We haven’t raced together since May so it was exciting to head up to the Sunshine Coast for the 12 hour Dawn Attack adventure race. While the race was more multisport than adventure race (with about 40% of the bike/trek legs on roads, all be it gravel roads), it was a fun event that allowed us to consolidate what we have learned this season and push ourselves aerobically.
After the brief opening ceremony in which we released lanterns to the adventure gods, we were loaded onto a bus to travel to the start of the race.
Leg 1 was a trek leg through some hilly country near Lake Cooloolabin. The map didn’t include all the trails so we had to rely on the topography to identify the actual tracks we were on. But once we got a handle on our location, the navigation was straight forward and only required us to follow a couple of straight forward fire trails (marked at gazetted gravel roads on Google maps) to checkpoints 1 and 2 before following Cooloolabin Road around the dam to the transition. The most challenging thing about this leg of the race was that hill, which went on and on and on.
Legs 2 and 3 were mountain bike legs. They were separated by a long road section through rural properties.
Leg 2 followed the Lake Cooloolabin MTB trail, a marked fire trail/gravel road that circled the lake, and the road we had walked up on the leg 1. It included checkpoints 4 – 7, which were all easy finds and were placed merely to force us to follow a certain route. (To be fair, one was hidden behind a log and had some first timers confused but we walked straight to it).
Leg 3 required us to find three checkpoints in Parklands, a popular MTB trail riding area. The first was on a sign as we entered Parklands, the second was at the meeting of two marked trails and the third was on on a sign as we exited the park. We did spend some time messing around in the rabbit warren that are the Parklands single trails and had to walk up some steep single track hills. But the single track exploration was self-imposed because we could have followed the marked trail all the way to the final CP of the leg. We just thought we’d take a short cut that ended up being a bit of a long-cut.
All the cycling I’ve been doing is paying off and I found myself cruising along easily. This allowed me to help give my sister a break on the steeper uphills by pushing her bike. Later in the race, she would have to be patient with me as I hit the wall during the final trek leg (this is normal for us; she hits the wall during the bike and I almost always struggle during the final trek leg).
Leg 4 was a kayak leg. We could see a big storm coming in the distance and didn’t want to get caught out on the water, so I didn’t stop to take any photos. Rather, we powered past 8 teams, the closest of whom was a full reach of the river ahead of us when we set off. It’s funny, we don’t really do that much paddling but somehow we manage to move well on the water.
After checking in at the end of the paddle, we set off on the leg 5, a road and beach trek back to HQ. After running / walking along suburban roads from the kayak transition to the beach, we saw that the storm clouds we thought were heading away from the course were actually hanging directly in front of us. So what did we do? Why, of course, we took some photos. And then we ran/walked down the beach towards the next CP. The CPs along the beach were hung at specific beach exit points, all of which are clearly signed and visible from the waterline.
About 200m from the next CP, a bolt of lightning struck really close to where we were running (I’m talking so close that a team following us said that we were really lucky – it was maybe only 10m from us). It came out of nowhere and really scared us. The thunder was louder than anything I’ve ever heard before and came simultaneously to the lightning crack. No sooner had we got ourselves up from where we’d instinctively thrown ourselves onto the ground, than hail stones the size of fists started pelting down on us. With backpacks held over our heads to protect ourselves from the hail and our bodies bent low to protect ourselves from the lightning that was crashing around, we raced the 100m up the beach to take shelter behind some shrubs along the paths in the dunes. It was crazy but, at the same time, storms are a normal part of our summers. We decided not to return to the beach, running/walking instead along the paths behind the beach so that we were at less risk of being hit by lightning (the beach is a dangerous place to be in a lightning storm because you’re the tallest thing on the beach). But we still collected the final two CPs because they were on the paths, not the beach.
After about 7.5 hours of racing we made it back to Race HQ, only to find everything packed up to protect it all from the hail. Robyn (Race Organiser) was cheering teams in and making a human archway with another member of the Event team. It was a shame that everything was packed up. Due to the storms, leg 6 was cancelled (we later found out it was a laser tag game).
Rather than hang around for 2 hours waiting for the post-race sausage sizzle, we drove out onto the course to collect our bikes and gear boxes. While out there, we talked with other racers, enjoyed the sunshine that came out, dried off and changed into dry clothes before driving home.
I don’t know what position we came and don’t really care too much because the storm caused chaos. The race was more multisport with too much boring road riding. This was explained away but still made for a dull race from my perspective.
Total: About 20km trek, 30km MTB and 10km paddle.