Team Work takes the River Kwai Adventure Race Title in Thailand

I met Dan exactly one year ago. I was looking for an adventure race partner. And so was he. Serge, the race organise from AMA, put us in email contact. The only hitch was that Dan is a South African who lives in Thailand. And I’m an Irish lass living in Cambodia. So we didn’t actually meet each other until the night before the River Kwai Adventure Race last year, in March 2010.

Dan and I, the victorious team with the Merrell gang!

Despite having only recently been acquainted, Dan and I played a blinder of a race. We finished in second place in our class, only seconds behind the eventual mixed extreme winners (2011 race report here).

But being second wasn’t good enough. We wanted to get that win. And with that in mind, we paired up again this year to settle the score, once and for all. Only hitch was that Dan got hit by a car on Thursday night whilst cycling his bike on Bangkok’s roads.

He hobbled into the race venue, his limping leg too hard to hide. “You’re lucky I’m even here”, he said. “I also ended up getting hit by a bus today. Neither of the b@*stards stopped to even check if I was still alive”. I immediately gave him the opt out card. I was fine to pull out if he didn’t feel up to it. But he was itching to run and had his sights set too on the title.

Over a hundred teams took part in the 2012 River Kwai Adventure Race.

We also had another commitment to keep. We had agreed to accept Merrell’s sponsorship for the race. He already had the shorts and t-shirts and shoes, and didn’t want to have to give them back for not starting.

Saturday morning Dan smothered himself in Deep Heat, whilst I spread half a pound of sunblock on my skin. Temperatures the day before had reached 39 degrees Celcius. It was going to be hot out there.

Ditch running to cool us down - with some of the cool hills we went up and around during the race in the background.

In the end, the sun didn’t shine like it was meant to. Which was inevitably good for our Caucasian skins. That didn’t stop the race organisers however making us swim at every possible moment, ensuring we dove into rivers, ponds, and ditches to cool ourselves down.

Dan and I started badly, with a wonky kayak getting trapped on a fishing net losing precious time. But, once on our bikes, we started to hunt the other teams down. We slip streamed and checked with each other our cycling speed. Having raced already together before and on the same course, we used every bit of knowledge of each other to catch up with the other teams. Dan helped me on the ropes and the scary heights. I gave him a bit of a pull on the mountain run sections.

The race rules state that “Each team is required to stay together within 100 meters for the entire race. If a team is found separated on the course, it can be judged “unofficial” or fined a time penalty. You must remain in visual/verbal distance at all times from your teammates.” There were however definitely some teams out there that were more than 100 meters apart. Like I saw one girl, who can’t bike, let the guy ride ahead. Then she managed to catch up with him on the next run. Not only does that mean the rules are broken, but it also takes away one of the main parts of adventure racing, the whole team-dimension of the sport.

In the end, Dan and I won because we worked as a team. He could’ve left me as I faffed around in the water during the river swim. I could have had a totally fun time descending the mountain run alone at a ridiculous speed. And though other teams think that letting each other go at their own speeds means they get there quicker in the end, I tend to disagree.

And anyhow, if your team splits up, who are you going to go drinking beer with afterwards once you’ve crossed the finish line? You need a drinking buddy just as much as you need an excellent adventure racing team mate.

Thanks to Active Management Asia for all the photos. Credit goes to you!

Want to hear more adventure racing tales? Check out my book, “Mud, Sweat and Tears” with stories from the World Adventure Racing Championships in Scotland.

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