Thursday, September 9, 2010

LATEST NEWS...September

Spring is finally here and we are full steam ahead at Tri Adventure.  Our Wednesday mtb rides are always a highlight and we have a good group now coming along for our Friday paddle sessions too.  We aunties are out and about racing have some amazing experiences at events from Dusk to Dawn, Vanuatu to our race at the Gold Coast Anaconda last weekend.  Read on for details of these…..Here is an amazing photo I took when coming back along the rocks on one of our Tuesday twilight run sessions….doesn’t get much better than this….

DUSK TO DAWN – 12hrs of riding ‘fun’…..
Arriving at the race venue, a private property near Canungra, the sun was still shining and we were wearing shorts…but not for long!!!  We met up with Richard and Howie and got our tent set up and gear organised before going over for registration…..Suddenly the sun was gone and we were in our snow gear…. Yes, temps dropped quite dramatically… we were now waiting anxiously for the event to begin… Glen popped in for a visit – it’s funny who you meet out in the sticks….Thanks for the encouragement Uncle Glen!  Peeling off a few layers before lining up for the start, we huddled together for warmth whilst listening to the race briefing….All of a sudden we were off…..bikes everywhere, lights blazing and dust flying….. Winging the first lap – who needs a warm-up when you’re going riding for 12hrs – we jockeyed for position on the track amid all the frantic riders gunning for a super-fast first lap…..Always good when Lap 1 is out of the way…..those huffing and puffing boys aren’t so full-on after that.  The course was technical and mentally tough…..and I’m not sure how long it took me for the first lap…but there were plenty to come!  Last year this event was held in mid summer which was a little more enticing - Ride all night and avoid the heat of the day concept….It worked well.  This year – ride all night and just get colder and colder….not so nice we were to find out!!  Terry, you were right….a warm, cosy bed was a far better option!!!!  Anyway, we were there, and I kept telling myself it was great training for Canberra….. So around we went….Stopping occasionally to stretch and eat (which ended up being not so good as when we started again the bitter cold was almost unbearable).  I had a real down-turn during Lap 6 and came in, feeling like I wanted to give up….

So, I boiled the billy and made some coffee, ate some chocolate and contemplated my situation.  I had to go back out, but that tent and sleeping bag were beckoning too….Not that I was tired, I was mentally drained from the course and feeling like I was riding like Grandma at times (most of the time!)….But I had to think why I was here and that was to toughen myself up for my World Champs over a 24hr period coming up in October….Ok, I had done this before, remember the Kona 24hr where I qualified for the Worlds…..I rode all night in the mud, rain AND freezing cold, without a support crew or anyone I knew for that matter…..So, I convinced myself to get back on the bike – at least my rear end was not complaining yet…..

Starting off again, I didn’t warm up till I reached the first check-point on the course.  The screaming girl was still awake – she kept me going at this race last year – I thanked her and kept riding.  All of a sudden I didn’t feel so bad – I was still struggling with some parts of the course, but mentally I was on top of it…..Wasn’t really on top of my aching back, neck, shoulders, and hands…..but, that’s only physical….It’s always the mental challenges that are hardest to overcome…..  It was past midnight by now…and I stopped and started a little bit, often meeting up with Richard, Howie and Kim during this time.  Richard & I were seriously questioning our reasons for doing this – quite a few times – but Kim and Howie were going great guns…..Well, so was Richard as he was riding his ‘very Richard’ 2-speed bike, and being 65 years old was smashing it, I thought!!!!  I continued on and reached 10 laps….and decided that if I can do 12 that would be enough.  My main problem now was the toilet stops I needed – obviously the cold was a factor here, but the coffee probably didn’t help the situation either.  On lap 11 I decided not to stop at the main area for the toilet but to use one on the course, which would mean I didn’t stop for long and get too cold….So I smacked out 2 laps (hardly smacking really…) as it was just starting to get light….  That was enough – I had raced till Dawn.  I crawled into the tent and managed to get about 1.5hrs sleep as the others rode on like champions…. Kim finished at 7.30am and came in 2nd female (same as me last year!)….and was only beaten by our young friend Kylie Maduna (who is half her age..) by one lap…..Surprising I missed out on 3rd by one lap – didn’t really care at this point ….And Howie and Richard excelled themselves with many more laps than me……and Richard might have been hallucinating those ‘wee furry things’ on the track…..I’m not sure, I didn’t see anything furry except the furry jackets that all the non-riders were firmly encased in…..Here's a pic of Richard in the race...

 Most of the teams on the course were friendly and polite – as most Mtb riders are….but one team especially were rude and arrogant…which is a real shame in an event like this…..and I can tell you it wasn’t the Ay-Up teams or the For the Riders boys…..who showed exemplary manners throughout the event…. Thanks for the encouragement too guys!!

So, that’s the story…..I can honestly say, I would much prefer doing this event in the summertime ….so hopefully they’ll have it back in February again next year! And as far as Canberra goes…..I’ll find some way to deal with it, I know…..Andy and the Ay-Up guys did a great job sponsoring and commentating the whole show….and it was a beautiful night with bright stars and no mud…..and the big, yellow crescent moon rose just before dawn….. But, the cold factor is something very hard to deal with – do you think it’s an ‘old-age’ thing????  I don’t know, but it doesn’t get any easier…..

Staging an adventure race is not an easy occupation…. The amount of time spent planning and setting a course can never be recouped in dollar value… the race organiser was extremely challenged doing this event….and we can fully understand why…. With a major earthquake to contend with (the cross-island trek on the last day had to be moved as part of the track fell into the abyss at one point…), native people (have to be the friendliest people in the world) souveniring the CP’s (as they looked great hanging up in their little houses!!) and many other factors made his job very, very difficult to say the least.   So when we look back on the event – we think he did an awesome job under the circumstances……Here’s how it went….
Friday 20th
After our flight was delayed 2 hours (I saw out the window of the departure lounge a guy up a ladder with a torch looking at something in the engine…serious!) we finally took off (without an operating auxiliary engine..)  Trying to explain to Aunty Kim that this must be alright as they wouldn’t risk their own lives (would they??) she only really calmed down when she had some champagne inside her body..!!!  We landed in Port Vila and entered the terminal to the sounds of the South Pacific and when we finally made it through customs (only one man working on the desk!…) and got our bags and bikes were adorned with the beautiful shell and bead necklaces – the Vanuatu custom obviously.  Whisked away to our hotel – we now understood why they said beware of the bus and taxi drivers – as the chaos that unfolded in the 30 minute trip was terrifying…. I think sitting at the back of the bus would have been a better option…..

At the accommodation (which was the official race hotel) we were hustled into a room – with not enough beds to sleep the 3 of us – we all looked at each other and the porters (really the security guards) very kindly brought another one in….. Literally, they dismantled a whole bed in another room and brought it in piece by piece and then put it together while we stood there looking on with great amusement….They drew the line at the bed making…we can do that ourselves, we said….and off they went back to their real jobs…!!  So a very small sleep (it was now about 2am) was shortened a bit more by the chorus of dogs, roosters, pigs etc which started up at dawn (actually I think the rooster went all night – I was hoping he would loose his voice – no such luck…) In the morning we realised why we were hearing all these noises as our hotel was adjoining some sort of community housing area (and all their animals which roamed free) and it was such a contrast to the world as we know it.  We also had the smoke from fires all around us…..this got quite overwhelming after a while and we decided a hotel a little out of town might be an option next time!! 
 Saturday 21st
At 9am we went down to breakfast and rego…and met up with all our AR friends who made the trip over as well….The race would begin with a ride through town out towards Mele village (under police escort – we soon realised was the only option….the town area was definitely not rider friendly!!) We finally stopped at a grassy area at the beach and were given our maps for the first stage which was a Prologue with a 2 hour time limit.  We plotted a course to collect all the compulsory CP’s and planned to get as many bonus CP’s as we had time for.  The mass start at 5.00pm gave us only 1 hour of daylight….teams scattered everywhere and we were going ok until I fell on a rock going for the 2nd CP…..oh dear, I have blood gushing out of my knee and have been warned that cuts and scratches are even more dangerous than the bus and taxi drivers….must remember to smother it with that special ointment when I get back!!!!  Ali (my much younger and faster race partner) and I were struggling a bit with the labyrinth of tracks and finally found the CP hiding in the bamboo, before making our way back through the village with some interaction from the villagers as to the CP’s planted somewhere there.  We then headed out to the beach for the last one before finishing at the Warhorse Saloon where we were treated to a huge feast (and some free wine!....)  Here we were given our maps for the next day – so off we went back to the hotel to plan the day…. Kim and Gary (team MD’s) were
downstairs doing theirs and Ali & I made short work of ours and tried to get some sleep as the next 2 days would be huge.
Sunday 22nd
Up at 5am we had to get our race and bike boxes out the front for pick up and at 6.00am we got a bus out to where our bikes were left the night before and got ready for the start.  Day 2 course would take us up the hill (very big one…) and over to the western side of the island on our mtb’s and then heading north where we would drop our bikes and go on foot to the crossing to Moso Island.  Here we would have heaps of fun (not) with the heavy weight outrigger canoes….We had to use a shanghai to knock down a Tam Tam (native phallic symbol) to pick our outrigger…..I told Ali I was good at this as I had my own shanghai at home…..Well, I couldn’t hit a thing – so she finally took the weapon away from me and hit one pretty quickly at close range….and off we went in our yellow outrigger with concrete paddles…. Kim & Gary were crossing the channel as we paddle past and Kim yelled out ‘you’re paddling a banana!!”….well, we weren’t paddling for long as we found it was easier just to walk on the bottom and push the heavy thing along – at least we could keep it going straight that way!!  Heading north to CP 31 we were out of our boat with about 5 other teams searching for a CP that clearly wasn’t there….Wasted about 1 hour before we gave up here…. Not happy but decided to try and find another one.  So many were taken by natives, taken with the tide or just not there at all in the first place….and we finished the ‘paddle’ leg completely devoid of any CP’s!!!!  Didn’t feel so bad when the same thing happened to Kim and Gary though….. It seems the teams who were there earlier when the tide was out and the wind hadn’t picked up were much luckier spotting these little prizes….Frustrated, we only had time for one CP on the foot rogaine before we had to go on a coasteer around the NW side of the island to the finish line for Day 2…..which was near the village of Siviri.  Once there the clock stopped but there was more activity up until 6pm where teams would split and had the choice of a rope ladder climb then abseil or archery and a snorkel rogaine.  I got in first and did the climb and abseil which left Ali to do the archery (she’s a much better shot than me, I found out earlier…) and snorkel.  I couldn’t face getting in that water again today either…..

After this we were taken to our little camping spot at the community hall (little tin shed)….but most of us had tents so went about showering under a cold tap before getting some boiling water to add to our dehydrated food, eating chocolate and finally getting our maps for the next day.  It would be a 4am start…. OMG….Didn’t sleep well again as chorus of animals was here too….!!!! 
 Monday 23rd
3am wake up call and we were up, packing our tent, trying to eat some (stale) food and drink some coffee whilst waiting for the start.  We finally set off at 4.10 for a short run along the road before heading up into the jungle.  This day was a trek over the island and would finish back at the Beach Bar (near where we started on Saturday) A very long way on my tired, old legs!!!!  After a lot of confusion at the start – with some obscure information about the where the marked track would start – we finally found the track (which we saw on the way up but it was way before the time they said..) and it was marked with pink tape (not red) and decided to travel for the day with another girls team (who were friends of mine) for the whole of the day.  So the 4 of us trekked through the jungle, stopping occasionally to search for the red tape and eventually finding all the compulsory CP’s – plus 2 of the bonus ones – along the way.  We were amazed when we went past the earthquake area and saw the biggest fig trees (that you could live in….) as we went.  Emerging from the jungle we tracked through a farm and then onto the road where we managed a slow shuffle on the downhills….(that’s the marble rule – only run if a marble can roll down….) and we found the creek where we would go in  and finally made our way to the waterfall abseil.  This abseil was done by the one who missed out the day before… Ali and Sharon got organised whilst De and myself went down the thousand steps to meet them at the bottom.   A few more CP’s and we were almost at the finish.  Once again the CP in the rivermouth was not there at all….so we shuffled our way to the finish line to the cheers of those already there.  It had taken us 12hrs 10 minutes…but we had a fantastic day and thoroughly enjoyed the company of our fellow competitors….

Tucking into the roast pig we drank champagne and chatted about the event with Kim & Gary (who had finished 3 hrs earlier – but had failed to go for the bonus CP’s that we got….) It was late when we got back to the hotel….and I think we slept very soundly that night!!!
Tuesday 24th
Presentations over breakfast revealed that MD’s were 3rd place overall and were rewarded with a Tam Tam (much laughter…) and my team placed 19th out of 35…..Not that great, but who knows how they did the scoring…!!!! Ali left for a 3 day stint on the island of Santo (for diving and other fun activities…) and we had time now to relax and enjoy Vanuatu as tourists…. We had breakfast in the hotel and decided to go for a walk downtown.  A look at the produce market and the art & craft market was all I could manage and had to go back and lie down as my tired and shattered body was starting to protest.  Pizza and wine in the room was all we could manage that night…
Wednesday 25th
Susie and Gav (lovely AR friends) invited us to join them on a drive around the island in their hire car…. This was great.  We drove along, stopped to take photos, go for a swim, eat and relax.  We enjoyed a bottle of champagne on the way at the Havannah resort (as a complete contrast to visiting native villages and stopping to drink coconut milk from freshly chopped coconuts…)  It was a great day and we finished up, once again, at the Beach Bar for food and drinks before falling into bed after another wonderful day in paradise.
Thursday 26th
Our last full day in Vanuatu.  Kim and I had put together some shoes and clothes and had been given some swimming goggles that we wanted to give to the school children who don’t have much of anything.  We rode our bikes about 10km out to Mele village and visited the school there.  We met the principal and she allowed us to go into a classroom and observed schooling Vanuatu style.  Our donation of things was greatly appreciated and we thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the village again and seeing it in the daylight.  As poor as they all are, these people were meticulously clean and neat and were all very friendly as we rode around.
Friday 27th
Time to go home….We opted to stay in the hotel before checking out.  Kim had a swim in the pool and I relaxed and dozed in the sun.  Our bus was on time to collect us and we got to the airport with plenty of time to spare.  We reflected on the event and shared stories with Ali on the flight home – and were amused with her rendition of her stay in Santo and all the things she experienced there.  So…… that was our week….. We experienced many highs and a few lows throughout the event – typical of most adventure races….. Next year the race will be much more organised as everyone gave their honest feedback which was greatly appreciated by them.  Would we go back? – I think so….. Even if it was just to experience those beautiful, friendly people over there. They put our society to shame, really…..

 What a fabulous effort by everyone who took part in the Anaconda Adventure Race on the Gold Coast over the weekend.  The day was even more difficult as a result of the ocean conditions (choppy, gnarly, unfriendly) and the wet weather which persisted for most of the day making the run and mtb course slippery and dangerous…..sometimes it makes us question our reasons for doing this sport…????? But we seem to be gluttons for this kind of punishment – and when we finish an event like this get some great satisfaction and a sense of incredible achievement by doing so……I think that’s the reason……!!!!

If you haven’t heard already, Aunty Kim, once again, came away with the GOLD medal – storming home 20 minutes ahead of her nearest rival.  She braved the ocean conditions and as a result had her shoulder dislocate no less than 6 TIMES during the swim and the paddle….OMG…..that’s a bit scary!!!  For the first time ever in this race she was helped out by a support crew!!  Gary, her Team Mountain Designs race partner, gave us the heads up on a legal portage option at the treacherous Tallebudgera Bar …….and as she had a support crew and a strong outgoing tide it was an option worth considering! So Kim was relieved so see Gary frantically waving his arms to come in before the bar….he assisted her with a portage which saved her from risking further damage to her shoulder. So feeling no pain, she soldiered on to take out the Open Female title for the 2nd year running…..and that achievement is the all the more rewarding as Kim is a Veteran….and has many years (of experience, maybe?) on those younger girls. 

My race however, panned out a little differently…..Surprise, surprise! I hear you say….. I, too, had a support crew for the first time ever….Gary’s lovely wife Kylie and their 3 little girls helped my out for the day.  I forewarned them on swimming ability ie: don’t look for me at the pointy end….and keep an eye out for the drowning ones at the back of the field….that will be me….and, as it turned out I wasn’t quite last out of the water – about 3rd last I think!  Well, that was Leg 1 out of the way…..

Heading out onto the paddle I was just wishing for a clear run out of the Currumbin bar…. Well, you sometimes don’t get what you wish for – and that’s exactly what happened!  I was following behind a guy on a wave-ski (small, novice paddle craft….) and I was a little concerned about what he would do when he hit the surf zone.  Now I’m just that one step up from novice (see: Aunty Jan on big, longer ocean racing ski..!) and I thought I’d better give Mr Wave-ski paddler a wide berth – big mistake No. 1 – as I went slightly sideways at just the wrong time and immediately got wiped out by the first wave.  Having had some trouble getting stuck in my boat on previous occasions…..why wasn’t I surprised when it happened again…. My foot was jammed in the foot-strap so had a semi mild panic when I couldn’t struggle free of the now free range juggernaut coming towards me with the smash of the waves…Finally I got free and then got back onto the boat but my left rudder pedal was stuck fast – I had no steering.... oh dear, big problem…so had to wash into shore with the boat and have a look underneath.  I noticed my rudder was twisted around backwards and there was nothing I could do (with my great vintage female strength) to get it back around the right way…..It was then I saw Tri Adventure regular, Hayley, on the beach waving at me….she had obviously watched the whole debacle and was a bit concerned for me – to say the least.  She had a go at twisting the rudder too – but to no avail.  I wasn’t sure what to do then – so I asked Hayley to help me with my boat and we carried it back up to the transition area.  There I spied Sam Maffett (who is the former owner of my boat) and told him of my dilemma…. He found a screw driver (cos I wasn’t carrying one myself!...) and got the insides of the boat sorted out after some poking and prodding…. Now for my big test – did I really want to go back out again? The short answer was NO….so why I attempted it has got me stumped….first attempt I was washed back into shore (and so was Hayley for that matter….I was hoping she had some dry clothes….) I tried a little bit further down the beach and with some uncanny streak of luck I found myself out over the breakers and bobbing up and down in the choppy, unfriendly ocean.  My greatest fear now was that all the rescue boats were up at the bar (sorting out the carnage…) and I was way back here all on my own and nobody would know I’m here….So….I paddled along, up and down over the quickly rising swells (looking mountainous to me) and hoped I could managed to stay on my boat which was now working perfectly….as Kylie would be waiting at the Tally bar for me – and we had pre-arranged a portage like Kim had – so I hoped she hadn’t given up on me – as I was now about an hour behind time after all my problems.  I could see a jet-ski ahead with a struggling paddler – and hoped they could see me coming too…..and finally I caught up to them, which eased my worry a bit as now I would be saved if I needed it…. I could see the beach ahead and spotted poor Kylie on the beach – gave her a quick wave – and she waved back with excitement to see me still coming.  I managed to get in through the surf zone with little fuss – phew…. I was stressing about that so much after having a near-death experience in this same place about 5 years ago at the first training day Rapid Ascent held for the race….. With assistance from another guy on the beach Kylie carried my boat and I walked beside them, over the rock wall to the other side where the lovely calm water was waiting for me….Oh, relief.  I thanked them profusely…and paddled off on my way upstream to the transition at Connection Rd.  I have to say a HUGE thank-you to Hayley as if she hadn’t been there on the beach I probably would have given up.... but, there you go, I didn’t!!

Gliding into the paddle/run transition I was met by Kylie once again – and got myself ready for the run – stuffed some snakes into my mouth and off I went.  The rain had set in and the course, which is technical and difficult at the best of times, was even harder and I was slipping and sliding all over the muddy bits – but I was happy to be off that ocean so nothing was going to upset me now…. Had a chat to a few other runners along the way – I was feeling ok and got through the run a little slower than other years, but glad to get it under my belt once again.  Onto the bike and I knew it was then under 2 hours to go to the finish.  Most people had already finished by this time – but I was a bit cautious on the slippery track and I was determined to finish this in tact now that I had come so far and conquered everything that had been thrown at me!!  When I rode into the bike transition I was met by Gary who had retired Kylie and the girls (they had been out all day looking after me in the pouring rain) and he also told me Kim had won the race (yay, big smiles) so I ran off for the 2k home run a very happy, muddy and relieved Aunty…..

The news got even better when I crossed the finish line….Our Tri Adventure Girls team had won their category, our Tri Adventure Bridesmaids team of Jules & Gail had lived up to their name and taken out 2nd place – again….and the male team we had helped organise (with Andy Fellows and Jay Pattison joining some Gold Coast hot-shots) had won as well….. Andy had smashed the bike course and no-one can believe how he did it in 51mins… take out fastest bike ride of the day….and everyone else we knew who started had finished the race…..What an amazing day!!  Guess it called for some champagne – so we had some!!  Great to see lots of friends down there racing too – The Coffs connection (well done Tim) and many Noosa locals including the lovely Simon Gilder braved the tough conditions to finish well. 

A huge thanks, once again, to our support crews, Gary & Kylie, who were absolutely great on the day and we wonder how we have done all the other races without them.  Also many thanks to Hayley who helped me out and got nearly drowned for her efforts…..sorry about that!!!

It was great to see 6 junior teams entered in the race this year – and one junior individual.  Makes us feel there is a great future to this sport…..which is awesome!!!  And, thanks to Rapid Ascent who managed to take me out of my comfort zone once again (to add to the countless other times they have successfully achieved this…!!)

So, what’s next for the Aunties……
This weekend sees Kim team up Mountain Designs to race the 12hr Dark Side Adventure Race….2nd October Aunty Jan is racing with fellow Vintage female Susie Williams in the Rogue 8hr Adventure Race…..9-10th October Aunty Jan racing at 24hr World Solo Mtb Champs in Canberra…..16-17th October both Aunties racing Hells Bells in our various teams…...and we are now going to line up for Anaconda Lorne on December 5th……It’s all happening…..!!!

See you out there!
 Jan & Kim