Category Archives: Sunshine Coast

A teaser

image

Here’s a teaser pic from the end of day 1 on the Noosa Trail Network.  I’ll be home late tomorrow night. But I just have to share my pic of the view from tonight’s camp.

Advertisements

Glasshouse Mountains Trail Run: Flinders Tour

At 12.5km. I was feeling strong.

I did it! I completed my first 50km trail run today. And I did it the day after I completed the Conondale Range Great Walk so I am doubly proud of my efforts.

The Flinders Tour is part of the Glasshouse Mountains Trail Running series, which has a history dating back to 1990 when the Glasshouse 100 was the first 100 mile trail run in Australia. The Flinders Tour event, held every July, has a 10km, 25km and 50km option; I took the 50km options.

A lot of the course was on fire trail

I took the early start option because I wasn’t sure I’d make the cut-offs. I was moderately confident of making the 7 hours cut-off for the finish but didn’t think I’d make the 3:15 cut-off for 27km. I also didn’t want to run with the pressure of time chasing me. I wanted the luxury of knowing that I could totally bonk and walk half the course while still finishing within the adjusted 8 hour cut-off.

The course started with a nasty run up Mt Beerburrum. While the mountain is only about 289m high, the trail is bitumen and heads straight up. All but one of us in the early start walked the entire bitumen section of the climb. The views of the breaking dawn creeping over the Glasshouse Mountains were a brilliant way to start the run.

At 25km. Still feeling strong.

After Mt Beerburrum the course followed fire trails and short sections of single track through the pine forest plantations that surround the Glasshouse Mountains. I traveled well for the first 18km. I ran all the flats and downhills, and walked only some of the hills. At 18km I hit a small wall because my feet started to hurt a lot from the sharp gravel that covered much of the fire trail. But I walked my way through it for about 500m and then decided I was going to run to the 20km mark. That was all I needed because just after 20km I reached the third checkpoint where they had Endura, watermelon and salty pretzel sticks.

After the aid station I decided to run to 25km, take a photo and keep running to the 27km turn around. And that’s exactly what I did. I ran. I wanted to prove that I could reach 27km in 3:15. While I would have missed the cut-off if I’d started at the actual start time because I left the turn around checkpoint at 3:20, I was happy to have made it to the turn around in 3:15 and to be feeling strong. Just before the turn around I passed all the 25km runners who were running towards us. There were a lot of them and passing each other was difficult but it was a lovely change to running alone (I ran alone from about 8km to just before the 27km turn around).

A small stretch of single track through long grass.

After the turn around I felt strong as I ran towards the 30km mark but then started to get a bit lost in the enormity of the challenge. I had to fight my mind telling me that it was silly to be out there. But I was prepared for this eventuality and simply kept reminding myself what a blessing it is to be able to participate in this type of event. Just after 32km we ran down a short section of single track. I knew it was coming so for the 2km I was struggling I waited for the checkpoint so that I could enjoy the single track. It was rough and grassy; a fun area to run.

Occasionally we actually saw the Glasshouse Mountains

After the single track we ran on more fire trail. I was finding the going tough on my feet. While the Vibrams are great for my form, my feet definitely aren’t yet tough enough to handle this type of rocky terrain. I think it’s because I couldn’t move my toes to change the way they impacted against the rocks; they were just splayed in the shoes’ toes. So I decided to buy a pair of Merrel Trail Gloves as an alternate running shoe for this type of longer run where the surface will be too hard for my feet in the Vibrams. No doubt I’ll be able to run this type of course in Vibrams in future; I just need to give my feet time (you have all seen my training reports and probably realise I don’t really do enough miles to have tough feet yet).

This is where I hit the wall bad!

At 37.56km I hit the wall really badly. I had been running steadily more slowly since 30km with bursts of energy. I was still happy with my speed of 7.8kph. Fortunately, there were three ladies who were walking the 25km course who I came across as I hit the wall. I spent 2km walking with them. They kept me going by chatting to me. It was amazing. I was feeling horribly low and talking to them took my mind off the pain in my feet and the struggle in my mind.

And then I hit a checkpoint. I had eaten a Powerbar while I was walking, and stocked up on Endura, Coke, watermelons and salty pretzel sticks at the checkpoint. It did the trick. I started to run. And I felt so empowered and high that I took this short video clip to share with you all.

We had to run through this virtual obstacle course twice.

At the top of the hill I was walking up in that clip I had to navigate my way through an obstacle course of fallen tree trunks that were laying across the track. They were probably put there to stop dirt bikers from traveling on the trail but they also made life difficult for me. But not so difficult that I couldn’t keep going. After crossing the tree trunks I ran all the way down the next hill and then started to catch back up to the runners who had overtaken me when I was struggling with the wall.

The view back at the 50km mark

Exhausted at 50km and hating the fact that the course was an extra 1.64km long

And then it happened. I hit that sweet spot where I could keep running through my exhaustion. I caught up with and overtook five experienced ultra runners who I’d been trading places with all day (they had also taken the early start). And I just kept going! I decided that I wanted to finish the race in less than 7 hours. My mind took over and I was able to ignore the pain in my body (to an extent). The extra 1.64km over 50km was really tough but I pushed through. The mind is stronger than the body.

I took these two video clips with my phone to share the final stretch of my 50km trail run with you. Sorry about the quality though.

Total: 51.64km in 6:48.

Adventure Race Australia (Queensland)

Team Whoops Which Way? on the ARA course

What is Adventure Race Australia (ARA)?

Adventure Race Australia was a 6-8 hour adventure race held yesterday at the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. The event has a reputation as a fun and challenging day out for two- or three-person teams who work together to navigate a 5-8 hour adventure race course. The courses generally consist of rogaining, trekking, mountain biking and adventure legs, which can comprise anything from kayaking to abseiling. Yesterday’s event included rogaining, trekking, mountain biking and kayaking. While the lead teams probably took somewhere between five and six hours to complete the course, we were out on the course for just under eight hours.

Our two-person mixed team was called ‘Whoops Which Way?’. For both of us, it was our first adventure race; and my team mate has only ridden a mountain bike once before and that was a short one hour ride with her six-year-old son. We bought our compasses this past week and neither of us had tried them out. However, we still entered the Hardcore event instead of the Raw one (the Raw course is a three-hour course for beginners).

Studying navigation the night before our race

Bike drop at 6:15am

Pre-race

We drove to Race HQ on Saturday night and stayed in a bunk room at Teen Mission Noosa, which was Race HQ for the weekend. The bunk accommodation was basic but comfortable, and we had the whole dorm to ourselves. We arrived at about 8pm and, after settling in, we had one last navigation study session. I re-read the relevant chapters from one of my navigation handbooks and then explained the basic principles to my team mate. By 10:30pm we had swotted up and were ready for lights out.

On race morning we had to drive about 30 minutes to drop our bikes at the Transition Area (TA). Being a triathlete, I expected there to be racks set up and for us to have to pass a bike / helmet safety inspection. However, as I discovered throughout the day, adventure racing is much more, well, adventurous than triathlon. Bike drop involved us simply finding a tree against which to park our bikes anywhere within a reasonable radius of the bike drop sign.

Our bikes were definitely in a league of their own at the TA. Mine was the only one without any suspension or disc brakes and, at a cost of $250 in 2009 it was probably worth $1,500 less than all but my sister’s bike. But we were to discover later in the day that bikes don’t make an adventure racer – the key is navigation, team work and strategy (though I’m sure it does make a difference when you are competitive).

One last pre-race photo at 7:30am

Our marked up map (blue highlight is intended route and yellow as back-up plan)

Registration and race start

After bike drop we traveled back to Race HQ where we registered and were issued with our maps. We were lucky because the 1:30,000 scale maps included a magnetic north grid system, so we didn’t have to adjust for declination. We had about an hour to read the race directions and to decide on our navigation strategy. Using two different coloured highlighters we marked out our intended route and, in some places, an emergency back-up for if we missed a navigation point or if the terrain didn’t quite match our expectations for an are (such as if trails were overgrown on the ground). We also made one final gear, hydration and nutrition check.

Race briefing started at 7:35am. It was clear, concise and informative. The three key rules for the day were: stay safe, have fun and look after each other (whether team mate or competitor) on the course. During race briefing we were told that the extra map in our kit (an A4 map containing checkpoints B-F) related to an extra rogaining section we could chose to complete either at the start or end of the event. We were also told that three buses were waiting to take us to the start line, some 30 minutes drive away. The first bus would depart at 8:10am with the other buses departing either when full or at 8:20am. So teams had to make a strategic decision whether they wanted to catch the first bus to the course start or two attempt the rogain first.

The race started at 8:00am and we made a strategic decision to run for the first bus and to take the extra 10 minutes to relax and study the map. We felt that we would have a better navigation and search rhythm after a full day in the bush than we had at the start when we were still unsure what exactly to expect on the course. The strategy also allowed us to get a head start out on the course to reduce time pressures before the course was closed in the afternoon.

Oh and it’s not bad luck to be team number 13.

Out on the trekking leg – the only creek where we kept our feet dry

Leg 1 – Trail run / Trek

The first leg of the event was a trail run / trek. Our route was about 10km long and took us through a mix of major trails, overgrown trails and bush bashing. We made the mistake of following all the other teams to find the first checkpoint because almost everyone on our bus made the same mistake of taking the wrong trail at an intersection. However, while all the other teams were searching in bushland just off the track, I identified that we should have been at a 4-way junction instead of a 3-way junction so we were able to correct our earlier error by heading up the branch trail at the junction to find the checkpoint.

Each checkpoint consisted of a red and white flag attached to a tree (often on the side facing away from the tracks). To register at a checkpoint we used an electronic rogaining / orienteering dibber that the race organisers had given us.

From that point on, we stopped watching other teams and trusted our navigation skills. While we might only have honed our compass skills the previous night, we actually have a wealth of natural navigation and map reading skills from a lifetime outdoors. This kept us in good stead as we passed many more experienced teams who were running around like headless chickens while we calmy (and sometimes stealthily) walked directly to checkpoint locations.

At one point a more experienced team we had been near on the bus were having difficulty finding a checkpoint. They knew they had to cross a creek to find another non-joining trail but hadn’t looked closely enough at the map to see that the trail we were on met the creek twice: once with the creek to the south and once with the creek to the east. The crossing had to be made where the creek was to our east. (There was no track across the creek). The team gave up and backtracked to find a more direct route. During their backtrack they passed us and told us they were struggling to find the checkpoint. One of the team asked us whether we could help them identify their current position on the map but their team leader said not to listen to us because we were beginners. It was a tactical mistake on their part because, when we reached the MTB transition area ahead of them they told us they had wasted at least 10 minutes unable to find the checkpoint and had ended up following another team to it. When they asked us, they were about 120m from the checkpoint and only 40m from the correct creek crossing. Instead they backtracked about 500m on tracks to approach from another direction.

We performed well on the trek leg, finding checkpoints with ease and navigating accurately. We made some excellent decisions about whether to follow trails or bush-bash, which saved us time and energy. We conserved energy by walking up hills and using the time to confirm out geographic location and navigation tactics. This allowed us to run past many teams as they were either stopped on the track struggling to find their current location or who were unable to find checkpoints.

This is apparently a trail.; fortunately our nav is spot on so we are able to follow it

Leg 2 – MTB

The second leg of the event was a long MTB section. We knew this would be more difficult for us than the trekking section. Neither my team mate nor I are experienced mountain bikers. I’ve been doing a little bit the past few months but am still very much a beginner. My team mate has only ridden once and was anxious about whether she had the skills to handle the course. In the end, it didn’t matter. We both stayed upright and put on a solid performance.

The actual MTB riding wasn’t highly technical. It took in mostly fire trails, overgrown tracks and flowing single track. The real keys to our performance in this leg were navigation, energy conservation and team work. Again, our navigation skills meant we could find checkpoints easily and that we could take short cuts that other teams raced past. As we had in the trekking leg, we walked up all the steep hills rather than cranking up them at a slow pace. This gave us time both to recover and to make important navigation decisions without stopping our forward momentum. But it was team work that really got us through the long MTB sections. Being the stronger cyclist (I’m a triathlete and my team mate is a soccer player), I was able to give my team mate a rest by pushing her bike up the steep hills while we walked. This gave her time to fully recover and to keep going long after her legs had told her it was time to stop. On her part, she told me when she needed to slow down or rest, which meant that we were both able to maintain our enjoyment and complete the race. My team mate was also an excellent checkpoint hunter. She fearlessly threw herself into the bush no matter how many scratches she got and she seemed to be able to find the checkpoints as though they were on a radar.

We found that our tactic didn’t cost us much time, relative to the other teams we were near. Many of those teams would ride quickly to a point then stop to navigate, while we were able to almost seamlessly do so. Our team work was also the envy of many other competitors who were struggling to keep up with faster team mates. Some said repeatedly that they wished their team mates would wait for them and that their team mates would push their bikes up the hills for them while they were walking.

Leg 3 – Surprise rogaine

At Checkpoint 9 there was a surprise foot rogaine leg. We had a clue that it was coming because the checkpoint clues were listed as 1-9 and then 10-12. This was a fantastic opportunity for us to make up time and to get a lead on some of the teams we had been riding near. And make up time we did. We found a lot of short cuts, both along heavily overgrown trails and just straight through bushland. Our willingness to wade waist-deep through creeks also paid off here. We were still near the back of the field but at least we were holding our own back there.

I had a funny moment during this leg when I was running through some mud. My shoe was literally sucked off my foot and I was left hopping on the track asking my team mate to please go back and get it for me. It was like a scene from any B-grade slapstick comedy.

Leg 4 – MTB

After a quick surprise rogaine we were back out on our mountain bikes for leg 4. This was a long leg with few checkpoints and some quick gravel roads. The only real challenge was finding checkpoint 11, which did get us stumped for a while after we took a literal interpretation of the clue.

After marking the kayak checkpoints on the map

Using the short wait for a kayak to rest and recover

Leg 5 – Kayak

The kayak leg was a welcome reprieve from what felt like a long day in the saddle. The wait for kayaks also gave us an excellent opportunity to rest, refuel and take some more photos. We also used the time in the queue to mark out the kayak checkpoints on our map.

In this race we were provided with big plastic two-person kayaks. They handled like bathtubs and our kayak had plenty of water in it by the time we arrived. It didn’t slow us down though. While it’s been five years since I paddled a kayak (I used to be part of a social canoe club), my body remembered the technique and we were soon pushing ourselves forward in the water. While I had been a map hog on land, here I gave my team mate the map and she took charge of navigation while I took charge of steering the kayak.

We both paddled hard through the first two checkpoints and caught the two teams in front of us. We then set off for a long paddle across the lake to the third kayak checkpoint. I had my team mate rest periodically during this stretch so she could be fresh for the MTB leg. She’d paddle for a stretch then, as our momentum picked up I increased my stroke rate and she downed her paddle for a while. For her part, my team mate has excellent balance and she was able to nimbly exit and enter the kayak at each checkpoint, saving precious time. Seriously, she would just launch herself back into the kayak facing backwards and still be steady enough as she turned around that I could back paddle us out of the reeds.

By the time we returned to shore we had overtaken four teams and left them a long way behind. Our success was a combination of our ability to instinctively find a rhythm as a two-person paddling team and her ability to balance in the boat when she checked us into the checkpoints.

Leg 6 – MTB

The final MTB leg was the most technical of the day and we found ourselves riding down single track trails that neither of us would have attempted earlier in the day. My team mate did much better than me as she bounced down some crazy hills that I was too scared to attempt (i.e. trails I walked down).

We found our way back to Race HQ without any difficulty. I have to admit that after being out on the course all day I was very happy to see the big yellow Mountain Designs tent and to hear Robyn’s voice (Robyn is one of the race directors and she was cheering the teams to the finish on a microphone). However, the glory was short-lived as we checked in and set off on the final rogaine (the extra leg we opted to leave until the end).

Leg 7 – Extra rogaine

The extra rogaine had to be completed on foot so we set off back down the track we had followed into HQ at the end of the last MTB leg. We found the first five checkpoints easily and then had to make a tactical decision about finding the sixth. We could either run about a kilometre along the road to get close to it or we could scrub bash about 300m. Most of the teams that were near us took off up the road but we set our compass to take us north-east and set off into the bush.

We knew we had to climb out of the swamp onto a hill and our natural navigation soon took over. In the dense bushland it was my team mate who saw the first clues of the hill; grass trees. We know from experience that these do not grow in creek beds but prefer hills. From here, with the sun slowly setting in the western sky we followed our shadows to the south-eastern slope of the hill and found the checkpoint. The map showed that we could again follow a gravel road back to the finish line but that it was over twice as far as bush-bashing. The terrain was easy to walk through, being mostly open grass forest so we opted for the shorter route.

It paid off as we hit the road just 300m from the finish line with another team who had been quite a long way in front of us running down the road. My team mate and I dug deep in a final run for the finish as competitors who had finished much more quickly than us cheered us on as they packed their cars to travel home.

We crossed the finish line at exactly 4pm; 8 hours after the start gun had sounded.

Immediately post-race waiting in the spaghetti bolognaise queue

Post-race

After handing in our timing dibber and race bibs we were given meal vouchers. Never has spaghetti bolognaise tasted so good! While we had kept up my food intake during the race, I felt suddenly hungry as I saw the pile of pasta and mince on my plate.

After our food we packed our bikes back in the car and basked in the glory of finishing our first adventure race. Sure, we were nowhere near the podium but that doesn’t matter in events like this. We congratulated teams we had seen and helped (or been helped by) on the course and they congratulated us. Then we grabbed clean clothes, soap and towels to clean off. The only bad and unavoidable thing about finishing at the tail end of the event was that there was no more hot water. But I’m sure my muscles are recovering better today thanks to the icy cold shower, and I sure felt better during the 2.5 hour drive home due to the wash. Thankfully I didn’t actually have to drive; I have the best team mate in the world who not only made it possible for us both to finish the race but she also dropped me home afterwards.

Summary

I reckon Adventure Race Australia is an amazing sporting event. It’s most certainly the most enjoyable sporting event I’ve ever participated in. It was well organised. And everyone, participants and organisers alike, were friendly and enthusiastic. The course was the perfect achievable challenge.

If you like mud (and lots of it) and adventure, get yourself to an adventure race … it’s the best fun. (And no, you don’t have to be a gun runner, mountain biker or navigator – you just have to be willing to give it a go).

Our result

Place: 10/20 in mixed teams category in 7:48:33.

Adventure Race Australia was amazing

Just a quick post to say that my first ever adventure race was amazing.

My sister and I completed Adventure Race Australia near Noosa today in just under 8 hours.

Pics and story coming tomorrow. But I just wanted to share our triumph (we finished the whole course and didn’t come last).

I am hooked!

Foam and sand beach run

Maroochydore beach after storms

I’m in Maroochydore volunteering at an off-road triathlon race. It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m tired from being on my feet at the race all day but I know that I’ll feel good if I go for a run along the beach. Besides, I feel a little left out having seen all the off-road triathletes racing while I was standing around transition.

I check in at the Cotton Tree Backpackers where I’m staying for the night. It’s just after 5pm and the residents are all getting ready for their night on the town. It’s too crowded for me so I decide I’m definitely going out running along the beach for some fresh air and quiet. I strip off my uniform, pull on a pair of shorts and head out into the grey evening bare-chested and barefoot carrying my hydro pack.

I run along a footpath for about 250m before I reach a sandy beach. The river is choppy and brown from the storms we’ve had here in Queensland for the past few weeks. The sand is soft underfoot so I feel like I’m going slowly. However, when I look down at my GPS I see that I’m running at about 5:30 pace. I follow the beach to the mouth of the Maroochy River where the brightly coloured kites from the kite surfers cut a striking contrast to the steel grey sky.

I round the point and follow the beach for a few kilometres. The normally crystal clear water has turned a muddy brown from the rain and storms. The shore is covered in a wide band of thick brown foam. The foam is shin-deep and it’s impossible to see through it. I can’t tell whether there’s drift wood or holes ahead of my next foot fall so I try not to run through the foam but sometimes I can’t help myself, and I have to run through the water and foam.

Foamy feet

After running all the way to the far end of Maroochydore beach I run back to the mouth of the Maroochy River where I complete my run. I stop on the massive sandbags that form a wave break at the mouth of the river and watch the kite surfers play. Some are focusing on speed while others do tricks, jumping high into the air. It’s a lovely way to end my day.

Total: 5.61km run @ 5:47 min/km barefoot along the beach.

Kite surfers