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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 165 at the Kuantan Century Ride 2013

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Keat, Hans and I were in the state of Pahang over the weekend for the Kuantan Century Ride.  I named us Team 165, which is the sum of our ages.  For the mathematically inclined amongst you, I am a year older than Hans and a year younger than Keat.

Kuantan Century 2013 Promo

The sun in the promotional banner turned out to be a hint of things to come.

I took my traveling bike with me.  The Ritchey Break-Away.  The bike case and two other bags fit nicely in the trunk of my biker chick’s car.

Kuantan Century 2013 Ritchey

We spent the weekend at the Swiss Garden Resort.  Keat’s wife convinced the management to let us have breakfast at 5.30am on the day of the ride.  The coffee house normally opens at 6.30am.  We were expecting a few slices of bread and some butter and jam.  We were pleasantly surprised by the spread that the staff had laid out.

Kuantan Century 2013 Breakfast

Our hotel was about 18km / 11mi from the start at the International Islamic University Malaysia.  We discussed riding to the start but decided against it.  We would have been riding in the dark along a busy road.  Even less appealing was the thought of having to cycle back to the hotel after a long event.  So we loaded our bikes into Keat’s pickup truck and drove to the start.

Some 2,000 people had registered for the event.  It looked like most of them turned up on the day.

Kuantan Century 2013 Start Queue

As is always the case at cycling events in Malaysia, all types of bicycles were represented.  These guys were braver than I to attempt 160km on knobby-tired mountain bikes.

Kuantan Century 2013 MTBs

Here we are at the start in our “before” photograph.

Photo courtesy of Kuantan Century Ride

Photo courtesy of Kuantan Century Ride

The organizers impressed everyone by managing to start the event bang on time at 7.30am.  We even had a two minute warning.  We were led out by a string of police motorbikes.  The police and marshals did a good job of controlling traffic at intersections to allow us to cycle through without having to stop.

Kuantan Century 2013 Police Bike

A fleet of road crew on motorbikes and in cars and trucks, and an army of volunteers at the start/finish line and rest stops, made this a very well organized and supported event.

The route took us through Kuantan town and south along the coast for the first 40km / 25mi.  After the first rest stop we headed inland for a bit before turning right onto Federal Route 3.  The next 80km / 50mi were north or north-east into the state of Terengganu before heading east toward the coast at Cherating.

Kuantan Century 2013 Route

That stretch included the second rest stop at the 83 km / 51.5mi mark.  By then the sun was out in full force.  It got to 34°C / 93°F.  With the humidity at 90% the heat index was about 40°C / 104°F.  I was emptying my two bidons in double-quick time.  The good news was we got to the second rest stop just in time to grab the last of the water.  The heat made the demand for water far greater than the organizers had anticipated.  The riders after us had to wait for stocks to be replenished.

Kuantan Century 2013 Rest Stop

The bad news was all the 750 meters / 2,460 feet of climbing came in the second half of the course.  Mercifully there was another rest stop just after the big hill of the day.  There was still plenty of water at that rest stop.

From that point the heat became more and more of a factor.  The descent after the third rest stop took us to the Gebeng Bypass.  We had an out-and-back along the highway.  The 28km / 17.5 mi along that stretch of rolling highway seemed interminable.  The sun was beating down and the headwind on the outward leg made it even more unpleasant.  The sight of the final rest stop on the other side of the highway with the turnaround point still 3km / 1.8mi away was the final straw for some riders.  They chose to skip the electronic checkpoint at the end of the bypass and cut across the highway to the rest stop.

I was hyperthermic and was sorely tempted to take a shortcut as well.  I persevered but it was a very close call at the time.  So I was not happy to finally get to the rest stop only to find that all the water was gone.  Fortunately they had lots of ice.  I tossed my last  Nuun tablet into one bidon and filled both with ice cubes.  More water was on the way but I was too hot to wait.

Hans, and that ice, saved my ride.  Han pulled me the last 28km / 17.4mi.  I was chewing on ice cubes all the way to the finish, desperate to stay cool enough and cramp-free to make it to the end.  This is Hans at the finish.

Photo courtesy of Jerantut Cycling Club

Photo courtesy of Jerantut Cycling Club

I was happy to be just behind Hans.

Photo courtesy of Jerantut Cycling Club

Photo courtesy of Jerantut Cycling Club

At the halfway point Keat had told us to push on without him.  The heat got to him even before it got to me.  So it was great to see Keat smiling at the finish.

Kuantan Century 2013 Keat Finish

Can you spot the difference between this “after” photograph and the one of us at the start?

Photo courtesy of Wai Leng Mann

Photo courtesy of Wai Leng Mann

Apart from having these in our literally hot hands.

Kuantan Century 2013 Medal

Team 165 is already talking about doing a 120km / 74.5mi ride in the southern state of Johor next month.  Hopefully by then I will have figured out how to keep my  core temperature in check.