Saturday, May 12, 2012

Uphill All the Way

New friends, some of whom are seemingly trying to kill me.
My experiment in becoming a triathlete this year has led to a lot of new friends and many new adventures. Some of these adventures end in bodily harm (jellyfish, heat exhaustion, etc), but it's fun to see what one is made of. A few weekends ago, I learned that when it comes to uphill cycling, I'm made up of a squishy lack of resolve that smells like shame.

It was suggested that we take our bikes an hour outside of Jakarta to a place called Sentul. This area is known for its picturesque landscapes and cool temperatures. It is also made up of 90% uphill. We started with a 12k run on said hills. We survived, and I was actually feeling pretty confident after having stretched my long legs on some fun down hills. This is how downhills should be enjoyed; with firm grip beneath our feet, but I digress. So, I had a pretty good outlook for the bike ride that would follow our run. I even decided to use my special road bike shoes that clip into my pedals for the first time. This, as it turns out, would not be the last of my bad decisions of the day.

My confidence carried me through the first few kilometers of slight uphills. Those slight hills, however, very quickly turned into nasty, never-ending climbs. Miranda and I, new to this particular form of torture, were encouraged by our male counterparts. We responded to this encouragement with everything from grunts to begging to death threats. Miranda at one point even admitted...out loud...that the bike ride was "almost not fun." 
I couldn't have agreed more. I like a physical challenge as much as the next guy, but I was having a particularly bad time with this one. First of all, it seems I wasn't quite as familiar with my bike's gears as I had previously thought. Secondly, we weren't alone on this monstrosity of a road. There was a company of Brimob police officers running up the hill, being paced by motorbikes. While I didn't recognize any as former students (thank God), it wasn't much fun having so many witnesses to my floundering. Finally, my shiny new shoes and I were having some disagreements about how they should freely let me on and off of my bike. It turns out that trying to 'clip in' to pedals on a ridiculously steep hill (or any hill at all...or flat space that contained a speed bump...) was too much for me to handle. My friends would pass me by and put several hundred meters between us while my bike and I had many arguments about getting started. The bike won when it threw me onto the gravel (I got in a good kick, though). I picked myself up, swallowed my pride, and carried my bike up the hill with cheers of encouragement from the Brimob officers who watched the whole thing. Aduh.
We all did make it up to the top of the hill eventually. Which was nice....until we then had to go back down the hill. If you recall from my last blog post about Rinjani, I recently discovered that I have a particular talent for falling when it comes to descents. Miranda and I exchanged nervous glances before we took off down hill. Even with both hands constantly pumping the breaks, the ride was terrifying. I could see Mira in front of me skidding to a stop when the grade became too steep. I couldn't stop, of course, because my feet were stuck in death traps. I made it a bit further down the road until it leveled out enough for me to clip out and wait for Mira. I was just about to start worrying that she had crashed somewhere far up the hill, when I spotted a motorbike coming towards me. The driver oddly had two bicycle wheels behind him like wings. Then I spotted the pink shirt that I'd known Mira to be wearing. I shouted out at her as she drove past with her bicycle upside down in her lap. Well, that was very clever, so I decide to hire my own ojek to get me down the hill. As I assumed the position, I wondered at the wisdom of the decision. One pedal was poised to impale my throat, and the rear gear box was positioned to either decapitate me or slice off my face at any sudden stop. But, hey, at least I was no longer in control of my fate. 

Luckily, Miranda and I both made it safely down the hill with bikes in tow. So, what, you may ask, did I learn about my experience? Uphills are dumb. Never trust anyone who thinks otherwise (cough...ChaidirandAlbert.../cough).