Monday, June 19, 2006

EcoX - 18th June 2006 Ulu Langat

What a race!

Body slightly aching from the long ride/hike/rafting yesterday. Took us a long 8 hours to complete the whole course and brought us into path not known to any racer before.

The starting point of the race this time was in Ulu Langat, to be more precise, on Batu 19 Nur Lembah Pangsun. A quaint lil small resort stuck in the middle of all kampung houses.

Steve and me took the same truck to the starting point, reaching there by 6.45am and already a whole hustle and bustle of activities were happening. Racers in uber expensive bikes, in uber expensive bags, in high tech clothing and of course, the race orgy-niser Nomad themselves. Yuen Li and Wye Yim and their merry band of marshalls was looking sinisterly evil that morning, perhaps that's how they felt when they created this race course that span and span many many many KMs before it actually ends.

This year, there were a lot of sponsors, Powerbars, Ino8 and Red Bull came in to give this race a fresh new breath of sponsorship. Missing were Brooks and their booth of shoes for sale.

Light & Easy sent in 6 teams this year. Biggest by far from a single non-competitive and totally light and easy group of friends which still think it's better to be sleeping on a sunday morning than to race.

Anyhow, we found ourselves joking and raring to go. At 7.50am, we were all called to the starting line, and so, Team LnE: 3B (That's Bulky, Baldy & Bacin), Team LnE: 3 Blind Mice (Zabil, Bean and Karo), Team LnE Shin Chan (Bandit, Kam and Budin), Team LnE Posers (Terence, Dilah & Mark), Team LnE: Doc and Babes and Team LnE Wasabi 1 and Wasabi 2 (which recently made contact with LnE, making us now Light, Easy and hot, just like Bandit).

As per usual, the LnE started from behind, not wanting to be crushed by the super fast neighours from Singapore, or some other foreign team in matching jerseys (yes, LnE settled for fake branded polyester or cotton low-tech garments from Petaling Street or from other races )

The race started sharp at 8am and expected, everyone but us was jostling for the front postion (early disclaimer in case we DNF..hahahah). Steve, Me and Bacin was cycling with Doc, Min Ming and Azmar (LnE: Doc and Babes - yes, Azmar is one hot babe). We managed to overtake one mix team, as one of the teammate was struggling with her bike. Then, we overtook anohter men's team, as they were seen repairing a puntured tyre. The race to CP1 was in total frenzy. The front runners were seen pedalling hard and pulling away from everyone else.

race map
Then, 10 minutes later, with postion 3 and 4th last in the race, we went into the offroad section of the race towards CP1, and we saw everyone else from afar pushing up a very very steep hill, almost of Sg. Pusu standard. We are all short of being like the mat rempit on motorbike doing the superman pose, only difference is that we are pushing, upper body spreading out like Superman. The climb was neverending, it was tiring so early in the race. But the trail was nice, we might come back some other week to explorace this place more.

Then, as we approached the next climb, we heard some french guys team coming down. Something must be wrong as we all know CP1 is NOT up the hill. Then, everyone else was seen coming down.

Apparently, the front runners were so engrossed in out pedalling each other, they all misssed a turning and gottten onto the wrong track. Blessing in disguise as we, the 3rd and 4th last team suddenly found ourselves being the 3rd and 4th team from the front!!!!!! Getting exciting this way, as it could go either way now. But of course, we can't help but laugh silently about how important it is to keep our eyes opened.

The route to CP1 then passed through a rubber estate, which then goes onto a single track very much like Kiara. Not much problem for people that rides Kiara. Well, that is, until Bacin suddenly disappaered down the cliff. My team mate mispedalled (if there is such terms) and slipped down the cliff, slipping a good 3 meters down and thank goodness for a babe behind him that managed to catch his bike before it goes down onto him. Steve was leisurely pedalling at the back of the pack, so it seems. We reached CP1 to much relief. Everyone laughing and thinking back how silly it was to take the first wrong turn by going straight up the hill.

race sheet

We waited for a good 10 minutes before Steve appeared in CP1, of which, our passport was at the mercy of the race marshall. RUles stated that only after all 3 members were there, could we get it signed off. And so, we dropped from number 3 to number 20 once Steve appeared. We then cycled to CP2 passing more estate and onto the road. By anohter stroke of luck, we found our position bettered again by at least 5 places when at least 5 front teams missed the turning to, it does pay to stick behind the pack eh?

The route to CP2 was fully rideable, except for once or twice where we had to dismount to as the route was too ehavily laden with tree roots. Unless your bunny hopping skills were as good as some free-rider, better stick to the tried and tested method of dismounting and pushing your bike. :P CP2 completed and we haed on to CP3 almost fail proof this time around and CP3 was reached without anyone getting lost (damn!)

From CP3, we headed to base camp. Total time taken so far was the maximum in the course outline which was given to us. A good 1 hour 50 minutes. So, no one actually completed the whole mountainbiking trail in the said 50 minutes.

CP4 was the base camp where we dropped out bikes. CP5 was just in front where we will go through a mystery test.

As per usual, Nomad loves to give mystery test. What better way to challenge the mind when you were tired. We are not robot you know, we don't race just to win, but race to enjoy, and Nomad was there to ensure that happens. The mystery test this was involved the team transfering a tennis ball using 3 poles, where each member has to hold ONE pole only on one END. No hands are supposed to touch the tennis ball. It took us 3 tries before deciding to go with a parallel pole-with ball on top-and 3rd member make sure the ball stay on top-stunt.

Having done that and cheking out of CP5, we headed to CP6. A good 3 KM away from base camp towards the Waterfall area. We were running slowly and that was when LnE: Posers, 3B and 3 Blind Mice got together to run. the 3BM was faster with Zabil tugging Karo using a sling and crab and they soon disappeared. The Posers too ran faster than the 3 fat slobs and when we reached CP6, we were a good 10 minutes behind either team. Steve stopped to take a pee while the Marshalls refused to sign us off until they see the third member. Hahahaha...

From CP6, it was a trek up the waterfall to CP7, where we will do the traverse UP the 60meter waterfall. We followed the gravel road to the jungle trail along the stream to Sungai perdik Waterfall. It was also then when one girl's team overtook us and went the wrong way after the second river crossing. We did try to tell them it's the wrong route (as the route are all marked with white and red tape) but to no avail. As we make our way up the trail, sprinters came down and i was pleasantly surprised when one chap knew my name. He was in Victoria Institution while i was doing my Form 6 there. Promise to catch up with him later at base camp, we made our way up and up the trail to the waterfall.

We reached the waterfall after a while, obviously we aren't as fit as we think we are as we were all trying to catch our breath. But the sight of the waterfall...and all the teams that was infront of us stuck in the bottleneck of this technical section was well worth it. Gearing up, we were allowed to join the queue for this section of climb-the waterfall. Steve excused himself as he need to take a dump.

At the waterfall too, i saw Faris, one of the Wasabi's member taking photo for the race and i gladly posed for him. Must be the automatic response to camera after the Explorace experiences. With him is Andi, the Explorace Season 1 winner, which was also instrumental in getting the bike i'm riding now for races. Thank you very much to you both. Tapi, Faris, don't forget to email me my cam-whoring pics!

The traverse up the waterfall seems easy. Icy cold water pouring down as you climb, with 2 slings and prusik to save you incase anyone mis-stepped and come bouncing down(can only happen to either me or steve, as we are both fat). My turn came and i clipped both the crabs to the safety line. Easy enough. After the second bolt, that was when trouble i truly believe i looked like a fool trying to get a grip on the slippery rock with my slippery shoes. Dont' get me wrong (but what i'm gonna say here will definately spoil SALOMON's reputation), i own this pair of shoe for a good 2 years, only wearing it for adventure races or outdoor races. The shoe failed my expectation more than ONCE. Well, it started failing me the first time i bought it, but never one to complain and perhaps just think that it's just the terrain that caused the previous experiences. This shoe, despite it's ultra aggresive sole with "contragrip" and whatever features isn't as grippy as my old 3 years old sneaker. Perhaps that is why they phased out the one that i had. I won't try any Salomon anymore, based on past experience.

salomon with no grip
Aggresive sole with no purpose

Well, back to the race, the waterfall was slippery and the shoes ain't helping either. My shin and knee were bruised, but luckily, i didn't bust my knee cap the two times i slipped and landed on them. The water was refreshingly cool. I used the prusik all the way, without the prusik, i know i'll bounce back down and hit the others waiting below in a bowling effect. Yes, the prusik worked wonder!

After completing the traverse up the waterfall and getting out of the safety line, we had to run down the trail back to the base of the waterfall. The shoe, again, didn't grip as well in the slippery trail condition and i slip twice, hitting my already flat butt hard. With such aggresive sole, it still makes me wonder why it failed to grip.

Before we left the waterfall, we said our goodbye to Doc and gang, Bandit and Gang, and poor terence, which lost his harness while cycling, had to wait until his team member got down to pass him a harness.

We make our way down back to CP8, which incidently shares the same CP as CP6. Signed our Passport off, and found out we are placed 13th overall at CP8.

We turned left at CP8 and lo and behold. Upfront was the steepest possible road we've ever seen. It was a long hard steep climb. No joke. We 3 agreed it's like the Kilometer 4.4 of the road up Genting. We finished a pack of dried mango, courtesy of Adilah by the time we reached the top of apex of the road. From there, it was downhill to Sg. Congkak recreational park and we headed for CP9.


CP9 from CP8 was a good 3 or 4 km of walk/run. It took us a good 45 minutes to reach CP9, which more fun seems to follow from there. We hit CP9 at 12.00 plus minus and already ahead was the 3BM, which has a 30 minutes lead infront of us. The marshall in charge told us to be aware of the route marker, ribbon tied onto trees and red marking on trees to denote the right path. The jungle trail started from a rubber plantation on hill cliff and the trail seems to be just made a few days ago, with a lot of fresh undergrowth being stepped and trod over. We were walking by the side of the cliff, each step we took was a step in danger. It was slippery and the shoe, again, ddn't help.I found myself walking on the undergrowth, risking each time to be stepping on some snake and end up being bitten. Bacin and steve too, had difficulty finding grip with their shoes, but they seems to be more confident compared to me. Perhaps it's physcological.

The hiking trail were long and hard. we had a good 90 minutes to complete this CP and it seems doable. Well, with Nomad, everything is seemed do-able, until you do it. Hahaha...

The trail seems to bring us up onto steeper terrain. I did noticed a lot of calathea growing wild. It was a pleasant sight. I've always love the outdoor and the jungle. But as much as i love it, this trail doesn't seems to end. Everytime we got to a clearing, it seems that the end is near, only to find out that there is another steep cliff to tackle and more careful steps need to be taken.

My hamstring and calf was pushed to the max, the cliff was in access of 45 degree, some almost vertical, with only roots and small saplings of trees to hold for leverage and push-pull action. To qoute bacin "Giler sial...macam neverending story".

We heard some racer getting lost, they were most probably going in circle amongst the trees with marking. Soome saw us and took the same route as us, some were adamant and followed their own choice of path. A girl's team caught up with us (It was a babe by the name of Jane and her 2 friends, one which is Liz Yeo of Eco Wizard's daughter) as we came out to a clearing. The girls ran out of water and Bacin offered some to them. My supply was running low as well, should had not put in flavoured drink into the water bladder. The glucose tasted so nice i keep sipping even when i'm not thirsty! Steve the lost Iban trekker found most of the route up the steep cliff, It was like Trailblazer, only 4 or 5 times as long and hard.

The 2 teams ran together but we didnt' really introduce ourselves proper. The girls know they are in the lead for a placing and we shouldn't be distracting them in any manner at all.

We finally reached CP10. Exhausted and tired. We took a break and after gotten our passport signed, we headed off to the abseil station, which well, anohter good 10 minutes of climb up 45 degree cliff. Thank You Nomad.

We reached the Abseil Station and were given the right to abseil down first as we are still in the race. So, thank you Sprinters that gave way for us to go down before you guys and girls! I saw Jo Yan again at the Abseil station, been more than 11 years since we've last seen each other. Promising to catch up again at base camp, i slinged my safety line and headed down for the abseil station. The marshalls on the rope set up our prusik while we ourselves set up our Abseil device. 3B was ready to go, all system go and the 3 of us started abseiling down the about 40 to 50 meter vertical cliff. Abseiling with the prusik was something new and yes, we do feel more controlled coming down, but the exhilaration of being able to come down fast was missing. We got off from the abseil station and check in to CP11.

As we all know, it's been almost 2pm and the cut off time for CP11 is 1.30pm. But Yuen Li was kind enough to extend the cut of time by 30 minutes. The reason was the "excursion" that everyone took in the begining of the race. So, we made the cut with 15 mintues to spare. Zabil's team was only 20 minutes infront and we found ourselves to be placed in the top 10 overall! what estatic feeling, we knew for sure this will not be a DNF race for us (Did Not Finish).

So, CP 11 was a mystery test.

Instruction was plentiful.

1. Use red marker and write your team number on your captain's left arm.
2. use black marker and write your team number on the other two member's right arm.
3. one person do 10 push up, 2 person count out loud.
4. one person does flutter kick, 2 person count out loud.
5. one person do 10 lunges, 2 person count out loud.
6. two member change one side of the shoe until passport being signed.
7. two member must hold golf ball using head for 10 seconds.
8. team must find 3 pieces of grass of at least 3 cm long.
9. ignore instruction 1-8 and blow whistle.


No wonder they ask us to read the instruction carefully and do the task fast! Feeling stupid, we didn't tell the next coming team what to, sorry girls!

CP11 done, we headed for CP12. Which was anohter good 4km away. The sun was beating down on us and the T-junction never came. But we knew we were on the main road when we saw Amir driving up to us. Thank you Amir! Thank you for coming! We ran to the CP12 and reached there. There were some team, mostly those that is ranked DNF there waiting for their raft. The couldn't make the cut off time after the waterfall and the orgy-niser thinks it's not wise to continue and should just skip the hiking and abseiling and go straight to the river.

There, the found out that Zabil's team were already on their way back to Base camp. Also, Bandit's team were DNF and were also on the raft back to base camp.

The wait was long and was only made sweeter when Amir came to us and offered us ice cream. That's so sweet of him. No way we could get any money to buy ice cream even if we sell our backside in Ulu Langat!

We waited for a good 30 minutes before the lorry came to deliver the rafts. By then, the race marshalls has already set aside a few teams which will go first, by virtue that they are still in the race, so that is us and the Jane's team. It was another 15 minutes before we had the chance to go onto our ride.

The bamboo raft has 8 pieces of 4 inches diameter bamboo held together by 2 perpendicular stick in the front and back. Tied in the manner deemed appropriate to hold the 8 pieces of 12 foot long bamboo together, that raft is worth to be *pimped* up for (well,if west coast does bamboo raft pimping, that is).

I sat in front to steer the raft, Steve sat at the back to help with the steering (actually, we wanted a *motorboat* effect, with steve's 106kg frame, we will be lifted up front) and Bacin sat in the middle and make himself useful.

We were both given a 6 foot long 2 inch diameter pole to be used to steer ourselves clear off big rocks on the Class 2 Rapid. We weren't on any canoe or larger craft, which will ultimately make this class 2 to appear like class 3. We were told to finish this 3km(i was told by the river guide) long river course with 95% of the raft intact, or risk being disqualified or penalised. Now, there is only 8 bamboo on the raft, losing one bamboo would already be accounted for more than 10% and we will face the music and DQ. So, we were careful.

Jane's team was right infront of us, for safety reason, we were let off in 2 minutes interval, incase we play some bumper boat in the river.

Steering the raft initially was fine, with almost 90% of upper body strength still available, i could easily out manourve the rapids. Welll, that's only for the first 15 minutes. The rapid was fun. Water was fast, we were at the mercy of the water force and stones below us. That was then when Steve, why trying to push us out, got his only stick stuck between the rocks and lost the stick. the movie Without A Paddle came into my mind...hahahaha...

So, this 3 men raft was only steering with me in the front, Bacin and Steve were seen paddling with hands and legs, furiously. After a good 10 minutes of going down the river like cartoon, I caught sight of a bamboo pole on the left bank and Steve went over to grab it. Now we are back in action.

There were a few section of the river where the water was only shin depth, add on our weight in access of 200kg, the raft was literally hitting the gravel and stones under us. There were instances where we had to come down and push the raft away from being stuck on stones.

That was also when, Bacin had a cramp. It was funny though. The two person steering the raft only complained of shoulder ache because of the pushing and steering...and the middle eprson, which was actually like a maharajah sitting on a sedan chair, had a cramp. Hahahaha...

We chance upon a completely broken raft. We thought it was the girls' raft. :)

There were a few section where it was pretty dangerous for us, parts where the water threaten to break the raft into quadzillion (ok, that's just a figure of speech) pieces and also threaten to spear into some happy picnickers in the calmer river. The thing is, we can't figure out why they aren't scared. Maybe they think that these racers were experience enough to handle these rafts...wait till they find out that we are just some dumass trying to be racer wannabe.

The rafting was cooling and and fun, we reached CP13 without losing any of the raft part or portion. We were told by Wye Yim that the broken raft actually belongs to LnE: Shin Chan. Hahahaha...bad enough to be DNF-ed after the waterfall, they had to up the orgyniser and DQ themselves on the river rafting! But i'm sure, that itself is one whole lot of story to tell (on how they briefly told me they hugged, they held, the did whatever they could from allowing the raft from falling apart)

CP13 done, it was a 1.6km run back to the Base Camp and finish line. The girls wasn't in sight anymore, obviously finished the race as we all know. So, in came this LnE: 3B, running in slow and steady pace to the finish line, with Bandit bowing to us for finishing it (without DNF-ing), Zabil and gang cheering us on and the whole load of other racers that has reached base camp way way before us cheering us on.

Crossing the finishing line as a ranked team certainly made it all sweeter.

We handed over the passport to be signed and checked one last time, with Red Bull giving us cans of the drinks to recharge, we congratulated each other, for finishing, as a ranked team. Well Done Light And Easy!

Post race:

Karo, Dilah and Bacin in background while me still in stinking race garments

Karoline told us that their team, the 3 Blind Mice was DQ. They came in 5th in the Mix Category. They were in the 4th Position when their raft broke 200meters from CP13 and because they came back with 0% of the raft intact, it was a painful DQ for them. The unofficially finished the race as the 5th Mix team. Anyhow, congrats! Their team however, won the most creative entry form answering category and got each membera North Face T-shirt!

Team Shin Chan and Posers were all DNF, the former was because of cut off time at the waterfall and the other was because Terence lost his harness, which will not allow him to abseil down even if they got to the abseil point.

A Special thanks to Bandit, for making it all possible, coordinating everyone's entry form to Nomad and swapping Steve with himself as he say he do not want to be a burden to me and Bacin. No dude, you ain't heavy, you are our brother!

The Wasabi's ran the race as an unranked team. But that was in full Light and Easy spirit.

And the highlight was of course, Doc and his 2 babes. They crossed the finish line after all the prize giving ceremony and all the singapore teams left for home. Happy and nontheless exhausted from the race with 2 newbies in his team (for adventure race), they DNF at the Abseil point but was allowed to do the rafting.

After the race, i removed the lace of my Salomon and wanted to throw it away... but i didn't have the heart. Sentimental value. And so, it's drying up in my office...
I still love you...

The full results could be obtained from Nomad once they update their website with the full results of Eco-X!

Thank you all!

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