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Adventures in the Wilds of Wyong!

17 October 2009

17 October 2009

Adventures in the Wilds of Wyong!

The first race in the AROC Paddy Pallin series, held in Wyong included a rollercoaster ride through the mountains, and provided an emotional rollercoaster ride for the TriHards! For the ever-adventurous TriHards, the race was marred by tragedy and loss, though they pushed through with determination, high spirits and had a most excellent time.

Prelude

The Paddy Pallin series opened with the first race in Wyong, on 17 October with the TriHards managing to field two teams - two teams which look to be relatively stable throughout the season, with Father Brendan joining the PANDSI TriHards (aka Canberra Branch) for the duration, and the Cap’n tagging onto the Sydney team with Doc Runaway and McFly for the majority of the season (possibly marking the first time the Sydney team do more than one race with the same members!)

The Sydney TriHards: Doc Runaway, Capn and McFly
The Sydney TriHards: Doc Runaway, Capn and McFly

Kooindah Waters Resort was a major sponsor of the event, and was providing excellent accommodation packages for entrants. However, being the hard racers that they are, the TriHards eschewed such luxuries and elected to stay at Canton Beach Holiday Park, just across the lake from the race start. Staying in a single cabin was bound to provide an excellent team building exercise for the newly formed mob, and they didn’t want to be too comfortable the night before the race!

So, plans were made. The Canberra branch would head up early on Friday to pick up the keys of the van, while the Sydney branch would leave after work on Friday and turn up later, which worked quite well for the Canberra boys, as it meant they could choose the best beds!

The PANDSI TriHards: Mr GPS, Cyborg and Father Brendan
The PANDSI TriHards: Mr GPS, Cyborg and Father Brendan

The Canberrans finally managed to leave town around 12:00, ably guided to, and through Sydney by Mr GPS’s GPS, Sean, who seemed very capable of finding his own way through the city streets. As an added bonus, the team had Doc Runaway’s e-tag, which proved most beneficial travelling through various tollways in Sydney (there may have been a few extra beeps, the Canberrans believe this was Sean directing Mr GPS through extra tolls in an effort to communicate with the other electronic device in the car).

The Capn at work on his bike
See the new adventure buggy!

The crew arrived at Canton Beach Holiday Park around 4:30, with all three bikes still on the back! This gave them time to unload the bikes, unpack the newly introduced TriHard Adventure buggy and bags the best beds. With the bedding sorted, they set to work testing their bikes, and making all the final adjustments required - this may have involved hooning through the caravan park and jumping over the speed bumps, but probably not, for such childish behaviour is certainly not the domain of the TriHards...

Capn and Cyborg on deck at sunset
The sunset is a much better view than those two mugs!

With everything sorted, there was little to do but get dinner and wait. So the Canberra branch headed out to the local RSL for big carbo load before the race (beer is chockablock carb goodness), before returning to sit on the deck and watch the sunset while waiting for the Sydneysiders to show up, congratulating themselves a great deal on having the forethought to book accommodation the night before ensuring a relaxing evening prior to the race.

The Sydney team showed up around 8:30 at night in the girly-4WD, which the Cyborg escorted to the cabin, resorting to a slow jog such that the vehicle could keep up (it had much more of a problem with the speed bumps than the Cyborg did!) They settled in quickly, and the team moved onto the serious business of race preparation: Gu Swapping.

Gu collection
Pick a flavour!

Kids swap football cards, but we more mature adventure racers pool their Gu packets together and select a variety of flavours from the pile! And the TriHards were certainly well-stocked in the Gu department, the Canberra branch even electing to try out Gu Chomps (that would be like a jube, but full of Guey goodness!)

With the important tasks done, both teams went on to discuss thoughts and strategies for the race. Being veterans (that would be experienced people not old! Yes, one season does make them experienced!) they had a few ideas as to how to plan and pack for it, which is all a bit of a gamble considering the course wasn’t released!

Then their minds turned to what time they’d have to get up in the morning, so they began their schedule planning. They had to leave the resort by bus at 8:00 for an 8:30 start on the beach, and the registration opened at 6:30, and the bike drop opened at 5:30, somewhere in-between they also had to get breakfast. So, the plan was to get up at 4:30, load the gear and be on their way by five. That would have them at the bike drop easily by 5:30, and to Maccas for brekky by six. Google had reliably informed them that the resort was only 10 minutes from Maccas, so they should make it in plenty of time for the 6:30 registration. Alarms were set, and everyone headed off to bed for a restful night prior to the race.

Race Day

The day started according to plan, with all the TriHards up by 4:30 (some even already on their first coffee!) However, packing and loading the bikes back onto the cars in the dark proved a bit of a challenge, and they wound up leaving the caravan park 15 minutes late. But it was only 15 minutes... No big deal.

They found the bike drop quickly and easily, assembling McFly’s new speed racer, and putting their bikes at the stake, before trusting their fate to Sean, who would lead them to the McDonalds on Anzac Avenue. When, 10 minutes later, the TriHards convoy turned onto Anzac Avenue in Wyong, there was no sign of the familiar golden arches! As usual, the wily TriHards were thinking on their feet - even at this early hour, and without a decent brekky under their belt - and referred back to their trusted friend, Google Maps, who pointed out that it was actually located at Anzac Road, in Tuggerah - still, only another 10 minutes. How bad could it be?

The TriHards now have a convoy of matching cars
TriHards proudly delivered, late, to registration by Ravs

The staff at Maccas swung into gear, and provided food for the hungry TriHards, who wolfed it down in short order, eager to get underway, then set off for the race headquarters. Still bearing a grudge, the TriHards trusted in their own sense of direction on unfamiliar streets, and deactivated Sean (who didn’t sing Daisy, Daisy as he was shut down). After only one wrong turn, the TriHards arrived at the HQ a little after seven, so not incredibly behind time!

With registration complete, and gear out, the TriHards began their planning for the event, having enough time to quickly read through the instructions just once before rushing to the event briefing, their minds still befuddled. Though, surely that wouldn’t matter to such seasoned veterans as the TriHards, known for thinking on their feet and reading the instructions...

Fortunately, Alina was looking after the interests of all the competitors, and sent them off on a warm-up run to the buses. That certainly got the blood flowing! Everyone crammed onto the buses, which took them to the start of the race.

Start

The bus pulled into Shelly’s Beach to drop off all of the racers, who promptly formed an orderly queue at the toilets! The TriHards took a few moments to ascertain whether or not a path on more solid land could be found, but the cunning organisers had ensured that the start would be running on soft, sandy beaches.

Volunteers marshalled everyone down on the beach a little after 8:30, and prepared them to start. The Cyborg remembered well the experience of running in shoes filled with soggy sand during the Lake Macquarie race earlier in the year - and decided that was not a good way to start the race. So he elected to run barefoot.

When the race started, everyone took off up the beach, struggling through the soft sand, while the Cyborg quietly congratulated himself on his ingenuity, running on the harder, wet sand down by the waves, and enjoying the occasional wave coming in. Indeed, he was becoming so cocky, that when the freak McFly caught up to him, the Cyborg began to run faster; which was easily matched by McFly. So he went faster, and faster, until both were sprinting down the beach - well, the Cyborg was sprinting, McFly was still cruising! It was a sight to behold, like a pony running and trying to keep up with a thoroughbred!

Beach run
Mr GPS having fun in the sand!

All in all, the little dalliance probably wasn’t a good idea, particularly when the first checkpoint involved climbing and counting stairs!

The TriHards were tempted to pause a little further up the beach, where there was a surfing competition in progress. There did look to be some interesting form out on the waves.

The beach run was quite straightforward, and presented no problems; until, of course, they crossed the headland, which consisted of wave-cut rock. It was around this time that the Cyborg began to question his judgement of going barefoot. Nevertheless, he continued on course, though a bit more gingerly!

This course led them to a channel which everyone had to cross to reach the TA. With the tide coming in, there was a decent current pushing through the channel, just to make it more interesting. On top of that, the bottom was quite uneven, so runners would run through, then suddenly drop into the current; though it was nothing serious and all the TriHards made it through quite easily.

The same could not be said for the checkpoint descriptions, which were put into a plastic case. The case was plastic, but not waterproof! Fortunately, they were still quite legible, and the boys pushed onto the start of the kayak leg.

TA1: Six kilometres in a leaky boat

The PANDSI TriHards arrived at the TA, and donned their PFDs (as in Personal Flotation Device, not to be confused with PDF, as in Portable Document Format - not that the TriHards are geeks...) in time to see the Sydney TriHards come in. The Cyborg quickly assembled his gear, electing to carry rather than wear his backpack, and headed down to the waiting kayak, and they were off, on their favourite leg of the race! And at a bit over six kilometres - there was a lot of their favourite discipline ahead of them!

They passed out into the channel towards the bridge, where the water shallowed quite a lot. Mr GPS jumped out, thinking to drag the kayak through rather than attempt to paddle in the shallow water, whilst the Cyborg donned his shoes in preparation for the same. However, once Mr GPS reported that the ground was soft and very hard going, this idea was abandoned, and they went back to paddling.

And paddling.

And more paddling.

The lake was awash with yellow bathtubs, moving in a steady stream across to Rocky Point. Some fishing boats offered lifts, or flew past, providing a bit of wake for the TriHards to attempt to catch - an effort in which they actually succeeded once! (It is a true achievement to surf a bathtub!)

The paddle leg was indeed very scenic, and interesting, however from this point there are no photos of the race. We would dearly love to report that this is due to the fact that the TriHards were working so hard that there was no time to stop and take pictures, even with the quick compact digital camera. However, this is not the case. The team photographer, noticing nice views, and impressed by the armada of bathtubs moving through the water at such pace, went to take a picture, only to find that in the rush to get on the kayak, his beloved camera was left by the wayside. Many interesting words, easily befitting a sailor, could be heard from the back of the kayak at that moment; fortunately, the photographer (who was, after all, steering the kayak) elected not to turn around immediately and commence a search for this lost gear.

TA2: Thrill Issues

From TA2, the teams had to jump into bracing water, and swim across the creek to reach their bikes for the leg into the mountains. But the AROC team would not make thing so simple for their racers; after all, it was all about adventure. And what could be more adventurous than swimming though a jellyfish forest? Just ask Nemo!

Marlin: Oh... What happened?

Crush: Saw the whole thing, dude. First you were all like “whoa”, and we were like “whoa”, and you were like “whoa...”

Marlin: What are you talking about?

Crush: You, Mini-Man, takin’ on the jellies. You’ve got serious thrill issues, dude. Awesome.

Finding Nemo

Jellyfish.

Heaps of jellyfish.

The team photographer could have taken a photo of all the cream-clear, bulbous creatures in the water, bouncing off the racers - particularly given he had a waterproof camera, if he had not dropped it somewhere. So, you’ll have to take our word for it, there were heaps. Not quite enough to jump on their tops and bounce across to the other side, but it certainly entertained during the swim to hear the screams and squeals of racers (okay, the Cyborg) as they hit the jellies on their way across.

TA3: Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’

Wet, yet somehow refreshed, and still feeling quite good, the TriHards headed to the bike drop, to be greeted by some friendly AROC volunteers who informed them that the TriHards were still in the main pack! The Cyborg concluded from this that they were in fact, still in contention - and even better, the Sydney team was nowhere to be seen! However, he should have realised it was just a case of the Cyborg Queue Theory.

Cyborg Queue Theory: Whenever the Cyborg ends up in a queue, he is invariably the last person in the queue!

The boys took on some water, and headed out on their trusty steel steeds down to the tracks skirting around Rocky Point before heading back up to Tacoma South Road. On their way, the TriHards took on a few Gu Chomps - somehow the people at Gu have managed to come up with an even better way to ingest their delicious energy cocktail - Gu Jubes! They certainly hit the spot, because when the TriHards hit the road once more, they took off at an incredible pace.

The pedalling machine, Father Brendan, took the lead, with Mr GPS draughting behind him, and the Cyborg bringing up the rear. They made excellent pace through the roads, and into the climbs, but began to die off as they hit the gravel, however this didn’t last long as they were shortly riding through a paddock and into Ourimbah State Forest, and some excellent single track.

Of course, for there to be some excellent downhill runs, there had to be some long climbs! And this was no different! The TriHards climbed a hill, having to get off their bikes, and almost carry them through some craggy rocks to find the fire trail at the top; then they were off and racing, entering the single track.

Father “Evil Knieval” Brendan took the lead; and raced for his life through the single track; he had to - it sounded as though there was a herd of screaming elephants chasing after him. Little did he know those squeals were coming from the dusty, tortured discs of the more timid Cyborg and Mr GPS attempting to run the course at a safe speed! His antics would have made some great photographs...

After winding up and down some excellent single track, the team arrived at TA4, just in time to see the novices start out. The TriHards were tempted to join them, but headed off on the rogaine leg instead.

TA4: Forest for the Trees

With Mr GPS’s systems working flawlessly (much better than Sean’s) the TriHards made quick work of the checkpoints in the rogaine leg. And, in a marked improvement over previous events, they still had enough energy to run for most of the rogaine leg, a feat of which they were extremely proud. They even had time to give novices a little guidance along the way! Before they knew it, the TriHards were back at the TA, topping up their water bottles and heading out once more on their bikes, for some excellent single track.

TA5: Round and round

The TriHards departed from the TA to find more single track! Fortunately, this time there were chicken runs which the Cyborg and Mr GPS could ride down, while Father Brendan enjoyed testing his brand new bike through the more technical sections. But, what goes down must come up, and to achieve such excellent downhill rides, the path wound back up the hill. It was around this time that their endeavours were starting to tell, and the TriHards began to struggle up the paths.

Yet, they pushed on, buoyed by the fact that it was only a little after one, and they should easily make it back before two, which would match their 5:30 target. So, with talk turning to sausage sandwiches and dry shoes at the end, the team pushed on, careening around single track, until they reached checkpoint 13.

They paused at lucky checkpoint 13, with excellent single track calling them ahead, something was amiss. Tired, confused and eager to get some sausage sandwiches, they elected to push on down the track, continuing until they’d almost returned to TA4, when Mr GPS realised they had come the wrong way and had to back track! Fortunately, his abilities were still functioning very well, and he plotted a course back through some nice, easy fire trails.

About 10 minutes later, when stopping to determine the rest of the course, Mr GPS discovered that he no longer had his thumb compass. The team photographer would have taken a picture of his disappointed face, if he still had a camera.

Though their trials were nowhere near as bad as that of the Sydney TriHards who were at that time attempting to contact the PANDSI TriHards. McFly, who had elected to chase down checkpoint 21 in a gully for the team, took a wrong step and twisted his ankle on the way down; stretching and tearing the ligaments in his ankle. Fortunately, Doc Runaway was on hand to minister to his wounds, after draining the first aid kit of all the water.

Following Mr GPS’s excellent course through the fire trails, the TriHards were once more on track in no time at all; carrying their bikes back down the bouldery slope they’d climbed what seemed like moments ago, before setting off once more on single track.

This time, however, the Wilds of Wyong had come out to help, in the form of an emu guiding the riders out of the forest. It was a great site to behold, this huge bird leading bikes out of the bush, and certainly would have made for an interesting picture...

Back on the roads, the TriHards pulled out what was left of the soaked checkpoint descriptions to find the question for the final checkpoint, and headed back to the HQ. Once again, Mr GPS’s excellent navigation skills had them on track, and standing before a letterbox in no time at all. From here, it was just a matter of riding into the finish line. The boys formed up into a line, and rode through the finish line, checking in and asking about the lost property. Unfortunately, there was no sign of a camera, so they set about cheering themselves up with a sausage sandwich.

With sated appetites, all that was left for them to do was await the arrival of the Sydney TriHards. The PANDSI TriHards took the opportunity to return to the cars, change shoes and put on some clean clothes, when there was a call for them to move back to the HQ tent. The Cyborg dared to hope someone had turned in his camera; while Mr GPS dared to hope someone had found his thumb compass beside the single track while Father Brendan just hoped he could find a cold beer.

As Mr GPS went off to the HQ, Father Brendan received a call from the Sydney TriHards; they were still at TA4 and needed evacuation! So, Father Brendan set off with some maps in the Girly 4WD to retrieve them, while the Cyborg and Mr GPS set about packing away gear, and finding more food.

The hobbled McFly
Hobbled McFly, no, we did not do it on purpose!

The two teams were reunited before too long, with McFly being ably assisted by the Cap’n to a space in front of the main presentation stage for the final ceremonies. The Cap’n and the Cyborg headed back to the cars to retrieve the much needed post-race carbohydrates; at which time the Cap’n informed the Cyborg that he had found the camera at the TA; and it was sitting safe and sound in McFly’s backpack! To make things even better, the Sydney TriHards won prizes (due to McFly’s injury - but a prize is a prize!)

All in all, it was yet another excellent event, on an amazing course. Many thanks go to AROC, and all their sponsors for putting together such amazing races.

Race Stats

Date: 17 October, 2009
Location: Shelly’s Beach, the Entrance then Ourimbah State Forest
Rating: Reasonable to Excellent adventure
PANDSI TriHards: Mr GPS, Father Brendan and Cyborg
Sydney TriHards: Cap’n, Doc Runaway and McFly
Results Beach Run Paddle Swim Pedal 1 Rogaine Pedal 2
Average: 0:33:48 1:00:23 0:09:40 1:18:49 0:45:39 1:10:33
PANDSI TriHards: 0:40:44 1:02:31 0:07:12 1:25:22 0:43:23 2:01:36
Sydney TriHards: 0:41:35 1:04:30 0:10:05 1:43:18    
Event website: AROC Sport site

Lessons Learned:

  1. Always strap all gear on.
  2. Never assume a zip lock bag is waterproof!
  3. Never assume a plastic description holder is waterproof!
  4. Always strap all gear on!
  5. Don’t run barefoot on ocean rock!