WAY BACK THEN
I learned to bike with the help of some childhood friends using the BMX bike in the 80s. And never got interested to own one until now. During a visit at a Saturday flea market, I saw a group of bikers using small-type bikes. I never knew what it was called. One of the bikers whom I approached told me that the group belongs to a foldies community. I knew then I wanted to own one. But the heavens must have other designs for me. One day a fellow runner and a good friend offered to sell her road bike. To cut the long story short, I ended up having a road bike delivered at my doorstep by my friend Maui and her family on Chinese New Year hence the bike’s nickname Lucky or Luke.
SERIES OF ROAD TESTS
First attempt, I was shaking. On my second attempt, while waiting for the stop light to go Green, tried to get off from the bike, suddenly lost my balance and fell to the ground. So embarrassed knowing many pairs of eyes saw what happened! On my third attempt, I went around the block for only about 30 minutes. That was it.
THE ALASKA BIKE RIDE CHALLENGE
So when an invite came for an entry to a big cycling event, l was caught a bit off guard. Finally, a chance to ride in a pack and tackle almost a marathon distance. Initially registered for the 20-kilometer Community Ride category. However, on the day of the ride pack collection, the attending staff (she was so nice) suggested that I try the Challenge Ride category instead. In the end, I found myself officially registered for the 40-kilometer ride. What have l gotten myself into this time? No bike mileage. Not enough serious training. Relied on pure chutzpa to just do it.
As a new rider, I was nervous and apprehensive of the outcome of this ride. Arrived early at the venue and bumped into an old-time friend and fellow running blogger Anna, who was with her husband. Both registered for the 20-kilometer Community Ride. After the quick chitchat, I decided to go ahead. Walking, I met another biker who was waiting for his buddy. I asked about the route and the event. He said it was his third time to join. And, commented further that the route would include two flyovers. Apprehensions set in suddenly. How would I tackle it? I could only think of one option: walk once at the flyover. I proceeded to the starting line, looked for the baggage area to deposit my stuff, and went back to my Wave assignment. As I roamed my eyes at the crowd of bikers gathered at the starting line, I felt the energy and excitement. To calm my nerves, I initiated a conversation with a fellow female rider on my left. As late participants passed by our Wave to proceed to earlier Wave assignments, I noticed on their bikes are either one or two water bottle containers. I looked at the empty water bottle cage on my bike. Yeah, didn’t bring any hydration with me. The ultra runner in me was in the works, meaning, used to hydrating every ten kilometers so l didn’t worry.
The lively emcee kept the crowd energized. There was a camera drone flying over us and almost everyone wave their hands in the air. Then the countdown for each Wave begun. There were six waves for the Challenge Ride and each wave is released every five minutes. Finally, it was time to move towards the start arch for the countdown and GO signal.
This is it! Time to do and finish the 40-km ride! Goal: it would be a steady ride for me. While pedaling along Seaside Boulevard, a biker whizzed by and said something which I could hardly hear. But it seemed he said something like I need to hurry and pedal fast. Approaching Roxas Boulevard, from afar I saw lead bikers riding their way up to Buendia-Roxas Boulevard flyover. Wait a minute, runners and bikers on Buendia flyover? Whoah!
I didn’t give it much thought though as I pedaled my bike south bound along Roxas Boulevard. The 40-km bike ride category requires bikers to do four laps before heading to the finish line. Went for a steady pace and didn’t hydrate during the first ten kilometers. Most of the other bikers are in full throttle. After the turnaround, game on for the next challenge: first flyover along EDSA-Roxas Boulevard. I made it! Approaching fast now on the second flyover, ahead of me was a biker slowly pedaling up on the left side. Bikers on the right side ahead of me. I was already at the incline. Attempted to avoid the rider, unfortunately l lost my balance, hit the ground and crashed. Good thing no domino effect happened as more bikers came at the spot where l fell. That sudden impact really shook up my nerves, bruised my right palm and caused abrasion on my elbow. I couldn’t just go off without myself checked for any damage. After the medic treated my wound, I pedaled my bike back to the pack trying to catch up with missed time during the crash.
l was in my element again even if my right palm was painful. Every time l approached each flyover l really prayed hard and pedaled my way cautiously. There was one moment though when some fast riders going south went out of their lane unmindful of the danger they are causing. Collisions could happen anytime. Fresh from my bike crash earlier, l had to make a noise as a warning they go back in their lane. I was going downhill the flyover when it happened.
Approaching the turnaround near CCP, a biker whizzed by and joyfully said, “Congratulations, Ma’am!” The greeting caught me by surprise. Really. I was not fast. I didn’t even finish in over an hour. I think the rider meant well.
The last few kilometers were easy and found myself crossing the finish line … finally! Staff handed me something to eat and drink, then l was given the finisher’s medal. Nice!
Congratulations to all riders! My salute and respect to those who finished strong and fast even if the Challenge was not meant to be a race. To me, the bike ride was still a race against myself.
Super duper thanks to Alaska Milk, Alaska Cycle Asia Philippines and Sunrise Events for this unforgettable experience. You just don’t know how much it made me so happy. One of the best birthday gifts l could ever have!
Until next time!