Well after what has been a well documented year of disruption and no racing we could not quite believe it was real when we arrived at Callala Bay for Terra Nova 2021. Things are a bit different for Thunderbolt this year with Bern busy looking after a 3 month old bub. Josh was off mountain biking with his kids. Simon was happy to return again after his comeback race last year and we had Shelley and Myall to complete the team. It would be the first time we had raced as a team and we were all arriving in various states of fitness so the hope was for a smooth race given we were not expecting to travel that fast (not that speed has ever been a Thunderbolt strength).
As is the norm these days we had the logistics planner a week before the race so we knew there were a lot of legs (11 in all) and therefore transitions needed to be efficient. The map handout and briefing revealed that the course area was also quite condensed to fit within the limits of what was available given last year’s bushfires and recent heavy rain.
Legs 1 and 2: Paddle and Run
The start was on the shores of Jervis bay and we were paddling first up with what was expected to be a 1 hour loop. We had a bit of time waiting on the beach and looking at the course we decided to paddle in an anticlockwise direction because we thought that would be slightly favoured in the moderate westerly (off shore) wind. We were in the minority off the start but enjoyed heading downwind to the first CP. The rest of the paddle was efficient and uneventful and we were very pleased to land on the beach slightly ahead of the Alpine Avengers (who went clockwise) given we expected them to be a faster paddling team (faster at everything really). We headed off on the coasteering section of the run section and quickly confirmed we would not be keeping up on foot. Hugh was carrying a recovering calf strain which was not coping well in the gooey mud flats so there was a bit of walking at times.
Legs 3, 4 and 5: MTB, Run, MTB
The first part of this was a fast bitumen transition leg to a short run where the team was allowed to split to collect a CP each. This was uneventful but confirmed again that the Avengers were fast and we would be relying on mistakes or problems to beat them. The second MTB leg was a little bit trickier with the trails on the ground not matching with what the maps said. We thought our chosen route might be a bit long, but kept moving well to get the last two CPs on the leg. Looking at the tracker after the race showed most teams made a similar route choice.
Legs 6, 7 and 8: MTB, Run, MTB
Both these legs were loops around one of the well known MTB trails in the Nowra State forest, with a little bit of off track thrown in for the trekking leg. The MTB loop was a case of finding efficient short cuts to avoid riding lots of unnecessary single track. We thought we did a good job which was confirmed when we finished to find the Avengers still in transition. The trek section was similar but in the reverse direction. Given Hugh was hobbling we decided to avoid more road bashing by taking shorter routes through the bush, which when combined with a little mistake proved not to be worth it. We also spent some time doing an extra loop at CP15 when we looking for clearings (the clue was “Clearing on Spur”) rather than sticking to the compass bearing. The Avengers were long gone by the time we got back to the bikes.
The next section was a transition ride to the long paddle and for us it went pretty quickly aside from losing a bit of time finding the fence line trail being used to get us down to the river.
Leg 9: Paddle and Mystery Discipline
We had a fun river crossing to do using pairs of kayaks and ropes to cross the river. Unfortunately we left the maps behind so had to do it twice. Then we had to do the mystery discipline which was Archery. We showed we were definitely not undiscovered archery experts and were relieved to get our third arrow in the target on the last arrow before the supply ran out and we had to go and collect them all.
The paddle was up and down the river with a little excursion into Jervis Bay. As we did last year we demonstrated our ability to not read instructions and got all 6 CPs when we only needed to get 5. We were energized a little when we crossed paths with the Avengers and were much closer than we expected (we found out post race that they had paddled to the wrong headland looking for two of the CPs). They were heading off on the bikes as we paddled in so they had about 15 minutes on us.
Legs 10 and 11: MTB and run
The MTB part of this was short and largely reversing the previous MTB leg so was pretty straight forward, but we did pass the Avengers who were suffering the results of a broken derailleur due to one of the many sticks on the fence line trails. Could we hold them off on the run leg?
The run was largely on track, but there was one off track CP that looked like it would be a little tricky. The Avengers breezed by us just after transition. CP 21 proved to be as tricky as expected when we followed a creek which took us sufficiently off bearing to miss the CP, necessitating having another go where we promptly walked straight past the CP! We found it by chance on our way back to have another go at it. The Avengers were well and truly gone by then and we followed them to the finish almost an hour behind in the end.
It was great to get to race again and the new look Thunderbolt team thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Thanks to the Wild&Co team for setting what was an engaging course in a limited area.
Next up for Thunderbolt will be a joint appearance with the BMX Bandits at Explore Gippsland then Rogue Raid in Queensland. We might do Geoquest but will definitely be in Port Douglas for XPD.