Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Geoquest Crescent Head 2014 – Was it a beautiful playground…..or was it a battlefield???

Team Mountain Designs - sporting the new Geoquest Race Bibs!
The scene was set for a great showdown between last year’s top Geoquest finishers and Seagate, arguably the best Adventure Racing Team in the world. Seagate were tired coming off an expedition adventure race in Africa; Peak Adventure - last year’s winners would be strong despite their chief navigator Rob Preston also backing up from Africa; Outer Limits – 2nd in 2013, would be both fresh and strong coming off a top performance in China, a few months ago; and we knew Cyclezone Mooloolaba would be in there for the fight as well. So with the ominous weather forecast of gale-force SW winds and 100% chance of 15-25ml rain over the weekend we know we were all in for a challenging weekend of adventure racing #GeoquestAR style.

Gary & Leo - Gear Checks
Leo & Sloshy at the paddle competencies....Which way should we tip in????

Kim's looks this stage we had no idea the paddle would be cancelled!! 

Team Photos, Competencies, Briefing and Preparation
This is a very social time where all teams get to meet up again for the annual Geoquest pilgrimage on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. Gary having completed 11 and stepping up for his 12th Geoquest was spared from the competency checks along with 2 others Mat Bacon (Team One Chick & 3 Token Blokes) and Damon Goerke (Peak Adventure Shotz). Despite the reprieve, Gary still did pretty much everything except for the swim & wet exit….even taking me out in the ocean over a few little tiny waves to check the foot holds were right in the Stellar for the choppy ocean conditions predicted. Soon it was time for the course to be revealed, and we were informed of a possible cancellation of the paddle if the winds forecast were above 15knots……what a blow…..all that ocean paddling practice too! Anyway soon we were back at the house with the crew – Lea, Blounie and the Sutherland crew pouring over the maps, and preparing our gear. The course included 14 legs, 32 CP’s, 21 maps and distance of some 227km with a MTB mass start and 5 more MTB legs with two rafting sections to get our bikes and bodies across waterways; 5 treks including an orienteering relay and another archery; and 2 paddles one with a 2km portage. Gary and Sloshy were working on the route choices while Leo and I were going through all the CP descriptions, adding notes and working with support crew on what their roles would be at each of the TA’s along with time approximations as Kylie was cooking up a storm in the kitchen feeding us hearty homemade soup and pasta!

The Course is revealed!

Course description & planning sheet - seen hanging around Kim's neck the entire race!

Leg 1 – MTB – Crescent head to Hat Head National Park -20km
As the paddle leg had been cancelled it was a mass MTB start at 8.00am, so this meant that about 140 of us were all gathered at a tiny cross road just out of town. We all lined up and off we set along the bitumen for the first 5k. As a team, we sat near the front of the pack ready to make a move a bit closer up when the road turned to dirt. There was no point in using up too much energy at this stage! The dirt soon turned to sand and we found ourselves moving right up to the front of the field, just nudging ahead of Peak Adventure, and Seagate……maybe we just had a bit more experience with sand riding, with all of the team being Sunshine or Gold Coasters! We all got to CP1A at the same time and proceeded to Hat Head. We came into the TA round about the exact same time as Seagate and had about 2 mins on Peak Adventure. We had a quick transition into our ‘split trek gear’ before heading to the TA right on the beach!

The alternate MTB course - this was instead of the ocean paddle!
Leg 2 – Trek Split – Hat Head National Park – 8km
We had agonised a long time over this split during preparations, but finally decided that Sloshy and I would cross the creek straight to F, run to I at Hungry Hill then H on Third Beach; Gary & Leo would swim and do the Hat Head Point CP’s C, D E as well as G up on Connors Hill trail. Sloshy and I were first team back and instead of meeting the boys at the TA on the beach, we opted for a quick transition first…as we all had to get in together! We soon realised that the boys must be back and headed to the TA where they had been waiting for ages…..ouch…..minutes lost! So after a lightning fast transition by Leo & Gary we set off on the bikes in 3rd…….just as Outer Limits were arriving back in TA. We noticed that other teams must have struggled with the sand riding as there seemed to be a big gap to the rest of the field.

Sloshy in TA - getting ready for the split!
Leg 3 – MTB – Hat Head to Smokey Cape -22km
Again we were riding on sandy trails, and I was in my element…..thinking that this was actually a blessing in disguise, as most people hate sand…..but we obviously didn’t mind it at all. This section now had a few steep pinches so a lot more effort and energy required getting through the course. We started to pass many of the Geo Half Teams who had started at Hat Head with the Trek Split. It was also great to come across the Tri Adventure Cowgirls right up there amongst the leaders eating up the sand too! There were just 2 CP’s on this leg and they were on the track and relatively easy to find, so at the end of 3 legs, somehow we were in the lead!

Leg 4 – Trek – Smokey Cape to South West Rocks -11km
We set off on this lovely coastal trek, and instantly the boys put the hammer down I felt I had nothing, so I told Gary I’m only running on 80% and that I had come down with a sore throat ( I had tried not to tell the boys I was not 100%) … I might need a tow….so soon Leo hooked me up and we were off running up the Smoky Cape ridgeline collecting CP6 at the gate before the steep trek up to find CP7 at Little Smoky peak! On the way down we decided to take a little detour…..instead of going down the track (which seemed to be going the wrong direction) we continued to  bush bash……right down to the road….and only then, realising that the track was the right one, and we did not take it! So we hit some houses and the road and took the long way into to CP8 at the monument now just trailing Peak Adventure. We ran together past Trial bay Gaol to CP9 at Laggers Point before stepping onto the beautiful beach on the way up to South West Rocks. This beach was absolutely stunning and we couldn’t hold ourselves back surprising cameraman James Pitman who said ‘Hey MD’s you are ahead of Seagate’……he seemed surprised……I think we were too! We ran up the rocks smiling as we head into the TA.

Team Mountain Designs signs in.....
Leg 5 – Orienteering Relay – South West Rocks -5km
At this TA we meet the lovely Amy from Geocentric who is handing out the relay maps. This was a Google Earth map with 4 CP’s. We were all required to get just one CP, and take the tracker as the relay baton. Sloshy headed out first; meanwhile we were back at the TA getting our gear sorted for the next leg, as we had to fit paddles on our packs, add food for at least 5hrs and be ready to run our leg of the orienteering when Sloshy arrived back. I was second out on the course, and had the easy CP in the street, but went slightly too far to the right and ended up in Gregory street, so after realising my error, I turned left and ran direct to the CP, on my return Gary too the map and tracker and headed out for the CP, as I was trying to scoff down some hot chips and ham & cheese toasty and a lemon squash……no wonder I didn’t eat much of my packed race food! Gary was in and out went Leo,  just as Peak Adventure were leaving the TA….they had blitzed the orienteering without a doubt!

Leg 6 – MTB & Raft – South West Rocks to The Pines Picnic Area, Yarrabinni National Park-30km
Team MD’s were second out of the TA, but Outer Limits were breathing down our necks, as we headed out on the road to the Macleay River, our paddles were catching the wind like sails and made it quite difficult riding. Upon arriving at CP 12 we were to blow up our rafts and paddle with our bikes to the other side. We saw that Peak Adventure had just got on the water and we were just starting…..their craft however did not look to stable or efficient….but they were trying very hard to get off the bank. We had two small lilo’s and one double, one battery pump and one hand pump. Leo and I paddled one single and Sloshy & Gary on their single, towed the bikes on the double. This was effective, as we motored past Peak Adventure and caught the lead Geo Half team just as they were exiting at CP13. We came across two blokes fishing on the side of the river, with a fire ready to go and a weekend camp set up…..they had no idea they were about to be inundated with about 50 or so rafts and around 200 people in the next 4-8hrs! Now off the rafts we had to somehow fit everything back into our packs and make our way to the next TA. The boys all had pack-racks fitted to their bikes which meant much less weight to carry on their backs, but the ride up to the Pines Picnic area in Yarrabinni National park was still rather testing.  At some point on this windy dirt road just after we had passed the sign to the infamous Mt Yarahapinni (the location of the 2006 Geoquest hike-a-bike from hell) Sloshy noticed we did not have the map to get us out after the trek. It was not on his board…..Gary was super cool….he just said calmly I can get us to Scott’s Head, we might just have to see if the Geo Half team we had only just passed, have the same CP 16 as us. We lost momentum here for a bit as we were really worried.

Leg 7 – Trek Rogaine – Yarrabinni National Park - 8km
We had to go slow now as we needed to wait for the team GB to get in to see if we could solve our problem…..So we changed into our trekking shoes, Sloshy & Leo got the map from the TA officials, while Gary and I snuck over to GB as they arrived to see if 16 was the same……phew it was….so we drew it on the map, and just the written directions from the main road to Scott’s Head after that. Our spirits lifted again as we headed out on the trek…..we were still in the lead! This was a Rogaine leg where we were required to get 6 or the marked 7 CP’s….mostly creeks and high points and not many tracks….it was 8k….it looked slow going and it was! We headed to CP V first….the description was creek junction, so we followed the main road down into creek to the first creek junction, turned NE and headed to the next junction, and took the SW fork to the CP……as we were heading back up north from this CP we were greeted by Peak Adventure on the same route. It was getting dark now….so on with the AY UP lights!  Our next target was CP U, so along High Knob Track we headed east, but unfortunately we dropped into the creek a bit soon, and hit the junction before both S & V, so we headed to CP S first and then went for U. It was on our way to CP U that we met Seagate, in some of the thickest masses of lantana that you have ever seen… was nasty but we made our way to the CP together…then went our separate ways! We headed for High Knob Road again and all the way to CP P, choosing to miss CP Q which would have been a nasty climb…..looking at our route choice now, it seems like we might have gone for Q if we had done U and S in the planned order. Anyway it was quick travel out on Way Way Creek Road to CP P and there being a little track down into the creek made the bend quite an easy find! So just R and T to go we headed to R first and headed up the creek….this was very slow travel, and in hindsight I think a better attack point would have been from Leonards Road……but anyway after much twisting and turning and crawling through barb wire vine, wait-a-while and lantana we eventually found the gully that led on up to CP R. We exited direct south and took Leonards Road to CP T at the high point. As we headed for the TA we saw the Cowgirls who were just about to embark on the epic trek, and then Peak Adventure on the bikes heading out…..we wondered who else had eased their way ahead! No one…..well done Sloshy….great nav!

Map 10 - Leg 7 Rogaine Map
Leg 8 -  MTB Yarrabinni National Park to Scotts Head -17km
We left the TA in 2nd place, however as we were leaving Outer Limits and come into the TA as well and we were sure Seagate were not too far behind. Gary was on nav duties now and we made our way up to CP 16. It was a tough climb and there were a few Geo Half teams heading out as well. I know it felt tougher than it was because we had all our pack rafting stuff too…… It was not long before we were on our own heading out along Leonards Road again…..but unfortunately we took a bit of a wrong turn finding ourselves at a dead end track, and having to backtrack up a hill……now it was somewhere about now either just before or after CP 16 that Sloshy realised that the map that we did not have ‘Map 11’ had somehow reappeared…… ‘Oh no’ …..the support crew must have dropped it off somehow! Minutes later we were greeted by Race Directors Craig & Louise who had to stop us…..this was a breach of the rules…..we knew it…..but it was out of our control we had not played a part in getting the map at all…….it had just appeared…..the support crew had obviously panicked and tried help us out…..but yes it was against the rules……but we did not even need the map…….we had it all written on Gary’s Map 9…..but a penalty was applied. We had to ride all the way back to the TA at CP 14/15 and return the poisoned map! So up, up and up we rode once again…..we had already just been passed by Outer Limits and knew Seagate were not far back……now we would be giving away hours! Oh well sometimes things don’t go your way…..and this was just not our day…..! Map dropped off, back out Grassy Head Road, and onto Scotts Head, although we had now ridden an extra 10k of hills we were still in 4th place…..over an hour behind Peak Adventure, Outer Limits and Seagate….who were now fighting for the top 3 spots.

Tucking into some soup and pasta in the TA 
Blounie helps sort her gear! 

Leg 9 - Paddle – Scotts Head to Macksville -11km + 2k Portage
We greeted our support crew (Kylie, the girls, Blounie and Lea) here once again…..they had hot soup and warm clothes for us ready to go…..we took a bit longer in this TA than other teams 18 mins whereas Seagate, Peak and Outer Limits all just 5 minutes…….impressive! Despite our misadventure, we had still come in to the TA in a time similar to our estimate……so we set off down the Nambucca River at around 9.18 pm. It was a beautiful night out on the water, with the moon brightly shining in the sky. This was the first real paddle of the race, something that we had been looking forward to….especially Leo as he has been putting so much time an effort into his paddling all year! Sloshy & Gary in the Fenn XT led the way and Leo & I in the Stella just sat on the wash! Suddenly Sloshy realised he had forgotten the tracker…….oh no….we could turn back, but the crew would have already been driving down the road with it stored in our gear! Bummer another penalty! The portage worked well, and being very familiar to  Gary (as it was the same portage as they had done in 2006) we managed to get the wheels rolling down the road quite well…….just wondered what the cars travelling on the 80k highway thought though! We found the re-entry point quite easily, bashed through some mangroves got back on the water and made our way to Macksville.

Kim in TA - preparing AyUps for the next bike leg!

Sloshy get's ready!

Gary gets the Ay  Up's ready for the bike ride ahead!

Leg 10 - MTB – Macksville to Eungai State Forest – 43km
This was an important TA to refuel as we would not see the crew for more than 10 hours……so a bit more hot soup (cauliflower, this time) and some coffee & hot chocolate was enjoyed by all. Off with the wet clothes and on with the dry ones….it was going to be a long, cool night on the bikes, so we decided to start dry and warm. Off we set on the bitumen out of Macksville, heading for the hills! The boys were absolutely motoring once again…..and again I was struggling….so Leo hooked me up on the tow rope again…..and boy did I spend quite a bit of time on that two rope on this leg! We had quite a few CP’s to collect on our way out to the Archery/Trek and some would prove to be more challenging than others. Gary had his eye on the maps, Leo and I were doing distances and Sloshy was setting a strong pace……we were moving quite well….there were some really steep pinches that we had to walk in parts and some sections where it was just way too steep to tow….this was Geoquest!  We located CP 19 on the track bend and were heading to CP 20 when the track we were on just ran out!  Mmmm was this a Bycroft twist or were we in the wrong place???? We had checked at the top before descending that we were right, so we pushed ahead through the think forest of lantana. The track, was no longer a track and there was evidence of others being there, but had they turned back????? We pushed on down into the creek, up the other side and soon found the track on the other side and the CP…..phew…..this would certainly sort a few teams out later……as who in their right mind would send us down a track like that????? Craig & Louise would! The hours were just flying by and we certainly were on the other side of half way to the TA. We certainly had to keep our distances correct and focus on the map all the way to CP 21 as we made a few minor errors which cost a bit of time……maybe just fatigue was setting in. CP 23 / TA was at an old quarry, but we somehow just rode straight past it……locating it on the way back up the track thinking we must have taken the wrong track. 43k done!
Gary riding through the night!

Leg 11 – TREK – State Forest – 8km
Here we were greeted by Linda and Rob who were entertaining themselves at the archery. We got lots of instructions and went in one ear and out the other and then realised it just meant we just had the do the archery first before we went out on the trek. We had to get 4 on the board before we would be allowed to head out! With Sloshy being a former champion archer, and with Leo, who got 3 out of 3 at the Rogue, this should not be a problem. So up we step…..Leo – miss, Gary - miss, Sloshy - Hit, Kim – Miss, Sloshy - Hit, Leo – miss, Kim – Hit, Gary – Hit (in the red)….we are out of there! Leo (sorry…..but more practice next year….if you want to be a champion like Gary & Sloshy). So we get our map and off we go from the TA to W. This was in a creek junction…..surprise, surprise!  Sloshy is on the maps…’s still dark as it is just after 4am…..not too long till dawn but for now the AY UP’s are going strong and getting a great work out. So down another creekline we go to find W, and here we have to find the directions to X! Guess what…..another creek junction……but, but this area of state forest is a bit more forgiving, the travel down the spurs is nice, so we stay out of the creek and just jump into the junction at the last minute to find  CP X and the directions to Y . Yay Y is at a high point, so up we go over a few creeks and spurs to find the high point…..we get a bit stuck on the way….but Gary has a quick peek and realises we are on the wrong ridge… down and up we go onto right one…..Y was a little off the high point down the spur, so it took us a few goes to find it…..and then we had our final clue to  Z…..and you guessed it…. ‘creek junction’. It was now light as we made our way to Z and up the spur out of there back to the TA. We are once again greeted by the very excited TA officials Rob & Linda who were now offering coconut water….so the boys and I could not resist but pose for some photos! We were are told that Peak adventure had only just left……no one else had even arrived at the TA but Seagate were now in the lead with Outer Limits not too far off the pace.

Gary and Sloshy slam down a can of Coconut water!

Leg 12 – MTB - State Forest to Gladstone – 29km
So it was nice to be on the bikes again and in the light, and to be on some flatter faster trails. Leo was doing a great job keeping me on tow and Gary on the maps was setting a solid pace. This ride took no time at all even though there were 4 CP’s to collect along the way.  At CP 27 we were to pick up our rafting gear and cross the river. Here we found Peak Adventure having somewhat of an adventure on the rafts…….they had to split up and go over and back twice to get themselves and their gear across…….so this was going to take them a while. In the meantime while we were inflating our lilo’s we realised one of them had a big hole….we tried duct tape and strapping tape and nothing would hold. So the solution was Leo would paddle and I just sit there with my finger on the whole…..lucky this worked…..and I just got to sit there like a princess! So we nudged ahead of Peak Adventure here as we hurriedly packed our gear back onto our pack racks and backpacks and hurried to the next TA.

Leg 13 – Paddle - Gladstone to Upper Belmore via the Belmore River -15km
Our support crew were so excited to see us ahead of Peak Adventure and made us do a fast and furious transition……but this time we did not forget the tracker or any maps! In the skis and off we set down the Belmore River. It was a beautiful afternoon paddle with heaps of wildlife to keep us entertained along the way… was actually quite hard to stay awake now that we were sitting down…..and I could tell Gary was falling asleep and so was I! The weir came up fast and just as we were getting the ski’s up the steep bank we could see Peak Adventure rating fast……so we sped up and got back into the water on the other side of the weir and paddled strong all the way to the TA at Gladstone.

The Final Map CP we go to find the CP in the Sand Basin!

Leg 14 – Upper Belmore – Crescent Head via the Beach – 11km
The crew basically met us at the water’s edge with our packs ready to go….no food….it was all in Sloshy’s pack….and we just had to wear the shoes we had on. Now we were on the final leg of the course and it was a race to the line between us and Peak Adventure for 3rd & 4th spots, as Seagate & Outer limits were long gone! I was suffering big time with the pace the boys were going, I was hooked onto Sloshy’s tow rope and he was working hard along the bitumen road on the way to CP 32 which we would find in a sand basin using a Google Earth map. I think we all had visions of XPD Tassie where we spend hours searching for a CP in a sand dune……but this was not the case this time. As both us and Peak Adventure spotted the CP at the exact same moment and then headed for the beach for the final 7k run to the finish line.

Sloshy towing Kim as we run down the beach towards the finish!
I was still on tow as we were running along the soft sand…..Leo and Gary were urging me on….but I had nothing…..Peak Adventure passed us and opened up a gap. I needed a short nature stop and soon I was back on tow…..feeling like I could at least keep running…..but no chance of catching up……so we ran down the beach passing a few Geo Half teams on the way and across the bridge into the tiny town of Crescent Head. So after 29hrs of racing Team Mountain Designs finish Geoquest in 4th Place just 4 minutes behind Peak Adventure in 3rd place and a couple of hours behind Seagate the winners and Outer Limits who finished 2nd . What a great race and what a great opportunity we had to race head to head with some of the best AR athletes in the world. Thanks Geocentric Outdoors for such a great #GeoquestAR and thanks to all the teams for who made that battle at the front so exciting. Most of all I think it is great that so many teams signed up for Geo this year to prove that AR is Australia is certainly alive and well and just going from strength to strength.

Team Md's approach the finish line!

All smiles now!!!!!

A very special thanks to our awesome support crew who did everything they possibly could to be there for us and help us speed up those transitions to keep us in the fight for the lead for such a big part of the race……Thanks Blounie, Lea, Kylie, Dersley, Diggy, Emily, Charlotte & Sarah!

To our major sponsors ‘Mountain Designs’, thanks for continuing to support us and the sport of Adventure Racing for such a long time, and especially your support of this race called Geoquest – Australia’s Premier Adventure Race……for without your support Adventure Racing in Australia would not be what it is today!
To AY UP lights, where would we be without your support? Well….….we would still be out on leg 7 at the Pines Picnic Area that’s for sure! Thanks for the new lights and B2000 Lithium Polymer batteries….just love the 3 settings….to keep us going longer and stronger!

Thanks also to our supporters Hoka Shoes, Berghaus, Salomon Footwear, and Area 51 for making the products that help make it easier to get to the finish line or just get there faster…. and recover faster too!
Finally thanks to all our supporters out there our family and friends at home who were watching the dots….we hope we kept you on the edge of your seats and that you had lots of fun watching us all night….and day! We certainly gave it a good shot and we’ll be back for more in 2015!

Team MD's - ready for the next adventure! 

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