Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Training Loop in Amata City Rayong

I found the perfect place to workout during weekdays. As with any other weekend warrior balancing time between job and family, it is always difficult to find any decent pattern to workout within the week.

Of course, i could just hook my bike to the trainer and spend an hour there, but where is the fun in that. On the other hand, if I go outside and commute to work using my bike, distance from my crib to the office is a manageable distance of 37km, I would be totally stressed out from looking over my shoulder watching out for cars zooming past. Both options available but not quite desirable.

I kept on wishing to find an isolated place to do some intervals and incorporate some Fartlek training, on a lonely trail with a nice view ... only to find that it was in front of my nose the whole time (actually its in front of BMW Mfg Thailand where I work).

The place I am referring to is a rainwater reservoir right inside Amata City Rayong. There is a sandy fireroad circling the reservoir with a circumference of 2 kilometers. There is a nice 10-15 degree incline on one section, giving just the right amount of resistance for intervals training.

I try to be there by 6.15 am a couple of times a week at just the right time when the sun has broken out from the horizon. Orange skies, still, 'greenish' water, fresh air, ... isolation. I am done by 7.30am, at which time, I would have gone a distance of 14-16km mixed with some intervals within the laps. A quick shower and I am at my desk checking out the latest sports scores by 8.05am. Minimal disruption to my mundane daily life.

You're welcome to join if you are located within the area.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Race Preview: 3rd Leg MTB Eastern Championship 2006

Silverlake Vineyards, Najomtien Sattahip
Roughly 18 kilometers from South Pattaya Rd.

One loop: 6 kilometers, 50/50 mix sandy flats and loose XC

'B' Category -- 3 rounds
'A' Category -- 4 rounds
Although this is still being contested. Check again on race day, the organisers might realize they still have a heart and change their minds last minute. pls, pls.

How to get there:

From Pattaya:
From South Pattaya, mark your odometers and head further south for 12 km. You will reach Nang Ab Tao - Wad Yan Rd. Turn left. About a 3 kilometers, you will start seeing blue signs directing you to Silverlake Vineyards. Just follow these signposts and you will get there in no time.

From Motorway
Or, coming from Motorway Rd7, just motor on until you reach Rd36 going to Rayong. Turn left on Rd 36. After a few minutes, you will see a 4-way junction. Go down to Rd331 heading Sattahip. On Km161, turn right and then you will start seeing the blue signs directing you to Silverlake Vineyards.

The Pre-ride:

Race 3 of the Thailand MTB Eastern Championship will be three weeks from now. The trail is already marked so we made an early pre-ride.

The race course is inside the Silverlake Vineyards, somewhere 12 kilometers south of Pattaya. The vinyards are situated right beside Khao Chee Chan, which has a huge, huge Buddha figure carved onto a hill face.

Course is a 50/50 mix of wide dirtroad and very fast singletracks.

The most challenging part of the race is a gruelling long hill climb. Roughly 300 meters long on a steep rocky loose surface, this is likely the defining point which separates who will struggle and who will breeze through the race. Wetsprocket decided to hammer it out, he got past halfway before turning the white flag. I, on the other hand, decided early that I could not make it, and carried my bike uphill.

Downhill is the next up on the menu, again on sandy rocky road. Recent rains have formed some rain ruts so one has to ride loose but careful.

Then another short climb on a grassy singletrack. This is the second and last significant climb. And its all downhill from here.

There is a small steep section which is easy but tricky. At the bottom, it curves out as soon as you reach your fastest speed. Watch it as there is a small tree at the bottom. Really, I should not be telling you this because you would then be watching out for it. You know the golden rule of riding, 'if you keep starin at it then you will definitely hit it'. The organisers were considerate enough to carve some steps going down if you want to go the hiking way.

Uh-uh. One other small, small thing. This steep section is surrounded by trees and quite dark. Just before you reach this point though, you are showered in very very bright sunlight. When you hit this hole, it takes you awhile to get your eyes accustomed to the change. A few seconds sure, but being a short steep section, you would need to react quickly.

Its all fast downhill after this section. Very, very fast. Without doing anything, my bike computer is reading out 30km per hour just letting Mother Earth do all the work with her all-encompassing gravity. You will come out of it directly into the vinyards.

Its just then a series of turns within the vinyards. Nothing fancy, all flats. You will eventually reach the start/stop point from hereon.

The course is just a bit under 6 kilometers. Short, sweet and very fast.


On the bike setup, choice of tires figure to be important strategic part of the race.

Find something that can hurdle the rocky loose surface on the long hillclimb, but can be quick on the flat sections, which is packed sandy roads.

I used a Specialized FastTrack Pro on the pre-ride and was happy with it. My buddy WetSprocket used a GEAX Mezcal 1.90. It gave up on him during the climb, spinning out a couple of times on the uphill. On the other hand, he was pretty quick on the flats. So find the best compromise tires you can. Local bike shop might have a few suggestions.

Some more details on this ThaiMTB link:

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Race Report: 2nd Leg MTB Eastern Championships '06

"To be a cyclist is to be a student of pain....at cycling's core lies pain, hard and bitter as the pit inside a juicy peach. It doesn't matter if you're sprinting for an Olympic medal, a town sign, a trailhead, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you're missing the essence of the sport. Without pain, there's no adversity. Without adversity, no challenge. Without challenge, no improvement. No improvement, no sense of accomplishment and no deep-down joy. Might as well be playing Tiddly-Winks." -- Scott Martin

Location: Pluakdaeng, Rayong
Date: 07 October 06
Race Type: XC
Course Type: Singletrack, mostly soil and mud. Very steep climbs with technical downhills.

I was very excited about this one since this is my first race after 9 years of being literally off-the-saddle. I was also with Bruce on the last one 9 years ago so, yeah, we go a long way. Fast-forward to the present - a couple of beer bellies, a wife, and a kid later (not necessarily in THAT order) - we found ourselves in a familiar atmosphere, ready (or not?) to jump-start the long-idled heart and muscles.

Plus we get to see a lot of cool bikes. I know I couldn't win this even if I wanted to. I mean, just look at these guys. They look like they can finish this course even with me on their backs! Nah, I'd be just chasing that life-long dream of completing something, like finishing a race.

The race started late so Bruce and I had time to walk around and mingle with the rest of the guys in tight spandex and skull guards. The quiet town of Pluakdaeng was transformed into a mini-bike village - serfs going about on their iron-horses, bazaars with merchants vending their wares, blacksmiths tending the injured beasts. There was a tent setup for a mini-market selling stuff from scarves to complete bike sets.

Men in orange overalls were all over the place. These guys overlooked the checkpoints and medivac. Obviously, this event was not shorthanded in terms of staff. They were everywhere except the race course which told us that the race was again delayed for another hour.

A liter of water (IT WAS HOT AND HUMID!) and a couple of speeches later, the race was under way. Race pictures can be found here and here. I don't have any because 1) I thought I won't have time to stop and take pictures along the way (which I was very wrong) and 2) Bruce decided to be press at the finish line. Well, that's one motivation - I had to cross the finish line at least once or else I won't have a racing picture to show the wife when I get home.

Like I said, it was hot and humid so what better way to start the course than put the first kilometer under the shades of rubber trees? The track around these trees can be very confusing and we had to pay attention to the arrows and look for the Orange-and-Yellow guys with walkie-talkies.

Before we started to feel comfortable under the shade, bam! there it was, 3 kilometers of clearing where the tallest vegetation we can see were cattail-like grass about shoulder-high (on a bike). Nothing but grass under the blazing afternoon sun! I thought,"I'll be ok". I was well hydrated with 1.5liters of water a day for 2 weeks. This induced confidence was short-lived when my hand reached for the water bottle after the first climb, 500 meters before we entered the woods! I looked at my computer just to confirm what was happening - 4kilometers out, 8kilometers more, and I was ready to bonk out! Let's see, how many B5's did I already pass? Four? And how many were in B5? 35. Damn. Swoosh! There goes another guy from B6. Double damn.

The fast downhill before the entrance to the woods was like a mad rush to escape the midday tropical heat, emphasis on MIDDAY and HEAT. To think that the course will welcome us in the shade with a nice flowing singletrack was an illusion, probably heat-induced. In reality, what lay before us was a 100-meter climb on sticky soil with a 50-degree incline. As if on cue, everyone dismounted and pushed hard.

Upon reaching the top, we mounted but only to dismount again after seeing what the descent looked like - a downhill singletrack fit for a pro! So off the bike again and down. This went on for the next 2 to 3 kilometers with places to actually mount on the bike and pedal few and far in-between. Very steep climbs and very demanding descents. A few strong groups attempted to pedal the climbs only to dismount because of the other bikers slowly pushing their bikes uphill.

Exit from the woods opened to a wide pinapple plantation. Great, another sunbathe. At least I will finally be on my bike instead of beside it. Surprisingly, the flats after the ups-and-downs of the woods was very fast! I was zooming past the field and in between the rubber trees at warp speed, almost pacing the A-Class starfighter that passed me at warp speed earlier.

The last kilometer of the course was a pain. It was a zigzag technical track near the start-finish line with LOTS of people watching. Murphy must have been wide awake that day and amongst the crowd, looking at me, perhaps, and murmuring something about a crash. And crash I did - at a switchback right after another A-Class cruiser sneaked on the inside. I slowed down to let him pass and race, which I did perfectly. What I did not realize was the sharp switchback up ahead. I slowed down some more, came to a complete stop, did not unclip on-time, and fell down like a tree - which I also did perfectly.

Medic! What? No medic? No press? With my head close to the ground, I can almost hear the distant rumblings of tires fast approaching. Oh shit, more A-class incoming! The thought of tires and metal going over me was a welcome stimulus, the pain went away and I was on my bike not a moment too soon.

One lap down, one more to go. I felt I still had enough reserves to finish the race in a decent position other than last - I later learned that about half of the racers in B5-class fell after the first lap - so I pushed on. So on to the tarmac, into the rubber tree forest, and out to the grass field averaging 20kph. I was careful not to burn all my matches before entering the woods. It was already late in the afternoon and the Sun-God was still unrelenting.

And then the unthinkable. Three kilometers out, I was flagged by one of the Orange sentries. He said he had to take my number and I was being disqualified for missing a checkpoint. WTF? Realizing that it will take more than my boyish charms to persuade the guy for letting me continue, even if I had to backtrack to the checkpoint that I missed, I removed my tag and went back to the start-finish line.

It was over. Destroyed by the elements and blinded by my lack of experience, I not only missed the checkpoint but the realization of my goal as well. A while ago, I can almost hear Greg LeMond biting my ear saying "It never gets easier, you only go faster" egging me during the long, fast stretches. In the end, it was Scott Martin who accompanied me on my way back to the start-finish line. It will be a while before this pain goes away, 24 days in fact when the 3rd leg goes underway.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Safety First: Mountain Biking Injuries

I found this on the web.

OFF ROAD MOUNTAIN BIKING is now an extremely popular recreation and a potent cause of serious injury. To establish the morbidity associated with this sport, data were collected prospectively over one year on all patients presenting with an injury caused by either recreational or competitive off road mountain biking.

Eighty four patients were identified, 70 males and 14 females, with a mean age of 22.5 years (range 8?71). Most accidents occurred during the summer months, most commonly in August. Each patient had an average of 1.6 injuries (n = 133) and these were divided into 15 categories, ranging from minor soft tissue to potentially life threatening. Operative intervention was indicated for 19 patients (23%) and several required multiple procedures.

The commonest injuries were clavicle fractures (13%), shoulder injuries (12%), and distal radial fractures (11%). However, of a more sinister nature, one patient had a C2/3 dislocation requiring urgent stabilization, one required a chest drain for a hemo-pneumothorax, and another required an emergency and life saving nephrectomy.

Always be careful out there!


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Race Preview: 2nd Leg - MTB Eastern Championship 2006

The second leg of the MTB Eastern Championship 2006 will be held this coming October 7 at Pluakdaeng, Rayong.

The next leg will be on Nov 4 at Silverlake Grape Farm at Najomtien Sattahip Chonburi and the fourth and final leg will be on Dec 9 at the Pattaya Bali High Sea Wharf.

To get to the second leg: here is the link to the get to the place (if you can read Thai).

According to this map, if you are coming from Bangkok, take the Motorway Rd7 to Chonburi. After the last toll station (Chonburi station), turn left at the exit going to Ban Bueng, which is Rd344. Go on for 10 kilometers, until you reach an intersection. Make a left on Rd3138, go another 20km to meet Rd331. Make a right and look for Rd 3138 again on the left side. I know it sounds crazy because you were just on another Rd3138. Go for another 14kms.

Once you see Rd3245, turn left. Proceed along Rd3245 for another 6km and you will be at Pluakdaeng town center. The map claims that you have to proceed to the Town Hall (left at the only traffic light) and the registration point should be there.

I went there earlier today (today is Wednesday) to check out the area. All I saw were banners on a Buffalo Race this week. Well, I hope there is really a MTB race this saturday. I would look funny with my cycling gears on, riding a cud-chewing buffalo this weekend.

The course is roughly 12km long with lots of climbs and downhill sections. The A category will go 3 rounds while the B category will have to go 2 rounds.

Registration starts at 9am. Unconfirmed reports say you have to shell out 300THB to register. Hopefully you get something to take home with that. A water bottle, maybe?

If what i have heard about this course is true, then this is an ongoing series of ups and downs. Many describe it as fun with many switchbacks on the downhills. It is fun, of course, if you have the stamina and strength to climb on the numerous hills.

Pictures of the different sections of the course: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.

From the pictures, you can see that I was not kidding when I described it as a neverending up and down. Overtaking can be done on the flat sections and there are a couple of them at the start and near the end of the course. So bring on that explosive sprinting ability to be used on these sections. Other than that, its just keeping with the main pack on most section of the course.

All pictures courtesy of Pluakdaeng Club 2000. Here is their link.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Trail Tales: Bruised Knee the Prophet

Location: KhaoKeow - PongDingDum Loop, Sriracha, Chonburi

The Plan: The original plan was to go with a local group but I was slow going to the meeting point so me and Bruised Knee decided to burst our lungs climbing KhaoKeow and hurt ourselves descending PongDingDum.

The Do: Meeting point was at the Zoo Gate, 7.30am sharp. Right. The weather was pleasant and we rolled out quickly to catch the low clouds near the summit.

We started out with a liesurely pace, even telling jokes about the animals we see along the way. And then BAM! the 70-ish degree climb hit us in the face like a wall. Memories of our first trip here on two wheels came back as the air on our lungs went out.

We rested halfway. This is the last serious climb on this loop. The only thing that kept our legs going is the promise of the Weeee! XC downhill on the return trip behind the mountain.

The moment's rest seemed to have been a blessing in disguise when we met a group of riders going in the OPPOSITE direction! We were sitting on the side of the road catching our breath when the rode by. I cringe at the thought of seeing these guys going down at warp speed on the narrow trail near the summit while me and Bruised are slowly hammering uphill.

This is the case on most of the trails around here, bikers going in opposite directions on a trail. I saw the signs even in Tam PraToon where the markers seem to indicate that the Dirtbikes who frequent the trail go in the opposite direction as the MTB'ers. Me and Bruised once saw 4x4's emerging from the TestTrack Loop's trailhead while we were ENTERING it!

After a little bit more of pain and suffering, we reached the summit.

The Check: The view up there was great! You can see most of Sriracha - Mt Chalak, Sichang Island, Sriracha. We caught the low clouds and the cool air made for a nice refreshing reward after the hard climb a few moments ago. Better still, it's all downhill from there!

While getting ready, the prophet Bruised Knee asked "What causes a chain to break? I've heard that a lot of MTB'ers experience this on (and off) the trails."

"I don't know man. Maybe because [insert stupid idea here] ." I've had good mileage on my bike thus far and the worst thing that has ever happened to me in the wild was a bent hanger. (The second worst was a snakebite during my daily commute but that was on asphalt and with a phone signal so that doesn't count.)

The Action: After the first DH which rolls out into a nice flat singletrack before the next slope, guess what? my chain broke. So what do you do in a situation like this?

"Holy sh*t Bruised! Look at my chain!"


"Quick! Pick a number, let's get out of here and buy a lottery ticket before you're fortune-telling heat gets cold. Or say something about my rear der, I've been wanting to buy the '07 XT to match my ano frame."

After the whole thing has sunk in, we began to move around looking for the broken links. Our eyes were still (very) sharp (btw Bruise, the doctor WAS wrong) enough to find them a few meters back. We weren't engineers for nothing, no sir, so we actually TRIED to fix the damned thing using only best tools that we have for the job - rocks. That's right, we don't have the whatchamacalit tool to fix a broken chain. We do have a tire patch kit (each), spare tubes (each), and a multitool which we carry everytime but we never, ever had a flat in the wild.

We never finished the return DH and I had to push my bike over the first slope to go back to the gate the way we came.

I say, next time we carry one of those chain tools and leave the patch kits behind to see if how jinxed we really are.