31 May 2014
Well, it’s official. I’m a junkie. More to the point, I’m an Adventure Junkie, and with virtually all adventure race organisers pulling out of the ACT, I had to take the unfortunate measures of travelling to Sydney for my fix, provided by the team at Adventure Junkie. But there were benefits to this: I did get to finally visit Engine in his natural habitat, and it felt good being the one to travel to an event with him, rather than the other way around. And I got to pay a heap of tolls to get there, which would undoubtedly assist the NSW Government to work towards creating better cycling infrastructure. So a win-win really.
The Adventure Junkie team hail for Victoria, and run a number of events down there, including a marathon adventure race. This race was them dipping their toes in the New South Wales waters, just a quick sprint race around Narrabeen. And the TriHards were actually invited to this race! Though, it did help that the organisers (or friends of them) knew Engine, and they were trying to build up the event. Still, it was nice to be invited, so naturally I signed up!
As a sprint race it was designed to have short legs - a five kilometre run, 15 kilometre ride and three kilometres of kayaking. With Engine navigating, we should knock that off in no time! Then, in the week leading up to the event, we discovered that the bike leg had been cancelled due to permission issues, so they had extended the kayaking leg - which suited us fine, as we were traditionally stronger there. This would no doubt provide for a very interesting race!
Unfortunately, I didn’t read the fine print in the event details, where it stated we were allowed to bring our own kayaks and paddles - which would have made a huge difference to our paddle time. But, really, would it be an adventure race without attempting to paddle a bathtub?
So we turned up bright and early Mothers’ Day morning, excited to undertake a race in which we may actually utilise some of our strengths... Until we saw other racers unloading Epic race skis... There goes the sheep station.
Still, it was a nice day, not too hot, and not too cold, and the course looked to be interesting, with the kayaking leg covering all of Narrabeen Lake. A good day for a paddle indeed! After a quick briefing we were down in the sand, because nothing starts a race better than running through soft beach sand! What’s more, the whole field started running north for a photo opportunity, before turning around and running back south down the beach! But, with the tide going out, there was some firmer footing to be found closer to the water.
Engine had us back up on the road, dodging BMWs and running past trendy cafes in no time at all to gather more checkpoints (and no flat whites). Then he took a route choice which split us up from the majority of the group as we took the low road back to the beach. We passed many teams on their way down as we climbed back out which gave us a positive feeling for our progress so far.
Still feeling quite fresh, we ran across the playing fields for another checkpoint before running into our first major obstacle of the day. Sunday morning in the suburbs, running across sporting fields. And we all know what that means.
We could smell sausages cooking on the barbecue from checkpoint 34, and merely had to follow our noses to checkpoint 35; with the sizzle directly in our path. But we were strong. We resisted temptation, and ran right on by to gather checkpoints 35 and 36 shortly thereafter to complete the initial rogaine leg.
Then it was into the kayaks for a quick tour of Narrabeen Lake. And by quick, I mean of course long. In moments we had donned our PFDs and launched the kayak, paddling up to a decent speed to pass under the bridge, and onto a sandbank.
So then we portaged the kayak across the sandbar, before targeting the bridge off the starboard bow of the kayak. This course brought us directly to checkpoint 41, which we landed abeam to and e-punched our cards. Then it was an easy run down to checkpoint 49, which Darren found readily in the bushes while I ran the kayak aground in the lee of the small island.
At Checkpoint 48 we had to decide whether to turn back up the bank and go for checkpoint 42, or head back across the lake for 47. We chose 47, as this would mean we could continue in a clockwise rotation of the lake for the remaining checkpoints, which had some symmetry to it.
Checkpoint 47 was found by walking up a creek. To make things a little more challenging, there was a fallen log we could cross to get to the other side of the creek and grab the checkpoint from a different angle. It didn’t really matter which way we went - both would get our feet wet (and they were already wet anyway). Still, who can resist a log bridge? Really?
It was from this point we started having some issues with the map - which was actually a printout of a Google Earth view of the lake, and it looked to be taken at low tide. So, when we saw 46 on a peninsula, at the end of what looked to be a trail, we were quite confused; not being able to see any trail. Rather, it was a sandbar, presently submerged though still high enough for us to run aground...
From there, checkpoint 45 fell easily enough to us, and we were onto checkpoint 43, which contained instructions for getting to checkpoint 44. Basically, this involved trudging through some marshy wetlands, then crossing a small channel for 44. Engine elected to cross back and walk through the bog to the kayak, while I moved back through the cold water. We both arrived back at the kayak at the same time, though I was probably wetter.
From there it was a simple matter of grabbing checkpoint 42 on a small island, which was again a little confusing as it looked to be tucked behind a large island, which was just a big bed of grass just beneath the surface. This was followed by a quick jaunt back to the bridge, and landing the kayak after a two hour paddle.
We jogged back around to the HQ, passing another sausage sizzle on the way. This time it proved to be too much, and moments after checking in, and handing back our bibs, we were ordering some sizzling snacks!
All in all, it was an excellent and friendly race, even without the mountain biking leg. So it’s bound to be even better next year when they work it in!