Monday, 28 April 2014

Sometimes, even with the maximum amount of preparation, things still don't turn out the way you want them.  Taking part in a sprint triathlon in Singapore recently with some friends, I could say with confidence that I prepared for the cycling portion of the relay pretty well. Certainly with a lot more enthusiasm and strategic planning than President Obama did in his presidential debate against contender Mitt Romney. At least, I wanted to be where I was, at the race, and I was desperate to do well.

Out of the three sports, swimming, cycling and running, I had chosen the bike because I did not relish drowning in sea water or snapping my hamstring doing a 5k run. The cycling part is a 20k, quite a distance for a Car Free Sunday biker like me. As newbies we opted for the open relay, which, in terms of physical challenge, comes somewhere below the children's mini triathlon. Still, I'm a firm believer in the saying, anything worth doing is worth doing well. Especially where personal performance is at stake.

So, the first thing I did was to get myself a new bicycle and say goodbye to my faithful little folding bike. I opted for a cool-looking road bike with thin wheels and ten gears that set me back a few pennies, but a must if I wanted to be taken seriously.

The next thing I did was to prepare myself physically. A former athlete friend was kind enough to be my coach and help me put in the hours of training without injuring myself. She taught me that discipline and motivation was important to build strength and endurance. So for two months prior to the race, she created a rigorous schedule for me to follow and meticulously logged my performance after every training in a specially prepared journal. That way I could see where I needed to improve, be it my cardio, my stength or my speed.

My bike, affectionately known as The Green Lantern, for its unique colouring, was a delight. It is light, easy to mount and zippy, but sturdy enought to withstand the occasional bumps and falls. I was confident that together, we would do well.

After much practice, 20km didn't feel like a daunting distance to cover. I was ready for the big race. To put myself in the spirit of things, I splashed on some fancy cycling gear, padded pants, helmet, green goggles and a bright green pair of shoes in honour of The Green Lantern.

The morning of the race, I took The Green Lantern to the bicycle maintenance tent at the race venue for a quick health check. All its ten gears were put properly in place and both wheels were pumped with air to the correct pressure.

The race started. I hung my bike on the rack and waited for my team mate, the swimmer to appear and hand me the Champion Chip to record our performance. She finished at an impressive time, far ahead of the others in our group.

I grabbed The Green Lantern off the rack and ran with it to the mounting point, and started to pedal.

On my first pedalling I knew something was wrong. The gears made a horrible churning noise. I moved them about. The noise turned into a clanking sound. Nevertheless, I kept going. There was no turning back now. Barely a few meters into the race, there was another strange noise. This time it came from the back wheel.  A hideous flapping sound. And then my handle bar had a life of its own. The Green Lantern was conspiring to throw me off the saddle at every bump and minor turn. I had to keep holding on to stop myself from falling. In the meantime, I was conscious that however hard I pedaled, I could never move fast enough. I felt I was riding an uncontrollable monster.

I rode around like this for a good 13km before I had to concede defeat. The Green Lantern had a flat tire.

(Desi Anwar: First published in The Jakarta Globe)



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