Sunday 19 August 2018

Mountain Designs Wild Women on fire – Hells Bells 2018

Just under two weeks out from the race were very excited to hear that the headquarters for Hells Bells and Fairy Bells 2018 was going to be right in the heart of Noosa – Noosaville Lions Park. This meant for our team of Wild Women that there would be a pretty good chance of us being familiar with some of the areas we would be visiting through the event, especially when we then found out that the bike drop was going to be at Habitat Noosa – Elanda Point! 
Our team line up for this event was the same for the Rogue 24 – Cass, Ali, Elizabeth and me (Kim). We were pretty excited to have Elizabeth up from Melbourne once again to share some fun and laughter with us, this time in sunny Noosa! So we all made sure we did our very important singing practice leading up to the race…..just like ‘Wild Women do’

Race morning – 7am -  Cass and I went to the bike drop… was a chilly 7 degrees and Lake Cootharaba was absolutely stunning. Meanwhile back at HQ, Ali and Elizabeth had registered and received a copy of the all-important race logistics planner. So, when we arrived, all of the Tri Adventure crew were there and very excited as yes, we were going to be visiting some very of our favourite places in the Noosa Hinterland – Swim the Noosa River; Paddle Trek to Mt Seawah; Trek in Woondum; Mt Cooroora; Abseil Mt Tinbeerwah; finishing with some single track. This of course was all before we had the maps, so we spent the time sorting gear and food into our boxes whilst still speculating on where exactly which way the CP’s would take us.

During Map handout and event briefing at 9.30am the exact course was revealed and it certainly sounded like this Hells Bells would be a bit longer than previous editions as there was a massive trek in Woondum with plenty of time credits available to challenge the ‘faster teams’ ; we were also advised at this point that time credits would be lost if we did not get back before the course cut off at 11.30am. Elizbeth and Ali had worked out the timings already based on the course notes and thought we would need to finish this leg by 3am to have an opportunity to climb Mt Cooroora and get back in time. So when we sat down and planned our maps, we didn’t really even spend much time looking at Woondum, as we really had no idea how long it would take us to get there! 

Looking at the maps, the course looked exciting, and even though we were very familiar with the area, the CP descriptions and placements as per the maps, seemed like they would be challenging. I noticed that many of the sections of the Noosa Trail Network on the map looked more like roads, when in reality, they were just merely just trails through paddocks! I knew this would prove to be very challenging for many teams on the course, so we were super excited to get out there! It was fantastic to have many locals come up to us while in the park asking, ‘What's going on here? What are you all doing? No one could understand quite what we were about to do for the next 24 hours! That’s what I love about adventure racing… make the unthinkable….possible!

So this was the course for Hells Bells 2018:-

Leg 1 Swim across the Noosa River, run up the beach to near the Noosa North Shore Camp grounds and across to the Ferry, while searching for CP’s  along the way – tree in scrub; high point; dense scrub, subtle high point, small tree!  

Leg 2-4 Paddle Noosa River to Boreen Point, Teewah Landing – Run up Mt Seawah (via part of the Cooloola Great Walk) – Paddle back across Lake Cootharaba to the newly refurbished Habitat Noosa Camp Grounds at Elanda Point. Paddle 25k; Trek 5k.

Leg 5 Mountain Bike 33km via Kin Kin to Tablelands Road Lookout at Woondum, via Johnsons Lookout on the Noosa Trail Network, Upper Pinbarren Creek Road and Ewart’s Road. 

Leg 6 Woondum Trek -  Total Distance 30k – CP’s 13 – 22 – teams only had to collect one and it looked like most would opt for CP13 as it was closest and looked easiest as it was on a track junction. Total Time credits were 9hrs (interestingly fastest time estimate was 6hrs, slowest 12hrs – our prediction would then be 9hrs) there would certainly be no time for errors on this trek if we had the time to have a good crack at it!
Leg 7 Tablelands Lookout to Mt Tinbeerwah – 38km –  via ‘The Mother’ to Cooran, Trail 5 to Pomona, Trail 7 to Lake Mc Donald, then on to Mt Tinbeerwah.
Leg 8 Abseil – Mt Tinbeerwah – 1hr Compulsory Stop – for safety reasons.

Leg 9 MTB – Ride from top of Mt Tinbeerwah down through some of the famous #visitnoosa Woori Trails – Snake; Bloodwood, Indy, with our route also taking in Hovea and Glossy as well.
Finish – Noosaville Lions Park – before course cut off – 11.30am

During a post-race interview here is what the Mountain Designs Women said:-

What do you think was the best part of course?

Ali:- Oooh, it was all so spectacular and iconic Australian beauty... such a hard pick between the run up and down Mt Seawah just before sunset, the paddle over Lake Cootharaba to Elanda Point with the sun setting behind the range and the super fun single track at Wooroi at the end!
Cass:- The view across Lake Cootharabah from the top of Mt Seawah as the sun went down. View and abseil from Mt Tinbeewah was really spectacular to see where we had been. And………….. watching the tracker at 11.31 in the car on the way home, seeing that the teams still out on the course hadn’t made it home, putting us into second place. Jan's post-race eggs were fabulous too!
Kim:- I have so many parts I enjoyed, however the best for me was when we arrived at Lake MacDonald as the sun was rising and then up at Mt Tinbeerwah, we could do a big 360 degree circle and see exactly where we had been for the past 20 hours. 

Elizabeth:- I loved to flowing MTB single track trails at the end, playing in Kim's backyard really. I loved that we got tour guide information about the course and various landmarks as we rode near them.

What was your most challenging leg?
Ali:- For me it was definitely the hike-a-bike up that near vertical cliff wall of Mt Tinbeerwah! I was out of puff carrying Beti up that…..obviously I need to spend more time carrying my bike around!

Cass:-The Woondum rogaine section – particularly the tactical aspect. I was very concerned about finding the happy medium between too many and too few checkpoints. My brush with the Gympie Gympie plant was interesting too! Still itchy!

Kim:- Physically I was most challenged by the paddle, because I was frozen at Boreen Point and I used so much energy to get over to Teewah Landing, then trying to warm up on the run. I was dehydrated and exhausted and had a headache before starting the bike leg, so I was thinking this is going to be a long night. The other big challenge was more strategic rather than physical - working out what CP’s to attack in Woondum, our conservative strategy worked, as I really did not think that we would make much time by aiming for the big time credit CP’s up at the north end of the map as we knew we had to be back by 3am. I wrote this on my map, so we would not forget this!
Elizabeth:- A non-steering red bathtub kayak that somehow only wanted to steer right, but in saying that I really enjoyed the paddle and the scenery and company was great for this leg - too much to talk about that I never even managed to warm up my singing voice!! There was certainly some tough decisions out on the rogaine - lots of strategic discussions before we made the final call to not go for all the CP’s.

What did you enjoy most about Hells Bells in Noosa?
Ali:- The spectacular location and most fabulous winter weather! The river wasn't even cold for our swim!
Cass:- Noosa and the hinterland is the perfect location for adventuring. A perfect mix of challenging terrain and beautiful scenery.

Kim - It was really fun knowing quite a bit of the area and being able to spend such a great time out in some of our favourite locations with such a great bunch of girls. Other times when I have raced in places I have known I have not been the navigator, so my local knowledge has not really helped that much, however this time it made a real difference. I did not know all of Woondum, so I liked that too as I knew if we were headed there the bush is thick and travel off track is slow and challenging. I did think it was great to get everyone to the controversial Elanda Point Camp Ground, that has recently been redeveloped by the Discovery group and the fact we paddled there was awesome. Hope everyone dining at the café/restaurant there that night was inspired by what they saw!

Elizabeth:- That it was not Melbourne weather, they had a shocker that weekend. Also, I got to race in my super awesome looking Wild Women kit and didn't put any holes in it, even with the wait-a-while bushes.

Did you come across any other teams on the course and how they were going?
Ali:- We saw a few teams out and about at various stages... in the early stages we were close to the front teams and they were going well... at the Elanda Point TA before stage 5 I heard a very disappointed racer discover he'd packed the wrong stuff in the wrong gear box and didn't have dry clothes to warm up after the wet paddle (doh!) ... in the later stages we were joined by Team Rogue who shared our team's enjoyment in Kim's local knowledge. They had also employed a similar strategy to us in recognizing the need to get back to HQ before race cut off and didn't want to gamble everything and lose either.
Cass:- Its always great to see other teams out on the course- particularly the Tri Adventure crew. Being in close proximity to the top mixed teams throughout the race, was exciting too. It’s always a moral boost to know that you’re up there!

Kim:- I thought it was great that I saw Jan and Shan (Tri Adventure Vintage) at the end of the paddle, I sort of thought we may cross paths there. We saw a few teams in Woondum on our way out of CP 13, then from Pomona we had Rogue trying to stick with us to make the most of our local knowledge after they had spent 2 hours searching for CP29. This was great as teams can work well with other teams too, as we were still racing to the finish to get the fastest time possible. It definitely helped having more people searching for the final bike CP as like many of the CPs some of the features were rather vague.
Elizabeth:- It was a real highlight to see Get a grip of the Grind (Eibhlin and Sharon) who are two inspirational novices to adventure racing from my triathlon squad back in Melbourne, and they took on the Fairy Bells course and completed it by themselves.

Gear needed most and what I used it for:
Ali:- Hard to pick one item.... gaiters were excellent leg protection; my new Altra Superior runners gave my toes (including the new no-toenail toe) extra room which was v comfy; my merino arm warmers helped me keep nice and toasty over night; the paddle seat I borrowed off Cass was a lifesaver for my back and backside in the paddle leg! The lightweight Berghaus Pack I borrowed from Kim was fantastic... it really was a combination of everything that made for an excellent race :-)

Cass:- Mountain Designs socks. These are the best socks I have ever owned. So comfortable and great when wet. I only had one sock change for the whole race after the kayak leg. Mountain Designs thermal also got a workout in this race. I put it on after the kayak leg and it stayed on for the rest of the race.  Moxie gaiters were a lifesaver in the Woondum trek. We found plenty of wait-a-while and lantana in the off-track sections so the Moxies helped to protect our legs! I also trialled a new Salomon S-Lab vest-style pack. A nice snug fit, very comfortable for running in. Plenty of storage pockets. The large stretchy back pocket was big enough to fit my shoes in for the mid-bike abseil.

Kim:- Moxie Gaiters and long Mountain Designs Tights were definitely a bonus for the TREK. I love my Berghaus Pack and used the little water bottle pocket to carry Lemon Lime Endura electrolyte on the Woondum Trek – this cured my headache and I even managed to carry around a can of coke from Woondum to the finish in that little secret pocket….Oops! The Hoka Challengers were again a big winner for me…no blisters and my legs felt great still able to run by the end of the trek in Woondum and they were great on the Abseil as well!
Elizabeth:- - My ‘O-pants’ and Moxie Gaiters- again life saving for leg scratches with the wait a while bush.

Hells Bells Results 2018

Mountain Designs Wild Women had an absolutely fabulous race, crossing the finish line just after 9.00am, after collecting all the mandatory CP’s on the course and an extra 3 CP’s in Woondum (actually losing 15 minutes after spending 3hrs 45minutes out there). We also opted not to collect the CP on top of Mt Cooroora as despite having 2hrs 30 up our sleeves when we crossed the line, we knew that if we had have attempted more bonus CP’s we would have lost time and risked getting back late. I was so impressed when not long after 10:30am Thoughtsports finished collecting all of the bonus CP’s except Mt Cooroora, what an amazing effort as the travel in Woodum was slow and thick, however they obviously nailed it! 

HQ was buzzing with competitors finishing from both Hells Bells and Fairy Bells and we were all waiting to see which HB team would cross the line next, as Peak Adventure; Thunderbolts and Adventure Junkies were all still out there! The clock kept ticking and ticking and none of the teams would cross that line; wow we thought, they are going to lose all their points, we definitely made the right strategic choice. Although I was really feeling for the teams that did not get back before the cut-off, I had to remind myself, it was a race and we all raced under the same conditions and just like in many Rogaines, there are huge penalties for arriving back late.

I am so proud of our team of amazing Wild Women as we just worked so well together, planned and executed a great race all while just having a bit of fun in our beautiful big backyard. 

                                             Hells Bells 2018 – 2nd Overall – 1st Women’s Team.

Saturday 16 June 2018

Wildside-Geoquest - Special Edition 2018

Firstly, I just want to acknowledge Chris Dixon – Wild & Co for everything he did to enable Geoquest AR to still go ahead this year, after the announcement that it had been postponed and then that a ‘Wildside’ event would take its place. The fact that Chris and Richard Old worked together to put an event together pretty quickly, provides some hope that ‘Geoquest - Australia’s Premier Adventure Race’ will continue in years to come. I was proud to be representing Mountain Designs which itself is also  going through a change and am ever hopeful that Mountain Designs may be in a position to continue their sponsorship of this event in the future. For this reason was so good that many of Australia’s best and most experienced adventure racers also supported the event, as the feedback provided on the race to the race directors, should be well balanced.

Our Mountain Designs Wild Women was a little different to XPD and Rogue. No Alina, No Ali, No Gina and No Liz, meant we had some pretty big shoes to fill, however Cass Kimlin and I were super confident that Kelly-Anne Speight and Amie Munson would step up to the challenge and they did! Kelly-Anne first joined us at an AR clinic about 2 years ago and has gone from strength to strength ever since, competing mainly in Cross Tri, Xterra and Trail running events. She raced the Geo Half with Jan as a Cowgirl last year and her potential was recognised. Amie has a background in Ironman Triathlon, however Cass has been slowly pushing her to the AR side of the fence. Like Kelly-Anne, Amie joined up with Tri Adventure and has been able to come on some of our weekend adventures and instantly we could see that she would be tough enough to do an event such as Geoquest. 
New look MD Wild Women - Kelly-Anne, Kim, Cass, Amie
Anyway, from the live tracking, Facebook and results, you will see that our team finished the event in overall 10th place, just over 46hrs (not much under the 48). This was a little longer than we anticipated, however given the reality that some teams did not finish due to course difficulty or injured team members and that some teams missed checkpoints, we were extremely satisfied to finish as a team of 4 knowing that we had found every CP on the course that we were required to get.  So now I will try to compare this edition to previous editions of Geoquest in the hope that many of you out there will, in the future, continue to support the event, or be inspired to be a part of it, as I have been for the past 14 years.

Pre Event – Planning & Preparation

Course logistics planner was revealed two weeks prior to the event, which was great considering that registration was at 4pm and we would not get the maps till after the event briefing at 7pm. We managed to get rego out of the way early and went back to our place to sort gear, then headed early to the briefing at the Serenity Resort had a great night out eating pizza and wine, catching up with many AR friends. I thought we would be up till midnight doing maps, however as we only received the maps for the first 5 legs of the course, we did not have to spend all night marking them up, but did cut extra contact, pens and highlighters and put them in boxes for out on course. It was going to be an early start as we needed to drop off boxes at 5am and race start was at 6pm. It would have been after 10.30 by the time I lay down, but could not sleep……yes my mind was active and by 1pm I had still not slept….I was hoping this lack of sleep would not affect me in the race.
One of Kim's logistics planners...this only lists some of the gear we put in those boxes!
As we had no support crew we had to make sure we got the packing right! 

Race Day – Event Start

We were up at 4.15 am and I enjoyed my fruit toast and coffee (standard pre- event breakfast) and we were out the door by 4.55. We rode to HQ on our bikes, while Jan & Angela (Kelly-Anne’s sister) drove our gear there, we were one of the first team to arrive, so we sat on the resort bar couches before grabbing our tracker and heading to the start. While walking to the start Angela was taken out by a kangaroo…..yes…..not joking! She was ok, but somewhat surprised! It was still dark and we needed our #Ay Ups to see the maps, even though the sun was trying hard to light up the sky but dimmed by the clouds.
It was still dark when we started - Kim and Kelly-Anne had their Ay Up's on....and bright pink gaiters!
Serenity Diamond Beach - the place where we started and finished Wildside Geoquest - Special Edition.

Leg 1 Trek 21k Diamond Beach to Forster

This was a relatively simple leg, run down the beach to Forster, similar to the finish of a previous Geoquest. Typically Geoquest starts on a beach somewhere, however usually with an ocean paddle…. this was missing from this edition! The first CP was a little tricky to find as it was much further around the headland than most anticipated.... the end of a track was off the track that we were running on, so easily missed by teams at the front who were ‘running to the end of the track’ maybe? CP2 in the cave was a fun little rock scramble, and as the tide was on its way out…no swimming required! 
CP 2 in the little cave
We then had to continue to run down 9-mile beach about 8km to CP3 on the edge of the Tuncurry Golf Course, lucky for us, we could see teams ahead and footprints, as there were not too many features to guarantee the spot was right, despite us trying to use time to gauge distance and locate minor tracks along the way. We finished the leg with a short path run similar to the end of the old Forster Ironman / Forster Anaconda over the Forster Tuncurry Bridge to the boat harbour. This TA was marked on main beach however at the briefing we were told that for safety reasons the paddle would start in the river rather than on the beach! So, absolutely no ocean paddle in this event….given we only had the CTR’s to paddle maybe this was not a bad call, as they are not great in the surf!

Girls running on the beach towards Forster

Leg 2 – Kayak 25k – Forster to Wang Wauk

We only had one CP to locate on this leg, yet we had to navigate past oyster leases and locate the Coolongolook River and then the  Wang Wauk River to get to TA 2. Cass and Amie paddled together and I teamed up with Kelly-Anne.  Knowing that Cass and Amie would be stronger, KA and I sat on their wash for a while, just trying to save energy. After around 9km we were starting to get cold, so just as we entered the Coolongolook River, we stopped to put on thermals, after paddling to CP 5 I was still cold so had to take off my gloves (as they were wet) and instantly I warmed up! A mirage paddled past and we were in awe of having a faster craft….like we would have had in previous Geoquest events! We arrived at TA2 around 12.30pm around 3hrs ahead of our schedule. 
Despite the lack of sun, it was a perfect day for Kayaking on the Wang Wauk River!

Leg 3-5 MTB 47k, 20km, 5km Wang Wauk to Tinonee, via Wallamba, Kiwarrak State Forest.

Despite the dog poo all over the grass at this TA, the officials were lovely, one of them being Jaci, whom I had met after Wildside, when staying at Tom & Alina’s place in Canberra. We chatted about our Coast to Coast experiences before our team checked out of the TA heading for the Kiwarrak MTB Park. This leg was fairly straight forward until after CP 9 where the trail on the map looked like a fire trail was an indistinct track beside a fence……here we were caught by the X-trail Rejects so together we had fun climbing and hike a biking up to the Southern Boundary Trail. Unfortunately for them, Sarah crashed on a water bar, right in front of Amie, Cass who stopped with Dave and Brad…..before they said for us to keep going….it was the end of the race for Sarah however the boys continued on the course later. We arrived at the MTB park just after it was dark and were provided with a map of the trail and told we were required to find 5 of the 7 CP’s. We chose C A G F B in that order. All was good finding C and A, however choosing to follow the MTB trail rather than fire trail to G messed us up, as the T trail at the end seemed like a Fire trail and not MTB trail as indicated. Looking now at the tracker it seems so simple, but we ended up going back to CP A on the MTB trail (this was fun with 3 bridges and we got to ride it both ways). I had a, not so elegant, crash in front whilst spending too much time looking at the map rather than the pot holes on the trail….air shot out of my tyre and my map board cracked again (lucky for gaffer tape). The crash looked worse than it was and soon we were back rolling….thanks Susie and Ange for checking I was okay…. so great to see your team out there so many times! 

Have a look at our tracker and see where you think the awesome singletrack was......the one we rode both ways!
Anyway, we soon found G and then rode the fire trails to F on the black track and B under the bridge. It then did not take long get back to the TA, where we received the rest of our maps and headed to TA 3 around 9pm….. Somehow, we were 2hrs ahead of our schedule. This had been a typical Geoquest bike leg, however I was anticipating a ‘course split’ at the MTB park, as in more recent years Geocentric had been throwing something like that in to split up the teams and challenge the navigators!

Leg 6 – Kayak – 25kTinonee to Brimbin

As I mentioned earlier we only had maps for the first 5 legs, so at the previous TA we were given our package with the rest of the maps, so we decided to mark some up when we arrived at this Kayak TA. We got changed into our kayaking gear first and then Cass and I started on the maps, while Amie and KA wandered over to the cake stall 😊 and ordered some hot coffee and jam & scones. So even though we did not have support crews, the scout groups who were manning the TA’s had some food on offer which was great, and quite different to what we are used to in an unsupported event. We decided to mark up the paddle –and the trek (Leg 6 & 7) and leave the MTB till later. I think we got into this TA around 9.30pm, however did not leave till closer to 10.30, as just as we were about to leave there was a glitch with the pedal of one of the kayaks we were given. Soon we were off and paddling…I teamed up with Amie and Cass with KA. It was very dark out there yet we found it sometimes easier to navigate with our AY UP lights off!  Unfortunately CP 17 was an out and back on the Manning River, however we did have fun climbing up the goat track to the lookout…Cass spotted the rope swing and then the track! We worked out we were paddling around 6km/h roughly as we paddled back past the TA, and we had a bout 5km to CP18 which was on  Coocumbac Island Nature Reserve. The CP was marked on a track junction and looked like it was almost in the middle of the island. We paddled close to the right edge of it and we came across some stairs, wow great place to get out we thought, and then bang there was the CP….lucky we did not try to bush bash in earlier! 

CP 19 was easy as we passed by the town of Taree then we had to look for the Dawson River on our left! We saw the inlet and up the Dawson we went all the way to CP22 and then all the way to the TA. It was actually quite a beautiful paddle as the sky was full of stars and there was not a breath of wind on the water…it was just quite long… we sang a few songs along the way including some of Amie’s favourite country hits! We had our light off most of the time, and Amie became really good at sensing when I was about to run into a tree or low branch……and I perfected my quick back paddling technique! Unfortunately, the end the paddle was a bit muddy and there was a bit of a hike up to the TA, however we did not have to carry the kayaks up (yay!), as we were going to paddle back for the same spot after our Trek & MTB. It was now around 4am.

Leg 7 Trek – 16k - Brimbin Nature Reserve to Lansdown

At this TA were treated to a fire and they had hot noodle soup for sale, so we hooked into that as we were getting dry and warm. I could not believe how dry I stayed during the night paddle with my cag long pants and my Mountain Designs Pro-Elite Gore-Tex jacket….all I had to change was my socks! I was prepared for a typical Geoquest Trek leg where we would spend hours off track, trekking up and down creek lines or climbing steep mountains and rolling down into rugged rainforests to find CP’s. This was not the case, this trek was pretty much all on track and flat, so the biggest challenge was that there were a few trails marked that we obviously overgrown or non-existent, and we had to hike maybe 150m into a creek junction….that was it! Cass took the lead navigator role on this leg and we sailed through the course - CP 24, 25, 26 and 27, seeing Susie and Ange again along the way. The sun was now shining and it was a beautiful day out in Yarrat State Forest. We arrived into TA6 at around 9.30am ahead of one team that had left the previous TA before that’s always a positive!

Leg 8 MTB – 66kms – Lansdown – Brimbin Nature Reserve via Coorabakh National Park

The officials at the TA informed us that this leg would be EPIC….and that we should pack our trekking shoes as there may not be much riding. He then told us he was out of water!!! We were about to embark on a leg that would take us 7-8 hrs according to the course notes and we had no water….whaaaat!!! We were told that water ran out after some of the first teams came through and it had not been refilled. Luckily a supported team’s crew went to a nearby farm and asked to fill the water container, otherwise we, and other teams behind, would have been in some trouble!! We got all our gear sorted for the leg, then Cass and I sat down to look at the maps for Leg 8 and 9. I think because we were a bit tired, it was like a trying to piece together a puzzle as we had to somehow get the map to join CP 29,30,31,32, 33,34 together! We had our highlighters out and soon it made some sense…..we made a plan and off we went! 

It was a flat ride past CP 29 but then a typical Geoquest climb up to CP30. Here we were looking for a high point to the left of the track. When we arrived we could hear another team further up calling out, we went in early, but no CP, we walked the ridge for a bit, but no CP. Soon there were about 3 teams all looking for the same CP, we decided to go south as the track ahead seemed to bend, like we had gone too far. We ditched the bikes and hiked on the ridge, another team was heading our way and saw us, then did a U-turn just as we sighted the CP, how lucky were they, as we had been there for some 15mins. The other teams then found the CP and they all promptly sped past us as we rode the trails somewhat cautiously!  We had some big climbing ahead of us, Amie and KA were on fire, yet poor Cass was having a battle with the Sleep monsters! We tried everything to wake her up, however not even my afternoon talk back radio request show could not entertain her enough! Luckily we came across some people on the course…..we stopped had a chat and Cass was awake – Yay! We had an awesome descent into CP31 and it seemed at this point like we were on the set of Jurassic park….. I was expecting to see a big dinosaur rear its head through the massive grey gums ….. we enjoyed our little hike into the CP and then a short climb up to Big Nellie. This CP was hanging at the shelter with a note, saying we did not have to do the climb due to the conditions. 

There was also a note to take care riding into and out of CP 33….so we did. It was now raining and the roads were very slippery…Slaters Road ended and turned into a very sketchy single track, we rode cautiously and soon arrived at the gate – CP 33. Unfortunately for us, we did not choose a direct route from CP 33. I did not pick up that the road from CP33 went back through TA6, so we did a 12k detour back around past CP29……oh well it was a nice flat fast road, and probably only took 40minutes……but something we could have done without! Lucky for us we had absolutely no idea we had done this so we enjoyed the mudslide ride into to TA 6 at around 6.30pm.  It was great to see a few familiar faces at the TA, Glenn Smith was there loading bikes, and Darryn & Pete (Tri Adventure Cowboys) were there to say hi!  Unfortunately they had to withdraw due to a minor bike issue – Mark’s bike flew off the car before they set off on their second bike…..maybe they were quietly relieved! The other girls team was also there at the TA, as they had short-coursed themselves option to miss several mandatory CP’s on the bike….saving them maybe 6-8hrs!

Leg 9 Kayak -  27km - Brimbin Nature Reserve to Cabbage Tree Island

We had resigned to the fact that we would not finish by midnight, so opted to cook up a feast before we headed out on the final kayak. Honestly, we did not waste any time, boiling water and preparing a Back Country meal and hot coffee while we were getting our gear sorted. It did seem to take us a while as we had to take pedals on and off the bikes at the start and or each bike leg, take map boards on and off and just generally stuff around getting gear. Normally in Geoquest we would have our support crew to do this and teams can be in and out of TA’s in a flash! Anyway……this was not the case….so I had a good look at the maps with Cass, while I finished my meal, as Amie and KA did the final pack up of the gear. Down to the river we went and off we set on our longest paddle of the race!  I was with KA this time, steering from the front, and Cass with Amie at the front....we enjoyed the fact that we could mix the paddling pairs up a bit and choose kayaks that steered from the front or back! We paddled back down the Dawson River past CP22 and then into the Manning River again, however this time heading further south east into the South Manning River. We had a few other teams around us, and we were singing out loud… was pretty hard to stay awake on this second night without sleep, but we managed well… beans…..coke…..lots of singing…. and yelling out to the beautiful night sky! It would have been so easy to just lie down in the kayak and drift to sleep……as it was now after midnight…..but we had a race to finish….so on, we paddled! The final section of the paddle was mapped as a maze of oyster leases, however these were not evident, so we navigated our way around Cabbage Tree Island into the final TA 7. 
This is not the kayak we paddled.....but were were certainly used to night paddling after this special edition of Geoquest!

Leg 10 – Coastal Trek 11kms Mudbishops Point Reserve to Diamond Beach

We had no box at this TA, so there was not too much to do, other than get going and run to the finish! Again, surprisingly I was dry after the paddle thanks to my waterproof Mountain Designs Gore-Tex jacket and pants, so all I had to do was remove an itchy thermal top that I had mistakenly packed (silly me). I felt like I had itchy grubs in my shirt for the paddle….maybe that’s why I found it easier to stay awake!  Anyway, we got out of there pretty quickly and headed for the beach! We enjoyed a little bush bash from the road to the beach to avoid and OOB area then ran (well it probably looked like a hobble) down the along the beach covered in seaweed and rocks towards CP 38. We had been told we did not have to find it, but we accidently ended up out at the lookout anyway as we were trying to avoid the OOB area! It was a lovely track, but not quite the right direction. Soon we were back on the beach heading for HQ! The tide was high, so it was a soft sand run most of the way….Kelly Anne was on fire, and I was just keeping up running in her footsteps. We arrived back at Serenity Diamond Beach Resort at around 4.30am after 46 hrs or so of racing without any sleep or major stops! I thought…..Wow well done my Mountain Designs Wild Women Team mates, you are all amazing! We were greeted on the finish line by our Tri Adventure friends and family as well as Race Director Chris Dixon.

The wrap up!

So, we managed to get an hour or so sleep before the post event BBQ. This is one of my favourite parts of the Geoquest, as it is when you share all your stories with all of the other teams and celebrate your fortunes and of course contemplate the what ifs! Due to the lack of support crews for this event the BBQ unfortunately seemed a bit light on in atmosphere…..anyway I am sure that may change in the future when the event grows and our new race director Chris Dixon add his own flavour to the event.

Mountain Designs Wild Women hope to be back in some way shape or form at GEOQUEST 2019, so we and Tri Adventure, would love to see more of you out there too. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to put a team together for this event next year or other events on the AR calendar as we are super keen to increase participation in the sport through development of skills and fitness is a fun, safe and supportive environment!

Thursday 10 May 2018

Mountain Designs Wild Women Race Rogue Raid

The Rogue Raid Samsonvale 2018 set the record for the biggest field in a 24hr Adventure Race in Australia, partly because it is now a part of the Adventure 1 Series in Australia, but mostly because of the quality Rogue events that Liam St Pierre has been staging for the past 10 years.
With so many top teams lined up for the event, it was set to be a thrilling race for the dot watchers, at home and out on course, as all of the Adventure 1 four-person teams were carrying trackers. This provides everyone who’s not racing with the opportunity to follow the teams as they move through the course, and this also means that any navigational mistake or blunder is out there for the world to see over and over again….. Carrying a tracker even helps the team out on course, because we can be thinking at times….. ‘I wonder what our dot is doing right now’….and after the event we can go back to the website and view our course and look at what routes other teams chose. This type of feedback can be really valuable as a learning tool for future races, so it certainly adds value to the sport of adventure racing.
About the Mountain Designs Wild Women Team for Rogue Raid 2018
Kim Beckinsale – feeling fresh and recovered following…. Red Bull Defiance, Coast to Coast, XPD and the Scatter Raid; Kim the team captain and lead navigator was very excited that we had such a strong team and was looking forward to really giving the teams at the pointy end of the field a bit of healthy competition from the girls!

Cass Kimlin – absolutely on fire following Red Bull Defiance, XPD and TRE-X; Cass supports Kim in the navigation and is super strong on the bike….the powerhouse!

Ali Wright – the little ‘pocket rocket’ was on fire leading up to this event; Ali had not raced for a while was super excited to finally be pulling on the Wild Women Gear again after having to withdraw from Wildside in October 2017 following some gymnastics move that went wrong! Glad to have you back in action Ali 😊

Elizabeth Dornom – ‘the new girl in town’ Liz travelling all the way from Melbourne, needs no introduction really….. Liz finished in the Top 10 elite women in Coast to Coast and was a member of the Tri Adventure Antelopes who were the winners of XPD Tasmania 2018. She was looking forward to doing a bit of navigation especially on the bike and paddle as well as providing a bit of light entertainment for the team.
While I was making sure I was getting that final bike ride and final paddle in leading up to the race, Liz, down in Melbourne, had other ideas…..she was working on her singing (I’m so excited……and I just can’t fight it) and dancing skills (footloose) in preparation for an all-nighter with the Wild Women and had Cass and Ali hooked on Messenger for the next couple of days wondering what would be next! Liz arrives at Noosa and soon there is a jam session on our balcony……drums and guitar……I thought wow…. this is a fun way to prepare for an adventure race!

Race Day – Rogue Raid – Lake Samsonvale
We arrived just as the sun was rising over the lake and the fog was lifting so it looked like we were set for a perfect day…. plenty of time to get all our gear sorted and to go around to chat to all the other teams prior to registrations and map handout. Interestingly all of my former Mountain Designs Team (Gary, Sloshy and Leo ) were racing but none of us in the same team, wow this would certainly bring on a bit of friendly competition – not that the girls really would have a chance against the mixed teams but I thought it will be heaps of fun mixing it with them out there! The course was revealed - 7 stages -  all optional, and leg 6 and 7 can be done in any order.
7. Paddle

At this point all of the top teams basically try to clear the course, however for an all-women’s team it is unlikely that this would be a wise strategy for us, so for me this is probably the most challenging part of the event….course planning! We knew the bike would be hilly and hard, however this was one of our strengths, and the points in Trek 3 looked like they were better value than trek 1 & 2. So we decided to go for CP 1 on Leg 1; to clear Leg 2 MTB; drop 8 on the paddle Leg 3; not get sucked in on Trek leg 4 and really look at our time most likely dropping CP 19 & 20; but maybe even 17 and 18 as well; then get back on the bikes and try to almost clear Leg 5 MTB; however we knew there were plenty of points on Leg 6 Trek (roughly planned to go anticlockwise via CP 48  ) and Leg 7 Paddle (roughly planned to get the big points on the paddle CP 49 -100;  CP57  80 and CP 54 70) however we would really just need to wait and see, as the bike looked pretty epic and we had been warned of the hills.

So how did it all pan out???
Mountain Designs Wild Women finished the race in 6th place overall on 2410 points spending 23hrs and 23minutes on the course. Mixed teams rounded out the top 4 places (Thought Sports 3080; Rogue 2840; Wild Earth 2810) and all-male team (Peaky Blinders 2770) in 5th. Our rival women’s team finished 53rd overall on 880 points, however definitely worth a mention is the women’s pair (Jordan Hougan & Michelle Houston) who completed the 24hr in 35th overall on 1540 points.
You could say we had a great day out and a successful one at that, so….. What are some of our secrets to success? What went well? What did not?  What did we find challenging? What is it about the Rogue that has girls like us think is great and why do we keep coming back? What do we look forward to most after finishing a race like this?
Firstly, why not have a look at our tracker!  Team 19
I made a blunder on the way to the very first CP….yep made the silly mistake of just following the crowd….thinking we were all going for CP1, didn’t even think that the teams trying to clear the course would do CP2 first. Eventually got it…. but felt a bit stupid! Making a mistake early is not always a bad thing as it settles you down and makes you think relax….and don’t get too excited!
The next part of the race went really well, we were on fire on the MTB, and worked extrememly well as a team! Cass, Liz and I all had map boards on so were all taking turns on the front and this helped us to keep our speed up. Then when we hit the hills it was hike a bike time, I reverted to the throw your bike over your shoulders and just carry it up the hill! I personally find this much easier than pushing a bike.

The kayak portage was certainly a challenge, but wow….Liz was so  so strong! Going to the front and carrying two boats while Cass and I held on to the back. The straps worked well, but it was still quite difficult to carry the load ….and of course the ‘all women’s teams’ had the heavier Cabos! This made the actual paddle feel quite easy, so we opted to clear the course….and make the most of the effort put in to the portage!
Careful navigation was paramount on the second trek, so when we were off track we took it steady! We were pretty excited to find an old mine shaft / cave structure as we headed down to Enoggera Creek from CP13 to 14. We also wrote on our map don’t get sucked in so we had to weigh up whether to do the creek walk….we took a chance as we were making good time and spent a bit of time chatting to the Peaky Blinders. We were losing light, so I upped the pace a bit on the trails…….little did I know that Ali was suffering way too much….sorry Ali but great communication at this point was key!

Transitions provide a great opportunity to refuel, recover a bit and prepare for the next leg, Ali got a chance for a little extra rest while Cass and I rode the skills track for a bonus 20 points…allowing Liz a bit of time to get some extra video footage.  Yes, having a video camera on the team can be a great motivator at times…. thanks Liz!
The bike back to the TA was the most challenging part of the event, as not only were some of the CP’s really hard to navigate to (CP 39, CP 29 and 33 in particular), it was a tough ride. Team work and sharing the load here was a key strategy….Ali was not 100% so Liz carried her pack, I pushed up the fire trails, and Cass towed on the road…..teamwork at its best. This was also the most fun part of the event as there was so much single track to ride….so the fact that we could all ride the single track with map boards was a bonus….( all those MTBO skills come in very handy). Liz sang the Peanut Song which was really funny, so through the early hours of the night, a bit of light entertainment never goes astray! I found it hard to see the map (probably need glasses) however, having 3 sets of eyes on the map helps….especially when your navigator rides straight past CP 37….! Oh no…. it’s the witching hour…..a signal to eat something sugary…..out came the golden lollies….and I passed them around….sharing is caring for your teammates, as your food can give them a lift too! Then we had to ride past a a private property where we were warned of an aggressive man ready to let his dogs out to attack anyone who went past! I am not sure what was in those golden lollies, but for some reason we were not phased and just rode as quietly yet as fast as we could to CP36, and our alternate route out proved better anyway! Phew.

It was still dark when we got back to HQ, so we opted to trek, however because we had spent so much time on our legs, we were not travelling as fast as we had anticipated, so strategically we decided to drop 6 CP’s on the run and instead go for 7 CP’s on the paddle….and it worked! We had fun on the paddle as Liz was entertaining us with the Goat Song and some problem-solving riddles. My brain was not quite smart enough to concentrate on cryptic clues navigation, so I asked the girls what they most looking forward to eating after a big event like this. Liz wanted something fresh, Ali a cup of Tea, Cass…. well I can’t remember, and me well it was a toss-up between Steak & Chips or a whole chicken…..the thought of yummy food gave us a bit of extra energy to power through the last few CP’s we planned for the paddle. We finished the Rogue with just over 40 minutes up our sleeve, very contented with our race, our strategy and our team work.

I must say the only thing that I was not fussed on about this race was the food at the end. Yes, I know that the thought of Pizza & Garlic Bread is quite appealing to many, however I am definitely not a fan of ‘Fast Food’ and as a HPE Teacher I am even more concerned about Fast Food associations with major sporting events as it sets a precedent that it’s ok to eat crap because you have just done something epic, when the reality is there is not a lot of good quality protein in most fast food products and they are often full of artificial colours and flavours….probably the last thing adventure racers really need. I am much more in favour of a simple BBQ (Burger and healthy salad) served up by the local scouts or community organisation, no subliminal advertising and the costs go to a worthy cause!
So that’s what I thought of the Rogue 2018… is what the girls wanted to add:
My favourite thing about the Rogue is getting to see the other teams so often out on the course and the fantastic maps. Best leg was the bike legs with the single track. Most challenging part was the night time foot navigation, as we had to really concentrate to find those vague gullies. I love the teamwork in our team and being able to share the navigation. I learnt 2 new songs about goats and peanuts. I had a great race gals! Thanks for making it special!
Greetings from the cloudy coast! Back in my civvy clothes sitting at a desk. I did remember to button up my shirt properly today though. Bonus! Seem to have pulled up pretty well too which is particularly impressive given I spent a bit of time on Struggle Street in the first half! Thanks for the help getting through that. I love the format of the Rogue, with multiple disciplines and rogaine style racing - always tops my annual list of adventure races. Liam does such a great job. My least favourite leg was the frantic first one. Never been a fan of kayak portages either and have two nice bruises on both outer legs from boat bashing, haha. As for favourite legs, I really did enjoy the single-track MTB too, getting tired legs from the run up a wee hill or two was a challenge for me this time! All women’s team racing: I love challenging the status quo and flying in the face of convention! Thanks everyone - I didn't expect 6th overall - fantastic
Liz (Liz had to travel back to Melbourne that night)
Wow, well I think the plane had started taxiing but I am definitely sure I was asleep before I took off last night. I was happy as got some lovely fresh salads and soup at the airport first, then some crisps and juice for the flight just so I didn't have to eat my race food if I got hungry. Even more amazing is that I have somehow survived a full manic day at work and even did all my notes and admin. Probably means I am going to crash later in the week but feeling pretty good at the moment.
I loved the strategy required for a course that was not just linear. It certainly was exciting seeing lots of team’s multiple times throughout the race and the fact that you had to keep going for the whole 24hours, no sense getting into cruise mode to cross the finish line because you actually had no idea where you were in the points standings. My least favourite leg was the first leg, a bit too short and not great having other teams riding and trying to pass. Most challenging part for me was also at the start as I had to concentrate really hard on who was actually in my team as I have raced with a fair number of other people in the race and so didn't want to get caught following the wrong team!!! Favourite leg was probably the last kayak - pretty special conditions (and we were off our feet) but I also really loved the single track on the MTB. I also learned that next race I will pack some corn chips as they were an absolute winner for race food……and sudocream is still the best thing ever!!! I thought the team dynamics were great and the fact that none of you complained about my tone-deaf singing and husky voice which I am amazed lasted as well as it did.
Here is the link to the video that Liz created ……we hope this may inspire more women to have a go at Adventure Racing and or Rogaining.
Thanks to our sponsors Mountain Designs, Ay UP Lighting Systems and Tri Adventure. Thanks to Venture Cycles for keeping our @trekbikes in great working order, and finally thanks to kayak Noosa for supplying some of the extra kayaks for the race….I know the Cabo’s were heavy but they did keep us much drier than the Spirit CTR’s.

……and that’s a wrap for Rogue Raid 2018 next up #GeoquestAR at Diamond Beach where we will baptise two new ‘Wild Women’ – Kelly-Anne Speight and Amie Munson.