Completed with a complete stranger only 3 days out from the race!
read all about it in Search4Hurt Magazine Issue 3
Two weeks ago when Search4Hurt contacted me about racing at Wildside 5 day Adventure Race I’d just come off the back of 9 weeks of hard competition which had me competing in multiple 24hr Races, … .2nd at Aussie Titles 24hr Obstacle Enduro, 2nd at Spartan 45km Ultrabeast, 3rd Hells Bells 24hr Adventure Race, including finishers at Epic 87km MTB and 11km Trail Run, True Grit Obstacle Race and a 24hr Rogaine; with a heavy fall off my Mountain Bike with suspected fractured arm; I was really looking forward to some long awaited recovery!
However the night before Search4Hurt contacted me I looked at my ‘Andrea’s I’m-possible Challenges’ poster on my wall, with Wildside up there, and sighed at the prospect of putting a cross through that. So when they asked if I wanted to race I immediately said yes!
Only 6 months prior I had answered an SOS on Facebook from a New Zealand team competing in GODzone 6 day Adventure race, urgently requiring a team mate. With 11 days to prepare and organise I made my way from Brisbane, Australia to Kaikoura, NewvZ to compete in my first ever expedition race with 3 complete strangers.
So this time having 15 days to organise myself and my gear and find a suitable team mate certainly wouldn’t be that hard?
Well it was!
For most people, having 6 months to train and organise themselves for a 6 day Adventure Race would be pushing the limits. As I knew from prior experience, I knew that I was certainly fit and strong enough to not only finish but actually enjoy the journey, so the mission was to find a partner equally as strong.
However finding a partner that was not only physically and mentally strong enough to handle 5 days Mountain Biking, Trekking and Paddling on next to no sleep, navigating with a map and compass, who actually was fun to be around and could take 7 days off their life to have an epic Adventure with me (a complete stranger) was no easy task!
I spoke to potential partners based all over Australia and with only a few days to go until needing to travel to Forster, NSW I spoke to Lawrence Kranon, who lived 5km from me! Lawrence recently ran the Glasshouse Mountains 100miler and had competed in Mountain Biking Races, so I had no concern of his leg strength and overall endurance, however he had only paddled a kayak a few times (later finding out a ‘few times’ turned into ‘maybe’ been in a kayak for 5 minutes) and had never completed an Adventure Race before. Upon meeting this very tall, lean, jovial and easy going 51 year old he demonstrated he could take a bearing when using map and compass , although when he shrugged ‘how hard could it be? made me feel quite nervous. It would be veeeeeery hard! And if you’d seen the Search4Hurt Episode at Geoquest 48hour Adventure Race, where the team become terribly lost, got themselves in serious danger and needed to be rescued, twice; taking on a 5 day Adventure Race is certainly no easy feat!
However when Lawrence showed me his shoes that he ran 161km in I quickly came to the decision that this was my guy. If he could run 161km in thin, flimsy, unsupporting shoes he sure was one determined, mentally tough and physically strong guy. I’d have to teach him how to paddle and I’d have to take the lead role in Navigation however the idea of having a super challenge on top of an already huge challenge, definitely appealed to me!
The gear required and the organisation for such an event is massive (not to mention the time it takes to physically and mentally prepare your body for such a gruelling adventure, which we didn’t have) so with time not on our side we sure needed a bit of help from our friends.
Felt Bicycles gave Lawrence a brand new Edic9 Dual Suspension Mountain Bike to ride (having gifted me a new bike a month earlier.) ARea51 helped us source all the gear required for a 5 day expedition and Infinit ensured we had our own custom blended nutrition to keep us going throughout the race.
So 36 hours after Lawrence and I met each other we were traveling in the car from Brisbane down to Forster, NSW to compete at Wildside!
On arrival into Forster we were required to undergo competent testing in swimming, paddling and capsizing, navigation, first aid and checking our gear.
In a double kayak normally the heavier person sits at the back and steers however after our first 100m paddle attempt with Lawrence in the back (which apparently had competitors watching in hysterics) I quickly assumed my position in the back.
That afternoon we received details of the course, maps and logistics and planning instructions with 22 hours to get all of our gear, gear boxes, maps, food and supplies ready for the start of the race. The first two legs were still a mystery and all would be revealed at 6pm. We assumed that the race would start at 6pm and our planning reflected this. However we all know what assumptions can lead to!
Now if 22 hours sounds like a long time to prepare for a 5 day Adventure Race, you could not have been further from the truth.
We were lucky to share an Apartment with team Tiger Adventure and as the evening went on and with huge anxiety I watched each member of their 4 person team take on a role whilst I myself worked through every single planning component and then directed the overwhelmed Lawrence to complete a task.
By 11.30pm that night when 3 of the 4 Tiger members were fast asleep and basic addition in my head was seeming as complicated as working out a complex agirithm I retired to bed, dreaming of new found mental clarity and strength.
The next day I woke up with a fuzzy brain and had to pep talk myself into embracing the challenge, being confident of my abilities and systematically working through each leg. I needed to organise how long each leg could take, what boxes we’d have access to before and after the leg, what gear we’d need (and what boxes they needed to be in) what food we’d need and then get familiar with the maps and plan out a route. In Adventure Racing there is no set path and you are free to go whatever way you like (within the out of bounds area.)
With ten minutes to go before we needed to have all our gear down at the headquarters, trying so hard not to be flustered (and to be honest, hystsertical) Shaun and Trev from Tiger Adventure helped me sort my maps into their correct boxes. If we didn’t have the right maps for each leg our race would be over, it would be worse than being up the creek without a paddle, it would be like being blindfolded, spun around 5 times and then told to ‘go get em!’ Nothing would be happening!
After hurriedly dropping our gear off, then quickly changing into race attire and throwing my pasta into a zip lock bag to eat on the run, we ran, albeit quickly, to a Bus awaiting to take us to the start.
Sitting on the bus wiping the sweat from my face and feeling it drip down my back I resided the fact that everything was done and that from here on no matter what happened was the best possible thing that could happen, and yes this did mean if I had forgotten my bike shoes or I couldn’t have my favourite pasta at transition, from here on in it was all about having a great time and learning lots.
We pulled up at X Winery, were fed amazing home made burgers and dessert told we had access to a tent and would be starting at 1am.
Having a few hours sleep before the start gun sounded at 1am sounded like luxury, considering we had assumed we’d start at 6pm!
As we all made our way to the start at 1245pm I watched some people jumping up and down and huddling to get warm whilst I opted for cycling shorts and my sports bra under my race bib, silently giving myself bonus points for being tough and knowing that within minutes of starting I’d be super happy with my decision.
Lawrence was very quiet and I wondered if he was thinking what he’d got himself in for, but then I thought again that he was male, so maybe he was just quiet because he wasn’t actually thinking much at all?
And we were off! Our Wildside 5 day Adventure started at a cracking pace off with teams running to break away from the large group. Our tactic was to keep other teams in sight to give us confidence and security for the first leg. Navigation at night can be particularly challenging due to limited visibility and for the first trek I wanted to play it safe and not take any unnecessary risks, opting at times to take the longer more X route.
This leg had us multiple times swimming across rivers and walking through thick swamp land. We’d watch as other teams took their packs off and put them in a waterproof bag whilst Lawrence and I swam with ours on our backs, all the time thinking of my large dry bag sitting in my Paddle bag…
We climbed to the top of a large hill to find a checkpoint and caught glimpses of the new day as the wind made quick work of penetrating my mesh race bib and we hurried along to keep warm.
From here we said goodbye to Team Rusty Ironmen, and I never did get to workout who Rusty was, and I opted to take the track climbing up the ridge.
With the sun brought the most persistent and unrelentless Mostiquitoes which had me thinking back to my insect repellent sitting in the Apartment back in Forster…
For me going to the toilet was particually challenging exposing a large bait like feature which was warmly welcomed by the Mostiquitoes.
We trekked our way down to Coomba having covered much more than the Xkm as predicted, the sun not only shining but screaming down on us, and our double kayak awaited us. My feet aching, I swore never to use my running boots again and was excited to jump in the kayak.
From here the paddling lessons started for Lawrence and from the back of the kayak I coached (which appeared rather unsuccessfully) him in paddling , in particular to use his back to power the stroke to save his arms.
I’m unsure if Lawrence resided to the fact that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ and within a few hours I was paddling the double kayak solo, Lawrence’s arms totally blown out and needing to walk on the path beside the river.
When the path stopped the map indicated that a road met back up with the river and I agreed to paddle the kayak down and around and meet up with Lawrence. In an AR team members need to stay within 100m of each other for fairly obvious reasons however breaking this rule meant that Lawrence could take a well needed rest whilst I continued paddling. The navigation seemed simple and it was during the middle of the day. The benefits for breaking the rule seemed to massively outweigh the cons, and besides, who would find out?!
Paddling along the river I noticed lots of rather aggressive Private Property signs and when I’d been paddling a while I started to call out to Lawrence, by this stage getting a bit worried.
From the bushes I saw scurried movement and I was greeted by a very flustered, agitated but also highly relived Lawrence.
Lawrence told me all the roads down to the River were signposted PRIVATE PROPERTY and he’d taken to violently running around all the roads to desperately find a way down to the river, and this was his rest and recover!
He had resorted to climbing 5 electric fences – ouch!- all the while fabricating an elaborate story to tell an annoyed Farmer if he was to be questioned.
So for the rest of the race Lawrence was to be back into the kayak and was simply going to eat and rest when he needed whilst I paddled. No more electric fences for him!
Getting out of a kayak when you’ve been paddling for 6 hours can prove challenging and then jumping on a Mountain Bike for 39km
Our legs felt a little stiff and sore after being contained in a kayak for 7 hours although I was feeling really excited to get out on the first bike leg of the race. After a short transition we were off riding 39km over xxx
It was slow going and we pulled into transition at 130am greeted by the X town’s Firefighters , heated our noodles, pitched the tent and planned on 3 hours sleep before the next Xkm paddle.
The early morning was cold and it was really hard to put on wet clothes from the previous paddle, jumping up and down to keep warm before we hit the water The Xkm paddle had us collecting a check point in X so I treated myself to a latte and the local cafe which helped me get in my meditative zone
it quite quickly became apparent that I was to have the sole Navigation role and my mission was to coach and support our team to simply get to the finish.
This race was only my 3rd time navigating an Adventure Race, in the past preferring to race in fast, strong teams with expert navigators. So not only did this race hugely test me navigationally but challenge my overall physical and mental ability to successfully organise and lead our team to the finish. It was an absolute tough mental challenge that taught me a tremendous amount about myself and about managing a team.
The race was amazing, the countryside and coast was spectacular, and we had many a funny story to tell throughout our adventure which you can read about in the next issue of the Search4Hurt Magazine!
It was such an incredible experience which was not possible without Search4Hurt and the incredible Wildside Adventure Race, and support from Felt Bicycles, Infinit Nurtrition and ARea51. A huge thank you to you all!
And to my race buddy Lawrence that despite the hugely challenging of times he kept putting one foot in front of the other and he crossed that finish line with a smile on his face. You’re a legend Lawrence!