Last year I spent a fair amount of time during the
24 Hour Urban Adventure race sitting watching the race coverage
wanting to be out there doing the race. This looks like the perfect
introduction to longer (ie not the 3-6 hour sprints) adventure races, in
Canberra (which generally means navigation, especially on bike legs)
will be easier. There are shops and coffee vendors around the place and
24 hours is not really that long.
When I raised the idea with Marea in November last year she was keen to join in the fun, I attempted to get another woman on the team for a while however some who were interested were out of town or we did not arrange things in time and they had other commitments for various reasons that weekend, so about a week and a half before the event I put out a call for a third team member and James Gardner said he was keen.
This is cool, I have been doing rides and stuff with James for a while now and he seemed likely to be a fun addition to the team. My intention all along was not to go fast or even think about racing, more to simply go out and have fun in the event. I am not a runner or paddler by any sensible definition of the activities so on the whole whoever joined in would hopefully be under the have fun mindset also. In that light I once again chose an Ani Difranco song name for our team name, the song "Egos Like Hairdos" was deemed appropriate as it was fun and could be interpreted in many ways.
Come Saturday morning, after staying up far too late over at Marea and Stephen's place talking about stuff the previous night I woke up with around 5 hours sleep at 6am and prepared to head over to the bike drop off with Marea. Rain was drizzling as we drove out however the weather forecast and radar both suggested we were imagining things and that it would be perfect weather the rest of the weekend. We picked up James and headed into Glebe Park to register and get our maps. Which we then marked up and contacted while sitting around having coffees and breakfast at Babar cafe next to Electric Shadows. I also ran over to a chemist and got some Neurofen and water proof dressings and strapping tape for my ankle I had injured the previous Friday.
Hopping onto the busses at around 10:40am for the drive out to near Sparrow Hill everyone seemed ready and keen, I sat next to Jeanette from "Halloumi", one of the 4 womens teams. Jeanette had competed in the race last year and was lamenting the fact we would not be using Action busses to get around this year which enable you to sit and rest for 15 minutes or so between legs. Otherwise she was out to have fun and see how her team would go this year, and teamed up with Leone "Oscar" Jansen who had competed solo in the Jindabyne multisport the previous weekend was in a pretty strong team.
The first leg was a short rogaine through the edge of Sparrow Hill, once underway Marea, James and I casually jogged around most of the course, we had one or two mild navigational issues and could probably have been faster with some more navigation practice, but what did it matter it was actually a lot of fun. As our team strength was on the bike we were however glad to get on the bikes before too long and head off into the single track, at first it was a little slow as we were stuck in lines of traffic with many teams out there in front of us, however we were soon able to get in front of most of the teams on the tracks and start flowing through all the ST and out to the edge of Sparrow in the Queanbeyan direction through Kowen proper.
We saw James Hall and team at a control and then headed toward the next one in different directions, us up a short easy climb then down a long flowing descent for a while, his team I think went across the shorter route which involved a steep valley. Once we got into Queanbeyan we stopped for a while at a petrol station to refill our water and buy some sports drinks (mmmmm Grape Gatorade never tasted this good before). As we started rolling again James and crew came up behind us so it appeared the choice of not going the steep way helped us. Next we all had a paddle up the Queanbeyan river (or a run followed by the paddle depending on the number of boats available at the start)
We were in early enough that we were able to do the paddle first so we changed shoes left our bikes and got onto the water. The paddle was a little bit annoying in places due to the need to do a section of portage where we were not quite sure how long the portage would be or where to carry the boat (in hindsight the right hand side of the river on a firetrail and walking track would have been best) so we took a while to do this leg (an indication of which is Dave Baldwin's team (who were not even near the front two teams) were already almost finished the rogaine back to the bikes as we were doing the portage. Also our team had never paddled together before, Marea pointed out singing can help keep the team in time on the paddle legs, some of Marea's favourite music to sing is the stuff from the movie "The Sound of Music", however as the only song I know the lyrics to from that is "Do Re Me" we ended up singing this for a while when paddling on this leg. Tom and Al were both near the end of this leg geeing everyone up as they travelled around checking out their race, thanks for the cheers there guys. We walked up and over to the top of the abseil section next. There was a bit of a queue and the abseil was an easy short drop, however we decided to line up and do this rather than wait some predetermined time and walk down.
After the abseil we crossed the river into another rogaine through some bushland and then Queanbeyan streets back to the bikes. We were fairly slow here partly due to a navigation error I made heading toward the first control we had to grab and partly due to not running particularly fast anywhere. Near the end as we approached the bikes Marea put on a burst of speed so we could get in front of a few other teams into the run to bike transition.
Tom and Al had warned all the teams that there was a high probability of flat tyres near check points 27 and 28 on this leg so recommended teams use goo filled or similar tubes. Marea was set up for this, however James and I were not. Before we got to the flat producing area however my front tyre got a flat, it appeared not to be a thorn as it was not stuck in there any more and looked more like a nail or glass caused flat. Marea handed me a Specialized Airlock goo filled tube, according to Marea they are significantly lighter than the Blackburn tubes of a similar nature, and if you look online a whole lot more effective than any Slime product. Somewhat expensive but hopefully worthwhile in an effort to avoid more punctures. Flat fixed we rode on to control 27 and then dropped off the grass and around the streets to control 28, James picked up and ran carrying his bike over all the grassy sections here to avoid more flats.
Upon reaching control 28 we found about 10 teams sitting there pulling up to 20 thorns out of their tyres, many teams had run out of tubes completely. Sam, Julie and Heather were there, and had been for over an hour, trying to get their tyres ready for tubes again. About 50 metres from the control I heard the sound of my front tyre going down again, however when I found the thorn and pulled it out it sealed up and all was good again. Woohoo Marea was right this stuff does work. Once we got our of Jerrabomberra and onto the railway access line I knew the way for most of the rest of the ride (except the odd street in Tuggeranong) so we settled in and rode on into the night.
Marea's husband Stephen was at the party at Ged and Anthea's house at which there was also a control, so Marea had arranged to ensure he could make some hot coffee for us upon out arrival, which he did, also Ged's father or someone is a french pastry chef and had made a huge amount of wonderful chocolate cake they were handing out to all the competitors as they came through the check point. Best chocolate cake on the planet, thanks Ged and Anthea. Though due to how long we stayed at this control Julie, Sam and Heather, plus a number of other teams were able to pass us while we were stopped here.
On Isaacs ridge James had a flat, at first we tried pumping it up and continuing however it did need replacing so we stopped and fixed that. As we passed Red Hill I am pretty sure the three of us could already smell the pizza we were to be given at Debacle so we headed on to Braddon for the 15 minute break and pizza there, we also ordered and drank some coffees while there, damn fantastic rest stop thanks Debacle. Surprisingly Julie, Sam and Heather were just leaving Debacle as we arrived (I suppose my team is strong on the bike so I should not be that surprised), anyway I took a photo of the team, however Sam is holding a pose in this photo that I think I would have to be worried about my longevity if it ever became public so you will not find the photo in this report.
The next leg was kayaking from neat the Acton ferry terminal over to the bridge over the river out in Jerrabomberra wetlands followed by a rogaine in the wetlands and a kayak back. None of these are our strong legs however we were not put off so headed out from Glebe Park TA toward the ferry terminal. By the end of this kayak over there we were actually starting to paddle fairly well as a team, staying in sync well and able to keep a reasonable pace up. We got through the rogaine fairly well and then hopped onto the boats for the paddle back and a strange thing happened. I am not a paddler, it was 3am and we were paddling across the lake for 5-6 KM, the strange thing is that this ended up being my favourite leg of the entire race. The night had perfect conditions to be out on the water, we paddled fairly well together and it really was quite an experience doing this leg around 3am.
Once we returned to Glebe Park we had only a run and then a Kickbike leg to finish off the main 24 hour race. The Kickbikes turned out to be rather fun, though I definitely would not want to use one on a daily basis. Once we discussed it and decided not to do the bonus legs of the race (and thus many teams who did head out for some bonus points would get in front of us) and we packed up and headed home for a shower and a little bit of sleep before presentations. I headed back in to see the presentations at midday and chat with other people who had finished and soak up the atmosphere. On the whole we had a great time so our goal was realised, I am keen to do more races of this nature and even though I hurt all over for the following day or two I can definitely see this is an addictive form of racing. Thanks to Tom and Al and all the volunteers for putting on a brilliant event and thanks to all the other teams out there who helped make the race so much fun.