Thursday, 29 May 2014

A little plea... from another road user

Just last week, a teammate of ours here in Canada was hit by vehicle while out cycling. And about 24 hours ago, back home in Malaysia, national athlete Kimbeley Yap was hit during her ride (news report here). As far as I know, Kimbeley is the only Malaysian athlete who has participated in the South East Asian games in three separate sports - swimming, cycling and triathlon with the highlight being two gold medals in triathlon, one in 2005 and another in 2007. I have them both in my prayers and wishing them both a speedy recovery.

News of cyclists being hit are unfortunately, very common. And these two recent cases pinches me a bit closer to home, hence this blog post. I'm not going to waste my time on those who speak or type through their butt holes with insensitive comments such as it was partly the cyclist's fault or the cyclist asked for it. Let me get this straight. NO ONE ASKS TO BE HIT. Even if it was partly the cyclist's fault, the consequences for the cyclist are a lot more significant - broken bones, long term to permanent injury and even, death! Than say, compared to... a dented bumper! Thankfully, both Kimbeley and my teammate are in stable conditions and are recovering, slowly but surely.

There are some common responses though, are well meaning, I would like to touch on.

Always be careful while cycling
My apologies for being overly sensitive but I think this implies that the cyclist who was hit was not careful in the first place. Yes, I cannot deny that there are cyclists who ride recklessly and blatantly flout traffic rules. These are dickheads and give cyclists, in general, a bad reputation. Most cyclists are law abiding. We try to minimize risks - wear bright colours, pick less busy roads, have lights on when it's dark, indicate when we are going to turn, stop at red traffic lights, ride as close as possible to the edge of the road without risking a puncture from debris or falling over cracks. I do not have the specific details of the two incidents above, but I'm sure, being seasoned cyclists, they would both have exercised as much as caution as possible.

Pick another sport
Not all sports are done in the safety of the gym or the badminton court. Most, if not all sports have their inherent risks. Of course, some more risky than others. A downhill skier has a higher risk than a lawn bowler. For cyclists, apart from being exposed to other fast moving vehicles on the road, we also face the risk of falling in challenging terrains with fast corners and downhill sections. Although we chose this sport knowing these risks, a little awareness from other users on the road goes a long way. Ironically, I have a permanent scar on my right shin, due to a fall I had not while cycling, but when I tripped over a rowing machine in the gym a few years ago.

Cycle in groups
Safety in numbers, I won't disagree with this one. With a bigger group, hopefully we would be more visible to motorists and there is a lower probability of getting hit. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Most of us who do this sport have full time jobs and other commitments. Getting a group of people with similar abilities to ride together, can be difficult at times. And an accident like this can still happen while cycling in a group if motorists are not aware. Just last year, another Malaysian national cyclist was killed while cycling in a group training ride.

Stay off the big roads
I quote Ng Yong Li, Malaysian national cyclist, The road is my office. Like it or not, I have to be at my office. I'm far from being an elite or a national athlete but I am competitive in my own right, always pushing myself to enhance my performance. My performance would be very limited if I restricted my cycling to doing rounds in the park or in my neighbourhood paths. Cycling in these places are not necessarily safer either with children playing, pedestrians walking or running and vehicles reversing out of their driveways with many blind spots. Cyclists are not foolish. Whenever possible, we pick roads that we believe are less busy. Unfortunately, you would also find that vehicles tend to overspeed in roads with less traffic.

This is not a finger pointing post. But more to create awareness. I know the above responses all mean well but it still shows, in my opinion, a lack of awareness. To make all roads cycle friendly requires planning, infrastructure and funding. This takes a while. However, if motorists are more aware, the risk of an accident involving a cyclist would be reduced.

When you walk through a narrow corridor and if there is someone walking at a slower pace in front of you, won't you slow down as you pass that person? Similarly on the road, won't you slow down and check to see if the lane next to you is clear before you overtake a slower vehicle in front? Why should this be any different if you are overtaking a cyclist? I've lost count the number of times a vehicle has zoomed past me with less than a meter clearance from my shoulder. No matter whose fault it is, a cyclist always loses in a collision.

I'm a cyclist but I'm also a road user. More importantly, I'm a husband, a son, a brother and god willing, someday, a father too. My life is no less valuable than a motorist just because I cycle on the road. So when you're driving, remove all distractions - no texting, reading or eating. If you have a cyclist blocking your way, give a friendly honk and we'll be more than happy to move aside and let you pass. It'll only take a few seconds. Let's all be courteous and share the road.

With that, I end this post with this video clip (not mine, so full credit to the owner).

Monday, 26 May 2014

Week 8 of 26

Had a pretty big week and I'm glad that finished it standing on my two feet. Monday was Victoria Day public holiday. This is a different date from the Queen's birthday in Perth, which is again different from the other parts of Australia. I found this rather amusing actually, given that they relate to the same queen... but anyway, I digress.

Coach Sheri had her Megaday planned in Port Stanley. One of my training mates, Matt was kind enough to pick me up early so we did about 40 minutes ride before we met up with the group. It was a nice ride through some hills to Port Burwell. We had a pretty strong headwind on the return lap. Kudos to Sheri's husband, Bruce for sticking with us for most of the ride. Pretty impressive for someone who rarely rides and keeping up with 2 other guys about 20 years younger, both who are training for Ironman! We clocked close to 125km that day. Matt and I did a 6km run after, with the tailwind and downhill slope on the return lap, it as a negative split by a huge margin - even clocked 3:44 pace for the last descending bit!

Tuesday was a rest day, which was much needed. Wednesday I had a workshop at Western campus which ended early. So I was able to squeeze in both a run and a swim - the good thing about bringing all your gear with you. Did a 75 minute run - two laps of the campus to downtown route and it was pretty humid. The swim after was refreshing - 400m swim, 400m pull buoy, 6 x 50m, 5 x 100m, 4 x 200m, 5 x 100m, 6 x 50m. With those two sessions in the bag, I slept in the next day and did not have to worry about a morning swim session :)

Thursday was the usual 90km ride to Lakeside and back in the evening. It was pretty windy but mostly cross wind and it felt like the direction was a bit more favourable on the way back. Friday morning, I woke up early for some long swim sets and was pretty happy with the times - 400m warm up. 2000m swim (34:01). 1000m pull buoy/paddles (16:22). In the afternoon, I did an hour's run in Springbank. There were no intervals in the program but I felt good and just focused on quick leg turnover - gave a bit of kick to clock 14km.

Saturday was a nice ride with Peter, Greg and Clare. We rode from Lambeth to Port Stanley and return via Melbourne. The guys haven't been doing too many long rides and were kind enough to let me do most of the pulling, but I'm glad to do it. Keeps me honest for my Ironman preparation. Another close to 125km in the bag.

Sunday I woke up early to watch the live streaming of Thomas Cup badminton finals - Malaysia vs Japan. Both teams were underdogs with the Japanese ranked better on paper. The Malaysian team came agonizingly close to win back the cup after a drought of 22 years. They deserve a pat on the back. I hope now the national federation would ride on this momentum and bring Malaysia back to when it was a badminton powerhouse decades ago.

I did my long run just before 4pm. It was really sunny outside but not that humid. I had 1 hour 50 minutes on the program. Pretty surprised at how good my legs felt and I kept it mostly consistent throughout. Really glad to maintain a sub 4:30 per km average with just over 24.5km clocked.

Pretty happy with how my training has been progressing lately. Next week is looking a tad bit lighter, as there is no public holiday.

Week 8 of 26 statistics:

Swim - 6.8km (2 hours 1 minute)
Bike - 338.8km (12 hours 23 minutes)
Run - 61.4km (4 hours 31 minutes)

Total - 407.0km (17 hours 55 minutes)

Monday, 19 May 2014

Week 7 of 26

So the big weeks of this first build are slowly creeping up. Started the week with a swim on Monday afternoon. 400m warm up, 1000m swim, 400m drills - 50m swim/25m L sidekick/25 R sidekick, 1000m pull buoy, 400m pull buoy and finishing up with 200m kick.

Tuesday morning, I did another swim set. My first early morning swim in a while actually. 100m swim, 100m back/breaststroke, 200m swim, 400m fast swim, 4 x 200m swim, 400m fast swim, 4 x 200m pull buoy, 400m fast swim. Was meant to ride in the afternoon but the weather gods had something else in mind. A big thunderstorm hit that evening so decided to swap my sessions around.

Luckily the storm cleared on Wednesday morning. I managed to fit in a 75 minute run before work. The set was 3 x 5 min fast/5 min easy, 2 x 6 min fast/4 min easy, 1 x 7 min fast/3 min easy. There were lots of snails on the paths from the rain the day before. I tried my best to avoid most of them, but I think I stepped on a couple! :( In the afternoon the weather held, so I managed to get my ride in. I rode to Lakeside but took a different turn on the way back, luckily I didn't get lost! It was nice to have a tailwind on the return lap for a change. Distance was 82.7kms.

Thursday the weather wasn't too promising but I managed to get another run done in the afternoon in Springbank. Just an hour's run and there were no intervals in the program, just focusing on quick pick-ups.

Friday morning, I did another early morning swim. Had some longer sets - 400m warm up, 1000m (200m steady/50m fast), 1000m (200m steady/50m big kicks), 1000m pull buoy. It was in a 50m pool and I was pretty happy with the times for the longer 1km sets - 16:56, 17:09 and 17:50 respectively. In the evening, I did another ride. Forecasted weather had some strong winds. But during the ride, it was weird and I didn't feel I was particularly hampered or assisted by the wind in a specific direction. Rode to Lakeside and back with a total distance of 75km.

Saturday morning, it was glorious outside. A bit cold and some light winds. I rode to Southwold and had 120km on the plan. I didn't feel particularly strong, could have been still tired from the ride the evening before. On the way back, the winds picked up a bit - not overly strong, but constantly blowing and enough to sap the energy out of my legs, which I didn't have much left anyway. I soft pedalled all the way back, my average speed dropped tremendously. Took me 4 hours 22 minutes for the whole ride. In the evening, I had to attend a run review with Coach Sheri. So I didn't have much rest after either. It's always interesting to see yourself running in video and there is always things to improve on.

Sunday I was being lazy the whole day and procrastinated on my long run until about 4pm. I had a nice nap before too. My legs felt strong and the weather was an overcast which helped. Ran for 1 hour 45 minutes and held just under 4:30 per km average for 23.4kms, so I was very pleased.

I thought I had a big week this week but as tomorrow is Victoria Day public holiday, another big session is planned. But I have a rest day after that, so it's all good.

Week 7 of 26 statistics:

Swim - 10.2km (3 hours 3 minutes)
Bike - 277.8km (9 hours 30 minutes)
Run - 54.0km (4 hours 0 minutes)

Total - 342.1km (16 hours 33 minutes)

Monday, 12 May 2014

Week 6 of 26

The week started with a rest day on Monday. Sort of like a reset after the below par performance the week before. Tuesday I did my first morning swim in months. Didn't wake up especially early though, as I had a 9 am appointment, so I told the office I was going to be in late anyway. Had a main set of 5 x 100m, 200m, 5 x 100m pull buoy, 200m, 5 x 100m pull buoy/paddles, 200m, 5 x 100m, 200m. In the afternoon, I rode for 3 hours to Lakeside and back. Weather was nice but I think the wind changed directions partway through and it felt like I had some headwinds in both directions. Not particularly strong winds, but enough to affect my speed.

Wednesday I ran at Springbank for 75 minutes. After a 15 minute warm up, the program was 2 sets of 20 minutes tempo/10 minutes steady. Clocked just over 17km and a tad bit faster than last week. Thursday, I did another swim session with some longer sets. 200m swim, 200m pull buoy, 8 x 50m swim, 1500m swim and 1000m pull buoy. Pretty happy with my times for the 1500m (24:25) and 1000m pull (17:17). But I need to remind myself that it was a 25m pool, so I have to see how much slower I would be in a 50m long course pool.

Friday I had another 75 minutes run in the program. I didn't want to run at Springbank, so I decided to park at Western campus and do the route that I used run last year when I was working in campus. I started from campus and headed down Western road to downtown, turning left at Oxford Street and back up again at Richmond Street. Did two loops and it showered every now and then. Pretty humid day.

Saturday was cycling day and we had a group ride organized. When I say group, I actually meant two other guys hahaha. I had 4 hours on the program, so I rode down to Lambeth to meet up with the others. We rode to Komoka and Delaware. It was such a windy day but nice and sunny. After I left the group to ride home, I was pretty relieved that the last 13kms had a tailwind. Total distance was 134km and about 38 minutes longer than my program but that's okay.

Sunday, after speaking to my parents on Skype, I felt a bit lazy and couldn't bring myself out for a long run. So I went to the gym instead. It has been almost 4 weeks since I've last hit the gym and being the body conscious triathlete I am, my reflection on the mirror tells me that it's about time I pumped some iron! Did an hour's session of alternating between arms, legs and core - 30 reps each.

I napped most of the afternoon and only started my long run at 4.30pm. The temperature was about 20 degrees and it was sunny. I had 1 hour 45 minutes on the program. The program had me doing 3 sets of 10 minutes tempo/20 minutes steady. My legs felt a bit tired but I managed to maintain a pretty consistent split for each 30 minute sets. Happy to clock just over 23km which was how I planned it originally.

Week 6 of 26 statistics:

Swim - 6.7km (1 hour 57 minutes)
Bike - 224.8km (7 hours 37 minutes)
Run - 56.9km (4 hours 15 minutes)
Gym - 1 hour

Total - 288.5km (14 hours 49 minutes)

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Two bulls

I'm going to be lazy here... and do a combined blog post dedicated to my two siblings' birthdays. My lil' brother Keith celebrated his 20th... (yes, I can't believe it myself, he's no longer in his teens!) birthday couple of days ago. And my sis, Karen will be having her... well, let's just say she's a few years shy of turning 30 in a couple of days hahaha.

Being both born in the early days of May, they are both Taureans. Karen, as most of us know, has always been headstrong and wants to do things HER OWN way. Her favourite words when she was little were "I like, I like lah!" While myself, being the by-the-rule-book older brother had always disapproved of her ways. But it is with these qualities and by taking the path less travelled, that she now successfully manages her own fast growing fitness enterprise and most importantly, doing what she loves... doing it her way. I can't say enough, how proud I am of her.

Keith, on the other hand is a bit more passive. But don't let that fool you. Having left for Australia while Keith was only 8 years old, I have missed out on most of Keith's growing up years. I cannot make up for those years but in this age of social media, I get to see what he's up to on Facebook and Twitter (whether it is to his liking or not, is another story!). And he has indeed grown up to be a young man with his strong opinions on current issues. He is no longer our little Keith Boy. Keith now studies in Wollongong, Australia and I wish him the very best, cherish this memorable experience of being abroad and make the most out of it.

As the eldest sibling, I often play the authoritarian role and tend to be naggy and bossy at times. I only want the best for both of you but I can get carried away sometimes. Do forgive your kor kor for this. Wishing both of you very happy birthdays! Missing both of you lots and hope that I would be able to celebrate your birthdays in person in the near future soon.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Week 5 of 26

This is my first week under Coach Sheri Fraser's plan. It started with a swim session on Monday to recover from the Forest City half marathon the day before. The sets were 400m warm up, 400m - 75 swim/25 finger tip drag, 1000m, 4000m - 25 swim/25 right arm/25 swim/25 left arm, 1000m, 200m kickboard. Felt a bit tired and was swimming a bit slower than usual but that's okay.

It rained for most of the week, I was meant to ride on Tuesday but I swapped the ride for the next day's run session instead. Ran for 75 minutes in Springbank with some intervals - 4 minutes fast/1 minute easy/6 minutes fast/1 min easy/8 minutes fast/1 minute easy, and repeat one more time through. Was surprised how good my legs felt and clocked 17km in that duration.

Wednesday evening it was gloomy but it was dry when I started my ride. How wrong I was! It started raining few minutes in... and didn't stop! With the wind blowing, very soon it got too cold and I was shivering until I could not continue. Called Li-Ann to pick me up. Only 43kms clocked.

Thursday I did a shorter run at Springbank and my legs felt good again. Did a fast 13.8km in an hour. Friday was another swim set - 400m, 800m, 800m with pull buoy, 800m, 400m.

Saturday the roads were wet from the rain the night before. The skies were dark but the forecast says it should be clear of rain for a few hours. So I took the gamble and went out for a ride. Did 3 hours without getting too wet, apart from feet, from the water splashing off the ground. I saw a huge brown dog just meters away as I was riding in country roads. Later I thought, it could have been a coyote! The bike was very dirty after the ride and it took me a while to get it cleaned.

In the afternoon, I ran for 90 minutes and surprisingly felt great. Just over 20kms clocked despite it being so windy.

As I did not ride for most of the week, I pushed most of my cycling workouts to the weekend. So I was out riding again on Sunday. The plan was to ride for 4 hours. It was nice and sunny. But I had nothing left in my legs. It didn't help that the winds started picking up. I was rolling around at 20kph and I decided to call it quits and gave Li-Ann a call... again! 95km clocked in a very slow 3 hours 41 minutes.

I still had another swim session to make up for in the afternoon but I figured I needed the rest. Cramming two big rides in two days wasn't the wisest choice. And it is obvious my body is not ready to log in the big Ironman miles... not yet, anyway. Incidentally, I have a lighter load this coming week and the weather forecast looks favourable, so I wouldn't need to swap any sessions around.

Week 5 of 26 stats:

Swim 6.8km (1 hour 59 minutes)
Bike 228.8km (8 hours 23 minutes)
Run 51.1km (3 hours 45 minutes)

Total 286.7km (14 hours 7 minutes)