Monday, 9 October 2017

Mountain Designs Wild Women take a walk on the Wildside!

The Wildside expedition length adventure race (Canberra) was the final event of the inaugural Adventure 1 Series. Mountain Designs Wild Women had previously contested and taken out the women’s category in 2 of the previous 3 events – Geoquest & Hells Bells, so a strong placing and finish in this event would secure us the series win. Our team had been training well and were certainly well prepared for this adventure, however with just two weeks to go we unfortunately lost Ali Wright to injury. We were then extremely fortunate to have our backup team-mate Alina McMaster right there in Canberra available to fill the spot……there was just one catch….she had not done any training since Geoquest…..but was happy to race and also offer her family home to the team.  So, this is how it panned out……
Mountain Designs Wild Women Wildside Team
Registration, Course Reveal & Preparation
Teams descended on the Australian Capital for this year’s event on Saturday 29th September for registration at HQ – The Ibis Eaglehawk (which was actually in NSW).  Richard Old – Race Director from Fully Rad Adventures had kindly released the course logistics schedule the week before, allowing us the spend most of this day packing and sorting gear boxes with food and equipment. This meant that we could spend more time on the maps when released. At registration, we were stoked to see a familiar face – Amy Potter who has been part of the backbone of countless Geoquest and XPD events, so it was hugs all-round! We had a very relaxed meal at the Pub with A1 Series leaders, and our good friends, Team Thunderbolt AR.
The complete Mountain Designs Wild Women Team for the A1 Series
Early Sunday morning 30th September the course was revealed.  400km from Lake Eucumbene in the Snowy Mountains past the Giant Trout in Adaminaby, across Yaouk and into the bottom of the ACT through the Namdgi National Park, Naas River Valley and Ororal Valley with an abseil off Booroomba Rocks. The course then was set to head to Tidbinbilla for a packrat down the Murrumbidgee River, then towards the City of Canberra for a final paddle on Lake Burleigh Griffin and a race around the CBD before heading for the finish line.
Lucky fir us Tom Landon Smith & Alina Mc Master had this big truck to transport our gear to HQ
The most important part of our kit - Mountain Designs Outrace Pack & Mountain Designs Superlight Dry Sac

Boxes clearly labelled, pack raft gear bundled up ready to go!
 Leg 1  - TREK – 55k Lake Eucumbene to Adaminaby
Teams had to be up early as the bus to the start left the Ibis at 3.30am for a 7.00am start. It was pitch black when we arrived, but minutes before the start time to sun started to peep through the fog on the lake. Water levels on the lake looked low and as a result navigation would not be as straight forward as it looked. Off went the siren and teams started sprinting for the waterline, as we were required to stay below the high water mark all the way to CP3.
The start of Wildside AR 2017 - Lake Eucumbene

Lake Eucumbene and the Snowy Mountains in the background
After an hour or so we had lost sight of the lead teams, but were just managing to keep up with the fast walking BMX Bandits…..we were mostly running though! The elevation of the lake was over 1200m so a bit of a lung buster! CP 1 was a little tricky to find as it ended up being up so much higher than it seemed on the map, however after some great spotting from Gina we were soon on our way again.
Mountain Designs Wild Women looking for CP 1

Girls looking cool in their Mountain Designs headwear - Gina MD Beanie; Kim MB Cap
After CP2 & 3 we travelled along a dirt road to CP4 at a cemetery, and then to ‘The Big Trout’ TA at Adaminaby. Here we saw Jan & Ali who were manning the TA, they were very excited to see us so soon, and said we were ‘smashing it’. 
The team treks into TA 1 at The Big Trout - Adaminiby

Gina - the control ferret for this race - locates the CP

Kim gets the TREK Superfly SL ready for action 
Leg 2 – MTB – 107km Adaminaby to Orroral
It was rather windy as we set off on the bikes and we were soon passed by a few mixed teams with three guys setting cracking paces on the sealed roads. We just took it at a steady pace and made sure we all looked after each other as we travelled north alongside the Murrumbidgee River. At CP 6 we crossed the river and connected with the Bicentennial National Trail which saw us now travelling east alongside Yaouk Creek then south east alongside Bradley Creek. Night fell as we approached CP 7 so we stopped had a bit to eat and put on our Mountain Designs Gore-Tex jackets, and turned on the AY Ups. This trail was very undulating in and out of small gully’s, so it was quite taxing as we kept having to get on and off the bike and push. I came to grief at some point before we reached CP8 by lining up a massive pothole that brought me to the ground, shaving off the top of my knee. Gina came to the rescue with antiseptic, gauze wipes and heaps of Fixomull, just to stop the blood pouring out!  Meanwhile Alina had a quick sleep on the side of the road…..micro sleeps are very important in expedition racing! Then off we went again for the long climb up the Boboyan Divide alongside Grassy Creek to CP9 and Naas Creek, picking up the Brandy Flat Walking Track towards CP 10. We took advantage of the Brandy Flat Hut and used the facilities there and had another quick bite to eat. We were soon heading to the TA, it was now after midnight and we had been on the bike for around 10 hours we were ready for a change of discipline. It was all tar to the TA so we enjoyed the descent down the Boboyan Road and climb up Orroral Road somewhat as we could warm up again. Cass was on fire on the bike at this point making it look so easy as she spun up the hill towing Alina!
LEG 3 – TREK & Abseil –  50k - Orraral to Tidbinbilla
The trek up to the abseil was around 15k so we did not opt to stay long in the TA before setting off as we knew we would have an opportunity for a short rest at then abseil. Unfortunately, it was not to long before we were all falling asleep. Cass was motoring at the front as Alina and I were in the middle tripping and almost falling over providing Gina a bit of entertainment. So we started singing out loud at the top of our voices….this worked for a while but we were still falling over, so we opted for a 5 minute rest. Gina kept time and in what seemed like seconds we were off again and singing along merrily. After about 10k more than 3hrs we located the Alps walking track which would take us to the abseil, however this track was steeper and more technical and we were again tripping and falling over our own feet and walking poles. At this point Alina called for a 10 minute sleep and no one hesitated. We arrived at the abseil at around 5.30am and took to the ropes just as the sun was rising….all we could see in the distance was the glow of the Canberra City lights, and directly below us the creek junction that we were navigating towards.
Micro sleeps are vital in Expedition Racing - Alina makes the most of minutes as Cass, Gina & Kim abseil off the cliff.

Sun has risen now.....Kim takes to the ropes.
Alina is the last one to abseil off Booroomba Rocks
The next section of the trek was completely off track and proved the most difficult part of the entire race. The 1km bush bash down into Blue Gum Creek was nasty, despite it being all downhill. I spent a lot of time sliding down rock scree on my backside and I tried to forge a path through the think scratchy bush. Alina was also trying to find ways through the thick scrub as I maintained a compass bearing of 12 degrees. Eventually we hit the creek and the junction – relief! This was short lived, as the creek was not easy travel! It turned out that teams were travelling at approximately 1k/hr, well that’s what the Stromlonauts told us when they caught up to us…. meaning we had another two hours at least in the creek. There was no relief as the sides of the creek were either very steep and rocky or just thick bush, Alina was forging ahead and setting an awesome pace, Gina wished she had opted for a different shoe choice. I had HOKA Challengers and I certainly could not complain about their performance one bit. Anyway we were hoping to hit the bend soon and get out of the creek, but when we arrived our planned route was a wall of some of the thickest bush we had encountered so far, so we opted to head SW and continue along the creek….sorry team that means another hour of this!  By now it was after midday and we had been on the trek for 10hours and only travelled 22k of the 50k. Eventually as we moved on up the creek the bush on the NE side of the creek seemed to open up just a bit, so I set a bearing to for the saddle we were heading for. I must admit I was pretty nervous at this point and just had to trust my ability and hoped that all the Rogaine practice would pay off.  It did, despite not really being able to see much more than 10m ahead we found the saddle, then the spur that would take us up towards a 1400m plateau near the Smokers Flat Trail. It was comforting to keep crossing paths with the Stromlonauts a few times as well. There we definitely screams of excitement when we finally hit the trail.

Can you see the creek junction in Blue Gum Creek in what looks  to be exactly 1km North of the abseil?

Blue Gum Creek proved the best travel as we headed towards the Smokers Flat Track 
We lay down and rested our weary legs and stuffed our faces as we had barely eaten a thing for the last 7 hours. We took turns at the front for the hike up to CP13 at Square Rock as we knew we still had a long way to go and that we really needed to get a move on. We all had a sneak peak of the view as Gina punched the CP and I convinced everyone to have another 5min sleep, once again no one complained. Now it was just a matter of heading back along towards the Smokers Trail towards the road at Smokers Gap and hitting the pine forest. Once again it was not as easy as it seemed as none of the tracks seemed to look anything like on the map, so again we just set a bearing and headed in a direction and tried to pick up a trail that would take us in the right direction.  We had to wing this section a bit and just follow the main trail. We were losing light fast and desperate to get to CP 14 before dark…..but this was not to be. Our planned route down a spur and along the creek, now seemed like a dodgy option, so we just stuck to the trails and luckily picked up an old unmarked trail beside the road which took us down into the carpark at Gibraltar Creek. We crossed the bridge and Alina showed us the way to CP 14, she had been on this little track before, with here young boys Archie and Jackson just months earlier.
Our route out of this CP was not easy as we either had to bush-bash through extremely thick bush or head down a rocky creek full of water and slippery rocks….it was now dark and getting cold, so we stayed out of the creek for as long as we could , but eventually had to simply get in there. We hit the exit track spot on target so now it was just 8 k to HQ. This seemed to be the longest 8k ever…as Cass navigated the team into the TA. It was pitch black and there was no TA in sight, but oh what a relief when about 50m away someone put on a light… seemed everyone there was sleeping including Tam the TA official. We opted to get transitioned for the next MTB leg, eat then sleep for an hour before leaving the TA. Tam offered hot boiling water from her Jetboil, so I could not resist. I sat in my bike box, in my sleeping bag enjoying a Back-Country Thai Chicken Curry before I lay down and closed my eyes. In what seemed like seconds I opened my eyes and looked at my watch 1.56am – in just 4 minutes we would be getting up to set off on bikes again!
LEG 4 – MTB – 50km – Tidbinbilla to Point Hut
Now Alina said she thought this leg would be hilly, but that was an understatement. We were also advised that we were going through a maze of pine forest, so we did not rush the start of this leg, making sure every turn we made once off the bitumen was perfect. There were some pretty steep climbs and descents on the way to CP 16 and 17, but nothing like what we were about to encounter. CP 17 was a Cave Lookout and easier to find than we had first thought as it had a sign and stairs leading straight to it. After crossing Paddy’s River we had a hike-a-bike which we thought would be the biggest……wrong…..we should have looked more closely at the elevation of all the high points on the route we had chosen along the Bullen Range….we simply just had to suck it up and keep rolling forward, onwards and upwards…..after around 11 high points and 5.5k we finally reached the locked gate at 778m!
The sun had risen and we were treated to some very spectacular views, I was ready for a huge descent, but had misread the contours and it now seemed the next 10k would be another series of high points climbing to around 900m. This was however much more rideable and soon we were at Brett crossroad 881m, and making our way down through farmland into CP 18 –  Saddle Barnes Hill. We got off the bikes and walked up towards the saddle seeing a few strange creatures (Sleep monsters) before being treated to some nice views and the CP just over the hill. It was a quick ride down onto TA4.
Leg 5 – Trek & Pack Raft – 33k – Point Hut to Urirria
Ready to set off on the TREK to the PACK RAFT ....Feelin' Groovy!
Jan and Ali who were manning TA 4 were very excited to see us and we were excited to see them too, however we were somewhat preoccupied with getting all our pack rafting gear organised and ready for a 13k TREK to ‘NUDISTS’ where we would now start the pack rafting. As this leg had been changed I did not pack the big Mountain Designs ENDURACE Pack, so had to bungee all the gear to the outside. Cass and I carried the rafts while Gina and Alina carried the paddles, we all carried PFD’s as well as all our mandatory gear. We did not hurry this transition and took the time to get in a good feed, so I put on the jetboil, made a coffee and warmed up some pumpkin and coconut soup. Jan took a few happy snaps of the team as we departed on the trek. Once again, a bit of local knowledge came in handy as Alina knew the trail we were now required to travel that was not marked on our maps. This trek cut out RED ROCKS and 4 of the big Rapids that we otherwise would have had to portage. I tried to keep an eye on the map and compass as we trekked as I thought it would help once we got on the river, however it was very obvious when we arrived at NUDISTS as, yes, there were nudists everywhere, some happy to help us continue in the right direction. We made up a song along the way to the tune of ‘Feeling Groovy’ which kept us awake and entertained.
We trekked on a trail to 'NUDISTS' as marked on the map! Skipping big rapids at RED ROCKS!
We stopped on a nice grassy flat patch and got ourselves organised, by inflating the pack rafts, before a 5-minute sleep. Then it was on with the wetsuit gear and FROGSKINS before we headed into the water – Alina and Cass were in one raft, and Gina and I in the other. I had the maps set up so I could try to work out speed and distance as we came across our first set of rapids. Alina and Cass went first, while Gina and I would hang back and watch them get through safely before proceeding. I must say this was the section of the race that I enjoyed the most, it was fun, not scary at all. Gina and I were a great team, she would call rock and I call out paddle….as easy as that!  We got out at the portage at the 14k mark, ate some food and I put on the FROGSKINS top. At this point we realised that BIG RIVER DRY BAGS are not that waterproof when you sit on them……my jacket which I had ready for quick access was soaked as the snap lock bag it was in had a hole in it, however everything in our packs in dry bags were fine!
We got back onto the water and headed for the weir just 3k around the corner, then it was full steam ahead as there were no further portages. The rapids started to get smaller as the sun went down, and the moon rose. We enjoyed our moonlight paddle but soon had to crack the glow sticks and get the AY UP’s out as we kept bottoming out. I had Gina’s lights on my head and when we went through a small rapid we hit a bump and they fell backwards of my head, we were 50m downstream and tried to paddle back up, but way too shallow. The lights were glowing and easy to spot under the water when I waded back. I jumped in and said just 1k to go now we are almost there. I was right. We jumped out of the rafts at the TA, and quickly put on dry clothes. I shovelled in a tin of Tuna and devoured almost a whole pack of Salt and Vinegar Chips that the TA officials provided teams as a bit of a surprise. Once dry and warm we packed up the rafts and paddle gear in preparation for the next leg.
Leg 6 – TREK – 10k Uriarra
This trek I am sure was put in here for the sole purpose of warming us up. I felt like I had wings enjoyed the brisk walk at the front of the group….I think the cold water of the Murrumbidgee was like a 5hr ICE BATH, so I just felt recovered and pain free. I don’t think the other girls felt the same, but this was my time to be strong yet supportive. This trek saw us following the Murrumbidgee walking track, to CP 21 in a gully, crossing the Mongolo River and hiking up to Shepard's lookout for CP22, following pretty much the same track back towards the TA, with CP23 up in a creek junction. We were relieved not to get wet feet and surprised that =travel along the side of the creek was good. So in around 2hrs we were back at the TA.
Leg 7 – MTB – 45km – Uriarra to Black Mountain Peninsula
We transitioned really quickly and were planning another 1hr sleep before heading off on the bikes, however there was a significant glitch…..we had no maps! Yes, no map for the entire next leg. Lucky Alina knew the guys from Team 22 – Results Racing – who showed us their maps. I remembered that Alina was all over this leg when we did the planning, so we just looked at the main features and memorised the CP’s……we had the descriptions so worth a try map-less!
Alina Mc Master somehow navigated us to these 3 CP's - 24; 25 and 28 with no map!
After our sleep, we set off up the Urriarra Road to the west side of Mt Stromlo. While we did not take the most straightforward way up to the top, we were relieved when we finally arrived at CP 23 – White Trig. Alina then treated us to a tour de Stromlo down Skyline and Luge before leaving the MTB park and heading into a newly developed satellite city and a dam. We weaved in and out of various tracks and trails and eventually ended up at the dam and CP – BINGO! Just one to go! The sun was now rising and Alina was on fire, as poor Cass began to suffer with a sore knee (due to an earlier fall). We just took it easy as we headed towards the back of Black Mountain Tower ……this was very obvious as even a runner, passed us at one point. We found CP 24 at the track junction Alina thought it would be at, and then headed for the CBD via a series of bike paths. We rolled into Black Mountain Peninsula but could not find the TA anywhere as we had no map…..we asked a security guard who was asleep in his car and he had no idea…..we headed back and so found it on the west side in the middle….phew!
Leg 8 – Paddle 14 Km - Lake Burleigh Griffin TA 6 - TA 7
We could not really work out if we would be warm or cold as it seemed cloudy, so I made use of seal socks and just kept on my thermal top, and beanie. Todd Vickery from Adventure 1  offered us some coke, which we skulled…..not your ideal breakfast food, but we needed a bit of a lift as paddling as the sun comes up always makes you just want to sleep. We were just ready to go and realised we still did not have maps…..Alina rushed over to team 7 who had just arrived in the TA and asked to look at the map, and we drew our own…..
Our hand drawn Paddle Map - created by Alina & Kim
We were so lucky once again to have Alina’s local knowledge as she navigated directly to every CP point, then we just had to find them. CP 28 was the hardest as we had to get out and run 400m into the middle of a park and find a bench. The most challenging part of the paddle was staying awake, so we continued to sing and make up some songs – after singing the 12days of Christmas we made up our own version ‘A CP in a Gum Tree’.  Cass got out at CP 30 and did a few star-jumps to wake up, while I stood up in the boat and did a bit of rock and roll dancing. It was tempting to stop at the Boat Harbour at CP31 as there were cafĂ©’s open everywhere, however we ignored them and headed for the TA. It was now just after 10.45am.
Leg 9 – Canberra Rogaine – TA 7 back to TA6
We were given a tourist map of Canberra’s CBD and a series of questions, and were required to find out where we might find the answers and mark these on the map, then run around and find the answers. Oh, and we now had our paddle map so very, very relieved, as it had all the OOB marked for the leg as well as the first section of the final bike.
Wild Women take to the city streets of Canberra
Gina had the questions and the pen and Alina just pointed us all in the right direction, it was a bit like playing a game of snakes and ladders or dungeons and dragons, as Alina knew all the shortcuts, underpasses etc making for very fast travel…..and the fact that we were now running too means that we were making extremely good time. Tom and the kids as well as Jan and Ali found us as we were headed towards the war memorial, so we stopped for a chat and a few photos. The last 3k back to the TA was really hard as it was actually really hot, and as we were running on concrete, our feet were all hurting and really hot. We stopped and offered Fixamol to team 22 along the way (just returning a good deed). We must have arrived at the TA around 2pm…..just one leg to go now we were very, very excited.
Mountain Designs Wild Women in great spirits, just one leg to go after this TREK!
Leg 10 – 25k - Black Mountain Peninsula to the Finish – Ibis Eaglehawk
This was no easy finish we had 2 CP’s to get and both on mountains – Mt Ainslie elevation 850 and Mt Majura – elevation 890. Once again Alina knew how to weave through the city paths to get to the start of the climb for Mt Ainslie and then I was back on the navigation. We posed for a few photos on Mt Ainslie and then all did a chin up at the trig point on Mt Majura, before tackling the very rewarding descent towards Majura Road and ultimately the finish line. As always, I was wondering if there was any sort of twist in the last leg, so was not surprised to see that the trail marked to take us straight to the finish line did not exist. So, we just rode along a paddock on a bearing and soon saw the Ibis right in front of our eyes.
Gils Hike a Bike to the top of  Mt Ainslie.....just one more to go!

We located the Wildside AR finish line nearby the pool in the resort and teamed up to cross the line together….little did we know that we were being chased down by team 22. We crossed the line just before 5pm Thursday just in time for happy hour……which was beer….so we attempted to skull the amber liquid and had some success. It was such a fabulous feeling to be greeted by friends who had been watching our dots, as well as volunteering (Jan & Ali, Tom & kids) or competing themselves – in fact the winning team of the race and the series, Thunderbolt AR were there at the finish as well….a truly special moment. Watching on an listening to the banter were Richard Old (Race Director) Amy Potter who then brought out toasted ham and cheese sandwiches for us to devour…. sometimes it’s just the simple things in life that are so, so good after spending 4 days out in the wilderness!
Mountain Designs Wild Women Finish Wildside AR 2017

Cheers Girls - what an awesome effort - 3 days and 10hours - with less than 2hrs 30 sleep - we made it!
Now let the celebrations begin.... Champagne!
Mountain Designs Wild Women finished 6th overall at Wildside against other 4 person mixed teams, so despite the fact that we were the only all-female team entered we finished the full course on the same day as the winning team and ahead of the only male team to enter the event. This also meant that were crowned winners of the Female Category in the inaugural Adventure 1 Series – which also included X Marathon (we did not field a team), Geoquest and Hells Bells, as we were the only female team to finish ranked in all events in which we competed. This proves that Adventure Racing is a extremely tough sport, but nothing that a bunch of fit, strong, skilled and experienced female adventure racers can’t handle!
Mountain Designs Wild Women - A1 Series Winners Women's Category 2017
Thanks Girls for being a part of this dream team:-
Cass Kimlin, Gina Dunsdon, Alina Mc Master and Ali Wright
Thanks to our sponsors and supporters:-
Mountain Designs
Ay Up Lights
Tri Adventure,
Trek Bikes Australia – Venture Cycles
Kayak Noosa
Finally, I need to acknowledge our major sponsors ‘Mountain Designs’ who have put their brand behind an all-female team in a sport that has been traditionally very male dominated. Without the backing of such great sponsors to provide us with most of the gear we needed to keep us safe dry and warm ‘out there in places you’d rather be’, we would not have had such confidence and fun out there. Mountain Designs are also proudly sponsoring the Wild Women Adventure Race that Jan Leverton and I as Tri Adventure are conducting on 15th October. I will have on the Race Directors hat; however Gina and Cass will be lining up again to defend their Wild Women AR title.

Mountain Designs Wild Women 2018 onwards....
Kim has the girls lined up for XPD (March) and GEOQUEST (June), however before that Kim and Cass are pairing up for the RED BULL DEFIANCE in WANAKA (January) and then Kim is having a crack at New Zealand’s iconic COAST TO COAST (February). We plan to field a team in the 2018 Adventure 1 Series, however hope that our participation and achievements in the 2017 series have helped to raise the profile of Women in this sport of adventure racing and in time lead to greater sponsorship and prizes for women who have the confidence, skills, ability and experience to tackle some of Australia’s most physically and navigationally challenging adventure races.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Mountain Designs Wild Women  - Hells Bells

Girls deep in thought during map preparation
Golden Beach was HQ for this year’s edition of Hells Bells and we were all a bit sceptical about where we may be taking our boogie boards on the mystery discipline, given that we had earlier dropped our bikes at Coochin Creek. This year being a part of the new A1 series this event had to deliver on many fronts and I think the Wild & Co Team certainly provided all teams with a spectacular well designed course with plenty of route choice and interesting navigational challenges. 
Our team for this event and our main roles:-
Kim Beckinsale – Team Captain – Navigation
Cass Kimlin – Navigation
Gina Dunsdon – Descriptions & Distances
Ali Wright – The ferret

For those of you who don’t know much about adventure racing having specific roles within the team, provides everyone with an opportunity to be engaged in the course, thus more likely to feel like a valuable part of the team and enjoy the experience, even when the going gets tough. We ‘Mountain Designs Wild Women’ pride ourselves on our team work and are certainly willing to share these roles around to ensure we all have the opportunity to develop / maintain key AR skills.

We're off Hells Bells 2017......Cass and Gina set a cracking pace out the front for the team
Kim and Ali hang back and check out what everyone else is doing here!
Leg 1 Trek

This was the most spectacular leg of the course by far. Starting off from HQ at Golden Beach we managed to swim across to Bribie Island using boogie boards and then being carry them for the rest of the leg. I had a big board which made the swim easy, but the run pretty tough as I had one big wing which provided lift force in the opposite direction to travel. Gina carried Buzz & Barbie for much of the leg, so Ali had hands free for ferreting, and a bit of extra recovery time. Lucky we decided to dump the boards at the TA before collecting CP 6 & 7 (our first route change of the day) as we did not think the bush bash would save time – especially with boards. It was nice to see many of the Fairy Bells teams on this leg and also gauge our position with an out and back CP at 6, Thunderbolt and Peak were leaders and we were around BMX Bandits.
Cass, Gina, Kim & Ali, just loving this beach spectacular.
Leg 2 Paddle
Wild & Co transported our kayaks to the TA by boat to make this leg possible. I must say we were quite relieved that the promised swim out to our kayaks was canned, so we were pretty excited to see the kayaks all lined up on the bank. Not that it was cold, and nor were we wet, but it did mean we could at least start the paddle relatively dry, as we knew we would be out there for a while. Due to the excessive low tides, so of the CP’s became unreachable so we only had to collect 3 of the planned 6 CP’s. Cass & Gina paddled together and set a cracking pace, meaning Ali and I had to try to catch up after punching the CP’s.
Kim, running through the mangroves on paddle leg to locate CP
We all had to get out at CP 11 and wade through mangrove mud, lucky for us we had a fair idea of where the CP was located as the lead teams were still wading back as we approached. This would have been extremely hard to find had it been dark. We manoeuvred our way through the Pumicestone passage up Coochin Creek to the next TA having a bit of a chat and boat drag with BMX Bandits. Upon arriving at the TA the sunlight was just starting to fade and most of the lead teams were just setting off on bikes.
Mountain Designs Wild Women - Gina & Cass display great teamwork on the paddle.
Leg 3 MTB
There were quite a few navigational challenges on this leg, which enabled some teams to get quite an advantage if they took the risk and or worked it out. In saying that you would probably have to have been out on the course to understand what I am talking about. Our first challenge was to decide whether to cross Mellum Creek or ride around. We were warm and dry after the paddle and could not see quite how deep the water was…..but seriously it looked like a swim! We opted to ride around, so probably added 7 minutes, but meant we were dry going into the night!

Girls all smiles as we remain dry, after opting not to swim Mellum Creek!
After CP 16 we had to cross under the Bruce Highway and here the road took us automatically left, so it wasn’t until we looked at the compass bearing, and had a good look at the map, that we realised we were going the wrong way. Our next challenge was working that out and trying to get our bikes up some seriously steep embankments to get under the highway. We were here with BMX Bandits who liked the look of my TREK Superfly and tried to take it……accidently of course! Mawson’s Road on the map was non-existent, so a few route recalculations were required as we approached CP 17.Light was now almost completely gone and we were heading for some hills. I remembered this area from some of the early Wild Women Races, but had a bit of trouble interpreting the briefing notes in relation to single tracks and CP’s. We had some fun here riding the hills and the single tracks and finding a few Fairy Bells Teams along the way as we picked up CP20, 21 and 22. After crossing Steve Irwin Way we had the opportunity to ride some of the quite nice single track around Ewen Maddock Dam. I really enjoyed this part as I just ride the trails trusting my map-board compass and Gina’s distances. I would stop and say ‘ we are almost there’ and Cass would look left or right and say ‘ there it is’ and then in would go Ali for the punch! Great teamwork girls J
Lots on this map to think about!  CP29 on to TA3 looks so easy.....but it wasn't!
Unfortunately we got into a bit of a pickle not long before the trek, we had punched the final two CP’s on the leg CP 28 and 29 and were heading for a road crossing of Steve Irwin Way. We were near the ‘BIG KART TRACK’ and we were bamboozled. The only way that looked right said ‘private property’ and we just got freaked out as there was an OOB marked on the map, near that area. We rode around in circles and out and backs for a while with nothing working out on the compass. Eventually we went through a gate that just did not seem right...however the bearing was actually spot on! Relief was probably what we were all thinking at this point, as we approached the trek. It was after 11pm and we had been going almost 12 hrs and that little bit of confusion must have cost us almost 45 minutes.

Leg 4 Trek
The trek would take us through the Duchlara National Park, somewhere most of us have visited before in one of the Landsborough based Wild Women Races and even Hells Bells the first time Dare You Adventure put on the event. We had 5 CP’s to collect in any order, so we chose E D A B F C. We were ready to set off on the leg at around 11.30pm just as we saw Peak Adventure coming back through the TA??? They had left the TA on the final bike leg 15minutes ago, but must have gone the wrong way. We enjoyed this leg immensely even doing a little bust bash out of B to the track cutting out a climb.  CP F was in a creek and unfortunately, we went down the wrong creekline, it was very pretty and there were quite a few tricky cliff like sections, but no CP, so we backtracked, popped over a spur to the next creekline and got it bang on. We collected C on the way back to the TA and prepared for the final leg, it was now around 4.30am and the birds were stirring.

We went EDABFC.....most seemed to go the other way. 
Leg 5 MTB to Finish

The final leg on the map looked pretty straight forward, however this was certainly not the case approaching CP 33. We came to some locked gates on the road we were travelling and it seemed a bit strange to proceed, we continued and came to another gate, and then it seemed to me as were travelling off the map, so to make sure we were not going to be entering OOB and to get the right spot to find the easement we went about 2k back to a bend in the road, to get the exact distance to the gate we were looking for. Now I still don’t think we worked it out perfectly, however  there were quite a few Fairy Bells teams in the area and we eventually found our way to the creek and located the fencline where the CP was located, thanks to a little chat with Kelsey Harvey – Team Champions.
Looking at the map it looked like the trail we were looking for was on the other side of the creek, there were teams standing around looking at the crossing and thinking it looked impossible. I went down, found a crossable spot and hurried on the rest of the team, a bit of a procession then followed us, as we clambered up the steep bank and Cass forged her way through the thick bush, recognising the fact that others had definitely travelled this way. We were stoked to pop out of the bush and find the powerlines and the track we were after. Then it all went pear-shaped for us when I decided to jump a fence at the junction, what was I thinking???? Well for some weird reason I thought the bearing was headed the way I took the team……wrong! We travelled maybe 2k and then we were in really, really long grass, at first it was hard to tell if others had been this way or not….but the reality as we proceeded was ‘probably not’.
After CP 33 we must have headed South....what was I thinking?????
Anyway, to cut to the chase we ended up on Old Caloundra Road and we were pretty upset as it was clear we had gone OOB, we could have cut straight across the highway here and taken a really short route home, but we decided to go the long way and get back on the ‘in bounds course’. Then Cass suggested why don’t we go back to the point where we left the course, so that’s what we did, so about 3k out and back and we were then happy we had tried to make amends for our mistake of going into OOB. The ride back after this on the bike paths was a bit fun… spot the path, so we were all taking turns at finding the next bit of path to follow on our way to the final CP34 and the finish line.

 Mountain Designs Wild Women finished Hells Bells 2017 just after 7.30am with an official time of  20hours and 9 minutes placing us 1st Female Team by 11hrs and 7th overall. While the finish line of an adventure race is never anything like an Ironman finish, we were chuffed to see our Tri Adventure friends Jan and Shan (who had completed the Fairy Bells Course the night before in just 10hrs),  event organisers Chris Dixon and Dave Schloss as well as Todd Vickery from Adventure 1 there to share some of our stories. During the presentation ceremony, the team was recognised for its honesty and integrity in regards to ‘recompleting part of the course’ after accidentally going out of bounds and thus nominated for one of the Adventure 1 ‘Marco Polo Awards’ and thus avoiding any penalties for our misadventure.

Thanks to WildnCo for staging such a great race, putting Hells Bells back right up there in terms of ‘must do adventure races’ in Australia and thanks also to long time sponsors ‘Area 51’ for their continued support of this event since the very first Hells Bells back in November 2004 on one very scorching day in Brisbane.
To our team sponsors Mountain Designs, Ay Up Lighting Systems thank you for your continued support in providing reliable good quality gear that we can always trust, and also thanks Tri Adventure, Kayak Noosa, Venture Cycles for continuing to support and encourage our adventurous spirits.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Mountain Designs Wild Women conquer Geoquest AR Sawtell 2017

For this blog rather than provide a description of Geoquest from start to finish,  I thought why not write about some of the challenges we faced along the way, as well as of the highs for an all-women’s team completing an adventure race in less than ideal conditions. As this blog is also our way of trying to inspire and encourage more women to get into this amazing sport, I will also provide a bit of an insight as to what worked and what did not during the event.

# Challenge - East Coast Low approaches Sawtell what impact will this have on the event?
Teams were faced with the reality that the event could be cancelled at any minute. At the event briefing the full course was modified, which meant that two river paddles were cancelled along with the connecting MTB leg due to potential flood risk. The event was going ahead, we were confident we had the right gear and equipment and were very mindful of the fact that team work will play a key role in this event!

In the garage packing our gear.....awaiting the final news on the paddle course.

# Challenge - Despite a massive swell building the full ocean paddle was still on the cards.
We had spent months and months preparing for an ocean paddle and had purchased the perfect ski for this event – an EPIC V8 Double from Kayak Noosa, however we were certainly not confident that we would handle the ‘alternate Leg 1 course’ which was a paddle out through Coffs Harbour around Kortis Islet and back. Looking out at the swell was petrifying, so we were honestly relieved that the course was shortened to three laps around the harbour, and confident we could handle the dumping beach break as long as we were patient and alert.

We are not sure that we are ready to paddle out of the looks so scary out there!

# High – Girls survive the paddle!
Just as we were about to start the paddle we lost vision of the yacht we were to paddle around, we thought the event was about to be canned, but seconds later the rain eased, and we heard the countdown 10, 9, 8…….3,2, 1 and then the horn! Alina and I made it out straight away, Gina and Cass were right behind us, but had to wait out a big set off high rollers, once out we stuck together as a team and paddled the swells cautiously yet confidently. Soon we were in a thunderstorm, we did not see lightning but heard the thunder, but we made our three laps and were heading in. All our training in Noosa of ‘not catching waves’ on big easterly swells had paid off……we cruised into the beach, without mishap to the delight of our nervous support crew Erica and Tom who had been witnessing carnage in front of their eyes! For the record we finished 3 laps of the paddle and are super stoked that we did, we also realise that some teams who finished ahead of us did not complete 3 laps, however understand and respect reasons for the decision to allow teams to continue on the course without penalty.
Look at Erica in the middle....perfectly dressed for the occasion! Waterproof waders on and helped many teams get out!
Kim & Alina on the left, Cass & Gina on the right finish 3 laps.....pretty perfect beach landing in these conditions!
# Challenge – Water Crossings & No crew at TA 2

This coastal trek – Leg 2 had a few inlets to cross so we linked arms and worked as a team during these crossings. However our biggest challenge here was trying to get around the rocks at Korora Beach….we saw the waves coming but made a run for it….Gina was leading….suddenly I was swept off my feet and was being sucked out by the wave…..I had to dig my hands into the sand to prevent being sucked out….phew….that was lucky!
Unfortunately we overestimated our time for this leg and as a result it meant our crew had not arrived….no drama…..we just took shelter behind the toilet block out of the wind and waited for the crew to arrive….

# High – Nailing the Foot O Leg 4
We arrived at the TA pretty wet and soggy looking forward to a run to warm up a bit. Our support crew had some really amazing hot soup for us here and it was so so yummy. We had to mark up our maps so pretty glad we had kept them dry to this point. Our plan to drop CP C & D worked well opting for a longer run and less creek travel. Although some of the marked trails did not exist and other unmarked trails did, team work and good navigation choices helped.

Great set up in TA by the support crew.....loved the soup!

The Trek Map marked up.

Cass and Kim both on the maps the whole way!

# Challenge – locating CP8 on Bike Leg 5
We had made some use of the tow rope to keep the team together on the previous bike leg, so the system worked well on this leg too. We had a steep climb up past Bucca lookout on our way to CP8. We certain we had taken the correct route down Schooner Road to find the track to CP8, but were a bit confused when the track marked on the map did not seem to exist. We rode to the next junction looking for an alternate track route, but it did not exist, so headed to where we though the track should be and started a bush bash. But wait…..this was stupid the description was track creek junction, so there must be a track. So we were prepared to head back up past the highpoint and take another route to the CP. Then we looked down a trail that we had previously discounted as it was too high and thought we may as well give it a go! We did and found the CP – this was definitely a low point as if we had just not been navigators and not been looking at times / distances etc we may have just turned anyway…..oh well time to move on now! It was getting dark so on go the AY UP lights!

Ay UP Lights on and ready to roll!

Our planned course to CP 8
Our movements looking for CP8

# High – Great Support Crew
We arrived at Boambee (CP12 TA) to the sounds of Mummy….Mummy… that you Mummy! It was pouring with rain, we were covered in mud after a slip and slide down off Little Boambee but Alina was so excited to see her two little boys (Archie & Jackson) out there on the course to share the experience. We were treated to shelter, hot food, washed off shoes, and dry socks….sometimes it’s the little things that count! Erica and Tom had an awesome set up and we were so thankful for their support.

# Challenge – Finding CP 17
Although this trek did not have the some of the Geoquest classic legs features of bush bashing along steep ridgelines or clambering along wet slippery creek beds, it did have the classic ‘tracks marked’ may not be as they appear! We had moved extremely well to CP 13, 14, 15 and also located CP 16 after a bit of persistence paid off hiking up a creek line for what seemed much longer than what showed on the map, great stuff Alina! On the way to 17 the marked track was quite indistinct and soon we were climbing….not right! So we headed straight back and found our trail. It was bucketing down with rain so we were running to keep warm. We all managed to cross the skill tester plank bridge without falling – yay – and then ended up on a big trail. It seemed strange but correct bearing so we continued. We were headed for CP17 Bridge – all seemed good until we crossed the creek before the ‘marked bridge’ and started climbing! This was not meant to happen….we were somewhat bamboozled and tried to make sense of it. For some reason because we had been running we thought we must be somewhere else – and thought oh, maybe it was back at the skill tester bridge, so we ran back (about 1.5k) and had a look….nothing.....gave another team some help re CP 16 and confirmed we were where we thought! So once again we headed along the trail to 17 as before but much more slowly checking every twist / turn / contour and ended up at the same creek, and the same trail that went up a hill not to a bridge… we had a scout around in the creek, Alina found a waterfall but no bridge. We had to keep moving at this point and finding this CP was our trail home, so we just had to think laterally and go well this track might just be wrong but take us where we want…..and it did! We soon found the bridge and the CP…..why did we not think that earlier???? The descent off this range was challenging too and Cass helped Gina with her footing while I relaxed my thinking on following the trail as it was not as it appeared but was generally headed in the right direction so pretty stoked when we hit the bitumen heading to CP18/TA.

This is what we did from CP 16 to 17
# Challenge - Archery on a cold dark wet morning!
A bit of fun trying to hold a bow straight when you are shivering….but we all had a go and after missing the board many times we eventually got the hang of it! Don’t pull back too far, and aim for the ground – bullseye!

# Challenge – Crossing the raging Bonnyville Creek to reach the Finish.
We opted to run the Bundegaree Coastal walk track all the way to Bundagen Headland and then hit the beach, Gina was amazing walking at a rate that we had to run to keep up, so we ran walked all the way to the crossing! Wow the map was right…there seemed to be dangerous currents and the water was rushing out…..this crossing looked pretty scary! But when you get there in a race and you know others ahead must have done it, I suppose it does give you some confidence. We could see people on the other side, so headed to the sandbar, linged arms and waded in. Soon we lost footing and wer all swimming, trying to stick together….we stood up a bit and then we were swimming again…..liked drowned rats we emerged onto the bank pretty excited to see Tom and the kids!

Mountain Designs Wild Women approach the final creek crossing.
The team links up and stays together for as long as we can.

Time to start swimming!
 # High – Getting to the Line of Geoquest AR
The finish was now a reality for team Mountain Designs Wild Women… joined by Alina’s family for the final jog up to the Sawtell Surf Club we were greeted by our other amazing support crew Erica and our Tri Adventure friends - the Cowgirls and Cowboys and their crew!
Mountain Designs Wild Women at the Finish Line

Mountain Designs Wild Women - 12th Overall - 1st Women's Team - Full Course

We Mountain Designs Wild Women Kim Beckinsale, Cass Kimlin, Gina Dunsdon and Alina Mc Master are grateful for all the support we have received from our major sponsor Mountain Designs, not only for their support of an all-women’s team, but also for their passion and foresight in sponsoring Geoquest since its inception in 2002 and providing some of the best gear for taking us to places we’d rather be.

                                       Mountain Designs Wild Women at the presentations
If you are reading this please check out the latest Mountain Designs blog and where possible try to support Mountain Designs when considering equipment and gear for your next adventure.

I would also personally like to thank Andrew from AYUP lighting systems for his continued support. The product is amazing and the fact that we can keep going all through the night in the pouring rain whether it be riding, hiking or paddling is something that the average person would not believe even possible! Ay Up lighting systems have supported me since 2007 when I was lucky to be a part of the winning Geoquest Team, and always look after my team mates as well as well as the Tri Adventure group! If you are looking for a good set of lights for your next adventure – you should definitely check these out.

So for all the girls out there, who might be considering Geoquest here are a few tips:-
1.       Start with the GEO HALF and try to develop your skills across all disciplines.

2.       Get some skills instruction in the disciplines you are least experienced, if possible in an all-women’s environment. Tri Adventure have some upcoming ‘Wild Women Skills Clinics’ – 16th July, 12th August, 2nd September. Contact us at Tri Adventure for more information about these upcoming clinics.

3.     Enter some smaller events first, such as the Wild Women Adventure Race where you get to test out your skills in an all-women’s environment over a course created by women for women. Alternatively there are smaller upcoming events such as the Northern Rivers Raid and the MOJO Raid, so check out the Qld Rogaine Association for more details. Then there is also the iconic Hells Bells and Fairy Bells  Adventure Race located in the Sunshine Coast Area.

Why not also have a go at some single discipline events in your local area, such as  foot rogaines, orienteering, trail running, mountain biking and paddling as these provide you with some great training and preparation for adventure racing as well.

4.     Remember that for most of us Adventure Racing is a lifestyle sport where we test ourselves physically and mentally against what nature and ‘man’ aka race director throws at us. So always expect the unexpected – maps that are not perfect, conditions that are not perfect, and situations that are not perfect and just deal with it… me, this will help you cope in other situations in your life that you are faced with and is better than what any doctor or therapist can prescribe! It is not a sport about doing what the masses do, it is about doing something that you think makes you a healthy, fit, strong and happy!

5.       Most of all, if you want to get into Adventure Racing and Geoquest in particular you want to be out there doing these adventures with like-minded people that you know, trust and like to be around, and everything will just seem easy………maybe not at the time …….but after you finish you will reap the rewards of adventure racing!
 Written by Kim Beckinsale June 2017