Trailwalker 2011

This was my 5th consecutive (and successful) attempt at the Oxfam Trailwaker. It was also our best completion time in the past 5 years! 16 hours 11 minutes.

My teammates for 2011 were all top notch. Steven, our team captain, is famous for his highly sophisticated training and eating routine. In fact, it’s nothing short of a Harry Porter kind of magic concoction in terms of food. Special mushroom from Machu Pichu, rare herb from the center of the Earth, unique drink from Mars (I mean the planet not the company).. you get the picture. Then, there’s Jinhwa, who came 8th in the international Kota Kinabalu Climbathon (a race where one has to run from 1000m in elevation all the way to the summit of Mt. Kinabulu -4200m- and back!) And then, my 3rd teammate Vic, who is solely fueled by chicken legs. And these are not legs from just any old chicken but he only eats the thighs of BAD ASS chicken, ideally chicken that have fought and killed at least two other chicken by the age of 3. The only “normal” human being in the team as me.

So, the first 1 hour before the commencement of OTW is when you attain temporary celebrity status. That’s when dozens of cameras from all over capture hundreds of photos. We often have trouble deciding which camera to look at. And about 15 minutes prior to the Trailwalker, some dude called Bernard (I think he’s the Oxfam chairman) takes the stand and starts off with an enthusiastic “ARE YOU READY?” to get everyone energized. Kind of like the beginning of a Linkin Park Rock Concert. But, unfortunately, unlike Linkin Park, there is no rock music that follows, instead, he rambles on in a highly boring, sleep inducing, sure-cure-for-insomnia kind of speech which thankfully lasts only about 5 minutes. Following that, there is a loud countdown (probably intended for the purpose of waking everyone up after that speech).. 5..4..3..2..1 and then well over 3000 people are on their way to complete 100kms of walking torture.

The weather observatory predicted rain yesterday but as they say “weathermen make predictions because the stock market guys have someone to laugh at”. It turned out to be super hot and humid instead. I have done many ultra-marathons and I have come to a realization that running 100kms is invariably a lesson in managing emotions. There are bad times where you regret having participated and would long to just go home and sleep and there are good times when you feel like a true rock star. My bad moments yesterday were Stages 3 and 4. I lost concentration and had more slips than usual. But, through some excellent rock music and mental focus, I was able to bring this under control.

Our support crew – Dominic, Lily, Newman, Wah, Li, Annie, Lawrence and Sushil were simply fabulous. We had green tea at the end of stage 3 and Lawrence, who was pacing us, ran down first to buy us some much needed sugar drink (coke) to help us recover from the heat. Our Stage 5 support point was like a Ferrari pit-stop. 5 minutes is all we had and we managed to get so many things done in those five minutes that it put my 9-6 office hours to shame. Eating, change of socks, change of tee shirt, refueling hiking bag, drinking green tea, etc, etc. Our support team were behaving like pros.

From stage 5 Jinhwa had some issues with her stomach but that didn’t seem to deter her. She plodded on and didn’t even think about slowing down! We met Team Green’s supporter Hannes at the end of stage 5 who gave some potatoes with oil. It was fabulous. It boosted energy in my body almost immediately. Two more stages later, the observatory’s rain forecast materialized during Stage 8 (they must have felt vindicated). It rained quite heavily and I was wondering if I would still get my noodles at our second support point at Route Twisk. Our support team were again very, very creative. They actually managed to pitch a tent at the Route Twisk camp site and I had my noodles in a tent!

We had two pacers for Stages 9 and 10, Mico and Alice. They ran with us all the way to the finish! We were looking at 16 hours 30 minutes at some point but much to our surprise, we finished in 16 hours 11 minutes. A great victory for not only us but for our support team, pacers and friends.

By the way, here’s a tip that I learned yesterday about the order teams should follow when deciding who should be at the front. Teams usually have problems deciding who should lead. Some say that the slowest guy should be at the front or the fittest guy should be at the back and so on. I say that teams should lead by the reverse order of highest possible farts. I.e. the guy who farts the most has to be at the back!

Fab day out and special thanks to our teammates plus support crew and friends for making this a success. Romain and Vivien, it was really good to see you at CP8 and the finish!

Garmin says 16.18 but it was 16.11 (I forgot to switch it off in all the excitement!)