Friday, December 11, 2015

Viper 2Four Challenge 2015

Taking part in a 24+ hours obstacle race was perhaps one of the craziest things I've done for 2015 and that included hiking up Mount Fuji in a typhoon. Joining Viper 2Four with my team C2T2 (Cherrie, Choon, Terence and myself), was also the most fun and rewarding experience I had.

My team checked into the race site at Sepang International Circuit on 5 December at 6am and met up with the other teams from Original Bootcamp. We picked our allocated 10 x 10 feet space near the finish line and the medic tent and quickly made ourselves at home alongside fellow bootcampers Team Spam-Tastic 4 and the group of super individual participants, Dugong Elites. 

We had a huge open-air tent set up (courtesy of Frank and Kee Sim) to cover our smaller tents which allowed for a breezy sheltered space where we rested, ate and be merry for all 24 hours. Each team brought so much food it became more like a buffet feast rather than a 24 hours OCR endurance event. 

A 10km course of 15 obstacles was laid out before us with some of the obstacles open during the day and some at night for safety reasons.  The race time was delayed from 8am to 840am and at 830am, all the racers were summoned to the start line for the flag off. 

For the starting lap, it was compulsory for everyone, including every team member to be out on the course for two reasons: 
1. An introduction to the circuit and obstacles but we need not attempt the obstacles.
2. To stagger the participants and to prevent backlog and traffic at the obstacles. 

In short, it was a relatively clean lap and the faster runners were back within the hour. The lead racer for the men's category and also former two-time World's Toughest Mudder champion, Junyong Pak completed Lap 1 in under 45 minutes. Malaysian contender, Heidilee Muhammad aka Dino, was hot on his heels in second place. Both men were out on their second lap by the time most of us were finishing our Lap 1. 

Upon completion of Lap 1, Cherrie and Terence quickly hit the course for Lap 2 as it was the team category ruling that only two members can be out on the course at one time. During our downtime in the camp site, we had fun watching and cheering on the category leaders as they entered the site, freshen up and head out again. While Dino did back-to-back laps in hopes of gaining a lead, Pak made full use of his allocated rest time to combat the infamous Malaysian inferno that was our late morning and afternoon weather. The sun was high and blazing hot that day and it affected many racers. 

My teammates returned 2 hours 50 minutes later, worrying us as we had anticipated an earlier return. It turned out that Terence had lost his glasses in the first 2km of the race to a water-based obstacle and that slowed them down. With the mid-noon sun blazing on our backs, Choon and I headed out. 

The first obstacle was Bad Plumbing and for this, we had to crawl through an ascending pipe on a slope, jump into a pool of water, pull ourselves out and crawl through a second pipe. All in all, a manageable obstacle if one knew how to brace their knees and back against the pipe walls for fiction and just crawl through like a turd in a constipated bowel. A lot of us came away with scrapped knees and palms. 

We had the Viper Fox at night and this obstacle was great fun. It was instantly a favourite for mine and I wished I could have had more tries on it. Using a metal bar, we had to slid down the railing and grab on to the first rung of the ascending monkey bar. If you thought the bar would slow into a stop, you thought wrong as it would bounce back from the edge and away from the rung. 

After that, came the Ultimate Swing. Somewhat similar to Tough Mudder's King of Swingers, we had to swing from an elevated platform over a pool of water and hit the bell on the other end. Not as easy as it sounds. Each time I was up there, I am reminded that I do not like heights but once I swung, screaming or laughing or maybe both, it was an instant adrenaline rush. Unfortunately, I failed miserably at this, hitting the water first repeatedly. It was on to penalties for us, Jerry-can carry for a certain distance. 

In the distance, we could hear shrieks and curses from fellow participants. Ah, that must be Short Circuit. The pain of Tough Mudder's Electroshock Therapy still fresh in my mind, I would have gladly taken the penalty (be it Jerry-can carry or 30 burpees) if there was a penalty. There wasn't. I took two, maybe three or four hits to the arms and thighs. Each time sent me faceplanting in fresh wet mud. I absolutely hate this obstacle, you hear me organisers! Hate it! 

But I supposed I was fortunately I didn't cramp up after Short Circuit as I heard many did. My layer of fat probably helped. Anyway, the next obstacle Floating Passage give us an opportunity to wash off the mud in the lake which we gladly did so. Doing the obstacle though gave me motion sickness. We had to wiggle, crawl, roll or walk across the 25m passage of rubber tires tied together. Crawling was energy-draining while rolling across made me dizzy and close to puking due to my sudden bout of dizzy spells of late. The lake however gave us a short reprieve of the mud and hot sun. 

After 2km of running which also included a steep slope, we came across one of the more fun obstacles, the Low O Rings. With good coordination, momentum and timing, Choon ace-ed this obstacle easily. I followed but my foot got stuck on the ring, causing me to loose momentum. After a minute of wiggling, jiggling and swaying, I gave up and just fell into the water beneath. 

The next obstacle were the Slanted Walls which we scaled with little issue. Our previous OCR experiences have definitely helped us with wall obstacles that helping each other was almost second nature to us. Moving on! 

Next was the Log Traverse where we had to traverse a slippery log upside down. Although shorter and less than painful that the Spartan rope traverse, we opted for the penalty as it was much shorter, energy and time saving. 

Log jumps or climbs took us off the main route for a bit. It was easy to overcome but if one wasn't too careful, a cramp might strike. I hooked a leg over the log and simply boosted myself over.

 A long slope walk/run came after and the top of it led to the palm oil plantation trail where the Stairway to Heaven awaited. The 7km mark and midway timer mat was also at this point. One just needed to scale it, one rung at a time, clamber over it and back down again.

The Floating Tunnel came after a stretch of trail and road and it was one of the more therapeutic obstacles to me at least. Not to one with claustrophobia. We had to waddle our way through two half-submerged pipes before moving on. Some might not be comfortable with water levels just below chin-level and with walls on all side of them with earth atop them. 

About 500m after the Floating Tunnels, we came across the Elevated Tunnels where we had to climb a wall, ring swing across and slitter our way through a pipe before descending via a cargo net. The penalty for this was a 30kg standbag carry for 25m back and forth which I opted for. Personally I thought that obstacle was rather dangerous as a wrongly-angled fall could have resulted in a head injury or worst, concussion. 

The Barb Wire Hill Crawl was a calf killer but bootcampers would have no problem overcoming it due to our never-ending bearcrawl training. However on Day 2 of the race, I saw a lot of participants stepping over the barb-wires rather than crawling under them. Can't blame them though as no clear instructions were given. 

Last but not least, was the fear-of-heights-inducing obstacle, the Leap Frog. It was a massive version of the slanted wall with a long drop into the deep water below. A second slanted version of the Stairway to Heaven awaited on the other end of the pond for participants to climb up and over. Confidence in swimming was needed for this. I went with the penalty instead on account of my fear of heights, rather than my inability to swim. This was thankfully closed during the night. 

The finish line came after this and upon reaching, my team swapped again. However the race was interrupted by a massive thunderstorm that just blitzed down on Sepang Circuit. Tents were in danger of collapsing (well, the official Viper tents did) and some were flooded. It was a complete war zone after the rain that took an hour and a half to past. During this time, the race was suspended and racers were advised to turn back or seek shelter from the bolts of lighting raining down on the site as though Zeus himself had a bone to pick with us. 

When it was over, we quickly fixed up our huge tent and changed out of our soaked clothes. By 645pm, the race was back on. It continued on into the night with us switching frequently until the wee morning at 2am when sleep got the better of C2T2. It was also during this time that many team upped the engine, taking advantage of the cooling weather and went for it. 

I got in a solid 2-3 hours of sleep before my sister and I decided to hit the course again for our last lap at 7am. Around this time, we saw more racers also hitting the course (many whom left the previous day before the storm and came back for their last lap) With a cooler temperature in the morning, we reached the finish line alongside fellow bootcamp team, the Muddley Crew. 

At 1040am, the race officially drew to a close as the final few racers trickled in. The results of Viper 2Four were as following: 

Men category

Champion: Junyong Park - 13 laps 
Runner-up: Dino - 12 laps
2nd Runner-up: Abu Hassan Abdul Rahman - 10 laps

Women category

Champion: Tahira Najmunisaa Muhammad Zaid - 12 laps
Runner-up: Melissa Lim - 9 laps
2nd Runner-up: Jaclyn Choo - 6 laps

Team category

Champion: KTJ - 12 laps
Runner-up: Muddley Crew - 10 laps
2nd Runner-up: SPAM-Tastic 4 - 9 laps 

Congratulations all! 

Original Bootcamps was well represented by Jaclyn, the Muddley Crew and SPAM-Tastic 4 as podium finishers. The Bionic Musang King finished fourth while my team finished in 11th placing out of 63 teams. Amidst our sleeping, drinking, talking and eating, we had gotten in 6 rounds. 

I felt C2T2 could have done better had we not slept all at once and moved faster on the course but oh well, it was an exciting and unique experience nonetheless. Most importantly, OBCFamily spirit of comradery and friendship really shone through with food, drinks and resting place shared out amongst our friends and family. 

We were each other's support crew and cheer team whether in the camp site or on the course. Whether we were racers, support crew or Viper marshal and crew members, it was nice and a relief to see familiar faces in this challenge and as cliche as it sounds, C2T2 wouldn't have done Viper 2Four without the OBCFamily.

Race Review 
Overall, improvements can be made in terms of men power and obstacles. I enjoyed the route around Sepang as it has its fair shares of road, trail, hills and mud. 
1. Obstacles
Some obstacles like the Short Circuit were just mean and utterly pointless since it becomes more of a mental factor than a physical factor. Nobody likes to get zapped 5 times in a day. 

2. Volunteers 
As some obstacles were closed at night, clearer signages would have been appreciated instead of having a poor volunteer stand in the dark to tell racers to move on. Some volunteers needs to be more pro-active and encouraging but all in all, good job to them for standing out in the hot sun, rain and in the cold at night when the mozzies were out. Having said that, better facilities needs to be provided for them. An umbrella or a flashlight would be nice. 

3. Water Stations
The idea of self-service water station is good for a race like this but at one point water ran out at 6km and the volunteers didn't know until told. Some race I've seen abroad has the water station close or right next to the obstacle so that the volunteer can report in if water supply is low or if someone was injured.

4. Participants
Personally I also feel that there should be a mandatory minimum laps rule as we saw people leaving after the first lap and returning the next morning to do the final lap and to claim their medal and shirt. How that constitutes as surviving 24 hours is beyond me. 

All in all, not too bad for the first 24 hours obstacle race in Malaysia. 

We'll see you next year. 

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