What an awesome event. Although bearing the trademark of most inaugurals with the odd minor hiccup here and there, this was the perfect race for anyone looking to get a taste of their first navigational multi-sport adventure race. The terrain was tough yet rewarded racers with spectacular views, while the weather threw all four seasons in our face over the course of the two days. In the wake of a massive Melbourne heat wave, it is probably safe to say that the majority were not expecting the conditions we faced over the weekend….especially Day 1. Cold. Wet. Low vis.
Before I dive into a full on narrative, allow me to introduce our team….Team 11: Too Legit To Quit. In chronological order…
Richard Turning a respectable 5-0 earlier in the week, we thought it safe to badge Rich as “Silverback” being the eldest and with the assumption he would be sporting the thickest tufts of grey hair. An accomplished cyclist, adventure racer and IronMan finisher, Rich made the long journey from Noosa to climb on board. He loved every minute (well, most of them) of the 84km we covered on the mountain bikes and with that kind of a background, he was pretty happy to run as well. While there’s not a lot of kayak action found in triathlons, these stages were no major drama for the big gorilla.
Simon aka “Mad Mud Muppet”….Mad: self explanatory. Mud: Generally happier crawling, climbing or traversing through swamp slime. Muppet: an accurate description of my previous multi-sport endeavour (thank you, Lorne). Thankfully not following too closely behind Rich at a sprightly 43, it was just a case of trying to keep up with my team mates. Once I settled in, I really enjoyed the mountain biking and the paddle was a warmly welcomed rest for the legs….the run, however, kicked my arse on Day 2…I would have traded that for a dozen CrossFit WODs.
James aka “Good-O”: Like the happy guy pictured below, when given the green light Jimmy would just go and go and go…pretty much unstoppable in all three disciplines. During the course of each day’s racing, I didn’t know whether I wanted to hug him, put weights in his backpack or throw rocks at him. The last option was usually out of the question because if I could throw that far I’d be an NFL quarterback. The Veteran-class 38 year old was strong on the ride with his new 29-er rolling along effortlessly, very happy to run and comfortably held lead position on the paddle while still able to consume a full picnic lunch between each paddle stroke. I’d be lying if I didn’t get some misplaced enjoyment out of witnessing his minor “off” during the last mountain bike stage…finally, proof he was not all machine. Your software must need updating, mate 😉
Claire aka “windmills”: Renowned for defying medical science with a running gait that would leave a mere mortal an amputee. Spouse of Good-O, Claire loves running over any terrain as fast as her external rotation will carry her and has been badged as a multi-sport athlete and trail runner by local media . While we’ve all been taught to never reveal the age of a lady, those that know her would understand that law holds no jurisdiction here 😉 A spring chicken of 34yrs, Claire and I shared each other’s company a fair bit on the mountain bike stages while Jimmy and Rich sailed on. This provided each of us with random entertainment as we threw ourselves off the bikes at what felt like regular intervals. Running however was a different story…she was in a self-confessed comfort zone. Forced to hold back her pace thanks to yours truly, it was like giving someone a race-tuned trail bike to ride but forbidding them to engage anything above second gear.
Keeping our ragged group of four warm, fed, watered and loved was our award winning support crew (true…if there was such an award they would win it hands down). Whether it was pre-race day prep, stage transitions or post-race recovery these guys were telepathic. We would only have to imagine it and Sharon, Tom and Amy would have an exact match already sorted. Food laid out, kit organised, holding the coffee cup for you because you’re shaking with borderline hypothermia or just dishing out a reassuring pat-pat-rub, “there, there”. It was all awesome…thanks guys.
LINING UP FOR THE START
We all know the mandatory running around in the lead-up to a race like this….
- Organise gear for each stage: paddle gear prep (Peak Adventure), running gear prep (Asics) and bike gear prep (AstroBoy Racer)
- Gather all the nutrition and clean supplements you can carry (Protein Supplies Australia)
- Pack as much random paraphernalia as possible….rollers, stretch bands, anti-inflammatory gel (RapiGel), fascia flossing compression bands….and the list goes on 🙂
- Rekindle past love-hate relationships* (Hammer Perpetuem)
*Surf Coast Century Race Review: I was hungry too…the consequence of having a mental hissy fit at the thought of so much as touching another drop of my Hammer Perpetuem. I mean SERIOUSLY (!), who the f^ck comes up with a flavour like “orange-vanilla”?? This was more than your typical flavour-fatigue….it was a messy divorce. Take your defectively flavoured (yet highly effective) carbohydrate and shove it up your arse.
Ok, ok…I’ve retracted my earlier statement and sought domestic refuge with another flavour, Strawberry-Vanilla. Great? No. Different? Yeah, enough to put up with it, I guess. Bottom line is that this stuff works. I’ve tried others and paid dearly with excruciating muscle cramps. I was originally aiming for the Caffe Latte flavour but was worried I may not sleep for a year with that much caffeine coursing through my veins.
I had this checklist pretty well sorted in time to allow for my usual pre-race nervous ticks….pacing around, unpack, check, repack, repeat, more pacing around. I was even blessed with a pre-race nightmare where I found myself sleeping through the start of the race, waking just in time to see Windmills crossing the line at the end of a run stage only to have her look at me with disbelief, exclaiming “WTF are you doing? Where’s your bike?”. In a mad state of panic I bolted for the mountain bike transition area only to find it was the scene of a serious motor vehicle accident. The sole casualty was….my bike. A mangled piece of twisted aluminium underneath a smouldering family sedan. Cue: freak out and wake up.
Whatever the translation, I can assure you it had me sleeping lightly (and thinking carefully about where to set my bike up).
After being kindly collected from home by Good-O and the Silverback on Friday morning, it was a leisurely journey to the Victorian Alpine National Park where our home base would be tucked in the surrounds of the Falls Creek village. With Windmills and Amy arriving a few hours behind us, we sorted out our accommodation and gear with enough time to meander down to the race briefing and consume our own weight in pasta. Other than to discover someone had the same bloody team name as us (WTF?!), the briefing held no major surprises so we returned to the apartment to get things finalised.
As usual and despite the general fatigue of the day, it took bloody ages to get to sleep. Plus the nocturnal farts of a Silverback are not to be underestimated ;). With Day 1 kicking off at 0700 we were up at 0500 to get organised before ducking out to sort out the bike/paddle transition area. Eat, drink and pre-race nervous poos (my system went into overdrive….I clocked up at least 8-10 over the two days).
Wearing: Asics Fuji Sensor 2, Asics Statement Gore windbreaker vest, Asics arm warmers, 2XU compression tri-shorts, 2XU compression socks, Netti spray jacket, Salomon compression top, Suunto Ambit 2 Sapphire HR*
Carrying: First aid kit, hydration pack (2.5L) with Hammer Perpetuem/Endurolytes/Gels and compulsory race gear (thermal top, headlamp)
* GPS devices were banned from use however I had an exemption for the purpose of collecting data for this article. This device was never used to create a competitive advantage.
With the exception of bike helmet/shoes and paddling footwear, this stuff accompanied me for the entire race. I was stoked with how the gear held together (and held me together). With special credit to Asics, the Fuji Sensor 2‘s were faultless and kept my achilles niggle pretty much silenced for the full duration…clearly proven by the fact it flared up the morning after Day 2. With the weather the way it was, the windbreaker vest was a life saver….this was made bleedingly obvious when I hit the first paddle stage without it, returning with an uncontrollable teeth chatter and shaking to the point Amy had to hold the (sooo good) cup of coffee for me. From this point on, I never took it off.
DAY 1 NUMBERS
DAY 2 NUMBERS
I’ll remain positive and refrain from labeling some of these as “low”lights….time seems to have allowed my subconscious to bury most of the trauma only to have it resurrected….reborn as war stories 🙂 If anyone reads this with different versions of events or worthy additions, please knock yourself out in the comments box : ).
- Day 1 / Run 1: When you’re racing for two days straight, expecting to cover some pretty decent mileage, it is important to settle into a pace that is sustainable. I don’t know whether it was the altitude or I was just a bit stale, but I was sucking in the big ones within 15 minutes. I felt like shit and was quietly terrified something was going wrong. After checking the data from my Suunto Ambit2 at the end of the day, I was a bit wide-eyed to see my heart rate had spiked to 92%. In the midst of my horror, Windmills thought this was hilarious.
- Day 1 / Kayak: The fog on the water was pretty cool but a pain in the arse for our navigation. While this was all good, I was not prepared for the wind chill and I began a teeth chatter that Good-O could hear across the water. At transition to the bikes I was barely able to get changed and incapable of holding the perfectly warming cup of coffee Amy offered up. It took a good five minutes to feel human.
- Day 1 / MTB: Again taking a bit to find my riding legs, this was a 50km slog over some gnarly terrain. Within an hour of the ride, the heavy mud had my front brake screaming at full volume…virtually useless from this point on. Pissed off. Very low cloud cover concealed the peaks you would usually navigate by and some of the tracks were pretty heavy going. Whenever you descended into a checkpoint you knew you were going to have to haul arse to get back out again. However, any frustration from tough climbs or hidden checkpoints was eclipsed by the highly entertaining “Crash Test Claire” show. Once the nanosecond formality of “Are you ok?” passed, an illuminated green light signalled permission to laugh hard. The deep ruts were constantly knocking our feet out of the pedal clips and falls were inevitable….well, for most of us anyway. One of my own dives rated a “That was great to watch” from a passing competitor. You’re welcome, bud…glad I could be of service.
- Day 1 / Run 2: After scraping through the cut-off by the skin of our teeth, we ventured off-track as we collected the scattered checkpoints. This was a highlight simply because we could smell the finish line.
- Day 1 / MTB 2: A highlight because we got to do this….this clip gives you a great idea of the cloud cover we had to work through. Take it away, James…
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- Day 2 / MTB 1: Sweet single track. Cool time trial concept. ‘Nuff said.
- Day 2 / Run 1: This sucked arse. It was a 15km rodgering of epic proportions, taking us through 562m of ascent. At one point we went through a 600m drop in 17 minutes before having to climb nearly 400m to the finish line. I had some seriously fierce internal dialogue going at this point….furious that my legs were not doing what I wanted them to.
- Day 2 / Paddle: Minimal use of legs required. Highlight.
- Day 2 / Run 2: It was running. Lowlight. Only a short one. Highlight.
- Day 2 / MTB 2: Signifying the final stage of the race, it was good to know we were almost there. Collecting checkpoints as we went, this involved a climb to the highest drive-able peak in Australia (1,859m). The pinch to the top of Mt McKay was a dog. When I saw it from a distance I actually thought I was not going to be able to climb it. Huffing like a steam train, it was a case of ride and suffer or get off and suffer more. It was too steep to accommodate a stop and re-start. When I hit the top of this bastard I felt the need to expel a primal war-cry and a bit of a fuck-you to ground under my feet. The boys just looked at me and grinned….Claire nearly fell of her bike. On the final section we were treated to that awesome single track again….being totally without a front brake, I saved my most spectacular spill for last. Running too wide out of a corner my front wheel disappeared over the edge, followed closely by my head and the rest of the bike. Landing in a soft bush…upside down….feet flapping in the breeze. Tragically, this went unobserved.
This took us to the finish line, finishing 13th out of 30 teams….a respectable first attempt. Met by our loud, beloved support crew it was all hugs, high-fives, tears and beers.
I am sorry, but this cannot go unmentioned. The public needs to know…
HIGHLIGHT: After hanging about at the finish line for cheering other teams across the line and race presentations, we decided to head back to the apartment for clean-up and beers (located at the highest point of the village of course). Ride the bikes back? Definitely. Jimmy and I get underway and I turn to look back at Rich and Claire just in time to see Claire’s encore, losing it thanks to a bad gear selection and veering off to wipe out Richard in a tangle of bikes and limbs. The perfect finish to the race. Total. Utter. Gold.
Despite all the pain and hard lessons learnt, it really was a great weekend in the best of company with plenty of laughs. Will we reunite in 2015? Who knows…I think the general consensus is not to rule it out. Personally, I’d be keen for it….pain is food for the soul.
With this monster in the rear view mirror, it’s time to switch eyes onto the next gig….the widely acclaimed Bike Buller MTB Festival. This is a 3-day mountain bike bonanza held on the spectacular trails at Mt Buller…another magical area of the breathtaking Victorian Alps.
There are 6 different races held over the course of the event with riders able to enter just one event OR enter the premier category and contest the big three races for the ultimate adrenaline challenge (like me). The Premier Category requires your hat thrown in the ring for the 50km Schwalbe Stirling Circuit XC (Saturday), the 4.5hr downhill Mavic Crossmax Enduro (Sunday)…ski-lifting back to the start of each run…thank you very much, and the 22km Cornhill Cranker (Monday). All races include a mixture of cross country courses that take in plenty of up hills and down hills whilst some races have an ‘all mountain’ focus with descending the name of the game.
Coinciding with the renowned ‘Picnic in the Park’ food, wine & music festival, the vast majority of events start and finish in the village square and with most competitors also staying on the mountain the whole event generates a terrific atmosphere as riders take over the mountain for a massive weekend. It’s gonna be awesome. Check out the videos below for a peek through the door…
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