Today was our first adventure race for the 2013 season; and what an even it was. My sister, and team mate, picked me up at 4:30am for the 1.5 hour drive to the even location at Wild Horse Mountain. After dropping our bikes, we drove over to race HQ to collect our race packs and prepare our maps.
Other than Wild Horse Mountain itself, which we weren’t going to run over, the course was almost dead flat. It consisted of three run, three mountain bike and one kayak leg. The navigation was quite basic. There were only two places where cross-country shortcuts would make sense; the rest of the course would follow forestry trails. However, that didn’t mean it would be a doddle because, as we were to find out, many of the trails were overgrown and difficult to distinguish from each other. And that was before we start talking about the mud. The recent rains have turned the pine forest trails into flowing creeks and slippery mud that clung to our shoes and wheels.
After marking the map, we had some time to relax before donning our packs and heading to the race start. The Camelbak is mine. It’s pretty average to run with because it moves a lot and doesn’t have any accessible pockets; I think I will save up for a Soloman SLab pack or something similar. But I digress. We had to carry some mandatory gear, including two litres of water, first aid kit and space blanket, and I carried food and a sports drink as well.
We started the race by running around Wild Horse Mountain to CP1. The field split in two as half the teams took the eastern route around the mountain while we took the western approach to CP1. The field was still fairly bunched as we hit CP1 and crossed the waist deep creek to get our first real feel for the ‘adventure’ component of the race. After crossing the creek we followed our ears to the drainage tunnels under the Bruce Hwy. We called out and whooped to make echoing noise as we waded through the half-filled tunnels.
The rest of the run out to TA1 took us through CPs 3 and 4. At TA1 we collected our mountain bikes and hit the trails. I was glad to be clipped into my pedals because the trail was slippery and muddy; being clipped in made it easier to keep my balance at slow speed as my tyres slipped and struggled to grab into the earth. By the time we crossed under the highway again (this time on a forestry trail) my tyres were so coated in mud I might as well have been riding on slicks.
We found CP7 easily before deciding not to follow the rest of the riders to CP8. They were all riding up the main trail and taking the easy navigation route but we found a narrow trail that was much shorter. We then rode on to CP9 where we again dropped our bikes to head into a mid-race rogaine. We had to find 6/7 checkpoints. This was the second of two time we were able to use a short-cut between CPs. Many teams ran from B to A along the main trails but we waded across a creek and ran cross-country to a more direct trail, overtaking teams as we ran. The rest of the rogaine was relatively easy and we were soon back on our mountain bikes.
The second mountain bike leg was fast. The trails were surprisingly dry and well-maintained so we made good time; as did everyone else. Then we dropped our bikes again a CP13 to hit a long hard foot section. The section was made tougher by the 1.5km of ankle-deep mud and slush we had to try running through, which had been churned up by the teams ahead of us. It was great fun.
After the run we collected the big heavy two-person kayaks that the event organisers had for us. Fortunately, the organisers had plenty of boats so there was no queue or delay. We carried the heavy bathtub down to the water, dropping it to push it through puddles as we went to reduce the strain (though kayaks were seriously heavy!).
The mosquitoes in Coochin Creek were hard core. Fortunately, my sister had a packet of mosquito wipes, which were brilliant and gave us relief. We’re strong on the water. We seem to be able to paddle in sync. My sister took the opportunity to take some nutrition on board and shared some with me. We overtook six teams out on the water and caught up with two others by the time we exited the creek. It’s a good feeling to be good at a discipline.
All that was left after the kayak was one last ride back to the finish. The final stretch was awesome! It was narrow, wet and muddy. The going was slow and I took a spill in a big puddle but that just added to the fun. Over the course of the race, my sister and I each took involuntary plunges into large puddles; and I intentionally jumped in a few too.
We finished strong and had a fantastic time. If you live in Australia and have ever thought about maybe giving an adventure race a try; I can recommend the Kathmandu series.
Total: 17.5km trail run, 18.6km mountain bike, 3km kayak – 4:04:45
Result: 7th / 39 mixed teams and 36th / 140 total teams