road riding in Penang | Malaysia

Big heart little feet - Camp Cameron 2006 Part II
June 2006 | by Jimmy Tan | photos by Finian Lee and Teoh Ween Sze


Day 2: To ride? Not to ride? That was the question we kept pondering about once our eyes opened up to greet a brand new day. A good day, the optimistic self in us kept consoling. Well, as we woke up to a gloomy and cloudy morning, and in between trying to get some decent caffeine into my system in order to function properly.. I, for once, was secretly not too keen to go out and do battle with Mother Nature again. As rain drops started falling, so was my spirit for the day. But maybe after some good coffee and a decent breakfast, there might be a change in mood. We shall see???

An hour after breakfast, we were still lazing on the couch trying to get the DVD player to work and watch a couple of guys in skinny tyres racing up the French Alps… motivation, dude... comes in mysterious ways. Unfortunately, the DVD was cooked, and we end up watching some footy-ball on the tube. About 11ish, the Sun somehow started to break through the clouds bringing along it, the hope of riding. The headmaster and 'Cikgu' gave us the thumbs up to suit up. Like good troopers we were, one by one, we went on to put on our official CR 'costumes'. In a flash, we were rolling out of the house and off to Tanah Rata to get some hot noodles.

"Suiting up" would certainly be the correct phrase. Watch out for the big red "Berhenti" sign... err.. Melvin.

At around noon, off we go from Tanah Rata town. The first session of our ride was the easy part, 2 hours of downhill on a winding road down to Tapah town. All we have to do is negotiate and ease into the turns and not over cook it...for we might end up in some vege-wagon. Turns after turns as we descent, all 50 km odd of it with shades by rainforest canopy most of the way. On our right the rustic shades of green with mountain ranges piercing through the clouds. And near by the daily life of local indigenous children playing on the side of the road, waving to us. Bliss!!!

What seemed like a field day for the support crew yesterday, with their hands full getting us water and food, today seems like the other side of the spectrum. Somehow due to miscommunication or the lack of it, we were unable to get hold of any support on the way down, and to top it all, Edwin had a muscle pull. Sometimes your legs just have a mind of their own. They just refused to work. Unfortunately for him, he still has to make his way down to Tapah for any support vehicle to retrieve him. The support crew, meanwhile, stopped at the famous waterfall Lata Kinjang for some R&R.

Ahh... corn is good. Kai Seng enjoys a cuppa at Lata Kinjang.

Ahh..Tapah, the town where 'woppeeeeee' ended and pain began. Right after a quick grab of lunch at the local restaurant, we were on the go again. I wonder why we were so eager to embrace pain?? I guess it's inevitable and the sooner you got over it the better. The Sun is right on top of our heads when we started our second leg of our journey, the uphill part. I was sure I can feel the styrofoam on our helmet 'pop' or was that my brain? I'm sure there was plenty to do on a Sunday afternoon, i.e. watch DVDs, go to the Mall, enjoy a cup of latte and a good book than trying to go up a hill at "X" amount of time at "X" speed with "X" level of heart rate. But for we were the core worshippers of agony, therefore we were here today. I mean we had been actually training for this training camp. Enjoying every minute of it, yes,..even if I have to clinch my teeth to say it.

By the time we hit the base of Cameron from Tapah, we were on all cylinders firing. Cikgu, GuruBesar, Prefect Sekolah, Budak Besi, Ian and I sans Edwin, by now resting comfortably in the support vehicle. We took turns pulling. The CR train was moving and a fast one too for one that is moving uphill …average of 24km/h on an uphill. Fast enough, I said to myself. Going back the same road we came down earlier, I was eager to get back to the tree line/shaded canopies. My heart rate was yo-yoing between the red zone. The sight and sound surrounding me came to a total buzz. As if everything else was in a shade of grey except for the tyres in front and the white lines of the road below me. It's a hypnotic sense whereby the whole world and even part of you vanished into thin air. The only feeling you have was your lungs burning and the legs churning up some serious power. At a certain point, I didn't even know who was in front of me anymore as long as there was a wheel to draft. On the back of my mind I couldn't help but wonder if I'm going to hit the wall and blow up. But not now, a little bit longer I pleaded to my legs. And screaming in return she did, my legs.

Salivating from my mouth. Sweat dripping on the top tube. Sticky sports drink drying around my lips leaving little bits of crust. An hour or so into the climb, what seemed to be the 39x23 I have been using, felt like a 53x12 right now. The consolation was that we were right back at the tree lines now…shades.. glorious wonderful shades. Like little hobbits ascending evil Mordor. The legs were feeling a bit empty now. The dreadful lactate started to creeps in now, slowly at first but surely it going to overwhelm me soon.

And it hits! Hit me bad. My biological tank was hitting the big E!...EMPTY my friend. Slowly at first, I began to lose small amount of gaps to the wheel in front of me. A foot or two at first and bridge back a couple of times. Then an assuring voice from behind saying I will be OK, try to follow a wheel and regulate. Digging in deep into my reserve, somehow I find some miracle in that voice to soldier on for a few more Kilos. Suddenly, as if time had stood still, it seemed like the pedal stroke didn't equate to the amount of ground gain. It was as if I'm frozen in a time frame, and the wheels in front beginning to speed away from me. A few meters at first, then just disappearing around the corners into thin air. As my speed plummeted, so did my spirit. Isolated, slowly grinding up each turn and corner. Always upwards.

Today I discovered the meaning of to suffer.

Running out of juice and 2 empty bottles, that was not a good sign. With every corner horizing, hoping the support vehicle will be there to refill me. But it turned out to non-avail and another blow psychologically. I needed those fluids and I needed them bad. Engaged in frustration, the thoughts of dumping my bike on the side of the road and disappear into the woods emerged. I surrender, let nature engulf me. NO! NO! NO! That will only be worse. I will not. Not today. With fist in the air, grinding in my teeth.. Yes you have got me. I give you that. In what seems like eternity, the road upward came to an end and I descended down towards the town of Ringlet. Another small farming town along the outskirt of Cameron Highlands. Definitely a relieve. Along the small road came a small figure in sight flagging me down. It was Budak Besi. The rest of the gang was convening outside a convenience store for some food and fluid. I drown down 2 cans of 100Plus (local equivalent to Gatorade) and gobbled down 1 Powerbar passed to me by Finian. The Powerbar never tasted so good. A much needed refilling.

Round 2. Another 15K to Brinchang, the sign says. What it failed to mention is it's going to be uphill AGAIN. About 5 minutes in the ride we saw Budak and Ian on the side of the road. Ian had a puncture and Budak was on the side assisting him. I carried my battered soul up the climb. It's almost late in the afternoon now, and the air starts to get chilly around you. Each of us was at our own pace now. Riding at our own tempo. Scattered throughout the way to mountain top with a couple of minutes apart. The very sight of the hairpin turns and as it climbs vertically upwards, it's just too imposing. I just kept my eyes on my bar tapes. Take note, a good looking bar tapes does help. One begins to see the toll of the day. Another 40 minutes or so of ascending before we finally reach Brinchang town. It was a buzzing town with tourists and locals getting busy for the evening market. The very notion of reaching our rented apartment was much a relief for my aching limps and hungry stomach.

Upon reaching the apartment, we just laid our aching bums all over the parking lots. Not wanting to move another inch, especially the flight of stairs to the apartment. With the word "shagged" written all over our forehead, we definitely looked like casualties of war lying around. Warriors with battered soul we were one. Melvin's favourite phrase "the pain is so intense it's cleansing" couldn't be more appropriate. Cleansed we were. Ready to do battle again…on the bike, maybe not, but with fork and spoon - yes, definitely! And maybe with a few sticks of 'Satay' too.

Today was definitely a hard, and grueling long day, at least for me. Two days of back-to-back riding uphill and do battle with Mother Nature has taken its toll on me. All the pain, pleasure, frustration, triumph, coldness and wet...has turn me into an emotional eggnog. It's definitely worth every moment of it. If I want an easy Sunday afternoon, I would have played lawn bowl and enjoy a cold glass of ice lemon tea on the side if it gets too hot. But I guess no self-respecting lawn bowls club out there will accept a membership from a guy with funny tan lines.

Funny tan lines.

Thanks for reading, and here's to a great 2007 camp!

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