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One out of Four Ain’t Bad

4 May 2009

4 May 2009

One out of Four Ain’t Bad

The most common response received when the TriHards would tell people of their intention to participate in the Wild Endurance was a simple, “You’re insane.” Now that the event is done, and the TriHards are resting their weary feet, they would tend to agree with this opinion! Of the four TriHards entered into the event, Magic McFly was the only one to complete the entire event; a tremendous effort on his part! The Wild Endurance also marked a tragic turn of events for the TriHards-the Sydney branch soundly bested the Canberra branch-an achievement that will no doubt take a long, long time to live down.

Prelude

On 1 May, 2009, with the news of a swine flu pandemic sweeping the world, the small and dedicated team of TriHards did what any sane person would do in a similar situation, and headed for the hills. The Canberra Branch, consisting of the Mr GPS, the Cyborg and the Immoral Support Crew left Canberra early, arriving at Katoomba around 5:00, which gave them plenty of time to get to the cottage hired for the weekend, and bags all the best beds and rooms before the Sydney branch arrived.

Both groups met up at the Carrington Hotel, at 7:00, where they registered and had their gear checked, before gorging themselves on the fantastic carbo-loading buffet put on by the Carrington (which seemed a very posh hotel-no doubt they were unaccustomed to this adventure racing riff raff moving through, their backpacks loaded up with trekking gear). With no sign of dessert, the TriHards elected to return to the cottage to prepare for the big event.

Everyone threw their food-which now contained copious amounts of instant potato-into tubs to be loaded into the adventure truck for use throughout the race; and all were introduced to the variety of meals prepared for the race by the Cyborg, who has never in fact been in any army, yet still manages to cook for one.

With all the gear prepared, Mr GPS sat down to study the course; his initial concerns of having no navigational challenges were somewhat allayed as he inspected the provided maps, seeing that the courses did involve some interesting twists and turns. Nobody really noticed the growing look of concern on Mr GPS’s face, as they all went about their business of relaxing, chatting and making final adjustments on their gear.

The TriHards, always very wise, had elected to stay up late that night, after all, who needs a good night’s sleep before a race? The team settled into what would turn out to be incredibly comfortable beds around 11:30 p.m., looking forward to waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed around five the next morning...

Race Day

The TriHards Adventure Truck
The Proud team beside the branded Adventure Truck.

The team rose early and partook of fresh coffee and brekky, before loading the remainder of their gear into the adventure truck and heading for the start of the Wild Endurance at Dunphy’s Camp, which involved some long, winding roads that seemed to go down, and down, and down. The ever-vigilant Mr GPS noted that the team seemed to be descending a fair way, and given that the first checkpoint was back at Katoomba (near the cabin they left), there would be a bit of an ascent involved... But this did not deter the excited TriHards.

TriHards at the start line
TriHards at the start line

Perhaps it was the TriHards branding, perhaps it was the dirt from the track covering the adventure truck, but it finally managed to get some 4WD credibility, and was directed to the “4WD Carpark” (though, it must be said, even with the branding, the faithful truck seemed somewhat inadequate parked next to the likes of the Lexus 4WD). The team spent their spare time admiring the TriHards car magnets before getting their gear together and looking around at so many unfamiliar faces; where were all of the usual adventure racing suspects?

Doc Runaway with the koala
The koala was very popular!

The Wilderness Society had put a big, furry Koala mascot at the start, who was available for several photo opportunities. The Immoral Support Crew was fascinated by this, and began stalking the koala; whether this was to get photographs, or to re-enact that scene from Idiot Box only she will ever know.

Leg 1

The race started promptly at 8:00 a.m. - well, after the Koala’s photo opportunity was out of the road- and the field headed up Starter’s Hill, at a good, slow, steady walk. Around halfway up the rise, the team was assured by Tom that this was in fact the hardest climb of the entire course, which certainly raised the TriHards’ hopes for the race!

The field climbing the first hill
The field was quite bunched going up the hill!

Once atop the rise, the track evened out into a relatively smooth flowing track with a few undulations. The TriHards, eager to get the race underway and wanting to move to a more comfortable pace, ran some of the descent stretches, which managed to get them clear of much of the pack such that they could walk at their own pace.

It was about this time (half an hour into the race) that McFly took his first mysterious trip into the bushes, assuring the rest of the team that he’d catch them up.

It wasn’t too long before the team discovered that Tom had lied to them! There were more climbs! Big climbs! Steep climbs! Bouldering climbs! But the TriHards continued, and climbed up the bouldering climb, then cruised along a ridge until they arrived at Tarros Ladder, which was a waypoint overseen by volunteers. The TriHards, by the way, would like to thank all the volunteers associated with the race, and apologise to the guy at the ladders; they really didn’t mean to interrupt your Bill Bryson book (though, they did not tell you how it ends!)

Climbing the ladder
The smarter people put their backpacks on their front!

The ever-practical Mr GPS took the queuing opportunity to see to his feet; wisely strapping them before continuing any further in the race, while the remainder of the TriHards observed the climbing styles of other teams. Everyone was putting their backpacks on their fronts to ascend the ladders. The Cyborg couldn’t be bothered with this ritual, and just attempted to race up the ladder, leaving his oversized backpack in situ. Fortunately, Mr GPS was below him to collect the Cyborg’s bib as it fell to the ground after scraping against the backing rope.

From the ladders, and following some slight climbs up boulders, the course followed the Narrow Neck Plateau, which provided some spectacular views, and much easier walking.

More great views
Its not really a waste of time to get pictures here!

Thanks largely to the help of the Immoral Support Crew (also known as the super Administrator), the TriHards had a timeline for the race (which turned out to be woefully incorrect) and they were due at the first checkpoint at approximately 11:30 a.m. However, because adventures are about planning for the unexpected, the plan was to notify the Immoral Support Crew at about five kilometres out that the team would be arriving in approximately an hour (assuming an average speed of five kilometres per hour, which again turned out to be woefully incorrect). So, at the 20 kilometre mark (or, 11:30...), the Cyborg called the crew to notify her that they were approximately five kilometres out. This would give her plenty of time to set up the support gear and prepare for the team.

Fantastic views on the road
Yes, the TriHards times were slow because they were too busy taking photos of the fantastic views!

Now, there are many different definitions for endurance, or the successful completion of an endurance event. But the TriHards, in their own fashion, have come up with a new definition of endurance: the triumph of optimism over realism. The Cyborg’s estimates of their time to arrive at the first checkpoint was truly optimistic.

As the team approached Glenraphael Drive, and the Golden Stairs, the Cyborg began to feel a twinge or two in his feet. So, upon arrival at the carpark, he removed his shoes to check his feet; with a ready photographer on hand to capture any damage for posterity (she had been told to expect many blisters, and to get photos!) Seeing that his feet looked relatively normal (or, more to the point, not being able to spot the fact that the blisters had already burst) the Cyborg foolishly replaced his shoes without putting on any strapping to continue on his way.

The volunteer at this checkpoint assured the TriHards that they were only an hour from Checkpoint One. The ever-cocky Cyborg assured her that the TriHards could surely do it in 45 minutes (which meant only one McFly break). It was at this point the team began to wonder if the size of the Cyborg’s ego actually had it’s own gravitational field which somehow managed to distort time around him...

Going down the Golden Stairs
Now they were in very different territory!

The TriHards were only slightly disappointed to find that the golden stairs were not, in fact, made of gold (not that they could carry any extra weight); it wasn’t even a yellow brick road! It did lead down a trail into lush territory though, with some very scenic views and fantastic vegetation about. The trail led down the Golden Stairs, where the team turned left to follow the path up to Federal Pass via the landslide.

This led them up to Scenic World, where the TriHards had the opportunity to take photos of the many tourists milling about (and have a look at the cable car hanging overhead, and the train on a near vertical track!) It did, however, spoil McFly’s timing of ducking into the bushes every half an hour. Then they saw them. Stairs. More stairs. With little choice, and knowing that hot pasta and coffee awaited them, the TriHards climbed the stairs up to Katoomba, and the oval, where the Immoral Support Crew was waiting.

Checkpoint 1

The TriHards finally arrived at the first checkpoint at approximately 1:30-only two hours overdue! After checking in, they went to the Adventure Truck to find the Immoral Support Crew had done an excellent job setting up; their dry socks were out and ready to go, and the table was set up with coffee in the percolator ready to go! She threw the pasta in the pan and began to heat it, while the tired TriHards began to relax in recliners.

TriHards having a rest at Checkpoint 1
One of the tips for support crew was to not let the team sit down. Now you know why!

Now, it should be said that the Immoral Support Crew is very fastidious; and she read the guidelines for the support crew available on the Wild Endurance site well before the event, and had all intentions of doing the best by her team. So, when the instructions said:

“Ensure that your team is adequately hydrated by checking if they are frequently passing urine. Ask if it is ‘clear, colourless and copious’!”

She knew exactly what she had to do. So it was that when Mr GPS ventured off to reduce his weight, he asked the Immoral Support Crew if she would like to join him to check. Not being quite that immoral, she declined the invitation.

Passing up on all the fun, the Cyborg seated himself to belatedly take care of his feet, which were in fact in poorer shape than he had thought! Nevertheless, he strapped on copious amounts of tape, and swapped his shoes for more comfortable boots in the hope they would carry him forward without too much irritation.

An hour or so later, after coffee, pasta and a well-earned rest, the TriHards got up once more to head off to Checkpoint 2 at Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital. They bid fond farewells to the dedicated and very helpful support crew, and set off refreshed and ready for another 21.5 km, estimating their arrival around eight that evening (which would put the Immoral Support Crew’s plans of seeing Wolverine that night at risk!)

Leg 2

The second leg started with the team heading back down the staircase to Scenic World, however this time they would turn to the left and head along the Cliff Top Walk, which provided some fantastic views and photo opportunities!

Cyborg and McFly at a lookout
Cocky, cocky, cocky...

The team found more volunteers to direct them at Echo Point. Their friendly greetings encouraged the TriHards; they also said the TriHards were still looking very fresh, as though they’d only just started-perhaps their plans of having decent meals, coffee and rest at each checkpoint would prove fruitful!

At checkpoint one the TriHards had been informed that some people had removed some of the tape and arrows marking the course, so they should follow the directions. When the TriHards became confused due to an arrow pointing in the opposite direction (though, it was awfully tempting to return to the checkpoint!) they went back to using the directions; and the Cyborg felt a moment of dread as he read out to the other TriHards, “Giant Stairway”.

More fantastic views
At least all these views encouraged regular breaks!

It was indeed a giant stairway, which wound down and behind the Three Sisters. A steep staircase which twisted and turned regularly, providing the ominous feeling that the TriHards had been chewed up and swallowed by the masses of stone, and they were now descending the digestive tract! Putting such sordid images from their minds, the TriHards continued down, and down and down the stairs.

At this point the Cyborg discovered it was actually downhill sections which seemed to irritate his heels the most, his feet had been travelling well in the boots, but once they reached the end of the stairs, and started onto a bush path, the blisters started to take their toll. He still had another secret weapon-trekking poles, which he removed from his pack and started using to move through the path surrounded by lush foliage in the valley.

The other TriHards, eager to follow the trend, picked up their own trekking poles. The Cyborg was, of course, not upset by the fact that they could just pick up trekking poles from the ground and use them; as opposed to him, who bought some in a store, then lugged them around all day! Meanwhile, McFly had taken this pause as a moment to vanish once more.

It was around this point, surrounded by lush vegetation and stone, the hobbling Cyborg looked at the back of his team and a line came to him from The Two Towers; where Gimli is chasing after Aragorn and Legolas (yes, the very attractive elf-and yes, the Cyborg is a geek!). Gimli says to nobody in particular, “We dwarves are natural sprinters, we’re wasted on long distances!” This thought was, of course, not shared with the team-not for fear of having to run, but for the merciless dwarf jokes which would no doubt ensure for the rest of the arduous journey!

After finally dropping to the bottom, the TriHards followed the undulating firetrail, until the Cyborg’s blisters became a bit too much once more. The team rested, while the Cyborg applied more dressing to his weeping feet; many thanks go out to the other team who passed, offering assistance, blister packs, and encouragement!

And they continued... and walked ... and walked, until they reached a clearing in a saddle; by this point the sun was rapidly sinking behind the many mountains, so the TriHards took a break to don their headlamps and fluro vests, before continuing along the path, which eventually lead to Jamison Creek-which didn’t have any nice stepping stones! Doc Runaway and the Cyborg elected to walk straight through the shallow creek, while McFly and Mr GPS stopped, removed their shoes, walked through, and put their shoes back on. This gave the Cyborg and Doc Runaway a bit of a headstart up the hill.

The TriHards with their low-tech trekking poles
Lo tech trekking poles

It was around this point, approximately 40km into the walk (and 8km from Checkpoint 2) that a blister which had formed on the Cyborg’s right heel decided to burst; and seemed like a good time (given the long ascent which seemed ahead) to once more look at his feet. However, this time, he was fortunate to have Doc Runaway do the dressing, and an excellent job she did! First, she cleaned off all of the old, soaked strapping, and then applied some non-stick pads, and a lot of strapping to hold them down.

Another team wandered by at this point, and offered their advice; someone suggested that rubbing dirt into blisters seemed to help. The Cyborg wisely took the doctor’s advice, rather than another walker, and let her continue dressing his wounds, before they set off again. Now the climb was becoming arduous for the Cyborg, every step was quite painful, and should his booted foot land on a rock, and slide around a bit, the already irritated skin would become once more enflamed. Fortunately, he had Doc Runaway beside him to inform him of all the ills of continuing on his feet as they were; and reason began to pervade his twisted mind.

So, when Mr GPS and McFly arrived, the Cyborg informed them that he would have to pull out at the next checkpoint, though he assured them he could make it there under his own steam. Mr GPS also elected to pull out at the next checkpoint, after finding it took him several minutes to get back up when he sat down to put his shoes on at the creek. The pair assured the Sydney Branch that there would no doubt be plenty of other teams for them to join, and they continued on their way.

There is an advantage of long, climbing hike in the night; it’s similar to a long climb up a curvy path; you can fool yourself into thinking that it flattens out just out of the reach of your headlamp. After another three kilometres, the Cyborg required another rest, and called the Immoral Support Crew to inform her they were approximately an hour out of the checkpoint. McFly vanished into the bushes once more, insisting he would catch up.

The next kilometre or so became far too much for the Cyborg, worried he was going to drag the team down with him, the group elected to call for an evacuation. Fortunately for his pride, the truck was busy with other entrants, and they would have to push on for a while until the truck became free once more. So the TriHards continued their ascent winding their way up the Kedumba Pass, taking numerous rests along the way.

Finally, the trail became flat once more; as the TriHards began their last leg to checkpoint two along Kedumba Valley Road; about a kilometre out of the checkpoint, the rescue vehicle passed the TriHards, on their way to drop off another couple of exhausted hikers. Fortunately they returned for the TriHards, who were very grateful for their assistance. It took a while to climb into the Navara (hoping the Adventure Truck wouldn’t get jealous of the TriHards using another ute!) but the Cyborg and Mr GPS were very grateful for the relief.

Checkpoint 2

Upon arrival at the checkpoint, a steaming Cyborg went to the administration tent to notify the crew that he and Mr GPS were dropping out, however McFly and Doc Runaway were going to continue (though, now she was much more like Doc HobbleAlong). Mr GPS set off to find the Immoral Support Crew, and the Cyborg greeted the other two TriHards as they arrived, just a few moments later.

They all headed back to the Adventure Truck, once more skilfully set up by the Immoral Support Crew, where she heated up some fried rice for the continuing trekkers, whilst the Cyborg fell into a recliner, not to move again for a while!

Meanwhile Mr GPS headed over to a fire to warm himself, where he met a man named Graham (?). Upon hearing of Mr GPS’s locked legs, Mr Graham set about giving him a free massage, which unlocked Mr GPS’s cramped muscles in no time at all! He was very grateful, and amazed at the excellent effects of a massage (though, not rejuvenated enough to continue-have we ever mentioned how wise and practical Mr GPS is?)

After taking their fill of food and coffee, the two remaining TriHards set off to join their new assigned team, the Cape Hawk Trekkers while the remaining crew set about packing up the adventure truck to head back to the luxurious cabin, amazed at the ability of McFly and Doc Runaway to continue (though Doc Runaway assured them that she had incredibly tough feet due to the time she spends standing).

Leg 3

[Mr GPS and the Cyborg] : Hmm... Sleep. Comfortable, warm bed... Sleep.

[McFly and Doc Runaway] : Ouch. This is hard. Ouch. This is really hard. Well, it’s only 30km. Doc Runaway: “I wonder what those two Canberra pussies are up to now? Do you think they’re making us breakfast?”

McFly: “No, those slackers are probably fast asleep in bed; they probably won’t even wake up to come to the checkpoint when we get there! I’m just going to duck into the bushes, I’ll catch you up!”

Checkpoint 3

The Canberra Crew had set the alarm and woken early to prepare to be at the checkpoint for the returning TriHards; and just in time. Doc Runaway had gotten in touch with Mr GPS to inform him they were approximately an hour out of the checkpoint Mr GPS, still in bed, and dreading going down the stairs of the cabin, sent a text message to the Cyborg informing him. The Cyborg, afraid to walk up the stairs, sent a text message to Mr GPS (maybe 15m away) that the coffee was on...

After the essential coffees, the now boosted Immoral Support Crew headed out to Checkpoint Three, where they found a very tired Doc Runaway, and McFly becoming one with the tape on his feet. As the Cyborg prepared coffee, bacon and eggs, the event photographer, lured either by the smell of bacon, or the site of McFly’s feet came running. She took many photos of his battered feet, one of which can now be found on the site.

McFlys feet
He's more tape than man now...

Doc Runaway was covered in blankets and fed cereal, while McFly set about covering any patches of skin on his feet with more tape.

Unfortunately, it all became too much for Doc Runaway, and after an excellent effort, she fell asleep in the chair. The team moved her into the truck, and covered her in blankets and doonas, before informing the administrators that she wouldn’t be continuing.

Doc Runaway on arrival at the checkpoint.
Before brekky...
Doc Runaway after brekky.
After brekky...

McFly, however, was keen to continue. Perhaps he had extra energy from all those breaks he had along the way (perhaps there was a Delorean parked in the bushes, and he would jump into it, and nip back in time for constant naps!) At any rate, after being fed, photographed and taped, he set off with another team to complete the final leg of the race.

Unfortunately, the Canberra Crew had to get going; so they first returned to the cabin to clean up, giving Doc Runaway a chance to get some sleep in a bed, before heading off to the finish line, where the exhausted TriHard was put into her car, rugged up, and left to sleep while the Canberra Crew headed off to return the keys to the cabin and get some breakfast.

They returned quite concerned for her welfare, considering such options as Mr GPS hanging around to drive her and the no doubt exhausted McFly back into Sydney, then bussing home. However, amazingly, the doc had perked up quite a bit after just a little sleep. Sadly, the Canberra Branch bid her farewell, and left her to sleep in the car and wait for McFly to finish.

And finish he did, an excellent effort of over 30 hours of trekking! Many congratulations go out to McFly for his superb effort, and many thanks for carrying the TriHards flag to the end

Thank yous!

Sponsors

The TriHards would like to send out their thanks to the many people who sponsored them in this event, without you we would not have even started (you bastards!) You can see some of them here.

Immoral Support Crew

The Immoral Support Crew
Many thanks go to the Immoral Support Crew!

We cannot thank the Lovely Lady Lee, of the Immoral Support Crew enough. Knowing each checkpoint held hot coffee and food, as well as welcome arms was tremendous encouragement throughout the race! It may not seem like much to do, but knowing someone is waiting at the end is a truly motivating-and appreciated-factor in the race.

Cape Hawk Trekkers

Many thanks got to the Cape Hawk Trekkers, who adopted the remaining TriHards to complete the race (as well as maintaining them throughout!) The TriHards have definitely learnt by their example, and intend to hire their own masseuse for the next event!

All the other teams

It was a very social race, and everybody in it was nice, and friendly, offering encouragement and support throughout! We’d like to thank all of the other racers for participating in the event.

AROC & The Wilderness Society

We’d also like to thank AROC and the Wilderness Society for organising the event and coming up with such a great, scenic course.