth the trouble. it is, to me at least, as important as getting into a long term relationship with triathlons.

and trust me, triathlons is one partner you'll want a long term relationship with. a little patience, a little faith and a loads of nurturing and the outcome would be most rewarding.

i mean, how many of us can say that we are in a happy, long term relationship with someone who makes us prioritise our lives around them, then makes us voluntarily push ourselves beyond norm just for a day with them. and on that day we are tortured, humbled and tested. and when that day is over, we are so overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude to have met them that we ask for more..

Monday, June 25, 2007

Marshal arts

Marshal arts: the true form of defence during races.

Being a constant late finisher at races i have, over the year, learnt the fine art of defending myself from being swept into the sweeper vehicle.

i have been officially approached by marshals or in some cases outriders to hop onto the sweeper van because i was still on the course after cut off, three times: the first during the 2006 kapas-marang swim, then during the 2007 ironman langkawi and the most recent penang bridge marathon.

before i share my secrets to marshal arts, i would first like to make it clear that marshalls have one very vital responsibility during races: keeping you safe.

these individuals are quite selfless if you think of it, because they actually volunteered to keep you safe (i have never met anyone who had introduced themselves with a namecard that read "Smith, race marshal", so yea... safe to say they volunteered for the job)

sometimes, in larger races, outriders are assigned to help keep participants safe especially when roadblocks are involved. these individuals have two vital responsibilities: keeping you safe, and making sure traffic goes back to normal when you're done.

so if they're there for a good reason, why the need to learn marshal arts?

my first encounter, as mentioned above, was during a 6.5k swim from kapas island to mainland marang. the official cut off was 3:30, by which the organisers had briefed the day before that a boat will come to assist those who are still on the course at that time. 3:30 came and went, and i had about 1km more to go. i was appraching the last visible bouy that marked every km and could see the shore. i wasn't alone though, think there were about 5 of us left. i was soon approached by a marshal on a jetski. our conversation was in bahasa but for the benefit of all readers, i'm going to translate it:

"time's up ma'am. please get onto the boat"
"..but...(gasp) i can see the shore" i said between gulps of water
"sorry, please get up"
"but... but... it's just there..." i tried my best puppy dog face
"time's up, we need you out of the water." realised puppy dog face doesn't work under goggles and swimcap
"please... i've come so far.." decided to be more desparate
"no. we're wrapping up and going home. if you continue, you're on your own"

going home??

that's right, marshals although selfless can sometimes be so tactless and insensitive. they also fail to see that the way they address you at a typically demoralising time, really makes you feel even more unworthy of being there in the first place. they also form threathening sentences and make you feel that if you do not do as they say then 'good luck' finishing.

while i have met some really nice and encourgaing marshals, this one deserved a 'marshal kick' in the face.

i turned behind and saw 3 swimmers getting onto the boat, the guy directly behind me was wondering if he should, after hearing the marshall's firm tone. so i asked:

"do you want to finish this swim?" he smiled and said yes.
i smiled and turned to the marshal:

"you can go home. he's going to finish the race with me and he'll take care of me" (hi-e-yah! take that sweet in your face!)

we finished last, wobbled to the finish line, got our finisher's medal and enjoyed a whole mineral water bottle together. later on the bus, others that were fished out of the water wished they had not given in and continued as they were so close to personal victory that they now felt that it was a wasted opportunity.

at ironman, langkawi, the marshals were more understanding. they approached us and told us about the cut off time but gave us a choice to hop onto the van or continue. we chose to continue and finished 40 mins later, tired senseless but happy.

penang bridge marathon however, was a totally different story.

the race story is the same: start strong, weak middle, wanted to die after 30k, so i won't dwell on that part.

the offical race cut off was 6hrs. at 6:00 i had two people ahead of me, maybe about 5 behind me before the final turnaround, and three who had passed the last turnaround (one of which was long lost TRY friend peter). at 6:15 an organiser on a motorcycle comes by and mumbled something about the road has been closed and rode off to inform the people in front. i thought it was rather strange seeing that people can get anywhere on foot, but saw the girl in front turning back towards me:

"the u-turn point in front has been closed" she said being very sad. but i told her that since i suspect we're on foot, road closures shouldn't be a problem. "so we continue?" she asked... "so we continue" i said.

at 6.20 an outrider comes. i'll share my conversation with subtitles this time, because this outrider was out right rude to begin with and defintely deserved some marshal arts whoopass:

"masa dah habis! masa dah habis! naik bas! naik bas!" (time's up! time's up! get on the bas! get on the bas!)
"o, tapi 2k lagi.. boleh la" (but there's only 2k left... please) i thought if i appeared humble he would pity me and give in.
"habis, accident siapa nak tanggung?" (if there's an accident, who's going to be responsible?) i was wrong...
"kawan ada di depan. kami jaga-jaga la.." (my friend is just in front, we'll be careful) fu-cha! shadowless slap across the face
"kau lari berapa laju pun, kau takkan dapat medal, takkan dapat cert. baik puan naik bas aje!" (no matter how fast you run now, there's not going to be a medal or cert for you. it's best you get on the bus) o, he is sooo asking for the hit of destiny
"eleh! medal and cert tu, i tak kisah! i nak habis" (i don't care about the medal and cert! i just want to finish) hwua-tah! karate chop on head and..
"baik encik jangan kacau!" (it's best you don't interfer!) hi-e-yah ta-tah! flying back kick, knuckle burn across the forehead and the final poking of his eyes with my fingers before fleeing across the barrier to join peter for the last 2k.

alas, the less experienced marshall arts students felt intimidated and got onto the bus. one of them was my dear friend ronald who had decided to christian his first race day with a full marathon. a truly brave fellow who could have had it realised if he had knew the art of marshal dodging.

this article is dedicated to him and many others alike. i hope the tips i am about to share will come in handy in future races:
1. know your marshal:
not all marshals/outriders are mean. when approached quickly assess what mood they are in. if they are intimidating, be prepared to have a thick face in answering back. if they are nice, be humble. they're just doing their job in ensuring your safety (plus they've had a stressful day babysitting hundreds of zoned out bodies without a word of thank you) and will probably understand your pleas to continue.

2. be honest about how you feel:
let's face it. it is after cut off and you didn't make it. it isn't called a race if you are allowed to take your own sweet time. but that's the functional part of the race. many marshals/outriders fail to see the emotional part: your personal promise to finish regardless of time. so many 'fights' with them are just a matter of them misunderstanding your need to continue. to them it's about the medal and cert to validate your existence. to you, it's nice to get the medal if not, it's a case of surviving the race and achieving what you previously thought was not possible. if you can get your message to them...softly or painfully through their eye sockets, you're mostly likely to achieve

3. know your rights:
yes, you have the right to finish the race regardless of whatever threat they give. at this point it is good to remember that you have managed to keep yourself safe for the many years before they met you on race day. by projecting yourself as confident enough to care for yourself for the remaining of the race, there is little that they can do to stop you. these conferentations are no more than black faces and harsh words. no marshal or outrider have the right to man-handle you onto the sweeper vehicle. if they show no signs of leaving without you, hand over your race number. by doing so you are officially off the race and whatever you do after that is no concern of theirs. stand your ground and make them see you are not going to give in just because they want to finish up and go home

finally, know when to quit:
while i've been raging about how we should be cowboys and finish no matter what, we should, as adults, practice common sense and never forget that safety comes first. as much as i have been stuborn about quitting, i have always ensured it was safe to continue without a marshal. most common deciding factors are things like whether there are others completing after cut off like me so i do not endanger myself as a lone lady out there when all has gone home, and if i do end up alone, do i know the race route enough to not get lost. if you are alone and unsure, or in the case of the ironman when it's really dark and you're still out there, do think twice... safety first: sulk and get on the van so that you'll live to kick that arrogant race course next time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The swimmer, the biker and the pogo stick runner

Ever wonder which is the best athlete at triathlons?

according to hearsay history, triathlons came about when a bunch of athletes, each an elite in their own discipline of swimming, cycling and running, were debating on who was the better athlete. as a result, they have decided to create a multi-sport that would challenge them at all three to see who came out best. Hence the birth of the glorious triathlons we love today.

being a competitive swimmer (read as i’ve been in many swim competitions, but never won any) from a young age, i found triathlons a breeze to pick up. "hey, it's just a really loooong swim, then a fun bike ride, then a run which i can walk when i'm tired" i thought to myself when the idea poped into my head.

after a year plus racing, i realise my race patterns are always the same. i come out of the swim in the mid pack (on good days one of the early birds), on the bike i maintain my position with the occasional passing better swimmers/less efficient riders, and then suffer on the run.


over time i developed a habit of counting the number of riders i pass on the opposite direction. this is only done when the bike leg is a loop or an out&back course (for loops, i start counting after the last turnaround point). i am always happy to know that i pass an average of 15 to 20 people each time. this is a shortlived happiness as i get dropped by 90-95% of these riders behind me on the run.

so, i finish the swim first-mid pack, the bike mid-lower mid pack depending on race terrain, and finish the run at the bottom 3. in fact! when the official times are uploaded, i often realise that the bottom 3 runners actually clocked faster run times than i did. my swim and bike were my saving grace.

take arif for example. his talent clearly lies in cycling, uphills at that. up until this year, he has never came out of the swim before me. our time difference range from 1 min to 20mins depending on swim course and distance. BUT! he has always finished well ahead of me, at least 30mins.

therefore, while i would say swimming is my strongest discipline, it's clearly not the talent that would make me finish strong. it is however, seen as the hardest discipline to master and the most daunting of the lot to pick up if one would like to attempt triathlons.

the bike leg is always the longest distance. this distance over a certain terrain can determine you progress in the race.

personally, i'm very much a rolling terrain expert. i am able to hold solid average speeds that, while not the fastest still, enables me to pass less efficient riders. and i am able to do this over very long distances.

however, i suffer immensely on hilly terrains. kenyir is an excellent example of a hilly race terrain.

going back to arif, his talent for climbing hills never fails to baffle me. he always catches up with me on the bike regardless of terrain and will always pass me as if i was standing still and i will never see him again until i return to transition, by which time he is saying hello to me while running his first loop.

verdict: i'm good on the bike but it ain't gonna make me finish strong either

ah! what a special breed.

anyone out there with a weak run will know what it feels like to think we're running faster than we normally train only to have a stronger runner pass us effortlessly. there's a light spring in their steps, and nice long relaxed strides.. kinda look like a gezelle in love, prancing in a meadow full of daisies!

and then you realise (for me at least) "hey, you're the one i passed on the bike!"

yup. strong runners always have an advantage towards the end of the race.

since i lack experience in this area apart from how it feels when they pass you, i shall proceed to the conclusion paragraph and leave this section with only one thing left to say:

"i too, will be a gezelle in love one day..."

we all start triathlons with a base discipline. something that we have been doing years before. some of us are made swimmers, some graduate from the neighbourhood cycling hobby, some are natural runners.

and while we can master these very well on their own, it really is a delicate balancing act when you put them together.

the fastest swimmer is not guaranteed a winning position because he may lack biking or running talent. the strongest biker is not guaranteed either because there's still a run after the bike. and the gezelle in love may take forever on the swim and the bike before getting to that meadow, by which time, he is so far behind he can't catch up. so his plans on coming in first may be screwed too.

the person that is able to master all three probably doesn't exist. there is always a slight skew to a single discipline. however, a person who is able to master the balancing act of the three legs most efficiently, do. he's normally the one who is able to control his performance throughout and ensure highest efficiency in all three discipline. he's also normally the one finishing first.

so i think it's quite safe to say that for those of us who aren't him (YET!), we'll just have to settle for being the jack of all trades, master of none...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Benchside Barbie

There are two types of spectators at any race. the supporters... and the benchside barbies.

supporters as we all know are there to do one thing: support.

benchside barbies on the other hand are there to look good, attract attention and of their support however is skewed to only one person: their current squeeze, their 'superstar' triathlete... their racing boyfriends.

i've been noticing benchside barbies since my first sprint at A'famosa last year. to me they are quite an item to watch before and after the race. and they always, always, stand out from the crowd of supporters.

their tidiness and well groomed appearences have won them my self-proclaimed christianing "benchside barbie".

benchside barbies are normally first timers to any race. this is apparent in their lack of experience for dressing comfortably for the entire duration of the event. well, to be fair they are fashionable and not overly dressed...just not practically dressed.

the first set of benchside barbies i ever saw wore hot pants, slinky tops, really nice accessories, fashionable sunglasses and little kitty heels (if you're wondering, kitty heels are very delicate heels, thin stems ranging from 2 -3 inches, optional versions of straps or slip ons. think lower heel version of the ultra sexy stilettoes). they were also well groomed: nice shiny hair, perfect make-up, smells fruity when they walked pass, with porcelain skin that looked like they were tortured by the shady afternoon sun.

and they normal are...

benchside barbies find it hard to last the entire race. the heat and sun normally wither them quickly, like delicate flowers left in the car boot for the afternoon.

in all fairness again, benchside barbies are a novelty. kinda like the of the football world. they look glamourous and the guys that bring them are always proud to show them off. it's the location and condition of race day that does not do them justice.

plus, as a fashion freak myself, i had in the past admired benchside barbies from a far. i found the perfect opportunity to mimic one at arif's powerman 2006. i had the make of a benchside barbie: hot WHITE tennis skirt, tiny tee, cute hat, camera, sunnies, earrings and necklace, even wore light perfume! but since i was aware of race conditions, being in them for almost a year by then, i just couldn't bring myself to wear kitty heels no matter how tempting the idea was. And it was an epic self battle to not put make-up. so i would say i succeed 80% in the benchside barbie criteria.

but o, how i suffered...

i was hot (tempreture, not looks), sticky, sweating like a pig and dying of hunger. and the race hadn't even started! 20mins into race i took off my earrings because it keeps getting snagged onto my tee when i wiped my temples with my sleeves. loss 15 points there as a seasoned benchside barbie would have blotted sweat with tissue rather than her sleeves! immediately bought tissue and started salvaging my points. 15mins later the necklace came off because it snagged the tissue i used to wipe my neck and after 5 tissues, it was begining to form paper rolls along the chain loops.

then it started to rain...

now i'm wet, sticky and hungry. I looked at my watch: only 2 hours into the race and i thought to myself (no offense) "cut off is 5:30 and chances are, arif's gonna make full use of that" so i decided to feed myself. i went to the nearby KFC and ordered a zinger burger, a box of chicken popcorn, f&n strawberry to go. loss another 20 points: 1. for failing to notice that it was still drizzling outside and 2. for failing to remember that hot tarmac becomes really steamy after a rain.

that's when i decided to screw the benchside barbie business. firstly, my dress code ain't complete. i have no finese to handle sweat drippings and i'm totally unable to carry a sweet smile when i'm feeling uncomfortable.

that's when things became so much better..

i sat on the dirty curb facing transition area and took some of the best shots of arif and friends as they zoomed pass. i stained my tee in the process of balancing a chilli sachet and eating the popcorn chicken, but all was good when my hunger went away. the drizzle lasted but after the long tarmac steam rising, it was finally cool. i was wet but the cool breeze made my skin more comfortable. i sucked on ice and then rolled it onto my arms, neck and legs. very unladylike to watch but i was no longer sticky. time flew faster when you cheer for more than just one guy. i was cheering for everybody and decided to join the normal supporters over dirty fence and met some frequent cyclists friends. In the fuss to be the best benchside barbie i had missed the real fun: hanging out with my friends in crappy weather cheering for those we care about and those who look like they really could use a loooooooong beer.

and then it hit me:

benchside barbies are fair weathered supporters. after going through just half a race as a benchside barbie, i finally understand why i've not seen any familiar looking benchside barbie at races: the heat is just too uncomfortable, we're so centered at looking good and looking out for just one guy it bores you senseless and it just isn't much fun.

benchside barbies normally last one race and never come back. a few "truly in love" ones will return but they come back wiser (dress wise) and they slowly morph into a genuine supporter.

but the cycle never ends.. you will always see a fresh faced benchside barbie at every race. looking as if she is a force to be reckoned with and she knows that all eyes are, in fact, on her because she really stands out in the crowd of casually dressed supporters.

but you've got to wonder what the peopple are thinking. is it really "wow, she looks good" or "man, wait till the sun comes out!"

my bet as an 'experienced' benchside barbie watcher is "wow, she's hot but those heels and that mascara is gonna be in trouble 20mins into race..."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"That girl on the pink Diva"

When i first started cycling it was so hard to remember everybody's name.

To be honest, i only started really remembering them after a month..sometimes longer! In the cycling world, a month normally means at least 4 weekend rides + 4 mamak sessions + 1 flat (when you're a girl, a flat causes at least 3 riders to stop and help you fix it). And yet after so many opportunities to interact, i still do not remember their names.

Embarassed, i tried to pay closer attention during mamak sessions. prying my ears wider hoping to catch somebody's name. you know, when someone says "rahim you were strong today" you quickly scan to see who smiled (normally only one guy would be smiling the widest followed by a humble "no la..."). paying more attention during these mamak sessions made me realise something: riders only remember names of the "frequent flyers' club". If you're new or isn't very consistent in joining the group rides, your name isn't remembered very well either!

"Holy-Moly! i ain't alone!" i thought with a huge relief.

but work to be one of the guys does not stop there. In order to join the conversation or even attempt to understand what/whom they are referring to, i had to remember unfamiliar faces the way all cyclists do: by their bikes.


from then on, groupride conversations were a breeze. i was able to contribute to conversations and was playing the game hard. throwing pro sentences like "fwah.. that guy may be riding an old beat-up mountie but he sure can fly" and everyone would know what i was talking about.

i was one of the guys. may not have cycled the cycle, but i definitely talked the talk. somedays, i'm even better than the guys when i control 'example conversations' like below:
senn: "good ride, pity richard had a flat.."
group: "who?"
senn: "richard. the guy on the black orbea"
group: "o yea.... wow he flew uphill and bla...bla..bla..."

yup. i was a conversation starter! and smiled in victory as the sound of others chatting about richard fades in the background.

so for all you newbies or non-members of the frequent flyers' club, here're some tips on how to SOUND like a season rider during mamak sessions:
1. forget trying to remember everybody's name.
they won't remember yours for at least the next 3 rides anyway, UNLESS you either creamed everybody's ass... or had a huge mishap. plus, once a member of the club, names come naturally..

2. start remembering bike makers.
there are only a handful of reputable bike makers that season riders like: speacialise, scott, trek, giant, orbea, colnago. these are the more popular ones. best way to handle this is to buy bike magazines just to note how the logos look like on the bike. It's classier to ask "what's the name of that guy on the scott?" rather than "that guy...erm... big hair, very tall...wears specs.."

3. remember jerseys
if technical stuff like bike origin is too much for you to cramp in before your next bike ride, remember what the cyclist is wearing. most cyclists either wear their favourite team jersey (discovery channel, CSC, etc) , or a really funky one that you just can't forget. Don't rely on helmets, shoes, or other apparels like shorts or gloves. helmets and shoes are not at the normal eye level of other cyclists while riding so it's a blind spot. Shorts are normally black or matching with the jersey, so it's more polite to appear that you remembered his jersey rather than his shorts! gloves are just too small to count..

4. pick out the ride leader
if all is lost and the ride was so hard everything is a blur, just ask anybody who the ride leader was at the end of the ride. once identified, go up to him (usually a him cause the girls just have fun on rides), introduce yourself and exchange numbers saying you're interested in future rides. by doing so, you automatically have one name that your phone will remember for you and your name is placed on his list. being on the list means he will be able to say your name when other riders, more likely than not, mentioned about you using your bike as an ID.

with these simple tips to follow, you would be able to enjoy your future group rides without worrying about feeling embarassed or left out.

ride safe!
- the girl on the pink diva.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

TRIathletes vs. TRYathletes

There is a reason why i've named my blog "beyond cut off".

Although the reason is very apparent to most that know me, there are still a few who actually say "wow! cool name... it is because you go BEYOND the cut off? like an extra mile after finishing?"

erm.... not exactly.

for the record, beyond cut off clearly means i always finish beyond the cut off TIME. Not once have i every met any official cut off time.

Now, i suspect there would be a few people who would gasp out loud after reading the above point. Some may even ask "why bother then?" (if you're new to my blog, and found yourself asking this question, welcome on board! and please read my first posting...)

However, if you find yourself nodding, actually understanding what it's like to finish after cut off no matter how 'hard' you train AND actually relating to me, you are very much on the same page as i am.

ta-daaaah! the clear difference between TRIathletes and TRYathletes.

If i went a little too fast there, let me explain:
To me, there are basically two types of people in triathlons. The TRIathletes and the TRYathletes. There have been many verbal, unproven theories of what these two really mean. some say if you are not an elite racer you, chances are, are a TRYathlete. or if you're a newbie and ain't fast enough to meet cut off, you are a TRYathlete. and my very own perception that if you're in it purely for fun in the sun, you are a TRYathlete (fun in the sun itself has many differing perception, but i'll leave that for my next posting)

i personally see myself as a TRYathlete.

to avoid being corrected about what it means to be a TRIathlete (obviously since I've placed myself in the opposing basket), i would like to list out what i perceive as NOT being a TRYathlete:
1. You are not a TRYathlete if you are a newbie.
Being a newbie simply means that you have the choice and power to improve yourself and become a TRIathlete in whatever time frame you set for yourself.

2. You are not a TRYathlete if you are an underdog at triathlons.
Ok, so you haven't clocked the best of times. Some races you beat your personal record only to slump 20mins on your very next attempt. This scenario doesn't make you a TRYathlete... it just wasn't your best race

3. You are not a TRYathlete if you push yourself to train hard and feel extremely disappointed that your training didn't pay off.
You clock average logs of 2k swims, 80k bike and 24k runs (sometimes more) per week. But you see no progress in race times or fluctuating success during races. This is more like you need to reevaluate your training schedule and see what you're doing inefficiently.

4. You are not a TRYathlete if your race time seems to boarder around 3:10 to 3:30, with occasional marginal improvement.
So you're not the fastest bunny on the field, doesn't make you any less a TRIathlete than the other greyhounds you see lapping you. Being a TRYathlete is a mental state and is not determined by what speeds your little feet can carry you.

By now you should notice that it isn't THAT easy to be a TRYathlete. If you've had bad races and/or you've had inconsistent improvements you're not one because being a TRYathlete is not measured by your physical abilities. Like i said... it's a mental state.

It's a mental state because if you are determined to continuosly improve your race time, you automatically place yourself as an underdog and potentially become a great TRIathlete, hence out of the TRYathlete basket.

And as an underdog, you should never feel like a lesser mortal beside the triathlon gods because they were not born that way. and as far as i have learnt in life... anything man-made can be replicated, it's just a matter of how closely you copy the original.

To me, it's a mental state because "TRYathletism" syndrome (if there's every such a word) does not choose you, YOU have to choose to be a TRYathlete.

You choose whether to have pure fun or sweet victory
You choose whether to bonk yourself senseless or dress up for the occasion (hey, if you ain't planning to go fast, you might as well look good doing it)
You choose whether to get your money's worth or consider race day a short getaway with no signs of ROI
You choose whether you want to be admired or teased endearingly

Don't get me wrong.. TRYathletes are not the slumps of triathlons. A talented TRYathlete can, and probably will, kick ass during races. We're merely people of a different mindset. Kinda like the mirror spectrum of the elites. If i were to draft it out, you'll probably have minorities at each end. Say for example, 10% elites, 80% underdogs, 10% TRYathletes.

I've chosen to be part of the TRYathlete minority.

How about you?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Why bother?

One of my new found passions in life is triathlons.

i started about a year ago and while my heart beats strongly still for each race, my performance have not improved even marginally and i would be bragging if i said i have maintained speeds like last year. In fact, i have become slower, more sluggish, and unable to maintain a rythmic training pattern which begs the question...

...why bother?

like answering all questions in my life, i always approached it systematically and in a rational order. this means that a base needs to be set up in order to argue the many angles of the question. The base here would naturally be where do i stand in the world of triathlons to begin with?

Ever since i started triathlons, i have received a spectrum of response from people around me ranging from 'high up' compliments, encouragement and advice to the 'down right' sarcasm about my performance.

The following are my all time favourite comments so far:
1. "Baby, you run like a duck... with cellophine tape stuck to the bottom of your feet" - my beloved Arif, after seeing me run 6 months into training.
2. "May Senn! Where did you stop for lunch?" - my fellow triathlete Haimi, when i spent close to 5 hours to complete the 30k Great Eastern run early this year.
3. "Babe! RUN!!" - My mentor Shen, well... at almost every race when she laps me on the run leg.
4. "SHUT UP! Forget the medal, just finish the race" - another fellow triathlete Shiraz, 11:55 pm, when i had tears welling at the last 8k run of Ironman Langkawi 2007.
5. "It's the fire come down..."(sang to the tune of Final Countdown) my cycling guru Richard, when he saw me struggling uphill
6. "Just wanted to know if you wanted some ORS?" fellow triathlete and colleague Karoline, this one's more for the fact that i had thought i was riping tarmac when i noticed she had merely brisked walk to be at my speed to ask that question.

So let's see:
1. it's been a year with no progress
2. my performance base is so low it's a wonder how it actually got lower this year
3. it's obvious that i'm not the star performer in my team.. more like the mascot trying out in the big league
4. i get yelled at, teased, and labelled an animal that is genetically challanged when it comes to moving on land (AND handicapped by cellophine tape!)

So why bother indeed...

This is why:
1. i get no greater personal satisfaction than knowing i had pushed myself mentally and physically, so hard sometimes that i literally cry while still racing, only to come out of it stronger, more tolerant and disciplined.
2. race gear is really cool when you know how to mix and match!
3. It feels good when a newbie asks if you've done this before and you said 'yes' with a smile and there's a slight twinkle of admiration in their eye before race starts. The trick here is to maintain that twinkle in their eye...usually by ensuring you finish before they do. Something i aspire to do eventually.
4. ...


I had a whole list of reasons in my head on why i still bother when i started this blog, and i rushed to come to this part fearing that i would forget what they were. but now that i've arrived here, i think i'll sum it up in only ONE main reason: i made true friends.

Friends who do not judge you by your profession, or is superficial just because they think you can be useful to them. Sure, there's always the poke and hints about poor performance but these are friends who respect you as an individual and genuinely care for you. A unique set that, while they are very loyal to you by hanging out only within the circle during race trips, have very little emphathy when they drop you during the swim, bike or run. Friends who are so zoned out during the race they sometimes pass you without saying 'hi', but they cheer you on with big smiles and loud claps at the finish line when they have completed. They are selfish to improve their personal timings but are willing to wait for you under the hot sun or in the middle of the night when everybody has gone home (including the organisers!). No matter how long you take, they will wait for you and they will cheer and congratulate you when you cross the line.

Yup. True friends make it all worth while and the best part is... i never have to worry about forgetting this in my head, because it's already seated nicely in my heart...