Elevated heart and respiratory rates, increased blood flow and a surge of energy throughout the body. These bodily responses are a result of taking a hit of ?,3,4-trihydroxy-N-methylphenethylamine, better known by its street name, Adrenaline.
For thrill-seekers and adrenaline-junkies who find other sports too tame, adventure racing may very well be the solution to their ‘cravings’.
SAFRA AVventura™, organised annually by SAFRA Yishun and SAFRA Adventure Club, is Singapore’s largest cross-terrain adventure race. Every year, each edition ups the ante by introducing fresh challenges to keep racers on their toes. While 2015’s race route is under wraps till event day, last year’s 2nd runner ups, Leonard Chua and Daniel Low share their experience in SAFRA AVventura™ 2014.
Low, 21, a student at the Royal Veterinary College, is an avid outdoorsman. He enjoys running and cycling in his free time. Coupled with his experience in kayaking from his early school days, his skill-set lends itself naturally to adventure racing. He shared: “Our first adventure race was the SAFRA AVventura™ in January 2014. My racing partner, Leonard, suggested we give the event a try. Since I enjoy the outdoors, I decided to give it a go. We were pleasantly surprised to come in third place in the Youth Category. It was an extremely memorable experience, having been our adventure race debut.”
Chua, 21, a NUS Law Faculty student, agreed with Low’s sentiments. “It was fantastic,” he said. “We used many tactics to fight for every few seconds. It was a thrilling and exciting race from start to finish. It was a 200-minute race but the top three places finished a mere five minutes apart. For days after the race, I found it hard to focus on things as I kept relishing the experience and replaying the highlights in my mind!”
Adventure racing demands not only physical stamina, but mental toughness as well as a proficiency in a range of skills. The limits of racers are tested with a potent blend of various endurance disciplines such as map navigation, cross-country running, trail biking, kayaking, sport climbing and rope skills.
Chua explained: “Adventure racing appealed to me because it combines many disciplines. I know I am not the best in any single discipline, but I may have a chance in being good when combining running, mountain biking, kayaking and climbing. Having to train for a variety of disciplines is also more fun and interesting. I enjoy all of them but too much of any may get boring. Mixing them up seems to be also better for a full-body workout. Most disciplines require pacing and progressive preparation and this is definitely so for adventure racing.”
Adventure racing is definitely not for the faint hearted and is an extreme test of endurance. In addition, razor-sharp wits and on-the-fly thinking are also necessary as obstacles, challenges and games are thrown into the mix so adventure racers will not get far with mere brawn.
Low explained: “You also need to be able to think quickly under pressure as the race routes and obstacles are not disclosed in advance. You never know what to expect but you cannot let those obstacles slow you down.”
Chua elaborated: “You don’t know the exact distance you have to cover, so as much as you do your best to be prepared, you have to strategise to optimize your performance. For instance, once you have an estimate of the distance you have to run and you know that your body is not conditioned for that distance, you should come up with a run-walk pattern. This way, you go at the optimal pace throughout, rather than run yourself flat and walk the rest of the route.”
Teamwork is paramount, as racers compete in teams of two or more and the exact race route is kept from the racers until the actual race itself. Having placed third in their first adventure race outing, Chua and Low share the secret to their success in SAFRA AVventura™ 2014.
Low said: “Teamwork was extremely important in determining the final outcome. During the kayaking leg, we worked well together and managed to make good time, catching up with the teams in front of us. Though we did not overtake them, it gave us a fighting chance and we completed the race just minutes apart.”
Chua emphasised the importance of rolling with the punches and adapting to the situation. “Things were far from perfect for our race, but teamwork means trusting and listening to each other to make the best of the situation. I was worried with the race being so long and thus took a very conservative pace. Daniel was getting anxious that we were falling too far behind and wanted us to capitalise on our strongest discipline, mountain biking, by picking up the pace. Yet, he left the decision to me. I trusted him and decided to take the risk. We went very hard for this segment. We caught up and pulled away from many teams. It was this decision that gave us a chance at the medals.”
This sort of trust and teamwork does not come easy. Low pointed out: “The pair must communicate effectively not just during race day, but in the training leading up to the race itself. Only then, would you be able to complement the strengths of your partner and push the limits of yourselves.”
“We were fortunate to live in the same neighbourhood, making it much easier to organise training sessions. We would run and bike about twice a week, as well as kayak or climb fortnightly. Through the many training sessions, we not only built up our fitness for the race, we also became aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Chua continued: “We were thus able to strategise how we would tackle the various segments. He was better at running and road biking, so I would set the pace rather than struggle to catch up. I was better at mountain biking, so he would set the pace. He was better at kayaking so he would sit at the back. I was better at climbing so he would belay.”
Of course, the reward in SAFRA AVventura™ was not just winning medals, but the race offered a different experience for both racers.
Chua enthused: “I enjoyed the Jumar (rope ascension) segment because it was something different and really challenging – my arms and legs were trembling from the exertion! I was aching badly the next day!”
As for Low, it was the chance to explore an area of Singapore not usually accessible to the public that was the most memorable. “I enjoyed the cycling leg as the route was particularly scenic. The route brought us through an area of Singapore which we had never been. It was challenging as the ground was muddy that day, but we managed to do well and enjoyed ourselves at the same time.”
The adventure race bug bit both Chua and Low after SAFRA AVventura™, and they took part in other races. Comparing SAFRA AVventura™ with other races, Low evaluated: “I felt that SAFRA AVventura™ was thoughtfully planned, with each leg being an enjoyable yet challenging length. The Youth category is also a good place to start if you have never taken part in adventure racing before as the distance and duration of the race is short.”
Chua agreed. “Some races just made you cover a crazy distance on foot – this made it easier for the organisers to plan the logistics. However, the SAFRA AVventura™ Youth and Sprint categories had a good, long biking session that helped ease the monotony and strain from continuous running. It was really well planned, having managed to weave the biking so well into the race.”
The next edition of SAFRA AVventura™ will be held on Sunday, 11 January 2015 and registration will be closing at the end of this month. If you are yearning for a new adventure and a test of your endurance and teamwork, this might be the race for you. Visit www.safra.sg/avventura2015 for more information.