*Above are solely my opinion, has no input from either my team or WanGoDo Edge. In fact certain members have different views on my entry.
My team returned from the 24hr ironbound challenge in Langkawi last weekend with a first mixed team and third overall title, with much controversies though. To be honest, I didn’t have the victory feeling but doesn’t imply that my team is not strong or that it was not a win. You have to go through my experience in this race to understand why I still think my team deserve the title. However, it also goes to say that other teams have their stories to justify why we did not earn it. I rest my case on what is right because there is none, the organizers just have to do it better the next time.
The pre-race preparation was a nightmare. The race was to flag off on Friday 3pm with a briefing at 10am that morning. However, we have to do our gear checks the night before and was told that we have to deposit the bike on the same night! This messed up our logistics because we have yet to know the race course but we have to deposit our bikes! It left us all puzzled how much stuff to put on our bikes and whether we have a transition box before the bike leg. Furthermore, we were told that we need support crews to transport our transition boxes (organizers posted on the blog that there is no support crew needed for the race!!!). I am not that kind of racer who appreciate such screw up information/mis-information the night before my race. After much rahhh rahh, we received different set of instructions that we will deposit a bag as ‘transition box’ and organizer will transfer for us. Not too sure what happened but the deposited bikes were never transferred to anywhere even till race starts the next day.
I can’t remember all the rules said to us at the briefing but 4 people staying together did stand out. I am very used to this rule since Singapore races always have a maximum 100m apart rule and also that it was common to use sportsident or similar products for teams to stay together in international races.
Second, the organizer said clearly that we can use whichever route to get to CP or VP, it was then we made the decision to go via road (if we can find one) after VP2. It didn’t came as unfair to me because the organizer said the highlighted routes are recommended routes and it is common that racers picked their route choice in international races.
Well, the briefing took too long and I can’t wait for the race to start. We did a short sprint to the kayak launching point once we were flagged off. The waves were massive and I did hinder Wilson a little while punging out since it was my first time doing so! It was fun but not so fun when you see racers capsized and washed all around getting hit by either boats or paddles. To know that our friend, Kai got sandwiched by two boats on the head upset me. Thanked goodness he has his helmet on which has a massive crack after this incident. I am pissed with the organizers’ decision to make such a course without analyzing the racers’ profiles. Most are beginners who will put experienced kayakers in danger with such launch off and vice versa. Definitely something we have to learn and all do better. That aside, the kayak leg was beautiful. The sun sets and we started paddling under the full moon. It was amazing when the water lighted up with the micro organisms inside – definitely make the 40+km kayak more bearable. We did not spot any safety boats around which I do hope they are at least with the mid-pack, this is just basic safety.
Before the last 5-6km kayak stretch back to the first transition, there was a 20km orienteering. It infuriates me when I see the top mixed team (Salomon Sunnto team) and a couple men’s teams splitting up. Our team was determined to stay together since it was said that all four members have to be together at all time! The marshalls at the previous checkpoints were pretty strict about that as well. The last 7-8km I suffered the same gastro problem as ATC and I couldn’t run much – it slowed us down a whole lot. After a slow finish for the orienteering, we made a cheerful entry back to the water and paddle towards the transition.
I have always been fast at transition and restock quickly so to get a lil nap. I tried to speak to the organizer and only the event director, Sham was around. We told him about team splitting up and he said ‘its okay, its COMMON SENSE to do so’. I was boiling mad inside but went ahead to get some rest since the race is going to be so screwed.
I can’t remember much up gunung raya as I was really sleepy and started talking non stop to keep myself awake. According to Wilson, we were slow. We must have lost much time which we offset by sprinting down those 3000 over steps. I thought I was fast till I lost the Chris and Wilson, but my heartrate was definitely the highest at this section of the race.
Day breaks as we got back onto the bike towards VP2. Wilson made some navigation error simply because the map was not a map. It costs us some time and with some villagers help then we found VP2. After checking in, we turned back hoping to join a road towards the next transition to split up for abseil/skate. Wilson and I were to skate and it was the only time in my life I thought I was going to die. We were to skate on some gentle slopes but the speed you can pick on going down the slope is massive. The road was narrow and rough, with cars from opposite and behind – some not so considerate either (can’t blame them since it doesn’t make sense that people are blading on the road and blocking their right of way). I was near to tears which I did after a fall. I asked the marshalls and organizers (including the race director) repeatedly whether I can take off my skates but all denied me the rights. They rolled their eyes at me and said that the first team can do it so why can’t I. I seriously think they are reckless to put my life in such danger. I was scared shit to take off the skates fearing I will DQ my team. I was thinking that its common to push your bike if you are unable to go up or down confidently so why can’t I remove my skates for the same reason! Worse, I saw the Salomon team later, walking on the road holding the blades. I respect their decision to do that for their dear lives but am damn pissed w the organizers for having double standards.
After a hell lot of struggle back to the transition to meet Chris and Sam, they weren’t there. When they did run back down from the abseil, they looked tired. Apparently the marshall has given incorrect direction and they were made to do more trek than they were supposed to. Again with the pathetic map, we made our way to the last CP and VP before heading back to the finishing line. It was a slow ride since Chris and Sam have gone down the drain after the additional trek and finishing all the food. Nevertheless we made it back to the finishing line and became the supposedly first mixed team.
The controversy comes because many thought we didn’t do the hardest part of the race – the offroad mountain bike track after VP2. However, if you look at my team’s approach to the race, we played by the rules obediently. We stay together for the orienteering while the 3 members from the Salomon team took a break from a 20km run. We were told that we can take whichever routes we want and as a team we decide that taking the road is the wiser choice. I hang on dearly to the skates despite knowing I might injured myself, yet I saw other teams not doing so. Sam and Chris were given incorrect direction causing them to trek more than other teams, eventually unable to push for the last biking stretch. We earned the win for this race somehow, its common sense.
Adventure racing is not straightforward and not the fittest win all the time. I have many podiums this year but may or may not be so next year. It all depends on the format of races and whether it works for me at the point of time. I enjoy my adventure racing lifestyle and put in much time in this – so don’t deny my win or look down on us just because you think you are or can be faster than us.
Finally, I would really appreciate if the organizers can evaluate the race differently. The race can be fun if safety aspects are communicated and covered. Perhaps they did but I did not see or was advised so. I would also like to reiterate that rules and regulations have to be consistent. Water points are very important during a race – no races should provide only 500ml per racer at the TA in a humid country. In my opinion, the race is not tough (maybe because I didn’t attempt the mountain bike section after VP2). It has been misunderstood as tough because of the long distances we have to cover in 23hr. However, the whole race lacked the technical aspects to be defined as tough race. We did not have proper navigation – checkpoints has not been accurate on the map which itself is too vague (not asking for a topo map but definitely rooms for improvement). The biking was all on road or some unrideable terrain (according to other teams who continue after VP2). We are running mostly on tarmac roads. A tough adventure race, in my opinion, will be testing my physical and mental endurance in the midst of my skills handling in each disciplines – mountain biking, traill running/trekking, kayaking, navigation, sleep depreviation.
I am indeed frustrated with the organizers but also appreciate their efforts to put together the race for us in such beautiful country.
Well…more works to be done, both organizers and myself as a racer.