It was my sister’s fault. She was the one who suggested this madness. One day in August, as we were out riding in the bush, she suggested that we invite our adventure racing friends around to explore our part of the world. In no time, this turned into a decision to hold a proper adventure race training day, complete with topographic maps and flagged checkpoints. Little did we know the Pandora’s we had opened.
Three months and probably 50-100 hour of preparation later, seven teams of 2-3 athletes lined up to test out our route setting skills for a fun day of mountain biking and trekking. People came from as far as the Sunshine Coast, northern NSW and Toowoomba. Some had loads of race experience and some were first time adventure racers. It was wonderful mix of familiar faces and new friends.
At 9:20am we sent the teams on their way with a set of five maps. After a quick swimming challenge and pre-race navigation activities, teams set off to find TA1 via checkpoint A. We had tens hours of thought and work into the maps. By setting up this event, we learned that there’s more to creating a map than just randomly hanging checkpoints. You also have to consider course flow and making sure that people can just ride the single track without worrying about teams running or riding towards them. Then you have to take the local (old) topographic map, overlay it with trail maps, double and triple check your CP locations against the maps and remember to rotate the map for magnetic north (11.4′ here in Brisbane).
The first short bike section to TA1 followed the road for 1.6km before teams hit the bush. There was a short washed out section of fire trail before a nice little ride down IO to checkpoint A before another short sandy section of fire trail to some more single trail that led to TA1. The main confusion for teams here was that we hadn’t separated the single track and fire trail on Map A. We couldn’t work out a way to do it so thought it best to have all trails marked clearly than some to be less clear than others.
From TA1, teams had a 5-6km trek rogain. In this section, teams could elect to complete the checkpoints in any order. All teams worked hard to complete this entire leg, which was more challenging on the ground than map due to the tightly packed she-oaks and long grass along the creek.
This first trek leg included my favourite checkpoint: a nasty little 100 pointer sitting out on a tree in the middle of a swampy creek. All I can say is that teams only had to go there once: I still have to go back and collect the CP to pack up the course after I already went into the creek to hang the CP. While everyone baulked a bit at getting into the creek, I saw lots of smiles and laughter here on the creek bank, so that’s a good sign.
After returning to TA1, teams mounted their bikes for a long, mostly single track, bike leg. Those doing the full course went out to CPJ (on Map A) and those doing the half course went to CPI (on Map A). These flowing single trails got thumbs up all round and are a credit to the trail builders who have created them. Thumbs up were also given to my sister who hid a mystery jelly bean stop for teams who were paying attention and saw the unmapped flags just off one of the tracks.
Teams completing the long course then completed an additional 5km mountain bike leg from CPJ to CPK by following the checkpoints on Map 2 in numeric order. Most of this leg was a straight forward flow through purpose built mountain bike trails, there were two cheeky gratuitous hill climbs (CP3 and CP7) because it’s not an adventure race if you don’t swear at the route setter at least once in the day. I’m more than sure the ride down Blow (pictured above) made up for the two hill climbs though. Only three teams completed this leg because time was getting away from everyone after we seem to have set an 8 hour course, rather than the 6 hour course we were aiming for.
After the bike, teams followed Map A along a mix of single track and fire trail down to TA2 where they again dropped their bikes to do a hilly 7km long trek leg. This trek leg included a run along both Benson & Blinkey and Grass Trees single tracks, a long run through the watery track through the grass paddock that I rode through on Saturday, a play on a children’s playground and an off-track checkpoint down in a damp swampy gully. Everyone was still smiling as they came back to the transition.
It was after 2:45pm by the time the final team left TA2, so most decided to skip the final trek and head to the finish because we’d originally set a 3pm finish time. I told them not to stress about time because we’d obviously set a course that was a lot longer than we had anticipated (it’s our first time route setting and we’ve only been adventure racing for about a year).
The Pinkies decided to take up my offer to try the final trek despite the time. This 2.5km circuit was challenging due to the relative lack of features and the dense tree growth. The one creek often appears to be multiple creeks on the ground because it’s wide and has multiple channels. The Pinkies managed to get 3 or 4 of the checkpoints before popping out of the bush a long way from the TA and having to run back (still smiling broadly).
A short 1.7km ride (including 1.6km on the road) saw them back to HQ at about 4pm, where my sister had put on a sausage sizzle to help everyone refuel.
After a short break to eat some sausages and drink a cold drink, I got back on my bike and rode home as the sun dipped below the hills. Everyone told us they had a great time and there are lots of photos floating around of smiling adventure racers. It was brilliant and we raised $125 for the Nakuru Hope Project (the event was free but we asked teams to make a donation to help Nakuru Hope furnish their school and orphanage).
I rode about 40km on my MTB over the course of the day and slept very well last night. 😉
Thanks to everyone who came along to try out our course. It was fun to set it up for you all.