Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Hells Bells 2013 - lived up to its name!

Dare You Adventure took over this event last year, and provided competitors with plenty of challenges, with the second half of the course being much tougher than the first and ten maps just adding to that challenge! So, when I heard that this year’s event HQ was at Maleny, I knew it was going to be an epic….and it was!

Team Mountain Designs (Gary and I) both had rather different preparations! Gary had not done as much racing as me, after taking on his new venture – Ridgeline Adventures! So he had spent more time planning and preparing challenging courses for everyone else, doing heaps of strength training on the roadie, competing in Thursday Orienteering events and placing 3rd last weekend at the Australian MTBO Middle  and Long Distance Championships in the Open Men’s  category. I had on the other hand done heaps of racing, teaming up with Leo Theoharis in ‘The Culminator’ (Ridgeline Adventures) placing 2nd overall and 1st mixed team category (3 wins from 3 in the series) , and last weekend somehow managing a best time ever in ‘King of the Mountain’ (Sub 30 – 29.01) as well as placing 1st & 2nd respectively in the Australian Middle and Long Distance MTBO Championships Veteran Female Category.

So come race day, Gary was feeling fighting fit and strong, and I was unsure whether I had packed too much into last weekend, as I had given King of the Mountain everything and I unsure if I was back to 100%. We dropped the bikes at Kenilworth, so knew that meant we would be paddling the Mary River. This was confirmed at briefing as we were not using our own paddles/PFDs …..meaning the paddle was going to be a rough one! We received our maps……only five…..and they looked great! Liam (aka Gigantor) had assisted DYA with preparation of the maps… much better than last year….what a relief! The planning was frantic as usual, and it was not long before we were boarding the busses and heading to the outskirts of Kenilworth to begin the epic adventure. Dave Schloss (our Godzone MD’s Team mate) and Dare You Adventure – Hells Bells Race Director, was grinning from ear to ear……he couldn’t wait for it all to begin!

Leg 1 – Trek – Started at the famous Fig Tree Walk!

Gary and I decided to run straight out to CP A and get everything on the way back, so we would not be blazing the trails as we often do! Despite missing the track out of A and doing a bit of a lantana bash, then not looking carefully enough for the hidden CP D at the correct power pole, and vising 3 others before returning to find it, we came in a few minutes ahead of all other teams!

Leg 2 Kayak – Fig Tree - Kenilworth

We portaged the kayak down under the bridge and jumped in and commenced the paddle, we were having a ball! We were getting very close to CP 2, so started to look a bit and paddles straight past it….lucky Gary turned back and saw it when he did! Phew so we thought….we better really scour the banks for the next one! Description…..tied to tree on east bank….so we got to the little island where the river split, portaged under the tree, and looked around …..found nothing……knew we had missed it, so dumped the kayak and ran back through stinging nettle all the way back to the split. We could not find that CP anywhere yet teams paddling past said they got it……it was not on the bank, but up on the island! Anyway we paddled on and by this time were starting to get the picture….we would have to really search hard and think outside the square to find all the CP’s! We found CP 4 hidden in a random tree on a bank and raced back to the TA for a quick transition.

Leg 3 MTB – Kenilworth – Charlie Moreland
Gary and I caught up a few places that we lost quite quickly with a very nasty hike a bike to CP6, and a challenging climb up a ridgeline to CP7, only to lose it all again after going to the ‘correct location on the map’ to look for CP8, after searching for 5mins or so 20m NNW of track junction, we knew it just wasn’t there! We noticed no other teams had come by, so the CP must have been at the previous track junction (actually 300m earlier and incorrectly placed) so we went back, found it and continued on, we had just given ourselves and extra 5 minute hike a bike for being able to navigate! We were lucky to have the help of a few other teams at CP 9 as it  was well hidden in a creek, so we missed it when we first looked, but didn’t waste too much time and carried to CP 10 and then to the TA at Charlie Moreland.

Leg 4 – Trek – Charlie Moreland
I was pretty excited that we were running around here, as we had done some training in the area over Christmas and it was such a beautiful spot. It was just getting dark by this stage and we headed off in 2nd place not far behind Rogue (Leo & Liam – Gigantor). Gary and I opted for the HOKA’s for this leg as it was to be the longest trek, and it proved a good choice, we ran the trail up to G and found it just before we needed our lights…..this CP proved tricky in the dark for many teams! We saw Rogue not too far ahead on our way to CP I and finally caught up on the way to CP F. We had a chat for a bit, split and made our separate ways to the CP but were back together on the top of a knoll searching yet again for a hidden CP! The travel from F to H involved a creek crossing, and we managed to do this without getting soaked, Rogue were faster but were wet from waist to toe when we both emerged from the thick bush onto the road. After finding H together, it was there that we left Rogue and did not see them until the next morning!

Leg 5 – MTB – Charlie Moreland to Booloumba Creek
I could not believe we were riding up MT Allen! I have walked it with a bunch of school kids on a camp once, and ridden from the top to the bottom, but never had I thought we would ever do this in a race….after all it is a ‘walking track’. The travel was slow, Gary was even towing me some of the way riding 4kph or less, and walking at 3kph (and yes I was still on tow). It took a long time but we made it, and were relieved to find the CP at the base of the tower and not at the top. We continued on around the course to Sunday Creek Road, and found CP 10 on the knoll, well hidden out of sight…..finding some of these CP’s was proving very challenging, so we just hoped we were not losing too much time. The ride was tough….a series of steep climbs followed by very steep descents……I loved it, so did Gary and we had heaps of fun out there enjoying this part of the course. I even saw a wild pig! We found CP 14 at the corner of Peters Creek Road, and it was not long before we were at the Breadknife Car Park to find the track to CP15, then CP 16 at the lookout….we were feeling very confident at this stage as I did have some idea of where we were, as I had ridden this trail on our bikes in September last year!

Leg 6 Trek – Booloumba Creek
Gary let me lead the way for this leg, as Jan and I had spent New Year trekking the Conondale Great Walk, so I was quite familiar with the trails, but obviously not with CP placement. We opted to cross the creek at Campsite 1 as then we might be dry by the time we get back, as I knew the crossing at Campsite 3 was shallow! I had the new AYUP HT13, so was just ripping up the trail on our way to CPK which was quite a way up the little creek over a few small cliffs… doubt small waterfalls after rain! When we arrived at the goldmine, I was really upset to see that a huge tree had fallen over the entrance – hope the bats could still find their way in and out! Anyway we set off to find CPM – 100m NNW of mine shaft in big hollow tree…..we knew this would be tricky…so we spread out and began looking for big tree! We searched high and low and could not find it, and found ourselves at the creekline, so traced our way back – Gary high and me low… still looking and hoping to fluke it. We had thought we would be going right back to the mine to start all over again, wine I stumbled on this big bulbous tree, and there it was….lucky! We raced back to the creek and headed up the road to CPL, another rather indistinct clue 100m NNE track bend but Gary spotted this one in no time. CPJ looked really challenging as it was totally off track up a creek, so we navigated down from the track to the creek through very think bush….you know lantana, wait a while, barb wire vine……it had it all….even palm trees lining the creek bed! This creek was beautiful, we soon found the obvious bend, and junction and headed up to the CP! On the way back we ran the rocks all the way….we had a Salomon’s for this….prefect for this sort of ‘Coast to Coast’ style running! Our watches chimed 12pm just as we were approaching the TA, we could see that there were certainly a few teams were now out on the trek, and we ran into Paddy & Bec (who ended up 2nd Mixed team and 4th overall) just about to set off! So we wasted little time as we knew it was really cold and if we stopped too long we would freeze!

Leg 7 – MTB – Booloumba Creek – Witta

Now as we had all been in the bus from Witta to the start, we knew that there was going to be some serious climbing to finish this race, and the fact that the map showed only indexed contours from CP18 – 19 (approx. 3k) confirmed this reality! The ride out from Booloumba creek was flat fast and freezing (oops I forgot to put on my long fingered gloves), but it was easy to suffer just a little bit as we knew we would warm up on the climb. Gary was showing his super strength here again, towing me whist we were still pushing our bikes up some unrideable sections! CP 18 on the fence was soon spotted, but it was CP 19 ‘Hang-gliding Ramp’ that was proved difficult. We overshot the spot, and then were looking on the wrong side… there was this little ‘ x ’ on the map which we thought was it…..but on that side it was thick vegetation….certainly not  a spot for hang-gliding. So with the aid of two Fairy Bells competitors (Cassie Percival & Jennifer Strack) we finally search the other side, and soon Cassie spotted it. By this time we just want to finish, but the next CP looks a bit vague too, a ‘spur’!

After taking our time to get there (doubling back to cross check a few times) we finally find the junction to locate the spur, and again we find Cassie & Jennifer looking for the tricky CP. We show them the right spot to nav in from, and then make our way up the hill, Gary spots it and we are soon on our way! At this point CP21 is a transition for Fairy Bells (they had a trek here), so it was great to see many teams here that we knew – Mike & Mel, The Krome’s, and also the Flanagan Family…..all seemed in good spirits! We only now had just CP22 at a lookout and then the finish, and as most of this was then downhill, it was pretty amazing……I kept thinking we might see Liam and Leo’s lights catching us…..but we made it in and out of CP 22 and then to the Finish without being caught……in fact we find out later we had over an hour up our sleeves…..A great result for Team Mountain Designs – and for Gary and I personally clocking up three wins in a row in Queensland’s toughest Adventure Race – Hells Bells!

Thanks everyone for all your support out there, and the challenges you provide us! We plan to continue to race fair, race hard, yet help and inspire fellow adventurers in every which way we can!!
Thanks Dare You Adventure for putting together such an EPIC course! You have really raised the bar!

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