Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Port Dickson 300km ~ Another Epic Ride

 The Epic Journey continues... to Port Dickson!
Singapore to Port Dickson 17 - 18  December 2016.


"OK, we will set off from Marsiling at 1am sharp. Don't be late," was KCTravel's boss's specific instruction.

KC Tng's planned route from Singapore to Port Dickson.

Click on the above image to see the Strava and access the Flybys

Our previous 230km ride up to Malacca was an epic one.  But epic-ness must always be re-defined.  And human nature abhorred status quo.  KCTravel worked on that very principle and very soon after the last trip, the boss up the level of the challenge: Epic 300km ride to Port Dickson.

Before setting off. [Photo: Serene]

After our previous experience, KC decided to get Kelvin our Malaysian driver to drive right into Singapore to meet us at the start point so that we could load up our bags, and load up our soigneur... who else but Serene.

Factoring the extra distance, and the fact that most of us couldn't sleep the night before the ride, we planned the set off at 1am, might as well make full use of the sleepless night to roll off.

Well-planned schedule by KC Tng.

Big Jam at the Customs

So on this day, we rode off, right into a 40 minutes jam on the motorbike/bicycle lane at the Singapore side of the immigration!
The 40 mins jam on the bike lane at the immigration.
"Wah lau, how come so jam?" I asked one Malaysian motocyclist beside me.
"It's Friday night and everyone is either going home to Malaysia after work, or some people go in for the weekend from Singapore," was his reply.  Thus we gained a new experience - 1am on a Saturday would always be jam like this.
Some of us on the leftmost lane, some on the middle lane, while others on the right most,
provoking the ire of the Malaysian motorcyclist.
Kong Wan's classic wefie at the Causeway. [Photo: Wefie king Kong Wan]
With the support vehicle behind us we shot by the previous trip's rendezvous point and continued on in the deep of the night, enjoying the cool breeze.

Through Johor Bahru the front peloton, directed by KC, navigated the ramps and flyovers and led everyone out towards Legoland.
The city was still active at this time of the night and vehicles were still ploughing through the roads and a bunch of kids on bicycles launched themselves from a petrol station and laughingly tried to follow our peloton, albeit for a very short distance.
I was reminded of the rolling nature of the roads from JB towards the direction of Legoland , as the front peloton drifted further and further away once again, exactly like what they did during our previous malacca ride. I remembered seeing the brightly lit sign 'Danga Bay' glowing in the dark as we passed by it on our left.
It was ever so comforting having a strong and dependable figure in Mike Ho doing the sweeping right at the back, knowing that if we ever were to lose sight of the front peloton, he would always point us to the correct direction.

Anna's idols - Jacalyn, Jeremy & Kc Tng. [Photo: Anna]

3am. Checkpoint 1 - Gelang Patah 31km

KC Tng's well illustrated guide.
We made the right turn at the junction between Lebuh Kota Iskandar and Jalan Ulu Choh and finally came to our first check point at the 7 Eleven.

Enjoying the floors at Gelang Patah was Ah Meng.
"We are 40mins behind time due to the jam at the immigration," said KC Tng. "Let's see if we can do some catching up."
He is a great leader, this KC. Forever so encouraging.

This poor wall at the side of the 7 Eleven.  Every time it automatically became the
mandatory toilet spot for our cyclists in the early hours of the morning, as clearly
demonstrated here.
The temperature hovered around 21 degrees celsius on this cool night and it was way too comfortable to be cycling at a leisurely pace. But that was precisely what Mike, Jacalyn and I did, three of us arriving at the check point the last of the lot.

Andy in his classic one-shoe-off pose. [Photo: Serene]
"Wee How is very clever," I remembered David remarking to Kong Wan when he saw us coming in. "He is really conserving." But what David forgot was I was doing it out of sheer necessity, not from any form of 'cleverness' because I hardly join the guys for their long weekend rides and my training was severely lacking.

Getting ready for some musical action was Darric. [Photo: Serene]

I laughed. "Hey, this is not going to be a 30km ride leh, David. It is a 300km ride leh. I know myself just too well. If I don't go slow I will die half way one lah." I remembered how tough the previous ride to Malacca was. And experience taught me if I didn't have the stamina like the rest, I'd better kept far far behind the best.

A wefie before setting off from Gelang Patah [Photo: Kong Wan]

"Ok let's go!" KC Tng was always watching the clock like a football referee keeping track of the last few minutes of extra time.
Again the front peloton of Jeremy, Andy, KC, Wai Meng, Anna, Lewis, Kwan Wei sped off. David, Darric and Kong Wan had their fun in the bullet train for the first 31km and now they were taking it easy with us in the second train.

The bullet train getting ready to move off. [Photo: Serene]
"The part from Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 4 will be the part that may have minimal street illumination.  That is when our strong front lights are important to make sure we can spot potholes on the roads quickly," Kc Tng's advice before the ride.  
Thus we were all equipped with powerful front lights.  Some even 500 to 700 lumens kind of powerful lights.  Mine was a Lezyne Superdrive XL that could deliver a constant 175 lumens for five and a half hours.  I was concerned about the insufficiency of my light.  But cycling behind Jacalyn and Kong Wan who had the more powerful illumination made it so much safer for me.

Thanks to the generosity of Wing Lian, from whom I acquired the pair of Michelin Pro 4 25mm tyres, newly-mounted on my bike, I was totally taken aback by how comfortable and jar-free these superb rubbers were. The significantly lower rolling resistance and enhanced comfort from unevenness of road surfaces, especially for a long ride like this, really took a great chunk of fatigue off me.

"You say again?!" Wing Lian was jokingly threatening, as he was very kek sim that the 25mm couldn't fit his frame. "You make me green with envy! I will buy back the tyres from you!"It was really a pity that they didn't fit, sincerely.
I kicked myself in the butts for not discovering the magic of the 25mm earlier. But hey, it was never too late. Especially not when we were embarking on one of the longest rides we have ever undertaken.
"Oh I have always used the 25mm and they are good," said Lewis before the ride, further reinforcing my confidence in this pair of thicker tyres.
"I use the 23mm for my front," said Darric. "And for the rear, I changed to the 25mm for the comfort." I can understand his logic, for he was a cheongster.
Jacalyn leading the rear peloton off the Geland Patah 7 Eleven. [Photo: Serene]

As we spinned our way along the sleeping villages, the only noise we heard were the dogs barking from the sides, awoken by us, and our own breathing and our wheel hub whirring.
In the distance lightning flashed, and in the split second as they lit up the sky, we could see low reddish cumulus clouds, eagerly waiting to pour buckets of water upon us.
"How is the weather going to be ah?" I remembered asking Mike earlier before the ride started.
"I checked. And it looked good. There was a high chance of rain in Johor, but it would only start AFTER we pass Johor, and for the rest of the day the weather is forecasted to be clear further up north where we are heading." Mike was really reassuring.
And indeed his prediction was spot on, and despite the threatening cloud, we remained miraculously dry, and were comfortably cooled by the welcoming breeze.
The ride was essentially uneventful until around 42km when the second peloton moved off at a traffic junction when the light turned green only to encounter a speeding car rushing towards our front riders David and Jacalyn from the left side in an attempt to beat the traffic light. David jammed brake, bravely pointed at the car and stared him down until the car made an emergency brake just metres away. Defiantly the erring driver still tried to argue that he didn't beat the traffic light. Hmmm.. so atypical of Malaysian drivers.
At 59km mark as our second peloton made our way towards the next checkpoint we were met by a couple of dogs, one of them made an action as if about to chase us, but as I cycled past it, it stared at us with an unsure look on its face, probably rarely encountering a bunch of crazy cyclists doing their rounds at such unearthly hours, and dropped its attempt.

4:30am. Check point 2 - Pontian at 64km

Courtesy of KCTravel
The second check point at the 7 Eleven at Pontian saw the two pelotons safely reunited, the front peloton of Wai Meng, Jeremy, Andy, Anna, Kwan Wei, Lewis and KC arriving way ahead of us in the rear group.
"Ok we are doing well," exclaimed KC. "We are only 18 minutes behind time now."
Yah lor.. that meant that we had to cycle faster and make up for lost ground. Siong ah.
The usual round of plain water and 100 plus went round, bought by the obligatory Ah Gong fund, only that this round the Ah Gong fund was securely held in a proper wallet instead of the flimsy ziploc bag as in our previous trip.
"I have learned that 100 Plus gave me cramps," observed Wing Lian. "And this time round by drinking just plain water and other forms of hydration, I am trying to avoid early onset of the cramps."
It was really interesting how our human bodies worked. We all had our own peculiarities, every single one of us. And through long rides and endurance trainings were we then able to discover more about each one's idiosyncrasies. For me, I knew that by hook or by crook I had to keep myself well hydrated and well-fed. And thus I loaded my bike full of Alpen muesli bars and Clif chewing Bloks, a much nicer tasting alternative to gels, introduced to Serene by KC on the previous ride. This had turned out to be one of the best gel nutrition I had used. Easily digestible and palatable.
The other new addition I undertook was to bring 6 litres of Elo water to be distributed over the course of the long ride. I was personally amazed at how Elo water was able to re-oxygenate my muscles and prevented them from going into anaerobic action too early, and effectively reduce my heart rate. And this time round I was determined to use Elo to the fullest as we had the support vehicle to carry all my supplies.
As I explained to Anna much later at the end of the ride, when one got a little less young and was not well-endowed with good athletic genes, one had to resort to some little advantages here and there.
One special thing I noticed about the 7 Eleven staff was, they were all very polite and obliging, and willingly allowed us to use their toilets in their offices. This was really something unfathomable in Singapore.
"Sorry, ada toilet paper tak?" I asked the nice man.
He smiled at me and shook his head "Tidak." Fortunately for me, Serene had her usual stash of wet wipes. And I remembered to bring extra lubricants for my bottom this round, in anticipation of the suffering.
And again we quietly cycled through villages after villages, all still in deep slumber, with Darric's Bluetooth speaker blaring music to keep us awake.
"Wah your speaker is damn good ah!" shouted Jacalyn in full appreciation. That was really so true. The beat of Darric's music gave us the rhythm to follow and kept monotony at bay.
Perhaps the front peloton hadn't the luxury of a similar kind of entertainment, because it was afterwards when Andy said to me: "I was feeling so sleepy right through the first part of the ride and I really needed something to keep me awake."
Poor thing lah, Andy. Jeremy and the cheongsters must have pushed each other really hard on the stretch in the dark that they didn't have a leisurely time as we in the second train.

6:35am. Checkpoint 3 - Shell Station Rengit 100km.

Clearly shown by KCTravel
Pedalling along the main old semi-coastal Jalan Pontian there was hardly any traffic to share the road with us. And the freedom of space really spurred the the faster riders on, as I realised, after analysing the Strava Flyby, that they arrived at the Shell station a good 13 minutes ahead of the rear riders. It must have been getting a little boring for them, waiting for those of us at the back to slowly roll into the petrol kiosk.
The sky was beginning to light up and we could make out the faint blue hue starting to emerge from the horizon in the distance.

Just getting ready to set off from Checkpoint 3. [Photo: Kong Wan]

The air was still crisp and cool, and I believed I had never had the opportunity to ride through the wee hours of the morning along the country roads of Malaysia on a tour like this.
Thinking back it was such an experience.
Dawn was breaking. And finally we were starting to bask in the comfort of warm light. With illumination came the natural threat of impending heat.
We knew that our comfort hours of cool riding were behind us already, and moving forward it was another hot day ahead.
"Wow the first 100km was really nice and the weather was so comfortable." Kong Wan, Darric, Jacalyn, David and Wing Lian all agreed in unison.

Truly, the first 100km flew by relatively quickly, and I believed not many actually suffered.

"Kong Wan is pulling at a very steady and comfortable pace," praised David. A sentiment that was again shared by all of us.
Kong Wan really had a knack for steady-state, as an endurance athletes. His speed would hardly change and as long as we kept to his lead we could be assured of very stable pace.

9:01am. Checkpoint 4. Breakfast @ Kentucky Fried Chicken at Batu Pahat 136km

Courtesy of KCTravel

We were looking forward to our fourth checkpoint at Batu Pahat at 136km as that was our breakfast destination.  So far I had been surviving on one Alpen Muesli bar and one strip of Clif Chewing Bloks per hour, which at 200 Cal, was way below my usual replacement level.
But in the shroud of darkness and the coolness of the night, energy expenditures were low.
In all honesty I wasn't exactly sure how to prepare the nutrition for the more than 10 hours of ride. For 130km I had been on Elo water and a combination of plain water and 100 Plus. I was sure my rehydration level was insufficient, because I wasn't drinking as much as I should.  This was always a problem when the weather was nice and cool because the body would feel less need for fluid, although one would already be losing fluid through perspiration.
As the checkpoint drew nearer, I could sense myself feeling hungry and was really eager for a full meal.

We had been on the roads for close to 8 hours, with the rest stops in between. So far the ride had been relatively painless.  But as we approached the 130km point, several of us at the back were beginning to experience aching.
"Wah lau, the shoulder and the neck is really sng," complained David and Kong Wan.
Me too.  I was struggling to adjust my arm and elbow position and my neck posture to reduce the strain but could find not much respite. It was really LL.  In front of me, I could see Darric standing up on his pedal and then sitting down and arching his back.  The fellow must be in some kind of pain too.  Darric was also poor thing, having just recovered from a bout of high fever and straight away jumped right into the ride.  Right after the third checkpoint I plugged in one side of my blue tooth ear phone and started playing Pentatonix's Christmas songs to keep my spirit going. The motivation from the music only lasted up till the KFC, after which I gave up listening.  David was still consistently on his ear phones. This man really needed his music, much like Darric needed his, only difference was David listened to his music privately while Darric announced his music to the world.

"Here, turn left into Jalan Tan Swee Hoe," called out Wing Lian from behind me at about 130km.  We were on the main road after negotiating a circle, and were on the shoulder of the road with a couple of lanes of cars lined up to our right.
"Yes, correct.  Jalan Tan Swee Hoe," confirmed Mike, looking closely at the navigation GPS on his handphone mounted on the bike.  
Luckily we had these good men in our peloton.  Together with the natural navigational instinct of Kong Wan, our peloton managed to keep to our directions well.

KCF breakfast Checkpoint. [Photo: Kong Wan]
Jeremy, Andy, KC Tng, Anna, Kwan Wei, Wai Meng and Lewis arrived at their breakfast point 10 minutes ahead of the rear peloton.  By the time we drew into the KFC, they were already having their meals.  This KFC was really a well-planned breakfast spot because one could eat as little as one would like, and as much as one preferred.  We ordered the two piece meal with rice, and we all simultaneously changed our cola to coffee.  We needed the caffeine desperately.
The meal really revitalised me, as the sudden glucose spike surged through my veins.  I looked around the guys, and it was obvious that some slight bit of very mild cramps had crept into their thighs and legs.

The (almost) obligatory Arcoxia round
A round of Arcoxia was warmly received by several of the usual expectant candidates, who happily gulped them down with their coffee.  Those of us who had had prior experiences with this anti-inflammatory knew its effects well, understanding the importance to preempt the muscular spasms before they became debilitating.  The anti-inflammatory acted as an analgesic in reducing pain and reducing inflammation within the muscle fibres.  Once pain-sensing was alleviated, the natural reflex of the muscle spindle cells to cause excessive protective contraction would be lessened, thus helping in preventing spasm. It was well-known and may athletes actually made use of this effect to ensure that they could continue to perform without too much hindrance.  Of course, this medicine would not apply to those who were genetically-talented or who were well-conditioned.

Getting ready to move out of KFC. [Photo: Serene]

"We will start to need ice cubes at the next checkpoint already," I mumbled to David as we moved off from KFC, anticipating a rapid rise in the temperature.
Cycling out of Batu Pahat. [Photo: Anna]

Kwan Wei and Lewis. [Photo: Anna]

The Life360 App
This ride also marked the first time we were all using the Life360 App to allow monitoring of most of the riders' positions in real time. With Kong Wan's Android phone's help many of us signed up for this App a couple of days before the event and the support guys (namely Serene) was briefed on how to use it to keep a close watch on everyone's position while she was in the vehicle.
Aside from slight lag, this app had proved to be really useful especially it's ability to 'check-in' locations.
As the ride drew on, the support staff gradually increased in number, and it became easier for Serene to check on the guys and girl, with more eyes on the screens. Kelvin our driver was doing a great job following closely behind the riders and ensuring safety. This was especially so during the part of the ride in the dark as the presence of the support vehicle would signal to cars approaching fast from behind, that there were pelotons of riders in front (hopefully).
Kelvin was resourceful in preparing an icebox in anticipation of storing ice and cold drinks. His cheerful and obliging predisposition made him very well-liked.

Cycling to the fringe of Batu Pahat and out of town. [Photo: Serene, from the support vehicle]

The puncture

It was after 10am and we were riding along where we were rolling under the shades created by the canopies of the trees on both sides of the road.  This was where Kong Wan termed it 'Aircon' in the last night.
"Aircon!" I heard Kong Wan's voice in my mind again.
"But this time round the Aircon didn't feel so cooling leh," said Kong Wan.
"Yah, I think it was because it wasn't as hot this round as the last, thus the contrast wasn't so great," I tried to reason it out.
"OK let's take a small rest in the shade in front," suggested Kong Wan, after some distance. 
Mike and Wing Lian having a breather. [Photo: Serene]

And we the rear peloton took a short breather, a 'Self-declared-break' as I jokingly said.
Moving off again, I started to pull with Kong Wan behind.  But the very observant Kong Wan found that the rest of the guys weren't following.  The watch showed 10:21am.
"Hey where are they ah?" Kong Wan asked after repeatedly looking back.  We both stopped by the roadside and waited.

A few calls, after waiting a longer while but still not seeing them coming up, discovered that David had sustained a rear tyre puncture, as one of the wire on the inside of the tyre jutted out and pierced the inner tube.  Mike and David were trying to find the offending wire and trying to mark it...

David really puzzled by the complicated puncture he sustained. [Photo: Serene]

"Such a complicated puncture," I remembered myself remarking about it, for I'd never seen such kind of puncture where the offending agent is from the interior structure of the tyre itself. No wonder David's hands were all full, all over the wheel, when Kong Wan and I headed backwards a couple of hundred metres back to where they were.

We tried calling the support staff and Telegram, SMS and all forms of communication but we could establish no contact.  Finally Kong Wan's last ditch effort in calling Darric awoken them from their snoring and activated the vehicle to David's side.  The apologetically-laughing Darric and Serene came running down the minivan and helped pump up David's tyre. Our support crew was still the best.  They could be relaxing but when we need them, we could assured that they would be there for us.

Darric to the rescue with his tyre pump. [Photo: Serene]
Getting ready to catch up with the front peloton again after the rescue. [Photo: Serene]

11:08am. Checkpoint 5. Muar 175km


By the time we rectified the puncture, moved off and arrived at the fifth checkpoint, the front train was was more than 30 minutes ahead of us.  These guys and girl were all lying down on the floor of the petrol station, with shoes out, eyes closed.  Andy had his back against the wall, eyes glazed from too long a rest.  Anna was sleeping with her head in her arms.  And Wai Meng was lying on the floor, fast asleep.

The young and the strong. [Photo: Serene]

"I told the front guys to go a little slower the next leg," said KC Tng jokingly. "We kept arriving way ahead of the second peloton and the guys ended up waiting so long that they fell asleep."

Haha.. Jiaklat.

KC Tng enjoying a shower of cold water. [Photo: Serene]

Wing Lian steady poon pee pee.

Kong Wan only action liao liao... but he was still as fit as a fiddle. [Photo: Serene]

Lewis finally swallowing the pill together with his banana. [Photo: Serene]

Calling out for those who wanted bananas was our very own Banana lady.
[Photo: Serene]

Checkpoint 5. [Photo: KongWan]
Of 70.3...

I found myself sitting on the kerb next to the young blonde in blue as we recuperated in the petrol station.
I remarked to this most athletic Anna how fast she was in front with the strong riders.
I only found out how fast a runner Anna was later. She recorded a sub-5 for her full marathon. A strong runner and rider like this young lady should really be attempting a triathlon.
"But I can't swim!" she protested.
"Huh, you can't swim meh? Neither could I. I started from zero, not even being able to breathe while doing the front crawl. But we all went for swimming lessons and eventually got there," I shared. "It will really be a waste if you don't do at least a Half Ironman, if not a full one."
"Really ah?" I could see that it set her chain of thoughts in action as she perhaps visualised herself doing the 70.3.

70.3 anyone? [Photo: Serene]
Kind weather

By late morning, the weather was definitely warming up already.  And we were already seeking the comfort of ice cubes.  Luckily Kelvin our driver had prior experience and he had facilitated the process.  Quickly I dumped several cubes of ice into my helmet, another few big chunks down my crotch and several more over the back of my jerseys.
"Wah lau! Brain freeze ah!" cried Kong Wan.
"Shiok!" this time round David was very familiar with the whole process of icing himself down.
"Actually hor, weather has been kind on us," remarked David. "So far it has been really good.  It definitely wasn't as hot as the last ride."  We all concurred.  It was hot on this day but it was somewhat cloudy, thus taking the edge out of the sun.

I remembered right at our fourth Checkpoint at Batu Pahat KFC, many of the boys and girl were suiting themselves up with sleeves and tights to cover the exposed parts - Lewis, David, Anna, all were covered from head to toe.  Kong Wan also guai guai pulled on his arm sleeves.  For those who didn't, like Wai Meng and myself, we were applying thick layers of sunblock or spraying them on over necks and such.

"Ok, guys, we got to keep going and do some catching up," instructed KC Tng. "We are behind time."
See beh jiaklat.  I thought and thought at that moment... we had completed 175km, and it was going to be another around 60km before we will hit Malacca for lunch.  It was definitely going to be a hard and hot ride from this point onwards, remembering the tough rolling hills right before Malacca, and the fact that we would be navigating that stretch with the sun right above us.

Fantastically detailed route stickers

The route stickers were beautifully positioned where I could see them clearly.
For this ride, KC Tng really outdone himself in many aspects. One of these were the very accurate direction stickers, thoughtfully designed to be of the optimal size to be taped to the stem (or the aerobars) of the bikes.  And what more, KC had the foresight to distribute the three stickers stage by stage instead of giving them one shot to all the riders.  This move made sure everyone kept his or her sticker updated.  Very clever.

The second of a series of three stickers
by Kc Tng.

1:02pm. Checkpoint 6. Merlimau Petronas 209km.

I remembered this checkpoint very well during our last ride.  It was a little complicated to arrive at this point.  Kong Wan was pulling us on this stretch today and I remembered calling out to him, first 3 o'clock at the first circle, then 9 o'clock at the second circle, and then we kept pedalling straight looking for the familiar Petronas on the left side of the road.

And finally we arrived.  Jeremy and the bullet gang had been here a good six and a half minutes earlier.
"Plain water for me," said Mike.
"One plain water and one 100 Plus," Kc Tng ordered.
"100 Plus for me," decided Kong Wan.
"I just want plenty of ice cubes - big ones, small ones!" I called out to Serene, who pointed to the cold box in the boot of the vehicle.
Me and my ice cubes. [Photo: Serene]

We were all feeling tired, it would be telling a lie to say we weren't.  But of course different individuals would be in a different state of tiredness.  Those of the likes of Jeremy, Andy, Kwan Wei, Anna, Lewis and Wai Meng, not to mention KC Tng, would probably be breezing through the 209km. 

Wai Meng almost wanted to fortify himself with Petronas petrol. [Photo: Lewis]

"It's just another 100km more to go," I saw Andy sitting down in his classic shoes-off pose.
"Yeah, like a couple of small (Seletar) rounds," this Ang Moh is really something.  At his age, his fitness was no less than a man half his age.
Andy must have been feeling a little more tired, as he had both shoes out instead of
the usual one shoe. [Photo: Serene]

Photo: Kong Wan

Ok, so we had to move on because otherwise we would be arriving way after sunset at Port Dickson.  Meanwhile the immediate objective was to get to Malacca about 25km away for lunch and a bit of a breather.  A sumptuous Peranakan lunch was promised us in Malacca.  And the 25km distance from Merlimau to Malacca was a seemingly brief affair.

Along the way we spotted the usual road kills - a few dismembered lizards, a couple of chickens, and Kong Wan happily called out 'Chicken!' as he passed by the flattened remains of one.  So far we hadn't seen any monkeys, unlike what we did in Bintan.

"David, this IS your coastal road!" I shouted to David as the road took us up towards Malacca. "But I still can't see the sea leh."  Because David was complaining how come we didn't get to see any bit of the sea at all despite travelling along the coastal road all the while.
The fringe of Malacca city became merged with the city centre as the traffic turned obviously heavier.  We made several turns but still ended up at the wrong place.  Fortunately for those of us in the rear train, we spotted KC Tng waiting right up in front.  At that very moment the bullet train boys and Anna came speeding in the opposite direction along the road across the central barrier.  Apparently they made a wrong turn too.
Thankfully re-united, the two trains followed KC's lead up the Malcca bridge and several turns more to arrive at the Amboi Heritage Nyonya Cuisine Restaurant at the side of a really busy Lebuhraya Coastal road not far from Mahkota Hotel.

2:27pm. Checkpoint 7 ~ Amboi Heritage Nyonya Cuisine Restaurant, Malacca. 232km.

Cleverly, KC Tng led the group through some side lanes, one part just carrying our bikes and walked across the road.
"The traffic is so heavy here, it's less dangerous if we do this, than to just cycle along the main road," said KC.

This Amboi restuarant was a delightful little local restaurant, run by a long-haired middle age man who was most hospitable.
Darric and Serene were superb in ordering from their menu.  By the time we arrived at the restaurant, all had been set, and we were placed on tables just next to the front door to keep a close eye on our bikes.  Mike was ingenious in instructing us to use our helmets to strap the wheels and forks of our bikes together.
"If anyone were to make off with our bikes, at least this will delay them a bit," said Mike.
Group photo at lunch point. [Serene's camera]
Eh? Where's Lewis and Wai Meng ah?
We were famished by the time we sat down, sweaty and hot. Thirteen and a half hours on the road and we were so close to our destination, but yet still a good few more hours to go.

Filling our stomachs on peranakan delights. [Photo: Anna]

The dishes were simple Peranakan fares.  But they were authentic and delicious.  Sincerely delicious.
"Wah I love the sambal chilli!" declared Wai Meng as he walloped the spicy stuff. 
Wai Meng was always the very careful eater.  And he would carefully avoid certain high-fat food. "Hey, I must keep my cholesterols low leh," he said to us on the dining table.
"But yours already very low liao mah," asked David. "Not low enough meh?"
"Cannot leh. He needs to cheong 30km run every week one," said Serene. "He needs to keep his cholesterol very very low."
"Just eat lah!" said Darric as he swept the prawn and otah off the plates.

[Photo: Serene]
The long-haired boss came up to us as we were enjoying our Malaccan Chendol.
"You must put plenty of gula malacca in order to taste nice," he emphasiesed. "Last week a few Ang Mohs came and said the Chendol had no taste.  But that was because they didn't add any gula malacca at all." He laughed.
So reluctantly Wai Meng added several drops more of the black syrup onto his Chendol.

[Photo: Serene]

[Photo: Serene]

After a really good meal, our spirits were high and we were ready to go again.

[Photo: Serene]

The boss met us at the front door and wished us a safe ride to Port Dickson with a bow of his head.  Good man, he was.  We would come back for more, I was sure.

The Bullet train lining themselves up outside the restaurant. [Photo: Anna]

The Bullet train waiting to set off at Amboi Heritage Nyonya Restaurant. [Photo: Darric]
Darric and Serene were cheering and waving the entourage off at the side of Lebuhraya Coastal.  The Bullet train was the first to set off with Andy, KC, Wai Meng, Kwan Wei and Jeremy leading the way, Anna and Lewis following very closely behind.

[Video: Darric]
After the Bullet train, came the Rear peloton. David was the champion leading our way.

[Video: Darric]

Kwan Wei moving off, not knowing that soon he will be re-arranging the under-water roster. [Photo: Serene]
Jeremy moving off, with minutes between a slightly dismantled shades and an intact one. [Photo: Serene]
Anna moving off, moments before she was shaken until her face turned as blue as her jersey,
that she almost decided to retire from cycling. [Photo: Serene]
Lewis moving off, minutes before he stepped in as acting director of the local traffic authority of Malacca. [Photo: Serene]
David and Kong Wan moving off, shortly before they were automatically propelled to become official pullers of
the second train for the rest of the ride. [Photo: Serene]
Mike moving off, still swirling in the post-prandial sugar rush, oblivious to the fact that moments later that would
be replaced by an adrenaline rush. [Photo: Serene]
Yours truly moving off, only to realise moments later that the luckiest thing in my life was to have
Serene at my side every second of my life, holding gauze and solutions for me. [Photo: Serene]

And then at 3:52pm at the 236.1km mark, the manhole struck.  Shucks.
Lewis shouted out and waved to Kong Wan, David and I right after a traffic junction, indicating the spot right ahead. Serene, Darric and Kelvin kicked into action.  And Wing Lian grabbed his bike, forgetting his handphone and passport as he left them in the car.
"Jacalyn, quick come, let's go!" called out Darric.  And Jacalyn put back her bike which was already in her hands half way out of the car boot, ready for cycling, and guai guai followed.
Lewis directing traffic at the offending manhole. Photo: Anna

4:55pm. Checkpoint 8 - Sungai Udang 251km.

"Ok, from this point onward, let's cycle steadily and carefully.  Please point out any potholes to warn fellow riders.  There are roadworks ahead and the traffic will be congested there.  Cycle slowly," warned KC as the troupe started off towards the next leg.
A visibly shaken (but still pretty) cyclist in blue quietly followed behind KC and the rest of us continued. I had not much recollection of this part of the ride as I was sure most of us were deep in our own thoughts.

Half way my phone rang. It was from Serene.  It was good news from the Doctor.  I announced this to the pack who was patiently waiting for me 100m ahead.  It was with a lighter heart that the group now headed towards the next stop.


Of low heart rates

I couldn't remember much about this 8th Checkpoint.  All I knew was Kong Wan and myself and David taking turn to pull.  I was still on my last bottle of Elo water.  This ride for me was a great challenge because I had never done anything so far ever.
"Honestly," I told Kong Wan. "I wasn't sure if I could complete this 300km ride.  I was really worried that I may have to up the lorry.  So I was really conserving all the way."
"A few times I thought I had to go up lorry liao," shared Kong Wan.  But I knew he was a strong rider, and his determination pulled him through.
I noted with interest how my heart rates were throughout the ride.  It started off being in the 110's and then slowly it went up to the 120's. When I was pushing a little, it crept up to the 130's.  But mostly through the ride, I was keeping my heart rates in the 120's.  This was really strange.  Because usually I would be in the 130's and 140's very soon.
I wasn't sure what was the reason.  I kept listening to my breathing during the ride, trying to detect any signs of labour.  There was not much.  And the beatings of my heart remained lowish.  I could only attribute this to the fact that I was on plenty of Elo water.  How else could I explain it?  I knew I had one more bottle of Elo water hidden somewhere in my pack.  But after the manhole, Serene was so confused she couldn't find that last bottle for me. So I had to go on 100 Plus and plain water.  But the three full bottles (4.5 litres) of Elo had done their job.  Man, I could have sworn.... Had she found my last bottle of Elo, perhaps my heart rate could have gone right down to the 90's even. Hahahaha...
In fact at one stage on this section of the ride, I was following closely behind David as he surged forward and we actually got quite close to the front peloton, although when the front peloton climbed up slopes, we fell back and could only catch up later on the downslope.

The seaside

We came to the seaside (finally) at the 269.9km mark at 5:59pm. The rear peloton wasn't far behind.  KC led us right to the beach.  Someone called out to take a photo.  And David kept receiving calls on his handphone from an unidentified number.

At the seaside.

"Ok let's quickly take a photo and continued along," KC said.  Hmmm.. that was some quick thinking.  "The rear peloton will not probably make the detour to the beach, so we better rendezvous at the designated checkpoint."
The failed Pro Camera HDR shot.

6:15pm. Checkpoint 9. Shell station somewhere dunno where liao. 274km.

So we finally reached the second last checkpoint, a Shell petrol station somewhere after a curvy road.


I remembered this small little petrol station because it was getting a little darker.  In my heart I was thinking about arriving at Port Dickson before the sun set.
"There are going to be some rolling for the next 13km from here," said Andy and Wai Meng.  But I really couldn't care much.  My thighs were numb from being in auto-pilot mode for a great part of the ride.  And my mind was simply thinking of the end point.

Kong Wan came up to the station. "Ok, Wee How, from this point onward can you please pull?"  And I gladly obliged.  we received a Telegram message from Serene that the driver Kelvin will be sending them to the hotel before going back to the hospital to do the transporting back to Singapore.  That was good news.
This last stretch was some nice rolls, in fact.  And at this time of the day, the evening traffic was still heavy, passing by us on the right side, all heading towards home.  I drifted off into my own reverie as I rode, only to be woken up by Kong Wan calling from behind: "Hey slow down slow down! Keep at 25km/h!".
"Sorry sorry!" I apologised.  And dutifully reduced speed.  That was my problem.  I could never be as good a puller as Kong Wan, because his judgement of a constant pace was so good.  I would often drift into a state of acceleration and ended up not providing sufficient pull for the riders behind.  I really needed to work on my pulling.
 The sun finally set.  And the sky turned from orange to blue and finally to pitch black.  And we were still pedalling frantically on the road trying to reach our destination.  I specially brought another set of front white lights and rear red blinkers for I kind of suspected we would be riding into the dark as we neared Port Dickson.  So I turned on this second set of lights and pressed the button on my Lezyne front light, which surprisingly, still gave off decent illumination despite being constantly on for about five to six hours at the start of the ride.   Kc Tng, by then, was sandwiched between the front peloton and the rear peloton.
"I'd better be in front of the rear peloton, so that you all won't get lost and incur more distance," joked KC.  But it was the truth.  We really appreciated his cautiousness.

7:43pm. 303.2km mark at the Thistle Resort Signboard...


This last stretch seemed endless.  The traffic had thinned on the roads and most people had gone back home.  We were cycling on stretches with scattered houses and scattered resorts.  I hadn't been back to Port Dickson for decades and I knew Port Dickson was a sleepy little town.  My sight was focussed on KC Tng's rear blinker all the way.  "This last 10km seems never-ending!" kao-behed Kong Wan.
We were nearing the resort when suddenly we saw Andy and Kwan Wei cycling out from one side road on the left.
"Eh, what happened?" I asked.
"We made the wrong turn into the Hibiscus resort," said Kwan Wei.
"Wah, like that good, man. Add more mileage to your ride," I said.
"Not me. Add more mileage to THEIR rides," replied Kwan Wei.
"Wah inside the road to Hibiscus there was a steep slope that I had to prepare for it and switch to all the small gears and spin all the way up.  The gradient must have been at least 30%," said Lewis afterwards.
"Yah lor," concurred Anna. "I had to get down and push the bike up that slope!"
Somehow things happened for a reason.  The fact that the front peloton made the wrong turn into Hibiscus resort and incurred the additional distance meant that we all ended at the lighted Thistle Resort signboard

FINALLY! [Photo: Kong Wan]

"Group picture,Group picture!" shouted Kong Wan. [Photo: Kong Wan]

The group rolled into the front porch of this beautiful resort as the clock past 8pm.  It had been a long and eventful day.  Those of us who rolled into Thistle Resort were simply just contented to have our muscles still working.

[Photo: Anna's handphone]

Wing Lian: "Wow, today I achieved three firsts - first time I cycled from dark to dark, first time I cycled such a long distance, and first time I managed to complete the longest distance before my cramp set in."
Definitely something to be proud of, I agree.  For me it was also many firsts I had achieved.  But I dare not count them.  I was just glad that I managed to complete.

The rear peloton. [Photo: Anna]
Everybody did well.  And I was particularly impressed by Kwan Wei, who during his Malacca ride, suffered cramp so bad that he had to stop on the pseudo-highway into Malacca.  But on this ride, he breezed through with hardly a problem.  He had developed himself further into a really established long distance cyclist.

The Bullet Peloton. [Photo: Anna]
And it was on this trip that I also finally solved the mystery of Mike's cycling sandals.  I'd always asked myself how could Mike possibly cycled without using cleats and cycling shoes.  But when he laughed and lifted the soles of his sandals, the whole picture became crystal clear.  His were cycling sandals with embedded MTB cleats!
No wonder he was spinning and pulling at his pedals so effortlessly.  This man was a genius, combining the comfort and airiness of his sandals and the power transfer of the MTB cleats!

The youngs and the younger. [Photo: Anna]
"I am so happy I want to shake hands with the two oldest riders in the group," I announced.  And my hand reached out to David.

[Photo: Anna]
"I also want!" said Kong Wan.  And he had the same honour.
Thinking back on the ride, I could still remember the chiselled hamstring and calves muscles of several of the powerful riders - Andy, Kwan Wei, Mike, Jeremy... I remembered staring in awe at their well-developed muscles.
"Andy, you know, I couldn't help but admire your lean and mean leg muscles," I was telling Andy later.
"Well, I guess you are right.  For me, waist-down I am pretty ok." he replied in jest.
It was later that I learned that Andy clocked his best Full Marathon timing at 2 hours 46 minutes during his younger days.  Now, THAT was something!  I couldn't believe I was actually cycling with a sub-3 marathoner and a sub-5 marathoner on this ride!

[Photo: Anna]

"It's my honour to complete this ride with you, Andy!" I said as I shook his hand.
It was at this juncture that I stole a look at Anna's bike and realised that it was a Poly 300! Oh.. this young little lady in blue was really something!
"Yah lah yah lah, I know! Mine is a..." she started to defend herself.
"No no no! Can you imagine, Anna?  Had you had the mechanical advantage of smooth gears, a much lighter frame and higher profile wheels, coupled with perfect geometry, I can only imagine how much faster you will be cycling at! You are fantastic!" I praised her.

[Photo: Anna]

An unforgettable dinner and post dinner drinks

"Ok, all gather at the lobby at 8:45pm for dinner," instructed KC.  But of course, Serene and I were fashionably late.
Waiting for dinner. [Photo: Anna]

The buffet dinner was literally a protein-loading session for most of us as we tucked into the lambs, the beef, the chicken, the otah, the satays and the ice creams and ice kacang.  Personally I thought the buffet dinner food was really good and I enjoyed every bit of it.  Somehow the boys and girls hadn't had enough of calories and adjourned to the bar out at the garden compound.

The bar. [Photo: Darric]

It was here that someone mooted the idea of a longer, multi-staged ride for the next destination.  Something that set KC's and Mike's brains thinking of the logistics and executions of such a great undertaking.


I really didn't know what they were congratulating Wai Meng about.  But whatever they were congratulating him, it must have been something very worth congratulating.

The brother and sister.

Next day, buffet breakfast and home-bound!

The buffet breakfast was just as good.  With plenty of egg white protein and such.

Photo: Darric

Lunch at Restoran Weng Heong at Taman Bukit Blossom, Port Dickson

We were delighted to be back again at this Restoran Weng Heong, where Joyce brought us for lunch on our trip with JoyRider some years ago.  It was a real feast, a lovely gastronomic treat, and a great bonding time for the group.

Wai Meng and Anna ordering at Weng Heong Restoran at Taman Bukit Blossom, Port Dickson.

As the dishes got gobbled up, and laughter and cheers filled the air, and as every single one opened up and started spewing jokes and not, the minutes ticked by and we found ourselves once again on the comfortable cushions of the coach heading towards a second link Singapore immigration that bore a one-hour-long private car queue, but miraculously the bus lane was clear.

So the members of this ride...

A most unforgettable ride this was.  Epic enough to allow each and every one of us to discover something new about himself or herself,  and also about the coping mechanisms to adapt to different riding conditions. 

The Team leader

The Mountain Goat

The ever-so-dependable Sweeper

The Sub-3-er

The Ironman-to-be on a Poly300

The Ultra-Cheongster

The Builder with an office for partying

The quiet Tri-ster

The quiet underwater rosterer

The Aircon peloton puller

The Music-blasting Giant

The Three-First-timer

The poor BANANA Lady

The humble Panadol dispenser and his assistant

In hindsight...

I really enjoyed this ride.  Even more enjoyable than the ride was the company.  This bunch of people had shone through when the going got tough and had demonstrated to themselves that they are worthy of being called endurance cyclists.   And these are people with whom I would hop on my bike and go on a long ride at the drop of a pin and at the bat of an eye lid.
And once again, till the next ride!

Anna's handphone.