Just when you think you're tough enough

Obstacle Race Tough Takes

Warrior Trail: Obstacle racing in the lush rainforest by Alicia Teoh

Writer Alicia Teoh faced one extra unexpected obstacle along the Warrior Trail
Writer Alicia Teoh faced one extra unexpected obstacle along the Warrior Trail

Unbeknownst to many, Semenyih in the state of Selangor is known for its lush rainforest and idyllic streams and waterfall. That alone was sufficient to convince me to participate in the first ever Warrior Trail Obstacle Race in Malaysia touted as an official OCR World Championship qualifying event.

The other reason was an unfathomable instinct to torture myself in the name of fun. So torture myself I did, beginning with waking up before the crack of dawn for the hour long drive to the venue, Semenyih Eco Venture Resort. When my friend and I arrived at 7.30am, the queue to collect the bibs snaked into the adjoining hall. Thankfully we didn’t have to line up to collect ours.

The rising sun was already blazing as I pinned my bib and slapped on more sun block in anticipation of a scorching day. Not too far at the starting line were the participants of the next wave waiting to be flagged off. At 8.15am we made our way to the starting line to wait for our 8.30am flag off. No one checked our bibs to confirm our wave and I noticed different wave time bibs amongst the one hundred or so participants waiting with us.

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After only about 700 metres of running, I arrived at the first obstacle: the hanging tires traverse. There was already a huge crowd waiting for their turn at the deceptively easy-­‐looking obstacle. After waiting for 15 minutes and the line was hardly moving, so  I decided to skip to the next obstacle which was the mud pits.

Getting my first obligatory mud bath, I sloshed on to the third obstacle situated less than 100 metres away named “The Balance of Power”. Here again was a long queue of people. About 30 minutes later I finally got a go at the balancing steps and cables. Easy peasy.

The next challenge however was another thing altogether. A staple of obstacle races, the rope climb is where you have to shimmy up a 8 foot rope and ring the bell at the top. I actually prepared for this challenge by watching a few youtube videos on “how to climb a rope”.

Basically you have to loosely wrap the rope around one foot and use your other foot to clamp on  the rope while pulling yourself up so that you do not just use your arms to climb. I was looking forward to try this at the race. Alas,it was not to be as the rope that was provided was so short that I couldn’t clamp it with my knees let alone with my feet. All around me, I saw people having to be lifted and supported to stay on the slippery rope.

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Moving on to the subsequent obstacles, the queues were still very long, about 30 minutes each due to the huge bottlenecks. I also noticed an absence of medical personnels throughout the race route. At one particulat obstacle, I witnessed so many people getting hurt leaping from a platform to another (due to a bent pole in the structure), that I decided it was not worth the risk and skipped it. A couple of mud baths and then it was trail running for about 6km through the forest.

This was my favourite part of the race. There is just something invigorating about natural obstacles in the forest. We scooted down steep hills, ran on picturesque trails, crossed streams and wade on treacherous rocks along a waterfall. Many participants used this opportunity to have a refreshing dip.

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After the waterfall came the aptly named “Hill of Hell”. We had to use provided ropes to scale muddy slopes and just as we crested, there was yet another set of hellish hill slopes to climb. But all in all, very enjoyable.

Emerging from the trail run, I was greeted by the sight of the daunting monkey bars obstacle. Already wearied from the run and hours of sun exposure, I could barely hang on to the first ring. Needless to say, I couldn’t complete it. Looking back, I wished I had tried a second (or third) time as it was, in my opinion, the best man-­made obstacle at the race.

A rope swing, rappel and couple of mud pits later, I crossed the finish line after 3 hours  and 50 minutes long, scorching hours. About two and a half hours of that time was spent lining up for my turn at the obtacles. I feel that the organizer did not do a good job in managing the crowd, resulting in huge bottlenecks at the obstacles. So the scorching sun turned out to be an extra obstacle we all received as a bonus!

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There was also a serious lack of safety measures, including proper marshalling and medic presence. The water stations were well placed and directional signage within the forest trail was sufficient. All finishers were given a nice medal, t-­shirt and a packet of Nasi Lemak.

Overall, I found the inaugural Warrior Trail riddled with poor management issues. The race experience would have been so much more pleasant for me if there were less bottlenecks and stronger marshall presence (for safety reasons). I felt we were mostly left on our own to navigate the obstacles, some of which had high injury risks. Luckily for me, I only suffered minor scrapes and sunburn. Nevertheless that was enough torture to last me until the next time!warrior trail-obstacles6

More about the author

Alicia Teoh is a nature lover and an intrepid adventurer wannabe. One of her goals in life is to ride her mountain bike until she’s (at least) sixty years old.