Monday, 10 December 2012

Swisse Mark Webber Challenge

Day 1 Launceston – The navigator’s day!

Launceston was the location for Day 1 of the challenge. Gary and I were both on the start line, but racing in different teams. I was a part of the Mountain Designs sponsored Tri Adventure Aunties and Gary was racing for Team Rexona. We started with a short navigation session at  the Country Club with some fun challenges including – tennis serve, push ups & chin ups, golf putting, underwater swim, before heading toward Cataract George for White Water Rafting. I could not believe that Jan and I got through this leg faster than Gary and his team of Olympians – Ken Wallace and Courtney Atkinson. 

We got to do the rafting together as teams had to combine, and go through a safety briefing before we took the plunge! Lucky for us we managed to all stay in the raft, and Courtney was thankful he kept his cast dry! Teams had an opportunity to go for bonus checkpoints to get time bonuses, so we took advantage of this on the MTB leg as the purpose built trails at the Kate Reed Nature Reserve were too good to pass up. We finished the day with a paddle along the South Esk River and a trek back to near we did the rafting and finished the day at the James Boags factory right in the middle of town.

Day 2 Ben Lomond – Altitude + Gravity 

The day started with an epic 18k cycle up to the Ben Lomond Ski Fields which too about 2hrs. Ken was unaware of what was ahead and decided to lead the pack on the charge to the mountain, before being called back by Gary. The Tri Adventure Aunties took it steady, and I managed to tow Jan for the entire ride to the amazement of onlookers! CP1 for the day was at the watchtower, quite visible as we encountered the never-ending switchbacks and the helicopter doing flybys in all directions. It was a picture perfect day as we summited Stonjeks Lookout at Hamilton Crags which was at above 1500m and crossed over Summit pass also above 1500m before descending along the Summit Track to our bikes. 

The MTB leg which followed was rewarding, and we were treated to some awesome single track before the kayak launch at Blessington. On the map the North Esk River looked really windy, so I wondered if there would be some rapids, and there was! I am told that Ken Wallace paddled some of the rapids Gondola style, and used a scooter action to get through some of the shallow areas! It was a fun paddle and as the water levels were low but it was a bit tricky to manoeuvre the big yellow kayaks, so we plunged into a few prickly bushes, so lucky we had helmets on. We exited the kayaks and completed the trek to the finish without wasting anytime and finished the day about 2k from where we had started. For something different Mark from Octagon decided to include a rally drive to the event. In our Renault, we cruised along enjoying the scenery to our accommodation at Ironhouse Point, and at some point I think Gary, Kenny and Courtney flew past us as they could not resist the temptation to race!

Day 3 Scamander - The challenge really begins!

Rock hopping was the theme for the day with 6k of coasteering from Four Mile Beach to Falmouth Creek where we were to commence the kayak. The swell was big and the waves were crashing, Gary and Ken breezed through that big surf, and somehow Jan and I got out too, as we watched kayaks being smashed all around us! We still had to get in, though, and this is where we got pummeled by a big wave and ended up like beached whales. The rest of the paddle was rather long and hot, it was nice to finish this with a bit of a creek walk to the TA! 

Rather than take the easy route to the TA, we decided to take on a few optional CP’s on the bike as we wanted to challenge ourselves that little bit more. Big mistake, as the 30 minute time credit ended up a big deficit as I encountered 2 flat tyres and a malfunctioning pump. But we never gave up, riding on the rim for about 7km and getting Jan to tow me while I ran and she rode, seemed to be the only way to finish the leg. But thanks to Dr Luke and Wilson from Singapore,  I managed to get back on the bike in time to enjoy the rewarding descent. 

The day was far from over we had a trek and ride awaiting us. We felt refreshed as we summited St Patrick's Head and were able to enjoy the spectacular views and amazing rock formations as we popped out at the top. It was not long before we were back on the bikes again for some more descending, and tackling one of those trails that only John Jacoby would find to send us down! It was a downhill thrill down Heises Gully which ended up back at Four Mile Creek (where we started the day) and onto the Tasman Highway back to Ironhouse Point to the finish line!

Day 4 Bay of Fires – Challenge accepted!
The Tri Adventure Aunties had a good lead on the Red Bullettes and Gary and Team Rexona were getting more and more competitive as Courtney and Ken were getting the hang of this sport called Adventure Racing! We started at The Gardens at the Bay of Fires with a short coastal trek followed by a long ocean paddle from Taylors Beach to Binalong Bay. When we commenced the paddle it was sunny beautiful and calm, but the wind picked up and before long we were being blown to Binalong Bay. 

We were freezing by the time we finished and were shocked when we saw teams returning from snorkelling without wetsuits! I was concerned that I would not be able to see a thing as the water was so choppy! Gary sent Ken and Courtney off for this leg, but Jan and I both braved the icy water and collected our tokens and were in and out of the TA onto the Trek in a flash, just so we could warm up by running! The next CP was “an Island” so guess what? One of us had to get wet again, so I did the safety jump into the water, punched the CP and then we got to warm up as we ran the Skeleton Bay coastal track. 

As we picked up a few extra CP’s on the trek, we thought we would have a go on the bike too, and we were pleased that it was worth it, and that the trails were really worth riding, as we love single track! Final paddle was shortened, so we had an early finish before a 3 hr drive to our accommodation at Wrest Point  Hobart, to prepare for the final day!

Day 5 Mt Wellington - The Finale!
Mt Wellington was 2 degrees and the wind chill -10, so lucky we had our Mountain Designs Gortex Jackets. The 7k descent was lightning fast and was followed by an orienteering leg! The tracks were steep and rocky in parts and the scenery beautiful; we picked up all the CP’s and a bonus before getting back on the bikes! We were required to follow the North South Track to Glenorchy and pick up 3 CP’s along the way, and there were plenty of optional CP’s on offer too. We were flying along passing quite a few teams on the quite technical descent, when I got flat tyre number 3 for the event. So all of a sudden frantic panic! I broke the valve on the tube and thought our day was over, but Rob Pommie stopped and gave me a tube as they were whizzing past! So all sorted we decided just to get to the end, no bonuses and that’s what we did! I got another flat at the final CP and had to ride the final 1.5k on the rim, again! 

We had to get through the streets of Glenorchy to Cornelian Bay on foot, our route along the power lines had us scaling fences, and wrestling with blackberry bushes. The last paddle was nice, and we went for the bonus, and got some time credit for it! We finished the paddle at Constitution Dock and had a quick run up to the finish line in front of the Henry Jones Hotel!  Gary, Courtney and Ken had already finished, and everyone was smiling, having pictures taken with Mark Webber himself!

What a day, what a challenge, what an event! This 5 star charity adventure race, known as The Mark Webber Challenge had everything! It was long, hard tough, but the fact that we were well looked after before and after each day, allowed the body to rest, recover and relax! We had physio’s doctors, massage therapists bike mechanics at our fingertips, and the accommodation, transport and support from individual Team Hosts allowed us to totally relax after a day of hard racing and reflect on our experiences. We thank our team host Susie Blissner for giving up a week of her time to share the adventure with us! We loved the event so much that we hope that Gary and I can race together as Team Mountain Designs in the 2013 Mark Webber Challenge and that Jan and Susie Team up as Tri Adventure Vintage.

For the full event results and highlights go to the event website

Thanks to Mountain Designs for all their support throughout the year, we certainly made the most of our gear and put it through some of the toughest challenges you could imagine – it is certainly the best gear for – places you would rather be!

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