The moon is still up as I arrive at Padang Astaka on a cool Tuesday morning. Haven't seen the moon in a while, certainly not at this time after I wake - it's usually been while I haven't slept yet.
The moonlight barely lights up the crowd gathered for the first session of Original Bootcamp this November day. Some are seniors from previous months and some, like me, are the new recruits. Remember that word - recruits - as this is a distillation of military training and we're bound by certain disciplinary rules akin to that field.
Okay, so I thought I wanted to be in the army at one time, but being undersized saved me from that. No size restrictions here, though. Discipline aside, the programme (so says the website) takes the best of military training for civilian use in its exercises and drills.
How shall I fare, then, being super unfit, small and suffering from a bum knee? Well, there's only one way to find out.
Warmups jogs, and I'm already out of breath. Then comes the assessment. We have to run a 400m loop and then do 10 push-ups, 10 grunts (pushup position into a jump and back) and 15 sit-ups. Three times.
I'm okay with the body work, but slow right down in the run with a stitch. Finish in the slow-poke section.
Then it's a 1.6km (1 mile) run, eight laps of the marked course. By lap two my knee is hurting, so I walk it. I end up in the bottom quartile, but I'm not too bummed, as I am seriously unfit.
After the session, I head to A&W for a heavy breakfast... yummm.
Day 2, Thursday. Body aches haven't been too severe, so I'm all set. Little did I know...
In groups of three, we attack five activities in one loop, 40 seconds for each manoeuvre and 20 seconds to move to the next station:
1. Deep squats with bags of sand at chest height
2. Squat and jump
3. Squat and lift (bag of sand)
5. Jackknife with heavy pipes in lieu of "rifles".
When we finish one loop, we just go on and start another. It's almost never-ending, and I'm seriously out of breath after a short while. Time is added on for everyone owing to recruits' dawdling, not running fast enough or chucking the bags of sand and pipes.
We cheer as a break is called, but we're not done yet. Back to the stations for more loops, this time of 30-second manoeuvres, with the last 10 supposed to be of higher intensity, and 15 seconds to get to the next station. People are wheezing and decidedly whiffy, but we soldier on.
When time is called, we can't just fall about on the ground, though. A jog to cool down, and some stretches, and then we're let off the hook... until Saturday.
Day 3, it's the weekend! And I'm here at the field at 5.30am! I'm starting to think this isn't such a good idea, as I only finished work about four hours ago. I thought it would be easier not to sleep after work, attend the 5.45am session and be done by 7am, rather than try to sleep and trying even worse to get up for a 7am start. Will have to see how this pans out in the weeks ahead.
Today we do more loops. Several cones mark the stops, where we drop down to do push-ups, lie down to do sit-ups and try our best not to cheat in lunges. And run between the stops! I'm panting in a few short minutes, pretending to jog after a while and just wondering when the pain will stop...
Then it's over to the next loop for more running, jumping squats, running ladders and holding the plank position (braced on elbows and lower arm and toes, with abs off the ground).
Funny thing is, when the sessions are over, we are not completely shattered. We can walk around laughing, or skip about (me, usually), and even go off for breakfast and chat. So, obviously, the sessions do not tax us beyond our abilities. It's just that our ability to do the manoeuvres, at a certain pace and of a certain number, is being pushed (sometimes seeming mercilessly). The muscle pain is a testament to that, sure, but I'm surprised that I'm even considering continuing with a jog right after the session.
Well, thankfully that only lasted until I got near the car, as then some of us recruits got to talking, and decided to go have breakfast.
As I reach home replete with the third breakfast in a week, more than I ever get in two months, I consider the past three sessions. It's been okay, I guess. Not too great on my shoes, though, the pair that I've decided to sacrifice for the benefit of Ezanor-kind looking decidedly shabby, and just look at the state of the T-shirt! But, this is good for me, I tell myself. I vow to carry on... and we'll see how the coming weeks treat us.