Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Penang : Where2Go Event - Stumbling Along, The Stragglers' Tale

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Penang : Where2Go Event - Stumbling Along, The Stragglers' Tale
(Photo by Miracle)
Round Penang Island : 23rd June 2013
Public Ride Event - Round Penang Island
Distance covered : 83.2 km.
Time Start : 8:05 am     Time End : 2:35 pm
Duration : 6-1/2 hrs. (way beyond the cut of time of 4 hrs - I sure did stumble)

Route Recommendations :
1. If riding slower than others, especially at the start point, keep to the left for the faster riders to overtake.
2. Do not stop suddenly! Signal your intention to stop and slow down, edging to the road side before you stop.
3. Bring along adequate water, especially if you intend to ride fast and may think of not stopping at the watering stations.
4. At the two climbs (after Bayan Lepas, and from Sungai Pinang to Telok Bahang), pace yourself; there is no point in straining yourself just to go fast as later one may develop cramps like I did.
5. Going down slope after the 2nd climb towards Telok Bahang, do take extra care as the road has many sharp bends.


The Penang Where2Go event attracted many of us from KL and a big group of us went up. The Ultimate Challenge category was a 85 km. ride round Penang Island. Many a times I had wanted to ride round the island, but often it was spoilt by the rain or no-shows by by co-riders.
So this IS the ride then, I will live to the challenge, or so I thought.
I had started out the ride with an aim to complete the Amateur Challenge within the four hours cut-off time. But then a couple of distractions made me stumble. Don't get the wrong idea, they were actually pleasant distractions.
In the end I finished the event in 6-1/2 hrs. way passed the cut-off time, but then that's the way this AhPek ride.

Many of us had arrived on day earlier and on that pleasant evening had taken a ride around the George Town UNESCO Heritage Core Zone (... see more at Penang Cross Ferry Ride Pt.1),

... and had rode into the Penang Ferry for some more cycling adventure over on the mainland Butterworth side (... see more at Penang Cross Ferry Ride Pt.2).


Penang Where2Go Ulitmate Challenge Ride Map  (click for Map Link)
The ride route:

6:30 am - Some of us met at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and rode over to the appropriately named PEACE & JOY Coffee Shop. Let's hope our ride will be peaceful, unmarred by any accident. Let's hope that it will also be an enJOYable ride, with riders cooperating with each other.

That's us pumping up our carbohydrates in the coffee shop, needs those carbs for the long ride ahead.
L-R : AhPek, TaiLim, Nash, Winnie, Larry. Standing are SuiT & Karina.

While the others had Wantan Noodles, I went for the Curry Noodles ala Penang, the ones that came with cubes of coagulated pig's blood - I felt I could do with more blood to help boost my adrenaline levels.

Coming out from the restaurant, I heard a voice calling out to me, it was a familiar voice from a distant past. The voice was familiar, but with her wearing a helmet, I just could not place her.
"It's me Poh Nee!" Now I can remember her - an old friend from ages ago. It took our interests in cycling for us to meet again. Isn't that oddly great?

Cycling over to the nearby Light Street (the start point of the ride, adjacent to the Esplanade), we were met by a mass of cyclists; so many there that we had to squeeze our way in to a good start position.

Time to mingle around and make new friends - the team from Taiping Relax Riders.
I had forgotten my camera, and along the ride had to stop often to take photos with my hand-phone.

And meet up will old friends - the Oriders with their Ori bicycles.

(Photo by Cycling Malaysia)
Me, Nash & Sin - Three old dogs all geared to start.

Psyching myself up with a Maori Haka Dance.

(Photo by Cycling Malaysia)
8:05 am - Start off! SuiT here looking very cool, surrounded by male riders - a rose among thorns.
Nash and me were riding together, somewhere behind the start group.

# 12.8 km @ 8:35 am - At the Jelutong Expressway  Nash & me riding at a good pace of about 25 km/hr. To complete on time we have to achieve an average of 21 km/hr, at the flats we are pushing ourselves faster as there will be hills ahead to slow us down.
We stopped here to take some pix of the other riders.

Nash looking very good in the event jersey, with Pulau Jerejak in the background.

# 22.2 km @ 9:05 am - At Bayan Lepas, the first watering station. On the right is the fence of the far end of the runway of the Penang International Airport.
Our water situation is still okay, but we topped up all the same.

At Teluk Kumbar village, marshals directed us to go straight. Left will be to Gertak Sanggul.

Further on, there were trucks supplied by the local council (MPPP) to act as support vehicles.
This is just about 1/3 the route, and we haven't even hit the slopes yet. A cyclist boards this, seemingly happy too that he has been able to complete a certain distance; well to each his/her own - just be happy with what you can achieve and try again next time.

We met Miracle & Victor here; while that poor biker was boarding the support vehicle, Nash was still sprightly, doing a short dance with Miracle. Enjoying themselves, little did they know what lies ahead!

This was what lies ahead, a steep climb, the first climb they call it - a road on tall viaducts.
Miracle & Victor (in green) can be seen, slowly struggling upwards.

And it got worse, another 2 km. ahead a big sign board indicated "Start Of Climbing Lane", many could not hack it and came down to push. I was still doing okay.

After another few kilometers of steep climbing, another signage; this one stating "End Of Climbing Lane". Phew!
For me, the slope wasn't that bad. If one paces oneself and try not to ride too fast up, one will be able to manage without coming down to push. But I forgot this lesson myself later on.

Free wheeling, whooshing down the slope was a welcomed relief for many of the bikers; but I pedaled on, trying to make up for the lost time that I stopped to take photos.

We are now into shadier, rustic roads. A more gentle sloping road.

A big sign stating "Balik Pulau", but we will not be riding into the town center - so no Balik Pulau Laksa for me here (... see Penang Laksa Ride).
In the distant, on the right are hills before Teluk Bahang.
Gosh! Will we be climbing that too? "Calm down, man. You can do it!"

Cycling next to the serene padi fields in Sungai Burung - just what the doctor prescribed to calm down my fears.
But... Hey! Where's the 2nd water station, most of us just could not find it.

# 42.1 km @ 10:25 am - We are at the Sungai Burong Mosque (that's the orangish building on the right). Average speed that I am hitting is 18.7 km/hr. This is not good enough, I had better cycle faster.
But then I suddenly heard a voice shouting out my name from across the road, "Hey Jo! Wanna stop for a drink?"
It was Miracle & Victor, both enjoying some drinks & food at a road side stall.

This was STUMBLE NO. 1.
As I said earlier, it was a good distraction. I have not really spoken to Miracle or Victor before although we have rode in a few rides together. This was an opportunity to sit down and get to know them better. We drank, ate some nasi lemak, fried eggs and chatted for close to 30 minutes

It was a pleasant tete-a-tete, almost making us forget that we were on a ride event,
Up ahead, the daunting hills of the second climb seems so much closer and larger now.

# 49.5 km @ 11:15 am -  Average speed 16.70 km/hr.
Saw this group of cyclist at the Chinese Temple in Sungai Pinang and rode over to speak to them.

They were waiting for the support truck to come and pick them up, the second climb starts just after this place. They were just too tired to take on the second climb, too knocked out in a sense, so I called this point the KO point on my map.
After hearing what they had to say about the second climb, I was most tempted to join them. In fact I waited, fifteen minutes there; but then decided to continue on, feeling that I still have the reserves for the challenge ahead.

Steeling myself, I started the second climb.
But then 2 km. uphill, I saw this sign that said "Home Cooked Laksa"
Hey! This is the place that I was suppose to come to during the "Penang Laksa Hunt Ride". It is a place run by a friend of mine, Pat.
Okay, might as well turn in and say hello to my friend - who knows when I will be back again to these parts.

THIS WAS STUMBLE NO. 2 - A pleasantly, unexpected find has given me an opportunity to visit a friend whom I have not seen in ages.
So in I went. Pat was there and was most surprised to see me especially in my cycling attire. Another round of chit-chat and eats, this one bringing back nostalgic memories. (... see more at Rustic Penang Laksa)

From the porch, I was afforded a scenic view of the rustic, green hills with it's winding roads that I will be riding back on soon.

Up ahead is a look-out point with a scenic view of Balik Pulau  Unfortunately there was a haze, so not so scenic a view afterall.

The road slopes up, wending through the hills, at certain points next to ravines - have to take extra care here then.

Along the way were many road-side durians stalls selling the renown Balik Pulau Durians.
More temptations? Luckily, I don't eat durians... heh! heh! So no stumbling here.

After that it was all down hill. Here's my bike at the Teluk Bahang Dam, where I stopped to take in some fresh air.
The slopes from Sungai Pinang were not that bad, but I had pushed myself a bit hard, trying to cycle up those slopes as fast as I could and would face the effects of that later.
Along the way, I met some other stragglers - some waiting to be picked up, others taking a rest before continuing on.

# 67km @ 1:30 pm - At Batu Ferringhi beaches; I am already 1-1/2 hours past the cut off time.
And worst thing is, my leg muscles seems to be locking up on me - did I push myself too hard at those later slopes.
Along the way, I had to keep on punching my thigh to ease the muscles and made three stops to get some 100+ Isotonic drinks.

2:30 pm - Finally! Back at the Esplanade  I took 6-1/2 hours, so there was no welcoming committee. In fact, they were already folding up the event tents.

And no completion medal for me too!

But I was very fortunate in other ways.
A cycling buddy, Suit, was still there - patiently waiting for me to finish. I am most thankful.
She had completed the event in less than 3 hours, she could have rode another round and still be ahead of me... Wow!

In a way, I was fortunate also to be straggling along; I got to see and know the other stragglers - those at the rear.
They were not a bunch of losers. Despite all, they were a cheerful lot. Heroes in their own ways - afterall the destination may be important, but the journey is an adventure too.
So this tale is dedicated to them. Chin Up! brothers & sisters.

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  1. Hi brother,

    it is so inspiring to read yr blogs and Happy 2.
    hope to join you all soon.

    Any ride for Raya holiday ?
    Best regards to all Malaysia Foldie members.

    1. Thank you very much for reading my blogs, Winson.

      Yes do join us soon. Most of our rides are posted through the My Cyclist Friends FB Group.
      Tomorrow we are riding to go eat durians.

      This Hari Raya, I will be joining a small group of friends on a bike-packing trip to Tg Sepat.


  2. Hi, Im have a very good and detail post. I been very enjoying this for few time.. cos i very admire u all can finish round Island. Congrats. Hope u join u all for ride...:)


    1. Thanks Gilbert,
      Most kind of you to read my blogs.
      Yes I did finish the round island ride eventhough I took much more than the allocated time.
      Are you from Penang? Let me know how to contact you, and the next time I am up in Penang we can ride together.