Not content with selling Bloomberg terminals quicker than hot cakes, Rowley Aird, Cuda Adventure’s part-time Asia correspondent and adventurer describes how he completed the monumental challenge of the The Subara Asia race last weekend in Singapore.   

About Rowley

Rowley Aird, described by some of his Hong Kong colleagues as a modern day Indiana Jones/ Ranolf Fines  ‘turbo’ adventurer, began his adventure racing career three years ago when he moved from London to Hong Kong with Bloomberg. Adventure racing is no stroll in the park; it encompasses trail running, off and on road biking, kayaking, rope work, absailing and ocean swimming over courses from 55km to 70 km which lasts 5 hours for the professsional winners and anywhere up to 10 hours for the low rollers. While selling Bloomberg terminals from his desk to hi rollers in the shark pits of trading floors of down town HongKong the idea to participate in adventure challenges was germinated..and Rowley never looked back

About the Singapore race..

Singapore is the third action Asia race of the completed by Rowley of the galactic Asia challenges where the goal is not to finish but just simply to survive. The fourth race and final event will be held in Taiwan (course length- a mere 64 KILOMETRES!!!)

Rowley recounts the emotional rollercoaster and hi and lows of the event;

Friday, 1st September; the day before the race

Left HK on friday wondering for 3 and half hours why the F!@k am I doing this again. After the last race (race 2) in Macau I did a Steve Redgrave deciding I would NEVER do this again having severe cramps towards the finish. The thing is no matter how fit and healthy you are you know that after 6 hours of racing the pain in your body is like being in hell. The irony is that the fitter you and the faster you go the more you push the body to the limits and the more knackered you are at the end. 

Arriving in Singapore I called my team mate Dan who had been my running partner in the last race in Macau. He definately had one over me in that race regarding fitness and leg endurance so I was determined not to let the side down and slow him down again. We met up at a pal’s luxury pad who happened to be away in Blighty, hooked up with some Singapore locals at a french restaurant and duly watched them all get bladdered on local red wine and lagers. For us seasoned lash-heads, it took alot of will power not to indulge.  

Saturday, 2nd September

A decent rest last night, some repulsive high energy museli, bananas and plenty of mineraled water, a swim and a round of golf (won on the 18th..nice!) preceeded the official check in at the action hotel down in Clarke Quay. This was a standard equipment check that also included some basic absailing/ rope tests..no problem so far. We then listened intently to the briefing……… EH!….O MY GOD. This was quite obviously different from the last 2 races as Mike Middas the organiser explained; because the race was flat he decided to spice up the Singapore event with bridge jumping, ‘death’ slides, quarry swimming, a 5 Km kayak against the tide, a start in the woods in pitch darness and a seriously long assault course.  O f@!!…. and all because it wasn’t hilly enough!!Mike certainly did his job of spicing up the route because we were now kacking (or kayacking) our pants with fear. The race tactics were discussed over a carbo-packed Thai meal and we heartly tried to reassure ouselves we were enjoying ourselves, fear languishing at the bottom our stomachs. A last minute run through of all the requirements and kit check with early bed at 10 p.m

Sunday, 3rd Sept; RACE DAY

Alarm; 4 a.m, Breakfast; Baked beans, bread, water pocari and museli bar, meet up at 4.45 a.m at the official hotel.

I don’t think I slept at all, my nerves and excitment were going nuts as well as not wishing to miss my 4 a.m alarm clock. I had to smile at the osurdity of us dressed for action; hydra pack, racing kit and helmet. What a ridiculous sight! a late night reveller stared at me perplexed as he staggered out of the cab. We then took the 45 minute bus ride to the start, the chat was a bare minium.

The Start of the race 

The mood was light at the starting point and people were in good spirits despite the early hour. I checked my bike and completed the warm up. As I eased to the start line a number of thoughts entered my mind; Do I have time to lay some cable in the Bathroom? Have a got any water? Have I done enough bloody training? Man..I really I hope I get a flat tyre… 

 subara_rowley.jpg 

 ‘Have I done enough training?’ Rowley at the starting line

The race siren resonated like a thunderbolt in my ears at exactly 6 a.m, we were off and it kick started a monumental mad frantic frenzy of 300 runners (150 teams of 2) trying to scamble for dominance against the team favourites, Team Suburu from Taiwan. The group congestion quickly spread out and 2 Km into the race it had served it purpose by spreading out the initital congested frenzy.. we were well placed as running was one of our strong points. The hard part was still to come; a short 20 minute dash onto the bikes through the darkness led us onto a bridge where we quickly dumped our bikes and started the first real test; a 10 km run through total darkness. True to form we both almost ended up in casualty with narrow escapes to our faces from random tree branches, log scars on our ankles and knees and mosquitoes attachking the esposed flash on our bodies, it was now well over 30 degrees heat with little oxygen in the air, the conditions really sucked. So far so good I thought to myself and we must be in the top 10 at this stage, nice…This is where it all went ‘Pete Tong’  They always say 6 ”P” are crucial to any suucessful race; ”perfect preparation prevents piss poor performance” Right? Ok…. so the bikes weren’t exactly our bikes..we borrowed them from some pals. My bike was the business by Dan’s bike, having arrioved late Sat night hadn’t checked his properly and had ‘semi slicks’ on it. So 15 minutes into the bike riding puncture number 1! O..F!@*  Now with all adventure races this is part of the package and so we quickly and efficiently changed the inner tube and 7/8 mins later continued in the hunt for the leading pack. We had We had probably lost about 15 places though, but we knew it was a long race and there would be plenty of time to catch up! Little did we know what was in store for us!5 mins later the back tire went, and puncture number 2 had to be repaired! This took a little longer and was really frustrating as by now a good 30/40 teams must have passed us. At this stage I went through a very low moment. I was tired physically but the lost 20 mins or so at this stage really pissed me off and mentally I was finished. I was tempted to tell Dan to sod the race now as it was all but over and just to meet up with our friends and have a solid boozy Sunday lunch down in Sentosa on the man-made “beach”! However, we soon got back on the bikes and made a desperate push for it. This was a challenging path with superb scenery and we passed streams, went down rocky paths, up steps, down jungle paths etc Then disaster struck. Puncture number 3! We now had no spare inner tube and thoughts were running through my head again of that Sunday roast down in Sentosa! I knew that we had done most of the off road stuff, and so we asked a race organizer who duly confirmed. We decided to go for it despite the front wheel flat. At this stage the race helicopter that was shooting footage surfaced above us and all I could think about was, wanting to trade places with the pilot.

Just got to keep going…………

We came to the end eventually, or so we thought, and had to do a quick scramble down some nets into an old quarry, but now a lake, and swam for a while. It was then back on the bikes! But it couldn’t be for much longer we thought right as the steward had already confirmed with us it was nearly over?! 20 km later we finished the biking for the day!! My partner deserved a gold medal in this feat alone, as to anyone that has experienced this, it is similar to riding through soft sand for 90 minutes! We did take this in turns a bit, although he definitely got the rough deal here. Again we lost plenty of time and even some women started to overtake us now!! It was at this point when

I thought of Lance Armstrong from the book “it’s not about the bike” and he tells of a story of an elderly woman riding past him on some hills in
Austin, Texas…you can imagine his reaction then, and ours was similar!

We then ran, swam, did some abseiling off the bridges, more running and did our best to catch up, at least on the women! This all went well at least.

Next the canoe and low moment number 2!

I found this part very difficult, not least to just get into a steady rhythm but the constant monotony of it. In out, in out, in out…!

It seemed the kayak section would not end, and I turned round to Dan at this point, and made it quite clear in no uncertain words that for record I really was not enjoying this race now (perhaps the words were a little different at the time!!). Still we reached the half way mark at the end of Clark Quay where the race registration had been, turned around and passed up through Boat Quay! On the way back we were temporarily allowed to get out of the kayaks and swim to the shore, run up on the bridge and then just jump off! What a break,   I thought to myself, but this really was a huge adrenalin rush and for a split second erased the pains in the shoulders! The real rope work then came upon us and there must have been about 5 sections to it. Essentially these entailed a hard run to the top of the bridges and then an abseil off into the river and a swim back to shore. These were great fun, although in a desperate effort to catch up, we both let go of the rope on the first one, so to do it quicker, only to completely burn our fingers, even through our gloves! The zip line was the highlight though and took me back to
Queenstown, New Zealand and that same fear of the first bungee jump. That time I made Dorcas go first, but unfortunately she was not here to save me this time! I love these kinds of activities, but only afterwards! Hanging upside down being held by a clip and having a pulley as the only mechanism to get you down was a proper shit scary moment. I asked for advice as to when we hit the water, only to get, “hold on tight and protect the private parts!” Great…the same advice I was given when asked how to cope with a grizzly bear in the Canadian Rockies almost 10 years ago!

It was most excellent though! Another huge rush had helped erase the memories of now near physical exhaustion and meltdown (the temperature was only rising by now and must have been 35+)!

We smelt the finish line at this stage and reckoned we had another 2 km run to go. We were correct with respect to this, but did not expect the 500 meters of water between us and the finish line! When we were then given 1 surfboard between us, I felt like we were doing the krypton factor! Soon we got into a rhythm with Dan’s head delicately rested on my backside (and him no doubt now wishing he hadn’t suggested baked beans for brekkie!), with me doing a front crawl action, and his legs kicking. We even overtook 3 others! A mad scramble over the beach, a climb over some more nets and a look at the watch gave us 6 hours 29 mins and 20 seconds! The finishing line was finally there! We had made it! The mirage had water!

The feeling that then proceeded was mixed. We were undoubtedly very pleased and releived to have finished but I felt somewhat subdued. It was like walking off the pitch from a hard rugby game, but on the losing side. The race had got the better off us. It was also a feeling of what might have been, as we still finished 30th and knew we could have shaved nearly an hour off this with a decent bike leg. Having said that it was a totally awesome race and as I write this, I can’t help but think of the next race, and how the tactics will vary this time around. The lessons are obvious. Prepare for all eventualities! I heard later that Team Suburu had similar problems in that their chain had actually broken, and failing to have a spare link, they found a piece of rope and took turns to actually tow the other! This though had happened only in the closing stages of the bike, but still it demonstrates the will power and determination that people have to finish despite the challenges and setbacks that they face along the way! Next time I’ll beat it!

Photos:

http://www.howiephoto.com/force%20five/2006-09-03%20%20Subaru%20Action%20Asia%20

Challenge%20Singapore%20Assignment%20by%20Action%20Asia/index.html

Other brave hero’s of 2006;

1) David Walliams; Little Britain comedy star completes epic Sports Relief channel crossing swim in 10.5 Hours! in horrendous conditions,

2) Princess Anne’s daughter, Zara Phillips wins gold against the odds at the World Equestrian Games In Germany

3) Dave Reilly sets up Barracuda Digital in Jan 06; the Worlds finest Search Engine Optimisation consultany, shakes up the web industry and gives his competitors a right shoeing.. 

Should Rowley Aird be nominated for 2006 BBC Sports Personality of the Year?   

‘No …I think it should be Zara…er yaaaaaa’ Princesss AnneJoin the debate NOW!…..and leave your comments/posts below on The Cuda Message boards

 
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