Thursday, December 23, 2010

The One When We Race All Night Long


“Dude, do you think we are on the right track? Macam pelik je jalan ni”

The road that stretched ahead of us was pitched black. We’ve been racing in a night race for the last five hours, but our route thus far had been under the open sky criss-crossing the city, village, palm oil plantation and rice field where we can still see stars and the half-moon shining so brightly above us, assuring us that we were somewhere we should be.

We had passed the last village house ten minutes ago, and the road suddenly got darker as we walked into a jungle-like route. The trees that lined the road were so closely spaced that they hugged each other, and the long branches provided a thick canopy above us that I could no longer see the stars above. When we started, there were a couple of teams behind us, and we could hear their voices, so it was rather comforting. Suddenly, there were none. It was 4 am.

Do you realize that we were practically in the perfect setup of so many horror movies? Pure darkness. Check. Middle of the night. Check. Jungle. Check. Clueless and lost friends with only tiny torchlights to guide them. Check. Hantu Kak Limah? Eh, nasib baik tak de. We even saw a pair of eyes staring back at us (pheww, thank god those were eyes of a cat) and a ‘cow’ darted out of the bush and crossed the road really, really, really fast. I said ‘cow’ because I saw a huge brown body, but Aiman said he thought it was white, then we later realized that whatever it was it had moved quite fast for a cow… oh well, let’s say that we stopped discussing it just like that.

Gambar masa race tak de, sebab gelap dan tak de camera. So, lukis sendiri.


On top of that, I was in pain. The waist was aching as if it had carried a tonne of weight, my hips and calf were poked by needle-like pain, my knees were throbbing. But the cherry on top was the fact that we were unsure of where we were. We might be lost, and I was the one reading the map.

****

I previously refused any invite to participate in a team’s event because I am afraid I will let my teammates down. Despite the fact that I’ve been running regularly, anytime there is a race, the thought that I may crumbled and forced to quit halfway always accompanied me to the starting line. I wouldn’t want to be a burden to the team if I got too tired. When I’m tired I might get cranky too. And you won’t like Cranky Fatma, hehe.

However, considering that my teammates were to be Pa’e and Aiman – two very relax, supportive and cool people I knew, the kind of person who you want to be around you when you are testing your physical limit - I said yes.

*****

Our team was christened “Beauty and the Beasts” (for your information, I was not responsible for the naming. I was not narcissistic enough to call myself ‘Beauty’. Hohoh… eh, wait, perhaps I was one of the Beasts, then? Hmmmm). We started the race at 11 pm on Saturday. We had twelve hours to complete the race, with 39 checkpoints to cover and four maps to be navigated. The total route was about 60 km.

Yeah, a freaking 60 km (we only found this out during the briefing – huh, nampak sangat main belasah je masuk).


All we had was a map with locations of the checkpoints marked, a compass and our torchlight. All we had to do was run and collect as many checkpoints as possible within the time limit.

Map of endless sawah padi (rice field)


Aiman, the strongest one, would run alone to some checkpoints while Pa’e and I would take a shortcut and wait for him at the next checkpoint. Pa’e was our master in strategy. He was the one who had been reading the map all night long, deciding which route to take, leading us from one check point to another. A few times he will take the points himself and let Aiman and I went straight to the next checkpoint so that I can rest while waiting for him. Puas gak nak kejar. Sekaki Pa'e melangkah - berjalan sahaja ye - aku kena berlari untuk catch up, okay. Gila power. No wonder nickname dia Raksasa.

So there we were. I was wobbling along trailing my teammates after picking up the eighteenth check points among the rice field when Pa’e realized that we had been walking far too long to arrived at the next point. Oh ooh, for the first time, we had missed a junction. It was then decided that Pa’e would continue forward, while Aiman and I would retrace our footsteps and collect the checkpoints that we missed, make a loop and enter the main road again. All three of us would meet later where our two routes converged.

As we parted, I hold the map, as Aiman, as strong as he is, is a bit (just a bit... kot. Hehe) clueless when it comes to direction. Ah, that was the first time I was holding the map that night.


Which brought us to the beginning of this post, to that point of utter darkness in the
middle of the jungle. I can’t belief that the only time I was tasked to navigate andread the map, I might have brought the team to the middle of nowhere. I was extremely confident that we did not get into a wrong turn, but how did we end up here? Map salah ke? Hehe. Sooooo embarrassing lohh… if I didn't get us out of this situation, I would have been teased to the end of time on my map-reading skill. Geologist salah baca map? Darn it.

Well, I was sure though that we were heading towards the right direction even though we might not have been on the right road, so we decided then to walk on. All these while I prayed silently that we would see some sort of civilization, or lamps, or fellow racers. Semua ayat lazim, doa makan aku dah habis baca.


After a few false 'hopes' of seeing some lights and houses only to discover that those
were only street lamps and abandoned huts, we saw a junction. And a proper house. And three teams waiting around! People... I see living people!!! They were lost too! Hahaha! See, kawasan itu memang menyesatkan. It was not me.

It turned out that we were a few hundred meters off to where we were supposed to meet Pa’e. We managed to get to the main road that we wanted to, but I still did not know how we got there through that scary jungle road. Oh well, now that the Beauty, Beast 1, and Beast 2 were reunited, we raced on, stopping by at the surau for Subuh prayer, to the finish line.

At the finish line. Senyum lebar, kaki tengah kejang.

In the end, we recovered about 24 checkpoints, and ran and walked across Teluk Intan for 40 km in nine hours before we were stopped around 8 am as time was running out. It was quite disappointing not being able to continue on as I would love to find out how does it feel to run and walk for 60 km (ye lah, dah habis race, memang la cakap macam tu kan, padahal masa lari x habis2 mengomel dalam hati "Why am I doing this?!!!"). A 40 km race was enough though for me to fall asleep on the road in the middle of the kampung while waiting for the van to pick us up in the morning, hahaha. Memang koma terus, okay. By the time we completed the race, it was already more than 24-hours since we last slept, and we had just pushed ourselves to utter exhaustion. The villagers that passed by were certainly perplexed by the scene of a chubby girl sleeping soundly on the asphalt road with two guys guarding around.

It was definitely the most tiring, demanding and physical thing I’ve ever done, but it worth every single sweat and pain that accompanied it. It was astonishing to discover what you can do by pushing the limit. Fighting sleepiness, struggling against the pain, willing myself to continue on… this was so much outside of my comfort zone. But I just gritted my teeth, kept quiet (too quiet I assume. Awal-awal tu seronok giler borak dan nyanyi, tapi bila dah hujung-hujung race, diam tak cakap sepatah pun, heh) and kept the feet moving. I owed it to my teammates definitely - seriously, I could not have asked for better partners-in-crime to share this journey with. It was an honor, guys; I learnt a lot from both of you. You guys are awesomeeeeeeeee!

And we actually won third place!

(okayyyyyy, there were only three teams in our category, hahahahahaha. Whatever la kan. Korang nak kecoh, sila race 40km dulu, okay? Hoho).




4 comments:

  1. Teluk Intan!! 5 years there babe, heheh i won't forget menara condong kajian sejarah tempatan kitorang tuuu... ;p
    they made us run through those kebun sawit konon-konon motivasi lah team building ape lah.

    ...but you did it all on your own willing tanpa ada warden jerit-jerit suruh bangun kul 5 pagi?

    Impressive!

    ReplyDelete
  2. thank you KY!

    Oh naza, i should have ask you to join too. sure terer sbb ko dah biasa ngan route2 itu.. huhuhu. terseksa gak aaa, but i am glad i did it aaaa hoho

    ReplyDelete
  3. Eh the skinny Beast is so not only aweeeesome but alsoooo haaandosme and sometime trooooublesome.. esp with all his Mario Brothers soundtracks -- u should go and pick up those track!

    Thank you for joining us, please come again.. :)

    ReplyDelete