The nerve was being its sensitive self again. With every
pulse throb, an ionic impulse would lance brainward from my gums. I
wondered how I could overcome that sensitivity thinking maybe I should
wash out the cavity with saline hoping the ions would mess up the nerve's
conductivity. But where was I going to get saline at the start line of a
road race in the middle of the Malay Peninsula?
Thinking of Saline
Here I was in what is supposedly my recovery week, standing at the
start of another race. This time I was in Malaysia. In the town of Kuala
Kubu Bahru(KKB) of the district of Hulu Selangor. The district was
celebrating its 25th anniversary and the district council had decided on
festivities. The major event being this bike race they called the
"Sprinter" and with big coin on offer. I have never been in a
bike race with such big prizes - not that I was going to see any of it. I
need to sort my training out first and then maybe in a year or two...
I had done nothing but rest since coming back from Thailand. Ok, not
strictly true. I had to remove my left wisdom teeth because the lower one
was impinging on the neighboring molar and causing a cavity. The cavity
was big enough to see on x-rays. One of the complications picked up while
I was on treatment for my chipped incisor.
"It should only take half an hour," was what the dentist
Yeah, right. I entered the theatre at 11:30 a.m. and left at 1:45 p.m.
The dentist had promised to fill up the cavity at the same time but upon
removing the wisdom tooth, she gave me the good news: yep, I gotta wait
till the swelling went down in a month before any cavity work could be
done. Not that I cared that much at that moment. I was more concerned of
getting my hands on some pain-killers in case the dope she pumped into my
gums wore off. I should have cared. Within a day, the exposed cavity would
be niggling at me day and night. She also gave me the last minute bonus -
do I want the upper wisdom tooth taken out at the same time? When I was
meeting her for the first review, she had made no mention of this - I was
given 30 seconds to make up my mind. Oh, what the hell, I'd lose weight,
wouldn't I? So out it goes.
I drifted out of my reverie and back to watching the start line. Some
local dancers had taken to the front of the stage. I glanced around and
looked at the field. For a change, we were not going to be starting with
Malaysian juniors. Thank goodness. No squirrels. Also, I was in the Open
Category. Most riders were in the "Amateur" Category starting
after us. Actually, I would stand a better chance of smelling the Big Coin
were I to play in the Amateur ranks - heck, I am an AMATEUR. But pride
says I must stay with the Elite, the Tour de Langkawi riders, the best
that Malaysia had to offer...and get my ass whipped.
I recognized the top Malaysian riders, Shahrulneezam, Seong Hoon and
Robert Lee. Nick Swallow, Eddy Cheah, Arab, Junaidi, Colin Pearson and
Samuel Yang were in the field as well. I glanced around some more and saw
a Malaysian guy with missing incisors. A brother-in-arms.
I had to wait for ages before the NUH pharmacy gave me my prescription.
I had time to go back to work while waiting for them to give me: 1 bottle
of mouth-wash, 5 days worth of penicillin and 5 days worth of Ibuprofen. I
think the mouth-wash and penicillin were not worth it but the
Ibuprofen...man, that is going to come in handy someday. But it just
seemed like overkill to take Ibuprofen for a niggling tooth-ache.
While I was in the dentists'. They covered my chest with thick cloths
and covered my eyes at the same time. I think they didn't want to scare me
with their equipment. To be honest. I would have preferred to see what
they were putting into my mouth. I did not feel any pain throughout the
procedure. But it was very nervous. The feel of pliers and drills
hammering away at part of your bone - controlled trauma. The feel of
scalpel cutting away your gums - you don't feel pain, but you can feel the
pressure as the gums are torn away. Yep, no pain, but I was covered in
sweat and my body tensed throughout the procedure. When they took the
cloths off, my undershirt was quite damp. I rather not go through this
Wheee! The klaxon is off and the boys are attacking through the town.
Malaysian riders are aggressive and that's why they are some of the best
in the region. As we made our way through the town, there was no quarter
given. Guys were cutting corners and flying. Rolling start? Rolling stones
on a jam session is more like it.
The Pen's central region is always rolling. What's more, Hulu Selangor
was the foothills of the Main Range and KKB was an hour's drive from
Fraser's Hill. While Peter Sharman, Arab, Samuel and myself had driven up
from Singapore the previous day, we had observed that the race route was
up and down or false flat. Throw in the humidity and this would be a
killer of a race.
My friends from QuickRelease
had warned me that there was nothing to eat and do at KKB. They also said
that there were no good hotels in town. True. We stayed at the Sri Melati,
the best hotel in KKB, where the rooms had no windows and they did not
bother to plaster the outside walls - the brickwork was bare. Barest of
luxuries it was true, but it was a good thing I had called beforehand to
reserve rooms otherwise, we would have had to sleep in the car. All hotels
in the town were booked full because of the race and many more racers were
staying in the 22nd Commando Camp just out of town. Nick, Eddy and other
Singaporeans actually stayed in KL and drove up to KKB the morning of the
I wondered whether that would have been a better alternative. I did not
get to sleep much that night because of the intelligent design of the
building's sewage system. They had a pipe from an upper story toilet
running right past my bed where the pillows were. Someone upstairs must
have had the good news with food poisoning or peritonitus because they
wouldn't stop flushing the Porcelain Throne. Whooosssh! Gurgle, gurgle,
gurgle.... All night long. And when my friends upstairs weren't pumping
the throne, my room-mate, Samuel would be snoring. Ok, another thing to
bring next time - ear-plugs.
General Feel of KKB: check out the switches
At this moment I wonder if all of us have a pain and suffering
threshold. If you think of it as a cup, there is only so much you can do
before that cup fills up and then you're toast. Every other aspect of your
life contributes a little bit to the stuff in that cup; domestic troubles,
lousy love life and tooth-aches are just some of the things that
contribute to the cup. Its a mental thing. And when you start a race with
that mental cup half-full, you're only going to be able to do so much. The
trick is to learn to ignore the pain and so avoid filling the cup up. Some
of my best performances have been when everything in my life was perfect
and I had the mental discipline to focus on my goal and not the pain in my
Not today though. The toothy would not go away and I kept losing focus
- do NOT LOSE that wheel in front of you! An 87km race of up and down and
sharp cornering. I lasted about 65. Well, at least I lasted that long.
Damn. The Amateurs raced only 57km. I could have mixed it up there. OTOH,
there was an obscenely large pile-up in the Amateurs. Sze Kwun and
Geoffrey of QuickRelease told me that it took out about 30 guys. That's
crazy. So I guess I'm glad I was in the Elite - I'd rather be spanked than
go pavement surfing.
Samuel could not stop gushing about the Malaysian's power and strength
after the race. He ended up 8th. Not bad in such a stellar field. Colin
Pearson and Eddy Cheah did well too. They were in a second chase pack.
Eddy is getting stronger this year. I did not notice him last year as I
did not race much but he has improved. I used to be able to drop him - now
the tables are turned! I need to get a coach.
Peter Sharman, who drove us up scored 2nd place in his veteran's
category. This is amazing. Why? The night before, he was guzzling beer. I
think he finished about half a dozen cans of Tiger the previous evening.
Furthermore, he got mis-directed at the turn about and when he realised he
had to turn, the peloton was already about one km in front of him! He
managed to chase them down with 5km to go and still had enough in his legs
to go for 2nd place. That is simply amazing.
Ok, now for two weeks of low volume and low intensity before I start on
my new training plan with the aim to peak in September/October for the
whole slew of races in that time. Till next time!