Sunday, April 4, 2010

My first Adventure Race...

And it's gotta be a multi day one : Sabah Adventure Challenge!! - a 3 day rumble and tumble in the jungles of Borneo!

I've never done an adventure race before but as the usual Jonie, have always wanted to do one. So.. when this thing popped up.. (I read it off facebook.. ) go fig.. I just had to try it, even if it's only once. Well... with no experience at all at mountain biking, why not, right?

Anyways, roped in BK for this race and I got all the race registrations, logistics, accomodation done up (I'm never doing all this accommodation and logistics again... headache-nyer.. I wonder how Aman does everything?.. ). I went and get (through YMCA - Thnks MelM and GracieN for the help) me and BK some MTB lessons as well, and Alex T taught me a bit on orienteering... and got some amazing tips from WilsL and well all set.. I think..
except tt....

1. AirAsia bloody he*l screwed up my flight times and didn't even tell/SMS/email me on the changes. Lucky thing Aman emailed us earlier to rechk the flight times... later when we spoke to him, apparently some teams may not even make it in time as AA informed them too late to change their flights. I mean, I understand the changes in time, budget marr... but must oso tell the passengers right. Cannot be that the airlines "want" to make their passengers miss their flights??!!! Is this another tactic to lighten the plane load and pay less for oil??!! I hope our Datuk Tony Fernandaz can look into this... if not, I don't think anyone should ever take AirAsia again cos of their tardiness in taking care of their customers.

2. Due to the deferment, had to take the afternoon off from work

3. Had to defer all my assignments deadlines to a few days late, which means have double the amount of homework to do when I get home

4. Some family happenings... which I still feel sad about...

5. Bike pedals refuses to be unscrewed, even with a spanar and a Mel, the pedal nut still refused to budge (BK tried later after the race.. oso couldn't unscrew it... in the end, got help from another guy to help loosen it.. yes.. it was THAT tight)

6. Needed to complete the Mel & Jonie for Amazing Race Asia video. Took me about 10 hours to edit a 3 min clip... including searching, downloading, looking at materials...but it was funz!! I should be a video editor

7. The main thing that worried me was that I still had a few injuries that have yet to recover. I had a right thigh strain that caused me to forgo IM Langkawi this year as I could barely run. It recovered by the first week of March, but by then, I had already not trained for 2-3 weeks.. Felt weak and bad.. then also had bilateral PFPS which doesn't seem to be getting better. Keep having sharp pains on gg down the steps. Ok ok.. after this race, will rest for a bit.. promised someone liao and kenot backtrack..

... so, yep.. with about 3 weeks of proper training, and about 2 mths of MTB-ing from zero (minus CNY and all... prob about a mths MTB experience).. and my semester's finals coming up in March... there's so much to do, and very little time... and a race to complete... so before I go on and blog about the race.. Thank you all who have tolerated my bizarre behaviour and have supported me to go on. Couldn't have done it without you guys!!!
so.... on to the blog :).

Mel brought the bike to the airport, and we packed the bike there. Noticed that some of them didn't even pack their bikes to transport over to KK O_O... yes... big eyes!! Didn't know I could do that. Might try that on the way back :) Checked in and off we were to Kota Kinabalu.
Finally at the hotel
Arrived in KK and was picked by Aman. Met lotsa new friends here and fellow competitors... was nerve-wrecked by then... they all looked so super strong and confident... I have no idea how to survive the next few days... anyways, arrived at Mega D'aru Hotel and checked in. Got the bikes up to the rooms and went out for dinner. Came back and assembled the bike. Rested for the night.

The next morning, after breakfast, took the bike out for a short spin.. good... everything was working fine. At 10am, we loaded the bikes onto the truck and got onto the bus to Tambunan. Had a short stop for lunch before reaching TVRC at about 2pm. There, we got our equipments sorted out and hung around till dinner and the race briefing.
Tambunan!!
The race directors went through all the rules and the maps as well as gave a chance to the GPS guys to gave a short talk as well on their tracker. This year will be the first year the competitors will be tracked and will have live updates online. So each of us got a GPS tracker to hold on too. It did come in handy, when the directors had to track the last teams... including us.. hehe..After the briefing.. makan, then back to the homestay. We stayed at MakCik Maria's place.. and she was a fantastic "mother". The house was clean and we even got our own attached bathroom.... Nice... next time must come here and stay again!! Packed our stuff and went to zzz... Race begins ... 3am...First section: Night Orienteering...

Day 1.

Woke up at 1am. Grabbed our stuff and off we were to the starting line. Turned the GPS tracker on. The race area was buzzing with activity and straight we went for the breakfast. I had a quick one while BK took his time to eat (for all 3 days).
Zombified JasB

After eating, we went to get our water fill and lined at the starting line. Was really nervous now as I've never done an adventure race before... It was dark everywhere, and we only had our headlamps as guides. ok... another minute and go!!!.... Everyone started running!! the race was on!!
We made a run around the lake and up on the suspension bridge. After that, up the road and into the trails, and this is where everything got a bit tricky... rivers, a map and a set of instructions. Using all this, we had to navigate our way through to Checkpoints 1 and 2. As we have almost zero knowledge of orienteering, luckily we met another pair who was trekking as well. We crossed the river multiple times, going up and down the river banks, and looked at the compass to make sure we were headed in the right direction (note to self: MUST brush up on Orienteering... esp in the dark) . Sometimes, we crossed barb wires and fences, and although there was a road next to us... damn... not allowed to use cos there will be a 3 hour penalty.
Reached Checkpoint 2 which was just next to a hanging bridge, and then up to checkpoint 3.... which was about a 1-1.5km hike... UPHILL!!! No one ever said this was gonna be easy.The hike was slow with lots of huffs and puffs before going downhill and reaching checkpoint 3.
We did a wrong turn once we were out on the gravel road, but luckily one of the locals were there, so we back tracked up to the right place. Here, we decided to downgrade to the Adventure category as we don't think we can survive the Extreme Category - not enough MTB skills yet. We collected our bikes and started the MTB-ing part. Here there were 2 options, either we take the trails (straight all the way down) or we take the loose gravel road (one big curve with up and downhills). BK didn't want to take the trails, and I don't have enough confidence yet (was super tempted though - you all can guess la... I'm that kinda person to never give up), so we opted to take the gravel road instead (talked to JasB after the race.. he said it was quite a nice but tough trail.. so next year must take trails all the way!!). That said, the gravel roads were quite dangerous as well as it was super super steep and with loose rocks all the way, and there were many times that I just slid when I tried to slow down. Can't believe that holding on to the brakes can actually be quite tiring and painful. There were a few teams that slid and had accidents here as well, so the medic teams were prepared at the bottom of the steep slopes, just in case.
OK, we finally reached checkpoint 4 where we had to go down and do some upstream river tracking. We had to track upstream and look for a trail near the hanging bridge. This part, I like. The sun was up and hot, the trees were shady and refreshing, the water cool an clear. I just love walking in the cold water, though the rocks were quite slippery.
At Checkpoint with JasB and Harsha
Pink 'Gandalf"
After about an hour, we reached the hanging bridge, took us awhile to find the trail, and finally headed up the trail to find a clearing on a ridge. We were suppose to look for checkpoint 5A at a church, but bloody *toot toot*... where is the church??? You'd think it'll be easy to find a building with a cross... but noooo... apparently, we were at the back of the loooong building and the cross was at the front.. haha.. anyways, found the checkpoint, signed in, and off we were back to checkpoint 4 to pick up our bikes to cycle back to the finish line.
The biking back was easy breezy.. stopped to take some pictures of the mountain goat where BK was complaining again.. hehe.. but anyways, found our way back up the normal tar road, headed down to TVRC and to the finishing line!! YAYY!!!!! some of the competitors who finished and were lunching nearby clapped for us... !!!! DONE!!! DAY 1 SAC-- over!! We finished in about 11 hours, at about 2+pm.
baaa... baaa..
Parked our bikes and I went to return the GPS (got so called late penalty if we don't return within 15 minutes) Talked to the GPS guys and apparently they lost our signal halfway through. Think it was due to the GPS tracker dropping to the bottom of my pack when I was rummaging for food. Have to remember to put it nicely the next few days.

Ok, then went to eat lunch, and chat around before checking in the bikes at the water area for the next day's event. Called up our homestay lady - Makcik Maria (who turned out to be an old girl of SM Seri Kepayang - hehe... SM Seri Intan's predecessor). Went back, showered, cleaned up and rested till it was dinner and time for the next day's briefing at 8 pm. Went back to TVRC... everybody was there.. recollecting their stories of the first day. It felt great to be back there and to talk to everyone about all the pain we suffered :).

With YK and WilsL
With YK and Chad!
The second briefing over, and the next day was gonna be a bike start and a tubing part. BK was nervous about both the bike and the tubes but I was more nervous about pushing the bikes up the slightly less than 1km upslope... diezz... we'll see how it goes... went back, packed and zzzz...
Day 2 -

Day 2 started at 8am and we were there early for breakfast, water and to collect our bikes. All ready and set to go, we lined up at the starting line with EWong and RayM as we were the adventure/leisure category. Counting down the minutes again, and ..... START!!!

With Elaine at the start point!

Everybody was on their bikes and started to mash the pedals... go go go!!! We made a round around the lake again and then pushed the bikes over the suspension bridge.With everybody travessing the bridge, it kept swinging and.. I almost lost balance a few times ... felt a bit like mabuk... heheOK, across the bridge and up the small slope. Then down and across the road, and here was where all the adventure began again. Gravel, laterite ... roads and slopes. Got chased by dogs and had to push the bike up countless slopes again. On the way to the checkpoint, we noted a steep uphill slope, preceeded by a ditch at the bottom.. Note to self.. be careful on the way back as we were taking the same way back.

Reached checkpoint 1 and continues on fer awhile before reaching climbing down to the river to continue pushing/ carrying the bikes downstream for about 1-1.3 km to the next checkpoint. This was not easy (Klaus - never will I ever trust u again... :p) and at the last bit before checkpoint 2, we had to carry our bikes across a river that was almost reaching my chest... phew... hard work la... put the bike on the bank and climbed up to the checkpoint, signed in, refilled and took some pics...
Pushing along the river
Next part.. tubing...2 tubes, one big one small, take it or wait for the next one.. bo pian, I took the small one... toss my bag to BK and started the tubing section. The small one was..
Tubing!!
hmm.. small.. haha... and there were parts that I had to walk instead of tube cos my butt kept hitting the rocks. On some on the rapids, I had to straighten my body like a plank to get through.. ouchh.... can imagine all the bruises on my butt now. Fell off the tube once, went on a rapid twice cos it was fun (and was waiting for BK to float by), and we finished the whole tubing part after about 2 hours. I kept thinking that we were lost, but every once in a while, I'd see some of the competitors backtracking (part of the race route, will explain later) .. so we were on the right track, so why are we taking such a long time.. hmm.. I started to paddle, kayaking style with the stick I was holding on to. Later we realised, when we talked to the others, apparently, we needed to paddle as hard as we can to reach then checkpoint fast.. so, for future reference.... for the next time, BK.. PADDLE!!!! There is no such thing as a free ride in this race... hahaha... oh well.Checkpoint 3!!!! Removed the life jacket, rested a while and off we were.
Now we needed to backtrack up to checkpoint 1 or 4 again to continue on. And the route was upstream… just go along the river. So, armed with the map, food, and the compass.. we hiked up. This hike was quite fun actually, especially the river crossing parts as the river current was strong and quite deep, so we used the river crossing method I learned in WW kayaking the last time. Finished this and reached checkpoint 4.
After tracking back to the water point
Collected our bikes, and here was the part I was scared of the most - pushing the bike up the slopes. Now.. I have weak knees and not so strong upper body strength, my bike weighed about 13-14 kg, it rained... and the slopes were muddy, slippery and tougher than ever. Go figure... I almost died. Had to go on all four at times while pushing and lifting the bike. Luckily BK was there to help me up some parts of the slopes. Heard later that some groups had to tow using their tow ropes the bikes up. Think this year was when the Extreme Category had it a bit easier here, as at this part, it was already the biathlon part (1 run, 1 bike) - so they only had one bike to push up.. compared to the adventure one.. 2 bikes!!!... Took ages here (as evident by the GPS tracker as well).. and finally when we reached the checkpoint the people were worried about us as they could not contact us.
The reason to join the race
That over, we drank our fill and rested awhile before restarting again on our bikes up to the starting point. On the slopes, I think there was one slope we pushed partially down, (remember the steep one with the ditch at the start.. yup..that one. (later we heard that a few groups slid off their bikes at that part.. phew... luckily no one was injured badly). It was getting dark as we cycled back and we took the city road this time to go back.. We were lucky here too as later I heard, the short trail back was closed as the villagers had locked the gate to the trail. Thank our lucky stars again...OK.... cycle cycle cycle... and after a while... we're at the finishing line!!! hurrah!!! this day is finally over!! I am sooo GLAD!!! haha... This was one of the toughest days ever... and it's done!! Parked, went to eat, returned the GPS and cleaned our bikes.. it's over... all smiles!!! We finished about 730pm.. another 11 hrs +..
Makan after the gruelling 11hrs 2nd day
The race briefing was at 830pm. Two more teams were still out there... so we were not the last. We stepped into the race hall.. and everyone was seated.. Aman went.. here they are.. and.... clap clap clap clap ... everyone gave us a clapping ovation... hahaha... so there we were.. all dirrrty, muddy in our race bibs... (while everyone else was clean and in their normal clothes) and everyone was clapping for us. It was a strange moment... for one.. I felt a bit embarassed as we were really slow compared to all those who were already sitting there... but also happy and satisfied as we finished the long and hard second day... :) Well, for what it's worth, it was still an amazing moment to walk in and have everybody clap for you. (it was suppose to be for the last team of the day.. but they weren't back yet.. so.. hm... will clap for them the next time I see them).
The next day's briefing went on as I rested at the back. The third day was suppose to be lighter, more navigational and apparently, as long as we finish the trail run, we can sit back and forgo the treasure (plastic bottles ) hunting part and just incur time penalties.. so.. yar.. I'm a slacker, so sue me... finished and off we were to zzz.

Day 3
We started at 8am again with a trail run. I trekked and walked mainly as my knees were already so close to giving way due to the sharp pains. Running downhill would probably just kill it off. The trek was really amazing though. F had a fall, and hit his head.. but he's ok :) with a neck strain. EWong had diarrhea along the way, so her partner had to play "traffic police" for a while. Strange things were happening arn....Finished the first part with another Singaporean team, and headed back to the checkpoint area to get the treasure hunting maps and bikes.
Just hanging

Konking heads

With the Sandakan Heralds
Short stop and so... the hunt begins....The first few "treasures" were easy to find... but... we got lost and only managed to find another 2 after that. At first, wanted to cheat with another team (I am so Amazing Race material)... but damn.. just remembered that they had a GPS tracker on us.. ok ok.. so no cheating. This part took us around the town of Tambunan which is a delightful small town.
Aman checking up on competitors

The locals were very supportive and some gave us clues along the way ;) hehehe.... In the end, we couldn't find all the treasures but decided to head back as the time limit was up. Reached the end and it was finally OVER!! Felt supremely happy that I actually managed to finished a multi-day adventure race.. but even better that I made good new friends along the way. It was just amazing to cycle under the arch at the finishing line.
With a sigh of relief... we ate, bathe at YK's place, rested, and after the prize giving ceremony, and headed back to KK after that.

Wilson & Grace - best mixed team in extreme

Me with the Extend GPS guys!
I felt sad that I had to leave this place already... it was just too soon... :( .Everything about this race was really fantastic - the organisers, homestay, the trip up and down, the race itself, the camaraderie... except the bike packing part and the stupid pedal that refused to budge. ahh well... there's always next year to look forward too.. :) so... where do I sign up?
Eating at KK - Post Race

Trudge on... !!!


3 comments:

Beatrice Goh said...

wow...with all the rumbling n tumbling...glad to see you in one piece and enjoying the crabs in KK...=P

sofiantriathlete said...

You are having a lot of fun. Was wondering why you were not at Langkawi (quad sprain - ok)

Stupe said...

Gpood report and gret insight to what to expect. Now i've decided to go with hydraulic brakes...holding on to V brake or Cable Disc while going down loose rock will be tiring. :D