Monday, July 05, 2010

Race Report :Eco-Xcapade 2010

We first found out about Eco-X 2010 on 22nd April 2010. Imagine how excited i was when within the next 15minutes, i got a teammate with Bandit and by the next week, when we can't wait anymore for the entry form, we actually signed up and made payment the same day.
We both know we won't win any races, but at the very least, we are the first team to register. Aptly so, the team name was 1st To Register.

This year's Eco-X was the 9th installation of the race and those that had raced any races organised and set by Nomad Adventure, or more specifically, by Chief Ragger Yuen Li, would know that your pain, will be their(or rahter, her) pleasure. I've raced in 3 out of the 9 installment and stopped doing so four years back when i was training for my Ironman Langkawi. Since then, the emphasis were always on Triathlon and never on Adventure races anymore.

What made me change my mind this year was the facts that races are hard to come by and GOOD races are even more rare than the rarest gem. So, knowing Nomad is back in business with the Eco-X series sort of turned me on.

Also, the shift within Nomad that now operates mainly as an adventure company rather than the previous climbing gym, pro-shop and adventure tour has sort of , i believe, made 2009 a year of no adventure races.

Nomad's races will not be complete without the compulsory race testing. This year, it was done a day before the test. Boss (Yuen Li's) instruction was simple enough "DO NOT COME TO RACE TEST TO LEARN HOW TO DO TECHNICAL ROPE SKILL".

Lucky for the participants, most came knowing what to do, with me trying very hard to remember my 1-2-3 and differentiating double fisherman knot with prussic knot. Nomad meant it when they say you have to pass the test, else, NO RACE!
The race test was then finished off with an official briefing where all participants of the Eco-Xcapade, Eco-Xchallenge and Eco-Xsprint. The numbers of participants this year was huge. Xcapade alone has 70 teams, which meant there will be 140 people on the full course. Sprint and Challenge both has almost similiar number of racers and to top it off, there will be an Eco-X MTB race! Four race in one! Talk about squeezing the most out of Batu Dam and Batu Caves!
While i paired up with Bandit, Adeline, an adventure race virgin, paired up with Elfrie, which was my teammate for Hash Challenge about two months ago.
It was another gathering of friends and making new friends. Every turn, there are bound to be someone you know. If you have raced long enough, you will tend to find the same people doing the same thing and there is where common interest acts as a great ice breaker. I met Boon Yeong, someone i only saw in Facebook at race site. How cool is that?
As the briefing continued, all technicalities and must do, can't do, can do, should do, maybe can do, maybe you can try to do were sorted out and the race looked simple enough on paper. Only a page long and how hard can it be?
That was a question that lingered in my mind after the briefing; for i know and had raced and marshaled in Nomad's races before and i was ready to expect the unexpected, like seriously.

All participants went home after that and got ready for the big day the next day.
My day on race day started early at 0530. A quick final check on all items and i was mentally preparing myself for the big abseil down the 100m cliff of Damai. Sound easy enough for those that has done multi-pitch at Damai, but it was sort of the bigger abseil i've done in my life. Longest before this was in Eco-X Gopeng where there was two pitch Abseil of about 60m total. That was already exciting and this another 40% would definately be fun.

At the same time, i am very sure Bandit was thinking about his pitch-dark abseil down inside the cave...all 50m of it...
CP9A is abseil in Cave worth 50-ball-shrinking darkness Meter and CP9B is a 100-lau-sai-meter distance.

We reached Batu Dam at 0630 and all gears and final checked were done. Everyone looked happy and excited to be racing again after (for some) a one year hiatus or for me, a good 4 years gap!
Apprehension and a lot of questions were seen playing in everyone's mind at the race start line and it was evidence that no one was smiling from the photo below.
OK, almost everyone.
Sharp at 0800, the whistle went off (yeap! Environmental friendly, no sulphur laden gun-off!) and everyone jostle for position. First task was to jump on the bike and complete a 20km MTB distance with a cutoff of 2hours30mins. Batu Dam was my playground many years back. I know it like the back of my hand. However, after so long of not riding my MTB, let alone coming to Batu Dam, i found it strange, and yet, welcoming to be back to this trail again.

I struggled along the MTB trail with the usual problem again. But i managed to get my second wind by the second hour into the race. It was also when we found out from Ray-Tomato-Man that the organiser has CLOSED the KILLER and SMALL loop - because it can't be assessable even by the marshals! Goes to show what a little rain can do a day before the race! Nevertheless, it was a happy thing and the distance clocked should be a bit shy of 18km.
When we exited Batu Dam, we could see a storm brewing behind the hills. Not a good sign as it could meant the trail later will be more vicious that they already are. It is like Yuen Li summoned all the Rain God and Nomad sent a plane to seed the cloud...the setting was just a perfect combo for adventure race in downtown KL.
We cycled about 3km to Damai Cave while the Eco-XChallenge racers get to run. How fun! Right after i took the photo above, the sky opened up. Wet is not the word, but drenched was!
We checked into CP4 and made our way into Damai Cave.

This was the first time i went into Damai Cave and went UP and into the other side. It was not as dark as Gua Kandu in Gopeng, but what Gua Kandu made up in total pitch darkness, Damai made it up with almost 80degree climb...and rain water was just trickling into the cave...
And just when i thought 80Degree was what will be the worse at that point of time, in come climbing up ladder over a 90degree cave face.
Bandit making his way up. white spots are torrential rain enough to flood Singapore the third time around.

We exited the cave and went to look for CP5. OMG CP5 was like the longest ever hike over impossible terrain especially with the rain pouring down. We were all soaked and the limestone rock at the top of the caves all turned slippery and dangerous. What was supposed to be scrambling over rock surface become over-relying on the stones to hold for stability.

Then came to one portion with a 90 degree fall between two rock face. There was a mini pond down there and i can almost see Nomad grinning and asking "you wanted water slide, right?"
Seriously, the ONLY way down then was really just sliding down and into the (ankle deep) pond below. With a splash, no less.

The rest of the trail just get more and more muddy and slippery that the whole body were slowly covered with mud and grits. I found a couple of roots between my shoe laces and got some leaves inside my racetop too.

However, Bandit top it all off when after what seems like the infinite slide down he said, "i think i got mud in my @$$. Now i got to clench it everytime incase more get in".

See why i love him as teammate? He see things differently.

We found CP5 after what seems like forever (or about 90minutes later)
The marshal at CP5 did not want to sign off our passport as it was pouring wet and any attempt to remove the passport will contribute to destroying them into bits and pieces. So, for insurance purposes, we snapped a photo with the Marshall at CP5 to prove that we did reached CP5. Kiasu up a few more notch eh?

We continued to look for CP6 which meant a straight up hiking affair to anywhere and everywhere. It was most horrendous too, as by then, what was my glove has became a mud-scrub and my shoes were nothing but brown and has almost an inch of mud covering it.
Can you see Bandit at the top of the 80degree gradient slope? He wasn't resting, he found the easiest way to get down is to lie down and use the whole body as friction point...but he also forgot that momentum is proportionate to mass...glad he stopped on time.

Along the way to CP6, we found a fellow racer that had bad cramps and was attended by two other racers. We proceed to look for marshal to inform and we did tell two marshals at two different station to send in help.

The trekking trail was more like a "surviving-mud-fest" trail. It was almost impossible to climb or come down without getting on all four. Crawling was not an embarassing thing, really!

We finally reached CP7 after what seems like a forever climb up man made stairs build with spare tyres...(see how evil Nomad could be? Make you CLIMB all the way up, to COME DOWN all the way, just to CLIMB UP all over again).

CP7 was a simple cave navigation to look for a password pasted somewhere. it was total darkness and it was also where the landing point of CP9A was!
Ray Tan coming down the 50m abseil in darkness, even with flash, the photo still looked, dark.

We were making our way out when Ade and Elf appeared...
I wasn't joking when i say my shoe turned brown and mud were our best friend. From the photo above, you can really see just what part of the body went into the mud.

CP8 was a fast crawl out of the cave to somewhere up hill again. From there, i split with Bandit where he will attempt the 50m darkness abseil and me, climbing further up to go for the 100m abseil down Damai.

Many was lost and can't find CP9B. I can understand why. it was hidden and no one would had guess you need to take the Mud slide (wait, there was too many, am i sure it's the same one?) with rock face on both side...some got lost and had to crawl back up the wrong side of the trail and some even went all the way down, only to come up back again so they do not miss the CP.

I did the 100m Abseil and it was really really fun. I took my time, but the longer i take, the more tiring the right hand, or the braking hand become. I had to feed the rope into the Fig-8 because it was wet and covered with mud. Takes quite a chore to keep feeding the rope until about half way when the body weight and gravity pulls me down. I only managed to snap a photo from the top as i hang and took a few steps down. last i heard from the marshals was, "Polis pun tak berani nak naik sini" (Even the Police do not dare to come up here).

I reached ground  in maybe like 3 minutes and wasn't photographed by anyone. Damn.

I then waited for Bandit (and it took him 45 minutes to get out of the jungle, again, sliding in mud, no less). So, seriously, while i abseil down the more higher rope, he had to trek down AFTER abseiling 50m. By then, most were covered in mud.
Ms July
Mr July
I managed to shower and cleaned myself while waiting for Bandit. it was the best bath i had, thought i was reeking with mud smell still. Bandit arrived soon after 45minutes and we went to complete CP11, which was wall climbing.

I used to climb Damai. But yesterday, Damai wasn't kind to me. What used to be easily achievable was a physical task for myself. I had my fingers cramped and i can't actually open them. But with encouragement from Bandit and Marshals, i rested enough, hanging half way, to drain off those nasty lactic acid from the fingers. I climbed and completed the task and off we went to CP12.

CP12 was Base camp and they have cancelled the mystery test by the time we reached there and we rushed to CP13, about 5km from CP12. We were very close to cut off at 4:00 but with some very accurate calculation and risk taking, we managed to reach CP13 within a minute to cut off. We were allowed to continue!

CP13 to CP14 was intially meant as a river trekking where i supposed the whole idea was to allow us to wash ourselves for a whole 2km distance. But because of the torrential storm earlier, the river was at least waist, if not chest high with a class 3 rapid like. Marshals told us to trek along the river and not IN the river.
Still in high spirit
As we went along the river trek, we found a man-made containment where water was just gushing out. No time wasted there thinking what to do!
We then rushed to CP15, which was the kayaking place. We made it right on time with the transporter truck very close behind us. Glad that we actually made it this far, i can't help but take a photo of the marshals that waited for us so ever patiently!
As we see Ade and Elf pushed their kayak to the finishing line, myself and Bandit took our time to finish the race. We were tired and worned out and often time, finding ourselves spinning as we are being pushed by the current at the dam. We just took our time to traverse the 1.5km long Dam. And finally, after what seems and felt like a row from Pulau Pinang to Kuala Lumpur Port Klang, we reached Base camp and walked to the finish line...
And we were officially the last team to up to the spirit of the first email that was sent during registration! (see above). We certainly did not plan to come in last, but we did. No way someone can calculate so ever accurate to be at each CP within cutoff and be last. 
Checking in at CP16 Finish point!
It was a fun race and great fun racing it. The rain was a blessing as it make a Nomad signature race into something more awesome that it intended to be. I know everyone had great fun.I know i did, and no way i would trade off the 9hours 20minutes i had with Bandit, my team mate. Thank you Bandit and thank you all for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the account of the race, though, really, it might be more interesting if we managed to WIN the race (from the front, not the back) and still have this much fun ;-)

Nomad - when is the next race again?


  1. according to the guy on the boat, the kayaking distance is 3km.. not 1.5.

    anyway, next year aku nak masuk.. Syok nengok korang.. I had fun WATCHING! and yes, that was the same gua damai that they made me recce the day before..

    Well Done


  2. Awesome field report, Stupe. Never been so detailed. I think I need to curi some of your mud-filled photos and upload in my facebook, if you are kind enough to allow me. Well done, I think I will be back again. I think. Nevertheless, I already fall in love with Nomad.

  3. Bro, My x-cycle can call x-pushing. evething seem OK went we enter the trails...suddenly just enter 1st bukit. HUJAN lebat giler..& acara tolak basikal dalam lumpur pon bermula :)

  4. SK - damn...told you Yuen Li was a chief ragger! Thanks for covering the event and am sure many good photos coming up!

    Boon - I could write more actually and i noticed a few hanging sentences...that is what happen when multi-tasking between work and life...

    Ajo - hahahahah! While you were pushing your bike, we were using our ass to slide down mud!

  5. Jabeer - join us next time.

    not sure why the comments not coming up...

  6. Great write up, great pictures and by the sound of it a great race. Well done on finishing, it sounds like that was an achievement in its own right. AWESOME.

  7. Something is wrong with the comment forms from blogspot.

    Jabeer and Simon's comments are missing.

    Jabeer said : Am salivating....

    Simon said : Great write up, great pictures and by the sound of it a great race. Well done on finishing, it sounds like that was an achievement in its own right. AWESOME.

    And here is my reply :

    SK - damn...told you Yuen Li was a chief ragger! Thanks for covering the event and am sure many good photos coming up!

    Boon - I could write more actually and i noticed a few hanging sentences...that is what happen when multi-tasking between work and life...

    Ajo - hahahahah! While you were pushing your bike, we were using our ass to slide down mud!

    Jabeer - hopefully, next year?

    Simon - thanks Simon. Chris did her first adventure race and she looked completely veteran (as in experience, not age ;-)

  8. I was the one checking in you guys at the finishing line. Can't even find the paper to record down the time as they are already using it to calculate the result..hehe. Great coverage on the event and good job on finishing the race.

  9. Jamie- thanks! Yeap, the confused face said all that! THanks for marshalling!

  10. Hahaha.. enjoyed meeting u and bandit again after quite sometime... enjoyed the race too especially the mud bath along the way... (NOT!!!)...

    as painful as it looked, we always begging for more.. kan?

  11. Fariz - we are sucker for pain. period. :)