Geoquest was an off then on again affair this year with Craig and Louise from Geocentric having too much in their program to run it. It was great that Richard from Wildside and Chris from Wild & Co (who will take on running the event from next year) were able to step up and get a race off the ground with relatively short notice.
We all found it a bit hard to get excited by another race on the Central Coast of NSW, but this year the A1 series and a good set of quality teams promised to make it a good event. We have struggled a bit the last few races so were hoping for a better race this time.
Logistics were a bit friendlier this year with rego and an efficient gear and competency check all done in less than an hour. This gave is time to get pizza from Serenity resort and catch up with our AR friends. Things were changed up a bit this year with only the first part of the course revealed at the briefing. This did make it a quick job to mark up maps and get our gear packed (another change this year was that it was an unsupported race so gear boxes were needed). This allowed for a reasonably early night, which was good as it was a 6am start!
Leg 1 – Beach Run (sorry I do not know all the distances this year- it was about 275km in total)
The morning dawned damp but not too wet and cold. One good thing about starting in the dark is we could not see how long the beach was. Beach runs can be pretty tedious so the darkness sometimes helps.
The pace from the start was reasonably comfortable as we picked up the first couple of CPs on Red Head then Black Head. Neither of these were straight forward and there were teams going everywhere at some points but we came out on to the beach for the run to Forster in reasonable shape. We were with Thoughtsports at this point and when Damon flew past with Kathryn on tow we know we could not match their pace. They caught Wildearth who were a few minutes up the beach, but we were able to keep a consistent pace and a good transition at Forster put is on the water for the first paddle in amoungst it.
Leg 2 – Paddle
This paddle was a bit familiar to Hugh as it was in the 2009 race, but that was in the dark and in skis, so this was slower with more to see! Being in CTRs also meant the rudder smashing shallow rocks at the end were not a big issue this time. We lost a bit of time towards the end of the paddle but all three lead teams were still in transition together and we left a couple of minutes behind the other two all very happy to work off our paddle induced numb bums with a bit of pedalling.
Legs 3-5 – MTB
This leg was made up of a MTB over a small range to the MTB trails in Kirrawak forest for a short MTB rogaine before an even shorter ride to the boats. We got the rest of the maps just before the rogaine so it was still a case of heading off into the unknown at this point. We rode reasonably well but were surprised to come across Wildearth nursing Russell who was out with a broken collarbone from getting caught out on a water bar. Need to be careful even on what looks like straight forward fire roads.
It was not long after this that we caught Thoughtsports and rode with them for a short while. We were a bit surprised when they kept going past the turn up to CP11 and were a bit disappointed we alerted them to their error by stopping. The climb up to the tower at 11 was a taste of things to come and we were surprised there was no flag on the CP, but found the punch reasonably quickly. We passed Thoughtsports riding up as we headed down to the MTB rogaine. They lost 5 mins or so but, we were later to find out, did not find the CP punch.
We got to the rogaine and decided to do the rogaine then organise the maps for the rest of the course at the paddle TA. It was all pretty straight forward so an hour later we rolled up to the boats and were able to buy a hot chocolate and muffins to fuel up on as we did the maps. We took longer than Thoughtsports here, but hoped the investment would pay off later as we plotted everything for the rest of the race.
Leg 6 – Paddle
Darkness fell as we hit the water. We did get one of the funniest moments of the race as we came to the second paddle CP which was in the middle of an island. Thoughtsports had left their boats to get the CP, but were having trouble finding them in the dark! Brought back memories of a similar situation at Cairns XPD a few years ago. We did ask if Team Orion was with them (private joke). We made a bit of ground here due to their troubles, but they were paddling faster than us and slowly drew away as we paddled the last 16km or so. They finished their transition shortly after we arrived.
Leg 7 – Run
Lots of roads and not much off track made this leg a little tedious, particularly after a less than exciting paddle. We only had minor glitches and arrived at the next TA to find Thoughtsports organising their maps. We were happy with this as we expected them to get away more on the run.
Leg 8 – MTB
It was about 1am at this point and we were expecting this leg to take us through till dawn. It took a bit longer in the end as wet, darkness and tired legs slowed us down somewhat. Unfortunately not us much as Thoughtsports and they built a handy 1 hour lead by the end of the leg. We missed most of the views in the dark but as we rode down the valley back to our kayaks we got to admire some of the hills we had been riding up. It was very pretty and the highlight of the race.
Leg 9 – Kayak
This was expected to take 4 hrs and took us back down to the Manning River at Taree and then to the coast from there. It was getting hard to fight off sleep but we kept the conversation up and got there eventually – still an hour behind Thoughtsports.
Leg 10 – Beach trek
We were not sure what sort of penalty they would get for not punching CP so we decided to push hard and hope for the best. There was one more CP on this leg which provided as final twist as it was not tied under a lookout as the clue suggested it would be. We did eventually find it down on the rocks below but it did take some time! We pushed through a heavy rain squall for the last 4km of beach back to Serenity Resort for a welcome from the organisers and Thoughtsports. It was great to have sausage sandwiches and toasties to kick off the post race feeding frenzy.
The Wrap up …
It was not really over after that as the race organisers had a dilemma on how to handle the fact that Thoughtsports did not punch two CPs. They ended up with a 1 hour penalty for CP 11 and they adjusted for stoppage time at the last CP which was not where it was meant to be. After this there was a one minute difference in their favour. This was frustrating in some respects but a fair result as they were faster and raced well (aside from CP 11!). It does mean they have a handy lead in the A1 series so we will have a battle on our hands to claw them back at the remaining two races.
Our race video is here for those that like a more visual summary of our adventure.
Thanks again to all our supporters, including Aussie Grit Apparel who have provided us some excellent gear to make our training and race adventures even more fun.