Sunday, 14 June 2015

GeoQuest 2015

By Paul Gruber

Rugged up and still shivering from the dip in the Myall River earlier in the afternoon courtesy of a competency check, Team Dynamite stood on the lawn in front of the Hawks Nest Beach eagerly awaiting the course reveal. After being given the all clear, the captains from all competing teams swiftly pounced on the individual piles of maps laid out before them. A quick overview confirmed that the course was looking like a fast paced and an exciting loop, with a bit more paddling than normal. Having concentrated on improving our paddling over the past year we thought it was perfect...lets get back and mark them up. It also suited our line up for this race which included Sakkie Meyer, who flew over for us from across the ditch.

We arrived early on the beach the next morning, relieved to see that the dreary clouds and cold wind of Friday had cleared to reveal a spectacular sunrise ahead of a forecast mostly fine day. Kayaks began to fill the beach. What looked like a game of chess ensued, with teams moving up and down the beach to position themselves in the perfect spot to get an "easy" path through the breakers. During a short pre race briefing we learnt that the paddle would be slightly shorter due to the swell. From the beach there wasn't much sign of too many lumps, but we've seen that can easily change.

Leg 1 Ocean Kayak 12km
The countdown began as we stood with skis in hand on the edge of the water. Just as we left the beach, a set began to come through. Karina and Gus copped a pounding, but kept steadfast and were soon not far behind Sakkie and I. We dared not look behind us but knew some mayhem had been caused by the poorly timed waves. We were focused and in hot pursuit of the front teams. As we neared the point, the waves became more and more unpredictable, as they bounced off the nearby rocks. We continued on through the heads, but every time the waves seemed to die down, another few waves would hit us.

Leg 2 Trek 7km
We reached the shore in Shoal Bay in about fourth position and quickly transitioned to the trek. We began at a steady pace, trying to ensure we kept to our own speed on the trails to Fingal Bay. Shotz passed us heading up into the dunes, then Mountain Designs flew by as we ran into town along the beach.

Leg 3 Mountain bike rogaine/snorkel 18km
After marking up the optional CPs on the MTB rogaine map, we took off in pursuit. There were several options with the way the town was set out, but we ended up heading bush at the end of Farm Road, taking a gamble and heading along a "minor track" which turned out to be not bad and put us at CP C in front of both MD and Shotz who had left transition before us. We turned back and took another right hand turn to go to CP E arriving just before Shotz. At CP D we both caught MD and then proceeded as a group down the now slower paced sandy trails into CP6 to drop the bikes. We had decided to swim without flippers, opting to run and swim in bike shoes as we figured it would only be a short swim and wouldn't save us much time (if any). This worked well and we entered the small bay when the Peak Adventure crew were just getting wet. After swimming to the three CPs I got over excited following the other teams up the beach and back to the bikes before realising we had missed punching CP S5 at the beach end of the trail. By the time we ran back 100m, we'd lost contact with the lead groups.

Leg 4 Trek / raft 14km
Arriving at the transition we searched the car park to find our support crew had not arrived. With nothing else we could do we ate some food and watched up the road for them to come. It must have been 15 minutes before they arrived, but it gave us an incentive to trek  strongly on this one. This trek took us around some amazing rocky coastline and then across the Stockton Dunes (which would have been nice to spend more time in), before a long flat road run to our rafts. There was little time wasted finding CPs and a highlight was passing the infamous (not) Giant Peach, I am afraid it does look a little old and "weathered". Our raft worked well enough, but with two 6ft + guys at the back, we ended up taking on a little water on the two crossings. 

Leg 5 Kayak 13km
A quick transition to the skis put us out on the water in beautiful sunny conditions. We had to keep an eye out for oyster beds, but otherwise an uneventful but enjoyable leg and were ahead of our estimated schedule.

Leg 6 Trek 22km
I swore until we got to the CP that Gus was just pulling our leg that there wasn't canoes. My theory was he figured telling us we'd get wet again meant we wouldn't waste time changing into dry clothes. We got CP H at dusk and wow, that water was cold! I felt for the teams behind that would cross in the dark. The next section was frustrating for all teams it seems, given the majority of tracks shown were totally missing or overgrown. We overshot Log Wharf Fire Road (or where it was meant to be) and ended up walking with the Quality Nude Time boys up to CP O, before heading back down the main road to find Foleys Road and shooting a bearing in to the creek junction from the corner in the road. A long detour but gave us minimal fuss finding it in the end. We entered transition at about the same time as QNT but were longer in there before heading out on the skis.

Leg 7 Kayak 12km
This kayak included two stops to collect  a few of the trek CP's, it was the teams choice to collect these on the Trek or Kayak leg.I can't help but laugh about the guy at the first stop we took to get CP M and CP L. Two top quality camper trailers set up at a secluded Karuah River camp site must have seemed perfect! Until 100+ adventure racers began walking through the camp site ALL night. Not this guy... It seemed he was excited about it. Perhaps this changed later in the night, but based on his enthusiasm, he must have been keen to tell as many people about his trailers as he could. I'm not sure if he chewed the ears off every team as they landed while standing there in his undies or it  was just special for us? The next river stop to get CP I, was also at a camp site. A short distance away sounded like a massive party. No need for a compass bearing descending the hill, just follow your ear for the yelling and singing from the campers having a really good time.
Leg 8 Mountain bike 56km
We started this leg on fast flat roads feeling good but looking forward to some upcoming hills. Sakkie had dropped to the back as we approached the first of the smaller tracks. We all heard a large crack from behind and instantly knew it was something bad. His seat post had cracked at the very top where the seat joints to the seat post leaving the seat on the ground. Lucky no potentially nasty injury inflicted, but a serious engineering problem to solve to get him going again. A short discussion followed and then some tape wrapped around the stub of the seat allowed us to slot it into the frame.... and voila! A BMX bike! The new bike didn't make uphills easy for the rest of the ride, but at least kept us moving forwards. Some rough and muddy tracks on this section involving hike a bike for what seemed like a few hours took us to some more reasonable roads.  Neverest passed us as the sun rose just before the flowing downhill and we rode into the transition at 7:30 just behind them. 

Leg 9 Trek rogaine 10km
Heading out, we walked past CBD and Shotz returning after an epic time. We got the first point easy enough, but our walking had slowed and then we struggled a little with CP U. Our interpretation of the alteration had us looking further west of the marked point (not east as was explained to us later). A good point to note to confirm alterations like this to make sure you have interpreted them correctly. Eventually we stumbled upon it and then proceeded up the track and then climbed the "wall" up to CP W. We felt pretty stuffed walking back into transition, but were thankful we weren't heading out on the rogaine like many teams.
Leg 10 Mountain bike 25km
Taking our time climbing the short uphill we found that Sakkie's BMX bike was great at downhills, he was loving the decents and working the legs hard out of the saddle for the small short inclines. A straight forward leg meant we were rolling into town ready to jump on the water, but figuring there would be a team hunting us down. 

Leg 11 Kayak 24km
We took off on the Myall River knowing a team (Neverest) was close behind. We headed down river but I began feeling decidedly drowsy and inefficient. The remedy was in the form of some no doze and Sakkie talking crap to me for 10km. It certainly got me going and Sakkie has lots of race stories to draw upon. We managed a reasonable pace after that, aside for some short desperate wee stops.

Leg 12 Mountain bike 21km

Kelvin had raided our rental house on the way through town and found that the 
kids mountain bikes stuffed around the side of the house had a seat pole the right size to fit in Sakkies frame. Fat and comfy was the style, but it worked well all the same to get us home. It was a train heading into town at full steam ahead! We were racing to get to the finish ahead of Neverest who landed on shore just before we left on the bikes. But with our speed, we knew they had no chance in catching us. Across the line in 
33:41 and fifth place. An awesome result 
given our potentially race stopping bike issue 
and suspect injuries/issues going into the race.

Thanks to Kelvin and Sue for being a great support crew and keeping us going, Hydralyte, Resicon, Kwik Kopy Braeside and Huff N Puff Paddling, and of course our families for again letting us go away (and train) for our adventures. Also a shout out to Ben at Errol St Physio North Melbourne for getting me to the start line (once again).