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Mud, Maps & Mountains at Murray’s!

20 April 2009

20 April 2009

Mud, Maps & Mountains at Murray’s!

The email sent out to participants before the Lake Macquarie event stated:

“Classic Course teams: The first teams should finish in just under 3 hours. Those having a bit more fun might take up to 5.5 hours.”

Their estimates were bang on; with the TriHards taking six hours to complete the course, and having heaps of fun along the way!

Traditionally, the Lake Macquarie event is the hardest, and most enjoyable of all the races in the Paddy Pallin series (the TriHards know, because they’ve done one before), which had the team filled with excitement, and a little trepidation at what was to come. No doubt many others felt the same way, as there was a record 200 classic course teams, and 43 novice teams entered in the event. The event certainly lived up to expectations; a fantastic course which managed to include many of TriHards’ favourite activities; all that was needed to complete the day was a bit surfing!

The TriHards all felt a mixture of fear and excitement at the prospect of the event; successful completion of this race would see them attain their ultimate goal: to complete all events in the Paddy Pallin series for a season. They even had Father Brendan, a native Novocastrian, on the team to provide the extra advantage of local knowledge.

Prelude

Knowing the event HQ would be packed; and that the race would no doubt be very challenging and require careful planning beforehand, the TriHards arrived as early as they could, being on site by 7:45 a.m., registered and collected their showbags and maps before heading up for a coffee and breakfast at the café. They read the race directions over breakfast, stunned at the scale of the race, which covered ground from Murray’s Beach, east to the coast and north to Swansea.

Father Brendan, a child of Newcastle, read through the course description with growing trepidation, particularly at the paddle in the Swansea channel; Father Brendan knew this area well, and the Cyborg had experienced it diving the channel the day after the race of last year; when the tide flows through that area, it can generate quite a current.

The TriHards
The TriHards, can you spot the lycra?

Nevertheless, the TriHards drank their coffees, and made their plans before heading back to the Adventure Truck for their final preparations. Being in the third wave (there is some benefit to having a team name starting with “T”!) their race didn’t start until 10. So the mighty men donned their uniforms, packed their backpacks, rechecked their gear and casually continued their preparations.

The TriHards broke with tradition for this event, with every team member wearing lycra. Fortunately, for the most part, the casual observer would not be able to tell. While the TriHards are happy to accept the benefits of lycra, they are happier still to save the world from an overexposed TriHard figure!

At approximately 9:20, the Cyborg rechecked the race schedule and found that the race briefing commenced at 9:20. Panic set about the camp, the map hadn’t even been laminated yet! Father Brendan and Mr GPS headed off to the briefing to catch any important information, while the Cyborg waited behind to lend a shifter to another team who, unfortunately, had some urgent work to be done to the front shocks of a bike just half an hour before starting!

Start to TA1: (Leg 1): Fish in a Barrel...

With the growing size of the field, there had been a few issues previously with crowding and queuing at the initial checkpoints of the race. So the cunning AROC people had devised a clever strategy to split the field somewhat. They had decided to break the field into three waves of (approximately) 66 teams each. The first leg would involve teams from these waves swimming out to some inflated tyres on a board, filled with plastic cutlery (so that, should you catch a fish on your way, you didn’t have to eat it Gollum style!) Once all the items had been collected, a team member would trade them with an AROC official for the map and questions for leg 2.

The TriHards had considered this part of the event over breakfast; and had a quick look to ascertain the location of these tyres before coming up with a plan. Mr GPS would be the dry-man, responsible for guarding the gear, which the Cyborg and Father Brendan would discard to lighten their load on the swim leg; then on their return, collect the items and trade them for the map and questions (carrying them in his dry hands). It was a good plan, which pleased everyone.

Wave 2 ready to go.
The second wave!

“Wave” was certainly the right term to use for each division of teams entering the water; as the first one entered there was a crashing noise like waves on the beach while the TriHards patiently laminated their map (this time with only a few crinkles). Ten minutes later, Father Brendan and the Cyborg watched the second wave crash in; like a field of flailing rubber ducks heading out to the tyres, and noted that it was possible to run a fair way into the water. Noting the overcast skies, and wary of getting soaked at the start of the race, the TriHard swimmers began to dump their gear; the Cyborg removing his pack and shirt, covering his shame with his bib. Father Brendan, who has no shame, stripped down to his speedos for the first leg.

“Wave” was certainly the right term to use for each division of teams entering the water; as the first one entered there was a crashing noise like waves on the beach while the TriHards patiently laminated their map (this time with only a few crinkles). Ten minutes later, Father Brendan and the Cyborg watched the second wave crash in; like a field of flailing rubber ducks heading out to the tyres, and noted that it was possible to run a fair way into the water. Noting the overcast skies, and wary of getting soaked at the start of the race, the TriHard swimmers began to dump their gear; the Cyborg removing his pack and shirt, covering his shame with his bib. Father Brendan, who has no shame, stripped down to his speedos for the first leg.

And the third wave was on! The TriHards raced into the water in search of plastic cutlery. When the Cyborg reached the first tyre, comfortably in the middle of the pack, there was already quite a queue around, and desperate snatching of plastic knives. Thankfully, none were used in malice! Fortunately for the Cyborg, a knife drifted to him on the surface enabling him to swim to the next tyre.

There was much spooning going on at the second tyre, and someone had already tipped it upside down, so there was no cutlery to grab! Thinking quickly, the Cyborg dived beneath the surface to be confronted by a sea of flailing legs (not only did the teams look like rubber ducks on the surface, their legs beneath looked like a duck's churning legs!) There it was, a foot in front of his nose: a spoon! Surfacing, he made his way back to the shore, feeling the strong current of other entrants on the way.

Mr GPS collected all the items and grabbed the map and questions, while the swimmers regained their composure and donned all their gear once more, ready and eager for the next leg!

Leg 2: Voyage of Discovery

Father Brendan exploring Stocklands
Father Brendan exploring Murrays Beach

The second leg involved running around Stocklands and answering a variety of questions. Given the hilly terrain around Stocklands, it certainly helped to split the teams up more. Along the way, the TriHards began to ponder the question of whether or not there was a resident pharmacist in the AROC officials-no, not for the supply of drugs-but for their innate ability to decipher the handwriting of doctors, as the team had no doubt that some of the answers would be just as legible!

The loop was painlessly completed, and the answers all quite obvious upon reaching the site. The only concern for the TriHards was the forbidding grey clouds drifting in from the west as they ran along the picturesque foreshore to the first TA.

TA1 to TA2: Road to Nowhere

First ride leg
A hill at the start spread the pack more

The start of the first bike leg was quite challenging, going straight up a long hill, with some slight drizzle starting to fall. But it was over in short time, and the team was onto mud trails once more; though the ground was far less wet than the year before! Then the TriHards came to the first T-Intersection. To the right the trail went down a hill, to the left it seemed to continue along the ridge. Perhaps it was the desire, after spending so much riding uphill, to take an easy path downhill. Or perhaps it was the temptation of falling rain and the look of a fun downhill stretch in the mud which led to the TriHards electing to turn right instead of left, and head down the hill.

And it was a fantastic, fast ride, down a long, muddy slope! Much fun was had roaring and slipping down the track to the bottom, finally reaching a road far south of where they should have been. When Mr GPS looked at the map again, he realised how far off-course their little dalliance had taken them, and the TriHards returned to climb the hill, with a slew of other teams who either fell for the same temptation, or saw that the TriHards and followed them under the mistaken belief they knew that they were doing!

A stretch of old road
We had a whole highway to ourselves! Okay, it wasn't used by cars anymore, but still a treat!

Back on course, the TrIHards crossed the Pacific Highway using the overpass, and travelled a short distance on the Old Pacific Highway. It’s always remarkable to see a disused road, grass and trees beginning to grow back through it... Perhaps it’s just something about a road that goes nowhere.

Checkpoint three bore the warning “dangerous ruts after”. On arrival at the checkpoint, the Cyborg punched the card, and Mr GPS checked the map. When both looked up, they saw Father “No Fear” Brendan pass them and ride happily down the dangerous path! He nearly made it all the way too! Fortunately, the first aid kit wasn't called for, as when he finally lost control of the bike, he just jumped off the back.

Checkpoint four was marked as being on the side of the track. As the TriHards merrily rode along the tracks, taking in the scenery, they came across another racer, looking for the same checkpoint; the TriHards stopped to offer assistance while Mr GPS checked the map, and said “Oh, it’s right there,” pointing to his left, and sure enough, it was hidden down the slope just off the track. If it were not for this lost racer, the TriHards may well have been in the same boat! And there certainly were a few backtracking up the mountain as the TriHards sped towards TA2.

Mr GPS without a mapboard.
All Mr GPS wants for Christmas is a Map Board!

As the team neared the checkpoint, a very noticeable scraping noise was apparent in Mr GPS’s bike. The Cyborg rode close behind to monitor the situation, and reported that Mr GPS’s rear disc was wobbling a lot; which was subsequently ignored, thinking it was just a rock or mud lodged in the disc. Upon arrival at TA2, while Father Brendan checked in the timing stick, the boys found the problem: all but one of the bolts holding the disc to the hub had vanished; the one which was left was bent and could only be mostly secured to the bike. Fortunately, the TriHards were in a race, where the idea was to go fast, not slow, so not having brakes shouldn't present a problem!

TA2 to TA3: Coasteering!

A stack of bikes at TA2
Less than half of the bikes at TA2!

The TriHards have a new favourite event type: coasteering! This leg consisted of running along the coast; through wild scrub, over rugged cliffs, and along the sandy beaches amidst the grey skies and crashing waves. Checkpoint five was hidden at the base of a weather-worn cliff on a rocky headland, and from there the teams had to dive in for a water crossing, swimming in the surgy surf to a rock wall on the other side. The TriHards exited wet, salty and refreshed, eager to get on with the event (though somewhat tempted to dive back and do it again!)

The TriHards followed the hard, rocky shore of the coast to a rock pool. The description for checkpoint six stated that a member of the team had to dive the rockpool to locate an item for this checkpoint. The Cyborg, being the only qualified diver in the team (and heavier due to his-hopefully rustproof-titanium bits) volunteered for this task (or perhaps sinking him underwater was the team’s most heartfelt desire after putting up with his attempts at motivation throughout the race so far). However, this activity had been removed from the checkpoint, so the TriHards just crossed the rockpool; the Cyborg going first to ensure he wouldn’t attempt to surface with a foot on his head while another TriHard yelled “Now you HTFU!”

Walking along the rocky shores
Walking along the rocky shores - not tired, but careful!
Mr GPS making his way across
Excellent fun!

The TriHards were quite disappointed when they were informed the next ocean swim had been closed as the water was far too surgy. So Mr GPS led the TriHards on a bush-bashing trek though some undergrowth, before emerging onto a trail, then taking another shortcut which skirt the base of some hills, saving their tired legs from another climb. Then it was back to the beach where the checkpoint was hiding in a watercourse.

Cyborg sinking in the rock pool.
Not drowning but waving.

They say that if you want to find your way through a maze, you should pick a side (left or right) and just keep turning that way. Perhaps this was on the Cyborg’s mind when he turned right to walk up the small creek next to the track junction. Or perhaps, after the short ocean swim, he was eager for more... But the Cyborg spent some time walking up the river before Mr GPS pulled him back into line to get the checkpoint eight on the other side of the track... Checkpoint seven fell soon after, and the TriHards were on their way back to the bikes at the TA, taking the inland route rather than backtracking (nobody likes to backtrack in an adventure race!) with the Cyborg cheerily stating that the race was almost half done (at least half the checkpoints were in the bag).

TA3 to TA4: The Road to Swansea

The TriHards were back on Father Brendan’s home turf, and he gave them an excellent tour of the coastal bike paths leading up to Swansea, sharing his inside knowledge of the area, including good surf breaks. Father Brendan’s knowledge proved invaluable in collecting checkpoint nine, otherwise the TriHards would have taken a shortcut over a sheer cliff. Sure, it would have been faster than going down the stairs, but coming up would have been very challenging (particluarly carrying the bikes!)

At checkpoint 10 the TriHards got to go caving! Did we mention that the TriHards got to do all of their favourite activities in a single race? The box was hidden at the back of a tiny little cave; it’d be interesting to head back there at high tide!

TA4 to TA5: Urban Jungle

It was almost like a rainforest
It was almost like a rainforest, Canberrans are not used to so much green!

At TA4 the soggy TriHards lay their steel steeds down to rest, and set about the task of running to TA5 and the paddle leg. They journeyed along a nice coastal dirt path before moving onto the roads, which took them to a lush walk. The vegetation on the walk was reminiscent of a rainforest, which seemed particularly apt in the rain! The boys made short work of checkpoint 11, and headed off to the TA and the start of the paddle leg. Unfortunately, their path led them past a takeaway... Though they did resist the temptation of some nice, hot food; time was running short, and it was already looking as though they may miss one of their goals of making it back to base in time for the presentation.

TA5 to TA6: Not novices anymore!

Paddling out to the inlet
If you look close, you can see the rain falling into the water!

Finally, the TriHards were back on the paddle leg; their traditionally strong leg of the adventure races! And in salt water! Heading out from the transition the rain started to fall again, and a strong wind whipped up-fortunately it was a tailwind (negating the Cyborg’s Second Law: If there is a wind, it’s always a headwind!) The TriHards, pushed by nature’s bounty sprinted out of the inlet, watching returning teams struggle into the wind and the rain.

Father Brendan and Mr GPS taking a break in the kayak
There are no recliners in these kayaks!

Unfortunately, the TriHards got a bit carried away on the wind, and paddled out too far. When they landed on the beach for the checkpoint they discovered it was checkpoint four-a novice checkpoint! And after the Cyborg punched the card. Undeterred, the TriHards continued on for lucky checkpoint 13, and returned to the TA via checkpoint 12.

TA6 to TA7: Cliff Young Memorial Shuffle

After five hours of racing the TriHards were becoming a little fatigued, and their pace slowed as they adopted the “Cliff Young Shuffle” style of running to aid their feet in their soggy, sand-filled shoes. While the sand ground the skin off their feet, they pushed back through the suburbs of Swansea and onto the coastal path once more; desperately trying to raise their flagging spirits, and eager to once more have the comfort of their bike seats beneath them. That was when Mr GPS started his foray into the world of shuffling comedians, with the following joke:

A pastor was in front of his congregation at church; they had completed all the formalities of the day, so he turned to his congregation and asked: “Is there anyone here who would like to give praise to the Lord, and share a story of His remarkable work?” A lady in the congregation put her hand up, and he said, “Why, come up here Madam, and share your story!”

The lady left her seat, and moved up to the lectern, and began to tell her story. “My name is Janice, and I’d like to praise the Lord’s work in saving my husband, Joe’s scrotum.” Immediately, all the male members of the congregation winced out of a sympathetic pain. “Joe was out riding a few weeks ago, and had a terrible accident on his bike, tearing his scrotum in two.” All that could be heard in the hushed hall was the sound of the male members of the congregation uncomfortably shuffling in their chairs. “We took him to hospital, and the doctors were really concerned; they weren’t sure how to fix it. There was talk of wiring it back together, or creating some sort of cage...” Once again, the male members recoiled in horror before she continued, “Fortunately, the doctors worked for 12 hours straight on his scrotum, and managed to get it all back together again. He’s still in quite a bit of pain, but they say he’ll be alright. Praise the lord!” All the men breathed a tremendous sigh of relief as Janice returned to her seat.

Then the pastor, looking a little pale, asked if anybody else would like to talk. A man put his hand up, and moved up to the lectern. “Hello, everybody, my name is Joe.” All the men in the congregation winced at the mere mention of his name before he continued. “I’d just like to inform my wife that it’s pronounced ‘sternum’.”

TA7 to TA8: Home Run!

Father Brendan happy to be back on the bike
Father Brendan laughed for a long time at the joke.

At 3:20 the TriHards were well behind in their plans of returning to the HQ in time for the presentation. On the bright side their bikes were quite easy to find in the field now that everybody else had taken theirs! The team set off at a decent pace, glad to have the weight off their sandblasted feet and the chance to relax once more in the saddle; and it was a pretty easy ride, winding through the streets of Swansea, through an oval and into the bush once more, before climbing up into the hills near Murray’s.

Then, just to really cap off the race, next to checkpoint 17 was an excellent piece of single track which led all the way down to the finish line. The exhausted TriHards lifted with the excitement of this last treat; and headed down what would prove to be an excellent track, to find themselves rejuvenated at the finish line.

Finish

Proof the TriHards were at the presentation
The TriHards really did make it to the presentation!

While the TriHards crossed the line closer to four than three (okay, much closer), upon arrival the presentation was still going-so they did achieve their goal of making it back in time for the presentation. And their time must have been good, because there were still sausages left on their arrival! Mr GPS even won a prize for almost losing his rear disc.

All in all, it was an excellent race, rated as a Tub Thumper on the new TriHards adventure scale. Many thanks go to the AROC team for a great race, and a great season. The TriHards will certainly be back for more next year (if they survive the Wild Endurance!)

Race Stats

Date: 18 April, 2009
Location: Murray's Beach, Lake Macquarie, NSW
TriHards: Bas (Mr GPS), Chris (Cyborg), (Father) Brendan
Placement: 160/177 Overall, 102/112 male
Event website: AROC Sport site

Achievements of the Day (in no particular order)

  1. Completed all events in the AROC Paddy Pallin Series
  2. Scored some sausage sandwiches at the finish!

Lessons Learnt

Coasteering is great fun!

Nope, that’s it, we don’t need to say any more about it!

Rain Follows Father Brendan

He was in the team for the November 2007 event in Canberra, when it poured. He was in the team for the Lake Macquarie race last year, when it rained. Father Brendan, Canberra needs you! Please come back!

Nut Bar Wrappers are not Waterproof

Don’t count on nut bar wrappers being waterpoof, particularly if you swim in the ocean! Brine is an interesting flavour on a nut bar!

Navigation

It is true that good navigation is an essential skill to winning an adventure race. But, sometimes bad navigation can be great fun!