Author Archives: raquelgan

Fastpacking The Western Arthur Range

Wilson and I pretty much could not participate in any adventure races and decide to settle for a rogaine in Tasmania. Not that we are complaining – since we really enjoy bushwalking too! The best part is we can extend the trip and carry on with more awesome adventures on this spectacular island.

We knew we wanted to hit the Southwest National Park and were looking it up for some challenging hikes. The South Coast Track, Frenchman’s Cap, Mt Anne, and even the Overland Track and the Walls of Jerusalem did surface as possibilities, but something just did not feel quite right. I then came across the Western Arthur Range on Google Images and was intrigued – and it felt like THE hike we been looking for. I quickly sent some links to Wilson, who got as excited as I did.

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Western Arthur Range

Varying accounts about the Western Arthurs circulate on blog pages, and it is hard to determine ‘what level of hiking experience’ we would categorize ourselves as. The Arthur Range is not covered in great detail in the Parks Tasmania website, so we were not 100% sure of we would be committing ourselves to. Some accounts that we read online made the trek sound really doable, and then we also saw (more than once) the precaution: ‘do not attempt the Arthurs if its your first time hiking in this region’ did scare me a little. Even till the last day of the hike, we weren’t sure if we would make it within the ambitious 60 hour self-imposed time limit.  This 46.3km traverse via Moraine K is really hard to relate to until you have experienced it for yourself.

One thing for sure – there are endless crags to ascend/descend: I had to work on both my leg stability and upper body strength. As much as Altitude Gym’s opening hours were hard to fit into my work schedule, I tried my best to be there once a week. I did much functional training to prepare for the trip since I have the base endurance already. On top of this, I kept my yoga regime too. The training did pay off in the harsh terrain even with the lack of mileage/hours on my feet prior to the trip.

Once we were in Tassie, the wind was going a little crazy: up to 50km/h on the lower altitudes! The weather forecast showed double cold fronts back-to-back followed by a warm front during our attempt window. The shop staff at Paddy Pallin – where we bought the topo map of the Arthurs – told us that a warm front is extremely rare in Tassie, and it meant more rain will be coming. Learning from our miserable experience on our Tongariro traverse more than a year ago, we knew that rain and a high wind chill factor in an alpine environment is a deadly combo. We re-strategized and postponed the hiking trip, which meant one less day of mountain bike riding in Derby!

The sun hung high during the supposedly ‘rest days’ but it was still windy. The moment we drove towards Scott’s Peak Dam (the start and end point of our traverse), clouds started to move in and we weren’t able to see how beautiful the landscape was. We didn’t see the Sun till we finished the hike – weather forecasts don’t work in this part of the country.

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Rain clouds followed us since Day 1 

The usual breakdown of the traverse is as follows:

1.       Scott’s Peak to Lake Cygnus (15.5km, 7 hours)
2.       Lake Cygnus to Lake Oberon (4.2km, 5 hours)
3.       Lake Oberon to High Moor (4.3km, 6 hours)
4.       High Moor to Haven Lake (3.8km, 6 hours)
5.       Haven Lake to Seven Mile Creek via Moraine K (4.5km, 4 hours)
6.       Seven Mile Creek to Scott’s Peak (14km, 7 hours)

We decided that we could possibly do two sections in a day and that will take us 3 days and 2 nights. However, we planned to pack 4 days of meals just in case we were unable to crack 3 days. We packed in 4 freeze-dried meal packs and enough nuts/bars/sports nutrition for 3 days. We did add in some luxurious stuff like cheese, crackers and cous cous for a sumptuous Day 1.

Day 1 went smoothly and we hit Lake Oberon after 9 hours in the rain with 10m visibility. Such a pity we missed the awesome views around Lake Cygnus and Lake Oberon. The descent into Lake Oberon campsite was pretty crazy, I never knew I could go down a gully with a 90% gradient, without ropes. We heard from fellow hikers that there will be more of such crazy stuff all the way to Haven Lake. Despite making a fairly good time on Day 1, we know we still have to push hard on Day 2 – hoping to make it to Lake Vesta (halfway down Moraine K), or face a long, drawn-out battle to make up the distance on Day 3.

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We doubted ourselves when we saw this gully but there were more to come!

We were well-fed and had a good rest to end Day 1. Lake Oberon campsite is surrounded by big patches of bogs and our feet were wet even before commencing Day 2. It was drizzling but the wind was mild. More of the crazy climbs and descents up and down those crags but we were progressing really well. We reached High Moor in about 4 hours.  High Moor was really exposed and we kept moving to keep ourselves warm.

The section of the range known as the Beggary Bumps took a toll on us. I think we got really slow after we went up a wrong crag that saw us ‘cliffed out’ and overlooking a suicidal drop. I was conserving my food intake as I was worried I might need some for Day 4. We changed our plan and decided to hit Haven Lake for the night. Forget about Vesta – we would be too smashed to move at the pace required to attain it. So the 3.8km to Lake Haven took us nearly 6 hours. At the end of Day 2, I was thankful Wilson had been such a solid navigator because there was pretty much no trail to follow. Furthermore, we were using a 1:100000 map with extremely poor visibility through most of the day.

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Exposed tracks and challenging navigation, spot me?

The dinner left me hungry after the hard day’s toil. I forced myself to sleep and recover for Day 3. The sleep was painfully cold, the wind was howling like crazy at the highly-exposed – and ironically named – Haven Lake campsite. I made a mistake by not packing an insulated pair of pants for sleeping. I ended up wrapping my legs with my Icebreaker merino top and really, really looked forward to daybreak. We have left our hiking clothes outside the tent but were mentally too weak to get out to ensure they would not be blown away.

In the morning, Wilson would always be first out of his sleeping bag. He would then open the tent and start boiling water for some hot Milo. The steam and hot drink usually warms me up – or else I do not know whether I would ever be convinced to get out of my sleeping bag. The packing would then begin and the donning of wet clothes would send us jumping around – a scene we got really used to but still make us laugh every single time.

We were progressing faster compared to Day 2. Knowing that we had big mileage to cover in the marshy lowland, we decided to push really hard on the descent. We did really well technically and hit Seven Mile Creek Junction before lunch despite some hiccups locating the track in the thick forest/bush. We decided to hike a little longer before our sumptuous lunch break of cheese and salami.

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Bathurst Habour finally spotted in the distance on Day 2

When we came out of the forest, the Sun reappeared as the clouds parted, and it was the first time we enjoyed a good view of the Arthur Range – standing magnificently on our left. It felt surreal that we were just up there, traversing those crags over the past two days.

The sun dried up most of the trail, but the semi-bogs still made it really hard to travel fast. Despite knowing we were 15km away from base camp, we were not sure if we could make it back before sun set. Not making it back to Scotts Peak Dam would mean another night of reduced rations, so we were quite determined to keep our pace. Indeed we got to Junction Creek in 2.5hr – not too bad given how unconditioned my feet were and that we just did a 24hr rogaine a week ago. I could imagine the hate my feet have towards me.

We were that close to completing the circuit when my right foot started acting up. Perhaps knowing that the hardest part of the hike was over, my Achilles tendon just gave way and every single step brought a stab of pain. The last time this happened was during the Australian 24hr rogaine champs in 2014. I was secretly proud that it only surfaced after a 24hr rogaine and 3 days of treacherous walking conditions this time: good to know my functional training did pay off.

The last 3 hours of the hike was excruciating for me – taking painful steps all the way back to our car. We met the shoe-washing bay that marked the start and end of our hike! It was as anti-climax as an adventure race finish. No cheers, no shower, simply back to pitching our tent for the night. At least we got to start a fire and ate all the rations we had in the car.

We spent the night by the fire, marveling at how we traversed the Western Arthur Range under 60 hours. We now share an experience that lives on in our memories and our story-telling that only we, perhaps selfishly, can fully relate to. We give thanks to the land that has given us such an extraordinary memory to keep.

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We did it under 60 hours! 

Gear List:

> Shoes – Inov-8 Race Ultra
> Gaiter – Inov-8 Ultra
> Socks – Icebreaker Mid Weight hiking socks (Him) and Sealskin Mid Weight (Her)
> Pant – Macpac Nylon Pants (Him)
> Top – Icebreaker 200 and GT150
> Midlayer – Icebreaker Hoodie
> Goretex – Golite Ashdown Goretex Pro-Shell (Him) and Bikegore Active (Her)
> Gloves – Icebreaker Multisports and Montbell Waterproof
> Beanie – Icebreaker
> Pyjamas – Icebreaker 260 Top, Icebreaker 200 Bottom, Icebreaker Recovery Socks and Icebreaker Merino Loft
> Altimeter/Watch – Casio Protrek PRG-250 (primary) and Garmin Fenix 3  (alternate)
> Sleeping Bag – Montbell Down Hugger (Him) and Mont (Her)
> Tent – MSR Nook 2-person tent
> Headlamp – Black Diamond Revolt and Storm
> Stove – MSR Reactor
> Utensil – Snowpeak Titanium Spork, Titanium Cup 300ml & 800ml
> Hydration Bladder – Hydropak 2L & Camelbak 3L
> Food – Backcountry Cuisine and Outdoor Gourmet Company (Highly recommended!!!)
> Compass – Moscow Wrist Compass
> Map – Old River 1:100 000, 1997 edition 5
> Backpack – Macpac AMP40

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Inov-8 Race Ultra was the best gear choice we made

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Specialized Rumor Expert

I finally clocked up a couple of hundred KMs on the Specialized Rumor Expert in local trails and I thought it’s about time I shared my experience with my first 29er.

Standing at 1.58m I was always apprehensive at the thought of riding a 29er, I have the conception that either the frame will not fit my petite/Asian size or that I lacked the power to maneuver a truck-like bicycle in the singletrack.

Alan Soh, Specialized Bicycles

Alan Soh, Specialized Bicycles

So Alan from Specialized Asia Pacific approached me and to be honest, I find it hard to reject his enthusiasm when he goes on raving about the Specialized Rumor Expert. He bought my conviction to try the bike over a cup of coffee even though I was struggling with the thought of ftting myself on the bike still.

When I first met up with the Rumor I was amused with the size of the frame – the reach, the standover were good and suddenly, it didn’t look like I would have any problem riding a 29er. I could not wait for the first ride and dragged Wilson and YK with me to go around Butterfly Trail and BT.

There were two most instantaneous observations I made of the bike. First, it didn’t turn like a truck – in fact it was as nimble as any 26er I have ridden. Contrary to popular belief, the bike corners pretty well and tight switchbacks weren’t a big issue.

Second, the bike descends buttery-smooth on quite rough trail features. It was extremely stable and gave additional confidence to let go of the brakes. I often took a B line descent which is also longer at a Y-junction in BT. Wilson, on the other hand, usually goes for a shorter A line – he always ends up seconds ahead of me at the exit. being on the Rumor the other day, I came to the exit just a second ahead of him – I guess that is the best testimony on how much the Rumor encourages one to go faster on descent. i guess this is the reason why so many people hop onto the 29er bus wagon and never look back.

Rumor comes in manageable frame size and gives you the additional confidence in the trails.

Rumor comes in manageable frame size and gives you the additional confidence in the trails.

I also did a recent ride at Ubin’s Ketam trail. The start of Ketam is pretty challenging as the trail consists of many short but steep ascents where I usually struggled through. The Rumor did an amazing job through these steep climbs; I literally roll over everything and saved me much energy from steering the handlebar to clear the climb.

Personally I would not encourage beginners to get a full-suspension 29er, as learning with a smaller wheel encourages the rider to pick up control better. However, this bike is the go-to tool for riders who are looking past their hardtails or small wheels, and are seeking something to spice up the rides. The Specialized Rumor Expert will give you an entire different experience and confidence. While it is still rare for most short women to chance upon a well-fitting 29er, the Rumor has one of the best reach I have ever seen, giving the rider good control and mobility on the bike, yet delivering that characteristic 29er stability in rough terrain.

A bumper at the downtube protects the frame from the handlebar.

Another plus of the Rumor is that it comes with a dropper post! It’s a step closer to doing more technical stuff without the saddle getting in the way of your bum! I do not see the need of the dropper post in Singapore terrain but am really looking forward to the Rumor’s first overseas ride, bombing down some sweet descents.

Dropper post’s remote is integrated with the Specialized Women’s Enduro lock on grips. The dropper post comes in three positions.

For riders whose Rumor is their first full-susser, another awesome feature is that the rear suspension OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcomes with the Auto-sag function. Personally I like to not mess with bike settings too much because I prefer spending more time on those fun rides. So the Auto-sag saves the problem trying to recall what pressure you need to set your rear suspension in. This function allows you to just sit on the bike and get the correct air pressure set within seconds.

I do not believe in a perfect bike, and so it is with the Rumor is that it comes with formula brakes.I am an adventure racer and last thing I want is dodgy parts asking for unnecessary attention.The brakes didn’t work as consistently as I would have liked. I thought it would be a good idea to change the brakes to something more familiar if one desires fuss-free riding.

I suspect the Formula brake issues comes mainly from the rotor.

I suspect the Formula brake issue comes mainly from the rotor.

I really enjoy all the rides with the Rumor and am happy to loan the bike to anybody who is keen to give it a try too!

Inov-8 Race Ultra 270

Edited by Wilson Low

One of the racing tips I always come across said that we should avoid shoesusing new kit during a race. I threw this rule out of my closet a long time ago. My belief was that long as I understood the product and what my body can adapt to, it will be just fine – and it has worked for me all these years. I was introduced to Inov-8 about 3 years ago. The first pair I owned was a Roclite 268. The shoes fit me perfectly – wrapping the top of my feet, leaving a roomy toe box! it was much lower in profile to other shoes, and I was hooked to the liberating feeling while running. Friends around me started educating me on shoe construction and especially the Inov-8 concept. It further boosted my confidence that it would be alright to use new kit during a race just because I know what my feet love! The moment I put on the latest 2015 model Race Ultra 270, I knew this pair would have many races ahead with me.

Between the Roclite 268 and Race Ultra 270, I’ve owned and tried the Terroc 308, Roclite 315 and Trailroc 248. I love them all, but each have their pros and cons. The Roclite 268 fit is very snug – the shoes fly with you as you run. The downside was that the sole runs towards the softer end of things: you can feel every single rock (and sand grain) under your feet – it could be tiring to do long distance events in them. The Terroc 308 on the other hand is much stiffer and offers better protection which, i used for some 24hr races. However, the sole is less grippy and versatile as compared to the Roclite series. The Trailroc solves both these problems from the Roclite and Terroc. I was extremely pleased with Inov8 for addressing the real issues runners faced. However, the Trailroc fit posed a problem to me – it is of a straighter cut, which I assumed might lead to Asians’ wider feet feeling funny inside the shoes. Therefore, the idea of the Race Ultra totally blew me away as it offers the ultimate combo of protection, grip and fit .

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My first run with the Race Ultra was in town in rainy weather. I am not going to hide the fact that the soles slip on those wet, smooth tiles. Honestly, I haven’t owned a pair of trail shoes that do not slip on wet, smooth surfaces – so that didn’t concern me much. Despite using much concentration to prevent skidding, i noticed how comfortably they ran under my feet. i would be doing a 97 km-long non-navigational adventure race in Rembau the week I received the shoes. I decided on the new Race Ultra 270 for the race, and due to some hiccup on my cycling shoes, I ended up using them for the long cycling segments as well. The race began with a short and fast road ride before we climbed vertically up a ‘gunung’ which was rocky and technical. The shoes held on to the rock surfaces really well and never once did I slip. The grip on my platform pedals were amazing too. I was pretty worried about being on platform after such a long hiatus, but the shoes definitely helped a great deal. The shoes did its magic again at an off-road duathlon a week later at Muar.

me in inov-8

Race Ultra 270 finished 2014 Muar Strongman Challenge 14th Overall and 1st Female. Photo Credit – Run & Explore

The Race Ultra 270s boast a 4mm drop (forefoot of 10mm and heel of 14mm). i understand most people are still using shoes with a high heel-to-toe drop. I started with 8mm drop and decreased them slowly and it does require a lot of short road runs to become accustomed. The benefit is definitely knowing that I am protecting my knees with better running form and also utilizing my calf muscles better. I use a 0mm drop for road shoes and really love how my feet are working to run and not relying on the shoes to support any poor running form. I was once informed by a physio that the lower the drop the less we promote bad running habits that can lead to injury. I suggest working on the root cause when experiencing discomfort in running instead of relying on equipment to alleviate the pain. For those already used to a low drop: they should love the Race Ultras even more.

The shoe has an improved third-generation version of the ‘Meta Shank’ creates a propelling effect for mid- to fore-foot running form. It uses Tri-c compound (the same on the Trailroc series) that offers good protection and durability. It also comes with attachment points for a clip-on gaiter, thus avoiding the fuss of bulky and loose traditional gaiters. Okay, so locally we do not usually require gaiters, but we have seen increasing numbers of runners going overseas for their runs and we know how nasty some plants are. A pair of gaiters will prevent unwanted stuff inside the shoes, especially on a long run. The gaiters made by Inov-8 are reputed to offer sufficient protection and are extremely lightweight. I have yet to try a pair, but am hoping that I can soon for my next overseas trail run.

Key Power International is the official Inov-8 distributor in Singapore. I believe the stocks will be in the shop soon – so do check them out for another great year on the trails!

Skirts on Trail

so i once thought  writing about bicycles as a career but it never materialize – which in a way i am grateful because my current job gives me 99.9 % fulfillment. so i submitted the article below in 2012 after the interview but they never got back. the matter still concern me mainly for two reasons:

1. i hardly have friends my age (let alone female) riding with me and some days i really dread riding with experienced riders. i do not believe that i have to clear all the features (although it does make me really happy) but sometimes i just want to roll around and be stupid. besides the sport is so awesome i just want to share!

2. i still feel that men like to be the ‘father’ of the sport. i really appreciate the stuff i learnt from them but some can be forceful to impose their ideas on new (or female) riders. my boyfriend made similar mistakes too – he enjoyed helping me on bike related matter but neglecting that i could learn and do it myself eventually.

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Photo Credit – SingaporeMTB.com

When mountain biking gained traction two decades back, the number of female riders was only a handful. Fast forward to the 21st century, female mountain bikers are still uncommon. On the other hand, road biking and even the commuter community are seeing so many more females such that skirts on bikes is no longer a rare sight. Research done by the Outdoor Industry Association shows that while road biking is mostly gender balanced; mountain biking remains largely participated by males. So, where are the ladies in the trails?

Female mountain bikers may be a small community but not without their prominence. As the mountain biking scene awed at the World 24 hour solo mountain bike champion Jason English’s endurance and speed, there are female equivalents – Jessica Douglas and Rebecca Rusch who clinched the same title just as effortlessly. These women riders act as an inspiration for fellow ladies to overcome the common fear and resistance towards this sport. Asia, being often impeded by its traditions and culture, is definitely still a long way behind Australia, Europe and the States in attracting female mountain bikers. However, we have from our own backyard Risa Suseanty – gold medalist in South-East Asian downhill categories who finished top twenty in Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) World Cup 2009. Risa has displayed resilience and strength and proven that mountain biking can simply be done.

In September 2010, International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and Sacred Rides Mountain Bike Adventures sponsored a survey on women and mountain biking. When asked what is the main factor that holds them back from going on a mountain bike, more than sixty percent of women responded that mountain biking is viewed as being too hard core. This is a major misconception as mountain biking, like any other sport, requires techniques. Once having understood and acquired the appropriate skills, anybody is able to maneuver their bikes freely. Being well-prepared also helps keep injuries to a minimum.

There is also an inherent perception that mountain biking is masculine. Mountain biking is indeed male dominated but has no basis why women should not get muddy in the trails.  The same survey also concluded that nearly fifty percent of female mountain bikers were introduced or encouraged to this sport by their partners. Therefore, male mountain bikers have kept an open-mind and been receptive to female riders. “In most places around the world where we ride, we’re used to seeing a lot of guys on the trail,” states Mike Brcic, founder and president of Sacred Rides, “and we’d like to see more women”. The initiative to get more women riding is commendable but should not be another avenue for men to condescend women.  New female riders should not be embarrassed about falling behind the group or voicing their opinions. For besides speed and adrenaline, mountain biking is also an avenue of friendship and bonding. 

While it remains true that women need to step up to overcome the hurdle, manufacturers and the media could also help in softening the image of mountain biking. Hitting the trails does not necessarily mean you have to become the next big star such as Jess or Risa. If there is an average Joe riding, there can be the average Josephine riding for leisure as well. Going forward, there should be more products targeting the non-competitive and female recreational riders. That being said, going pink to say ‘we understand you’ is outdated. Color choices can be alluring but the key focus should be creating comfortable products to entice the ladies. Women are calling for increased customization, better fit, and lower prices—and of the media, they are asking for ordinary women to be featured as sports leaders and role models.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘a woman is like a tea bag that you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water’. It is about time for women to get on mountain bikes and to ride on to amazing places they’d never once imagined they’d be.

I never stop racing but I raced like shit, really.

a career change with in-camp training has kept me away from the AR team for too long! the in-camp training has taken a toll in my ‘out-camp’ training. i came to the conclusion that i cant excel in both. what i’m used to is long cardio endurance stuff and in-camp training was none of that. my heat tolerance is at its highest level i can ever imagine and i believe i do move faster in short intervals now. good thing is i never lose any cycling power but i lose the capability to cycle for long – i no longer can go on at the intensity i’m used to for even an hour. well i did not specifically timed myself but the physical exertion i feel is really different from the past.

i nv stop racing but i raced like shit, really.

the first race i did was a team enduro at Singapore MTB Carnival 2013 held in Asrama. it was one month into the in-camp training and i was still feeling alright just lacking the time to train for it. thankfully, BK and i got a sponsor from Sports+Travel Magazine to participate in this race. we came in behind Ken and Laura team who are like the MTB guru around in Singapore. we were minutes away from each other, but given their age (=/) they deserve the win in every way.

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the following month, i did Ace Adventure Challenge with Ting and Kee Leng. we did came in with good results but its been a long while since i have to be dragged by teammates, and never once were females. i was completely smashed on the bike and Ting had to take my hydration pack. in-camp training has started its effect on me!

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and then its Safra Avventura in Jan 2014 which Luke and Kee Leng came in ahead of Chris and I! i must admit i did feel like a stronger runner given the few killer trainings with Chris plus that i’m wearing boots everyday but doesnt mean we were fast. but this new strongness did make me really happy because i believe i can handle those climbs in AR better than last year.

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and i bumped around with a few jamboress here and there whenever possible. i can’t go overseas and the only plan for 2014 is not doing any of the local AR due to work schedule and also that school races are not exactly in line with my objective in AR – will be cool to see young people to go for it and getting those awesome prizes they always have!

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Sports+Travel Magazine has been really kind and will be sponsoring Wilson to Nepal for a staged MTB race with only 30 participants, how fortunate!! and because of that i will be taking over Wilson’s xterra putrajaya slot and I HAVE TO START SWIMMING SERIOUSLY. the last time i did that was in primary school whn i religiously went for swim class every weekend! its really the kind of race i do not enjoy – short+fast+individual=painful! it will be my first triathlon and also an off-road one, guess thats the main draw for me!

still contemplating about a possible 24hr-48hr AR this year, or maybe a rogaine if it has to be. otherwise i might have to try the asean mtb cup (xc) which are held at really awesome locations but i really dread training for such high intensity stuff. my holiday at nz is the way i like to train instead – a mountain marathon with epic mtb stages day aft day! will be finalizing the nz video by next week, and hopefully a AR i can confirm and be racing soon!

Controversial Win

*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.

race poster

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. briefing
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.

langkawi course
Race Course – 40+km Kayak, 20+km Orienteering, 80+km Biking, 20km Trekking, 18km Skating/5+km Trekking & Abseiling

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.

kayka launch

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Most racers lacked the skills which caused a chaotic start is a big compromise to safety

kayak launch 2
Beginner racers have to push the boat through the waves

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.

orienteering
We ran the orienteering course together

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.

map
The map for the whole race, the middle MTB section was given another close-up map with just some dotted lines and landmarks, no other junctions indicated.

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.

finish
Finish

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.

Not my Day or Not my Race?

This comes as illogical but I do believe (now) that some races are not meant for you. For me, it happens to be a really simple night Jamboree held in Ulu Tiram. I attempted it last year and ended up with a broken tooth. However, it was also my second night ride and 4 months into mountain biking so it was likely my incompetency that costs my front tooth.

To briefly recap what happened last year…
I was told at the last checkpoint that I am just behind the first lady rider. Gungho me got switched on and pedal damned hard. I really did manage to catch up with her and overtook her with an arrogant face. Arrogance doesn’t work this way – my helmet lights battery went low and the light dimmed down just when I was approaching a loose rocks section. The front wheel hit a big rock and steered towards the left and the gunghoness disappeared, I probably pressed the brake and wahlaa.. I landed on those rocks. She took the chance to overtake me while Wilson was looking for my tooth (yes, I know right -.-) and I looking left and right, not too sure how to react then. Teck wee then gathered us the two lost souls to stop my bleeding instead. Eventually I decided that we have to finish the race afterall. The two of them were worried sick and checking and re-checking whether I am sure of doing that. I guess we all realized that is the best decision – ride back to finish where there will be proper first aid. Nothing serious just a broken tooth and a second placing in that night jamboree.

fall

When I know the night jamboree is on this year again, I was determined to win it. I always aim to do my best for all the races and winning has been a bonus. I am happy to embrace second, third or no placing because of all the problems in each races. This jamboree has no excuse for the sake of my tooth – I want to win it badly, even knowing that jamboree won’t have much competition in women’s category.

We set off from Singapore at 1630, knowing well there will be a massive jam due to school holidays, little did we know it will take a whole three hours! With the atlas that got us lost in KL once, we made a wrong turn again and wasted even more time getting to the race start. Upon reaching Ulu Tiram we were unable to find the race start. We then saw a marshal on motorbike and asked him ‘mountain bike race’? He directed us to a small road as he nods his head with big smile. As we drove in, the road became a trail with massive potholes everywhere, that is when I say ‘wow this looks more like the race route for the bike’ (which turns up to be true later!!). After all the hoohah blah blah, we started the race probably 15minutes later without proper dinner.

It was disappointing that Wilson was not able to aim for the podium and so he accompanied me throughout the race. It comes as a blessing for me somehow, else I will be riding most sections by myself in the dark. redeyeWe were overtaking riders but there are sparse through the course so I was unable to tell how I was doing in the race. I kept telling myself I just have to keep riding and probably I will see the leading lady again. I didn’t and was told at the finish I am second. I was disappointed but results aside, I didn’t have broken tooth this year. Not too sure getting conjunctivitis is good news in any ways but I did end up with red eyes for the last couple of days!!!!! Must be the mud or dirtwater that flew into my eyes during the race. To wrap up the epicness, Hairul, Sam and Bk all have some technical malfunctions that ended their rides earlier too.

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I will return next year, to see whether it is ‘third time lucky’ or ‘bad things come in threes’.