Friday, 14 June 2013

Team Mountain Designs Geoquest Race Report – Harrington 2013

Thursday – Travelling

Travelling to and from Geoquest is always an epic in itself. We had the CRV packed to the hilt and I was the only one doing the event….Jan was the designated driver and Susie Williams-Blissner along for the ride as support crew! Gary was lucky to even make it to Geoquest, having his house broken into and their car stolen just days earlier……luckily the thieves were not into adventure racing, as Gary still had all his gear! After travelling for 10 ½  hrs we arrived at Harrington at around 4pm and we headed to the cute little house at Crowdy Head, which was certainly ‘crowdy’, as somehow we managed to fit 12 people over the weekend. I went for a bit of an explore of Crowdy Head National Park by bike and returned to find Gary all geared up in his new race outfit……the shark fishermen down at the harbour didn't know what they were looking at!

Friday – Registration, Briefing, Competencies, Kids Race, & Maps
Early morning is like the calm before the storm……we check and rechecked that we had all our gear! Gary has 3 tubs, me one tub, 1 duffle bag, and a food bag……we fit glow sticks to boats & PFD’s…. check we have everything for the bikes…….then check on our team mates! The boys (Nick and Jaysen) are still on the road with our extra support crew member – Pommie! We register at 11 and the boys arrive at the Harrington Pub for the briefing. Gary gets an exemption from the competencies as he is one of only two who have done more than 10 Geoquest’ s …..this would be my 8th  Geoquest  and the 1st for the boys….so  Jaysen, Nick and I had to get into the kayak, capsize get back in again and swim. Gary just watched on with a smirk on his face! We spruiked ourselves up for the team photo and then sat back and relaxed as the kids race was underway…..Gary’s 3 girls were out there as were Jan and Susie as volunteers!

 Maps were issued soon after 3pm and from that moment on-wards the course would unfold…..start paddle at Crowdy Head….and finish with a paddle……and lots in between! Team Mountain Designs is soon into action, Gary and Kim doing the maps…..Jaysen & Nick contacting…..Jan, Pommie and Susie peering over the support crew maps working through the transitions and asking what we will want / need! Kylie’s the kitchen (we are all in the kitchen)…. she’s preparing pizza, bolognaise and apple pie, as we spend some 5hrs planning our course! As the light fades Gary struggles seeing the maps….Jan offers her glasses……and on they go and soon he can see again!!!! Gary spends time redrawing the trails that are faint/difficult to see….as he won’t have Jan’s glasses once we set off….. but he will have a second pair of eyes…..mine! We finished the maps at 9.30pm and spent an hour or so placing gear into the vehicles for the morning…….this was one of the earliest finishes (of the maps) I can ever remember!

Saturday – Geoquest Begins
Leg 1 Paddle 16k (Crowdy Head – Diamond Head)
We get all geared up for the start at the lighthouse atop Crowdy Head.  The excitement builds and as the mayor sounds the siren…Gary is off first off the mark down the hill……we get to the ski’s in no time and soon we set off out to sea! What looked like perfect conditions, was in reality the opposite….it was a bumpy mess out there…..Gary and I both feeling unstable as we were wearing shoes / not paddle footwear…shortening the leg length and reducing stability….the boys were having the same trouble and had a couple of swims along the way……lucky they had been practicing for weeks in the surf……getting in and out of the Fenn XT!!!! The paddle finished at the beautiful Dunbogan Beach, at Diamond Head where waters were calm blue and beautiful… crews would have had no idea how tough conditions were out there for teams……I was certainly glad the be on dry land!

Leg 2 – Trek & Swim 19k (Diamond Head – Laurieton)
We had a lightning fast transition as planned; food was in packs ready to go, as we had a swim and compulsory PFD’s for the leg. We just kept ours on! We raced around Diamond Head in what seems like no time at all and headed towards the lake for the swim…..our team carried inflatable kids Lilo’s and we blew these up as we ran. Nick the lifeguard ditched his, as he kept slipping off, however for Jaysen, Gary and I this was just great….keeping the chill off our upper bodies. We punched CP 4 and it was not long before we were running up the ‘North Brother’….yes we ran a lot….we shocked quite a few Geo Half Teams at this point and Team Rogue! CP 5 at the Trig Point was an easy find, so after reaching the summit and the views, I set a cracking pace down the lovely trail off North Brother in Dunbogan National Park….the trail was lots of stairs and switchbacks….just the way I like it!

Leg 3 – Paddle 16k (Laurieton – Ross Glen)
We were in 3rd place at this stage, trailing Macpac and Outer Limits by less than 20mins. We could just see them in the distance as we paddled towards CP B, A, the C. They did not opt for the portage, but we did…..we took a risk that it would not be too shallow……it paid off…..we did not catch the leaders but did not loose any time either and put some time into Team Rogue who were catching us. I was freezing… we just paddled harder and faster…..and soon we arrived at the TA Ross Glen.

Leg 4 – Trek 15k (Ross Glen – Old Batar Creek Quarry, Middle Brother State Forest)
We were wet and I was cold, so we did a full change into dry clothes….the plan was for no more changes for the race……and with some epic treks ahead a nice set of clean socks can help prevent blisters! This TA took a little longer, as we had to also plot 8 CP’s (D – M) on the map and plan a route which included collected CP 8 plus 8 of the possible CPs D-M …..J was compulsory….it was the famous Bird Tree…the biggest Tree in Australia. We opted for D,M,J,L,K,H,G through the TA (just to excite the support crew) and finished with F. We saw three teams on this leg – Macpac, Outer Limits and Rogue.  Macpac were travelling extremely fast…..but we felt we were ahead of the others! K was a long way down…..quite deceiving really, but it was much less off tack than E, which we left out! We took a bit too long on F not fining the track out of the TA, but bush bashed our way to the creek… was now night time as the light had totally faded……this creek would have been amazing in the daylight……and full of rapids if in flood. We ran down the flat rocks and punched F and exited via the track back to the TA…..we were in 2nd place….ahead of outer Limits…..1hour down on Macpac!

Leg 5 – MTB 50k (Old Batar Creek Quarry, Middle Brother State Forest – Swans Crossing)

It was by this time after 6pm, pitch black and so far we had not touched our bikes… we were ready to hit the trails…..we had 5 maps to get through……and the contours were so finely printed on the map it was difficult to tell what the terrain would really be like! We had a nice descent, but then a nasty 1k climb…..our Ay Up’s were ensuring we had good clear vision and we just motored along at a good pace…..we located CP 10 & 11 without any trouble, but found 2 Geo Half Teams searching for CP12….we retraced our steps…..and were sure in the right place…..just as Outer limits caught us…and we found the the CP. We exit there together……and arrive at CP 13 at the Tennis Court at Hannam Vale together…..we seemed stronger….as I did not need to get towed…so we made a brake and pushed our way up to CP 14  (a waterfall) and exited just as Outer limits were arriving. We got ahead again but only to be caught again searching the creek for CP15. It was to be found on a creek junction….but we could not find one……all I found was a fresh-water crayfish……hiding amongst the rocks wondering what all the fuss was about. We thought this must not be right….went about another 300m along the trail....and came to another crossing……and Jaysen spotted the CP in the distance….we still had the ride around the trail to get to it……Outer limits were now just one step ahead of us……but we soon got ahead following some steep descents and pinchy climbs! We hammered to the TA choosing to take the minor trails 2.5k as opposed to 5.5k on major trail……well  we were devastated to find that Outer Limits had put 20 minutes into us! Lesson learned!

Leg 6 - Trek 14k (Swans Crossing – Comboyne Showgrounds)

We were greeted by the Jan at the TA ….she had to remind the volunteer to do his job……he had been turning off his lights and making the TA difficult to find… a campground spanning several kilometres……just to add the challenge! Jan was NOT HAPPY with his manner, nor the language being used in front of our support crew (apparently he was anti Queenslanders)! Soon we were shuffled away into our little area to have a feed of pumpkin, soup, chicken pies, and ham & cheese toasties before setting off on Trek number 3. We bumped into Outer limits again….…looking for the little trail leading to CP 18…..well it was pretty much non-existent…..but somehow we found it. It was marked by pink dots spray painted on trees……I was at the front with my AY UP Ultra’s brightening up the entire forest….but the marks were still difficult to find…..(now we wish we had have turned back and went via the road)! We found our way to the creek but that is where we lost the marks, and as we climbed to the saddle, we thought we were going up a high point, so beared off a bit too far to the left…missing the creek bend. We realised our mistake when we hit the road to the south of the CP approximately 800m from the bend! So we hightailed it back along the creek, where we had a few scary moments slipping down steep cliffs…..Gary was setting the pace…and we were struggling to keep up…..he’s the master of this type of travel! Finally we hit the bend and the illusive CP 18!  We opt for the road to CP19 and take the long way around to 20 (we have certainly learned the lesson that at Geoquest when the bush is so thick and steep…..the long way is faster). The exit was CP 20 was horrendous……the thickest busk we had encountered for some time…..there was fallen trees, really spikey tough vines……I think worse than Lantana & Wait- a-while. We did find the track up to the road…..thank goodness…otherwise I think we would have spent another hour getting out! We ran the final 9k back to the TA coming across Team Rogue on the road into Comboyne…….we were surprised that we had only lost one place on this trek, and regained it…..getting into the TA in 3rd place.

Leg 7 - MTB 38k (Comboyne Showgrounds – Lansdowne State Forrest)

Our spirits had really lifted now… we had not lost places…..only time……Outer Limits were 2hrs ahead and we still had 4 legs remaining. Our support crew were certainly excited to see us….they had no access to spot tracking, so had no idea what had happened to us……it was now daylight….but chilly as the cloud had mostly lifted and it seemed like a perfect day for a ride! When we left this TA we would not see our support crew until the last paddle….it was the time to have a break, as the next TA was unsupported. This ride was tough…..we set out past Mt Bulli being chased by James Pitman the photographer…..  Gary shot to the front to look good for the photos…..and Nick dropped his chain! We had commenced the climb……and it was endless!  The climb to CP 22 was tough enough….but it just did not stop going up, up, and up! Nick towed me for a bit….but the bungee was so stretched it was cutting off my fingers….so I opted just to ride.  We travelled along Big Nellie Road to CP23 Flat rock Lookout…..with magical views out to the South East. Then another 5k or so to Newby’s Lookout, all in the Coorabakh National Park.   The pace was not fast….but were riding most of it ….. I did have to get off a few times. Finally a bit of relief along Coopernook Trail with the  climbs turning into more pleasant undulations… was a huge relief to make it to TA 7 to find that Outer Limits were just over an hour ahead…….we had caught up quite a bit.

Leg 8 – Split Trek 5k (Lansdowne State Forrest)
Gary and Nick teamed up to collect CP P, N & R. Jaysen and I headed for CP S. I was not going to risk going to CPQ even though it seemed so close…..just wanted to play it safe! We managed to get back in about 45mins and I got a 5 minute break to sit back relax and eat my corn chips, while Jaysen and I waited for Gary & Nick. We were in and out to the TA in about an hour…so not bad…..same as Outer Limits!

Leg 9 – MTB Rogaine 20k (Lansdowne State Forrest – Coopernook Wharf)
We just had to collect CP27 and 3 of 4 CP’s (T, U, V, W, X) and then not forget CP28. The good thing was that because we were up so high……there was going to be some awesome descending….and there was…..but I still can’t forget the climbing that we did! We opted to go the route U, W, X and this worked well; I think Macpac chose this option too! The trail up to CP X was a bit tricky to find….but we could see the high point…so not a drama!

Leg 10 – Paddle 13k (Coopernook Wharf – Harrington)

Our support crew were so excited to see us…..Kylie had hot chips….I ate all the crispy fatty ones….as I had struggled to eat a bit earlier on the bike.  I had to get these down fast….as we did not have time to waste we were heading for a podium finish and we thought Rogue were still on our tail. It was great to finish with a paddle in the daylight……and Gary & I we were paddling like pros ….according to Jaysen! We tried to jump on the back of a cruiser boat….but it was going a bit too fast! In less than 1hr we had punched our final CP and heading for the pub…..and the finish line! We were greeted by Pommie at the bank…and gatherer all our compulsories….and make to 500m trek to the finish like…..we were stiff tired….but nothing was going to stop us now! We crossed the line at 3.03pm in 31hrs and 3 minutes in 3rd place…. greeted by Craig & Louse from Geocentric, Kylie & Family, Jan,  Susie & Pommie, our wonderful support crew! I was shortly bundled up in a sleeping bag and animal fur hat….as it was cold and windy……but nothing was stopping me from enjoying a bottle of Champagne with my team! Gary and I headed to the pub later than night for a well-earned STEAK!

 Sunday – Pack Up & Presentations
Part of the experience of doing Geoquest year after year, is listening to the stories afterwards from friends and fellow adventure racers. The winners of the Geo Half were doing their first ever big race together and it was great to hear about their race at the breakfast! The stories from teams who braved multiple capsizes in Leg 1 in shark invested waters will certainly be on the tips of many tongues for a long time. Discussion about the track to CP 18 was certainly a hot topic……as many teams just thought it did not exist….how lucky were they! The town of Harrington might never be the same… according to the local shopkeeper we are a ….and have inspired the town to get fit….and get out there!

We, Team Mountain Designs, would like to thank our wonderful support crew, and our sponsors for your continued support. Your assistance with all gear and nutrition certainly helps get us to the  finish line faster……and we hope that we inspire others… this great sport of Adventure Racing!

Support Crew:-   Kylie & Family (Diggie, Dersley, Emily, Charlotte, Sarah)

Sponsors:-          Mountain Designs
                             Tri Adventure
                             Ay Up Lights
                             Hammer Nutrition

Photography:- James Pitman

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