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A penny for your thoughts?
MTB Race
Three and a half years. That's how long since I last put down what I was thinking on this blog. Oh, of course lots has happened and it'd be silly to play catch up on livejournal. Yet as I read some of the earlier posts, it brought on an odd mix of fuzzy memory and detachment. So personal yet so foreign sounding. Do I really write like that? Fun though, to recollect what happened during those times.

So, what brings today's need to document the million random thoughts floating in my head? For the past five weeks, I've gone cycling nuts, again. But more specifically, I've got training nuts. For 2016, I'm training to race cyclocross. Looking back, the series of events that led me to this point appear random but if when the dots are connected, and given my competitive past, I guess its no surprise.

First, there's a cyclocross test event in late 2015. No interest whatsoever. Al takes part in the MTB category, and doesn't say much about it. I'm coming off a cycling lull due to a horrid, prolonged haze (thanks to Indonesia) and a busy pre-UIBC period. I'm just about finding my legs and that cycling spark in December 2015.

Late Jan 2016, the first of five cyclocross events is held at Turf City. Al's taking part again. Steve decides to give the CX cat a go with his Stigmata and I sign up for the Sport cat after Janice gave the green light. What the heck, it'll be like old times back in 2002, racing around BT on the singlespeed for a laugh. I'd gotten a couple months of riding back in the legs, it'll be fine.

The airhorn goes off around 10:00am and I start at the back of the pack. Geez, there's some eager beavers out in front. Wait, I'm the one with the wrong attitude; this is a race afterall. By the time I enter the singletrack, I'm probably mid-pack. Hah! There's some gloopy mud to negotiate. Remember the Sentosa race? Mud of epic proportions? That last slope where almost everyone slid down on their bum, where I wrapped myself around a tree trunk on one lap and managed to stay upright on that slope just once? Good times...

With aggro Maxxis tires, I'm picking riders off one by one as they slip and slide and skate on the mud. The last climb is dispatched and I gain time while everyone else loses traction. Ok, so where am I at after the first lap? No idea. But there's these two dudes in orange team gear chasing hard. Al's right behind them and we got a nice little competitive train going.

Lungs heaving, legs burning, the second lap is dispatched. Al trails and the other two guys are long gone. Today's course definitely does not reward those semi-slicks those XC weight weenies are running. The remaining three laps is a glorious one-on-one battle with Al, always holding on to the lead because he's on XC tires as well. Third lap down, fourth lap a grind, and finally the last lap to eke out. Holy smokes, I'm taking this to the chequered flag! Tired but stoked, I get to take a podium photo that gets juxtaposed against a Singlespeed Cat win at BT eons ago. Young-man guns were a size and a half bigger back then.

A couple of evening whiskys a few nights later and I'm wondering if ReEvolution will sponsor me a Stigmata? No harm asking, right? I've brought them a fair amount of business; they don't do any CX promo, who knows? What a way to spur me on for the rest of the year. When I finally make it to the shop, the whisky-induced bold thinking is long gone and my opener to Winson is far less polished that Janice would have allowed in her comms world. Yet Winson is an absolute gentleman, and a generous one at that. Within three minutes, he's committed the bright orange Stigmata frame hanging on the wall to my Cross racing ambitions. Pretty unbelievable. Its like striking 4D.

Fast forward to today. I complete my last key workout of Phase 1 of the Sweetspot base plan from TrainerRoad. I've never ridden the trainer this much in my life with the exception of three months at Athlete lab back in early 2013. At least that was in a gym/studio-type environment; I've been doing these at home before the sun rises! Amazing how this motivation has fueled what was considered impossible.

I'm down to what I weighed 10 years ago, feeling good and ready to take on another six weeks of base training once I get in a week's worth of recovery riding. The first attempt at Cross racing happens on 24 April 2016. Janice has been wonderfully supportive of my silly obsession that has reached 11 and the girls eagerly want to see me race my bike. I can't wait.

This is what freedom tastes like....
MTB Race
Not meaning to make light of the truly oppressed but I've just returned from my last day at the office... with no new job in sight. It's 5:30pm, I'm sitting here in the study typing away. Allchill.fm playing and I've chugged down a Carlsberg. I'm now officially jobless. No more work emails, no more monday blues (at least until the next job comes) and all the time in the world to rediscover myself.

I'm very much looking forward to the break. To have time to spend with family, to play golf with my dad, to go for coffee with my mum, to have some one-on-one time with Nae, to bring the dogs out the the trail, to spend a day at the library, to convert the study into Charlie's new room, to hit some single track.... The list goes on and on.

I suppose this is the initial euphoria one feels when a big weight has been lifted from the shoulders, to stop by the side of the road whilst the rest of the rats race on (the corporate ladder race) and smell the roses. This is what freedom tastes like... or maybe that's just the beer.

My Pegoretti Duende...
MTB Race
It's finally here, built up and ridden. After a long search for the perfect steel road bike (for me), I must say the Pegoretti Duende comes pretty damn close to perfection.

Of course there's no such thing as the perfect bike. The perfect bike would be custom, built by a dead frame builder, take 5 years to wait and which arrived yesterday, weigh 12 lbs all up with water bottles, make you ride up Alpe d'Huez faster than Pantani, drop Cancellera on the flat and breakaway from Cavendish after he's put it top gear with 200 metres to go. Oh, and it'd be made with the same metal that X-Men's Wolverine's claws are made from. My Pegoretti Duende does not come close. But it sure is one helluva nice bike.

It's been painted in a sort of off-white, egg shell colour. Looks quite retro to be honest, like its been aging in a dark shed for the last 20 years. Along the top tube, seat tube and down tube, random alphabets have been stenciled on and painted in cyan, turquoise and marroon. Actually, the alphabets are not that random. One can sort of make out they are the letters that spell "Pegoretti" but jumbled up in a random fashion. No way for the uninitiated to figure out what brand it is. Stealth? Very.

At the time of writing, its got just under 200 kilometres under its tires. Enough to time to form first impressions. Many of those impressions are based on how it feels in relation to my 2006 Cervelo Soloist frame. Five good years of riding the Cervelo has left some pretty strong memories of what that feels like and acts as a reference point to judge the Pego against.

I've never flown on a magic carpet so can't compare the Pego to a hovering Persian rug. But within the first few kilometres, one thing was apparent. The frame is smooooth. Very smooth. I haven't tried an all-out sprint yet, which would suitably test the frame's stiffness and have instead focused on how the bike handles and on the sensations it feeds through. On perfect tarmac, it feels like riding on glass. On broken asphalt or manhole covers, the bumps are still there but significantly muted compared to the Cervelo. Never unsettling, just keeping me informed.

That goes for the handling traits too. The Pego is slower and more stable. The bike keeps its line much better when taking the hands off the handlebars and requires less steering corrections than the Cervelo. It'll make for a great descender down Mt Faber. It isn't sluggish, just more Gran Fondo than Criterium. When putting some juice through the pedals, the power transfer is not as immediate as the Cervelo but I wouldn't put it down to frame flex. The difference is small but apparent. More like loading up a coiled spring. Perhaps a steel trait. The bike makes absolutely no internal noise. No creaks, nothing. Whilst on smooth stretches of road, all I could hear was the slight whirring of gears and the tires. Big contrast to my Cervelo with squeaks and creaks. I can't think of any better way of describing the Pego as a continental limo vs the Cervelo Jap boy racer. The two bikes are VERY different.

If anything, these differences makes me glad I've got two complete bikes, ready to ride. The Pego is absolutely lovely and interestingly, doesn't take the shine off the Cervelo. Side by side, they're like chalk and cheese, ebony and ivory. Grand Tourer vs Boy Racer. Classic vs Compact geometry. Cosseting vs Uncompromising. Enjoy the Ride vs Open a Can of WhoopAss. Sunday Long Ride vs Thursday Torture Train.

This is the start of a long and good relationship.

Obsession gone wild...
MTB Race
Only those afflicted with cycling-related obsession will have any chance of understanding this post. Given that the last 4 comments I received in one of my earlier posts were spam-originated replies, its safe to say this post is really for myself, to remember this particular period.

For the most part of 2009 and 2010, I had hung up my cycling cleats. Life took a different direction and I lost, or to be more accurate, forgot the joys of cycling. Dust collected on the stable of bikes that littered the house. They became objects that took up space and one more household chore. I even sold a couple of them that I had no intention of ever getting back on. The thought of waking up at 5am to go for a bike ride seemed completely alien. A good buddy during that time was training for the Tour de Etape and going on 200km Audax rides. Despite having shared that same passion pre-09, I just didn't get it. Why would anyone want to ride 200 kilometres or spend 6 hours riding a mountain? I fell into the same category of people who didn't understand cycling, which is basically any non-cyclist. I had gone rogue.

2011 has been different. A switch has flicked in my head at the start of the year and the cyclist in me has emerged once again. I've been bursting with such renewed enthusiasm, its almost bizarre. I'm absolutely loving being back on the saddle. I'm loving those Monday sore legs after a hard weekend of riding. I've gone nuts about cycling again.

The nuts portion has spread to the bike itself. My faithful Cervelo Soloist has had a very nice makeover. Wheels have be relaced with oh-so-light carbon tubular rims, a SRAM Red gruppo has gone on, worn saddle replaced and drool worthy Edge Composites handlebar to top it all off. In the grand scheme of things, those were the appetisers. The main course would be a top notch steel frame. A magic carpet ride to float over chewed up tarmac and conquer mountains. The first choice fell through due to a mis-match of expectations and an unwillingness to accept uncertainty in terms of waiting time. The custom-route was abandoned for something immediately available. The final choice involved a lot of soul searching, net surfing and star gazing. Odd way to decide on a bike purchase but that's how much this particular one means to me. It has to be perfect - a blend of technological performance, build quality, aesthetic and pedigree. In the weeks that passed while I dithered back and forth on the choices in front of me, Janice thought I'd gone mad. That was all I could think about. I spent
much time living in my spoked world weighing up pros and cons while a freewheel spun noisily in the background.

The decision to buy a new frame was made sometime in June. The trigger was finally pulled at about 6am on a Saturday morning, 27 August 2011. It's cost much more than I initially expected to spend but this one is an absolute keeper. I will always remember how I bought this frame, a journey in itself. I wait with abated breathe the arrival of my Pegoretti.

Andrew's B&B
MTB Race
It's been a long time coming... this post. The wife has muttered on and off over the past 8 months "when are you going to blog?".

"At some point", I tell her.

The post she wants to see is about the coming baby. That's the first "B" in the title. The second is about bikes. What else would you expect?

So... I've had a good 8 months to mull over what having a baby / starting a family means to me. Initially, there was the "Oh wow, that sounds pretty cool but am I ready for this?.". Then it was "Hmm... this is serious and life is going to change." Now its like "Nae, I can't wait for you to come out.... I'm so ready to be your dad." Her name will be Naomi, Nae in short. No its not Japanese, its from the Bible. And yes, thank you, it's a lovely name. Or at least Janice and I and everyone else has been polite enough to think so.

Yes, I'm all set. I have this feeling that fatherhood is going to be un-freakin-believable. Come on out, little girl. Daddy is waiting for you. See you in a couple of weeks! Your room is all set and I'm sure Rosco will be absolutely thrilled with your arrival. Sally, not so much, the little jealous, possessive darling. But don't take it personally, my dear. She'll come eventually come around. There'll be more than enough love in this household.

On to the second "B" - bikes. For the past 10 years, I've had an unexplainable attraction to all things 2 wheeled (of the pedal variety). There was a lull of about 1 1/2 years since mid 2009. Trust a part time MBA to screw up one's life. The bikes sat patiently, collected some dust and awaited the time when they would be ridden in anger again. I'm not done with school yet but something has awakened that passion for cycling once more and I'm trying to get as much riding in before Nae comes as possible. The legs are still a shadow of what they used to be pre 2009 but it sure feels good being back on the roads and trails. I am thankful that I have a healthy body and that I get to experience what its like to live life with passion. I pray that Nae will get to do the same.

Bikes...babies... they might get in the way of each other (at least for the first couple of months) but that just means there aren't enough hours in a day to do everything. I'm sure that'll just remind me to live every minute to the fullest...priceless.

Scatch that itch!
MTB Race
I made my annual pilgrimage to the bowling lanes last night. I don't intend it to be on an annual basis but somehow it just happens once a year.

Earlier last week:

There's been lots of bowling in the news. Well done on Team Singapore for those fantastic results at the Asian Youth Games. My scores were never that high when I was 18. These kids must be pretty damn good. - the Bowling seed enters my head

Friday last week:

I'm rushing for a quick lunch time workout at the gym. As the frontdesk guy swipes my gym card, I look up at the rows of TV screens in front of the treadmills. ESPN catches my eye and I realise they're showing a professional bowling competition. I'm transfixed and watch a player take a shot. 'Hey, I recognise him! Its Pete Weber.... nice strike.' - the Bowling seed sprouts roots

Yesterday morning:

A family member's colleague emails me again about bowling advice for his two young boys. A little person in my head runs around to the corner of my brain where all my bowling information is stored. He blows the dust off the neurons or whatever the brain uses to store info and tells my fingers to start typing. - That does it. I gotta hit the lanes.

Late last night:

I still got it! 233, 226 and 194. The itch has been scratched. Till next year.

Restore my humanity!
MTB Race
I’m now certain that the constant exposure to news and information though the ever-growing forms of media has damaged us as much as it has educated us. I’ve learnt loads about animals, mega structures, catching Alaskan crab and modified cars through watching cable TV. I’ve kept my finger on the pulse of the economy and what’s going on in the world through Reuters News, the BBC and The Straits Times. Today, I listened to a news programme that jolted me in a big way. It made me realise how desensitised I have become due to the constant barrage of information.

Do you remember that Israel recently conducted a war against Hamas in Gaza? Probably. Do you remember when it started? Not likely. Do you know how many people died? I’m guessing not. I too can’t remember any of these details either. I remember thinking that its sad that there’s another war in that part of the world. I remember thinking that the war seemed very one-sided as well. But that’s about it.

I had to do a bit of work today that I’d loosely term ‘data management’. i.e. mind numbing work. So I put stuck some ear phones in my ears and decided to listen to the radio played from my phone to make time pass a little faster. I tuned straight into a BBC programme covering the after effects of the recent war. It only took a couple of seconds to latch onto the programme and realise what it was about.

Voice of the journalist – “And in this corner the room, lay the body of xxxxx, her body cut in half. And over here, yyyyy’s head got blown off by the sheer force of the explosion. You can still see some bits of brain stuck on the wall. This is where the children of Dr. zzzzz, a Palestinian, lost all his children. The Israeli army said Hamas militants were spotted in this house and fired a high-tech rocket into the building.”

This was followed by an interview of the said Palestinian doctor whose family had been wiped out from that attack. His voice was filled with extreme sorrow. It was painful to listen him recount the story of him returning home to find his children in pieces.

The journalist goes on to report on other accounts of civilian causalities in Gaza, other families being almost completely wiped out because they all were taking shelter together, of a hospital being evacuated because there was a white phosphorous artillery shell fired by the Israeli army burning in the middle of the street next to it. White phosphorous causes horrific burns that are difficult to heal. I remember reading how an elderly woman was treated for minor injuries caused by white phosphorous. She returned a few days later to the doctor and as those wounds did not heal and had eaten through to the bone. Use of white phosphorous in civilian areas during war is banned by the Geneva Convention. Its use as a smoke screen however, is not. That is how the Israeli army justifies its use.

Anyway, I digress. Listening to these actual accounts of people losing their lives, of a child describing how her relative was holding his son’s body while the brains were spilling out, is extremely disturbing. The hair on my back and arms stood for minutes on end after the programme ended. I then realized how desensitised I have become because of the never-ending barrage of media we expose ourselves to. The description of such news stories by an attractive looking blond woman on CNN, or pictureless pages in the newspaper somehow doesn’t quite convey the message or its impact properly, which is a real shame. Its scary that when I read about the war while it was happening, my only thought was “Hmm…. That’s rather sad.”

That radio programme restored a little bit of sensitivity to me. Its horrible that the rest of the world stood by while these horrible atrocities were committed. Myself included.

What am I doing?
MTB Race
“I will never subject myself to that again”, after 2005 StanChart marathon

“…..again…..”, after adidas Sundown marathon

I’ve just printed out another training marathon training programme.

Earlier in the day, a colleague walked over and mentioned that my company will be supporting any employee who wishes to run this years StanChart marathon. She asked if I was doing it and I replied, “I’ll decide in a bit… once I recollect how painful both previous attempts were and mentally re-run every single boring kilometer during those long training runs.”

A few hours later and I’ve downloaded and printed out a marathon training programme. I’ve penciled in the long run workouts in my training diary to see what they look like amongst the 70.3 and Lombok Tri races that I plan to do. I’ve worked out what pace those long runs are to be done at based on a new target time. I’m about to write down the target pace for the interval workouts and tempo runs once I’m done typing this.

Personally I don’t think I sound like a person who has vowed never to run a marathon again….twice. I must be confused. I remember my first StanChart marathon being the most physically excruciating thing I’ve ever done, voluntary or otherwise. I remember crossing the finish line at the adidas Sundown marathon and feeling like my life force had been sucked out of my body. I actually felt depressed after the race. Not because I didn’t hit my target time but because I was totally physically, mentally and emotionally drained. Yet, there is a training programme on my table staring back at me right now.

There is a decision-making part of my brain that I’m not aware, and obviously, not in control of.

MTB Race
Post primer- Increasing power and diesel shortages raise questions to India’s continued rapid economic growth. Lack of glacial melt and rainfall for India’s hydro power plants and aging electricity infrastructure have led to frequent blackouts. Rural areas are facing 12-18 hours of blackouts while urban areas are in the dark for 5-7 hours.

Reading that made me think what life would be like if something like that happened in Singapore. Immediately I thought it’d make for a good break from work where life can finally slow down. My daydreaming brought me, Janice and the doggies to some place in the world where we lived in a house with a vegetable garden patch in a temperate climate. Whilst in that fantasy thought, I hadn’t yet figured out what I’d be doing to earn an income. I just thought to myself how nice life would be if everything slowed down to the point where I would have time to grow my own food, possibly my own transportation fuel (read biodiesel or bioethanol), have the house powered by a wind turbine, read books, train for triathlon, go mountain biking during the week, play golf, cook proper meals on a daily basis, and have proper play time with the dogs and possibly kids when they come.

Just over the weekend, my father-in-law mentioned that during his time, it used to take 2 weeks to get a reply after sending a letter through telex. I wonder what did people do while they waited for a response. I’m sure life was much slower. Must have been nice.

Back to reality…. I guess the only way to make those dreams come true is to work 12-14 hour days for a decade and hope I become a multi-millionaire in that time. So I can say sayonara to the ratrace and move to that house beside the golf course, next to the mountains, with the garden.

Well… none of that is going to happen so I think I’d better get back to work. So I can get out of the office for swim class this evening. Think I should feel grateful that at least I can go for swim class.

When to get out before its too late?
MTB Race
The wifey has been overloaded at work for the last few weeks. I've been squeezing my brain and milking it for all that its worth (which isn't all that much to begin with) for the whole of this month as well. Both of us are feeling the strain and I suspect that something has got to give before the machinery breaks down.

Every work week has been a heavy one, every weekend jam packed with activities that are supposedly to help us unwind but end up exhausting us anyway. We hit the office on Monday morning and wonder where the weekend went and why we aren't refreshed at all.

Janice has been waking up tired every morning no matter how early she goes to sleep the night before. The muscles in my legs are taut as hell and I know injury is close by if I don't take it easy. The thing is, I have been taking it easy the last few weeks. I think these are the physical signs that work related stress is building up to unhealthy levels. Yet neither of us have realized that this has been going on until now (this morning).

So when does one get out of this crazy race before its too late? I think what we're going through are simply the early stages of burn out. There's still a ways to go before things turn ugly; where the stress manifests itself and turns into flared tempers, breakdowns and long term injury. Thankfully that hasn't happened yet but its pretty obvious that we're on a train wreck waiting to happen.

At least the light has switched on in my head and I've realized the situation we're in. Now to figure out how to slow this train down. With bills to pay, jumping off isn't an option. Now where the hell are the brakes?