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Adventure Racing Asia Championship - Philippines 2023 - TEAM SHERSHAH

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

The Timeless Yellow Race – A memoir from Adventure Racing Asia Championship, Biliarian, Philippines, 2023

Trail Running, Ocean swimming, MTB had broken us deep in our bodies and minds until a point that we lost the track of time and our own strength failing to identify the routes or ourselves, wherein came to our rescue an important indicator called a yellow ribbon. Every journey would have an element of love, belongingness and rescue which could be as tiny as a yellow ribbon but would do wonders when we look back that it only got us to the finishing line.

Let me take you to an adventure of a yellow ribbon out in foreign lands with our native watch. We woke up to what we’ve been dreaming all our lives so far and landed up in Philippines all pumped up to give out best shots but least were we aware that now is time we defend our honor, our pride and the name of our team The Shershah.

Let’s touch upon the lives of the people of Team Shershah who made it possible. To start with the Queen of the Team, an epitome of resilience, compassion and utter grit, she’d walk gracefully as proven in the previous podium finishes and multiple marathon races and shall win the game. Moving on to the most versatile one in the group, currently an outdoor educator, dedicated adventure seeker, certified snake rescuer, passionate rock climber, robust mountaineer and what not, and to us all he is the captain of team Shershah. The one who navigates the entire team not only on the walks of adventure racing but often lives too is Mr. Bharath Gowda. A bodybuilder by profession, immersed in heavy weight training which makes him the best fit for strength and conditioning of the team, we could rely on him to be the best beasts in the race. Last but not the least is Mr. Dhanush, the cyclist,

the racer, the marathon runner, deep sea diver and kayaking expert. He’d sail like a fine ship in rough waters.

Team Shershah is built on mad respect for each other, pushing and pulling for the A Game knowing nothing comes free and -----

We set the sails for an unknown adventure of whopping stretch of three hundred and fifty kilometers along with the onset of huge storm and typhoon Tisoy, a 64 Years old map, the terrain of which has changed drastically by now and this was the moment we knew it’d need not only our sweat and blood but our whole wisdom of life to get through.

It’s the D day, we’ve been handed over the race booklets, transition bags, map grids, and a crash course on navigation. Time constraints had us sleep only for 3 hours which took a toll on us for the next main day.

On Day plus one we have an orientation map with 8 non sequential check points to be spotted in manner of our choice, no physical appearance is similar to what is showcased in the map and to add on were the tasks completion like map ratio questions and bridge length. Here we had our first experience with shoes deep in clear running water taking us along with its currents towards the HQ. We cycled towards the swimming leg or CP1 only to know that neither of us is an expert swimmer and could be swayed by the ocean water currents which definitely happened and we took 4-5 hours to cross it instead of 1-2. This weakened our body and strengthened our courage and shoes by now had befriended waters so much so that they invited rain which drenched us heavily until transition point 1. The moments wherein we soaked not only water but our fate of rough weathers that we were walking to our first proper meal of the day with chaotic mind and road.

Next thing we remember is waking up sleep deprived at 3 AM and meandering our ways like drunkards into nothingness in dense terrain chanting and looking for yellow ribbon as it could only lead us somewhere. And it did, it took us to a ray of hope in a beautiful sunrise with a news that we were way ahead than fellow teams which had lost in right navigation and this filled us up for our next move.

Unfortunately, by now AK had hurt her ankle beyond limit to what would push her into a chronic disease if not taken care of, this called for a downhill movement and now we knew we’re setting us up for the lengthiest walk so far. It appeared like a march towards infinity. We ran, we walked, we crawled, and we moved. Came to us the breaking that a few teams had pulled off the race and hadn’t reached transition point. This had us our hands folded to the belief we carried within and we sought for greater strength. We cycled to the next transition point.

Team Shershah march went on while the other teams halted. We were beyond hallucinated post 60 percent walk completion that downpour did not bother us anymore and we kept dodging between raincoat and soaked clothes until the point that no care was given. Lost the track of time, surroundings, people and even ourselves amidst everything to enter into an oblivion until AK called out loud the need of a nap. Without a second delay we were on the floor, drop dead on the concrete road yet the softest quill in entire universe.

Day 2:

The next morning started with a good seed of doubt that the other teams were confused of route and we still could pace up if stepped carefully.

The map indeed was testing our patience more than time had tested it. We required the help of locals enroute but it had us railed off from the actual route to move 7-8 km in unknown ways. By now immense frustration had clouded route judgement for us to pick up random trail and follow regardless. This led us to cross the river and unsurprisingly we finished it with 30-40 pus and pain filled blisters in just one foot. This pushed Mr. Dhanush to an extreme injury and to save him from lifetime impairment we had to force him for calling it a day with our broken hearts and affected minds, this break a havoc on the entire team. The battle looked unworthy to be counted in non- bearing team category due to drop out but team Shershah must finish what it picked up and finish it in style, we moved on.

We moved to the test of life through a trek which varied in range richly from its mention in books and reality. We take pride in acknowledging that we had already done good treks in short time during our practice sessions so we could do it well.

It's beautiful to say that entire route had much complexity than it appeared. In the small islands were hidden treasures that demanded our courage to reach them. We walked, we spoke, we shared, we felt, we laughed, we cried and we confessed in each other. Sitting in the foreign land our overwhelmed hearts skipped beats, our feet ached, our eyes searched, our minds went numb… and the timeless yellow watch witnessed it all, the silent journey.

Our way down rappelling with hurt feet yet joyful mind in serene sunset with amazing volunteers is a core memory for life now. Moving on, the next CP clue was a bridge made of metal cement and stones locally called Bongbong falls bridge and it is so close to our heart for we were not a full team in person but had energy revived and felt more determined, more responsible as battle got intense. Surprisingly we were still in the race despite multiple losses within.

By now it's already night of day 3 but our exhausted minds tricked us of it to be 2nd day. We gaped the widest upon knowing that only 6 hours were left to finish the race.

Regardless, listening to body requirements we stopped in a Supermart, had lots of cup noodles, crashed a Pilipino party and woke up from a 30 min nap by the police to who we faced like strong contenders of the race, only! Other teams had good rest period unlike us but I am sure we have a funny story to tell. And as said "journey is the goal", this journey became even memorable as we moved into wrong direction yet again and hiked up way higher than as supposed.

Like we had laps of race, we had naps too and this time we assumed plastic sheet as the warmest blanket while we slept in front of the bungalow at the conjoint of 3 roads in due scare of barking dogs around. Thankfully it woke us up to right directions for our next pace but not the right state of body! The bruised, blistered and painful ankle along with hurting knee made every step difficult as we approached the Beacon Point.

Day 3:

We had barely slept for 2 hours and reached a restaurant with wooden table that holds closest to heart memories from the race. Very remarkably we mingled, we laughed, looked deep into each other's eyes and spoke our hearts out. We shared our time with Philipino, had rice and coffee surrounded by homely warmth of the whole village with its stories. Suddenly their life looked more interesting giving our minds much needed rest. But here we knew that we needed to pace up and get ourselves ahead in the game.

Thanks to our navigator Mr. Bharath that we approached CP in an entirely different angle asking locals and turned out to be the only team to take this path. Our new found friend Ryan joined us on the hike for entire route. On our way back we met his philipino speaking second cousin, funnily elephant foot is the first. Knowing that we were only half an hour away from other teams got us into a crazy laughter as we had explored more than what race had offered us. Ryan now took us to meet his home, proudly presenting all the earned possessions decorated in a beach house which he’d insist us to take picture of. Here we began our last leg to the finishing line The last leg got us numb, we no longer felt blisters, had much less pain, gears and terrain lost their significance and eyes beamed with pride and love looking back at those 48 hours full of courage and kindness. It all felt like beautiful dream road making us run as a happy baby towards success and being hyped up by the newest parents in the town. Now our own body had become alien to us with altogether different odour embracing Philippines wholeheartedly. The last stretch shined brighter with the sun up in the sky and the beaches in far islands.

Not having Dhanush around had us in sinking feeling and we held even tighter on to each other, our hearts over brimmed with mixed feelings. In the 76 hours of race, Tyre felt 2 PSI more, body weight dropped, bag became part of the skin and HQ felt like our own home, we could re-live it and march towards infinity now. Each moment of practice flashed right in front; in goosebumps we felt our hearts beating out our thumping chests. We peddled through the Capitol and crossed the finishing line in the Shershah style. Thanks to our partner Ampere to make all this happen.

The timeless yellow race, the proud finish of first international race only to bring us back stronger, more united and with more stories!

About NthAdventure: NthAdventure is a Bangalore based Adventure and Outdoor sports company and is the only licensed organization in India to host Adventure Racing from Adventure Racing World Series - USA. NthAdventure’s prime focus is to grow and build Adventure Racing and Orienteering community in India. Both the Race Directors have been part of multiple Expedition Races and have been conducting workshops, training sessions, webinars, and multiple sprint races since 2016 to help Indian teams race ready at global stages.

For more information about NthAdventure and upcoming races visit: 

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