It was during the early part of this year when Alaska Cycle Phils. opened the registration for its second edition. The inaugural Asia Cycle franchise staging, the BGC Cycle Phils., was barely more than a month prior (November 17, 2013). I joined that one and felt it rather soon to be starting another one right after. So I did not sign myself in.
A week before the event, I got a message from a friend that she is gifting me with a Challenge 40K Ride kit! Not someone to let a good opportunity pass, I accepted with not a kilometer of road under my bike belt. Call it a hasty decision but since another bike race is fast approaching (June 15 at Triman), I decided to make this one as my tune-up ride.
Margaux will bring my race kit with her so I arrived near the start finish area located at 9th Ave.-30th St. at around 4:30. The gunstart for my category will start at 5:30. So far I already covered roughly 8K of warm up distance from home to Bonifacio High Street. Boyet and Rico, both biker friends, assisted me navigate the dark alleys of FTI and Heritage Park.
With just enough time to attach the multiple stickers where they should be placed (one big one on the seat tube, route guide on the top bar, and three small stickers all to be placed all over the helmet), she arrived together with her two brothers. Their bikes were all mtbs as they do trail ride every Sunday as a family at Filinvest City.
There were several waves; ours was waveD. So it was somewhere around 5:45 that I we were eventually set off for our 40K Challenge Ride towards Kalayaan Flyover, Gil Puyat Ave.,, and Roxas Blvd. and back. This loop ride covered 20K. In order to total 40K, two loops were required. This meant 4x the Kalayaan Flyover pass through! And this was where the problem for me resides.
I found myself more comfortable with the peloton right from the gunstart unlike last year when I got a slight case of newbie panic attack. I did not anymore hug the edge of the road for fear I might fail to disengage my cleats and fall flat on my face before the rest of the starters. That scenario has been a constant fear, a phobic madness of sorts. Slowly I am overcoming that.
First loop and I was flying through the course averaging 35-38 kph (well for my level it felt like that anyway). This should have been my goal speed had I properly trained. But I did not. So going fast early in the ride without any bike mileage whatsoever for months prior meant an impending disaster.
Before the race started, I planned on just doing an easy ride just fast enough to meet the cut off of 2 hours midway and another 2 hours for the rest of the distance. Evidently I did not stick to this plan. The price for being such a show off manifested a quarter after my second loop after my 3rd Kalayaan Flyover descent. I was getting anaerobic. I cannot maintain my pace. But my pace was still decent. I was trying to maintain 27 kph average along the flat Buendia surface.
I was using the biggest crank and the smallest cassette gear – my mashing gears. I believe I am more of a masher than a spinner. It was only when approaching the flyover that I shifted to a smaller crank and adjust the gear further as necessary. This was the technique I developed for myself with no expert advice whatsoever.
The abrupt stoppage midway Buendia Avenue where a u turn slot was located blew my rhythm off. Several vehicles were already blocking the bikers lane and all riders have to stop and wade their way through them. My legs felt weird after that. I was doing speedup and slowdown intervals just to recover afterwards. I was slowly getting burned up.
Blaming myself for my foolishness and sheer ignorance, I prayed that those I passed earlier would not taunt me at seeing me in such sorry condition as they catch up. At this time I was just trying to cruise at 22 kph and holding on to this speed for several kilometers. I drank on my Pocari Sweat hoping it will do the miracle. I got nothing.
It was bad decision either to forgo the hydration station earlier after the u turn slot along Roxas Blvd. It could have provided me the needed leg stretch and rest. Unlike in running, a cleated feet to the pedals meant no stretching of tired muscles while astride ones bike. Not unless I am some daredevil or am an expert at maneuvering which obviously I am neither.
Approaching the Kalayaan Flyover for the last time (which by this time I am already fearing it despite my last ditch effort to reserve some level of energy for it), I witnessed a crash victim with face bloodied and bandaged. He was a member of the Black Pearl team. In fact at the start of the race, me and Margaux were talking about them citing out the fact that Zago had a cycling team!
I heard afterwards that it was a collision involving 3 riders including a female one and a motorcycle driver. I had not confirmed this one but knowing that thousands of bikers were speeding along intersections filled with irate and honking vehicles, I believe even the most regulated of bike races cannot ensure the non-occurrence of such accidents.
The road conditions for one were not immaculate. One example are the non-leveled manholes. A triathlete friend Lala almost found herself flying off her 6 digit worth bike had she not had the instinct to brace for the impact. She did not fall but had displaced her shifter. Then there were cracks, slippery rail road tracks and some narrowing of the road to be very attentive of. Not to mention other riders you are sharing the road with as well. Well, who said road biking is a walk in the park (which by the way isn’t that safe either)?
Then it came, the dreaded flyover! I shifted to the easiest of gears, the granny gears. I almost had nothing per kick with it that I cannot make it even midway the incline. I was beginning to feel faint. Maybe the softest to gears was a bad idea afterall. The thing I feared was happening – a sudden face plant with cleats still attached! It was humiliating but, given no other recourse given my numbing legs, walking the bike was a good decision on my part I believe. I then sashayed with all gracefulness, bike on hand, towards the top of this unwelcome structure. Kaya ninyo yan! Chura lang. I was thinking to myself. And from there, remounted like someone disgraced but with poised bravado maintained and spinned like I never spinned before. Talk about regaining lost face!
I reached the finish line 1:45 on the time atop the start finish arc. But since I started at wave d, it must be severaĺ minutes less in actual time. Still not close my first Cycle Phils. time of 1:18. But definitely good enough.
Then there’s some more Ks (8K) of pedaling home, the hardships of being a cheapangga. I am not complaining though. I have cycling buddies Rico and Boyet to cradle the bike for me. I am a diva after all!