Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sabah Adventure Challenge

Last weekend, I took part in the Sabah Adventure Challenge (SAC).

What is the SAC?
"Sabah Adventure Challenge is South East Asia’s premier multi-day adventure race, founded in 1998 by an experienced team of adventure racing competitors in the heart of North Borneo.

Teams are required to be self-sufficient and to compete by navigating with map and compass from check point to check point, as well as taking on the challenge of the natural jungle landscape and surrounding mountain ranges that dominate the West Coast of Sabah.

Competitors leave Sabah with experiences to talk about for years and memories of a challenge to last a life time having completed an adventure race covering 150 kilometers over three days."


I covered a distance of 130++km in 27++ hrs, during the 3-day period.

I'd like to share with you, my toughest ever race.. see it through the eyes of those who took part.. most of the pics were 'taken' from uploads by participants and officials via FB and other blogs.

As usual, Stupe (Ee-Van) was my partner in crime, and we were registered as TEAM ALPHA BRAVO, under the Adventure Race-Dual Catagory.

Under the Old Putera and Kawan-OP banner, there was also OP Jamaludin Ahmad (87-91 B) and his Air Asia teammate @ Zul, OP Doc Hisyam (87-91 A) who was doing the Solo Adventure Race and Julie who was doing the Ultra Trail Run.

The race was to be held in the district of Tambunan, a small village in the heart of a valley, about a 2hrs drive from KK. We arrived at Tambunan at about 5pm.

(view of Tambunan Valley)

Finally.. Tambunan Valley

All excited..

Carrying some of the load

Room for Alpha Bravo during the SAC

DAY1's Race Briefing by Claus Pedersen, Race Director

Race Instructions and Map for DAY1..

The evening ended with both Race Directors (Aman & Claus) giving us the logistics and race layout. We then headed back to our rooms, discussed on the navigation, routes, what to bring.. we made final preparations and it was lights off at 23hrs..

We woke up at about 0530hrs on DAY1. Did last minute preparations, went to the starting line..

DAY1 of SAC started at 0700hrs with the Trail Run Section. From START to CP4a, was in total, about 30++km.

Between CP2 to CP3, I bonked! Heart rate erratic! There were a few possible reasons; heat/lack of rest/not enough food.. but bottom line, I was unfit.. my 2 main concerns were my ability to carry on, and Stupe's ability to finish the race on time if he was to babysit me.

At CP3, we requested to the Marshal, that I QUIT THE RACE, and Stupe was to continue SOLO. Stupe made his way to CP4 alone, while I rested.

After about 30 minutes of resting, a group of senior runners from the Ultra catagory arrived at CP3. And it started to rain. And suddenly, I was energized!

I put my gear on, told the medical staff that I was OK and sought permission from the officials to CONTINUE AS A SOLO PARTICIPANT.

I had major one problem.. the team's race instructions and map was with Stupe. My only option was to run with the this group of Ultra runners.

About 15 minutes after leaving CP3, with the rain energizing me, I felt the need to leave the Ultras. So, I borrowed their map, continuously explained to them the navigation needed to get to CP4. As I explained the route to them, I was actually memorizing the route to CP4. With that confidence, and the fact that the tracks of the runners before me became more visible because of the wet ground, I bid them farewell, and made my way to CP4 alone!

I lost the heel of my shoe somewhere on my route to CP4, and all the way to CP4a, I ran/walked using mid foot strike..
Nike Pegasus Trail couldn't withstand the SAC trails...

It took me about 1.5hrs to reach CP4a. It was about 8.5km from CP4.

At CP4a, I was to continue on mountainbike to CP5 & CP6. Again, I had no map! Luckily, I was the last cyclist to leave CP4a, so the Marshal was able to give me his map! But then again, the map he had was for the Ultras. The map shows the route all way to CP6, but ONLY shows 1km of the route to CP5 (you see, the Ultras final destination for DAY1 was up to CP4a). Buggered!

I took the map anyway, tried to follow the route to CP5 as much as I could, but then decided to turn back, and just head for CP6.. The route to CP5 was just too muddy. Doc Hisyam who managed to go all the way to CP5 (it took him over 1hr to go up 3km). He gave the following pics to share the CP5 ordeal:

I cycled to CP6, where I missed the cut-off time to do the tubing section by 15 minutes. I arrived at 1745hrs. I was told that Stupe arrived at 1600hrs, and managed to do the tubing section. Well done Bro!

Base on the FB uploads, here's what I missed out with regards to tubing:

In short, even if I made it on time, I doubt if I actually had the balls to complete this section. So, DAY1 was completed in 10hrs45mins!
Me, at the end of DAY1

My feet, at the end of DAY1

Again, we all went for race briefing for DAY2 at 2000hrs, after which we headed back to our rooms and prepared for the next day.

If 75% of DAY1 was trail running, then 75% of DAY2 was mountainbiking! Doesn't that sound nice!

But again, this IS the SAC, so I hope that the pics below (Start to CP1 to CP3) illustrate the term 'mountainbiking' in the SAC's vocabulary:

Look downLook up!Look down again! Up to 'Hamburger Hill' to CP1!

And ofcourse, after some uphills, there's some sweet downhills, right? For the SAC, it DOWNstream! hahaha
The guy sitting on the rock is Aman Avtar, also the Race Director. Talk about being hands on!It took us 1.5hrs to push our bikes uphill to CP3! It was scorching hot.. check out our shadows
Again, I bonked at CP3, and Stupe, again, continued SOLO. After about 45 minutes of resting at CP3, Zul (Budin's AirAsia's teammate) arrived at CP3. He was also flying SOLO.

After my rest, I was energized again, and decided to team up with Zul to finish the next section, a trail run of 12km which loops a few small hills. The loop will take us back to CP3, which by then is called CP4. It took us 4 hours to complete the loop! There was even a sweeper sent by the Race Director to make sure none of us fainted.. CP3 to CP4 was HELL!

I was literally in the same position as this guy..(5 times!)

When we arrived at CP4, we got back on our bikes and headed down the same trail (back to CP2, which is now called CP5).

Upon arriving at CP5, we were told that we were not allowed to continue because it was dark and too slippery to go up 'Hamburger Hill'. Apparently, Stupe who already spent 2 hours (covered 75% of Hamburger Hill) was also told to u-turn to CP5 for safety reasons. And that was when I re-united with Stupe.

It was about 1745hrs.. the Race Director gave us an 'alternative route' which was safer, but longer! We spent 2.5hrs to complete the 'alternative route', of which 1.5hrs was spent riding in pitch darkness. Stupe brought an ultra high beam torchlight.. that saved the day(or night, whatever..).

Gelap tak?

Team Alpha Bravo finished DAY2 at 2015hrs, that's over 13hrs!

We arrived during dinner time, to the applause of the other participants! Thanks guys.. your applause was as nourishing as the food served..
There was no race briefing for DAY3, as DAY3's race briefing will be done tomorrow before the race..

DAY3 commenced at 0800hrs with the race briefing by Claus. We have basically 4 hours to complete a trail run, then get on our bikes for orienteering.

We(Stupe, Doc, Budin, Zul and Myself) decided to run together today, we took it easy.. even on the orienteering section, we only found 3 of the required 12 markers..

Sample of the "marker" for the orienteering section.

So, the conclusion? Well, SAC was an EPIC ENDURANCE RACE for a guy like me... (Perhaps for the sponsored professionals or hardcores, it was a walk in the park..)..

But as much as I bonked out, got sun burnt, have blisters where the sun don't shine and suffer from aches/pains all over... SAC was simply AWESOME! And the organizers delivered their pledge on their website "Competitors leave Sabah with experiences to talk about for years and memories of a challenge to last a life time having completed an adventure race covering 150 kilometers over three days"

On that note, to Aman, Claus, Rudy, Dr Dev & Pam, Leslie, Rabani, Dr Rani.. the whole SAC gang (and Matanoi!!!)... you guys are awesome. It was indeed an experience of a life time! Despite being UNOFFICIAL FINISHERS, it was a superb race...


Thank you..

The last 2 pics, captured by Doc Hisyam, sumarizes the SAC..

We came, we bit more then we could chew,
We suffered trying to finish it..
But the satisfaction of completing it, was awesome! (even though we had a bit of leftovers on the plates)

See you in 2012!!

(Pic credits to Rabani, Dr Dev, Dr Hisyam, Tony, Stupe, Julie and me)