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TriHards in the Top 10!

27 August 2013

27 August 2013

TriHards in the Top 10!

Mountain Designs are synonymous with “serious” adventure races, such as the GeoQuest, or the Dark Side - races measured in days, not hours. So, when it was announced a Mountain Designs adventure race was coming to Canberra, and in a sprint format, the TriHards leapt at the opportunity. And, as Canberrans, they felt obliged to enter the Hardcore level of the event...

The local team of Cyborg, Junior and Token viewed the race with trepidation. After all; it was a serious adventure race; and well, they were the TriHards. Their fears was in no sense allayed when it was announced on the site that the HQ for the race would be at Duntroon Military College; news which was followed by the competitor briefing document which also sounded awfully serious; the Cyborg began to wonder if they’d even finish the event...

Fortunately for the TriHards, a bonus scheme was revealed in the week leading up to the event. In2Adventure decided to partner with a charity - Soldier On, which is supports our veterans. As with many good charities these days, they had infrastructure available for teams to create a website and solicit donations. Any team which created a fundraising page, and managed to raise some funds, would receive a secret advantage on the day - but not until the start line. Naturally, needing every advantage they could get, the TriHards created a site - which you can still find here - and set about raising money. Now, while they didn’t raise much - and didn’t reach their target, it was something, which was enough to get the advantage!

Racers on frosty fields.
Cold? We don’t look cold!

All too quickly the TriHards found themselves heading over icy puddles towards registration on race day. There may be a reason nobody runs adventure races in the Canberra winter. Being natural optimists, the TriHards thought the cold would just make it easier to carry the mandatory equipment of long pants and a jacket.

The whole event started to seem less daunting as the TriHards, tucked away in the warm confines of the adventure truck, read the race instructions. It seemed to be relatively standard fare: a rogaine, followed by a trek, then mountain biking, another trek, a mystery leg - which was over near Mt Majura, so no chance of those dastardly army obstacle courses - followed by biking back to the hq, and a final leg. Junior was somewhat concerned at the large scale, and lack of detail on the maps, particularly as there was a rogaine leg around Mt Majura, which is quite steep, and covered in relatively thick wood, so navigation would indeed be a challenge.

After the race briefing, when the teams were just about to head off, the TriHards - who were the only fundraising team - were given their advantage: they were allowed to skip a checkpoint, they already had a fair idea of which checkpoint would be missed...

Map and instructions for the first leg.
We took a photo as backup to copying the instructions...

And they were off - the whole, relatively small, field ran over frosty ground to an oval opposite the HQ where the teams could copy checkpoints and descriptions to their maps. Just to be sure, the Cyborg pulled out his camera and too a photo as well. Then the TriHards set off on the race proper and, in the usual TriHards way, ran in the opposite direction to everyone else.

The first rogaine leg consisted of five checkpoints, which ran anti-clockwise in alphabetical order from the south-eastern side of Duntroon up to the top of Mt Pleasant. Most teams took that route, chasing the checkpoints in order, but Junior noted that checkpoints A and B were close to where they were, and could be gathered easily; from there they could proceed directly up to the top of Mt Pleasant on the south side of Duntroon to collect E, then head back downhill for D and C. While it didn’t really save any effort in climbing, they wouldn’t have to backtrack down the way they came, which would definitely make them feel better!

So, off they went; with checkpoints B, then A falling quickly. They ran around the golf course up through Duntroon, past some of those nasty army obstacle course thingies, and climbed Mt Pleasant to find the canons at the top where the control would be located. Given a canon is such an obvious clue, the organisers decided to put a bit more effort into hiding it; tucking the control away down the front of the canon. Still, it didn’t take too long to find, then the TriHards posed for a photo, and headed off for checkpoint D.

It was around this time that Junior shared his goals for the race with the rest of the team, which were a little more extensive than the Cyborg’s simple goal of finishing. No, Junior had three goals:

  1. Start the race - sure that sounds obvious, but given hectic lives, family and work commitments, actually getting to the start of a race isn’t always a given.
  2. Finish the race - still, not a given. They could get lost, could be slower than anticipated, could not find checkpoints - finishing isn’t just getting to the finish line, it’s completing the race.
  3. Don’t come last.

Down the hill they went, and Junior pointed out power poles - with checkpoint D being on power pole 7615, which they found easily enough. But there was no control. They spread out, running and checking out every power pole like dogs on a walk. But there wasn’t a control to be seen. Then the Cyborg pulled out his trusty camera and zoomed in on the instructions: sure enough, the checkpoint was right where they said it would be, at the base of the tension line for power pole 7615, with no flag. The TriHards began to suspect that finding the controls may be harder than they had initially thought. But at least they now knew to read the instructions carefully!

Crawling through a tunnel
Lucky the camera had a flash!

Checkpoint Charlie held a surprise for racers. This wasn’t going to be some simple control grab. No, the organisers had managed to work some of the army training equipment into the race after all. There were four containers at checkpoint C - all linked by concrete pipe. The TriHards were told that one of the containers contained a minefield, and the team that stepped on the least mines would get a bonus. Into the first dark pipe the TriHards crawled. It led to a darkened container, full of platforms they had to climb to work their way out through another pipe. Kind of like playing Donkey Kong in the dark. The second container held trip wires, which the TriHards had to negotiate in the dark, with packs on their backs; that led onto the third: the minefield. At least it had some light.

The minefield was a mat on the floor divided into a grid, with sensors inside so that when a person trod on a “mined” square a beeper went off. The TriHards were told by the volunteer on minefield duties they had to make their way across and they weren’t allowed to skirt around the edges. The Cyborg went first, jumping as far out as he could on one side, and exploding a mine (losing his left leg). Next up came Token, who jumped out to one square behind the Cyborg, about halfway up the mat, which didn’t beep, so she came through whole. Junior followed in her footstep, and they were all through with only one beep. Not a record, but at least they weren’t last!

Letters turned to numbers for the second leg, with Checkpoint One being a marshalled crossing of the road for racers to exit the defence facility - at least there would be no nasty obstacles here! Checkpoint 2 looked to be relatively straightforward run along a long flat paddock. The trick here being that the field was bounded by fenced off areas with huge warning signs relating to unexploded ordinance. That is, a real minefield! So, after a quick diversion the TrIHards gathered checkpoint two on their way to the second transition area and their bikes.

The bike drop (and TA) was at the overflow carpark of Campell Park - the same location as the start of the Capital Punishment 50km event. All three of the TriHards had ridden the Capital Punishment, and were quite familiar with the territory which provided them with a relatively misplaced confidence, for checkpoint four would not only test their navigational skills, but their botanical knowledge! There were no distinguishing features, apart from a track junction quite a way after the checkpoint, to note where to depart from the track. So, the team just had to keep their eyes out for a gully, with some wattle trees, just south of the track.

Sure enough, they found the gully, and a huge wattle, but no control. Spying one further up they tried that one, to no avail. So, with a bit of the dreaded backtracking they found another one (maybe 20 metres further back) and finally managed to nab the checkpoint.

It was on their way to checkpont five that the TriHards noted something rather disturbing. There were other checkpoints on the course. These, of course, could not be checkpoints placed by the team from In2Adventure - they were out in the open and quite easy to find! As it turns out, there was an ACT Orienteering event on the same day around Mt Majura reserve. But the TrIHards were not tempted by these false checkpoints, and cruised straight on to the relatively easily-found checkpoint five.

Checkpoint six presented some more difficulties. Described as “Gully 60m north west of Dam”... Junior found the dam easy enough, and then the gully, but there was no sign of the checkpoint. They really should have known better; it would not be found walking on the easy, flat ground outside the gully. So the Cyborg hopped into the gully and started walking, and there it was, right where the expected it to be; just that it was hidden behind a tree inside the gully! But from there it was quick work to get back down to the TA - the McKenzie Street entrance to Mt Majura reserve - familiar ground for the TriHards as that was where they used to meet for their rides. Needless to say, the Cyborg was sorely tempted to duck over to the Bamily’s for a quick coffee- but that would probably count as outside help!

The second trekking leg of the course was the orienteering loop around Mt Majura - and despite Junior’s excellent navigational skills, this was the one they were least looking forward too. Mt Majura is steep, and heavily wooded, combined with the sparsely detailed maps, the checkpoints would be hard to find. Fortunately, as always, Junior excelled at the navigation - and, with the bonus of being able to skip a checkpoint, the TriHards were back at the TA in no time at all, well, maybe about an hour; but it was indeed a very pleasant roam around Majura.

Map for bogaine leg
Bogans? On the north side?

Then the TriHards were back to their pedalling best, with a ride over to the other side of Majura - home of the Majura singletrack (now home of the Majura Drive duplication project). Once more, Junior copied down all of the checkpoint locations, and they were off. The Cyborg’s hopes of taking some shortcuts through the singletrack were dashed as he noticed trees downed throughout the forest, and most of the tracks covered in debris (though, he did still manage to find some!)

Back to business as usual; the TriHards returned to the hub, collecting checkpoints along the way, and found themselves thinking about lunch. The last leg involved collecting three checkpoints around the grounds again; surely that couldn’t take too long! They’d finish with plenty of time to spare!

So they set off for the bronze checkpoint, which was located in a culvert. Once again, the course setters had managed to hide this checkpoint quite well. Keen eyes eventually prevailed, locating it buried amidst leaves on top of the culvert. Then they were off to the silver checkpoint, which was on the north side of a building.

There they found a marshall.

And he had instructions.

Pages of instructions.

The silver checkpoint was reached at the end of a rope obstacle course. A rope obstacle course suspended over a pool. Even as they were being briefed on the course, people were falling in. Regularly. Junior, whose shoulder was prone to dislocation, had to sit this challenge out; resulting in a 20 minute penalty - which he didn’t really feel bad about - it took more than 20 minutes just to queue for the challenge! That left Token and the Cyborg to take on the challenge, which started with a lap of the pool - ostensibly to ensure they could swim, but in reality it was a reminder that they were racing in a Canberra winter; while the water was warm, queuing whilst wet was quite cold!

Obstacle course suspended over a pool
At least it wasn't muddy...

Just as the TriHards began to consider the time spent vs the penalty for dropping out, and how cold they actually were, it was their turn. Token swung out to the cargo net first, and made relatively quick work of going up, then patiently waited for the plank to clear (only one person on any obstacle at a time) then she crawled into a conduit pipe. Meanwhile, the Cyborg waited a while to save his arms from having to hang on the cargo net before swinging out and climbing up. The cargo net was similar to the caving ladder found in some climbing gyms; so the Cyborg hugged and climbed using the same technique and found himself right at the top in no time at all.

Token popped out the other side of the conduit, and the Cyborg slid across the plank, and into the dark tunnel. Here he waited while Token tried to scramble across the net. Waiting in the dark, confined space, hanging above water, not stressing at all. Token’s arms began to give out as she negotiated the cargo net, and she quietly slipped into the water. The Cyborg pushed on, eager to get out of the floating coffin, and scrambled across the cargo net before holding back a tarzan-call as he swung across to the balance beam.

Spectators may have been impressed with the speed and confidence with which the Cyborg crossed the beam; in reality he was just using the mountain biking principle: the faster you go, the better you balance. Of course that works when you’re shivering and running along a thin beam! He was almost amazed that he’d made it to the other side, and swung relatively effortlessly out onto yet another cargo net.

Then it was just onto the horizontal rope ladder; the Cyborg was having visions of making it to the end. He reached out and grabbed the second rung; and the ladder sagged, having the net effect of putting the next rung well out of his reach. He’d have to do a one-armed chinup, whilst swinging forward to catch the next rung - a feat that would no doubt have to be repeated at least for the next three rungs! Nevertheless, he had a shot, and was dunked for his efforts.

So, wet and weary the TriHards raced down towards the (final) gold checkpoint, before finally running under the finish arch; their dreams of an early finish dashed as they crossed with about 10 minutes to spare before the cutoff time! But they did finish, and they didn’t finish last, so they achieved all three goals!

All in all it was a fantastic event which definitely warmed up the TriHards in a cold Canberran winter. The navigation was challenging, and attention to detail was required throughout the whole day, which made it all the more interesting (and enjoyable) - yet not so challenging as to be frustrating. In fact, if any of the TriHards had their pilot’s license, they’d probably undertake the entire series...

The TriHards Canberra team
Local TriHards.

Race Stats

Date: 27 July 2013
Location: Canberra
Rating: (2) Reasonable Adventure - Well, we did wash our gear in a pool!
Event website: Adventure Race Australia Site

Addendum

Yes, it’s true: the TriHards did finish in 6th place in the mixed category; putting well into the top 10. Fortunately, there were only eight teams, in that category - so they retain their rightful place at the top of the bottom-third!