Sunday, November 27, 2011

Epic adventures

Truly epic weekend! The highlights are bowling and hot pot on Friday, followed by a 30km hike on Saturday. Our long awaited, much discussed, team gathering happened on Friday. Our group has been talking about having a team gathering for the 20+ people in our team. One of the girls who is now working on site organizes a lot of these team events, finally got around to planning everything out.

The bowling lanes were booked for 2 hours, from 6:30-8:30pm. Of course, it was expected that we would all be late so she booked 2 lanes for the first hour and 3 lanes for the next hour. Once we got everything going, we split ourselves up into the available lanes and played until time was up. I think everyone participated so it was a lot of fun. There was a lot of cheering, jokes, and laughter.

Some former members of the team showed up for the hot pot part. This was the worst preparatory dinner possible for my upcoming hike. We ate a  lot of seafood and other random things. We kind of split ourselves up into a "kids" table and an "adults" table. The "kids" table wasn't full but we ordered and ate a ton of food. The other table didn't seem to eat as much. It was nice to see everyone having fun and chatting.

After this massive dinner, I went on a 30km hike with some other graduate engineers in our company. Our company sponsors the Inner Challenge, a annual charity hiking event. The charity and organizer is Breakthrough Village, which is a non-profit that puts on events for young people. Teams have to raise a certain amount of money in order to participate in the hike. There's a 8km, 15km, and 30km event. I think all of our corporate teams participated in the 30km event. We had at least 5 teams that I know of participate. Each team consists of 4 members. There were a lot of people participating. There were 100+ teams total, mainly high school and university students.

Our team consisted of all first year geotech graduates. Other teams were a mix of people from different disciplines. Our team was lucky in that the organizer is also from geotech and we have a strong support team from last year's participants. Three guys from last year's group helped us out by buying us congee and other food and driving to meet us at the check points. One of the guys from last year's group really likes hiking and did a 100km hike the weekend before. He somehow was still full of energy and helped us out by walking with us part of the way. I'm not sure I know any other team with someone like that as support.

The hike started at 2pm. I met my team at the Breakthrough Village, which is at the base of Ma On Shan, a bit past noon. We dropped off our stuff with our support team and took a lot of photos with the Arup banner and the Breakthrough mascot (a match). The hike started off pretty easy with a walk along the river. We set a fast pace and was trying to get to the front of the pack. Unfortunately, we didn't managed to get far enough and got into a human traffic jam at the first difficult part of the hike. This first part was truly epic. We had to "hike" along a river bed of rocks. Imagine a stream with running water and lots of big rocks. I thought we just had to hop across and be done with that bit of the hike. It turns out, we had to hike along the stream for a pretty long while before coming back up to the trails. It took us nearly an hour to get through that bit of the hike. It was a big energy drain to be jumping and climbing around big boulders and rocks.

Our supporting member met us at the end of this part. He helped take some of our bags to that point so that we didn't have to carry it while hopping across rocks. I think we were all surprised at the length and the physical demand on this early part of the hike. There were 14 checkpoints total and 3 major ones that were popular spots for supporting teams to wait for their teams. We blasted through the first part and got to the first major checkpoint before our supporting team arrived. So we actually waited around for longer than we wanted to. We had only completed less than 1/5th of the entire hike but one of our team members was already having cramps and had been falling behind. He didn't expect the hike to be so harsh. I honestly wouldn't have either if I hadn't gone on the practice hike. Good thing I had been working out at the gym lately. The other two guys were fine. One of them is very fit and exercises a lot. The other guy is a geologist and runs up mountains for a living.

By the time we started the next part of the hike, the sun was already setting. This next part consisted of going up Ma On Shan (Horse Saddle Mountain). The elevation view of the hike is located here and the contour map here. The huge 450m climb is the Ma On Shan part. I've done this part of the hike on the practice hike but it was definitely different in the dark. I don't mind the uphill part so much. I mean, you need a lot of strength and endurance but it's fine if you're able to keep going. I really hated the downhill part. The impact on my feet and knees felt really painful. Our team member whose legs had already cramped up had trouble keeping up with our pace. Luckily, our supporting member was there to push him along and help carry his bag. I think we all got a bit impatient at the end though, trying to get to the next major check point to get refreshments from our support team.

I swear I've never had such good congee in my life as the one we had on the side of the road. Our support team got us duck eggs and pork congee, tofu fa, bananas and sports drinks. The guys were really awesome. They were actually supporting two teams. The other team was slightly behind us the entire way.

We all felt recharged after that second rest stop and made up some lost time in this next part. I was starting to feel really tired since it was getting close to midnight. I really thought we could finish the entire thing within 10 to 11 hours. But it actually took us close to 14 hours. I won't go into a play-by-play of the entire hike since this post is getting really long. I will post some pictures later.

The event is called Inner Challenge because it's not a race. It's supposed to be a team bonding and mental and physical challenge for all the participants. Hiking in the middle of the night is definitely a new challenge. At the last part, I felt so tired that it took a lot of effort to stay focused on the trail. The trails were also not easy. Most of it was not a nice dirt trail but consisted of large boulders, rocks, random paths through the forest, and other small trails. I think it would have been better if we hadn't taken so long because hiking for 14 hours is definitely an exhausting activity. We were the 20th team (out of 56) to finish. I think a lot of teams must've had a lot of members drop out or entire teams dropped out on the way. It's quite a challenging activity and could be very harsh for people who aren't prepared.

One of the guys on our support team has a car and drove us all home afterwards. I think I got back at around 5 or 6am. I showered and passed our until 11am. I got some dim sum and pineapple juice and ate while calling home. After this, I passed out again until around 4pm. I treated myself to a burger and frozen yogurt. I also went to the sauna at my gym in hopes that this will help me be less sore tomorrow. I feel pretty stiff but not as bad as after a half-marathon.


yalu said...

Whoa, this does sound truly epic..! And the fact that you were out for so long.. haha you have to make sure X reads this, she has been talking about doing an intense hike up Mt. Washington (but in daylight, so like maybe 12 hours in the summer).

Haha the geologist who runs up mountains - that was funny

X said...

This sounds so much more intense than what I was planning on doing (too late this year, but maybe next year)