Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Langkawi 24 Hours Ironbound Challenge Race Report (Highlights)

I had good and bad first impression of this race. Initially, I rejected the offer to team up with Team Navy after knowing that I need to invest so much on race gears. Then I was told that Hong Kong team needs team mates, they will sponsor my registration fees, so I agreed. I bought my inline skates, compass, headlamp and so on. ONE DAY before we leave Lumut, they told me Hong Kong Team don't need me anymore. I was fine with that, I went to Langkawi with all my race gears anyway. Bumped into Lt Nik Suharto, he undergone minor operation last week so he came to race with 3 laparoscropy incisions on his abdomen. So he asked me to replace him, I agreed. At the same night, Hong Kong Team needed team mate AGAIN! Within that hour also, one of our Navy team couldn't compete due to injury he had before the race. Lt Nik made a clear decision asking me to race for the Navy, we need to win this race.

The race gears inspection and skill check.
Race briefing was conducted mostly in Bahasa Malaysia, and the emcee was trying to translate while the technical crew explaining about the rules and race course. I personally feel that English proficiency is very important when conducting international level adventure racing. Singaporeans were the earliest to go for skills and gear check, but there was no clear instruction which station to go first. So all the effort to carry their race gears to the hotel lobby was a waste, only MTB and harness were inspected. I asked the crew about transition area for MTB, before I could finish my sentence, I was slashed with "UP TO U". I asked another question and got another "UP TO U". Then I got fed up.

 Flag Off
If I'm not mistaken, 30 teams registered to race. I have to respect the organizer for their guts to face the challenge of organizing this 24 hour adventure racing, I believe the preparation they have done took huge effort. There are still rooms for improvement if the organizers take the constructive criticism from racers positively. Or else, this very special event will only end up like the Langkawi Ironman.

This is how it looked like during the kayaking section, everybody was yelling and screaming as if we were at war! Haha. Capsized no less than 10 times before I managed to leave the shore! In my whole life, the longest kayaking race I have done was during Perhentian Island Challenge, that also less than 20km. As for this race, I took more than 9 hours sitting in the cockpit pedaling over 60km to cover the whole kayaking course! We passed by Pulau Tuba, Pulau Dayang Bunting, Pulau Singa Besar and so on. For the record, my ass is still hurt after 2 days. The UDAK hydration pack I carried is the lightest available in the market, imagine it weighs no less than 4kg after I fit in all my endurance nutrition and rain jacket. 

every single checkpoints offer different kind of challenge. For example, we were made to row until the end of the bridge and start doing some simple calculation of the numbers hanged on the pillars. Imagine if u calculated wrongly, row back and calculate again. We did caving too! It was my first time trekking inside a cave with waist deep water level. My team and I had about 40mins margin with the  Hong Kong team behind us, so I thought we could gain some time at the checkpoint which required us to break coconut since my team mate Khohar is an expert in breaking coconuts! =p 

I suck in rowing, and I never liked long distance rowing. My shoulders ached like hell, thighs and hands started cramping. I appreciate the magical beauty of all the small islands, and also the beautiful corals under the crystal clear water. Flying fishes kept us accompanied along the way =) Sitting inside the super narrow cockpit, the only thing I could do was to refuel and pump in some electrolytes to ease my cramp. Long hours of racing is not only mental demanding, racers must refuel smartly. I want to thank Hammer Nutrition for providing me with Perpetuem Solid, a super compact form of fuel, very convenient for me to carry. I carried one tube of Perpetuem Solid with me, should have carried more for this long event. From time to time, I'll take bites of Hammer Bar and drink it with plain water from my bladder.

Then we did orienteering at Pulau Tuba, it was late at night when we reached the island.
Most of the teams sent their fastest runner to score all the check points. I went with Khohar while Nizam and Alif reserve their energy for the next discipline. From checkpoint 5 onwards, I was running alone. There's a house near CP6, I saw a lot of people inside without knowing what they were doing. I just asked for direction then I walked off. After the race, I found out that they were reciting Yassin for someone who just passed away, the dead body was in the house I went! Luckily i didn't wear spectacles to see everything clearly. Pulau Tuba is a very quiet village, lots of cows and old houses there. The roads are very dark and narrow. Youngsters left the village, so most of the people I bumped into are old folks. Running is my strength, I managed to overtake 4 teams before we proceeded for the very last kayaking section to Pekan Kuah. Some people claimed that they saw ghost on the island, I was too exhausted to react even if I saw any. We were supposed to punch all the boxes on the paper at every checkpoints, but we were provided with A4 paper which smear and wet every time we take it out of the plastic case! sigh.

 Just to share with the readers some story I heard. True or not, up to u. =)
Another team went orienteering after we finished. The team mates went to score all CPs leaving one guy behind resting by the road side. He dozed off. The team mates came back and saw Nenek Kebayan watching him sleeping, that incident nearly shocked them to death. They proceeded to the next discipline anyway, without telling him what actually happened. Many wooden houses left unoccupied, probably after the death of the old owners nobody wants to stay in those houses.

Race Course
Around 12am midnight, we reached Pekan Kuah. Organizer made a mandatory rest period of minimum one hour. We made good use of the time to get our gears ready for Mountain Biking and stock up our hydration pack. Our Navy supporters were super helpful, they got all the equipments and food prepared before our arrival. They waited until every single member of our team arrived! My body was feeling weak, started to shiver. I rode my bike with my rain coat on, hoping to block some cold wind and keep my body warm. We rode at race pace in a team time trial formation! For biking is our team's strength, we pushed hard hoping to beat a few more teams at Gunung Raya. We dropped our bike at the bottom of Gunung Raya, then hiked up the hill for 14km before coming down via the 3000 steps of Tangga Seribu Kenangan. We were groggy at this point, I was afraid of losing focus and fall while running down. Anyway, we went down the stairs blazing fast, managed to smoke 3 teams! 

Now the sun has risen, we have been out on the course for over 16 hours! The mountain biking section was a nightmare. Super steep incline was not rideable at all. I rode with my 2ndSkin team mate Eugene's Boardman MTB, was my first time racing with MTB so I wore Skechers GOtrail instead of cycling shoes. Out of the trail, we rushed to Telaga Tujuh, then the marshal stopped us telling us that we went the wrong way. There's a race banner hanged at the MTB section which misled us into the rubber estate. We called the organizer and they came telling us that's not part of the course! My question now, who go and hang the banner and draw green arrow on the road ? we stuck there for 4 hours, it drained our motivation and spirit very badly. All the 4 of us knew it well that now we will never make it to the cut off time. I totally understand that navigation is one of the element tested in this event, but I feel that it is organizer's responsibility to provide racers with a clear map, not a map with a single route to the next CP. The Hong Kong team came telling me they had a tough time understanding the poorly printed map. I stopped my Garmin 910xt when I knew that I will not make it to the cut off. At that point, I have covered 144km of the majestic island of Langkawi.

 we have covered the almost the whole island! Future racers, use this data for your race prep! =)

Finally, majority of the racers DNF this race. At the Inline Skating Section, Dino was knocked down by a Taxi, nearly banged by another lorry too! Losing people like Dino in this sport would have been a great lost to the country! Anyway, the winners were judged based on the most checkpoints we scored. My team got 5th placing, came home with USD 1000 =D

Blaming everyone will do us no good, why not organizer and racers conduct a post moterm forum to discuss all the weaknesses, lets improve together. there's so much of potential to develop this event, I look forward to join this race again next year =) As for now, I have redefined my new limit!

*pictures courtesy Langkawi Ironbound Organizer


abdooss said...

Wow! Congrats Lt Chan!

I've read a short story of a man chased for 24 hours by a robot from the another planet, intent on collecting species on an island. He went thru' similar tasks (but no chance to sleep). By the end of it, (the robot was summoned to its mother ship) that man lost more than 10kgs of his body weight!

I hope u didn't lose too much! :)

K3vski said...

Sounds like a epic event that really takes you out of the comfort zone and tests your limits! Well done! I'll stick to Ironman hehe.

Dino said...

Congrats chan!good report.From our teams view if theres a next ironbound bring more support crew to ensure the safety of the racers(dont risk your life on their stupid marshal),escort them along where race course is too dangerous too be raced. We have done the post mortem for them. We have wrote in official letter to the organizer, sponsor and kementerian. Until to date no respond from the organiser(siap la kau si gendut botak!).When we complained,contested, need clarification right after the closing ceremony been heard they said jangan layan budak2 ni.When we passed the official letter the next day they said sorry la bang.Sorry is not good enough,fix it! Use your brain not your gendut tummy!We respect their effort for this international event but they never act professionally.

Chan Jun Shen said...

abdooss, I didn't weigh myself after the race =p haha. this race is unlike ironman, got medical check up after race.

kevin, somehow got distracted by this adventure racing thing =p kinda interesting though.

dino, this event can only be improved if all of us work together. tapi ni bila kita nak voice out our thoughts, diorang pulak tak nak dengar. susah la macam ni, bila diorang nak maju kalau asyik perasan bagus...

TriStupe said...

More reason to skip these type or race organisers in the future, no matter how attractice the race will be.

Arrogant organisers should be boycotted.