When avid cyclist Jason Tay felt weaker during one of his regular cycling trips in January, he stopped after 30 minutes but brushed it off as he had undergone an electrocardiogram (ECG) test just a month earlier and the reading was normal.
Two days later at work, the production manager felt some discomfort in his chest and, at the insistence of his colleague, visited a general practitioner who advised him to go to a hospital.
Tay went to Singapore General Hospital's accident and emergency department, where he was told he was having a heart attack.
He underwent an angioplasty and another in March.
"The doctor told me I was very fortunate because 50 per cent of victims don't make it to the hospital in time," the now-retired 57-year-old told The Straits Times.
"He said the cycling probably made my heart strong and helped me survive. So in a sense, cycling really saved me."
For recovery and rehabilitation after his second operation, Tay started doing short walks and short rides on an indoor bicycle before slowly returning to outdoor cycling.
"I really suffered during this period and I felt like I aged 20 years. I would start panting after walking just 20 metres," recounted Tay, who used to cycle for between 30 and 60 minutes at least once a week. Now on average, he cycles for an hour twice a week.
"It was hard on me. I was told to do light walking but I also did indoor cycling once a week and I found that my strength recovered much faster."
Last month, he completed his longest ride of about 20km from Bedok to Marina Bay Sands.
Next month, he will further challenge himself when he attempts to complete 42km in two sessions in the OCBC Cycle 2020's The Sportive Virtual Ride.
While he would like to ride more than 20km in one trip, he is careful not to push himself too hard.
Tay, a first-time participant of the annual OCBC Cycle, said: "After my heart attack, I cycle more than I did previously and use my bicycle as transport, so I thought why not try 42km. And I can do it at my own pace.
"Cycling used to just be about exploring Singapore. But after that, in my 30s and 40s, I was under tremendous work stress and I realised that cycling helps me de-stress.
"So whenever I feel very stressed, I'll go cycling and come back feeling refreshed."
His journey with cycling started in his teens when he cycled to buy groceries for his mother twice or thrice a week.
After that, he started exploring nearby kampungs and frequently cycled at East Coast Park.
"There were no park connectors last time so we are very fortunate (these days), especially during this period when you can't go travelling. Using park connectors to explore is a really great thing," said Tay.
"The scenery is very different now. Last time, there were a lot of natural forests and kampungs. Now, I get to see different scenery. If I go to Sentosa, I see beaches. If I go to Marina Bay Sands, I see gardens."
He plans to visit the Sembawang Hot Springs on one of his cycling trips next and is looking forward to announcing his completion of the 42km in the OCBC Cycle to his friends on his Facebook page.
"They're around my age so I want to tell them it's possible and age is only a number," he said.
"I hope they will be inspired and start their own cycling or exercise routines to maintain their fitness.
"And if young people see that I can finish 42km, they'll know that they can do it too and probably even better than me."