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.