Tuesday, June 26, 2012

AR: Surviving Adventure Race

You have done it. You are on a team, registered for an adventure race and ready to take the next step. Planning a realistic and structured training plan is as important as showing upon race day. Like many sports, if you develop and follow a realistic and well-structured plan, you will enjoy the journey and reap the benefits of your training.

An adventure race, unlike a triathlon, is unpredictable. No one team will complete the same course. There are variations in navigation, weather and distance. Because of this, one needs to train for the endurance to keep moving for 24 hours straight or even several days at a time. It is a rugged kind of fitness. It is about stepping out of your comfort zone and challenging your mind and body to work with whatever crosses your path. The key is to be strong enough to adapt and keep moving.

Team Kakithon presented by Mentor Training

Planning a training program for an adventure race is a fun and creative process. You get to include a variety of sports and exercise and it is very specific to the race you've selected. It is a little like building a home. And if you let it…it will take you back to your childhood in a heartbeat. It is important to start from the ground up. The first step is to build the "foundation" to train your heart, lungs and muscles for the time and intensity of the event. A strong foundation will provide the structure to bare the distance, time and elements of the race.

Although the disciplines vary from race to race, a solid training program should include running, mountain biking, rowing or kayaking, strength and flexibility, and hiking/trekking. It sounds like a lot to put in every week but there are ways to incorporate all modes efficiently. What may seem overwhelming soon becomes a refreshing way to use your fitness as you train differently every day. Plus, the element of mystery regarding the course will keep you motivated and inspired.

The foundation stage of training should concentrate more on building endurance and less on intensity or speed. It will allow your body to move efficiently to the next level, specificity.

Once the foundation is strong it is time to add specific elements of the course to your training plan. For instance, running or trekking on hills if the terrain will be rolling. Trekking with weight in your pack for hours. Spending the time on your feet with a simulated race pack (everything you will carry on race day) will prepare you for what it will feel like during the event. Find out as much information on the terrain as possible and then simulate it in your training. Kayaking or paddling on lakes or rivers. Running on grass or sand to strengthen your legs, ankles and feet. Training with your teammates. Training through the night to experience sleep deprivation. Learning how to work with ropes for rappelling and climbing. If animals are involved, get on them and ride them. Mountain biking with a full pack. The key to this stage is to be creative and have fun with it. The one element I completely overlooked when attempting to complete The Fix was getting time on my feet. You will be trekking for hours with weight on your back. I made it through the race but my feet resembled the Elephant Man during the post-race party. Prepare your body now and it will work with you on raced day.

Once the house is built it is time to accessorize or fine-tune your training. This includes practicing the sports that you are least experienced at. Developing good technique can save you hours on the racecourse. Whether it is paddling, navigation, climbing, riding or transitions, practice will further prepare you and your team for the challenges that will come your way.

Remember, the key to being a successful adventure racer is being a good generalist. The joy of this sport is that you can have average skills at a lot of sports and still do well. What is better than that?


Monday, June 11, 2012

AR: Valuable Input for Beginner

Some racers have come from a triathlon background and for them the conversion is easy, it’s just a matter of replacing swimming with kayak or canoeing. 

What about the true beginner adventure racing, they may have seen races on television such as the Eco-Challenge (by Mark Burnett) and thought they would like to do that. The Eco-Challenge is what is called an expedition race and is not a recommended way to start for the beginner adventure racing.

A work out plan for adventure racing will need to be scheduled for six to eight weeks prior to the event putting in training on the three basic disciplines, running, mountain biking and kayaking. A lot of beginner adventure racing omit training in kayaking and canoeing, and these people can often be seen going in circles during the race, so it is worth while spending some time at a local canoe or kayak club to learn the basics of how to travel in a straight line. Often in short races inflatable boats are used and these can be very challenging if a wind springs up.

Running and mountain biking should be practiced on trails gravel roads and single tracks, starting off with 30 minute sessions and building to 90 minutes remembering to put in some varied countryside and hills if possible.

Navigation is another area which is overlooked; if you have an orienteering gang near you it is well worth joining then you can practice your running and navigation at the same time.

A beginner adventure racing does not need special adventure racing gear or clothes to start with a race vest and shorts or leggings will do fine for the first few races. A running shoe or cross trainer which are the most suitable footwear for both for the running and mountain biking sections. You will also need a hydro-pack or bottle carriers for water and snacks such as energy bars or gels. Compass and map holder.

The biggest expense will be a mountain bike, although any bike can be used the most popular one is a hardtail that has front suspension, the key is to have one which is as light as possible. Remember also to have a toolkit with patches and gas inflator together with spare tubes. Some adventure racers put slime into tyres to help prevent punctures.

Most times kayaks or canoes are supplied by race organizer, but if the adventure racing bug bites, then it will be worth buying your own one to train with. If you have your own PFD (Personal Floatation Device) take it along, even if lifejacket are provided your own will be more comfortable, get one that has pockets to gear and if possible place to store a drinking bladder.

You will also need to put together a small first aid kit, with plasters, steril-strips, antiseptics, scissors, tweezers and don’t forget you will need vaseline or petroleum based gel to help prevent saddle sores and the like.

Beginner adventure racing involves passing through a number of check points or control points, at these points the beginner adventure racer will need to either clip a race card or have their time recorded in a passport. Care must be taken not to lose the card or passport as it is the only way of proving you have followed the correct course. Except in score races where competitors a given a set time to reach as many check points as possible it is important to move through the checkpoints in the correct order, Failure to do so will result in either having to return to the missed checkpoint, suffer a penalty or disqualification.

What type of race should a beginner adventure racing enter, the sprint race lasting a few hours or a longer race up to 24 hours. Many people assume the sprint race is the easiest, however the truth lies in the name a sprint is usually fast paced, so if you walk or jog you will be in trouble, if you have a background of running this is a fine starting point.

The longer the race the slower the pace for the beginner adventure racing and the slower pace allows one to take in and enjoy the great outdoors which is a big part of what beginner adventure racing is about, meeting people and discovering new places whilst learning about oneself.

The beginner adventure racing often makes the mistake of not get organised prior to the day of the race, it is vitally important to check that you have everything on the gear list packed and ready to go, together with any documents required by the organizers. Do this at least a day before the race when you will be resting from training.

On the day of the race remember to drink plenty of water to fully hydrate your body and get to the race area as early as possible. The area will be busy with fellow competitors rushing around unloading gear and making preparations. As soon as you can track down the registration area and get the formalities out of the way. Recheck the start time and then go to the starting area and check out the lay of the land. If the first leg is kayaking there may even be the opportunity to try out the kayak, if not just check out the one that you will be using.

Beginner adventure racing may be lucky to find races specifically for novices where an element of training is provided or where other racers will act as helpers and assist with navigation or provide advice during the race.

Perhaps you have arrived early, you may have the opportunity to chat with fellow racers, who might be able to provide insight in the way that particular race is run or points to watch out for. You will also see what kind of equipment they are using. Adventure racers are generally a happy bunch of people willing to help one another. If you are racing as a solo you will often end up making a number of new friends.

It is a good idea for beginner adventure racer to work out some kind of race plan. What are you aims, do you just wish to complete the course, or perhaps finish in the middle of the field or are you aiming for a top ten position. What are your strengths, how are you going to improve your weaker events. When you have a few races under your belt, you will perhaps recognize other racers and can start thinking about improving you performance by trying to shadow a faster racer.

Competitors will start to gather in the starting area to pick prime positions. Once you have done your final checks, Sort out where you will start. I always suggest picking an area at the side, so you do not get overrun in the melee that usually develops. Try to get a clean start but keep to your own pace, if you have plan stick with it 

The field spreads out quite quickly after the gun and within fifteen minutes virtually everyone is settled into their racing pace, now is the time to take your first sip of water (you should be drinking every 15 minutes) and take a look around you. Although you should be racing your own race it’s nice to have company, so if you see someone ahead of you that is moving at the same pace, close up with them slowly.

Some races have courses laid out with marshals, markers and tapes to keep you on course, others require you to navigate with compass and instructions from point to point. In the latter races you may benefit from being with someone else, however be wary of blindly following the person or team in front they might be lost.

If for some reason the beginner adventure racing gets lost, it is important not to panic. Stop and get out your map, compass and instructions. Orientate the map so the grid lines are inline with North on you compass. Look around you, if you are on a track note its direction. and compare it with the map. How much time has elapsed since you passed the last check point? You should have a rough idea of the average speed you have been travelling. This will give you a radius of where you might be. If there are any prominent landmarks take a bearing. Also look for natural features such as rivers and streams or roads and railways, have you passed any of these recently. If you still cannot work out where you are start backtracking towards the last checkpoint. Still Lost take stock of food and water, find a main track heading in a direction that will lead to a road river or other linear feature. If you come across another linear feature unexpectedly check out the direction and try to reassess your position. If you cannot find your way out by dusk, seek shelter beside the track and if possible light a fire and await help. Race organizers will know a racer is overdue and will start a search.

Transitions are where the beginner adventure racing changes from one discipline to another. This is where time can be lost or gained; more often than not this is where the beginner adventure racing loses out. Approaching the transition is where the beginner adventure racing should be mentally rehearsing what they will do, perhaps change socks, replenish water bottles and restock gel or food bars. The least you do the quicker the changeover will be, however is you are developing a hotspot or blister you should deal with it before continuing.

Once away from transition it’s about getting back into the racing rhythm and finding the next checkpoint. and the next transition area until you arrive at the finish line tired and disheveled and perhaps collapse in a heap saying you will never do it again. One important thing that most people forget is to spend some time stretching your tired muscles, 15 minutes of stretching will help prevent muscle soreness over the following days.

When you reflect on beginner adventure racing, you can look back in pride having taken on nature, the course designer and challenged yourself and won, yes that’s right everyone is a winner. Rather than sitting in an armchair watch others, you have gone out and done it yourself, and gained some healthy exercise at the same time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

PUAC 2012: Team Kakithon in 2012 Adventure Race Scene

Beautiful Sunday morning with sunshine above and clear blue sky at the capital of Malaysia, Putrajaya. I have been race in Putrajaya since my first ever duathlon in Powerman Malaysia 2003. But after the organizer move Powerman Malaysia to the new venue since 2006, I was not raced here either in cycling race, running race, or water sports until Putrajaya Urban Adventure Challenge 2012.

Our journey of Team Kakithon presented by Mentor Training (Team Kakithon), begin on Saturday night after Jiha and me had a dinner together in Johor Bahru. At 10pm we already cruising on the highway and make a couple stops to took a nap (it was me, not Jiha) before we had a breakfast at 4am.

The Fuel for AR
Arrived early.. (sebelum Subuh kami sampai)

We ate simple & fast meal which full of high calorie foods, omelete, beef burger with eggs & cheese, pan cakes with honey, English muffins & baked beef, and a black coffee. I forced Jiha to finished her meal for the sake of her energy tank during the race.

After finished the 'big breakfast', we entered Putrajaya before the dawn (I remembered one of the P Ramlee dialogue in Seniman Bujang Lapok film "Sebelum Subuh beta sampai!"). We enjoyed the dawn scenery of Putrajaya until we arrived at the race site early before the other racers came.

The Ride

The Race Number
There were more than 40 teams competed in this adventure race. There were four categories Men's Open, Mixed Open, University/Media Open, Putrajaya Closed (for local residents only). Most of the team came from Klang Valley, and maybe less than 5 teams came from outside Klang Valley included Team Kakithon - long way down from Johor Bahru.

As usual, we will chit chat among competitors to reduce pre race tense & pressure. All the bikes need to park at the transition area near Putrajaya Lake at Taman Botani before the race start. It is about 2 km from the race start line. We considered it as a warm up - 4 km in total distance plus downhill & uphill.

Pre Race Pose

The Racers

The 'Doa' before flag-off

Once the flag off, all the racers ran fast to be at the head of the race pack. As usual, Jiha & me will enjoy running together plus this time I brought a camera! The purpose was to snap a picture along the way to the finish line. The picture we can share the smiling moments, suffering moments, and any 'not feeling yet' moment towards the finish line. The picture can describe how tough the adventure race we had!

Run Jiha Run
'Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel'
Still run when others walk..

Run & Pose
The race pace was really fast at the front pack, while at the back, only mixed team 'enjoying' the 'smiling moment' of the race. Many couples we passed by, and many pictures I snapped too. 

As we entered the Botanical Park, there are a new experience we had together. The landscape, the flora and the terrain we passed by were beautiful & scenic. This was the first time we visit  Putrajaya public parks either   for sightseeing or racing. 
Cycling & Pose
Entering hiking section with a smile

Ascending a Steep Uphill via waterway

Beautiful Scenery at one of the Putrajaya Public Park
After running leg, the racers need to cycling off road besides the lakes and on road to another hilly section of public park in Putrajaya. We need to reach the top of the highest hill at that park, then downhill to the bottom most of other side of the hill and hiking up back to the transition area which our bikes park before.

Jiha ready for swim section!

Swim at the one of the Putrajaya lake
After the grueling hill climb, the racers need to mountain biking beside the lakes, crossing a dam on a gravel trails. Jiha experienced her first mountain biking on the trail, slowed down because of hamstring & gastrocnemius cramp. So the solution is, switched to lower gear and spin at high cadence.

Followed was a swimming section in the lake. The racers need to wear personal flotation device provided by race organizer. Jiha swam first headed to buoy and back. I took that time for stretched & relaxed until Jiha landed at the lakeside. I swam with a cramp that occur when I bare footed walk on the gravel at the lakeside. Swim session seems like a relaxing session for me, when I use backstroke to headed back to lakeside. Haha.

After the swim session, we need to rode to the next discipline was kayak. We need to run descending the stairs and run beside the lakeside to start kayak leg. We need to paddled just 1000m head & back to starting point. Jiha & me were not trained for kayak, and the last time I hold the paddle was in April during teaching the Outdoor Level 1 Course for Sports Science students in UTM. I covered most of the stroke while Jiha already 'give-up' to paddle mostly half way due to lack of upper body strength.

The last discipline was team biathlon, which is one member on the bike while one more running, either want to rotate or bike or run until the finish line. When we start biathlon discipline there were two teams in our category competed each other. We passed one of the team when their rider got cramped and one team followed us just two or three lamp post behind. We use our strategy (rotation for 1 km) to boost our speed and breaking away from that team.

I love hill section as we progressed to finish line at Putra Perdana Park near Shangri-La Hotel. I increasing my pace rate & breathing like a horse. Jiha just stared at the back to make sure that team far from us and cycling in front of me. As a 'bike pacer' for me (during 2004 I did this workout in the evening training), she just need to maintain 8-10 km/h of speed and protect me from the wind, so that I can 'draft' and motivate me to run as close as the rear wheel. As a self talk to my mind was "I need to be always at the front of these guys, because we currently ranked 10th", even I don't knew our exact rank during entire race.

Finally, we reach home straight and crossed the finish line under four hours. Amazingly, Jiha took a 'ticket' written a rank for us "Mixed B7" that was means we won 7th place! We received a finisher medals, certificates, PowerBar towel and isotonic canned drink (not a cold one). We congratulated each other with a million loves. Finally we made it as a team, even this race was not our first adventure race. We took our recovery time while my member from commando gang, Sangup entertained us and helping us to put a bike inside the car.

After grueling Biathlon section, we've won 7th place for Mixed Open Category

The Place & The Medal!
Prize giving ceremony has been held near at 3pm waited for VVIP's arrived. We lunch and had a shower, sat on the nice chair, chit chat with other racers, while Sangup always hang with us. Organizer also provide a lucky draw for 20 lucky participants, interestingly top two grand prize were Suunto watch! I always not 'the lucky draw' guy so I won't pay attention to won something.

Feel sleepy after the post race lunch
Seventh Place for Mixed Open Category. Pic courtesy by Mr Kamaruzaman 
The 'cash' prize

When the VVIP arrived, the prize giving ceremony begins, and all the winners took their prizes on the stages. This was our first prize for adventure race. I am so glad and proud with our achievement. This prize surely can motivate us to race together as adventure race team in the future. The downside, the prize was not in cash money!!! Argghhhhhh!!! Perbadanan Putrajaya will bank-in later, and we were not told about the time duration to received the payment.   

Protein Loading Meal before drove back to JB, thanks Jiha
Jiha asked me to had a meal at KFC, so we stop at nearest KFC to ate, and replenish our 'damaged' muscles with acid amino from the chicken protein, a glucose from the mashed potatoes & cola drinks, also fat (it is ok as we need it for longer duration event!). Thanks Jiha because she 'belanja' me as I drove all the way since yesterday, paced her during the race and need to drove again back to JB!!.

Long Way Down Back to JB

The Things in The Goodie
As a bottom line, Putrajaya Urban Adventure Challenge 2012, provided us a platform to race as a mixed team for the first time. Jiha and me need this race, even she felt reluctant a week before, but we realized as we need this experience as a team to preparing our team towards more grueling and tougher race in Perak Columbia Iron Bound Challenge in Perak this 7-8 July 2012. Finally we also realize our training sometimes give a valuable advantages especially in running and running after bike discipline helps us a lot. We also considering to train more in paddling, and trail running to make sure our muscles ready for the challenges. Owh, I just remembered, within 39 hours without laying on my back for a nice sleep, I was able to drove solo from JB to Putrajaya, raced in adventure race for nearly four hours, attended post race events and drove back to JB (but until Machap only after my eyes felt too sore when responding to the lights). What an incredible physical & mental I have. Thanks and Alhamdulillah..

Team Kakithon would like to thanks Mentor Training 
for the sponsorship!

from Team Kakithon with LOVE