akmal's bike park

akmal's bike park

Monday, 17 June 2013

Event: Wa Cycles XC Challenge 2013 (16.06.2013)

48km (plus 4) in a day on a hardtail
Almost without much thinking, I registered 10 days before the event date. Thankfully the organiser did not impose late entry penalty fee. So, what the heck.
I'm not that much into a race, but somehow this one seems interesting. FYI, I registered under Men's Open category, of which I definitely don't have the slightest chance of winning anything except the lucky draw. Anyway, I created another race category just for me - Challenge Yourself.
So, the main objective of my entry is to see whether I can finish the whole 46km route. It's a tall order for me, with not much training except for last week's night ride event and twice a week dose of 6km running.  Another objective is to enjoy the trails in Seri Alam and Plentong which I hadn't set foot on for a few weeks already.
That said, I did prepare my machine to get me through. Parts from Trance were transferred to the dormant EPX Hollowpoint frame. The idea is to have a lighter bike to get me through the challenge. Unlike the previous rides, this time I planned to pack light. No backpack, no hydration bladder, just a small pack on the saddle and a water bottle plus hand pump on the bike frame. Ride free with nothing on my back. However, I still have the essential spares and ready, stuffed in the saddle pack (okay, that makes the lightness of the bike nearly cancelled out but I do need the peace of mind).
The starting point is at Tasik Seri Alam, in front of MUCH college. It is just 2km away from my house, so no problem for me in terms of logistics. I got ready from home and pedaled to the place.
Below is something that I'd like to note about the event.
My ride
I was in the third group of riders at the starting line, at about 8.15am. The organiser arranged so that the flag off is done in a group of 200 riders. I started quite strong for the first 2km (haha!) on the tarmac before hitting the first of the series of hills leading up to Flora Heights. Being familiar with the route does help, in that I could plan my energy and when to exert power or relax.
I almost caught up with the urge to race, being in the atmosphere where most of the riders were spinning like nobody's business. I stuck to the game plan - to finish the ride.
The ride to the first checkpoint (CP1) was quite torturous at the beginning. I was pushing the bike up to the apex of Bukit Wajib after Flora Heights. After that, I was really enjoying the ride especially down the rodeo line at the rubber estate albeit on a hardtail. I arrived at CP1 feeling exhilirated. Replenished my bottle and moved on.
However, unexpectedly, I had this feeling of wanting to bail out at CP2 but it was not that strong. This is after the climb behind Cactus Inn, and 1km away from CP2 which is at a place PG Gerekers dubbed as 'Simpang Brake Pad'. Perhaps I was thinking too much about my lack of training and lack of sleep making me wanted to give in. Perhaps also my back and thighs could not stand the torture of the trail bumps on a hardtail. At least I wasn't slapping my forehead for not taking Trance for this ride.
When I got to CP2 (26th km) circa 10.00 am, there were no bananas but only water available. And the misinformed lass at CP2 told me that CP3 is 20km away (what?). Whereas, Brake Pad is only 3km from the starting point. I asked her about the chicken route. She said that thus far nobody had gone on a chicken route. So there's my dilemma: on the right is a torturous 20km home and to the left is the short ride home but with my pride crushed to pieces. Of course, a man would sacrifice torture for his pride. And so I took the right turn.
Along the way, I bypassed my schoolmate Fahmi of Kulai's PTK. Right then I knew that I'm faster than him as he was in the first group at the starting point. I also met a group of friends on their leisure Sunday ride - Helmy, Zack and his wife Pah with 2 others. I stopped for Pah's offering of pineapple tarts and a quick chat, then sped away with a tart in my mouth for my energy burst along with some moral boost. Thanks, gang!
Fortunately, CP3 was only 10km away at Ban Foo. I took my sweet time devouring a couple of bananas and replenish my water bottle. Soon after I was joined by Fahmi and we went off shortly after. And shortly after that I left him and headed strong towards the finish line.
With about 10km to go and in Plentong, it was not going to be easy. However I persevered and reminded myself that this is not a race with others but only to prove myself that I could endure some suffering. It is doable, if I take it easy and manage my energy. Much like what I've learnt a few days before that on a run at Lake Garden - as I wanted so badly to stop after the first 3km fast loop, I ran at a slower pace and steadily finished another loop.
I'd say the finishing 2km was torturous - a desert-like area full of gravels and a couple of hills after that really squeezed ounces of energy and mental juice out of me. I triumphed over them, and was out to the tarmac and crossed the finish line at about 12.15 pm.
Yesss! Alhamdulillah, I did it! And alhamdulillah, the weather was nice for offroad riding. Yes it was hot, as it has been these past few weeks, but it's not wet that it would make a good ride a bit torturous and even risky.
After lunch and cooled down, I pedaled home. 52km in total that day. Whew!
The results:
261 in Open category (377 riders completed)
416 in Overall ranking (586 riders completed)
FIRST in Challenge Yourself
Event organisation
My registration was done without much hassle. No problem with that. Good job.
Goodie bags collection was done a day before the event, up to 9pm at Jason's bike shop in Masai. As usual, they could also be collected during the morning before the event starts. Good job.
The race is using timing chip by DirTraction. Accurate timing is ensured and would dismiss any dispute in regards to timing and ranking. A good move in employing available technology. Kudos.
I tried to listen to the pre-ride briefing, but could not really get the details. This is because the position of the speakers are not facing the riders. At the back, all I could hear was some mumbling and noise. I had to go the front and could only pick up some of the info being briefed to all. Need to be improved for the next time.
The starting line is at Tasik Seri Alam, with the road closed to give way for riders to spread along the effective 4-lane road soon after the flag off. Flag off was done in a multiple groups of 200 riders. This is a manageable crowd and ensures that the road is not jam packed at the beginning. Besides, for a race it is a good way to give the faster riders in each category a chance to make way to the front of the pack.
The route was an eclectic mix of terrain with gradients for each. There are tarmac, open trail, loose gravel, rubber estate singletracks, palm oil plantation double tracks, sand, roots, long flowy downhill (after a torturous climb), small stream crossings, with a small section of technical singletrack.
Much of the trail is under the shade. The ending is a crossing of a desert and riders are met with a climb on a loose gravel route. I thought that if the finish line is not nearby, I'd given up spinning and take a good rest before climbing up.
I love the trail. Not too punishing, but not quite a walk in the park. I'm sure the organiser was spoilt for choice when it comes to concocting the right trail mix for the riders to enjoy (or suffer). Just that I was looking forward to go through the canopy trail but that was not included in their mix.
Check out the route map here.
Waypoints and Manning
It's a 5/5 stars rating from me. The markings and waypoints along the route are not too far apart, with potential astray exits cordoned off i.e. at forks. Shredded papers are more than enough strewn on the trail at strategic points. I don't think that anyone would be easily leered away off the trail and get lost.
Apparently, some did. I did at a point, but that was because I was blindly following the rider in front who perhaps was so eager to ride down the steep hill and cross the bridge over a small river. As soon as someone alarmed that there are no markings ahead, we backtracked and quickly found the right path.
Manning is adequate with some trail crews were stationed at turns and danger points to give caution.
I think the CPs are nicely distanced apart. I had no problems getting to CP1, but towards CP2 was quite tiring. If only the people at CP2 had correctly informed me that CP3 is just 10km away instead of 20km, that would be a morale booster for me to go through.
Bananas were not available when I reached CP1 and CP2 but water aplenty.
Toilets: I don't see portable ones nearby. Perhaps some riders went into the ones in MUCH building for that?
Bike wash: None around, so people had to go home with dirt on their bikes and spend some time later at home (or a nearby carwash) for cleaning up.
Lunch and finish point drinks
Lunch provided is typical Malay food - rice with curry chicken and cabbage. More thatn enough to fill the stomach but perhaps some would reject the curry. I had no problem with that, though.
Apparently there were 100 Plus drinks being served but not available for slow riders like me. However, I got lots of cold grape cordial drink while cooling down while having lunch under the tent next to the main event tent. But not the same as downing 100 Plus after draining your liquid through the trails.
Goodie bag
A very nice Giant paper bag, filled with a (not 100% cotton) t-shirt and some tidbits. Personally, I'd do without the t-shirt and have the entry fee lowered or spent on a decent metal medal instead. Too much bike event t-shirt and jersey in my wardrobe already. Medals are now my favourable collectibles, but only good quality ones.
Lucky draw
I didn't stay for long to wait for the lucky draw and left my plate with someone on my behalf. Anyway, I didn't win any. Never mind, for it would be a big hassle for me to bring home a bike frame on a bike.
A note to the organiser:
Kudos for putting up a successful event. The trail is good, and the mix was nice - not too punishing, but not that easy also. Anyone with ample training would be able to finish it, only the time to finish it would separate the best, the good and the able.
Thank you for having the event put up for us to enjoy. I'm sure there are complaints and points for improvement being thrown to you. I have a few points too, within the paragraphs above. Do take them positively, and I'm one here to say that it is not perfect but good enough, with a few things to be looked at for the next edition.
Race results (downloaded, in .PDF):
Thanks for coming by and taking the time to read.
Enjoy your ride!

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Good, accurate review. See you on the trails!