There’s that itch again. I look down. There’s a ring of red raw lumpy mounds on both of my shins. And they seem to be pulsating. I must have got them from that 3 hour “jungle run” in the middle of the night, the starting leg of the Magadui Trophy adventure race.
Last weekend I went adventure racing for the first time in nearly three years. And I had an absolute blast. It was held in a place called Magadui, 150 kilometres north east of Ho Chi Minh.
Simon and I entered the ultra division. It promised 10-12 hours of jungle running, mountain biking, and river swimming, with a 3am start on the course. It also promised warmth and sun, none of the hypothermic temperatures that made me run away from adventure racing in Ireland.
The briefing was brief to say the list. “You run, then bike, then run, then bike, then run, then bike… then swim”. I made sure I had a copy of the map just in case, even though they promised that the course was fully marked in tape. “If you remember only two things”, the course director then said. “Drink lots of water”. In the end I swallowed nine litres. “And don’t injury yourself”. The last instruction was made whilst pointing at a section of map with contour lines piled on top of each other.
“Here”, he said, swizelling his stick on the projector screen, “It is veeerrry dangerous”. The course director was French with proliferous numbers of pockets on his safari shirt and pants. He was pointing at a part of the mountain biking course. “Last year, people fell off on this veeerrrry steep descent and damaged themselves. This part of the course, we cannot get a jeep or motorbike up, so if you fall, then we cannot come and rescue you”. I felt wonderfully safe already.
In the end, I did fall off. The descent was crazy, through cut away bamboo, with rocks all over the place and huge trees that we had to lug our bikes up and over. But man was it fun. Too long have I plodded the tame and timid tarmac streets in Hanoi. For once I got to run through rainforests, bike over and through rivers and streams, got to hike up hills in the middle of the night, and fall over and hurt myself again and again.
The only parts of the course that sucked were the bits that hurt. If I have to ever eat another powergel or clif bar and down another litre of lukewarm water, my stomach might never forgive me. And I wasn’t too into the dusty two hour hike-a-bike uphill towards the second run section. But then again, the higher up I pushed, the more I convinced myself how fab the descent would be. “Love the climb baby, love the climb”.
Mind you, the 3am jungle run was admittedly much better than I expected. Nothing like getting lost in a dark jungle with many French men running around going, “Merde, where are ze marks?” and following their frustrated sounds. And the river crossings were an ingenious way to cool us all down.
Before the race, we asked how long the legs were, but they didn’t want to say. 10-12 hours is all they wanted to divulge. In the end we finished in 7 hours 52 minutes, mercifully avoiding the midday sun. But the embarrassing part of the whole thing was that we covered just less than 50 k. There was one split where we took 28 minutes to cover 1 kilometre. The terrain was so crazy and full of thorns and creepy crawlies and branches that we were often slowed to a crawl.
Overall, Viet Adventure put on a challenging course in the jungle with 250 teams turning out. We met loads of newbie teams on the course who were having fun trying out the sport. It was all in a good cause, helping WWF plant cocoa trees with villagers and help preserve the remaining rainforest. And the resort where we stayed was comfort and cheap and perfect for an adventure race. I never complain when I can buy cold beer after a race at 20,000 Dong or 1 USD a pint.
Thanks to Simon, my team mate for a great race, to the organisers, volunteers, villagers, course markers, medics, caterers, and to the doctor who’s going to give me something to clear up the mysterious jungle welts on my legs.
Coverage on Vietnamese TV can be found here.