Monday 6 May 2019

'Mountain Designs Wild Women traverse the Border Country' - Raid 100

Without a doubt this edition (the first edition) of the Raid 100 was the most strategically challenging expedition adventure racing event that I have ever been a part of and I am sure that many of my fellow competitors and teammates agree.  Liam St Pierre and his quality team from Raid Adventures and volunteers pulled off an amazing event and overcame many logistical hurdles along the way, which allowed us as competitors to race over a spectacular and physically challenging course which took us from Girraween National Park to Tallebudgera on the Gold Coast via the QLD/NSW border ranges!

Team Mountain Designs Wild Women
Pre-Event Preparation
Unlike many expedition events these days, we did not get a logistics planner until the course was revealed then only had just over 3hrs to plan our proposed course, eat dinner and pack gear and food to match the timelines we set ourselves to complete stages of the course.  I found this rather stressful as I knew I had tried to be ‘as prepared as possible’ in advance but time flies as soon as you get started, so we ended up having to ditch the course planning and just focus on getting gear and food right.  As a team we tried to pack our gear and food leg by leg, making sure that we were all on the same page. A ‘preparation strategy’ is paramount especially when you have less experienced athletes in your team, as everyone has different key roles and it can be easy for someone to forget or miss something if you do not work as a team.  We decided to carry all our maps with us as we did not want to rush and accidently put a map in the wrong box.

Packing, organising, reorganising and just waiting.....

Finally we get the maps! Do we look a bit concerned?
Race Day & Transport to Start
It is not often at an event like this that you get your meals and accommodation included in the entry. The Tallebudgera Recreation Camp was a prefect venue for HQ, so we were up early for breakfast before departing our cabins and jumping on a bus destined for Girraween National Park. Unfortunately, there were a few delays along the way with the bus in front breaking down a few times, lucky for us the drivers were on top of it and got us to the start…..although a little late! On arrival we had to find our gear so we were ready when the gun went off to build our bikes before heading off on the trek…..another interesting way to start an event which would break teams up right from the start.

On the bus.....very happy to be almost there!
Leg 1 Trek Girraween (6 CP’s approx. covering approx. 25k in 7hrs)

We gave ourselves 8hrs originally for this trek and planned a route with many options to cut home early. We headed like most to Castle Rock CP4 first then to 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 in that order. When deciding to go for 12 we were well ahead of schedule yet is was soon going to get dark.  A minor nav error saw us get sucked up the wrong peak as light was fading. We persisted and worked with Team Dynamite here to work out a solution and soon headed towards the correct peak in darkness and eventually found the CP.  As the navigation at night was so much slower we opted for a 5k run back to the TA and did not worry about looking for CP5 & 6, saving a bit of time for the next leg. We finished this leg in 6hrs 30 and left the TA in around 7hrs.

Off we go.....the start of the Raid 100
Cass leads the way up to Castle Rock
CP 10 in an old ruin
Cass and Amie think we can sleep here for the night!
Leg 2 MTB /Paddle / MTB – Storm King Dam & Boorook National Park (10 CP’s approx. 85km in 10hrs)
We had a bit of trouble finding CP14 in the dark as a copse of pine trees were hard to spot in the dark…. Eventually we got it thanks to Amie and then headed to Storm King Dam for a paddle picking up CP 16 & 17 along the way.  We packed our waterproof pants and wore our jackets so we would be warm and also took off our socks, so we had something dry to put back on when we started riding again.  We saw Jan and Adam Power and this TA and I think they were surprised how much we enjoyed the paddle……it was well worth the 9 points on offer.  We headed off on the rest of this ride, collecting all of the CP’s along the way to the TA. We did not opt for the CP’s 25,26,27 as they were an out and back and we were a little later than we had planned to arrive at this TA. It was dark on our arrival; however we expected the sun to be up before we left.  There were many teams here at this point who had opted for less CP’s in Leg 1 and maximised sleep in lieu of chasing points.

Checking the maps

Leg 3 Trek Cataract National Park (9 CP’s approx. 40k approx. 14hrs)
We planned a route which took us up high on trails and over the hills to avoid having to bush bash along the Cataract River, which we had been warned would be slow.  I must say however that the hills on this leg were relentless and despite the route being mostly on trails you had to have your wits about you with the navigation.  There were some great options to short cut large sections of trail if you were game enough to take the risk. We had not yet managed to stop for sleep, yet did not want to lose time while the sun was up, so we headed off and managed to find CP 28,29,33, 24 and 35 in good time. The navigation from 35 to 36 looked challenging, so we opted for a 30-minute sleep stop before we set off again, as it also looked really steep.  This paid off as we were fresh for the big climb and to search for the trail on the spur which was marked yet barley there!

This was a very social leg as we came across so many teams including Dynamite again, the Sunshine Unicycles, GT Sloths 1 & 2 as well as Dated Load and Pikelet. This was great as it kept everyone’s spirits up as we made time to stop and rest from time to time and have a chat as well.  After collecting CP 41 we decided to short cut a bit of trail and hike off track up to 43… hindsight the creek travel was slow and the spur was so steep.  I think the long way around on track would have been faster…. but hey….not as fun! We were going well so were able to get from CP 43 to 44 in the light and to our surprise were greeted to a lovely trail running down the spur all the way to CP 44.  We put our lights on ready for the trek up the creek up to the TA.  We heard Gav and Ange from Creak Adventure yell out to us that they had been trying to get up to the TA on the west side of the river for an hour and could not get through.  The east side was however OOB and we did not want to do the wrong thing, so I just went into bush bashing mode and forged a way up through the scrub!  We thought we would have to swim across the river as we neared the TA but Cass spotted crossing point just 100m opposite the TA so over we went.  We arrived at the TA around 7.30pm but were not permitted to leave till midnight, so great opportunity for dinner and sleep before the start of the trek/kayak leg. We enjoyed our Absolute Wilderness and Back Country meals and then jumped into our Bivys for a sleep. It was pretty cold so Cass, Amie and I all woke up and moved to the TA shelter where there was a fire. Ali must have been so tired as she just slept outside the entire time.
Photo compliments of Wendy Flannagan
Leg 4 Trek / Kayak Upper Clarence River ( 3 CP’s 31k Trekking 10hrs & 21k Paddle 4hrs)
Another very social leg as all the teams set off around midnight for the long trek up the section of the Clarence River that was not suitable for paddling.  There were AY Up lights shining everywhere as the group accidently ended up on the wrong side of the river in an area we were not welcome, so were all turned back about 2k and set off and stayed on the left side until we reached CP 46.  This was a very physical section of the course as there was not really a clear path, just lots of scrambling under and over trees the whole way following little animal trails along the side of the river.  As the sun rose travel became a little faster and by now the groups had all spread out, we enjoyed some time travelling with Gav & Ange (Creak Adventure), AP & Ian (Isodopes) and Michele & Greg (For Better or Worse). With only 5k to go we saw some teams change to the opposite side of the river and cut up a big spur shortcut, we weren’t sure so stayed left….this was a really tough gnarly section of bush bashing through lots of lantana. We came across a farmer on a horse wondering what we were doing…. he did not seem mad, but just curious as to why so many people were ‘on his property’ which was right next to the river near CP 47.  Anyway, we had a nice chat to him, explained the river did not have enough water to paddle and teams were just doing their best to get up to get up the river to this point….he seemed fine and said have a great day!

Can you spot the track?
Ali, doing a bit of footcare!
I tell you what after such a long time on our legs we were looking forward to paddling, so we got organised quickly, putting our packs in dry bags and securing everything to the bungee on the CTR Kayaks.  We soon set off down our first rapid…. ha ha….it was so shallow we could not get through….. so yes, this leg had quite a bit of boat dragging.  We did get to paddle some nice long open sections though which we really enjoyed.  I paddled with Ali and Cass with Amie.  We arrived at the mandatory portage only to realise we had about 1k to portaging… we had not really noticed it was that far….anyway we quickly tied on the straps and the long haul.  Ali and I turned this into a little interval session – 10 steps strong, then easy, 20 steps strong, then easy, 30 steps strong then easy….stop rest and go again.  This worked well and before too long we could see the Clarence again and were on our way to CP 48 and the TA at Tabulam. We arrived at the TA and it was a hive of activity, as many of the teams who were in the overall standings rolling in as we were at our boxes preparing for the next leg. We had a 1hr sleep here too which was really not that productive as there was so much going on…. however, it did allow for a bit of needed rest for the legs before starting the final MTB stages of the event.

Cass and Amie

Kim & Ali
The 1k kayak portage
Off we go again.....
Leg 5 MTB Cambridge Plateau and Richmond Range National Park (8CP’s 70km 10hrs)                     We were all fired up and ready to roll out just as darkness was settling in…. however we were warned of a brown snake near the grid we were heading for by Team Rogue who for some reason were heading back to the TA….did they forget something???? Anyway, after stopping and assessing the situation we ran the gauntlet past the snake and continued on our way.  The first section of the ride was flat and fast however as we approached CP 51 and 52 the climbing began.  We ended up deep in the forest looking for trails that were not there as indicators.  Generally, we were headed in the right direction so all good!  We had a lovely descent into a creekline and sighted teams walking up a huge spur track, it did not look right to me, so we rolled on and checked…we were right and took the trail up to the CP. I was pretty excited to see the CP 53 but unfortunately did not see the barb wire fence between!  I ended up impaled upside down on the fence and bleeding as the other teams arrived. The team punched the CP then we had to stop for a while and treat the wounds.  Greg and Michele Krome were there to help and also to take photos! After copious amounts of Betadine and Fixamol, I was up and going again in no time.

Kim has an altercation with a barbed wire fence.....thanks everyone for the First Aid!
We rode all night it seemed up, up, up and up, yet despite our sleep at the TA we needed a bit more, as not even the singing could keep us awake. Gary and the Wild Earth rode by, super supportive and encouraging.  After a short 10-minute sleep …. onwards and upwards we rolled and soon arrived at the CP 54 party, where there we lots of teams (including ‘Tri Adventure For Better and for Worse and Really’) and toilets!!!  I tried to hurry the girls on as time was of an essence and we had an awesome descent coming up…...!  I put Amie, Ali and Cass in front to enjoy…but they went so fast I could not yell loud enough when we needed to slow and look for the CP 55….so we just had to climb back up a bit! On the next 10k descent into the Dam, poor Amie hit a stick and crashed.  She was okay but a little shaken, so we backed off a bit as we rolled into the TA just around 5am.

 Leg 6 Trek Toonumbar Dam - Optional ( 0 CP’s, 0 Kms, 45mins)
We opted not to do any CP’s on this leg, we had written on our maps that we needed to leave the TA by 5am to have any chance of getting trek CP’s, but we had only just arrived.  We were sleep deprived but decided to get out of the TA and sleep just up the road a bit, so we just refuelled and repacked. 

Leg 7 MTB Toonumbar, Border Ranges, Mebbin ( 16 CP’s 170kms 26hours)
This leg proved to be the most challenging of the course so far, not just because of the sheer distance to be travelled, but also the climbs.  Wow, were we going to be riding over some massive hills, as the contour lines were so thick and heavy and there was no easy way to get up and through those ranges except for just going up.  As we left the TA the sun was rising and it was turning out to be another a beautiful sunny day. It was a fairly big climb up to the CP 67 yet we were actually looking for somewhere to stop and sleep.  We seriously almost stopped at the Afterlee Primary School but thought otherwise as it was now broad daylight. Instead we punched CP 67 and just rolled 100m past on the track and slept there as no one would be coming that way.  Here we had an amazing 2hr sleep on the side of a sunny spur….it was probably our best sleep of the race!
When we woke we were all revitalised and ready to ride some serious hills and that we did. From C 67 – 69 it was only 16km, but it took us around 4hrs!  We had to work together as a team to get through this section as it was so steep you could barely turn the pedals over, so after a combination of walking and riding finally we got to the top of the range and admired the spectacular views at CP 68 and then enjoyed a little descent before the climb up to CP 69. Here we were rewarded with an amazing view of Mt Lindsay as well as smiles and hugs from the Mojo photo crew – Erren and Jo.  We punched the CP, stopped rested and ate something as we pondered our journey so far and just as we were about to get up and go the Kromes – Tri Adventure For Better or Worse rolled in to the lookout!  Wow I was so impressed with them again, just moving forward through the course smartly and efficiently.
Approaching the lookout....

Mountain Designs Wild Women.....a little shattered but enjoying the views
Now we were in for a big descent off this ridge, however it was not all down, I had to keep my eyes on the map and make sure we did not take any wrong turns, as that could have led to disaster. Cass and I carefully studied the maps along the way to CP 70, then we smashed down into a small town called ‘The Risk’.  Here we stopped at a hall, filled up water from a tank and ate up again ready for another big climb up the Razorback. Just as we were about to start the climb we were stopped by some farmers, wondering what this orange and white square thing was on their fence!  They were concerned it was a surveillance camera set by some of the anti-animal farming lobby groups spying on them. We assured them it was nothing like that and just a CP that all of us crazy people were searching for as a part of the Raid 100. We provided them with details and then commenced the climb!
Bikes get a rest

......and so do we!
The sun goes down.....another day over....less than 24hrs to go!
Almost 12 hours had now passed on this leg and we were only half way through the 2nd map of 4, we hoped that travel would soon speed up but it didn’t.  We arrived at CP 72 just on dusk and admired the sunset before continuing our climb. I must say time flies when you are sleep deprived, riding up hills in the border country as it took us another 6 hours to get across the top of the ridgeline.  Just before we descended into Mebbin, we stopped put on our jackets and had a 10 min sleep, so we would be alert.  This was a smart move as we rode fast and were safe! It was not long before we were getting really sleepy again and I made a small nav error just jumping us forward a bit.  So, after recorrecting ourselves we stopped for another small sleep on the side of the road, so we could enjoy the Mebbin Trails.  As we approached CP79 Wild Earth came flying past, they were on a mission, but when we arrived at the CP they were still there searching…. we walked straight to the CP and called out here it is 😊

Cass happy yo find this CP on the climb!
Kim spots the next one!
It was a little spooky around here at 4am so we tried to just get through and out of there. We hit the road sand we almost at the end of this leg.  We just had 3CP’s on the road to get before the TA, so we were in great spirts. We came across the Kromes again just as we were looking for CP 84. It seemed like we had overshot it as we could now see some features as the sun was up Michele was adamant we had to go back.  We all did and soon found the little track. We pace lined to CP 85 and then all the way into Murwillumbah rolling in just after 7am.  I was a little concerned as we were meant to leave this TA by 7am and I had promised the girls some sleep and we still needed to transition.

Leg 8 Kayak/Trek Murwillumbah to HQ (9CP’s Kayak 40km 5hrs Trek 12km 2hrs Kayak 2km 35mins
First thing I did was get out the maps and reassess our timings, based on speeds we had paddled earlier in the event and the conditions of the day which seemed perfect.  We had to get to CP 97 the portage at Tweed Heads by 1.30pm to give us enough time to get back on time. Cass and I then got all the kayak gear sorted while we encouraged Amie and Ali to pack up bikes, eat and then sleep as we would be waking them up at 8.30 to depart…. meaning the more you stuffed around the less sleep you would get. We had the Jetboil out so, I made soup and coffees for the team, Cass had some Back Country and soon we were lying dead to the world on the grass in the middle of a crazy frantic TA. We were so tired at this stage after not much sleep at all throughout the race.

My alarm sounded at 8.30 and I bounced up and got everyone going, Cass leapt into action and we got those kayaks to the pontoon, strapped our gear in and got rolling before 9am.  It was a beautiful day to paddle and I really enjoyed this paddle with Ali.  Poor Amie was fighting the sleep monsters throughout the entire paddle I think, but Cass was super strong and kept here going.  We took this opportunity to chat about various parts of the course we liked, discussed our favourite foods and just anything really to keep us moving forward. We made excellent progress and were treated to an awesome tailwind and waves as we headed into Tweed Heads.  Wow this was like being out in the ocean the waves were so big and the wind so strong… much so that we assumed the ocean kayak would be canned.  We were correct and on arrival at Tweed Heads, we were told to pack up all our kayak gear and get ready to run to the finish.

Happy to be almost there....

We were pretty cool with this situation, so we worked well together to get our mandatory gear sorted and off we set with most of the race down the beach.  I convinced the girls to run 1 minute, walk 1 minute and promised we would get there much more quickly.  Soon we started passing all the teams who had left just in front of us, and as a result we made excellent progress.  As teams ran past the Australian Surf Lifesaving Rescue Boat Championships, we were definitely turning a few heads, with people coming up and asking us what we were doing.  I think that finishing the race with a run up the beach, created really good exposure for the Raid 100!  Despite the conditions looking okay on the water to paddle, Liam can be happy that by making us trek there was great exposure of the event to the wider community, which has to be a good thing for the sport.  We ran over the bridge at Currumbin and picked up CP 98 before hitting the beach again for the final trek up to the finish…..there were still 2 CP’s on offer if we got there in time, 99 and 100, and these were kayak checkpoints.  I was looking at my watch the entire way as we sighted Burleigh Heads and it was looking good for us.

Ali and Amie running along the beach

Cass and Kim running too....somehow after 95hrs we still can....
 As were headed toward the finish at 4.13pm we were asked are you paddling or finishing….we said paddling! At this point I got a little over anxious hoping we had made the right choice, the CP’s were not too far away, but we had to carry the kayaks to the water and bring them back up before we finished, and we had about 3k to paddle which depending on the tide in the creek could be achievable or was it????  We raced in grabbed our gear and in action mode got the kayaks down to the water quickly.   Cass and Amie were off, and I realised my boat steering was super dodgy and my paddle was not set up right (my error); so I was in a bit of a mad panic …. sorry Ali!!! Anyway, we soon got moving in the right direction, caught Cass and Ami and set the pace to CP 100 and then collected CP 99 on the return to the finish. We exited the water at 4.50pm, so had plenty of time to get the kayaks up to the TA and then cross the finish line. Jan was of course there waiting for us with a bottle of bubbles to celebrate our teams success in completing the ‘Full Course’ in under 100 hours (99hrs 52 minutes and 1 second) gaining 330 out of 400 points on offer – 10th place overall and 1st female team, 28 points and 4 minutes in front of the 2nd place all female team – Fuse Creative who finished in 13th place overall.
Mountain Designs Wild Women approach the finish line.....all smiles after the final paddle! 

.....of course Aunty Jan is there with Champagne!
Kim said “The Raid 100 was definitely the most mentally challenging expedition race I have ever completed due to the rogaine format.  The event was yet, however, the most social expedition event I have ever undertaken due to the rogaine format and the leg start times and cut off times spread throughout the race. In terms of distance I am sure that none of the team had ever been on their bikes for more than 26 hours before and nor had ever climbed so much on their bikes as well.  I am so glad we did not have to drag our kayaks 31km down the Clarence River, but we would have enjoyed the rapids had the river levels been up! Our favourite leg was the trek at Girraween, as not only was the scenery spectacular, we were fresh and able to enjoy running some of the first sections of the course. The final kayak trek also rates up there as the tailwind behind us on the Tweed River was blowing us to the finish line and we were in great spirits as we were almost there! As usual, our Mountain Designs gear was amazing….our Gore-Tex jackets kept us dry and warm when we needed them.”

Cass said “I found this race to be one of the hardest I have done mentally. Very little opportunity to stop thinking and I spent a lot of time trying to calculate times & distances to make sure we met our cut off times. It was certainly hard to ride past the bakery in Murwillumbah on Saturday morning As usual, my mountain designs gear was top notch, my rambler socks were my favourite piece of gear - my feet held up really well. No blisters and no black toenails!”

Ali’s perspective: “The Raid 100 was the toughest race I've done. I found the sleep deprivation the hardest part, particularly knowing that I could have gone faster and covered more of the course with a bit more sleep and at different times, before totally powering down to zero….so that was hard to deal with. I think you are all super humans for coping with so little, but it did not work too well for my non-superhuman body.  I was amazed how strong I felt after even 1.5 hours in that lovely bushland at sunrise with the birds chirping overhead. The team foot care was fantastic. It was unbelievable to come away from such a foot heavy race with wet feet most of the time and have no blisters or black toenails. Yay. As ever, love those mountain designs socks!  There's always good learning and I've definitely come away with improvements to factor in, including seemingly little things like making sure all batteries have velcro attached so no need to run cables to my backpack as that would have saved time and faff. You kids are so tough. Thanks for getting me through as there were times I never believed it would happen! I also have a weird numb toe but otherwise seem to be recovering well... hope you all are too... sadly my appetite has now abated. GUTTED!”

Amie said “Recovery is taking the longest of anything I’ve ever done. Not sleeping properly (still chasing you girls through the bush so I’m up and down all night) and still can’t feel some of my toes!
I’m sure some rest will sort it all out.  Definitely the toughest race I’ve done yet. Have never experienced elevation like that before.  Mentally I struggled a lot and now the race is over I cannot understand some of the things that were going through my head at the time, so a massive thanks for physically and mentally towing me through the race, I don’t know how you girls do it. I felt like we had everything packed into the boxes pretty well and always had the gear we needed to get through each stage.  Being very new to adventure racing I can see ways to improve in many ways. Glad I’ve got such strong chicks to give sound practical advice.”

Mountain Designs Wild Women really want to congratulate Liam St Pierre, the Raid Adventures team and volunteers for putting on such a fantastic unforgettable event, that people will be raving about for years to come.  The structure of the Raid 100, challenged the most experienced adventure racers no matter how fast or slow, whilst also catering for relative newcomers to expedition racing.  Finally, thanks Mountain Designs for coming back on board as team sponsors and for the continued support from Ay Up Lighting systems, Tri Adventure and Venture Cycles Noosa, as without a great team behind us Wild Women, we simply may not have produced such great results.
Mountain Designs Wild Women 1st Female Team Raid 100 with Liam St Pierre
If you are reading this story and it inspires you to get out and have a go at something like this one day, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Wild Women through Tri Adventure, as although this sort of racing is a bit crazy, the rewards are endless and sometimes life changing!


To all our fellow competitors…. thanks for being a part of the adventure and we will no doubt see many of you out there at the next big one on the Australian AR Calendar …… Mountain Designs Geoquest AR at Yamba.

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