SOGO Adventure Race….So Good!

Team MMS (L-R) MMS2 Lea Latayan and Roy Go, MMS 3 Philip Balingit and Deo Cas, MM1 - Long Henson and Heidi Sarno

Team MMS (L-R) MMS2 Lea Latayan and Roy Go, MMS 3 Philip Balingit and Deo Cas, MM1 – Long Henson and Heidi Sarno

Adventure racing, despite its popularity in the early 2000 was just like a fad that eventually died down at the end of the decade. This is despite outdoors and survival pursuits (reality shows, tv series etc) still getting stronger and even becoming main-stream these past years. The primary reason maybe because of the tremendous resources required to stage a race while only very few participants, few spectators and thus few media mileage in return making it not commercially viable. Organizers would rather do a marathon where hundreds of paying runners will join with only straight forward logistical requirements than the hassle of setting up an adventure race. The supposed to be Federation that would ensure the growth of the sports was also not effective in ensuring the survival of this survival sports. In my opinion, the community was not that mature when they thought the best people to run the Federation are the racers themselves not considering that it’s more of a strategic and management job (i.e. most

Obstacle Course

Obstacle Course

national sports associations, if not all, are run by lawyers, politicians, managers- leaders, whether we like or not. Best if we will have an athlete-leader (who are both) but if not- then the former is still best than athletes who don’t know how to lead and manage). It needed more brains than brawl. Big name companies cashed in during its popularity but had no real commitments to the sports. Remember San Miguel UJAR and Enduro Series? Samsung-AXN Series? They are more of a one hit wonder. They only needed a quick fix to satisfy short term media requirements. The true hardcore events struggled to remain and were lucky to maintain even a smaller presence than to disappear- think of the Carrera Habagat.

Rappelling one of SOGO's building

Rappelling one of SOGO’s building

So what does it have to do with biking in the Philippines? A faint hope for adventure racers rekindled their passion when SOGO hotel chain staged an adventure race last March of 2014. It belongs to this category as the race was 85% done on a bicycle than any other discipline. It was a team of two with all male and mixed category. We joined the mixed, our organization fielding three teams. I was with Heidi Sarno whom I have partnered with during the Tagaytay Highlands race. The result- this was the highest place I ever reached in Adventure Racing, getting the 3rd place in the mixed category. Call it luck or maybe due to the teams who participated but a third is a third and that is enough for me. Maybe a fitting retirement as I am already contemplating on retiring from too much stressful form of sports. Overall, the race is around 160 kms, 38 control points, 10%  run and the rest bike. We started at 2AM and finished by 7PM. Here is the summary of the race (via the 38 control points or CPs):

  1. We started with a 100 meter barefoot sprint to get our shoes from the pile of shoes of all participants. 22 teams overall with 8 from the mixed and 14 from the all male category.
  2. Run from Mabini to CCP Complex. Being the first leg, everyone was still eager so that run phase was really fast. And running is a discipline I hated most- I don’t really like running. I am just forcing myself to jog 3 times a week to keep my physical fitness so this was not really fun for me.
  3. Run from CCP to MOA- this was a disaster for our team. There was a correction in the map to skip control point 2 and to proceed to control point 3 that was poorly corrected and/or communicated (one of the shortcomings of the organizer). Before we realized it- we were at the second to the last place at 21. I actually didn’t know we were at 21 but only after 2 more CPs that I realized we were at 4th place but on the second page of the log book. Though it was funny- it was a bit frustrating to know reality.
  4. Run from MOA to FB Harrison (Puzzle Game). Challenge here was an easy puzzle wherein you just need to convert letters from a chart to form words. I was charged with doing the brain challenges of this entire race.
  5. Run from FB Harrison to Tramo. On our way to Tramo, we passed by another control point only to find out that it was only after another CP. We were still at 21st place. This run section was already getting the best of me.
  6. Run from Tramo to Pasay-Taft. After reaching Pasay-Taft we were then given our bikes so I said to myself- “Ok, now were talking!”- as bike is my strength. So from being dragged by Heidi during the run part- it was my turn to drag Heidi and at the back of my mind- now you know how it feels to be the one coping!
  7. Bike from Pasay-Taft to NAIA. Still at 21st place. I was already wondering if we can or we will still catch up. We were happy though that one of our teams were in second place.
  8. Bike from NAIA to Las Pinas. This is where we went up to 19th place.
  9. Bike from Las Pinas to Zapote (Challenge- Fill Cup with Water using Spoon). Since we were not aware of the challenge, I went upstairs and did this challenge which Heidi supposed to do.
  10. Bike from Zapote to Molino Junction. This was one of the longest and going to the darkest portions of Manila. I was not familiar of the place (South) but thank God Heidi is from Cavite so I relied on her navigation at this portion of the race.
  11. Bike from Molino to San Pedro-Laguna (Challenge Drink Ampalaya Juice). Heidi did the challenge of drinking Ampalaya (bitter gourd) juice. We further had an arrangement that since I will be doing the swim, she will need to do the rest of the challenges.
  12. Bike from San Pedro-Laguna to Alabang (Stairway to 5th Floor). We were asked to take the stairs to the 5th floor. By this time we were already at 17th place.
  13. Bike from Alabang to Bicutan. We got lost for a short time but recovered just in time.
  14. Bike from Bicutan to C6. Now we are entering my turf. I am now comfortable that Iknow the shortcuts of this area.
  15. Bike from C6 to Heritage.
  16. Bike from Heritage to Guadalupe (Stairway to 5th- Math Challenge). I did the challenge here and after I saw the patterns, I didnt computed anymore and just filled in my guess so the people at the CP were surprised on how fast I answered the questions.
  17. Bike from Guadalupe to Robinson’s Pioneer.
  18. Bike from Robinson’s Pioneer to Pasig Rainforest Park (Obstacle Course). I took all the shortcut I know and when we reached Pasig RAVE, we were already on the 11th place. When I saw the obstacle course, I told Heidi, ok its your turn but apparently we were both required to do the course. I was surprised though that I can still do some stuff like the monkey bars. (Here is another weak point of the race- challenges should not be serial (one at a time) as this is the part where the better team on challenges should get the advantage of over taking if they finish faster. If we will do everything sequentially then the opportunity for a team to over take is slim).
  19. Bike from Pasig to Cainta. Still getting further into my turf- I took the Karangalan short cut.
  20. Bike from Cainta to Santolan.
  21. Bike from Santolan to Marikina Sports Complex (Swimming Challenge). The dreaded portion. Thank God it was only for 50 meters. I did a kick from the wall to further reduce my swim to 25 meters. Ok from now on Heidi will do the rest of the challenges.
  22. Bike from Marikina to EDSA Cubao (Stairway to 11F). But both of us were asked to go to the 11F so it was a tiring walk as it was near noon and the sun was already high.
  23. Bike from EDSA Cubao to Amoranto. I was shocked when I saw the van who will take out our bikes as I though there are no more runs.
  24. Run from Amoranto to Trinoma. Walk actually as the sun and our tired legs can longer muster a run. Heidi was really dragging me.
  25. Run from Trinoma to QC Hall. Ok when will it end? We had a couple of store breaks as I was already drinking tons of water due to the heat of the Sun.
  26. Run from QC Hall to UP (Tyrolean Traverse and Tight Rope). Still both of us needs to do the challenge and I found out I choose the wrong challenge as the tight rope was more difficult than the traverse. After this we were glad the bikes were given back.
  27. Bike from QC to La Mesa Park (Puzzle Game). This was a more difficult challenge where there are mixed letters to form a word. This is where the sequential system was already absurd. There is no time limit for one team and they only had the quiz sequentially so not only that there is no way to over take- one can really stall the other team if they took a longer time to complete a test.
  28. Bike from La Mesa to SM Fairwiew. We were surprised when we were told we were already on the third place for the mixed category.
  29. Bike from SM Fairview to Novaliches Bayan. The heat of the sun was already affecting our bike speed.
  30. Bike from Novaliches to EDSA Caloocan (Challenge Eat and Whistle). This is another longer bike route. Heidi did the challenge. Looking at the list, we were still in fourth place and not third (later we found out that the first team skipped some CPs).
  31. Bike from EDSA Caloocan to Caloocan MCU.
  32. Bike from Caloocan MCU to LRT Caloocan.
  33. Bike from LRT Caloocan to Banawe (Puzzle Game). At last- this is how they should do the challenges- everyone that comes in starts the challenge and if you are faster, its an opportunity to over take. It was a guessing game on which branch of SOGO is in the picture. Since there was no limit in guessing, I wrote down all the branches until we got the correct one. We were able to overtake a team but sadly it was one of our team so it was bitter sweet. We were now at third place.
  34. Bike from Banawe to Kalentong (Ride to top of Mall- Puzzle Game). Due to the poor quality of map, we went to the SM CenterPoint first and they allowed us to rappel and didn’t informed us that we should go first to the Kalentong CP. We only found out about this when we saw we were in second place and the second team place arrived and protested. So we proceeded to Kalentong.
  35. Bike from Kalenton to SM Centerpoint (Rappel SOGO Bldg). we did the Kalentong CP with an assurance that we will no longer need to go back to SM Centerpoint. We did a simple puzzle before proceeding to the next CP.
  36. Bike from SM Centerpoint to Recto.
  37. Bike from Recto to Avenida (Puzzle Game). This was an impossible puzzle wherein you need ot count a lot of colored beads. They have precounted it and used it as a reference. But how are they sure that the numbers are still the same? Anyways, we found out that Heidi has a flat tire but I decided to forego repairing the flat since we are protecting the third place finish so she did the last CPs on a falt tire. Anyways she is not that heavy and the bike can still run with a flat tire.
  38. Bike from Avenida to KM 0 Rizal Park.
  39. Run from Rizal Park to Finish Line. Walk actually as I no longer have any power to run. Then a sack race to finish line.
Team MMS 1 Declared as Third Place Champion

Team MMS 1 Declared as Third Place Champion

After the race, the biggest no no that the organizer did was to award the first place to the first to finish team who apparently skipped the Kalentong CP (did the same mistake as we did but did not corrected it as we do). I think no such adventure race will allow a team who skipped a CP without any big consequence, if not outright disqualification. If they did disqualify this team- then we could have been second place. Similarly, if we were told that skipping is OK, then we could not have corrected our Kalentong error and eventually finish in second place. But organizers rule is final. I still appreciate that SOGO did revived adventure racing but I just hope they did not commit such big a blunder. These things are the ones I have mentioned earlier that does not help promote the sports. Just like the Fed itself- we need better management of the race than the design of the course itself. I hope this will not hinder the alleged comeback of AR as there will always be room for improvement.

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