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I Want To Ride My Bicycle

Bicycle Race (I Want To Ride My Bicycle) by Queen

It has been seven weeks since I crashed on the descent of Fraser’s Hill.  My recovery has been slow, but that is not surprising given the extent of the injury to my left arm and shoulder.

I spent the first two weeks trying to do physical therapy.  Unsuccessfully because of the pain in my shoulder.  So the rotator cuff injury was treated with a Ultrasound Guided Left Glenohumeral Joint Injection. This is a fancy name for injecting steroids into the joint capsule to reduce inflammation and pain. In my case inflammation and pain in the long head of the biceps tendon.

Diagram courtesy of http://www.shoulderdoc.co.uk

The steroid injection did the trick.  The inflammation and pain subsided in a few days, and I was able to work on increasing the range of motion in my left shoulder.

However the rotator cuff injury was the lesser of my concerns.  I also had a Brachial Plexus injury.  This was the more serious injury.  The injury that was causing muscle weakness, finger numbness, and neuropathic pain.

I already knew that I had been extremely lucky not to have been more seriously injured in the crash.  My orthopedic surgeon pointed out yet another lucky escape.  A frequent outcome of high-speed falls is the complete tearing of the nerve root from the  spinal cord.  This is known as an avulsion, and can cause pain and loss of function in the arms, shoulders, and hands.  Neuropathic pain can be treated with medication, but muscle function can only be restored through surgical reattachment or nerve grafts.

Fortunately mine was a stretching injury rather than a tearing injury.  It has taken a while, but the nerves are repairing themselves.  I am regaining muscle strength, although there is some way to go before my arm is 100% again.

More importantly the neuropathic pain, which at times had been debilitating, has stopped.

So my upper body is ready to handle a bike ride.  At least a short one to start with.

But since the Fraser’s Hill crash another, unrelated issue has presented itself.  An issue that is going to keep me off my bikes for a while longer.

A month ago I had surgery to drain an anorectal abscess.  The formation of the abscess was unrelated to my cycling.  It was just an unfortunate coincidence that the abscess developed so soon after my crash.

If all goes well, the cavity formed by the abscess heals from the inside within a few weeks.  However in approximately 50% of cases, patients will develop a fistula after the abscess has been drained.  The fistula prevents the cavity from healing.  Which is what has happened to me.  So I will have a second surgery on Friday to repair the fistula.

The initial indication is that the type of fistula that I have is easy to repair.  My surgeon will have a more definitive view after my operation.  Hopefully I will be back on my bike six weeks after the operation.

Graphic courtesy of Christopher Martin at https://dribbble.com/chrismartin

Graphic courtesy of Christopher Martin at https://dribbble.com/chrismartin

Better an Ounce of Luck Than a Pound of Gold

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After more than four years of fall-free cycling, not counting the tumbles I took when I first started using clipless pedals, I have had two crashes in as many months.  The first is described in Oh 🔥💀💣💩⚡!!  I was lucky to come away from that crash with only two injuries of note.  The bruise on my upper thigh turned into a haematoma that needed draining twice before it healed into a lump of scar tissue.  What I thought was a slightly separated shoulder turned out to be a rotator cuff injury.  I had some pain and restricted movement of the left arm, but nothing that required me to stop riding.

“What about the bike” you ask?  My bike had only two injuries of note as well.  A broken right shifter and brake, and a front rim that needed to be trued.  Both of which were expertly repaired by Husher and his crew at Meng Thai Bicycle Centre.

Since that crash I did a lot of rides, including the Shah Alam Enduride 2014, the Klang Premiere Century Ride 2014, and the Kuantan Century Ride 2014.  All without incident.  There was no reason to expect that the climb from Kuala Kubu Bahru to Fraser’s Hill and back would be any different.

The first time I did the Fraser’s Hill ride was in February 2013.  I was looking forward to seeing if my revised hydration regimen would get me to the top in better shape than I was the first time.

All went well on the way up.  I was able to hold a faster average speed, and did get to the clock tower without cramping this time.  My rear tire had a slow leak after our stop for coffee at the stall at the Gap.  The 8 kilometers from the Gap to the clock tower is the steepest part of the climb.  I elected to make a couple of stops to pump more air into the tire, rather than change the tube whilst in a sweaty mess.  I swapped tubes at the top before we made the final short climb to the food court for lunch.  A piece of fine wire that looked like it came from a casing or a car of truck tire was the culprit.

All was going well on the way down.  The food court is at 1,290 meters above sea level. The Gap is at 860 meters above sea level.  The road between the two is 12 kilometers of descending delight.  Lots of sweeping curves, but with a few tight ones as well.  Riders have to stay alert for the tight turns, and areas where the road surface is less than optimal.

Frasers Hill Crash

I made it down to 995 meters.  As I came into a left-hand turn at 50kph my front tire gave out.  Perhaps I had picked up a piece of that fine wire in the front as well.  I’ll never know.

I do know I had that “Oh 🔥💀💣💩⚡ !!” moment before I started preparing as well as I could for the inevitable crash.

There are lots of articles on the web about how to fall off your bike.  These are the things they all tell you.

Wear a helmet.  Excellent advice.  This is what my helmet looked like after the crash.

Helmet

Much better the helmet cracked rather than my head.  All I had was a slight bruise on my right temple.

Wear your cycling gloves.  Gloves will provide some protection for your hands.  I wasn’t wearing gloves.  I didn’t scrape my hands because I did the following three things.

Choose your surface.  I did not want to fall onto the tarmac.  As my bike started sliding I worked to stay upright long enough to get to the side of the road.  I managed to feather my braking so my tires kept rolling rather than sliding out from under me.  I also tried to steer so that I was as parallel as possible to the curb.  The last thing I remember seeing before impact was the concrete curb and open drain that I was flying over.  And that I was going to land on the grassy verge.

Don’t lock your elbows and knees.  I fell on head and right shoulder first.  Grass and mud were jammed into the large ventilation slot on the right side of my helmet, and there was a grass stain on my right shoulder.  The rest of my jersey was unmarked.  Oddly enough my first thought was that I had broken my left arm.  My upper arm hurt the most.  A quick check showed that my left arm was intact.  As were my other limbs and my collar bones.

I didn’t land on my hands.  I had no cuts or scrapes on my elbows or knees.  I had scratches on my calves, which I can only assume came from my lower legs running through a thorny plant.  I assume that I rolled on impact, which dissipated some of the force of the crash.

Tuck your head.  This is to protect your neck.  I must admit this must have been an unconscious reflex.  Or I was lucky not to land on my face.  My neck is intact, but as you can see from the x-ray of the back of my neck, the vertebrae weren’t exactly in a straight line.

JM Neck

Practice falling.  This is the last piece of advice from the web.  I think I have practiced enough.

The outcome of this 50kph shunt was that my upper back was incredibly sore for a week.  I sprained every muscle in my neck and shoulder blades.  I also aggravated the rotator cuff injury.  So I have a limited range of motion in my left shoulder.  I also severely compressed the nerves leading from my neck to my left arm.  That was the cause of the burning pain in my upper arm at the time of the crash.  I have ongoing numbness and tingling in my left hand, weakness in that arm, and pain in the areas illustrated below.

Illustration courtesy of Painotopia.com at http://www.painotopia.com/infraspinatus-muscle.html#pain-zone

Illustration courtesy of Painotopia.com at http://www.painotopia.com/infraspinatus-muscle.html#pain-zone

The short-term outcome of my visit to the orthopedic surgeon is a collection of pills.

Methycobal 500mg

Methycobal.  500mg three times a day, to help with nerve repair.

Myonal 50mg

Myonal.  50mg three times a day to help relax muscles which are spasmodic.

Celebrex 200mg

Celebrex.  200mg twice a day to combat inflammation.

Ultracet 375mg

Ultracet.  375mg three times a day to combat pain.

Motilium 10mg

Motilium.  10mg three times a day to combat nausea caused by the Ultracet.

The longer-term outcome is physiotherapy three times per week.  This includes decompression of the vertebrae in my neck through traction, and treatment of the rotator cuff injury with laser, ultrasound and electrotherapy.

And perhaps most painful of all – no bike riding until the injuries heal.

It could have been much, much worse though.  I could have crashed on the valley side of the road and fallen who knows how far down the side of the hill.  I could have hit a tree, or a guard rail, or a electricity pole.  I could have crashed on the tarmac.  On my face.

I was very, very lucky.  Hence the title of this post.  A Yiddish saying that I now firmly believe in.

After my last crash I resolved to ‘Look Forward’ whenever I am on a bike.  After this crash I added a second mantra . . .

Speed

Postscript

“What about the bike” you ask?  No damage to the bike, apart from some scratches on the left front fork.

How does that Yiddish saying go again?

 

Yin and Yang

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My riding buddies and I try to do two rides on weekends.  Usually the intent is to make the Sunday ride a slower, more relaxed ride.  Usually the Sunday ride ends up being as hard or harder than the Saturday ride.

In most cases we alternate between a route that includes the Guthrie Corridor Expressway to Kampung Sri Kundang, and a jaunt up Jalan Gombak Lama to Genting Sempah and back.  This time we did a variation of the Kampung Sri Kundang ride on Saturday, and a new loop from Semenyih to Lenggeng and Broga on Sunday.

Weekend Routes

Our Saturday ride started as it usually does, with a relatively quick run to Kampung Sri Kundang for roti canai and teh tarik.  Liang, Marco, Mark, Marvin and I made short work of breakfast.  There were no table scraps for the cat.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

We then decided to tackle the Dragon’s Back on the way back.  Despite the rising temperature.  We had an 18km run to the PETRONAS Puncak Alam petrol station, where we stopped for cold drinks and the bathroom.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Then it was on to the main event.  I’ve shown this profile before.  The Dragon’s Back starts at the 47km point with a wall that hits 12%.  Then it is up and down the rest of the way back to Bukit Jelutong.

Saturday Profile

This is Marco, happy to see the end of the first half of the Dragon’s Back.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Needless to say we were all toasted by the time we got back to D’Bayu.

So it made a very nice change to have a true recovery ride on Sunday.  About fifteen of us made the drive south from Kuala Lumpur to Semenyih.  After a pit stop at the toll plaza we rode onto the LEKAS Highway.  The same highway we rode during the Shimano Highway Challenge.

Lenggeng Toll Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

This was a very relaxed ride.  VERY relaxed.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

After 25km we exited the highway.  Not long afterwards we came to the only serious climb of the day.  100 meters up in about 2km.  In keeping with our 16kph average speed to that point, we took it very easy up the hill.

 

IMG_0018

The view at the top is spectacular.

IMG_0009

We had quiet back roads all to ourselves.

IMG_0012

And the leisurely pace meant we had time to explore.  There was a time when rubber was the number one agricultural export of Malaysia.  There aren’t many rubber estates left now.  Most have been replaced by oil palm , or housing estates.

IMG_0017

The goal of the ride was the Broga ABC Pan Mee shop.

The best place to be is around the back, sitting at a marble table, eating curry mee.  This was Mark’s order.  With roast pork and cockles.  I had the no-meat option.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

And drinking iced coffee.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Now this is the kind of recovery ride that I want more of.

LifeLine ID: Don’t Leave Home Without It *

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131206_Lifeline ID Leaflet-02

I have been known to ride without a helmet.  But I do not get on my bicycle without some form of identification on my person.  Usually that is an ID bracelet on my wrist.  Displaying information like this.

LifeLineID Info

I have had an ID bracelet since I started cycling five years ago.  It gives me peace of mind that if I were ever knocked unconscious or were unable to speak, my ID would speak for me.

This type of ID for cyclists, runners, and other outdoor sports enthusiasts was previously available only in the United States.  Thanks to Cheong Yue-Jin, this essential item, in a variety of styles, is now available in Malaysia.

LifeLineID Types

When I have to update the information on my ID tag, I will give Yue-Jin a call.  If you don’t already have a LifeLine ID, I recommend that you contact Yue-Jin at info@ayuhkayuh.com.  Your own LifeLine ID may be a life saver.

Check out the LifeLine ID page on Facebook, or the LifeLine ID website for more information.  You will see that this is a quality product, with prompt customer service direct from Yue-Jin.

Need any more incentive to get your own LifeLine ID?  How about a 10% discount off all items?  The mid-year sale is from June 16th to June 30th.

You may not want to ride strong, but you have no excuse not to ride safe.

* Thank you American Express!

Then and Now

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Kuantan Century Ride 2014 Logo

I arrived at the finish of the Kuantan Century Ride 2014 in much better shape that I was at the finish of the 2013 edition.  One reason was the difference in the routes.  The last 40 km / 25 mi of the 2013 route included a 25 km / 15.5 mi out-and-back section along the Gebeng Bypass.  That section seemed interminable, and especially hot.  It was as much a psychological battle as a physical one to complete that part of the ride.  Everyone who rode in this event in 2013 was glad that the Gebeng Bypass was not part of the 2014 route.

KCR 13 and 14

2013 Route                           2014 Route

Another difference was that the 2013 route had more climbing, and most of its elevation was in the last half of the ride, when legs were tiring.

KCR 2013 Elevation Profile

2013 Route Elevation

The 2014 route had less climbing, and those climbs came in the early kilometers.

2014 Route Elevation

2014 Route Elevation

I think the crucial difference for me in 2014 was that I stayed much better hydrated.  A week or so before the event I read an article that said that if your perspiration stings your eyes, that is a sign that your body excretes unusually high amounts of electrolytes in your sweat.  My eyes sting like crazy when sweat gets in them.  So for this ride I put two Nuun tablets instead of the recommended one tablet in each 21 oz / .62 liter bidon.

I went through five bidons during the 160 km ride.  Plus two cans of 100 Plus, two cans of Red Bull energy drink, five servings of iced cendol and one bottle of plain water.  I estimate that I drank at least six liters during the ride.  I drank often, and I drank a lot.

A trick that I learned a few months ago is to loosely tie a bandana around your neck, with the knot to the front.  Then regularly soak the bandana with water.  That keeps your neck cool.  The water dripping from the knot keeps the front of your jersey damp, so evaporative cooling happens.  I confirm that this worked.  Augmented by emptying a bottle of water over my head at each stop.

I also made a conscious effort not to go into the red during the ride.  As it turned out, my 2014 average speed of 27.9 kph was not much slower than my 2013 average speed of 28.4 kph.  But there was a big difference in effort, as measured by heart rate.  In 2013 I spent more than half of the ride in the Tempo Zone:  133 to 149 beats per minute.  More exhaustingly, I did almost a quarter of the ride in the Threshold Zone:  149 to 165 beats per minute zone.  In other words, in the red.

2013 Heart Rate

2013 Heart Rate

By comparison I spent no time riding in the Threshold Zone in 2014.  More than half the ride was spent in the Moderate Zone:  100 to 133 beats per minute.

2014 Heart Rate

2014 Heart Rate

There was little difference in my moving time.  5 hours 40 minutes cycling in 2013.  5 hours 49 minutes cycling in 2014.  But I spent 30 more minutes at rest stops in 2014.

The lesson for me is clear.  I can’t do anything about the terrain, or the weather.  But I can manage my fluid and electrolyte intake, and manage my exertion levels.  Drinking six liters sounds like a lot, but I lost that much fluid through sweating.  I certainly didn’t pee much.

I’ll continue the two Nuun tablets per bottle routine.  The extra electrolytes seemed to make a difference.  I had some cramps in my thighs after the third and fourth rest stops, but the cramping didn’t last long, and my riding wasn’t compromised.

I finished behind most of my Flipside companions, but finished strong.   Very much preferred over chasing hard, finishing fast but feeling shattered afterwards.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Evolution

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Evolution

Team Flipside at the Kuantan Century Ride 2014

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Kuantan Century Ride 2014 Banner

The first century ride of the year for Team Flipside was in Kuantan.  This was my second KCR, having ridden the event last year with Team 165.

Fifteen Flipsiders made the three-hour trip to Kuantan from KL.  A number of us got there late on Saturday.  We were thankful to Mark for collecting goodie bags on our behalf.  The Power Bar and granola bar came in handy during the ride.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

I stayed with my cousin and her husband.  By coincidence they had decided to take me to dinner at the same restaurant where the other Flipsiders had made a reservation.  It was a good thing that a reservation was made.  Alor Akar Seafood Restaurant was packed with diners.  Good food at a reasonable price.  A recipe for success anywhere.

We met at the start at about 7am.  Some drove from their hotels.  I rode from Izan’s and Paul’s home.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Once everyone had gathered we posed for the obligatory group photograph.  We need to get Griffin a Flipsider jersey.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Evolution

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Evolution

The Flipsiders have made a habit of starting rides at the very back of the pack.  In the case of the KCR 2014 we were so far back that we were behind the police escort vehicles.  It wasn’t long before we were told to move up.

Kuantan Century Ride 2014 Escorts

Over 2,000 riders signed up for the event.  So it took a while before we back markers got across the start line.

Photograph courtesy of Faizal Shaupi

Photograph courtesy of Faizal Shaupi

The route took us north-west before curling south.

Kuantan Century Ride 2014 Route

I didn’t remember Kuantan being hilly.  I know better now.  Fortunately the climbing was limited to the first part of the course, when it was relatively cool.

Photograph courtesy of Mohamad Shazreen Arif

Photograph courtesy of Mohamad Shazreen Arif

It wouldn’t be the KCR without a portion of the ride along the beach.  It was a particularly scenic part of the ride.  Unfortunately by the time we got to the beach it was getting hot.

Photograph courtesy of Zue Rahman

Photograph courtesy of Zue Rahman

34° C / 93° F that felt like 42° C / 107° F hot.  I was so glad to see Pam, Maggie, Cindy and Van at the second rest stop.  With a van full of ice cold 100 Plus and water.  And bananas and energy bars.

Photograph courtesy of Iskandar Ahmat

Photograph courtesy of Iskandar Ahmat

They were out in support of Team Knog.  Seven friends from Van’s Urban Bicycle who completed the TCR on folding bikes.  Chapeau to those guys.

Photograph courtesy of Wan Amril

Photograph courtesy of Wan Amril

The third stop was on the grounds of the University Malaya Pahang campus.  Where ice-cold cendol was being served.  I had five servings.  Did I say it was a very hot day?

Kuantan Century Ride 2014 Cendol

The heat took its toll and quite a few starters did not make it to the finish line back in Kuantan.  All the Flipsiders completed the ride.   Marco and I finished together.  Hot and tired, but happy to get a finisher’s medal.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

I’m not sure which was worse.  Riding in that heat, or being one of the girls who handed out the medals, waiting in the heat for the last of the finishers.

Photograph courtesy of Cyclomotion

Photograph courtesy of Cyclomotion

Speaking of medals, these were pretty impressive.

Kuantan Century Ride 2014 Medal

Everyone I spoke to who had done the ride last year agreed that this year’s route was an improvement.  The omission of the Gebeng Bypass was greatly appreciated.

We all had nothing but good things to say about the organization and planning that went into the Kuantan Century Ride 2014.  The ride strted on time.  The marshaling of the route was excellent.  All the rest stops were well-stocked with cold drinks and fruit.  Thumbs up to the organizers and volunteers for a great event.

Kuantan Century Ride 2014 JM Cycling Evolution

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Evolution

Now if only they could do something about the heat.

Klang Premiere Century Ride 2014

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After my struggles at the Shah Alam Enduride, I was hoping for a good outing at the Klang Premiere Century Ride.  This was advertised as a 108 km ride.  The route consisted of a loop through Klang town, a run south to Telok Panglima Garang, a second loop with an out-and-back to the coast on Carey Island, and finally the reverse run from Teluk Panglima Garang to the start.

Klang Century Ride Route

I had a 2.15pm flight to catch, so I didn’t have time to do the full 108 km ride.  I planned to skip the out-and-back to Carey Island.  I was told that cutting out  that section would reduce my ride length to 73 km.  I reckoned on about 2 ½ hours to complete my ride.  Which would give me plenty of time to drive the 47 km  back home, shower etc. and get to the airport by about 1.00pm.

Klang Century JM Route

The start and finish were at the Premiere Hotel in Klang.  It was a pretty good choice.  There was lots of room for rider packet pickup the day before, and lots of secure covered parking on the day of the ride.  The goodie bag did have some goodies in it.  Registered riders got a jersey, a t-shirt, a bidon, and some discount vouchers.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia magazine

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia magazine

There was the usual mix of registered and ghost riders.  Yue-Jin was a registered rider.  I can’t speak for his friends on his right.

Klang Century Yue-Jin

Photograph courtesy of Cheong Yue-Jin

Marco, Mark and I were in our Flipsiders jerseys.  Ching Chua, Cher-Ryl and Griffin were there too.  That is Marco’s and Mark’s post-ride lunch btw.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph curtesy of Marco Lai

The route was very flat, so once we finished the loop through Klang we rode at a fairly high average speed.  I expected to get to the water stop that marked the beginning of the Carey Island sector after about 45 km to 50 km.

50 km came and went.  55 km came and went.  60 km came and went.  I began to worry about overheating and running out of fluid to drink.  I had been sweating a lot.  It was at least 35 °C / 95 °F, and it felt more like 45  °C / 113 °F.

65 km came and went.  I was slowing down in the heat.  I still had some sport drink in one bidon.  I hadn’t brought anything to eat.  That was a mistake.  I began to worry about missing my flight.

The junction I was waiting for finally came after 72 km.  I had been riding for 2 ¼ hours.  No one manning the water stop was sure how far it was to the finish.  Whatever the remaining distance, it was clear that I wouldn’t make my target finish time of 2 ½ hours.

I filled both my bidons with 100 Plus.  I poured water over my head, and tied a wet bandanna around my neck.  Then Marco, Mark and I set off toward the Premiere Hotel.  We were on our own because the route marshals were manning the junctions on the way to Carey Island.  So we had to stop at red traffic lights.  Perhaps it was because of the heat, but it seemed like almost every traffic light we came to was red.  It was with considerable relief that we got to the finish after only 14 km.

Klang Century Finish

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia magazine

I was only 30 minutes behind my planned finish time as the volunteer crew removed my timing chip.  They were surprised that I was at the finish so quickly.  Our average speed of 32 kph / 20 mph was not the only reason.  I did have to  explain that I took a short cut.

Klang Century Finish Tag

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Malaysia magazine

It took another 30 minutes before I stopped dripping sweat and was able to pull on a t-shirt and shorts for the high-speed drive home.

The good news is that I felt pretty good after a very hot 87 km.  And I made it to the airport on time.

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