Blood, sweat and tears: where do we sign up?
The Chiang Mai Challenge 2009 Adventure Race from a competitor’s perspective
Chiang Mai, May 9 - As I lie dozing, a glimmer of early morning
sunlight shining through the curtains, I hear a loud thump from the room
next door. It occurs to me that I’m in Chiang Mai and that I have been
talked into doing another race after swearing at the last one ‘never
again, I’m getting too old for this!’ The team in the next room are
already starting their own preparations for the race.
And what exactly is an adventure race? A multi-discipline event normally
comprising of trail running and scrambling, mountain biking, swimming
and kayaking. Of course, if the Organisers can manage it, there will be
something else as well. All of it is off road and it’s usually in wild
country. The Chiang Mai Challenge 2009 would be all of this and more
besides, but let’s go through this race in the order we met the various
competitor traverses a tree lined Mountain Bike section of the 2009
Chiang Mai Challenge Adventure Race.
Before we start, the race is made up of 2-person teams in various
categories; Men’s, Women’s, Mixed, Masters and Seniors. New for 2009,
the race was split into two divisions of Adventure and Extreme.
Competitors come in all shapes and sizes, ages and physical ability,
knowing that an Adventure Race isn’t just about coming first. It’s also
about having the will to complete a difficult course when one is
exhausted as well as helping your teammate through the tough parts. Each
team must go through checkpoints together or else be disqualified so,
there is no advantage in one of the team rushing ahead to register with
the timing marshalls.
Some may say I am foolhardy, others may be impressed by my
physical prowess and sheer ‘bloody mindedness’. The truth is that the
challenge is not just to do well in a race of this kind, but to complete
a demanding course that lesser mortals would give up trying. My partner,
Nikki, and I have decided to do the Extreme Race, a decision we may
Having placed our mountain bikes at a transition point, competitors mass
on the start line. There is nervous tension as we wait for the opening
speeches to be made. Last minute dashes to the nearby toilets are made
as nerves turn bowels to jelly. We laugh and joke with each other as we
wait. Lots of nervous laughter, fidgeting, minute adjustments to already
perfectly arranged clothing and equipment. We all wear hydration systems
as the start time draws near, sipping water and electrolytes, while
nervous bowel movements send many of to the nearest toilet.
We are given last minute instructions from the race director Mr Serge
Henkens. After a bit of jostling for position on the start line, we’re
off on the first leg of the race. We make a circuit of Chiang Mai’s 700
Year Stadium and then it’s into the rough stuff for a long uphill climb
through the forest. This was a run along some beautiful open forest
trails which climb high above the city.
is the name of the game in this sport.
We soon spread out and as I climb up the steep forest path, my partner
bounces along encouraging me to climb faster. We skip down the hill
again back towards the stadium along rock strewn paths. It’s already
getting hot and I’m very pleased that I have thought to carry the 3
litres of fluid in my pack. The trail is rough and we frequently have to
duck around low hanging branches. Already some teams are struggling.
This is much harder than they thought it would be. But, doggedly, they
go on and overcome their difficulties.
A common problem for inexperienced teams is that they go out at the
start at way too fast a pace to maintain. This first running leg of the
race took us about an hour to complete. Already tired, we re-enter the
stadium and pick up our bikes.
The second leg of the race required us to cycle a fairly technical bike
course. Our strategy is for me to go first so that so that Nikki can see
which line to cycle over the rougher parts. We start to make up time on
some of the teams in front. We traverse this leg quite well, careful not
to take unnecessary risks, though bike helmets are mandatory.
We completed the bike section and emerged on the shore of a small lake.
We dropped our bikes and immediately ran into the lake to start a swim
section. The swim wasn’t long but, wearing all our clothes, shoes,
hydration packs and now a life jacket as well, swimming isn’t easy.
Nikki had to scull a large inner-tube across as I swam. We collected our
token and then reversed the swim back to our bikes.
Many teams were having problems and again, Nikki and I, who are strong
swimmers, did well. Getting out of the cool water proved a problem for
some teams as hot limbs succumbed to cramps.
Then it was back on the Mountain Bikes for a very technical forest ride.
We spent as much time carrying our bikes as riding them. Part of the
challenge here is to know what you and your partner are capable of, then
not trying to exceed your skills – or lack of them. Many teams had
problems here trying to ride over obstacles they were clearly not able
We emerged from the forest on the shore of Lake Huay Tueng Taew. We
swam/waded through the about 200m of tepid water, though it was a relief
to cool down a bit.
The start of the kayak section has a twist. Our task was to get to 3
separate points along the shore and pick up tokens. It’s great that my
poor legs can rest for a while, whilst Nikki has to climb a cargo net to
get the first token, haul herself up a tree to get the second one and
then use a catapult to hit targets to get the third, whilst I position
the kayak for a fast getaway.
The teams are all very well spread out now and it’s starting to get
tough. The end of the kayak section beckons and we hand in our tokens,
run up to the check point on the bank.
The next section of the race was another run. We set off from the edge
of the lake through the low forest trails and then up to the mountain!
This was an incredibly hard section. It was getting very warm now as the
morning progressed, this made worse because of the humidity under the
trees. Now the muscles are starting to scream. It’s hard to get my
breath. I want this to end.
Then we cross a small stream and a waterfall and are faced with a number
of wooden ladders to climb. A grinning face above me. The Thai marshal
probably just can’t understand why we’re doing such a stupid thing as
climbing the mountain, the hard way, in the middle of the day. He’s
right. We are quite mad!
Over the ladders and the long descent back to the lake shore. If the leg
muscles were protesting before, they are agony now. Finally the run is
over; we can see the next check point.
We load up with water again. The heat is intense and we are very, very
tired by now. Nikki plods on and we enter the lake again for a swim back
to our bikes.
Again, it’s fairly rough and the hills though small, sap what little
energy we have left. Amazingly we find ourselves back at the stadium and
the finish line is in sight. Teams already there are quick to
congratulate us as we do the same.
This isn’t a race about winning but having achieved something very
special. We have been racing for nearly 6 hours and are pretty
exhausted. The exhilaration of having completed and not given up is
immense however. This is why we do it.
Of course I have vowed never to do such a race again. I have refused to
put myself through the sweat and pain of another event like this.
Inevitably however, the pain wears off and, after a couple of beers with
other teams; I know that I’ll be back for more next time.
Well done to the Active Management Asia team for another superb event.
Now, where do I sign up for The Ibis Koh Samui Challenge in September?
The Next race part of the Amazing Thailand Adventure Race Series will
take place in Koh Samui on September 19, 2009. For more information:
www.kohsamuitrophy.com, Tel: 02 7189581-2, Email: info @active-asia.com.
Local tennis player Natasith
reaches 3rd doubles final in Brunei
The Prem Tennis Academy recently sent 8 of its
top players to participate in the annual Brunei
ITF G4 tournament held for a week in March.
Three PTA girls entered the main draw with Helen
and Kana winning tough first round matches
against Russian and Japanese players in 3 sets.
In the next round, Bright won an easy match 6-0,
6-1 against another Japanese player while Kana
played some sensational tennis upsetting the #13
seed from Austria 6-1, 6-1.
and doubles partner, Ben, with their runners up
In the next round Helen played a tough
competitor from Japan losing 3-6, 3-6, who
eventually went on to win the tournament. In the
3rd round, #10 seed Bright played the #8 seed
from Australia losing a tough match 1-6, 2-6
while Kana played the #4 seed from Taiwan losing
by the same score.
In the girl’s doubles Kana and Bright reached
the quarterfinals before losing to the Japanese
team, who went on to win the tournament, while
Helen and her partner also reached the
quarterfinals losing in a very close 3rd set tie
breaker to the #2 seeded team.
In the boys singles and doubles draws Prem had 5
players participating. Phat, Note, and Gan
gained valuable experience in the first rounds
of the main draw with Note playing the #8 ranked
junior in the world.
Richard and Tan won their first round matches
easily with Richard losing in the 2nd round to a
tough Taiwanese player and Tan beating a Hong
Kong player to move into the 3rd round. Tan
played the #8 seed from Indonesia winning the
1st set and losing the next two, 5-7, 3-6. The
Indonesia went on to reach the finals of the
In doubles, both Richard and Tan won there first
round matches earning key ITF ranking points
with Tan going on to reach his 3rd doubles final
before losing to the #8 ranked player in the
world 3-6, 2-6. (Source: The Prem Tennis