Hells Bells 08 – Fraser Coast

This year Glen Singleton, Paul Kelly and myself decided to participate in this years Hells Bells race. The race was organised by Geocentric Adventure Racing (GAR). With all of us not thinking about it too much before the event, preparation and organisation was limited, but we had done of these events to hopefully be able to plough through what ever was thrown at us.

We drove up early on the Saturday morning, leaving Brisbane at 5am and reaching the Bike Drop off point right on 9am. Unpacking the bikes we soon realised that our Map Board had broken off in the wind in the journey up. Fortunately Tim had a spare and we were good to go. We were also missing a speedo on the bikes but we figured we would survive without it.

The race started at Tin Can Bay (at the RSL). 10am was the pre-race brief, along with getting the maps of the course. In the race briefing Craig decided that this year we are going deviate from the usual Adventure Race format, and go on a Treasure Hunt. After a long winded story about how there is apparently some treasure lost in the region, we were going to assist to find this treasure. Craig also mentioned that it would be a great event or a flop, read on to find my opinion.

With the race starting at 11am, with a Boogie Board leg across the channel towards Rainbow Beach. We decided to run around on land for a few hundred meters, and then cut across a shorted section of the channel. I soon discovered that sneakers in scuba fins was not a good idea for kicking (note to self 1). Also going across land and mud, it also provided grief putting the fins off and on in the mud. Anyway, we finally reach the boat ramp, and headed across the point to Rainbow Beach, with Boogie Boards and fins in hand we legged it through the township, then to the Surf Life saving club for the next check point.

After making it to the sand beaches of Rainbow Beach, we had to swim out to locate a further checkpoint, and work out where we were to go next. The next leg consisted of a trek up the beach to the to point where we had to lug the boogie boards and fins, assuming we will need them in the not too distant future. Wrong. We made it to the point, some 12ks later (with some “teva style” key searching along the way). Finally able to dump the boogie board and fins, we hit the next CP. Pumping up the dodgy kayaks was always going to be fun, as usual the first one was faulty, so another had to be started from scratch. I would have thought that GAR would have sorted this problem by now! Anyway after a lovely paddle over to Fraser Island. With many dolphins and in the realms of darkness, fortunately we has the other kayaks lights to keep us going in the straight line. After what seems an eternity we finished the kayak leg (with some magic of finding the correct inlet) we made it to the bike transition. We managed to overtake a few teams who had some issues with the river system, and at the checkpoint there were alot of already frustrated racers. Happy to be at the CP, and have a chance to warm up, we knew that what lies ahead was some cold times! It was only around 10pm and we were already freezing!

The next leg was a trek which involved alot of backtracking. Although it was good to warm up and have a chat to some other teams!

The race this year was setup so that once you reached the checkpoint, you would then be given the next set of maps, to take you to the next checkpoint. So we spent some time on the next leg noting down the next set of CPs that we needed, and then finally ending up at Prices Pool (somewhere in a circled region on the map).

Onto the bikes, we found all the CPs, albiet freezing and having the issues of riding with a borrowed mapboard and limited lights. Some good trail rides in the area, so will need to keep that in mid as well.

We were onto the next transition in high spirits, as we were keen to get to the next box and put some more warm clothes on. Unfortunately the transition never came….

After circling around the same area for some 2 hours and at 4am we decided to ditch the CP. Unfortunately it was the transition CP, and we didn’t have a map on where to go next, so we did the only thing we could do and was to ride back to the HQ. Game over.

The only good thing was that we arrived back at HQ in time for the 7am BBQ and got our sausages warm! We packed up our gear and was on the road by 8am home. 

Not the most memorable event. Although it was good to catchup with my team – Paul Kelly and Glenn Singleton! 

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The North Face 100-2008

TheNorthFace100

Over the weekend of the 17-18 May 2008, I attempted my first ultra marathon. It was set in the scenic Blue Mountains about 2 hours out of Sydney. Below is a summary of my recollection of the event.

Getting there

On Friday afternoon before the race, I caught a train to the Leura train station from Sydney Central Station. Costing only $12 for a 2 hour trip to the Blue Mountains, a very easy way to get there.

Arriving at Leura, I ventured out to the local shops to get a map and directions to my accommodation, at this point; I hooked up with another runner, Zac (from globetrekker) who was also heading a similar direction. So we had a good chat about the race as we made our way to our respective accommodation.

At about 5.30pm Friday afternoon, I ventured to Race Registration to get the maps and get an idea of who was actually competing in this event! After the registration Zac and I had the buffet. Always good to have a hearty meal before an event, so I dug into the prawns and lasagna especially. During the registration Zac realised I had an excessively large pack for the event – being new to this sort of thing, I was going in with the multi day adventure race in mind (with a huge 30 litre pack), fortunately Zac had a 20 litre one, tht was the same brand and fit, just a bit smaller, so I borrowed that for the race. This turned out to be a huge blessing, as no other runner had packs bigger than 20 litres.

Had a good night sleep at the Leura York resort, and checked out at 6.15am to give me enough time to get the start line and drop off my 2 drop bags. The drop bag points were at the 52km and 85km points, where we could pick up the bags with attitional goodies in them.

Having no real idea about the course was a good thing and a bad thing, on one hand it gave me no fear of what was ahead, the otherside was that I didn’t know when I should eat (carb up) for a big hill or whatever.

The race consisted of 6 legs and 5 checkpoints, each check point was manned and the volunteers offered us with a range ofg energy drink, lollies, fruit buns, carbo shots and hot noodle soups. This was absolutely awsome, as all the other events I normally do, is that we have to provide our own food the whole way, this was a very welcome surprise.

Here is the course profile:

Course Profile

Start (York Fairmont Resort, Leura) – Checkpoint 1 (top of Golden Stairs, Narrow Neck) 15km

With the race briefing over, we were off at 7am sharp. Apparently there was a police escort, by this time I was near the back and had no idea. I figured I would just do my own pace and see how I go. The simple plan of running the flats, and walking the hills seemed to be the common consensus amongst most of the runners. I just hope that I walk faster as well, as I don’t want the officials packing up just behind me!

The first leg everyone was in good spirits, lots of chit chat and humorous jokes (Thanks for the chats Steve Cooper), with a bit of road running out of the way, it was straight into the single track, rocks and stairs. Running along the base of the 3 sisters, it was an awesome sight looking up to the cliff faces. Where’s Glenn with the camera?

This leg finished with a stumble up the Golden Stairs, approximately 200m straight up. Interesting as my training included only Mt Coot-tha in Brisbane, and that’s 100m gradual gradient. All good though, I made it to the top to meet some lovely officials with lollies, bananas and some enduro. Sweet!

Checkpoint 1 (top of Golden Stairs, Narrow Neck) – Checkpoint 2 (Dunphys Camp) 36km

The next leg was on fairly flat fire trail terrain, with a few drop offs. Pretty impressive views across the blue mountains, with clear blue skies and lush green rain forests. Climbing down the steel ladders added a change in muscle usage and a bit of a novelty component.

Checkpoint 2 (Dunphys Camp) – Checkpoint 3 (Old Ford Reserve) 52km

Continuing along the ridge, provided some scenic views, and a good distraction that I had already gone 36km. My body was feeling good, and I was still shuffling along on the flats where possible. This leg had a point that you could establish where some of the other runners were, with a double back of about 2 km, so you knew who was in front, and who was on your tail. Not that I was overly concerned, but it gave me some more motivation to keep going at a reasonable speed.

With a couple of hills in this section, I was starting to get used to the separate 200m climbs

Checkpoint 3 was a welcome sight, getting my drop bag (not that I had much that I could use in it), but it came with a chance to stop and get into some warm gear. As it was now 5pm, the sun was decending fast and the night chill was just upon us.

Checkpoint 3 (Old Ford Reserve) – Checkpoint 4 (Echo Point) 66km

During this leg, I was going a similar pace to another runner who had a good local knowledge. This local knowledge told me that we had a nice climb straight up some stairs (another 400m), and boy was he right. Just when I thought I had seen all the stairs on the race, this set tops them off! We passed a couple of day hikers with mega packs (the poor sods), but we managed to keep a pace going up the stairs and managed to get up them in about 40 minutes. My legs were jelly for the next couple of k’s while they semi recovered from the constant ascent.

Checkpoint 4 (Echo Point) – Check Point 5 (Queen Victoria Hospital) 86km

The leg started with a 700m decent down the cliff faces, via stairs. We were told unless our legs could handle going down 900 stairs, we should pull out now. No way was I going to stop here… So down the stairs I went. I am sure the views would have been awesome if there was light!

Checkpoint 5 (Queen Victoria Hospital) – Finish (York Fairmont Resort, Leura) 100km

A seemingly easy 15kms to the end, seemed to go for ever. I had a few cases of sleep walking and thought I had missed a couple of turm offs. The markers on this leg were certainly further apart which managed to give me concern a couple of times that I had missed a turn off. Trekking through Wentworth Falls I am sure would have been lovely if 1. It was light 2. One had the energy to look around and appreciate what was around. By this stage the finish line couldn’t come soon enough, and after some road running before getting to the finish, I made it to the end, feeling pretty good! I had the usual paranoia that I was going to be over taken by another runner in the last couple of hundred of meters, but I manged to belt out the last 2kms with some regular checking over the shoulder. The Leura Resort was a very welcome sight, although the run around a large part of the resort to get to the finish line was bit of a killer.

Finish time: 23 hours and 36 minutes. Happy to be sub 24 hours!

Results are here

Afterwards

As usual, finishing the race, I sat down to try to rest and recover, and managed to seize up a bit. I had the daunting task of walking back to my hotel, picking up my bag and walking to the train station – probably another 2 kms. Just what I didn’t need. Fortunately one of the partners of another racer (Claire) offered me a lift to the train station. I don’t think she will appreciate how grateful I was!

Thanks also to Matt who met me at Sydney Central with my other bags! A very welcome sight as I was not looking forward to more time on trains than absolutely necessary.

Then it was straight on the next flight home and the road to recovery begins and looking forward to the next AROC / ultra marathon event!

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