Monday, April 29, 2013

Putrajaya MTB Jamborace 2013

Now I felt like an avid mountain biker already. After just a week from Ayer Keroh Jamboree, I got myself into another trouble signing up for a race instead. Race! Yep. Not a jamboree but totally a pure race format with a 6km loop of trail mixed with road where the participants will have to complete 2 to 4 laps depends on the category you sign up for.

After a late announcement by the organizer of the event program, I was stuck with my personal Saturday schedule e.g. the usual chauffeur duty for my kids. I almost missed the event when my category’s flag-off time clashed with my kids’ tuition class. Aiyak! With some adjustments and begged and plea, I managed to make a quick dash to the race.

When I arrived somewhere near 12.00 p.m. the Men’s Open Category was on going. I can see suffer fest among the faces whilst climbing the final 1 km back to the finish line. My time will be up soon.

Race atmosphere was cool. I mean cool as of relax mode, but the day was pretty much hot. I think Putrajaya is always like that. Alwin just completed his race while Azmar was ready for the Veteran Category, just like me. I did some warming up, though it felt insufficient but the scorching sun already burned me up. I was penalized later during the first lap. We’ll get into that.

As I saw more familiar faces getting ready for the Veteran Category, I started to have the feeling that these old guys means business. When we were called to the Caller Box, there were about 55 of us veteran guys and 15 are mostly big names in the cycling arena. Nor Affendi Rosli and Muhammad Hafiz Wong were among them. I just stood behind them shivering me legs :D

The countdown for flag-off was so hyped by the emcee, the butterfly in my stomach rattled even wilder. The horn blew off and I tried squeezing through riders as fast as I could, regulating my juice wisely.

The first climb stood there after only 100m and it was so hard, steep and long. Gauging from the heart rate zone, I don’t wish to push into red zone early since I have no idea of how tricky the trail will be. The strong ones have already gone into the trail, never to be seen again until the end. The enthusiastic ones that have embarked into a suicide attack mode from the beginning; have already shown signs of…death!

When I reached the top, I had to toggle between recovery and ready for the next burst. There was no time for a breath of relief, that’s why we call it RACE! It’s not until the end is over.

A short and steep climb was the mark for the trail head. It was a twisting turn from the main road where most of the weakling legs from the first lung buster have gone kaput here. A few guys dropped, I gave my best shoved to balance myself not to get tangled up with them. Phew! That was a relief.

Then it was fast downhill through forest lanes with gravels on the surface. Speed was priority at this point since there are still strong riders catching up. Then there was this narrow turn followed by another short burst climb. Great! Insanely intense! The second downhill trail was steep and fast, there was no chance of killing the speed for an abrupt stop. I was just going with the flow whilst tapping the brakes as I grip the handlebar steadily.

Halfway into the ‘killing zone’ I saw a rider was already lying on the trail side. I was definite he crashed, and it was sure a nasty one. The descent has 3 lines, the even one on the left, a gully in the middle (impossible to ride here) and a super-elevated on the right line. We either choose left or ride. Deciding to switch lines mid-way would mean disaster. Adds up with more speed demons in front and the ones tailing, it felt like a pressure cooker. My call was that he switched lines or might have slipped from the right line.

I didn’t have the chance to slow down or stop to investigate since it was too risky for me and the riders behind. I only saw Azmar stopped to check it out. I think it was somebody we know.

The following stretch was a roller coaster ride with a few bumps here and there. Most of us were stretched apart but still visible. We were recovering from the shaky downhill. Then we were back on the road again.

It was getting hotter once we hit the tarmac. Of course, it was in the middle of the afternoon! I simply neglect the heat and soldiered on chasing whatever group that I can latch on to. But, when I arrived, the group just didn’t respond to any of my nudge to form a drafting train.

The final turn brought us to the last climb of the loop. It was long. I mean really long and there was no wind, both from the rider and the real wind. When there’s no wind, heat was inevitable, from the tarmac and from the sky above. It was almost static. I just paced myself as long as I could maintain a good enough momentum to reach the top and continue on for the second lap.

Second lap had a more dispersed atmosphere where most of the time I was alone. Hence, tackling those tricky trails without pressure was a more enjoyable situation. I passed by the injured rider from the first lap crash and only to know that it was one of my friend. He was sitting against a tree with a painful face and a few marshals were nursing him. Hopefully it wasn’t a bad crash.

We hit the road back again and ready for the final push at the final climb. The final one! If we were required to complete 3 laps, I think I might skip the third one. It was just so laborious. And I think I am a late warmer (as if there’s a word for that). Lambat panas. I think I did better this time compared to the first round climb. There were 3 of us and we were closed to each other started from the road section. Again I tried to organize something to share the ride load especially when we have cross winds, but too bad only one guy responded and the other guy just muttered in a faceless manner.

As we started the climb together, again I tried to be friendly by nodding a few smiles. Just to reduce the monotones and suffer feelings among us. Again, too bad they decided to stick to their own, the faceless kind.

At the last 300m was where I decided to just leave them with their pace when I dropped the gear a notch and boost myself away. I was surprised to still have the legs for that kind of stunt. They didn’t respond to it, perhaps they had it and simply wanted to just finish the race.


As usual, mountain bike events are generous with post race meal and lots of prizes (I only whacked the lunch). We waited for the Elite Category Final Stage whilst enjoying our lunch and of course basking under the baking sun. These guys really meant business. Even their warm up was throughout an hour before the flag-off. They just kept spinning around the venue like sharks waiting for the final kill. I should’ve done the same, but sure doesn’t look like a pro la :]

They did 4 laps but due to the intensity and competency, most of them showed suffer faces also except for the winner la, Fauzan our national cyclist. Anuar Manan and a few other big names had to settle for other ranks.

Once in a while, races like this can be a great measuring stick for our strength capacity. As long as we enjoy each of it, I don’t find it as a sufferfest :]

The following photos goes credit to Cycling Malaysia Magazine. They are always around for lots of great photos of you and your bike.

The Veterans at the first lung buster.
Notice the strung out?
The Elites. See how packed they are.
Looking at their determination also
I kalah already :P
Fauzan Lutfi the Elite Champ
Anuar Manan at 5th
Hero Kampung only at 19th
in Otai Cat still looking blur :P

Sunday, April 21, 2013

JKNM Mini Jamboree

All good with the bikes. Dandy. Just need to be ridden and tested. I crave for some miles on them. Had the chance to ride up Peres last 2 weeks for a spin and a cuppa coffee at Anje’s Place :]

A week later Azmar threw an invivation to sign up for Malacca Mini Jamboree at Ayer Keroh hosted by Jabatan Kemajuan Negeri Melaka. The fee was cheap and yet we got ourselves the normal jamboree kind of goodies e.g. free lunch, drinks, cash prizes and lucky draw awesome gifts. Cheap eh?

The issue with Malacca trip is the driving distance without the need to spend overnight. Then we had to sacrifice our sleep for a super early morning drive from KL. I woke up at 4.30 and we hit the road at 5.30 a.m.

With stopped for prayer and breakfast, yet we still managed to put ourselves at the start line in time. Mr. VIP was at his typical ‘punctuality’, hence providing us ample time for casual talks. That was before we were chased away from the VIP parking when a black Honda Accord with exclusive plate number approached us at high speed. Lucky la it was just a Honda. If not for the coming GE, I bet it will be a Bentley!

“OK la. We know you’re late already but don’t pull that kind of stunt in front of us weekend warriors la. We see all of those stuff many times already!”

The horn blew off and and these 500 mountain bikers hit the tarmac for the first 7km. As usual, the purpose was to screen the participants before clogging the narrow trail ahead. I remember passing by Malacca Zoo and all those tourist spots before hitting the trail. With the advantage of a 29 inch, the tarmac roll was awesome. Likewise, I also noticed some weirdo trying to wheelsuck. Is that cool? Lantak korang lah.

Once inside the trail the race tempo started. Everybody wants to attack that climb, he wants to be the first on top. Don’t loosed those grips on the slippery climb! Push bike please step aside! Don’t block the riders trying to cycle up! It was all chaos!

I presumed that I was already in the middle of the pack after the tarmac roll or maybe the last quarter, due to late start giving away to the large group to start first. I don’t know. Maybe. But there seemed to be less congestion when most of the riders around me were cycling and not pushing their bikes. Hence that would mean I am in the mid-pack. That’s good news.

The trail head

The only time we got stuck in a haul up when there was a very steep cliff where we had to shove our bikes down with the help of some marshals. The rest was between us and the trail. Be it a single track, a trail across some vast vegetable plots, some grass field cycling, parallel to the North-South Highway and more single trails. We got leaves brushing on our left cheek for a kilo or two. Then followed by another kilo on the right cheek. The mix of different terrain and kind of trails made the jamboree an enjoyable one. Plus, they don’t give you big amah hills to take our breath away. Instead, we were given a big highway long gradual climb for a change. It was nasty due to head winds and sun.


The sight of the next loop of shaded trail was a great relief. I had a hunch that the end is nearing when the scene of MITC area seemed familiar. Kawtim-ed in top 100. Alhamdullillah.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

School Break Tripping - 2

Train Trip

Present time

Our next outing two days after Broga Hill was taking a train trip to Ipoh. It was a first experience for the kids but not for me. As I walked into KL Sentral, the new KL Train Station, I sensed the different atmosphere from what I’ve been used to 15 years ago. Things have changed for the industry. I missed the old station; with a more relax ambience and old school stuff. Remember those metal stand ticketing machine? Almost mistaken for a statue with fountain! And the small thick cardboard tickets. The train conductor would then goes around the train punching holes into them. 

KL Sentral has that metropolitan driven atmosphere. Hectic. Just like the usual LRT stations all over the city. Combined with shopping retails and kiosks, the mood was different.

It brought me back down memory lane when commuting by train was my favorite thing especially the trip to the rural east coast state. I would normally skip my hometown trip during semester break for an outdoor adventure. Mostly to Pahang and Kelantan. The midnight train was the only best time saving killing and most convenient and cheapest way. Via concession ticket price for student e.g. MYR11 for a return trip. Coaches were lighted with those dim yellow bulb, stimulating the classic mood, and those opened rattling windows letting in the cold night breeze. We can’t survive a normal conversation due to the thundering sound of iron clanging against iron where wheels meet the rail. And sometimes the sound grew even louder when the train slices through those gravels.

Transit at Gemas was always a classic one. We would stop to wait for another train from Singapore. The coaches would then change tracks and split for their own destinations. The normal waiting game would be from 12.00 midnight to 2.00 a.m., but Gemas was never silent. Passengers and business folks would litter the station platform for early morning snacks or hot coffee tied up in a plastic with a straw. The hot curry puff was always the best take away deal for the remaining times aboard the mail train.

Unlike Senandung Malam, its faster/express predecessor, our midnight mail train stops at all stations, be it major ones and also the smallest ones. It takes in all types of cargo that require their mail delivery service which mostly letters, motorcycles and parcels. This mail train cuts through the night like a steel blade.

A few of my trips ended up at a few places in Pahang and Kelantan. Jerantut, Merapoh, Dabong, Gua Musang, Dabong and Tumpat. Some are big stations like Jerantut, Gua Musang and Tumpat, but the rest are merely nothing. Arriving at these stations in the early morning would mean pitch dark experience in the middle of nowhere. And we would only have a small window to get off the train. The stop is only 3 minutes max.

The early morning train into rural Pahang and Kelantan would also be a good eye opener of how life can be as basic as possible for the locals. Train would be their only mode of transportation. School children commute to school. Marketers and traders alike were doing their business on and off the train from stations to stations. Live chickens can be a surprising turn up at times.

Coming back to the present, the speed train can achieve 165 km/hr reducing the time from KL Sentral to Ipoh to about 2 hours 30 minutes; almost same time like driving. My trip down memory lane was longer than the current trip itself. The air-conditioned coaches with LCD tv and comfy seats broke the mood of the old days Nescafe Classic train trip.

In fact, the kids were not quite really enjoying the trip since they were mostly busy haggling with those iPads, iPhones and such.

I wish I still  have those pictures of yesterdays...

Got this from lebai google of Gua Musang
Perhaps I will plan for a revisit to these places, but maybe not by train. Bicycle perhaps...?

Monday, April 15, 2013

School Break Tripping - 1

Broga Hill

School break was just over. There were no big plans for the family except for a few local short trips. It was actually a more preferable plan to avoid the hectic school break crowd and traffic trauma. And also steep suicidal hotel rates.

I dragged the whole house for a Mother Nature retreat that particular weekday morning. We scaled Broga Hill. It was Friday morning, when we left the house slightly after 8.00. People may prefer to be up there early admiring the phenomenal sunrise but for our first attempt, we find it better to trek up in broad daylight. Besides, we are amateurs and inexperience trekkers.

The drive from home was casual and short which took less than 30 minutes. Semenyih town was hectic with traffic commuting from sub-urban areas towards city center. The population has surpassed the road capacity. With ever growing housing schemes, the trunk road has choked.

Reaching Broga Hill carpark was a straight forward affair after paying the RM2.00 fee. Parking was ample, perhaps due to the late hour and non-weekend timing. We chose a spot nearest to the trail head but still visible enough from parking attendance view, so just in case if anything happen.

Anxiety crept in. Wife & kids were suddenly ahead scaling into the trail. I howled to them to keep it at a manageable pace since we don’t know how far and how difficult the trail will be. A signboard showed 1.7km to Bukit Broga, the peak I presumed.

The trail was covered mostly, and clean. Wide enough to receive ascending and descending trekkers. Some may be slippery due to the dry and loose soil. As a trail itself, it is always in its true nature form with ruts and gulley along the way. But still, a safe one for everyone as long as we watch our step.

Due to its short distance, an abrupt elevation gain is expected. The boys seem to have no trouble scaling the trail as it gets steeper, especially my youngest Padawan. He was the fastest and most energetic. The one in trouble was my dearest. Due to rare physical expeditious like this and retirement from previous hobbies, anyone can conclude to jump into labor breathing, nausea and discouragement. I decided to pull the brake on the chugging train to ensure that we continued on together. The progress was intermittently swapped with a few breathers along the way, plus loads of pep talk.

We finally reached the open area where suddenly the sky opens up revealing a different kind of scenery. A large green meadow of lalang covering acres of land, high and low. It was gorgeous. The first to yell about the discovery was of course my ‘personal Padawan trekker’. We relayed down the achievement to our fellow comrades who was struggling, but manageable in an effort to provide a boost for motivation. It seemed to work for a bit, but that was only before we notice ‘the wall’.

In plain sight, it may seem like an open and bare surface where we had to climb. Truthfully, it looked scary. Came closer, it was a bit difficult to climb due to the loose and slipper sand plus without any place to grab for hold. Obstacles were tackled in a jiff with patience and virtue. Alhamdullillah.

The boys and father decided to finalize our mission straight to the final peak where as the ladies had enough of climbing and gave way to the breezy escapade at the first peak.

Mission accomplished. The walk down was easy for most of them except my trying to control the tingling knee pain (aging factor). An attempt to lobby about our next outdoor adventure e.g. FRIM or Bukit Apek was flunked aside straight on. I think they had enough.

That's the final peak
One of the peak
More awesome place

Malaysia Boleh...Ubah! :P