27 February, 2013
TriHards Score Seconds!
The TriHards continued their domination of the bottom-third of the field at iAdventure’s adventure race at Murray’s Corner. Even more importantly-they got seconds. No, you read that right: seconds. Having hung around the presentation area long enough, and with enough leftover Subway six-inchers (reportedly measured by the travel on the Cyborg’s shocks) the TriHards managed to snaggle an extra sub each!
The latest Canberran adventure race from iAdventure was run in Murray’s corner, a hilly area in Pierces Creek State Forest which, as it turns out, is a bit of a misnomer - Pierce’s Creek State Blackberry Plantation would be a far better name! To change things up and create additional challenges for the race, iAdventure have also introduced some new rules into their tried-and-true concept of optional bonus checkpoints. (What do you mean you don’t know about this concept? Have you not read our previous race reports? Okay, go back and read them now. No, really, here’s one from last February, and one from October).
Put simply (and because we know you didn’t go back and read the reports) rather than having bonus legs on a course, iAdventure throw in bonus checkpoints. These are differentiated on the map through having letters, rather than numbers, and each are worth a certain amount of points. This adds an extra dimension to the race, as it also means competitors must think on their feet: weighing up whether or not there is any merit to heading to the checkpoint (such as: would it take more time to get there and back than it’s worth, would the effort slow them down for the rest of the race, do they really want to run/ride up another mountain?) To further complicate the matter this time, any team who went for the bonus checkpoints had a cutoff time of 4.5 hours.
Apart from the benefits of letting competitors choose their own adventure throughout the race, it also meant that the more advanced teams (not the TriHards) would regularly pop back onto the course to overtake the less fit teams (the TriHards) again and again. Naturally, every time the TriHards saw a really fit team they just assumed they were racing much more competitively than normal.
Now, you might think that, given the more complicated nature of these bonus checkpoints, the TriHards would spend quite a bit of time coming up with a race plan - determining the most effective course to take to collect the most possible checkpoints. Perhaps just coming up with a list of potential bonus checkpoints. But there were far more important considerations to take into account when plotting their course for the race: contour lines.
Looking about from the hub, it was obvious to the Cyborg and the Engine (before even looking at the map) that they were in a mountain range (they could tell from the fantastic view, and no, they didn’t actually take any photos of that view...) So, after registering and collecting their race packs, they concentrated on coming up with a course which contained the least amount of climbing; a nigh impossible task.
Start - B is for Blackberry!
The race started with a mass run start, and everybody running through a creek - then a few hundred metres to the first checkpoint which was located in the creek - surprisingly the pack had already broken up at this early stage and there wasn’t much of a queue at the checkpoint; then TriHards made their first mistake of the day: they opted for the first, “easy” bonus checkpoint.
Looks can be deceiving, especially when you’re looking at a map. Checkpoint B was quite close to the first checkpoint on the map, and worth 10 points, so seemed to be quite a reasonable bonus to go for. Indeed, the TriHards saw it easily from the higher vantage point of the road they were on, and made short work getting down to the checkpoint and punching their personalised control card. Then they saw teams milling on the western side of the creek - the side they would have to cross to and climb out to chase after checkpoint two. The side covered with blackberry bushes.
It almost seemed to be a sentient predator, reaching out and grabbing racers, then dragging them into it’s dark green folds. Like everyone else, TriHards sacrificed their due in skin as they raced in circles searching for an escape. They found a fallen tree which sat against a cliff - another team on their way down warned it leads to a sheer rock face, but the TriHards fancied themselves as climbers and elected to give it a shot. Sure enough, there was a rock face, and it was kind of climbable - at least with climbing shoes. Undaunted, the Cyborg had a shot, only to find himself hanging precariously by his fingertips over a deep growth of blackberry - a fall from which he would surely never escape! So TriHards clambered back to land and began to hunt, with the rest of the field, for a way out.
Just as the Cyborg was starting to eye off some of the smaller competitors for use as human shields, the Engine spotted a queue forming. There was another tree down across the bushes, creating a safe path for teams to cross! All teams took turns holding the tree in place while others crossed and made their way to freedom, well, checkpoint two.
So the TriHards found themselves on open firetrail with the freedom to run as far and fast as they could. Well, as fast as they could with the hobbled Cyborg slowing them down again. He had been training (well, doing rehabilitation exercises at any rate) and was able to run. Sort of. Just not up hills. Which was kind of unfortunate given they’d have to run up two mountains to get to the next checkpoint.
The run turned to a jog; and the jog to a walk, but the TriHards eventually made it to checkpoint two, with checkpoints three and four falling shortly thereafter. The basic checkpoints weren’t hard to find - so long as you had a reasonable level of navigation skill, and you knew which junction you were at.
With all the run leg checkpoints bagged, and back on flat ground, the TriHards ran into the transition area, doing a little leap for joy at the sight of their bikes for the second leg of the race - riding.
This leg had a new - more detailed orienteering - map, and up to seven bonus checkpoints. Thinking on his feet, Engine suggested the TriHards venture off for two relatively easy riding checkpoints, given that riding would be their strength on a day when the Cyborg couldn’t run, and there was no paddle leg. The Cyborg, whose blood was not yet dry on the blackberry bushes of checkpoint B, thought it best to err on the side of caution; so they rode off on the standard course.
And the checkpoints fell quickly and easily along the mainly downhill run, which went by so quickly that all too late the TriHards found themselves reconsidering the decision not to collect those bonus checkpoints. These regrets were quickly abated when, as they put their bikes down in the transition area, they looked back up the direction they’d come from - that fun downhill run - and knew they’d have to climb back up that path.
So, it was onto the second run leg of the race, around the watercourse at the Cotter Reserve. Originally, this section was to be completed on car tyre tubes, however the water level had dropped too much, so it turned into a run leg. This didn’t deter the TriHards, who found themselves swimming in the deeper water after nabbing checkpoints 10 and 12.
From there it was an easy (and much cooler) jog along the river rocks for checkpoint 11, and then the Engine’s masterful navigation led them through a thicket of soft - non-thorny, quite comfortable - bushes smack bang into checkpoint K.
K. That’s right - a letter - another bonus checkpoint!
Then it was back to transition, and a short climb up a hill to the Cotter Caves to discover the location of checkpoint 16. The TriHards resisted the temptation to go caving (which was helped by the huge cage barring the entrance) and returned to the transition area and their bikes for the final ride leg.
The final, climbing ride leg.
The Cyborg had actually wanted to come out and ride this area for a while, as all the Pros come out this way to train. Now that he was out amidst all the rider-improving climbs, he began to realize just how much he really enjoyed kayaking.
It was back up the hill the way they’d come, grinding away on the gears in the rapidly warming day... Then around the corner to face another climb... But before too long checkpoint 13 came into view, followed by a downhill run to 14.
Now, from checkpoint 14 there were several choices; the clearest path on the map involved climbing again up to a high point, then dropping down for checkpoint 15. But Engine examined the map closely and noted that there was a little trail which led to a firetrail to the west, which would skirt around the climb and lead to checkpoint 15.
So, the TriHards turned left and went cross-country. After all, it was an adventure race - who wants to stick to a path? This led them to a huge sand pit - sure, sure, the map said gravel, but there was a big pile of sand in the middle. Three sandcastles later, the TriHards were out and riding on the firetrail towards the X-intersection from which they would turn down to checkpoint 15.
But X didn’t mark the spot. T came pretty close - it was in the right location - the high point of the firetrail - but there was no road east! Undaunted, the TriHards turned left once more into the scrub to work their way back to 15; with Engine vowing to drop them out right on top of it.
And a few minutes later, that’s exactly what he did! They pulled out of the pines (just before being attacked by some hungry blackberry) right in front of the checkpoint. The Cyborg was amazed, but Engine just took it all in his stride.
Then it was back onto the bikes for a downhill run to the last checkpoint - which the cave had informed them was at checkpoint one. So it was back down familiar tracks, until they were at the very track that led them out of the Blackberry Hell. But the creepers remembered them, and reached out as the TriHards whizzed by on their bikes - snatching at arms, legs, tyres - anything their long thorns could reach. But with the end so close at hand (and gravity on their side) there was no stopping the TriHards now.
Well, until they reached the bank. You see, according to the rules, riders weren’t permitted anywhere on Paddys River Road, which was the main road into the hub - and from this point, the quickest way to the hub. Riders had to cross the stream, and come in from the fire trail on the other side.
So, the TriHards carried their bikes across the river, collecting checkpoint one along the way, and climbed the steep, blackberry-lined banks on the other side. It was around the time the Cyborg was farewelling the last of the skin on his left elbow that he suggested next time he may bring a machete. It would certainly help clear a path, not to mention slow down any faster riders.
Engine considered this idea for a moment, and decided it would be too much work. A petrol-powered trimmer would be a better idea. It would make short work of blackberry bushes, without having to get into thorn range, and could potentially double as a propeller on kayak legs.
Such thoughts carried them back down the firetrail and to the finish line - just in time for the cutoff. And, by just in time, we mean of course an hour ahead of the cut-off. It wasn’t that the TriHards were taking pictures at the start instead of listening to the briefing - or weren’t reading the instructions as they went; it’s just they had so much fun they’d lost all track of time. Really.
Another great feature of the iAdventure races is that they feed you at the end! Six-inch subs from Subway, with a bikkie and a drink - who could ask for more?! So the TriHards sat, ate, and reflected on a great morning of fun and frivolity when the final disaster struck.
The blackberries would not be forgotten, and had one final sting in the tail - or front as the case may be - for the Cyborg. Every competitor received a Shotz gel in their goody-bag at the start of the race. The Cyborg dutifully stuck this in his shorts so he’d have a reserve supply. And those cunning blackberry thorns had found it - piercing through his pocket, through the silver-foil packet and leaving a hole through which the sticky gel could seep, resulting in a hot, sticky mess in the Cyborg’s shorts.
All in all, it was another fantastic adventure put on by the team at iAdventure. The TriHards would like to thank all involved, as well as the great sponsors (the Cyborg, by the way, was wearing Moxie Gear gaters throughout the event which worked wonderfully - his shins and calves are about the only part of his body sporting skin!)
Yes, the Cyborg and Engine did take some picture during the race - you can find them (and the other ones we stole off the internet) in our Facebook album.
And iAdventure have some photos on their Facebook page.