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)
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..