|Aunty Jan & Erin at Cradle Mountain|
Déjà vu……we were back in Launceston for the 2013 edition of the Webber Challenge….same hotel, different year! The Launceston Country Club hosted the racers, once again, but this year for the first night only.
We gathered for race briefing on Monday afternoon…..so much to take in…..so many maps….such remote locations. I had teamed up with the lovely Erin Donaldson this year…..hoping our mutual respect would bode well in the following 5 days…..and we would have a fun time out there in the wilds of Tassie. Kim had been asked to race with Hiro Nataka…..and guide him through the event… and Luke had teamed up with old friend, fellow doctor, and lapsed triathlete, Craig Maskiell.
We were a happy group…..and happy to be there amongst some great adventure racers….and non-adventure racers who were all ready to take on what the John Jacoby and Sam Maffet had devised as the best way to see all good bits of Tasmania from Launceston to Hobart via the rugged west coast.
We had the maps….and it was down to business.
Day 1 – Mole Creek….at a glance
MYSTERY DISCIPLINE: This ended up being a stint on a cross-cut saw…..what fun…..we were lumberjacks!
|Aunty Kim on the cross-cut saw...|
MTB: Away on the bikes next for a little ride around Mole Creek including a CP in one of the famous caves! We made good time on this leg and landed at the TA for a quick change into run shoes.
RUN: (questionable) This ‘run’ was 10.5km….for some that would take about 40mins…..not this baby, we were out there trekking for a good 3 ¼ hours on this one. Yes, we could see it went up a big hill, and then up some more….with some tricky track navigation…..which we nailed…..but then it went up some more……right to the top of the Mt Parmeener in the Great Western Tiers Conservation Area. We found ourselves high on the plateau…..now without a track…..on our way to CP9 which was the most navigationally challenging CP of the entire event! Bonding with the other all-girls team at this point, we made our way south towards the ‘scrubby knoll’……It was hard going, rocky and tussock grass…..and lots of wombat tracks that we were tempted to follow…..but they weren’t going to the check-point! In the distance we could see a distinct knoll with little figures up the top….yay! We made a b-line for this….only to find the CP was not there! Down we go and over to some more little knolls…..they were just everywhere…..and on a 1:50,000 map it was very had to define where the right scrubby knoll might be as nothing was distinctly marked as a nice little knoll on the map! We went up every knoll on that little ridgeline…..almost gave up, but as a team (two teams..) we decided on one last look…..and bingo….there it was…..just like that! We were quite relieved and were quite over knolls…..but were happy to be making our way to the TA that we could see far down in the distance….
MTB: A nice little ride with some great hills….up and down….a crossing of the famous Mersey River…then through a pass in those big hills and down to CP 13 at the power-lines. Then it was a big downhill ride to the paddle……wooo-hoooooo…..we were loving it!
PADDLE: Last leg of the day…..a 14km paddle down the River Forth…..through Lake Cethuna….and onto the finish line…… Day one, done and dusted – 10 hours! We passed Kim and Hiro on the paddle…..Hiro had not got his paddle arms on yet……Kim worked very, very hard to keep them going J
Day 2: Cradle Mountain – Place of beauty ….and wombats J
MTB: Short mtb ride from our accommodation…..straight to the shores of Dove Lake.
RUN: (questionable..) We took off for a run/trek which circumnavigated Dove Lake….. First CP at the top of Marion’s Lookout…..of course it was…..but a lovely view rewarded us there! Then it was on to the Overland Track on the way to the junction. Running was possible on a few sections….mainly the duck-board. We decided to miss the optional CP at the top of Cradle…..and continued on along the side of said mountain to Hansens Peak on the eastern side via some beautiful perched lakes along the way. The views were spectacular as we traversed the hillside….and we could see boats on Dove Lake below…..already……we wouldn’t get there for quite a while…..and there was a cut-off. John Jacoby was sitting on Hansens Peak when we arrived….but he soon passed us on the rocky descent on his way back – I think we were going at grandma’s pace!
PADDLE: Short 5km paddle around Dove Lake…..we spotted all the CPs from the trek….so no problems with this one!
RUN: A fantastic run back around the Cradle Mountain area……on the beautiful duck-board…..yes, we were running…..and made it back to the TA just as Kim & Hiro were heading off on the bikes…
ORIENTEERING: Short section of orienteering where we spotted our first wombat….and braved a river crossing and cliff-climb to nail a CP at a visible lookout…..we were having fun on this one!
|Cradle Mountain wombat!|
MTB: Road ride out to the trails…..which seemed to be non-existent….but luckily I was able to get into John’s head…..yep, there was a flattened area over there…..that will be it! I’m sure Erin was disbelieving at that point…..we crossed a very rickety bridge….quite precariously…..and rode up this very dodgy track, but hey…..what was at the track-junction?…..that lovely CP!! We were on a roll, and got through this section really well……and it was great to have the Lonely Planet team travelling with us towards the finish of Day 2….. We did it in 7.5 hours!
|This was on the bike course.....a Jacoby bridge!|
Day 3 – Strahan
This day had some very big lows for us……the first one being the ‘swim’ leg to shore from the cruise boat. In retrospect, it was the anticipation of this activity that was worse…..the actual water, once we were in it, was not too bad!
So…….freezing, and dressed for the swim…..no shoes, no wetsuits….we made our way down to the dock and embarked the cruise boat for a little ride to HELL….. The weather outside was appalling….strong gusty wind, squally rain…..not pleasant at all…..especially for us who had to jump of this freaking boat……into that horrible looking water!!
We made our way out to the gunwales…..all hanging on…...shivering with cold…..quivering with fear! What on earth was John thinking putting us through this torture…???? Before I knew it, people were diving in…..oh no…..when I found a clear spot I finally jumped….(we were thinking we would try not to get our hair wet…….stupid thought…..I went straight under and nearly hit the bottom….but soon bobbed up on the surface…..and, in shock, swam to shore)
PADDLE: We had put dry thermals and jackets ready for the paddle, so we quickly got dry and dressed and off we went…. The weather hadn’t improved…..but we were now quite warm and enjoyed this little paddle around the bays of Strahan….
MTB: Back to the TA…..and onto the bikes. It was still exceptionally cold….and luckily we had a climb to the first CP. On our way to the CP at Ocean Beach we were passed by a bunch of the top teams who had been to 2 optional CPs on their way……these guys moved so fast…..we couldn’t believe it! It was a boring dirt road down to the TA at Macquarie Heads where we would get in the kayaks for a paddle over to South West Island…..
OCEAN PADDLE: We had been warned about this paddle that it could be quite treacherous with fast-moving tides, eddies and standing waves. We were quite nervous…..but it seemed to be ok as we were going with the tide……and we even managed to cut through the rock groyne and take a short cut to the TA.
RUN: We had a series of CPs on this little island….the weather was still horrendous…..so we didn’t waste any time getting going on the run. We found all the CPs here, had a bit of trouble with a rocky knoll…..very over knolls after Day one…..met up with our friends Luke and Craig….and also ran into Kim and Hiro on this trek. We decided to miss the optional CP 15 and head straight back to the boats.
PADDLE: This paddle was one of the hardest I have ever done. We, stupidly, paddled all the way around the rock groyne this time…..only to turn, smack-bang into that famous outgoing tide as we hit the other side. We were barely moving and had to muster up all our strength to keep going. I’m sure Erin was cursing me and wondering why she was here in this god-forsaken place…..but she kept on paddling….that’s all we could do! To make things worse, as we were struggling with the high winds and gushing tide against us, we witnessed a series of teams portage their boats through the rock wall and then get 100 metres ahead of us in about 5 minutes….. Why didn't we (I) think of that?….I said a thousand apologies to Erin…..and I hope she will forgive me for making her paddle this section of treacherous water…..against the massive out-going tide….. Wow…..I would have to redeem myself somehow!!! The only positive is that we got a lot more paddle training in than those other teams….
But…it wasn't over yet. This was a massive paddle…..and most of it was in the headwind and against the tide…..there was just no other option than to put your paddle in the water and keep moving. We were freezing cold and our hands were numb on the paddle…..Finally after the last CP, we turned for home and had a nice little tail wind back to Macquarie Heads….
MTB: A final mtb ride back to the finish line took us over some sand-tracks (fun for me…) and we nailed the CP that everyone couldn't find……yay!….then it was onto the dirt road and we were hammering home…..We were excited to pass a series of male teams along this ride…..and finished strongly, just behind Kim and Hiro…. 8 ½ hours!
Day 4 – Mt Field
After a 3 hour drive to our accommodation at Tarraleah, we settled into our rooms for the night after a very nice dinner in the great hall. Despite a power outage while we were contacting our maps, we managed to get everything packed and sorted for the next morning. It was very cold!
MTB: The start was a 16km uphill ride to the Mt Field ski area……John just loves these things…..like Jacob’s Ladder last year to the top of Ben Lomond…. Off we went, and Erin and I found ourselves near the back of the pack as everyone shot off quickly….. Maybe they didn't understand it was 16 km uphill……I don’t know, but we were about second last as we rounded the turns in the first 500m. We rode steadily, and strangely enough started catching up to people. I learnt a long time ago to pace myself on these long climbs…..and it paid off as we ticked by many teams who had gone out too fast. Kim had Hiro on the tow-line for this section…..and at one point she was also towing Layne Beachley who had let go of Emma Snowsill’s pack and was drifting backwards!
TREK: At Dobson’s Lake car-park we left the bikes and took off in an anti-clockwise direction on the beautiful trek where we had to pick up 3 CPs. It took us about 3 hours on this trek…..but the scenery was spectacular…..and being a sunny day, it was even more beautiful than Cradle Mountain. The only downside was that we got very badly sunburnt at this high altitude…..closer to the sun!
|Aunty Jan looking frazzled.....Erin looking great!|
MTB: The big downhill…..We really enjoyed our long ride downhill back to the TA where we started that morning and wasted no time getting out on foot for another little orienteering section.
ORIENTEERING: At one point on this leg I handed Erin the map…..we were looking for a very indistinct track on another 1:50,000 map…..and my eyes, even with enhancement, could not see those tiny little things that were tracks. Anyway, the young eyes nailed it…..and we were off down the hill for the final 3 CPs.
MTB: On arriving back at TA, we were told we had about 20 minutes to ride 14km to make the paddle cut-off…..and it was a fast-flowing river which joined into the upper Derwent…..so we were keen to get there. This was the time-trial of all time-trials on the mtb. We absolutely hammered, and I managed to turn the map over in full flight……so as not to miss the turn-off to the paddle start. We were being followed by the other girls team at this time…..so that spurred us on to ride even harder……I’m not sure how we stayed ahead of an Olympic Gold Medallist in triathlon (Emma)…..but we did… even when I had a most spectacular crash on a gravelly corner going down the hill to the TA. However…it was all in vain, as when we hit the TA we were told we had missed the cut-off by 5 minutes…..oh no….and we had tried sooooo hard!!! We weren't the only ones, however, a total of 13 teams missed out…..and this made us feel a little bit better…..sort of…… So….that was it, we were ferried to the finish line and awaited the finish of Craig & Luke and Kim & Hiro who had a fun time on the down river paddle……with some small rapids thrown it…..what a pity we missed it!
Day 5 – Hobart – all downhill to the finish!
As with last year, we would start our last day on the top of Mt Wellington…..This year we would start with a ‘run’.
TREK: Once again I would call this a trek as we didn't do that much running at all…..and for those who ran too fast and missed the only CP…..maybe going slower was the better way…..as many were struggling back up the hill……which wasn't the best scenario!
MTB: Once down at the bikes, we had some tricky riding on Radford’s track, before getting on the lovely smooth Pipeline Track heading out to CP 6. This was a small foot-section, so we changed into our run shoes for the little stint down to the track-creek junction. I had my claim to fame passing Olympic triathlete Courtney Atkinson on this downhill run…..it will never happen again! Courtney was patiently waiting for his team-mate Kenny Wallace who had a dodgy knee…..and we had a lot of fun going by…… They smashed us on the uphill though….and were out of sight on their mtb’s before we arrived back!
Still on the Pipeline Track, we were sailing along really well…..and ran into Kim and Hiro when we hit the big downhill single-track. We travelled together through a maze of tricky tracks…..and found our way to the paddle TA at Blackman’s Bay without any fuss.
PADDLE: We had a 12km paddle north to Sandy Bay Point…..picking up 2 CPs along the way. It was a very pleasant paddle and we were around lots of the top teams here as they had done some optional CPs up on Mt Wellington. We were very excited to land at the TA……and have only one short run leg to go J
RUN: A little coasteer to finish the event. We ran north up the beach and picked up 2 CPs before heading around some adjoining streets to get to Wrest Point, Battery Point…..and that amazing finish line…..
We were a little bit emotional running in……it had been a long hard 5 days……but we had made it and were the first all-girls team to finish…. I congratulated my fantastic partner, Erin, for toughing it and never complaining……not once……and I know she was way out of her comfort zone on many occasions…..
We spent some time at the finish line watching teams come through…..Day 5 had been our best day and we managed 11th place……and 15th overall for the full event. It was the best we could do, and we were happy…..Kim and Hiro came in not long after us…..we had been waiting for them to fly past on the final run, but we held them off……it was our little victory….
So…..that was the Mark Webber Challenge for another year. We thank Mark himself for creating and facilitating this wonderful event. The camaraderie between the teams is second to none and everyone extends themselves to their absolute limits…..whether you’re Richard Ussher…or Aunty Jan…..it’s still a very long, but rewarding, journey….. J
|Craig, Hiro, Aunty Jan, Erin & Luke...pic by Kim :)|