bikes general trip reports

a weekend in the exciting metropolis of canberra

Plan for the weekend – drive to Canberra on Friday, compete in the AROC Adventure Race on Friday evening; spend Saturday lazing around and relaxing; get up early on Sunday, and compete in the Urban Polaris.

The weather’s plan for the weekend – look pleasant and sunny when we arrived in Canberra on Friday, then 20 minutes later, have a front come over, spawning mini-tornadoes, gale force winds, thunder and lightning, and tearing the city apart, throwing trees everywhere. So, the Friday night adventure race was postponed until Saturday evening. Oh… what’s that? …. you wanted to have some time to actually sleep and maybe recover after adventure racing? Well, that’s a pity.


We take time out of our busy schedules to meet Scruff the cranky cockatiel

So, Saturday afternoon saw us hauling ourselves out to Lake Burley Griffin (again). This time the weather was a bit better though. We collected PFDs, and course maps, got our bikes set up. The race started at 6, as 200 or so people – all wearing PFDs and race numbers – created a stream of yellow along the lake shore, as we ran to collect kayaks (well, rigid three person canoe type things with kayak paddles).

Across to the other side of the lake, first checkpoint, back to the first shore again, wet shoes, wet pants, we ran to pick up our bikes and head off on the mountain biking leg. Not much biking, we collecting a few checkpoints out around Mount Ainslie before dumping our bikes at a transition area in a random park, off for a checkpoint to checkpoint run leg (the location of the next checkpoint is only revealed when you get to the one before it).

Picked up the bikes again, back to the main transition area, pick up PFDs, we get to run back to the kayaks again (hoorah). Across to the other side of the lake, and another run leg. We get the map for this area when we arive – a quick loop around the National Gallery – Old Parliament – Library area, then back to the kayaks, a horrible paddle across the lake in the dusk, into the wind, then off on the final run leg, in the dark. I pull out my trusty new headlamp, aha! Brilliant for finding checkpoints in those hard to spot places. We run through the last area, skipping the checkpoints we don’t need – this section involves collecting 70 points worth of checkpoints (out of 85). Then back to the main transition area, and we’re done. In under 3 hours too.

Now before we set off, we heard that the first 20 teams back in under 3 hours would get to do a ‘bonus lap’. We never thought we’d get back that quickly. Thankfully however, us and the team we arrived with were 21st and 22nd respectively, so we didn’t have to go out again. We cursed our bad luck. Then sat around and ate sausages, waited for the prizes to be handed out, and came away with some bike cleaner as a spot prize. Before heading back to bed (by, oh, 11.30 or so).

Sunday morning, we wake up at 6.30, and leave as soon as we can – we’re suppose to register for the Urban Polaris between 5.30am and 7.30am.

Starting times are staggered, a group leaves every ten minutes from 8.30 (due to numbers, with over 300 teams competing, mainly teams of two). Once you start you have seven hours to collect as many checkpoints as you can around Canberra – collecting a checkpoint involving clipping a scorecard with a special punch to be found at each location. Each checkpoint is worth a different amount (more points for harder to reach places), and if you’re back late, you start getting points deducted.

bike uphill

Pushing bikes up the steep hill at Mt Majura (look, I promise it really was very steep, and by the time this photo was taken we’d gone a long way up it and it was getting less steep)

So, we set off to do a loop of Northern Canberra – a few novelty checkpoints – waving down a kayaker paddling along the lakeshore; one in a climbing gym (at the top of a climb); one in a bowling alley (bonus points for pins knocked down with two balls); one at the zoo, over the tiger pen. 85km and 6 hours and 57 minutes later, we arrived back to the start, muddy and exhausted, with sore knees. We decide it would be silly to drive back to Melbourne that night, and crawl back to Rich’s to fall asleep.

general trip reports

the importance of catering

So, up at 5.40am to drive to Alex’s so we can pack up the car and head off to Lysterfield Lake Park, site of the Kathmandu Maximum Adventure Race (I’m a bit dubious about their claim of ‘maximum’ adventure – there was a reasonable proportion of adventure, but room for improvement). A cold and mizzly Spring morning, fog hangs above the lake as we huddle around inflating the two-person kayaks.

kathmandu sprint

The race starts with a sprint for the kayaks – a sprint for the kayak that we actually inflated rather than one of the others, as some of the teams competing didn’t seem to have much of a clue, despite assistance offered. Plunge into the water, jump into the kayak, and we discover that these things aren’t exactly a pleasure to paddle – hauling them through the flat water feels like paddling through mud. Only two checkpoints to collect on the lake, and thankfully we’re one of the first teams out, so we’re not stuck queuing. Back to the transition area, we collect our bikes and cycle off, away and then uphill. We drop our bikes at the second transition area, and run to checkpoint five, then do our best to run back up the hill to collect our bikes. From there we have six checkpoints to collect in any order we choose. Muddy and hilly, we do this section in the opposite order to a lot of other people, but it seems to work well.

Finally back to the main transition area, and we drop our bikes and joyfully head out to collect a kayak again. We could have chosen more wisely, the front seat has almost totally deflated. Oh well, we’ve started paddling now, it’ll do. I get Alex to wedge his feet against my back so I’ve at least got some support. And the wind has picked up. Oh what fun. We have more problems synchronising, as we’re both feeling a bit tired now, but finally get a rhythm together. Two more checkpoints down, and we head back through transition for the final run leg. Six checkpoints to collect in this section, which is about 5km of running… jogging… fast walking. We collude with another team to find a checkpoint at a ‘creek junction’ in an area with one creek and no junction marked on the map, but in reality with a whole nest of little creeks in the area. We run back towards the main transition area, and finish line. Alex requires some persuasion – I try grabbing a stick, so we can both hang on to it and keep the same pace. The stick fails. I start running behind him poking him with it. We reach the finish line, uneventfully, and look for the food – it’s a rather meagre BBQ. They have half a dozen vegie burgers to provide for the 150 or so racers competing. And they weren’t even cooked yet. I decide to leave them for any proper vegetarians who might need food. Rogaine catering is so much better than this (for a much lower entry fee) – even Teva series catering is better (yes, the importance of post-event food cannot be underestimated – the best thing possibly being the toasted cheese sandwich with added veggie burger, coleslaw, onion and tomato sauce). We come fourth in the mixed category, and win no prizes. We wash off the mud, and move on.

general trip reports

adventure racing (aka. mud mud, glorious mud)

An early morning drive out to Wombat State Forest. There, we find Alicia (third team member), and Katya (who is competing with her Mountain Designs team, and who is back in Australia after two years in Canada/USA), and set Shaggy free to go and be event photographer. Bikes are reassembled, and we head to the start area, all systems go. We tie ourselves together for a four legged race, and go collect a plastic donkey from a bin. A slight incident with some slippery mud has as all crashing to the ground, and breaking our ankle ties, but we recover, find the other team with a plastic donkey, and make our way to the official to get checked before grabbing our bikes, and setting off on the rest of the course.

squeamish ossifrages

The obstacles are the most amusing part of the race, although mountain biking through the mud is ridiculously fun. Even when you do hit a mud bank in a deep puddle and fall over (drenching yourself completely, except for you left arm). We carry buckets of water through obstacle courses, get a blindfolded team member to worship a monkey god, completele crosswords on pop trivia, and collect a checkpoint hung over the middle of a dam (it’s alright, it was a small dam).

alicia bowing to the monkey god

Covered with mud, we cycle through the finish line. We came 22nd of 52. No prizes, not even a lucky door prize. But lots of fun. And mud (did I mention the mud?)

team squeamish ossifrage, over the finish line

photos from the teva challenge

Team Woody (Ben and Rich) finishing.

general trip reports

teva adventure race 2003

the teva adventure race is possibly the most fun i’ve ever had. well, that may be an exaggeration, but it was pretty fun. and although the ropes course over the dam, and the muddy pool of water under the net looked pretty unappealing when seeing them at 7.30 on a damp and foggy morning, they actually weren’t that bad after running and cycling round for kilometres on end.

highlights: diving onto the slip and slide to go through the finish line, and beating the other female team by 2 seconds or so after a last minute sprint; building a billykart (and having it not fall apart as it was pulled around the course, despite some structural integrity problems); flying round the ropes course over the dam in a tractor tyre inner-tube; cruising down the steep and muddy hills after checkpoint 16; finding out jacki and i were the second female team home, and winning treasure; katya and heidi winning spot-prize treasure; still being able to walk afterwards; beating the boys

lowlights: cycling a few kilometres uphill to checkpoint 16; not being able to find one of the checkpoints on the first leg and having everyone overtake us (it wasn’t that bad, we just went exploring a little, and found lots of moss covered rocks) … and that was probably it… getting soaking wet and covered in mud were all fun :)