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Kilometer by Kilometer

Last Sunday’s easy ride was not a true indication of my physical conditioning.  I couldn’t have expected anything different.  The result of three months of idleness is that my heart rate races from the effort of clipping in to my pedals, let alone from trying to hold my spot in a pace line.  My three rides so far just confirmed I have a long road ahead of me to regain the fitness I had in June.

Today’s test was a ride with nine other Flipsiders.  We rode from Bukit Jalil to Ijok for breakfast, and then looped through Bestari Jaya to Batu Arang, and returned to the Guthrie Corridor Expressway for the ride back to Bukit Jalil.

Ijok Route

Fortunately for me the group made frequent stops.  This is a regular one, at the point where we leave the Expressway to get onto Jalan Kuala Selangor.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

We got to the wanton noodles shop in Ijok 35 kms into the ride.  We stacked our bikes against a wall and piled into the shop.  There is an Alchemy bicycle somewhere in there.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

The rest of the guys settled down to their noodles while Shahfiq and I went to see why there was a crowd around a roadside stall a hundred meters away.

On sale was nasi lemak, fried chicken, a variety of curries, fried eggs . . . . and freshly made apam balik.  Peanut pancakes for breakfast for me please!

Ijok Apam Balik

I needed all those calories once we got to Bestari Jaya.  The road from Ijok to Bestari Jaya (right to left in the graphic below) was pancake flat.  As soon as we made the right turn toward Batu Arang the road got very lumpy.  That was my cue to fall behind the others yet again as my lack of power and endurance showed on the climbs.

3D Profile courtesy of VeloViewer

3D Profile courtesy of VeloViewer

And again the guys helped me out by stopping until I caught up.  This was one of the few flat sections on the way to Batu Arang.

Ijok Road

The next stop was only 5 kms down the road in Batu Arang.  There is a small roadside stall selling fresh sugarcane juice.  Really fresh sugarcane juice.

Ijok Air Tebu

The canes go through the crusher three times.  The juice is strained into a pitcher before being poured into ice-filled glasses.  Those cold drinks were most welcome.  The sun had been beating down on us since we left Ijok, and the heat was leaving its mark on us all.

I was in survival mode for the remainder of the ride.  My average heart rate for the entire ride was 135 bpm.  My average heart rate for the final 40 kms was 140 bpm.  Despite my efforts to spin in as light a gear as possible to keep my heart rate down.

We made our regular final stop at the Elmina R&R for a cold drink from the shop there.  We got back to D’Bayu at Bukit Jelutong with a couple of kilometers less than a metric century on our cycling computers.  I can be as competitive as the next person when the mood strikes me.  If the guys were going to do a 2 kilometer loop to make it a century ride, then so was I.

Every kilometer helps.

What a Difference a Day Makes

After the epicness of the ride to Morib, my Flipside buddies and I agreed that we needed a gentle recovery ride the following day.  A 25 km or so ride to Bandar Botanik, a stop for a spot of breakfast, and another 25 km back again would fit the bill.  Seven Flipsiders said that they would do the ride.  At 6.45am there were just three of us at the start point.  The others missed a very nice ride.

We covered the same ground as we did on the way to Morib the day before.  This time without the extra loop at the beginning of the ride.  The route is a bit up and down over the first 8 km, but the rest is as flat as a pancake.  Throw in some canals and some cows, and I could be convinced I was riding around Den Haag!

Botanic

Eric was 50 meters ahead of Marvin and I as we rolled into Bandar Botanik.  We both heard the pop as Eric’s front tire gave way.  Upon inspection we found a tear in the sidewall of the tire.  I always carry a small sheet of rubber in my tool roll to use as a boot, so Eric was able to keep going on his damaged tire after replacing the tube.

Botanic Flat

Not that we went very far before stopping again.  We found a breakfast place all of 500 meters away from where Eric’s tire had failed.

The restaurant even had a fitting name for us hungry cyclists.  “Rezeki” can be translated as “bountiful.”

Botanic Restaurant

There certainly was quite a variety of food to choose from.  Marvin ended up putting three types of fried noodles on his plate.

Botanic Marvin

We were all well-nourished for the ride back to Bandar Sunway.  The morning was overcast and pleasantly cool when we started the ride.  Thankfully it stayed that way for most of the return leg.

We averaged 24.5 kph.  2 kph or 8% slower than I had ridden the day before.  That 8% slower pace translated into a 21% or 29 bpm drop in my average heart rate.

Hence the thumbs up from me, and the smiles from Marvin and Eric, at the end of this ride.

Photograph courtesy of Eric Seow

Photograph courtesy of Eric Seow

A very different end to the ride as compared to the day before.

An Epic Ride – Though I Would Have Preferred it Wasn’t

Strava displays a “Suffer Score” along with other summary information about each ride that you upload.  The Suffer Score is a value calculated using your heart rate during a ride relative to your maximum heart rate, and the distance ridden.  The higher your Suffer Score, the harder you worked during that ride.

A descriptor is assigned to Suffer Scores.  100 to 150 is a Tough score.  151 to 250 is an Extreme score.  Anything greater than 250 is an Epic score.

I have only twice had a Suffer Score in the Epic category.  The first was during the Kuantan Century Ride last year.  My average speed was 28 kph.  My average heart rate during that ride was 144 bpm, over a distance of 161 km.  I felt trashed for the last 20 kms of that ride.

My second Epic effort was yesterday.  I rode with four other Flipsiders from Bandar Sunway to Morib and back.  This ride was  133km.  My average speed was 26.6 kph.  Despite the shorter distance and lower average speed, my heart rate averaged 140 bpm.  Not much less than it was during the Kuantan ride.  And again I felt trashed for the last 20 kms of the ride.

I have had rides that had a lot more climbing, and were therefore more difficult  – although this wasn’t easy either, given that the sun was beating down and that the temperature felt like 36 °Celsius.

I suffered, despite the flatness of the Morib ride, due to an alarming lack of fitness.  I knew that being inactive for more than three months would have a negative effect, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad.

The route took us west along the KESAS Highway.  It was my first time riding west of Sunway Lagoon, though my companions have done this ride before.

We exited the KESAS Highway at the Bandar Botanik interchange, where we turned left onto Jalan Langat.  I have been on that section of road before, during the ride to Port Dickson, and during the Klang Premiere Century ride.

Morib

We weren’t on Jalan Langat very long before we had to make a stop at a PETRONAS petrol station.  Justin had a flat tire.  I took the opportunity to take an opportunistic photograph.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We had stopped at the PETRONAS Johan Setia.

Two hours into the ride my left arm and shoulder had started aching.  I spent a lot of time sitting up on my saddle to give my arm and shoulder a rest.  Marco is smiling in his selfie, but you can see that Mark and I are wilting in the heat.  At this point we had another fifteen kilometers to go before we got to Morib.  Those were some of the longest kilometers I have ever ridden.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

It was a relief to finally arrive at Taman Seri Bayou Morib.  Marked on the beach side by this pretty art installation.

Morib Sculpture

We had ridden 75 kilometers.  There were serious doubts in my mind that I would make it all the way back to Sunway.

I didn’t look it at the time, but I did feel somewhat rejuvenated after these.

Morib Dutch Lady

Four cartons of cold chocolate milk.

The others looked cheery while waiting for their nasi lemak.  I had some too.  It was very good.

Morib Makan

It was about 11.00am when we started the return leg.  This wasn’t the last sit-down I needed before we got back to Bandar Sunway.

Morib Sign

The return leg was 17 kms shorter than the outbound leg.  We had done a loop to the east of Bandar Sunway at the start.  Despite the shorter homeward distance, my average speed dropped from 27.6 kph to 25.5 kph.  Even with the slower pace, my average heart rate went up from 137 bpm to 145 bpm.  That must be when my Suffer Score ventured into Epic territory.

I really was struggling over the last 20 kms.  I kept looking at my Garmin, convinced that I had covered three or four kilometers since the last time I checked it.  Only to find that I was only fifteen hundred meters further forward.  Right about the time I was going to pack it in and collapse on the edge of the road, a rest area hove into view.  There was only about 6 kms to go, but I wouldn’t have made it without that final fifteen minute rest in the air-conditioned PETRONAS shop – and without an ice-cream.

I would have preferred an easier ride.  Especially after such a long time off the bike.  It does however make me believe that I will finish the Malacca Century Ride next Sunday.

Hopefully it won’t be another Epic!

VeloViewer

VeloViewer

I am an unashamed geek at heart.  I’ll drop whatever I am doing to look at gear and tools at any time.  An article titled “2 Performance-Enhancing Digital Tools for Cyclists” on Active.com caught my eye last week.

Of the two cycling apps discussed in the article, VeloViewer immediately appealed to me.  I clicked on the in-article link without reading much about the second app, Golden Cheetah.

VeloViewer links to your Strava account.  The initial setup will take some time if you have a lot of rides saved.  Once all your data is imported into VeloViewer, there are multiple ways to visualize your rides.

The opening screen has eight tabs.  Click the Summary tab and the app lists your activity statistics at the top of the screen.  I haven’t included that part of the screen in the shot below.  The statistics include:   Activity count, Total distance, Total elevation, Total time, your top five rides by Maximum distance, your top five rides by Maximum elevation, and your top five rides by Maximum time.

These statistics can be filtered by year, by activity type, and gear type.

The main part of the screen is in the screen shot below.  It shows all your rides in a variety of ways.  Rides are sorted by distance, elevation, and time.  Hover over one of the boxes, and details of the rides in that category are displayed.

In this case the screen shows all years, and a combination of all gear types.  In my case gear types are the three bikes I own.

The line chart on the left lists my rides by year.  My Strava account has rides starting in 2010.  So there are five lines for each year from 2010.  You can select what the lines show:  total distance, total elevation, total time or number of rides.

The graph paper table on the right lists all my rides, again by year.  I chose the day view, but you can choose to show rides by week or month.  Most impressive is that each of my rides are color-coded from light yellow for lowest value, to deep red for highest value.  The values themselves are user-selectable from nine categories, including average heart rate and average power.

On the lower left are summary statistics off all the segments I have ridden, and on the lower right are climbing statistics listed by category of climb.

Screen courtesy of veloviewer.com

Screen courtesy of veloviewer.com

There is more to the summary screen, which is not shown in the screen shot above.  Scroll to the bottom of the summary screen and you will see your ten most recent activities, and a summary of activities by gear.  In my case summary details of all the rides I have done on each of my three bikes.

Click on a ride, and you are taken to a map of that ride, like the one below, shown in full-screen view.  In the normal map view, the profile of the ride is displayed along the top of the screen.  As you move your cursor along the profile, a marker shows the corresponding position on the map.

Screen courtesy of veloviewer.com

Screen courtesy of VeloViewer

There are a number of other views, including this 3D profile of the route in the map above, color-coded by steepness of each segment.

Screen courtesy of veloviewer.com

Screen courtesy of veloviewer.com

There are seven other tabs that display an array of data about the selected ride.

There is more to this app that I have yet to explore. Which makes this a dangerous app for geeks like me.  The last thing I need is yet another way to fritter time away.

It is bedtime.  Tomorrow’s ride starts at 6.30am.  I’ll just take a few more minutes to explore the Wheel tab.

 

Wheel

Screen courtesy of veloviewer.com

All Clear

 

 

Back in the Saddle

My last bike ride was on July 5th.  The day I crashed on the descent of Fraser’s Hill.  On July 14th I had surgery to drain an anorectal abscess.  On 23rd August I had a second surgery to repair a fistula that was the cause of the abscess.

While recovery from the injuries incurred in the crash is still ongoing, I could have started riding again at least a month ago.  However my surgeon had other ideas.  He did not want me to risk compromising the healing of the wound that he created when he opened up the fistula.  So instead of sitting on my saddle, I spent seven weeks sitting in a sitz bath twice a day.

I got the ‘all clear’ to ride last Saturday.  Some of my Flipside friends agreed to spend their Sunday morning riding with me to Kampung Kundang and back.  It is a route that we have ridden many times.

Kundang

We followed the Guthrie Corridor Expressway to the Kuala Selangor exit.  Here we are at that exit, waiting for Marco and Natasha.

Reintroduction Ride 04

Photograph courtesy of Eric Seow

 

Our intermediate destination was Seleria Ria along Jalan Kuang.  I didn’t eat all those packets of nasi lemak.

Reintroduction Ride 03

Photograph courtesy of Eric Seow

 

They were shared amongst us all.

Reintroduction Ride 01

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

I throughly enjoyed the 56km ride.  The weather was mild, and my riding companions maintained a reasonable pace.

Nevertheless, it felt like hard work.  The three-month layoff clearly eroded my fitness levels.  A comparison of my heart rate during this ride, and my heart rate during a very similar ride in June, illustrates this.

My average heart rate during this ride was 130 beats per minute.  My average speed was 25 kilometers per hour.

Latest

My average heart rate four months ago was 120 bpm, at an average speed of 26.5 kph.

Before

 

I need to rebuild my fitness.  I also need to continue to strengthen my left arm.  The nerves I damaged in the Fraser’s Hill crash will take at least another two months to repair.  My arm is significantly stronger than it was a few months ago, but it has not returned to full-strength, and it still tires easily.  I struggled to hold my position on my bike in the last forty five minutes of the ride.

I have another week to build up my fitness in preparation for the Melaka Century Ride.  Wish me well!

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

Posted on

 

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?

 

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