Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Helping To Set Up A Hash Run

I am not a member of any hash group. Choosing to stay free from any association as I would not be able to commit to more commitments, sports wise. But once a while, I will get join a run or two, just to get the kick out of trail running in a semi-competitive environment (Yes, these hashers are animal let loose in the jungle). My first hash experience was with Petaling Hash. That was in 2010.
Fast forward 3 years later, I've done not many Hash run per se, but Have participated in the last two Hash Challenge, which to me, is the "blue chip" of many local hashers in Klang Valley. If you do not know what Hash Challenge is about, you can read my report here in 2010 and here in 2013.
Would had been faster via the main road aka Jalan Sungai Lui
The run above were completed within 8hours on average, but no one actually know it takes months to actually organise this - specifically to mark the trails so everyone will be able to get to the checkpoints safely. For example, between point 33 to 35, a distance of 10km over elevation of 500m took the organiser 10-recce sessions! That is like 100km total just to get it right.
Hash groups are typically expats heavy. Most coming from colder countries or where a "run" is typically outdoor naturally will find Malaysia to be an awesome playground. It is just most of us in Malaysia chose to stay indoor (in gym). Not helping that the crime rate and runners being mugged is on the raise. Running in a big group helps to elevate these problems. However, running on the road has it's risk in form of nincompoops drivers. So, going into the trail, where your only risk is getting lost (or maimed by a herd of wild boars) seems to be a safer option.
Reading that it takes up to 10 recce session to cover a 10km distance of "unknown", i was intrigued when I received an invitation from a friend about helping him to setup a hash run.
I was game.
So, last Saturday, the time was set and I rode (my motorbike) to Batu Dam's area to wait for the friend.
200cc machine. 
I was told that the venue for the Hash run that day (in the afternoon) will be at Ulu Yam area. I was a bit excited as I finally get to ride this "winding" road on the bike. Lucky for me, the machine is a slow one - all done within legal speed. Even if  want to go faster, there is limitation to how fast it can go. OK. Sidetracked. But you get my point.
The location for the run is at Bundoora Estate. Not to be mistaken with a place called Bondoora in Victoria, Australia. But somehow, it won't surprise me if the name was adopted from the one from Aussie!
Morning Sun
Bundoora Estate is situated near Ulu Yam. It is a private estate where palm oil trees at it's advance stage of life (read : End of Life) resides. Yield is lower and there isn't as much activities, add on the Fasting month, things were slow at the estate. Or perhaps that is how the local loves it - slow and easy. No rush. No stress. I rode there with Azman leading the way (in his car). We arrived together naturally and immediately setup to start running. Took me close to 20mins to remove my safety (riding) gears and change to my running gears. It was to be my Skechers GoTrail last hurrah outing (clocked 150miles or 250km pure trail). I have every intention to make it worth it's time.
No, we did not went to Ikea that morning.
I was told by Azman that he went to recce this spot a month before with his wife. Took them close to 5 hours to get the short and long course sorted. Though this place are often used by hashers for their runs, trails and such change within weeks if not days. Usually due to lower human traffic and undergrowth overwhelming the surface soil covering all known trails. So, most of these recce are done based on smell and visual (ok, i was just joking about the smell part).
Stapler, paper and small knife (for hunting Wild Boars)
One of my biggest flak with hashers is the indiscriminate use of paper trails which not only dirty the environment, but potentially leaving some traces of carbon black (in ink). So, here was my challenge - to use as little as possible and still ensure that the marking is sufficient. This can be achieved if we think like a racer running through the trail with the most obvious marking to be at eye-level. A spacing of about 10-15m between marking is sufficient with a bit more at intersections to prevent anyone going off tangent. With that in mind, we went to "work".
Off the track we go
The menu for the run was a 8km (short) and a 12km (long). Idea is to give it a good mix of climb and flats. In an estate setting the challenge is to get sufficient mix of terrain else one will get bored of the predictable landscape. Azman, having recce-ed the place a month before knows where to add and/or cut short to provide about 12km of distance. His first recce returned 14km and we would have to find ways to cut it down to about 12 to 13km. Reason for this is the hash run will start at 4.30pm, and by the time it ends, it will be dark for the slower hash-walkers. Bearing in mind it will be dark in the jungle/estate by 6.30pm.
Ray of light
The course for the day was pretty flat. The aim here were "speed". With a few climbs to challenge the heart rate (for the hashers), otherwise, it is a good opportunity for some sight seeing. We were to create "checks" which are meant to confuse the front runners. It basically meant a "break" from the paper trails where the distance between the checks and the paper trail re-start can be anything between 50m to 100m. This is to ensure the backmarkers has a chance to come close to the front pack and to well, slow the front runners down.
Checks - but not the bank type.
Checks are usually hidden and away from the hashers. They would need to find it and then use the papers to mark down the route. When the next paper trail is found, they will usually shout "ON! ON!", which is synonym with hashing. The rest of the packs will follow and re-join the run...for this run, we made 3-checks and one "Falsies". Falsies is well, "false", which is basically a wrong trail that will lead the hashers to no where and they have to back track. Usually situated at steeper inclines, just because the "hare" (or the person that set the trail)...can ;-)
Falsies! Hare!
A good paper laying/marking will take anything between 3hours to 4hours. It is mostly hike walk and carrying a bag each of papers and having to clear some trails off sharp thorny rotans will take some time. Which explained the small parang/knife I brought along. (you seriously thought it was to hunt wild boars?). Along the way, while stapling papers on leaves (at eye level), you will chance upon small insects that will make you stop and take photos. Like this group of moth behind a leaves.
What are the chances you see this in an urban setting?
Of course, you choose a different leave to staple on.
Fringe of the Palm Oil Plantation.
Adventure begin when the Hare loses his bearings. When you think you know where you are going, and with a good company (me) chatting along, you will end up missing your turns...and that is when opportunity for checks happen. :) We got lost 4 times, which explained the checks and falsies. :)
Noticed the white marks on leaves? Yeap, you head that way.
Speaking of getting lost, we were constantly seeing a group of hooves. Yes, you guessed it right. Wild Boars! I counted at least two adults and one baby. Check the size of the hooves compared to my hand.
 The plantation ends and we entered a very open space where much land clearing has been done for future planting. It is sad to see, but what can we do/say? The land was demarcated for agriculture and at the very least, it is not residential we saw. Afterall, we are just guest at this estate. Best to behave.
The blue sky. Nice.
There were one time we reached this settlement and there were a dog that were overly friendly (but timid). He kept barking but hesitated to come near. I tried to get close to him and I guess I am not very much a dog's whisperer (my mistake for shouting as I thought he will start chasing us).
 The marking continues as we split the 8km and 12km run at the 6km mark. The photo below shows the elevation that the hasher ran. The house where the dog above resides? It's the building on the left.
We came from the far left
The last 6km was challenging as the landscape then turned into semi-jungle with rubber plantations. Rubber plantations terraces are typically steeper than Oil palms. So, we had to climb a few hills to get to the next flat ground. But it was fund. I continue to find more insects. This one appear to be a nymph/baby of something. Check out the big compound eyes.
We bumped into a man whom the land we passed belonged to him. An old pakcik making his round at his estate (rubber) with a shotgun. Luckily I made noises...else, we might end up as dinner/supper! We informed him of a group of people running through later in the afternoon and seek his permission. He was alright with it as long we do not pull his rubber saplings out. No issues as the hashers will be more interested in the beer at the end than bringing back a rubber sapling!
Towards the end of the rubber plantation
With about 2km left on the trail, we entered the Palm oil plantation again. There is a peaceful feel to familiar place. Perhaps because we already got lost a few times ;-)
On! On!
The last 2km were predictable as one just need to ensure to follow the correct paper trail or risk circling the plantation for a way out. With about 500m to the end, we reached a water pool. It was dipping time. :)
Jump? No Jump?
The outing was fun. 3:49 to cover exactly 13km with getting lost a few times. So, perhaps the actual run was closer to 12km per planned. I guess things did happened for a reason ;)

Thank you Azman for the opportunity! I enjoyed it though I did not get to run it in the afternoon. I was told that the hashers (faster) finished it in 90mins (as I've predicted) and they were happy. 
Until the next run/recce. On! On!

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