Sunday, 1 May 2016

Mountain Designs ARA Darkside Championships - Mud and Mozzies and Adventure

               ARA Darkside Championships 2016 – Team Mountain Designs Race Report

Team Mountain Designs - Alex, Kim, Mac, Cassie

The ARA Darkside Championships for many years has been one of the ‘must do events’ on the calendar. First and foremost it is sponsored by Mountain Designs or major sponsor, so it is paramount that we support and encourage others as much as we can do race at this event and also Geoquest. Secondly I was pretty excited to have invited both Cass Kimlin and Alex Austin (two of our Tri Adventure ‘young guns’) to race, I certainly want Mountain Designs to see there is a future in the sport with people like these two really getting into adventure racing. Thirdly it was also a bit of a personal challenge (not that I would ever really recommend it to anyone else) to complete the big four in the space of a month. Yes, my calendar somehow panned out with the following events in April – Godzone, Tre-X (World Championships Qualifying Race), Rogue 24, and Darkside; so I just had to get through them all. So the plan was to do Godzone with Team Mountain Designs and finish (as we had to overcome the demons of Brazil, tick the GZ box given I was the one who was responsible for the DNF in GZ Chapter 1), just do the #TrexTri to qualify, do the Rogue a bit slower with Jan, and then go for it again in the Darkside, as after all we were defending champions; but we also were fully aware we would have all done Godzone too! Then just a couple of weeks out we found out Gary was unable to race, Leo was keen to come and race, but could not get out of his family commitments the same weekend, so we were stuck. Mmmm it’s not very easy to just ring up someone out of the blue and ask, ‘hey are you able to do the ARA with us, no pressure, we just need a 4th person’, so a massive thanks to Mac for saying yes, as without her we would not have had a team. As Mac was still in recovery from Godzone too my promise was to just do what we could do as a team to race, have fun and enjoy the experience.

Prelude:- Boat Drop & Registration
So Friday night, we found ourselves out in the mud dropping off boats and gear in the mozzie infested Coochin Creek area… many also doing the same…..we were all thinking ‘ hope the weather gets a bit better than this’. We drove back to HQ at Woodford, and it just rained and rained…..and it was just like that most of the time. We got the maps and started planning the course, with a plan that Alex would Nav the Treks, me the MTB and the paddle we would just see when we got there. The course went something like this:- Mystery Trek, Trek, Paddle, MTB, Mystery MTB, MTB, Mystery Trek, MTB, Mystery Leg to finish. So, quite a bit of planning to get through before the midnight start. Briefing was at 9pm, so we managed to get just under an our sleep as we needed to be ready to jump on the bus for a 11.15 departure to the start……we had no idea where we would be dropped as our maps started at CP5.

Teams run to the top of the hill to get their maps!

Leg 1 – Mystery Trek
We boarded the bus at 11.15, got to the start location at around 12.15 and soon we found ourselves ‘following the lights’ of a vehicle, which took us to a hill which we ran up to find our maps. We were pretty casual here, planning our route before heading off (3 of the 4 CP’s in any order), it was very, very frantic. We did a bit of a bush bash up to CP1, then a bush bash from CP 1 to CP 3 which both ended up being big grid searches. Alex navigated really well we found CP 5 and soon found ourselves swimming across a small creek under a bridge, so we had a more direct path to CP 6. Here we met Robyn (who was very excited to see us) and then made our way via CPs 7, 8, at the paddle TA CP9. I wonder if anyone else saw the hundreds of fish jumping in the creek as you crossed the bridge at that point… was amazing as they sounded like rapids!

Map Mystery Trek 1

Leg 2 – Paddle
We arrived at the leg in third place, we had thought this also from the footprints on the way to the TA. The paddle was pretty short, just 3 CP’s in the creek and probably less than 2hrs. Personally I would have liked it to be a bit longer, given the effort it took to drop the boats and gear there…..but it was so hard to find the CP’s in the dark, we were relieved to have found them all so a bit of team work on the navigation for Alex and I as well as all of us working to spot something on the side of the bank hidden in either bush / mangroves. Alex and Mac paddled the Fenn Millennium (Mac was so awesome to stay in the tippy boat), Cass and I paddled the Fenn XT (I got to steer and I could reach the pedals – double bonus. We exited the TA still in 3rd and seemed to have a big gap on the teams behind. Neverest and Rogue were in the lead and very close to each other.

Team MD's - Our Ay Ups are so so bright!

Leg 3 – MTB & MTB Mystery
I was on the navigation for this one, and our map had got wet from the paddle, so all the markings we had drawn on the map had faded, so it was just like a long MTBO course. The start was back through 3 CP’s we had already collected on the trek then it was like a maze which took us down near Wild Horse Mountain, under the Bruce Highway and over to Steve Urwin Way where we had a bit of a bush bash and some steep rocky slopes to get through with our bikes. 

Map 1 (Trek, Paddle, MTB)
At CP19a we thought we had a Mystery Leg, but we just saw Simon and he said to go on! We later found out that the dawn Attack Teams had a catapult activity here…..but maybe we were just a bit too early! We then found our way to the next TA CP22 opting to try to take the short but steep route. The contours looked like it would be a ‘Hike a Bike’ but instead we got some awesome descending and a good challenging climb.

Map 2 - MTB

Leg 4 - Trek
We were greeted by the lovely Emma at the TA and we found out Neverest and Rogue were over an hour in front and also that they were still out on the trek. We read the instructions carefully and basically we were about to play ‘Monopoly’. Maybe it was a was a way to try to add a bit of fun to the trek, as we were actually out for just over 4 hours. Basically we had to find CP’s labelled Mayfair, Parl Lane, Fleet Street and Trafalgar Square; we had a choice of ‘Water’ or ‘Electricity’, and decided to take a ‘Chance’ for a 15 minute time credit. 

Map 3 - Monopoly Trek & MTB to HQ

We took a chance and certainly did not lose time, but on the way out of Park Lane found that one of the marked trails did not exist as we bush bashed through some pretty thick lantana, wait-a-while and barb-wire vine. We had to backtrack and go back up the big hill we had come down to the CP…..oh well sometimes that’s just the way it is! It was a long way to the final two CP’s and we found ‘Water’ a bit of a challenge. The description was north side of gully, but it was so far down it was a bit of a challenge to keep going that far down! Mac had a little rest here while we were in the bush as the CP was less than 100m away, Mac had not run for more than a year and also was not used to the pace we had set earlier in the race on the first trek. She was so gutsy; she just put on a brave face and dug in deep, what a trouper! Alex was spot on with the navigation on this leg so we did actually make good time. When we arrived back at the TA, we were told that Jan and Gina (Tri Adventure Girls) were finished and had been racing neck and neck with Linda and John (Trekking with Veritas Tri Adventure); Emma did not know who won….how exciting! We also ran into Michele Krome (taking photos and on a huge high) with her Tri Adventure teams (Rick, Abbey and Mark) who were on their way to the finish as well.

Kim, Alex and Cass  in TA

Kim and her HOKA's

Leg 5 – MTB to HQ
We had to mark up two more CP’s and collect them as well as 23 on the way back to HQ. I was back on the maps here and felt like I was in a familiar area, it so turns out that we have done an MTBO there before and it was definitely a spot that I have visited before. Anyway we had to go the long way to it as it seemed like a bush fire may have made to track in very indistinct. The description for CP H was 100m NE of track junction, and when we arrived it looked like it could have been up the track (to be that far in) but the bearing was not right. I walked back to the junction were another team was, and the CP (faded and difficult to spot) was literally 5m from the junction (obviously a typo). Lucky the other team spotted this one otherwise we may have been about to embark on another big bush bash. We made our way to the final CP and I did not spot the track we were meant to take to get back to CP. Instantly I could tell the compass was not right….so backtracked and then spotted the way we were meant to go. I was starting to get tired and so mistakes like this are sometimes the result of this. I was so proud of Cass, as she was on the computer for the bike legs and was right up there with me, checking and clearing at every opportunity….this made my job so much easier. As we arrived at HQ we had hoped to see something like SUP’s on the dam….but no, at the bike drop for the final leg there were instructions for a ‘short’ trek.

Leg 6 – Trek
Jan, Gina and Michele were here to cheer, I found out that Linda and John had won the Dawn Attack outright, Gina and Jan had won the women’s and 2nd outright. I marked up the map, Cassie wrote the instructions and Alex did the navigation. It was pretty simple and we managed to run most of this leg. Mac was certainly putting on a very brave face and made a huge effort. We finished in 3rd place overall, in just over 15hours, Mac collapsed on the ground in sheer relief, and we were all in great spirits to have achieved what we did with a team of three girls and one male.

A tired but happy team crosses the line!

Mac is so relieved to cross the finish line.
Thanks to Mountain Designs, not only for your sponsorship of our team, but also for supporting adventure racing in Australia. Without your sponsorship events like these do not get off the ground and great events can’t continue. We encourage all adventure racers to continue to support Mountain Designs an Australian Company for over 40 years.

Thanks to In2Adventure and your team of willing workers. We were greeted at all the TA’s on the course with a smile and in particular our hands go off the officials who manned the paddle TA as the mozzies there were so nasty and hungry!

Thanks also to our team equipment sponsors AY UP and HOKA as once again we put your gear to the test in the mud and rain and came out the other side smiling.

Finally thanks and congratulations to all of the Tri Adventure crew who not only support Tri Adventure, but backed up after a big few weeks of racing to complete the ARA Dawn Attack / Darkside. We are so proud of you and your enthusiasm one of which is Michele Krome who took most of the photos in this blog.

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