The Team(there are also 5 videos to accompany all the photos, these are at the bottom of the page)
Team Name: Out Of Range
Team Bio: 4 Canberrans who constantly find there is more fun to be had outdoors than in our lounge rooms.
We know each other from the Canberra AR community and the Bilbys Tri club, though none of us are triathletes (well not any more really).
Steve and Danealle have raced at Geo before and both have an affectation for the colour pink, Craig and Bruce will probably attempt to counter the pink gear (boat, mountain bike, some clothing, etc) of half the team.
Bruce and Steve have been doing events in teams together for a number of years, including some AR. Danealle has done a lot of AR, Craig is a tough nut and likes to try new stuff.
Our aim is to have fun and complete the course
DetailsEver since Geoquest last year I have been keen to make an attempt on the full course race. The race is an interesting challenge, it attracts all the best AR people from around Australia to meet and see out there. The course always has some damn tough bits and some incredibly fun bits and tends to have some novelty sections. Craig and Louise (Geocentric Adventure Racing) were in there first with Geoquest running a longer tougher AR in Australia and though there are occasionally complaints about some aspects of the race they do consistently put on a great event that gets people back for the fun (or simply the challenge).
Getting a team together for this race can be one of the bigger challenges, the race costs a bit to enter, get up to and get all the gear ready for, you also need a support crew which adds more people to the list of those needing convincing to come along. As for competing, you have to be reasonably fit, able to keep going for a long period, have an attitude to enjoy it out there even when it is really tough and dark and you have had not sleep for ages. Also if you come in to the event with any injuries it is likely you will not make it through, even at a gentle pace such as I wanted to do.
I asked my team from last year first up, Michelle would have loved to compete but is spending three months in South Africa during winter and thus was unavailable, Ian was intimidated by the toughness a little bit and the high cost to compete. Lina was keen from the get go, however she did warn me that her long term knee injury may not have improved enough that she could enter. On the lookout for more team mates I talked with my long term Polaris team mate Marea and she agreed to join in the fun, I convinced another Bilby, Michele to join in and it looked like we were set back in March.
In 2006 Lina was glad we did not have to do an ocean paddling leg as the conditions out there were a little rough and intimidating, as we knew ocean paddling was part of the full we needed some experience. Lina, Michele, myself an various partners and friends went down to Durras for a weekend long Sea Kayaking course with a focus on surf entry and exit plus handling conditions in the rough water near the beach. This was a good weekend as it really improved the skill of all involved and got confidence in rough conditions up a lot.
However it was not to be, Michele injured her ankle on a training hike not long after that and her physio suggested staying off it for a while, then when she decided on doing the World Tri Champs in Germany in August Michele realised if she tried to do Geo as well training goals would clash too much and she would have no rest period in winter and have the threat of fatigue hovering over her. Michele realised she really could not commit to the race and pulled out. Lina realised with her knee injury not getting better she also would not be able to compete this year. Then Marea had a holiday in New Zealand and decided she would prefer to spend the sort of money involved in competing at Geo on more trips to places such as NZ for a week or so at a time. Bugger no more team, at this point it was late April and finding 4 people to do a race such as this is not a trivial task.
Bruce, who has competed in the Triple Tri, Jindabyne Multi Classic and a few short ARs with me had fun doing the short ARs and thought he would give a bigger event a go so joined the team. Then talking with Craig's wife Ingrid after the Bilbys Wednesday morning road ride one day she said he would be really keen to do the race. I asked him and he said he was, though being unable to run (a missing ligament around his knee) he was worried we would not want him. I was not phased, after all running is my weakest leg and I did not mind the idea of trekking all the foot legs. My main goal for the event was to complete the course before the cut off with our entire team intact. I expected this was possible even moving fairly slowly on foot legs.
I was just about to break down and begin begging any male friends I thought may want to compete in the event to join in when David B and Danielle W both hinted that Danealle may be interested in competing again. I had seen Danealle competing last year in the pink ladies team and subsequently at a number of other AR and similar events so had met her around the place but did not know her well. David said she would be a great team mate as she has a good sense of humour and likes to get out and have fun in races. So I went the hard sell on convincing Danealle to join in, with support crew, camp site, boats and the rest of the team arranged. Luckily she said yes and I finally had a complete Geo team.
Unlike the half, in the full you need to get hold of boats, all the teams use double kayaks of some description as they are more efficient for getting people over the distance than 4 singles would be. In April I ordered a Mirage 730 Double Kayak for myself. That gets us one of the two boats, however for the second boat we were in for a challenge, with so many teams competing (46 or so) hire boats were scarce everywhere. Eventually Celia found some boats from a company on the Gold Coast and generously volunteered her parents to drive up from Kyogle to pick up a boat for us and one for another team and bring them down to the event. Celia was competing at Geo in a team with her partner Chris and two friends Nathan and Kevin, they wanted boats a bit faster than the two available from the Gold Coast and were able to find two so passed the booking onto us.
I have not yet touched on one of the most important aspects of the race, our support crew. I was incredibly lucky to have a a fantastic support crew lined up. Jane was reprising her role from last year however she did not have to go it alone this time around and some of my friends had volunteered to help out too. Last year I lost time at one point because I had to fix something on Lina's bike as I was the only person around our camp (team or support) with the ability to do this quickly. It occurred to me that having one of your support crew members be capable of working on bikes and getting them ship shape between legs would be a good thing.
When Marea suggested we ask James Davies if he would be interested in supporting us I thought it was a tops idea. James has worked as a bicycle mechanic previously and is without a doubt capable when it comes to knowing his way around a bike. Also James' dry sense of humour and ability to put up with a lot of stuff from people would help out a lot. One of the people I had tried to talk into doing the race is a Bilbys friend Zoe, however she had competed in Ironman this year and thought training for and committing to Geo this year may be a bit too much, however she was keen to know what this Geoquest thing is about as there is a chance she will want to do it some year. Zoe emailed me and said she was keen to help out the support crew. This was all fantastic news that we had a great group of people coming up to help us out.
The other cool thing happening again last year was extra family assistance. The race was once more held close to where Grandma lives in Macksville, thus Grandma and Aunt Jude once more rocked up to the race. They stayed in a motel just across the bridge from the Holiday Park and provided a lot of food, and moral assistance throughout the event for us. Also we got a few boxes full of fresh bananas from Aunt Alyson and John's plantation (situated on one of the roads we were on in the course last year) which definitely helped out (far tastier than shop bought bananas).
Bruce got the event into his diary by virtue of having his yearly family holiday with Robin and the Kids in Port Macquarie for two weeks surrounding the race, so he was already up in the area and would appear at the HQ on Friday morning. Craig wanted to get a half day in at work before driving up (running his own business it is difficult to get away for long), this helped a bit as he could drive up to Sydney with James on Thursday afternoon and pick up Jane and Zoe as they finished work. Danealle and I on the other hand loaded up my car with bikes and my boat and all our gear and left for Sawtell at 9am on Thursday morning.
We drove through the horrendous rain that flooded the Hunter region looking at it in fear wondering what we were doing going out to race in this for 48 hours. From what we hear the rain got worse as Thursday progressed so our team mates and others arriving later in the evening got even more of a deluge to drive through. However we were all lucky in that the rain had pretty much stopped by the time we got as high as Port Macquarie. We got to Macksville at 5:20pm and stopped for dinner with Grandma and to borrow some mattresses and pick up the copious amount of great food she was supplying us. Danealle and I then drove the last few minutes up to Sawtell and arrived at the Holiday Park at the same time as Tangerine (Dave, Julie, Randall, Andrew (support), with Alex flying in the next morning). Danealle headed for bed shortly and so did I as I was expecting to be woken up around 1am to guide the others in and get them settled. By 2 am we were pretty much all there and back to sleep.
FridayFriday morning dawned and we all were up and moving by around 9am, Bruce arrived at 8:30am, we started packing our food bags and getting our gear ready and trying our packs out more and discussing some of what we could look forward to. Of course no one had an idea of what to expect until the course handout at 4pm that day. We ensured everyone had registered (including the support crew). Some of the team went into town to do some last second shopping, get something we needed at the bike shop there and grab lunch for the team. We then headed over to the briefing at midday and after this all competitors went through the compulsory tests. Danealle and Craig are both Physios, they did the first aid test, I did the navigation test. The team trundled over for a team photo and then presented our compulsory equipment to Craig for inspection and now it was time to get wet.
It appears everyone had the same idea of leaving the kayak capsize until last as it was quite a traffic jam to get over to the creek front and into the water. We had picked up our second boat from Celia's team campsite that morning, the boat was a bit short and wide, however it would hopefully suffice and we were happy to be able to do the race even if it would be a bit slow. We actually drove from the cabin the two hundred or so metres or so to where we carried the boats to the creek. We did not do this simply to destroy the environment but rather to give the support crew practice loading and unloading the boats from the cars.
Unlike when our team rocked up to Geo last year never having paddled together, this year we had all done a bit of paddling almost together. I had been heading out paddling at least once a week with Craig and at least once a week on a separate morning with Danealle for a month or so in a Mirage. Bruce had come out for 2 paddles in a Mirage (once with me and once with Alex) about 2 months before the race, since then he had done about one paddle a week in a hired sea kayak by himself. I have been paddling a lot over the last year and would be the strongest paddler on the team. Craig has years of paddling experience on surf skis and the like back when he lived in Sydney, though he has not done much recently he still has some good ability at the sport. Danealle is also a reasonably strong paddler and has been doing a fair bit in AR training over the past few years. Bruce knew the paddle legs would be his worst and had put some effort into improving, however without technique coaching and a fair bit of time paddling in a double with another person it was likely he would be the weakest paddler on the team. No matter he is strong in other legs.
I guess when you take into account the fact the Mirage is a much faster boat the the Natureline it may have made more sense to put a stronger pair of paddlers in the Natureline, however the Mirage is my newest toy and I wanted to paddle it. Also due to the fact Danealle and I both have a known affectation for the colour pink we both wanted to be in the Mirage. Anyway with all that already decided for the capsize test we hopped in the boats and paddled up the creek to where we were to roll over and hop back in. After doing that Danealle and I needed to adjust the foot rests a bit for optimum position and now we had more time to prepare gear until the course give out. Oh and yeah the battery powered pump in the Mirage is seriously cool to have.
We got the maps and got down to business planning our approach to the course, plotting controls on the map and getting everything sorted for how and when we would be doing each leg. Optimistically we were hoping to finish sometime around midnight on Sunday, using the longest leg estimates from Craig and Lou that looked achievable. While we were busy getting the course sorted Jane, Zoe and James went into town and bought some pizzas for dinner, we were thinking this could be good food to sample now as it may be something we could beg for at a transition on Sunday afternoon/evening/night sometime. Grandma and Jude showed up around 6:30pm and watched what we were doing for a bit, however realising we wanted to focus on the course a lot they did not stay for long. We eventually finished preparation, packing and course planning to the extent we were satisfied and went to bed at around 10:30pm.
RaceBright and early Saturday morning we awoke and rushed madly around the cabin (oh yeah I did not mention how completely cool my Grandma is), we were staying in a cabin rather than tents on a campsite. When I originally contacted the Holiday Park in March to book they had no cabins left as they had all been booked out by teams. So I booked two campsites and left it at that, however Grandma rang them up at another time and said she wanted to come watch her grandson race and she is 86 and would be unable to sleep in a tent, and if possible could she be put on a waiting list to hear about any cabins coming available if teams pulled out or something. About a month before the race Grandma rang me up and told me she had secured a cabin for the team, with Gran and Jude staying in a nearby motel this gave us at least 4 beds for the team and support crew. Rock on, last year Jane had to go through a lot of hard ship with the rain and tents, this would at least make it nicer all round and definitely an easier experience for the Jane, Zoe and James as support crew.
Anyway back to pre race morning prep, Danealle taped up my ankles (which I did not shave before having done, ouch), Craigs and her own. We then we grabbed the boats and rushed across the creek along a bit of a road and out to the beach while the support crew went the longer way (though possibly easier what with not carting boats up and down stairs) and met us on the beach. There we stood around with all the other teams watching the conditions and waiting for the all clear to start the race.
Leg 1: Ocean Kayak ~ 17 KMThe start was in waves, two waves of Geo half competitors first, paddling out into the reasonably large surf in the Sevylor inflatables, one of each 4 team members also did not have a seat (no way to brace easily) and no rudders was fairly impressive. We were starting in the last wave (they would even out the times in a car move later in the race) and thus got to watch all the team in the first 4 waves of full course competitors head out. Some of the conditions were pretty big during some wave starts and they did hold wave starts back a few times until the seas calmed. We finally got going around 7:40am and had no problems getting out to deeper water.
It was at this point that the discrepancy in boat speed and paddle pairing really became apparent. Craig was working his arse off putting in as much effort as possible to keep up, Danealle and I were pretty much soft paddling with no real work/effort for the entire leg. Bruce was having some difficulty keeping in time and putting in any power so found he did not work hard in the leg, unfortunate as a bit more time in a double may have made it easier to get in sync. Another issue you have at sea is that with all the movement of the waves around you it takes some practice to get the blade in the water and apply power well and yet maintain a good paddle technique and body position and movement. Every time a team that had gone swimming (capsized) came past us I started paddling and Danealle had to remind me to stop and back off as it dropped the guys. When we eventually got up to the check point north of Coffs Harbour we clipped it and turned around, when we paddled back the 100 metres or so to where Bruce and Craig were turning they told us their boat was pretty full of water and had been since the start of the leg.
Ooops, I admittedly was a little annoyed they had not told us earlier and we could have stopped to empty it out then. We did stop now and insist they use the hand pump and empty all the water they could out. Once they did this they did speed up a bit and were able to stay a little bit closer to us. The following wind/current was also nice and it made paddling back toward Coffs a lot easier. We eventually got into the harbour and came into land with no problems (hearing later that around 50% of teams had problems (capsize) landing was somewhat shocking), the harbour was protected and when a big set did come in you could be careful around it or back off a little. Ahh well we had no issues and got back to land, slower than we would have liked, but the team was together and still having fun.
We also got to say hi to Pete and Judy here who were at the race as volunteers manning controls, good to see them briefly as we transitioned as they have been living in Sydney and not been part of the Canberra tri community as actively for obvious reasons.
Leg 1: Beach Trek ~ 11 KMOur plan all along was to not run at any point during the race, so we really were trekking all the foot legs. This leg was easy, flat and with pretty beach views all the way. We held a speed of around 7 KM/h along the beaches on this leg. The biggest surprise we had during this leg was, just after crossing the railway bridge we headed around a walking track on a headland toward a control. The map reference had the control on the track we were walking on. The clue said something along the lines of under bench at track junction with no flag as the track was fairly popular (especially with surfers, of whom we saw around 20 walking out from the carpark at the top of the headland down to the point to surf).
So we thought, goodo a really easy control, and it was, we found it no problem exactly where we expected. The surprise was a half team we had just caught up to seemed to think it was obviously not on the main track. About 20 metres before the bench (they could see the bench from here) they headed up some ill defined small track to the summit of the headland. We wondered what was up with that but kept on going ignoring their seeming mistake.
After such a long time out on the Kayak leg, we finished this leg fairly quickly, surprising our support crew with our time in here a little bit. So we checked in, changed clothes, grabbed some food and headed off to do the next Kayak for 6km up the creek.
Leg 2: Kayak ~ 6 KMWe carried our boats over to the beach and hopped in, Danealle and I used spray skirts, Bruce and Craig decided it was warm enough to go without. Due to our boat being faster I was able to stop paddling occasionally and take a few photos. The creek was really rather pretty to paddle up. The railway bridge was a highlight too, an old steel bridge crossing the creek that we paddled under just prior to getting to the TA. This leg took around an hour, we passed a few half teams and enjoyed the sunshine.
Leg 2: Mountain Bike (and hike a bike) ~ 15 KMWhen we got up to this transition one of the places I need to improve my AR a lot became even more apparent. I am a master faffer, I am capable of wasting far too much time in transitions. This really is dead time and I need to work on not wasting all this time. Some of the stuff I should focus on is what the next leg is, getting food out and into easy to reach locations and then getting moving. I should not be standing around re packing my bag while eating and talking and not concentrating on whats next. If you watch the videos from this transition you can definitely see I was wasting some time. And obviously not concentrating as I forgot my helmet at first, which I had to return for. I also completely forgot cycle gloves, which I had to do without for the rest of this leg.
Another thing I overheard but did not really listen to at this TA was an official mentioning something about one approach to CP 7 no longer being there and that other approaches should probably be considered. Alas I had not really thought about this until it came and hit us later. We got moving and rode out past the railway and a control, across the highway and up some bitumen roads for a while. Then we turned up the earliest approach to the next TA on the map and of course this is where it became obvious I should have listened as this approach was the one that no longer existed. Some teams had apparently bush bashed up this hike a bike but the alternate route seemed to be the best way to go. We only lost about 10 minutes before we discovered this error and headed back down and along the way to the other approach.
The course notes for this stage simply say about this section "we saved the best part for last" in this stage. Which of course we discovered roughly translates to, here is the hike a bike section this year, enjoy! The rain in the previous week had ensured the clay base to this hike a bike was nice and slippery and our shoes could not get purchase. Also all the clay that stuck so easily to the bike tyres and anything else had the bonus that it appeared to double the mass of the bikes. Of course none of this was that bad in the opinion of Danealle and myself, after the hike a bike we got through in Geo in 2006 this effort was pretty easy and mild. Heck we were not strangled by the rainforest anywhere and there did not seem to be any sections we had to hand our bikes up to other team members over near vertical wet rock formations.
We were keeping pace with one or two teams up here, and passing a fair few. Craig and I were getting up the hill fairly fast, whoever got up higher first at steeper sections dumped their bikes and went back down to get Danealle's bike allowing her to walk up the hill a bit easier and faster. I wonder if I should have realised how much Danealle was struggling with any hard efforts and breathing at this point, however I was unaware of it until she told us somewhere in the following trek. Anyway we travelled as fast as we could up this section. Craig seemed to be happy enough to push on through, however Bruce did raise a question as to why we had to have bikes, this being a bike section on the course and yet we were unable to ride. The concept of a hike a bike seems to be against his personal world view to some extent.
The roads and tracks all through this area leading up the hill were not really on the map so it became pretty confusing ensuring we were on the right track all the way. The track was not on the correct compass bearing at many points and there were other tracks veering off that went who knows where. We eventually got to the CP and TA though and much to our amusement there was a Sevylor kayak there (one of the Geo Half boats) leading us and I am sure others to wonder if some half team had decided the hike a bike was not hard enough by itself and they needed to drag an inflatable kayak up the hill with them and their bikes. This theory was further enforced when we finished the following trek and the kayak had disappeared. As we changed shoes and got ready to head out on the trek the leading team came through to finish the trek, this was around 4:30pm so they were on a blistering pace for sure. We just hoped we could get through the next leg in around 5 hours.
Leg 2: Trek ~ 18 KMWe had around 2 or 3 KM on fire trails before dropping into a creek line for a long section off trails in this leg, so we headed off up some hills eating as we went. It got dark just as we were about to drop into the creek line so we put our lights on then and headed down. On the way down this creek line my lights started to play up. This year I also had a Silva L1 as Ian and Michelle had used last year. However I had used the cable that came with the C cell holder to make a plug to attach to my vista light batteries of which I had many with 4.5 amp hour rating which should give me more time without faffing with batteries. However through the jungle here my light would cut out when I moved my head around at times. I could not isolate the problem and unfortunately had not bought the 4 AA holder on this leg with me.
Fortunately Craig had been using another L1 I had borrowed from another friend as I thought the lights he had would not be capable enough for the foot legs. After I wasted about 20 minutes on the way down the creek with trying to get my light to work reliably I gave up and swapped with Craig and he went on using his lights. Eventually on this leg as the AA's in the spare wore out I put mine back on. As we were mostly on fire trail then and not shaking my whole body about much my light was no longer failing and it lasted to the end of Leg 2. I later discovered that due to the plug being quite loose I needed to use tape and possibly a rubber band to keep the plugs together properly with a battery pack. It is nicer using this though as the head unit is a lot lighter without the AA packs on the head band.
The going in the creek line was as expected somewhat slow and a little slippery, also one thing I learnt pretty quickly was I should wear full finger cycle gloves when doing a trek leg such as this. Also slippery lycra tights an lycra sleeves may help. This is because when lawyer vine or similar gets caught on your skin and rips bits out it is not the most enjoyable feeling around. My fingers and hands in general were shredded and full of small thorns from these vines in short order. Danealle was smart wearing her full finger gloves, definitely a good idea to waste a pair of gloves rather than a pair of hands. We found the first two controls as expected down the first creek line. Then as it was dark and getting later (around 8pm now) we had a discussion about how to approach the next control at the waterfall. Would we walk down to the bottom of this creek and back up the next one over or would we take a bearing and walk over two ridge lines and one creek to find the appropriate creek.
During our time travelling down the various creek lines in this leg we got to see glow worms all over the place. They really were incredible to see, the first time Craig stopped us all and told us to turn off our lights. Where first off there may have been 2 or 3 blue glows we could see if we squinted suddenly we would see hundreds or more blue glows from the worms in the walls of the creeks. This combined with the great views of the stars we had when the canopy opened up enough to allow us to see them really made this leg rather interesting and special. A spectacular section of rainforest to be trekking through.
The strange thing approaching this control was the location on the map did not seem to have any contours indicating a 50 metre drop anywhere in the area. Anyway the bearing over two ridge lines approach won. We headed for this control in a stretched out line, with one person walking ahead on a bearing to an object they could see. Someone at the back confirming that person was on the correct bearing as they looked back while another person caught up to the first person. This meant we could maintain an accurate straight line bearing through the thick scrub and also keep moving rather than stop and wait to catch up to the front marker all the time. On the second ridge line we found two unmarked trails going down the hill, we crossed right over them and kept heading down to the creek line. We had taken the bearing a bit higher than needed so turned right and headed down the creek line about 100 metres until we almost fell over the 50 metre drop down the waterfall.
Once we got back to the road at the bottom of this creek line we found a rather interesting bridge, obviously no vehicles had come this way for a while as lots of the bridge simply was not there, up at that height it was interesting to cross, though Bruce had to bravely get over his severe vertigo to walk across it. We headed on to the next control along the fire road and than off up a creek. At first we wasted some time trying to walk up here with dry feet, however we saw two of the team members from "Who are these people?" (the other two waited back at the fire trail nursing a slight injury) come through walking in the water and decided it was not worth the time so charged into the water and walked up the creek itself, something we probably should have done from the start. The control was found easily and we walked back out the creek to the road and headed on toward the final controls and the finish of this leg.
Along here we made the interesting discovery of a bogged Ute on a steep slippery (to the extent it was difficult to walk up without slipping) section of fire trail. Apparently some surfers decided to drive up into the hills in their Ute earlier in the day, some of the earlier teams saw them walking out. With the muddy conditions I am not surprised they could not get any traction here. After getting up this steep section we had a gentle trail around to the creek with the final control. As we got to the creek a half team came out and said they would not do the bush bash up from the creek to the top trail, they had made a few attempts and found the lantana and bush too thick, they would instead take a longer way to the leg finish. Due to this we did not make the attempt to bush bash and took the long way too. In hindsight we probably should have given it a go as it really was a lot shorter (an hour or more at the pace we were walking by this time). Also Danealle had finally, around the time we found the bogged car, disclosed to us how much pain she was in due to the strained back and that she really was incapable of deep breaths and thus could not move fast up hills. The other option here, as was used by Chris, Celia, Kevin and Nathan in the Arocshop team was a firebreak trail we had noticed a little before the contorl that headed up the hill. Chris guessed (correctly as it turned out) that it would lead right up to the top firetrail. This was the fastest way back, shame it was not marked on the map.
So we took the long walk to the leg finish on trails, we were passed by a team or two that we had been moving much faster than at other times we had seen them, however due to the up hill hiking we had to slow down a lot. At this point Danealle had realised she would not even be able to finish Leg 2 and would have to stay up at the TA when we hopped on the bikes to ride down to Sawtell again. We returned to the TA at 1:40am or so, Danealle had to stay there, we rang our support crew and said we would be getting away around 2am and then we got changed hopped on the bikes and headed out. One big problem we had encountered on this leg was due to being out a lot longer than planned we all ran out of food. For me this was a big problem as I had a certain amount of insulin in my system from injections earlier in the night and was really starting to fall apart near the end of the hike. Danealle possibly saved my life as she had a can of red bull stashed in her pack. In the last 4KM of the hike I went from being subdued and quiet, stumbling and being unable to properly coordinate my feet to once more being talkative and able to think clearly thanks to that Red Bull.
Leg 2: Mountain Bike ~ 11 KMThis leg still had a few steep bits, however fortunately no uphills that were so steep we could not ride up them all. We also started catching and passing a number of teams along here. When we got to the radio tower there were about 3 or 4 teams hanging around unable to work out where to go. Fortunately I had no problem finding the right track and off we went. Possibly unfortunately all the teams there seemed to decide to follow where I went when I headed off. Ahh well no matter we were all at the back of the field anyway. With all the height loss on this leg there really was some fun riding on the way down. There were two sections that I was too chicken to ride at night, the steep rocky rutted bit just below the radio tower and the steepest 20 metres of the final descent to the bitumen road. So maybe 50 metres I walked down, otherwise the entire leg was a hoot. It still took a while and we eventually got to the TA and our waiting support crew after around 2 hours in the dark.
Car Move, RestWe grabbed some food loaded the bikes and checked out of the TA as out support crew drove us back to the holiday park and our cabin. Morale was a bit low with one of the team members injured and thus our race status was now unranked. I had a few times mentioned I was quite capable of paddling my Mirage kayak by myself and we were able to go on unranked with only three of us. However at this point the Hike a Bike section, the amount of time spent out on the trek and the loss of a team member appeared to have been too much of a sense of humour test for Bruce with him saying that this was the end of his adventure racing career and that the entire previous leg had been pointless and not fun. I was also somewhat demoralised by the loss of a team member as my main goal all along had been to finish the course with the team in tact. Thus when it seemed we had to stop I did not fight too hard and we all went down for some sleep in the cabin, it was now around 4:40am and it looked like that would be it for our racing.
New team mate to head out on the next leg withCraig and I woke up before everyone else in the morning at around 7:30am and were sitting out on the deck talking about the race, Craig said he really wanted to do more. So when I went down to get a coffee Craig came along and we inquired with GAR (Craig) as to whether there was any way to get a third person from some other team that had stopped to take out with us. Craig of GAR said they no longer organised that for teams however if approached by some people who wanted to head out they would be likely to let us do so. Anyway as we circulated around the event centre Craig and I both heard rumours of some guy named Brendan from the all male team 33 who wanted to do more when the rest of his team had stopped. Craig tracked him down and talked him into meeting with us. So we sat down on the deck of our cabin while I looked at the maps for the upcoming leg, after a few minutes I decided it would be a fairly easy leg with no tough sections so why the heck not lets go do it. At this point Bruce appeared on the deck and hearing us planning to head out said he would come along too. Ahh well the sleep must have improved his mood, or maybe my promise that there would be no significant sense of humour tests on this following leg.
Leg 3: Beach Trek ~ 14 KMWe headed out to do this leg at around 11:30am, starting with a trek down the beach in good weather, though of course the very start of the leg was a wade across the creek, Craig went bare foot, the rest of us got we shoes. At the end of the beach section I stopped to change socks now we were on trails again. The national park (Bongil Bongil) was really rather lovely so we simply wandered along enjoying the scenery. We caught up to a half team around the first control. When they saw me eating some of the chocolates Amanda had so generously given our team for the race they were somewhat envious so I gave them all a few too. After running out of food on the previous leg I made sure I had excessive amounts of food for this one. Also more food was being dropped with our bikes by our support crew so I thought I could hand out some chocolate.
We saw the winning over all team team and second place team running up the beach as we trekked down, interesting to see the winning team was going to finish fairly early on Sunday. The weather conditions during the race were a lot kinder than last year when the winning team finished at around 6:30pm.
Brendan told us before we started that he had noticed some muscles in one leg feeling tight and in a little bit of pain in the hours between his team finishing leg 2 at 7:30am and us starting out. Near the end of this trek he said it was really starting to become painful so we stopped and Craig got physio tape out and taped his thigh up and did some work on his leg and got him to do some stretches. As we finished the leg of Brendan was slowing down and finding it hard to move on, however he was hoping that once we got on the bikes the change in muscles would allow him to continue and finish leg 3 as there was almost no foot time left in the leg once we got on our bikes.
We finished the leg, packed excessive amounts of food into our packs seemingly doubling them in mass and went to head out on the bike for the Adventuregaine. As we were about to head out we found Andrew, the Tangerine support crew waiting for Tangerine to come in at the end of the final Kayak leg down the Bellingen river. So I said hi as we moved off and heard Tangerine were fairly comfortably in 5th and would likely hold the position.
Leg 3: Mountain Bike Rogaine ~ 35 KMOn the bike now I started opening up a bit speed wise, however even with Craig and I on the front we had to keep ourselves in check to avoid dropping or breaking Bruce or Brendan along the bitumen. Once off road it became easier to keep together and I spent most of my effort concentrating on navigation. At the first control we were doing here we had another what the heck moment when a team we had ridden toward the control with got to the track junction a control was 20 metres into the bush next to and simply kept riding off in a direction that would not take them near the finish of the leg or onto other controls easily. Ahh well who knows where they were heading or if they had been here already as the leg was free form, teams could get controls in any order they wanted and skip over some so long as they had enough points.
So we grabbed two controls on the way over to the TA and the split gaine, both of which were easy to find and then approaching the split gaine TA there were some marked tracks we rode that were on different bearings than indicated on the map but we got there easily with no navigation problems by around 5:20pm.
Leg 3: Splitgaine Trek ~ 5 KM, finishing the Bike Adventure GaineDue to the pain Brendan had been having trekking he did not think he would be able to stumble through thick bush, so we had decided he and Craig could do the fire trail based more open controls in the split while Bruce and I headed into the two closer but hidden in creek and bush controls. When we arrived we were however told they were giving teams an option of only getting one of the 4 controls and taking a time penalty. We were already unranked and we could have taken this option easily, however Craig decided we were going to do the race properly and get all controls here. So we headed out to get all 4 of them, expecting to take around an hour and a half. Some of the faster teams had been able to get it done in around an hour so it was not too ambitious. We also overheard before leaving the TA that control X in one of the creeks was a little bit off where it should be on the map. As Bruce and I were heading for that I paid attention and hoped that would help us when we got there.
After some more faffing around on my part (yes this is something I do too much, faff at transitions, probably one of my biggest weaknesses in the sport of adventure racing is how much I faff), we were all out on the split. The first control Bruce and I grabbed was trivial to find, then we walked back up to the fire trail, back along it and down toward a fire trail that ended in a dead end about 50 metres above the creek line we needed to walk up for the other control. We got down to the creek line and walked up it, when we got to the junction we could indeed not find the control right there. We walked up the creek it joined a bit but that was in the wrong direction so we came back down. Then after a few minutes of hunting around we found the control hidden away a bit and were able to head out. To get out Bruce and I walked all the way down this creek to the fire trail where we had crossed the creek by bike earlier and then up to the TA. We arrived about 5 minutes before Craig and Brendan, all up we spent around 1h40m out on the split which was pretty good.
We overheard that one team had been there for a few hours trying to find just one control and take a time penalty, various of the team members had headed out at different times and been unable to find any of the controls, even with hints from the marshal. I wonder how this team even got this far into the race if they could not find these controls. However we were ready to head off so got on the bikes and went off to finish the bike leg.
Our route for this was based on getting up to the bitumen road quickly and then collecting the remaining controls from near the big bitumen or hard pack road. This worked well and we eventually were on the road we had come in on toward the hike a bike earlier and headed for the highway crossing, rail way line and our kayaks.
Leg 3: Kayak ~ 6 KMOur support crew had picked up the Natureline double so Bruce and I could paddle my Mirage and Brendan and Craig would paddle the yellow Mirage Brendan's team had hired. This meant we were likely to be more even speed wise then on any previous paddle leg which was something to look forward to. As soon as I got back to my Mirage I saw a huge scratch/chunk taken out of the nose, while the boat was sitting here for a day or so someone had dropped a bike or stepped on the nose and took out a little chunk and left a big scratch. Most annoying, however boats are here to be used so I will have to live with it.
Bruce and I got into the water and ready to go about 10 minutes faster than Craig and Brendan, so while we waited we lay back a bit and admired the stars above the river. Finally Craig and Brendan were on the water and paddling so we headed off in the dark to chase down a half team we had seen hop in the water while we waited. They were easy to catch (even with 10 minutes or so head start) and we passed them just after we tagged the control behind the island. After this I made a few mistakes not staying in the deep channel enough so we were grounded once or twice on shallow water over sand bars while Craig and Brendan paddled past in the channel. With a bit of crab walking on one occasion we finished the leg, picked up the boats, carried them to the grass in the holiday park and wandered over to finish leg 3 at the race admin tent.
No Leg 4 for us, thats all folksFinishing leg 3 at 1am Monday morning we decided we would not finish leg 4 easily before 10am so decided to call it a day. It is of course unfortunate we had not continued on immediately upon getting back to camp after leg 2. Doing the previous leg almost entirely in day light we would have had copious time to finish the race. However it was not to be, we did have fun on leg 3 and would have to grin and bear missing out on the remaining leg. This is unfortunate as I had been looking forward to the long paddle down Bellingen river. Also many teams told us the mountain bike component of Leg 4 was spectacular and I would have really enjoyed it.
ThoughtsIt was another fun weekend. The event is getting a little bit further away, not much but the extra hour or so up there probably made it a little bit harder. However it is a unique event in Australia still, this is the only race where you can pretty much guarantee the best Australian adventure racers will be there and racing. I can understand why Craig and Louise wanted to use this area so much as there is some spectacular terrain around. On the whole we had fun of course, well I did at least. I was of course somewhat disappointed not to finish the course with the team intact however when a team member is injured there is not much you can do about that. Many far faster teams pulled out due to injury also (AROC, Mirage TerraX, Mirage Kayaks, etc).
I personally really enjoy all the aspects of the race, even the painful and tough sections that seemed to test Bruce's sense of fun on occasion. I can understand why it is had to get a team together though, the cost of competing is quite high due to travel, time off, entry cost, time off work, getting hold of kayaks (and hire costs if relevant), food, support crew (convincing them to be there and some more costs incurred). All I can really think is go and do the race if you have reasons you want to compete in it that are strong enough to get you up there. I still feel the need to finish the full now as we did not do so this year, also it would be good to be able to move a bit faster next year. A large part of that will be doing a lot more running and fast loaded bush hiking, the running at least I have kept up with a bit more assiduously than I did after geo last year since the race.
I wonder if I had spent more time doing events and training with Danealle before the race if we could have picked up on the injury and mitigated it somehow earlier on, however with injury you never really know. I know I did not properly convince Bruce before the race of how hard the big adventure races really can be, I know it was a shock to both Bruce and Craig how tough the terrain was in a rogaine we did a few weeks before Geo and I guess they may not have realised that in Geoquest legs are often made tough for the simple reason of being a big challenge to get through and have fun. With all the team changes leading up to the race I was however simply glad to have a group of people committed to competing in the race and I guess I did not want to scare them off. Since the race it seems Bruce has looked back on it more favourably, possibly helped by the fun we had on leg 3. Craig was great to have around out on the course, always keen to keep doing whatever was thrown at us and happily heading through all the terrain simply because he had made the effort to get up here for the experience so he was going to enjoy it.
It was sad for Danealle to pull out for all involved, I know she really wanted to complete the course after having to go short last year due to time constraints. Looking at the course we had planned and the speed we were travelling I believe Danealle had mapped it out perfectly for us to finish the entire course before the cutoff and we were on track to do that even if we appeared to be moving slowly at times on Saturday. I am keen to be back racing at Geoquest next year, the main thing I want to work on is finding a committed team that understands what the race is about and is keen to go compete from a long time before the race rather than a last minute rush to get people to race with. Hopefully I can convince a few people to come have fun on the June long weekend next year even though I will be talking fast in the middle of summer while we enjoy Christmas or similar to try and convince them that staying fit and keen into the middle of winter is a worthy goal.
Thanks to Craig, Louise and the rest of the GAR crew and volunteers, geo is fun and you should be proud of your event. And thankyou so much to Jane, James and Zoe, without the three of you up there as support we could not have done the race.
Waiting around for the start of the race
Getting into the water as the race started
Transitioning from the paddle up the creek to our first bike leg.
Jude interviewed me about what we were expecting on the coming leg, please ignore one of my crude answers, I still claim someone else in the team suggested it before I said it outloud.
Getting moving on the first bike leg, I forgot something which I immediately returned to pick up, just another example of my poor transitions.