Monday, 13 October 2014

Wildside Wandering with Team Mountain Designs

Wildside Adventure Race , Forster 2014

We all arrived in Forster Friday at the Nial's home. Terry and Sheryl have been welcoming athletes into their home since the start of the Forster Ironman and they volunteered to run the Start/ Finish line of that event for 17 years. These incredibly generous and giving people made our race preparation a much easier task.

On Saturday we got a race briefing and completed all the competency testing. Team Bear Hunt had the most difficult tent to put up, but at nearly half the weight of ours, I was extremely envious.
4.00pm map hand out and we were off to start the planning; we had 23 hours as the gear boxes had to be loaded onto the transport vehicles by 3.00pm Sunday.We didn't get maps for the first trek leg or know where the race was to start, but with 33 maps in total we had a huge task in front of us.

We decided to get a good night sleep and stopped course planning at 10:30pm and then recommenced at 6:30am. This took longer than expected as we finished laminating our maps at 12 noon leaving us a very short time to pack boxes. We made it with minutes to spare and were soon on the bus for a short trip out to a Wooton Winery where we were given the first trek leg maps and were told the start would be at 1.00am. A good feed was provided and I limited myself to only one glass of red. The tents provided had no bedding so we were all huddled together shivering our way to the start time on the cold hard ground, our tent soon fell into fits of laughter with stupid jokes, reminiscing on past races and way too many Dutch Ovens.

Wildside AR.....and they are off!
The gun went off and we all disappeared into the darkness across the paddocks and into the bush trails, Team Tiger and Bear Hunt were first to start swimming across the first river and after assuring us the water was warm enough we quickly nuded up and frolicked in after them. It wasn't long after this that Jody started up with a mild fever and some nausea, we eased the pace to manage her condition; she had also rolled her ankle which was making her a little unstable. Knowing how tough Jody is, I wasn't worried about her ability to continue, I was more worried she would push too hard and her condition could become serious. We were surprised after 6 hours to be the first team to the kayak.
G1 in action with G2 just one step behind

The sun had been up for an hour and the paddle across Wallis Lake into Forster and out to Nabiac was spectacular with clear waters and an abundance of bird life. This was a 5 hour paddle and we all soon realized that none of us had done sufficient paddle training. We all had sore backs, the beginnings of blisters and sore bums. Glenn who was heading up search and rescue did a professional job of strapping Jody's ankle. Thanks to Glenn this held till the end of the race and gave Jody the confidence to traverse the many challenges that lay before us.

G1 in action....these kayaks are heavy!

Onto Leg 3 MTB/Rogaine/MTB. The temperatures were soaring, we were still nursing Jody and now Darren was starting to feel the effects of the heat and needed a little help up the hills also. CP 12 was a little ambiguous with the description being 'car' but the CP circle drawn off the side of the track. Our first grid search of the CP location began. We got lucky on this one as Jody rode around the bend outside of the circle and soon spotted the car.

Hot day for the team on the bikes!

The Rogaine went smoothly, this was through a MTB trail park south of Taree and the single tracks would have been awesome on our bikes but unfortunately we had to run. We remounted our bikes for the short ride into Tinolee for our next paddle leg on the Manning River. After the first CP at the Taree Council Chambers, Jody's condition deteriorated and the vomiting began, some in the boat but most over the edge for the fish. She got into warm clothes as she now wasn't able to paddle to stay warm enough. I was quite worried she would fall in as she was also falling asleep; we had to keep yelling to keep her awake. 

The heat is taking it out of everyone!

We reached Coopernook after 5 hours and put Jody to bed on the doorstep of the pub out of the wind, after 4 hours she still couldn't stand up without being overcome with nausea, so back for another 4 hours sleep and dawn. The anti-nausea tablets were finally working and we were able to start our MTB very gently to a large volcanic plug in the forest called Big Nellie, a short trek to the summit for some spectacular views stretching up and down the coastline. Back on the bikes for the grind into Comboyn with both Jody and Darren on tow, G2 [Gary Palmer] and myself had to be wary of not blowing ourselves up with the extra work load. We vowed to have a quick TA here as our last one was 8 hours, we got out in 25 mins but only got as far as the first cafe for a much needed calorie hit.

Taking every opportunity to refuel!
This trek up to the highest waterfall in the southern hemisphere, Ellenborough Falls was going to be a cracker and we were all really excited. Darren was still suffering in the heat and was quickly closing in on his first technicolour yawn. Our pace had slowed and I was now worried about getting out of the gorge before dark as I only had a token mandatory light that was probably good enough to read by but not for jumping around boulders. We had unknowingly passed Team Tiger from a nav error and were in the lead. Tiger caught us just before the climb out and we trekked up the stairs together. Shaun from their team was also in a lot of discomfort in the early stages of bronchitis, which would later see him retire from the event. We got Darren straight to bed as he has physically spent from vomiting numerous times on this trek. He was now a concern, we needed to stop the nausea and get fluids and calories into him. 

In the Gorge with Tiger

Thankfully for us the lovely ladies at the Falls Kiosk decided to stay open all night for the racers and we were able to feast out on chicken vegetable soup, pepper steak pasties, sausage rolls an assortment of cakes muffins and beverages. We slept here for 4 hours which gave Darren some much needed convalescing. He had an organic juice and some soup broth from the kiosk and we were off for a 110km MTB which was one of the longer and more challenging legs of the race. We were back in third but soon passed The Stromlunauts. Tiger Adventure, who were having a great race, were thriving at the front of the field . 

We soon had a minor glitch as Jody's chain broke and then 30km into this leg our next challenge presented itself, the derailleur bolt on G2's bike snapped. We took off the derailleur and converted his bike to a single speed. He now had a max speed of 18km per hour and he could no longer tow anyone. Jody stepped up here and rode without needing any help she was finally starting to get back to her normal fun-loving, storytelling, practical joking self that we had been missing all race. Darren was in recovery mode but still grovelling on tow. He was doing it tough but was determined to keep up. We passed Tiger on a sketchy downhill and cleared the next CP quickly which could have been tricky, but we had questioned the Race Director on the CP location before the start as there were 3 x Track/Creek junctions in the CP circle. Our first of many, ‘hike-a-bikes’ began and finally G2 could help me tow Darren. We entered a more technical navigation plantation section and more hike-a-bike. We were approaching the end, our food and water was gone as we had predicted 8 hours for this leg and it had taken 15 hours. We rode into Barrington straight past the TA and the bemused faces of the TA officials and went straight to the servo for a pie, sausage roll, ice coffee milk and an ice cream each.

Off for a short 5km trek up to the Barrington Adventure centre to pick up our tyre tubes for the paddle back to the TA we had just left. We were all feeling good now apart from being cold from paddling into dusk on the Barrington River. Again a great TA spot, our servo was closed but the TA hall had a microwave, so we heated up our cans of chunky beef soup and I concocted us a dessert of mashed banana and sugar on wraps and heated them up in the zapper.

Look at these for paddles! G2 on the tube!

G1 and his new paddle!

Jody just going with the flow!

We rode out of Barrington for another epic 87km leg, our stomachs were full and we felt good, the next 30km was on tarmac and with a top speed of only 18km/hour it was easy for all but G2 who was spinning his nuts off on his newly detested single speed bike, his trusty steed had also developed a rear brake problem, we were starting to wonder if his bike would see the finish. This was no cheap dunger bike either but a $10,000 black stallion. I think it is going straight to the knackery when he gets home. When we left the tarmac the nav got tricky with our intended trail no longer existing, we traversed through farmers fields along a ridgeline through a  creek  and, hey presto, the trail was back. We were now on some of the sweetest flowing single track you could hope to find. We couldn't find the trail out, so we back-tracked about one km to try a different route, I crashed from falling asleep so G2 took over the nav, it was getting tough and I was a zombie. G2 thought he knew where we were but wasn't sure so we dropped to the ground for a sleep, 6 mins later it started to rain so we were up and refreshed after a good night's 6 minutes sleep and brisk morning shower!  G2 and I got down to the business of nutting out our new route; again the track was no longer in existence. 

We fell back on our Rogaining experience and traversed the terrain cross country till the track once again appeared. We were now faced with a big hike-a-bike which took us off course and onto the wrong peak, after a little two and fro to determine exactly where we were, I gambled on a motor bike track with the assumption that the dirt bikers had to come from somewhere and it was probably from the tracks we wanted below us. Yahoo! We were back on course, another broken chain for G2 and with no more trouble, no food and some water, thanks to a kind resident who spared some of her tank water, we arrived at Bulahdelah. Again we headed straight to the cafe for a pie, hamburger and flavoured milk. We had again planned for an 8 hour ride and it had taken us 15 hours. We packed up our bikes for the final time; G2's bike just crumbled into dust into his box, thankfully the old girl just made it.

Team MD's arrive at the cafe!
When a pie has never tasted so good!
We left Bulahdelah feeling good and had an uneventful but very nice trek through to the Myall Lakes TA. The wild flowers on this leg were beautiful and in abundance. A quick nap and we were off on our final ‘bum-numbing’ 5 hour paddle into the cold of night and strong wind which kept us wet and fresh. Things started to get a bit funky here with the 'sleep monsters' claiming our sanity. Out came renditions of 'row, row, row your boat' and a boat load of other verbal diarrhoea that couldn't be repeated.

We quickly departed the Bungwahl TA, with chattering teeth and began our last epic trek leg running to warm up, we were in great spirits with the finish in sight and we were starting to believe we may win this race.  We had a little trouble with the first CP, surprise, surprise another ambiguous CP placement. Dazza nailed this one for us with some deductive sleep deprived logic, we took pity on Team Search 4 Hurt and told them where this CP was  as they had been doing it tough and had been short-coursed and were disappointed to have missed the 2  big MTB legs.

Team MDs refueling before hitting the beach.

We hit 7 Mile Beach in good spirits but Dazza's mental state soon deteriorated through sheer exhaustion. He thought his food and water were poisoned. We were worried he wasn't eating enough and upon Jody's request he informed her he had just eaten some grilled fish. Where from? she enquired...with a look of disdain on his face he informed her "from the ocean".

Jody tries to give Darren some water!
We finally came to the location of the now famous [only to us] CP 57, control description Dune. Well for 3 x hours we crawled through the thick dune scrub doing a grid search 250m either side of the centre of the circle. Finally, a race official turned up to see what the problem was. He could’t find the control either. It was eventually located  500m from the centre of the circle. With a hearty chuckle amongst ourselves of this amusing trick that had been played on us, we continued on toward the finish and a frosty beer.

Darren's mental state deteriorated further and he could no longer differentiate between fact and fantasy, he no longer spoke, he only pointed, nodded and smiled. I continually asked him if he was going to finish, he always nodded with a determined glint in his eye. We had reverted to carrying him for the last 6km. Within the last 3km he needed to stop and sleep 3 times, doubt was creeping in. He put in a final effort up the sand hill and we coasted to the finish with relief - our goal had finally been achieved. Darren passed all medical checks and after a night’s sleep was back to his normal self.

Team work all the way to the Finish!

G2 finished amazingly, holding strong throughout and helping out every time it was required.
Jody had a rocky start through illness but finished as strong as us boys. Darren's determination got him to the finish.

Team Mountain Designs - Winners Wildside AR  2014

Finally, it was the teamwork that inspired me from a group of rookie's who tackled and won their first expedition race.

Thank-you guys, for a truly memorable experience! What an amazing species we are.

Written by Gary Sutherland Team Mountain Designs 2014

Team Mountain Designs - Darren, Gary S (G1) , Jody and Gary P G2 

1 comment: