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Dark Times at Black Mountain

18 February 2012

18 February 2012

Dark Times at Black Mountain


Of course there’s a prologue; races and racers don’t just come into existence; there’s a history, a back story, that must be born in mind when considering the trials and tribulations of the TriHards in the iAdventure Canberra adventure race.

The TriHards had been quiet during the year, taking a break from adventure racing along the same lines as the AROC crew. Well, because the AROC crew had taken a break. Which explains why their sudoku skills had dropped off so dramatically. However, they had not been idle.

Mr GPS has kept up his training through extending the size of his family. This not only provided him with more practice with sleep deprivation, but added the load to his bike when commuting. While the Cyborg started coming up with new and devious ways to train whilst commuting to work.

Twice a week the Cyborg would ride to work in the manner he calls “All dirt day”, wherein as much of the commute is undertaken on dirt as possible. He’s pretty happy with himself, having gotten his commute up to 10km, with possibly 500m of paved sections. These trails include climbing up steep, loose-gravelled fire trail, and rocky, technical sections. So, you can imagine his embarrassment when, on the Thursday before the adventure race, he found himself going over the handlebars of his bike.

In the carpark. The smooth, flat carpark.

With no cars around.

About two metres from the door.

And, as if that wasn’t enough; he came down heavily, thigh first, onto the bar end, giving himself a good cork. Well, a bad cork really, and just two days before the race.

Race Day

Race day started with the Cyborg picking up Mr GPS in the dark of 4:45 a.m., with both racers sneakily loading bikes and leaving without disturbing anyone. Then it was off to visit the event hub, before heading off to the bike drop, where the Cyborg quickly changed from clipless pedals to flats.

Then it was back to the hub for registration and preparation. The TriHards received their grab bag, and bibs - they were team 41 - a prime number! Indeed, did you know that if you summed the age of the TriHards in the team, you would reach another prime number? Not that numbers are that important to adventure racing, nor are arbitrary skills with numbers.

The TriHards read the instructions carefully, and noted they only had one map - which showed a course which would lead them up that terrible hill next to the underpass in Aranda - and that at least some of the course involved the Black Mountain Reserve - they fervently hoped they wouldn’t be finding themselves at 812m above sea level (hmmm, that’s a three digit number, I wonder if that’s a hint for sudoku?) at the top of the mountain! But there wasn’t much information on the maps, so the TriHards picked the best course they could, and decided not to go for any bonus checkpoints until later in the race, when they knew how much time they’d have.

And there were instructions on how to do Sudoku, which the Cyborg had heard of, but never actually participated in, and Mr GPS had identified as his kryptonite. Nevertheless, the ever-optimistic TriHards didn’t concern themselves too much with such matters, thinking sudoku may form some sort of weird bonus round for the elite level adventure racers - after all, we all now how masochistic they are!

Race Start

Then it was off to the briefing, and the start of the race; where the TriHards worst fears were realised: sudoku was the first leg of the event!

Since the dawn of time, adventure race organisers have sought new and inspiring ways to split the field at the start of an event - after all, you don’t want everyone following each other around to checkpoints, or blocking the way on single track. Now many people have tried many different things: putting a swim leg up front, climbing huge sand dunes, starting in waves, or timed intervals. But no, not the team at iAdventure; they had much more cunning plans in mind.

Sudoku (Japanese word, which roughly translated means “Torture of a thousand numbers”)

It was genius, sheer genius! And would ensure that all the numbers geeks, and people with generally too much time on their hands, would be out first. Why couldn’t they choose something much more civilised, like a nice crossword, or rotating games of Battleship?

So it was that 20 minutes into the race, the shame-faced TriHards ventured to HQ to determine the time penalty for not completing sudoku (a game developed by the Japanese after Nagasaki, to ensure maths geeks in western nations no longer had free time to while away designing nuclear weapons). The organisers, however, would not permit them to take a penalty and instead insisted on torturing, I mean, teaching them sudoku.

On the bright side, it can now be said that, despite all appearances, the TriHards are not in fact maths geeks.

Leg 1: Running

The first leg was a straightforward run from the HQ at Black Mountain Peninsula up to the bikes at Black Mountain reserve. And this course looked easy enough. However, there was a hidden challenge - particularly for the TriHards who were now already so far behind the rest of the pack.

A rowing regatta was being run on the same day, with their hq at the boat ramp adjacent to Lady Denman Drive. The first challenge came with the smell of sausage sandwiches wafting up from the barbecue, followed by the second, much harder challenge of passing a coffee van.

Fresh, hot coffee, full of caffeiney goodness. But the TriHards managed to push past temptation, and head on down to checkpoint two near the bike crossing of Lady Denman Drive. Running according to their plan, they eschewed bonus checkpoint A, and ran straight to the first transition area at the bike drop - relieved to see that they were no longer dead last (some people must have been chasing the bonus checkpoint).

Leg 2: Riding

The second riding leg involved riding along the undulating fire trails to the west of Black Mountain Reserve, which ended in an underpass, and the dreaded climb up the fire trail adjacent to Caswel Drive, where both TriHards sorely regretted their decision to swap out their SPDs for flats! They climbed higher for checkpoint four (which is a square number, by the way), and further into the wilds of Belconnen.

Then it was over grass for checkpoint five. Checkpoint six was located in an underpass, and involved finishing off a graffiti sentence on the control card, which was “up”. Interestingly-not that we’re number geeks at the TriHards-the standard English scrabble values for those letters are four for U, and two for P, meaning if you added the scrabble scores for those numbers, you would get six, which was the checkpoint number... Not that that matters.

Scouts may well help little old ladies across the road. Adventure Racers have much more style, and lift ladies’ mountain bikes over gates. At least that’s what the TriHards did as they set off for checkpoint seven on Bruce Ridge-which also turned out to be the second transition area.

Leg 3: Run

The third leg required the TriHards to collect checkpoints eight to twelve in an order (hmm, 812 - that’s the height of Black Mountain from sea level... Not that the TriHards see patterns in numbers!) Naturally, not being particularly imaginative, or keen to mess with numbers, the TriHards set off and collected the checkpoints in order. It was also about this time that the Cyborg’s leg finally started to loosen up and work most of the time!

Leg 4: Ride

Until he got back on the bike! The third leg involved riding around Bruce Ridge, then off to Black Mountain again. Now, all of the checkpoints could have been quite easily found through following the firetrails of Bruce Ridge; but with so much nice, smooth singletrack around, who could resist? The TriHards had long ago given up their aspiration of winning a sheep station, and jumped on the main trunk loop for some sweet single track before dropping out at Dryandra Street in O’Connor to head for checkpoint 17 (which is also a prime number) near the substation at Black Mountain.

The second half of the ride involved some of the Cyborg’s least favourite fire trails in Canberra - the north side of Black Mountain. The climbs are relatively hard, and the descents are steep - and all are covered in loose rock! So challenging are these tracks that Junior is using them as his primary training ground for the Tour De Timor! But, in no time at all, they were down to transition four (which is two-squared, for this who like numbers) and ready to run for checkpoints 18, 19 and 20 in any order.

Leg 5: Orienteering

The orienteering leg was fairly straightforward and Mr GPS’s exceptional navigational skills had them onto the checkpoints without any hassles at all. So, the TriHards took their time walking through the scenic Black Mountain Reserve, taking the opportunity to slow down, catch their breath, and catch up on recent happenings in their lives.

Adventure races aren’t just about being competitive, and pushing yourself to your limits. They’re about bonding, hanging out and having fun with mates. Some people have Tupperware parties, others scrapbooking workshops, some twisted freaks probably even have Sudoku Saturday; the TriHards have adventure racing.

Leg 6: Ride

Sufficiently caught up, the TriHards transitioned at TA5 and jumped back on their bikes to head back to Black Mountain Peninsula, and the paddle leg!

Past the coffee van. Again. And they didn’t stop! Really. Not even for a short black.

Leg 7: Kayak

The kayak leg consisted of two checkpoints, 21 and 22, and a bonus checkpoint I. Checkpoint 22 was located at Weston Park, while 21 was across on Springbank Island. So the TriHards first headed straight across to Weston Park, where they realised the subtle plan of the iAdventure crew.

There were many ducks at Weston Park; and the TriHards knew from previous experience that there is a barbecue on SpringBank Island. Now, some may think this a coincidence, but not the TriHards; they suspected the intent was that teams would not punch a card, but collect a duck at checkpoint 22, then head across to Springbank Island and barbecue it to bring back for many, many bonus points (much more than checkpoint I!)

While at Weston Park, Mr GPS started to tell this theory to one of the girls from the Canberra Bikes and Kayaks team, who began to wonder how to catch a duck while the Cyborg and her partner busily ran off to actually punch their control cards. Needless to say, no ducks were harmed in the running of this adventure race.

Then it was off, duckless, to Springbank Island and, while it may have been tempting to stop and stay for a barbecue, the TriHards knew what awaited them back at the headquarters. So, card punched, they quickly paddled back to Black Mountain Peninsula, and ran through the finish arch to collect they long awaited and well-deserved Subway sandwiches.


All in all, it was an excellent day; not only did the TriHards have an excellent adventure, but they learnt all about Sudoko (a game old Japanese generals used to pass on to their adversaries such that they may perform seppuku out of frustration) and had Subway sandwiches at the end. We would like to pass on our sincere thanks to the team at iAdventure - the team behind such events as the Husky and Bottlebutt - and look forward to the next race in October (rumour has it this one will start with a cryptic crossword!)

Race Stats

Date: 18 February 2012
Location: Canberra, ACT
Rating: Reasonable Adventure
TriHards: Mr GPS and Cyborg
Event website: iAdventure site