Category Archives: Adventure racing

Course setting

Trail setting gear by Andrew Gills
Trail setting gear, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

Now that we’ve committed to setting up a training course for our friends, my sister and I have to actually make sure we set a good map. We’ve worked out how to overlay the GPS-generated MTB trail maps off the internet onto the 1:25,000 topographic map that I bought earlier this year. Using the resulting map, we can rescale the maps to suit the course we set.

This morning I went out to start setting the course. I can’t give too much away because secrecy is key. But it was great fun riding around on my MTB looking for fun and challenging places to place checkpoints while also ensuring the course flows nicely.

I spent 1.5 hours out in the bush before work. I used a printed map, GPS app on my phone and a camera. It was great fun and I can’t wait to get out on Friday morning to keep plugging away. We only have 10 weeks to create our map and sew the flags. During those 10 weeks we both have a few trips away planned – so most of our prep will take place before and after work.

Total: That’s a secret because if I told you it would give away details of the map.

Maps & checkpoints

Maps & Checkpoints by andrewgillsag
Maps & Checkpoints, a photo by andrewgillsag on Flickr.

We have a 1:25,000 topographic map, an MTB trail map, orange & white fabric, a sewing machine and lots of imagination. We have plans to use this and our intimate knowledge of our local bushland to create something fun: an adventure race training course to challenge our friends.

We’ve never tried anything like this before. But, after just a year of racing, we think we can pull it off. Besides, this is just a fun day out where we hope to give our friends a chance to practice their skills and to introduce them to our local trails.

I’ll keep you posted as plans progress. But if you are coming along on the day, don’t expect to find actual CP locations on my blog. This is the only look at the map that you’ll get. And, in this current format, it’s too old to be of much use before we update it.

Here’s some hints about why this course could prove challenging but fun:
– the highest “peak” is just 82m
– most of the “peaks” are between 18-36m
– some young sections of she-oak are almost impenetrable, with the young trees standing literally side-by-side forming a wall of wood
– all we need is a day of rain for the swamp lands to fill with water and the surrounding lands to turn into a boggy mess
– we have some fantastic flowing MTB trails
– there will be some unusual extra challenges.

Today is a rest day for my body but an exciting day for my mind.

Whoops Witch Way are back in training

Off-track exploration by Andrew Gills
Off-track exploration, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

Team Whoops Witch Way took the winter off adventure racing and training. It was a way to keep balance in our lives. I walked The Great North Walk and completed Cycling for Hope. Suwati spent time with her family and did a lot of cycling with her 8yo son (he can ride up to 40km a day and still beg for more).

But the weather is warming back up so it’s time for us to get out into the bush together as a team. I never really left the bush but it’s different hitting it as a team to doing my own thing.

Today we went out for a trail run. Within 500m, Suwati had found us a wallaby track to follow and, before long, we were fighting our way through long matted scratchy reeds and then an eerie she-oak forest. It was grand fun. We just wandered into the bush for about 10 minutes and then decided it was time to find the track again. With just the sun for a compass we tracked east north-east for about twenty minutes to find the track (not the one we started on). Afterwards we checked our path on a GPS and discovered we did a great job walking in an almost dead-straight line.

After our time in the scrub we ran some single tracks and fire trails. It was a grand way to start the day.

Total: 8.2km trail run

More photos from Adventure Race Australia 2013

I never used to buy the professional photos from races when I did triathlon but with adventure racing I like to get the photos because the races are as much about the memories I am making with my sister as the racing.

Trekking early in the race (Photo by Element Photography)

Trekking early in the race (Photo by Element Photography)

Paddling in sync (Photo by Element Photography)

Paddling in sync (Photo by Element Photography)

Bike to trek transition (Photo by Element Photography)

Bike to trek transition (Photo by Element Photography)

At the Mt Cooroora lookout (Photo by Element Photography)

At the Mt Cooroora lookout (Photo by Element Photography)

My sister descending Mt Cooroora (Photo by Element Photography)

My sister descending Mt Cooroora (Photo by Element Photography)

Descending Mt Cooroora (Photo by Element Photography)

Descending Mt Cooroora (Photo by Element Photography)

See this post for race report.

Adventure Race Australia, Qld 2013

Bike drop

Bike drop

After camping out at the Pomona Showgrounds, we woke early to clear starry skies. Sure, it might have been cold, but that was good news because it meant the day would be perfect for adventure racing.

It was still dark when we left camp to drop our bikes near Lake McDonald, just a quarter hour drive away. By the time we got there, the kookaburras had finished their dawn song and the sun was shining; it was still cold though. We found a spot near the edge of the park to make it easy for us to find our metal horses and drove back to race HQ to collect our maps.

Using my shoelace as a map measurer

Using my shoelace as a map measurer

The maps seemed a little strange at first review. There just didn’t seem to be 6-7 hours of racing there. And some of the transition areas were too close together with no checkpoints in between. We and the teams around us were asking each other whether anyone had extra maps. But it was all a ploy: the In2Adventure course setters were up to tricks that would test teams’ navigation skills later in the day.

We had bought a map measurer just before the Rogue 24 Hr Adventuregaine in April but after the race I threw it in the wash with my dirty clothes. So I was left measuring out distances on the map with my shoelace for ARA (my shoelace was the only string I could find). We found it worked quite well: our navigation was almost all spot on during the race. Though I will be buying us a new map measurer before next season.

Ready to race

Ready to race

We packed our gear, attended race briefing and then boarded the bus to race start. As we boarded the bus, a marshal handed us an extra map containing a surprise foot rogaine leg. We still didn’t know where we were going to start the race and the map was only a small extract of the larger map we’d been given earlier. But we quickly identified where it fit into the large map and developed a plan of attack.

We pushed ourselves right from the start by running more than we walked in the trek legs. Our navigation was spot on in the first foot rogaine and we hit all the checkpoints fairly easily. Instead of following the crowd, we stuck to the game plan we had devised on the bus and it worked for us. The other teams’ plans seemed to work for them too but for us the important thing we have been working on is sticking to our own game plan.

We love to kayak

We love to kayak

The foot rogaine took us to Lake McDonald where we could see iAdventure’s kayak trailer waiting for us. We quickly carried the heavy and awkward Voyagers out of the steep trailer down to the water to collect the checkpoints around the lake’s edge. We worked hard to overtake other teams in our strongest leg while still enjoying the scenery. We’re quite fortunate that I’m a little bloke because many teams with bigger men in them (especially the all-male teams) really struggle with these Voyagers the cockpits are quite small and they tend to take on water quite easily. Being small means we can get a rhythm and paddle properly.

The water was cold so I was glad my sister is our paddle ferret. She did an awesome job jumping into waist deep water and fighting her way through water plants to attack the checkpoints instead of making us wait until other teams had moved their kayaks out of the way. This way we could stay out of the melee and I could turn the boat while my sister grabbed the CP. She is great at getting back in the boat in waist (and sometimes chest) deep water.

It was muddy

It was muddy

After a short run to the bike TA we hit the trails. It was a mud-lover’s dream out on the course. While my sister just barged her way through all the mud and water, I have to admit to riding like a nanna (actually, I ride slippery tracks so poorly that it’s an insult to nannas to say that 🙂 ). During the race I decided to take the clipless pedals off my bike and to ride with flats for a while to build confidence and skills. I still had a ball though.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking

When we first checked the map at HQ we thought we’d be in trouble today with so much of the course being on the bike. But as we made our way around, we realised that it was definitely a navigator’s course. Through some good tactical decisions and strong navigation we were able to keep up with teams who would usually be far ahead of us in the course (i.e. teams who ride like pros and who don’t have to wait for my nanna-like riding).

Urgh! Not the powerlines again

Urgh! Not the powerlines again

Much of the course traveled through trails and bushland that we traversed in last year’s Adventure Race Australia. Unfortunately for our legs, we had a repeat of the hills along the power line. But at least it made the navigation here easy because we knew exactly where to turn off (after pushing the bikes up of the nasty hills).

Loving life on the course

Loving life on the course

Despite (or perhaps because of) the prospect of the powerline hills, my sister and I were having a brilliant time out on the course.

Marking up the map for the surprise bike rogaine

Marking up the map for the surprise bike rogaine

The race had plenty of surprises for us, including five surprise rogaines (three on foot, the kayak leg and one on the MTBs). My sister did a fantastic job marking up the maps for us. This has been a big development for us – being able to share the navigation. In our first few races, I was in charge of the maps but over time my sister’s confidence has increased and now she navigates us on the bikes and kayak while I navigate on foot. We split it based on our strengths. I am our rear seat paddler on the water and she has better eyes than me on the bikes (I wear reading glasses), while I love navigating and find my eyes manage ok on foot.

A beautiful day for trekking

A beautiful day for trekking

Just as we thought we were nearing the finish of the race, the In2Adventure folks threw a really nasty surprise our way.

Climbing Mt Cooroora

Climbing Mt Cooroora

We had to climb Mt Cooroora of Pomona King of the Mountain fame. To make things more interesting, they placed a checkpoint half-way up the mountain on the main hiking track. Unfortunately, we were one of many teams who took a steep shortcut up the mountain only to realise we had to run about 700m back down to get the CP on the main hiking track and then trek all the way back up. It was a piece of course setting brilliance.

Mt Cooroora from Race HQ

Mt Cooroora from Race HQ

Once we were almost near the top of Mt Cooroora, we got to stop to take on the best adventure leg of the race: a happy snap by a professional photographer. We played silly buggers for ours so I look forward to seeing how it turned out. The views from the top were fantastic (as you might imagine from the photo of the mountain above).

From Mt Cooroora we ran back to our bikes, rode to Race HQ. The final surprise foot rogaine was a short sharp effort, culminating in my turn to swim when I ended up waist deep in water to collect a checkpoint in the middle of a creek. That was heaps of fun and had me laughing.

Wet and muddy shoes are a sign of a good day out

Wet and muddy shoes are a sign of a good day out

We finished strong and had a great day out on the course. We have no idea how we went results-wise but it doesn’t matter. We know we raced hard and had loads of fun. We stuck to our game plan and did our own navigation, rather than following the crowds. This is our last adventure race before November. There are only three or four more races in South-East Queensland in the coming months but we have commitments for each. So now we have a few months to hone our navigation and mountain biking, and improve our fitness.

Total: 6 hours of adventure racing made up of 29.1km MTB, about 12km trail running and 4km paddling.

Looking for a team mate for two events

Unfortunately, my Whoops Witch Way team mate has to travel overseas for urgent family business so she’s no longer able to race with me in our next rogaine and adventure race. So I’m looking for a team mate to come along to either (or both) the:

Both races are being held within 2 hours of Brisbane, Australia. Cost is:

  • $10 membership to Rogaining Qld for the Navigate Like Byron race
  • $80 for the iAdventure sprint race (which is cheaper than early bird entry).

You do not need to have any rogaining, adventure racing or navigation experience. I’m happy to use these two events as opportunities to introduce you to either or both sports. All you need is:

Navigate Like Byron rogaine

  • Ability to walk for up to 8 hours with rests
  • Sense of adventure because we are likely to get geographically embarrassed at times
  • Transport to / from the event
  • Your own food for the duration of the event

iAdventure Sprint Adventure Race

  • Mountain bike and Australian safety approved helmet
  • Whistle
  • Ability to cycle off-road on fire trails and simple single tracks (it is okay to walk uphill or through technical sections of the course)
  • Ability to walk for up to 4 hours with rests
  • Sense of adventure because anything can happen during an adventure race (though we are less likely to get lost than in the rogaine)
  • Transport to / from the event
  • Your own food for the duration of the event

Unfortunately, we are unlikely to get a chance to train together before the events because I have a Scout camp and the Adventure Race Australia this weekend. But, hey, if we both bring our sense of humour with us it can still be fun.

If you are interested, leave a comment and I’ll be in touch by email (while your email address doesn’t show publicly, I can see it through the administrator function in my blog).

Rogue 24hr Adventuregaine

Suwati carrying kayak out of creek after Stage 1 (Photo courtesy of Rogue Adventure)

Suwati carrying kayak out of creek after Stage 1 (Photo courtesy of Rogue Adventure)

As I sit here on Monday morning, it’s difficult to know how to start writing about the fantastic weekend my team mate and I had at the Rogue 24hr Adventuregaine. If all anyone looked at was the points on the scoreboard, they might think that Whoops Witch Way had a shocking race, scoring just 1670 out of a possible 3370 points, making us 34th of 45 teams or 14th out of 17 mixed teams. But scoreboards sometimes do lie. Both members of Whoops Witch Way agree that the Rogue 24hr Adventuregaine was one of the most fantastic weekends either of us have ever had.

At midday Saturday, we set off on the first of four stages: a 20km kayak down Yabba Creek. As with all rogaining events, all checkpoints are optional and teams may complete them in any order within a given stage. We had established a game plan intended to ensure we had an enjoyable and physically challenging weekend while also building our confidence for future rogaining events (this was only our second rogaine). So, instead of running off to CP1 with the other teams, we walked down to the kayak transition and set off on the water.

Yabbe Creek contained just enough water for us to paddle. The lowest recommended depth for paddling the creek is when 6cm water flows over the dam wall; we had 7cm. This meant we had a few little portages and sections where we had to get out so that the kayak could float over shallow sections of the creek. Though the lack of water also meant we could limbo our way under some of the bridges and fallen trees that crossed over the creek. There were even some small shallow and simple rapids for us to negotiate on our way downstream to add a bit of spice to the day.

Our tactic to skip the first checkpoint meant that we had the creek to ourselves for most of the stage. We saw the lead teams twice as they passed us in the first half of the stage and then again after they stopped to do the optional foot rogaine mid-stage. Both teams were friendly and didn’t complain when they got stuck behind us in narrow sections of the creek. Team Spin City Cycles even gave us a few tips to help us improve our paddling efficiency as they raced past us.

The view from CP19 (Stage 2 MTB)

The view from CP19 (Stage 2 MTB)

Our transition between stages 1 and 2 was slow and deliberate. We dried off with a towel, changed into dry clothing, laid out a picnic blanket and made chicken wraps, which we sat down to eat. All around us, teams were moving quickly to cram food into their systems and refill their hydro packs. It was amazing to be sitting there amidst some of adventure racing and rogaining’s elite teams to see how different their approach is to our’s. One by one, each of the teams disappeared into the distance, taking the northern route option out into the forest. About half an hour after we arrived, we too were ready to set off in the opposite direction.

Selfie at CP19 (Stage 2 MTB)

Selfie at CP19 (Stage 2 MTB)

We decided to focus our mountain bike leg on accuracy, rather than distance. We selected a 40km route that took us through some of the less hilly terrain. This was all part of our game plan to select a route suitable to our abilities that would allow us to really enjoy the weekend. We started the ride in daylight, enjoying some quiet forestry roads that ran along a bubbling creek. As the sun started to set, we came upon CP19, one of the most stunning points on the course. There was no way I was letting the moment pass without stopping to take some photos of the view and an obligatory selfie of our smiling faces.

As day turned to night, we cruised around the course collecting all the checkpoints we had marked up on the map. We only saw a handful of other teams as they either rode towards us or were stopped filling bottles at the water station. We even took time to stop and attach multicoloured glow sticks to ourselves and our bikes; such were our spirits.

We were the first team to arrive at Race HQ after stage 2, not because we were fastest but probably because we rode the shortest distance. The lovely Gary and Kim (from Team Mountain Designs who won the 8-hour race), and their friends came over to HQ to share a laugh with us. It sounded like they’d had a magnificent day on the 8-hour course and an enjoyable evening around the campfire. Their tips and encouragement were greatly appreciated as we prepared to head off onto Stage 3, a night navigation trek course that would prove to be a challenge.

Stage 3 was not our most productive in terms of  points. We spent three hours trekking and only found two of the four checkpoints we attempted. However, with a near-full moon, cloudless skies and only the two lead teams out on the course with us, the late night trek was stunning. After wasting an hour desperately trying to find CP34, only to learn later that we had walked straight past it, we turned off our headlamps and trotted off down the gravel road. As we ran/walked our way along the road, we watched the lead teams’ head torches climb up and back down a mountain to CP33. It made us glad we hadn’t decided to head out for it because they had to go a long way uphill. We found the easy win at CP28 and then another easy find at CP32 along a fenceline before spending about an hour trudging around looking for the 100 pointer at CP31. We have learned that we were again mere metres from our goal. Had we stuck to our game plan we might just have found it but we made the tactical error of believing we were in the wrong place because one of the top two teams (who cleared the course) were somewhere different to us.

While we didn’t score many points in Stage 3, it did serve as a reminder for us to race our own race and ignore everyone else on the course, no matter how good they are.

We returned to Race HQ around 1am and decided to punch in, ending all thoughts we might have of returning to the stage 3 trek leg. With kayaks for the final stage being unavailable until 5am, we decided to hit the hay. My team mate did a fantastic job setting up camp so that we could both crash out for a solid three hour slumber.

Morning mist on Booroomba Dam (Stage 4)

Morning mist on Booroomba Dam (Stage 4)

At 4am we woke and prepared ourselves for the final stage: a kayak with optional trek legs around Booroomba Dam. The sleep was just what we needed to refresh our bodies and spirits, ready for a long paddle in perfect conditions.

Paddling out of the mist from CP45 (Stage 4)

Paddling out of the mist from CP45 (Stage 4)

We were one of four teams to launch their boats at 5:30am. With the lead teams taking off in opposite directions around the course, we were soon paddling alone enjoying the misty pre-dawn light. Visibility was limited as the mist hung thick in the air. For most of the first hour, the only colour in our world was the bright red boat, yellow PFDs, and orange and white checkpoint markers.

At CP49 (Stage 4) (Photo courtesy of Rogue Adventure)

At CP49 (Stage 4) (Photo courtesy of Rogue Adventure)

The dam was populated by armies of dead trees, standing eerily in the water watching silently. It wasn’t until we saw them that we realised why CP49 was a 100-pointer. The clue ‘on dead tree’ but the CP was hidden amongst hundreds such trees standing in a large clump. As we came out of the inlet from CP45, we could just make out the shape of a team paddling amongst the dead trees some distance away. We couldn’t tell whether or not they had found the CP, but we decided to head in that general direction to check things out. The other team left the area quickly without us being able to tell where they’d stopped. But between our angle or approach and the first rays of sunlight, we were lucky enough to spot the bright orange marker in the distance and made a beeline for it. A random kayaker we saw paddling around turned out to be one of the race directors who snapped a photo of us celebrating our successful find.

Paddling to CP50 (Stage 4)

Paddling to CP50 (Stage 4)

As the sun rose, the day just got even more beautiful. The black water reflected the shoreline and sky, as bright blue kingfishers flitted around looking for breakfast.

Paddling to CP50 (Stage 4)

Paddling to CP50 (Stage 4)

We found all the kayak checkpoints in stage 4 but opted not to attempt the trekking CPs because we wanted to remember the race for the successes and joys, rather than risking frustration.

We had such a fun time on the race

We had such a fun time on the race

There will be other races in which Whoops Witch Way race for the purpose of finishing as high on the scoreboard as we possibly can. But sometimes, you just have to go out to have fun. The Rogue 24hr Adventuregaine tested our physical endurance and was a huge confidence-builder in our first full season together as a team. We’ve never attempted such a long event and discovered that, with a few hours sleep, we can keep it together and keep our heads. All going well, you’ll see team Whoops Witch Way at the start line for the 2014 Rogue 24hour Adventuregaine. And, who knows, we might just have a little more experience, confidence and skills by then so that we can race a little further while still just having fun.

Total:

  • 34th / 45 teams total
  • 14th / 17 mixed teams
  • About: 35km paddle, 40km MTB, 15km trek