adventure trail challenge 2015

I joined the adventure trail challenge with Toni last Sunday. It was my first adventure race involving a combination of running on almost invisible forest trails covered with dense roots, across muddy water and on sun scorching flatland, paddling on a big reservoir, cycling on a biking trail and climbing / abseiling. We started preparing ourselves for this race in April and tried very hard to wake up early twice a week to complete some freeletics trainings, some of which lasted barely 6 minutes… Sometimes we also ran around NTU track before dinner time to improve our endurance and savor the nice noodles at canteen 9. Even though our trainings were brief and simple, they turned out to be quite effective because we were the second fastest team (but only third officially based on total timing because of the 10-minute time penalty for not being able to solve a jigsaw puzzle quiz) across all the categories regardless of gender and age. Of course it had to be attributed to Toni’s superpower that literally pushed me throughout the race:)

So on Sunday, we woke up once the alarm started ringing (always happened when we had important tasks to do rather than work), and stuffed ourselves with oats and bananas. On the previous day we hiked in Bishan park for a while after meeting three of my friends and ate so much that Toni’s stomach actually became a bit round in spite of its usual flatness. I enjoyed the eating session infinitely because that was the only time I could eat without constraint and with justification and without guilt in front of Toni.

After we arrived at the starting point, we noticed that everyone was dressed up professionally with compression pants and carried running backpacks with water tubes, whereas we only had four chocolate bars which were already melting and carried a shabby NUS polyester string bag which no one really used after they got them the first time from some free event. The zip actually opened while we were running and all our stuff dropped out, including my phone, our money and the chocolate bars.

The race started at another location rather than the gathering point, which was really a smart idea because no one could have known the exact route we were supposed to run. In the beginning, we followed another mixed team, but overtook them when we reached a flight of stairs at the overhead bridge. I thought this was quite smart as well because it made running across the city a bit more strenuous, even though I almost swore when after a few hundred meters, we had to run across another overhead bridge to be on the same side of the road again.

It was not long before we had to cross a mud pond which reached the height of my butt, and we played some orienteering game on a patch of grass where Toni was supposed to give me directions on the location of the letters based on a “letter map” so that we could form a word from the letters. I had to scream at Toni and flash my teeth at him because I couldn’t find the elusive letters at all with the directions he gave to me. For example he would stare at the map and point his finger to some directions when my BACK was facing him, or simply say that he didn’t know and I had to look harder (well I couldn’t really blame him for this because the “letter map” was just a few dots in a square). In the end he even ignored me and chatted with the station master. He explained that he was trying to tell the station master that his English was too poor to solve the puzzle… It took us quite a while, with the help of the sympathetic station master, to figure out that the letters we discovered on the ground came up to be “outdoor”. This reminded of me about how lousy we were at games. Back at my colleague’s house, unless if it was some luck game, Toni and me would almost always end up as the last and the second last players~~

Throughout the race we played three other games with equally bad techniques. At one of the stations we were supposed to walk with two wooden planks to pick up four coke cans, pile them up and use some rubber band to pour water into the topmost coke can, but ended up theorizing too much on force and friction and spilling water everywhere. At another station we had to throw a car tire from one point to another, but Toni rolled the tire over with lightening speed and had to be called back to complete the task again. The worst was of course the last station, because we were totally flustered by the jigsaw puzzle. “Can we give up?” was the first words uttered by Toni when he saw the jigsaw puzzle piles. I stared at him incredulously and emphasized to him that we had to complete the task because we didn’t want to get any penalty. It took me two minutes of frenzy to realize that I had made completing the puzzle far more difficult than the beginning when we first saw it… Unfortunately we were told that we could only check out the station after five minutes, and we would get ten minutes’ penalty:( I worked really hard in the remaining three minutes, while Toni just relaxed because he said he didn’t want to make it look worse.

Nevertheless, we compensated our poor gaming skills with some real physical power at the kayak station. Even though Toni said I should have stopped paddling because I was paddling slower than the movement of the kayak and creating some additional frictional forces, I still thought my professionalism (splashing water every time the paddle sliced through the water, rhythmically moving my body back and forth and smiling apolegetically to every kayak that we overtook) created some intimidating effect on our competitors…

I never really cycled on a biking trail, so when we ventured off into the dense and trecherous Bukit Timah jungle I was really thankful that I didn’t wear my glasses. I wouldn’t have cycled down a steep trail with stone stairs if I had worn my glasses. I couldn’t really see the stairs until the bike was already hanging in the mid air and all I could do was to grab the handle as tightly as possible and suppress a strong desire to close my eyes. After a few uphills and downhills, I was attacked by a strange sensation as my muscles started jumping and pulling from all directions as if they wanted to dig a hole out of my calves. I moaned loudly and told Toni that I had very bad cramps which I never experienced before even during two previous marathons, but he only said,”Yes, let me adjust the seat of your bicycle.” He then lifted the seat of my bicycle so that I could stretch my legs on the bicycle. That of course was too late and didn’t help much, and now as I think back on what happened after I lost my motor control, the memory was permanently scarred by a strong emotion of pain.


Figure 1: since the racers left in waves, we were the first to finish the race:D


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