Tuesday, 15 March 2016

X-Marathon Adventure Race at Lakes Entrance Vic

Written by Karina

Adventure Junkie’s X-Marathon Adventure Race at Lakes Entrance was the place to be for Australian Adventure racers on the long weekend. After a year off organising the race, Adventure Junkie have brought it back bigger and better. The X-Marathon was renowned for lots of vertical metres, big unridable hills and challenging navigation. The move from Lake Eildon in NE Vic, down to Lakes Entrance and increasing the length from 24 to a 36 hr race has made it into an UNMISSABLE race. In the end, they increased the cutoff time to 46hrs based on the teams that entered (so they had more of a chance to finish) but Serge seems to have thrown down the challenge even to Australia's leading AR teams. The course delivered as being one of the toughest races on the Australian calendar.Dynamite Adventure went into this race with the same team as our last race being Paul, Gus, Tim and Karina. With all of our families and some friends there to support us, we were keen to show them what this adventure racing is all about and were hoping for a good result.

The race began at midday with a field of 19 teams starting in their kayaks under the Lakes Entrance surf club bridge,  paddling west across the Lakes towards Nungurner. We came in from the leg in the lead group of four teams, built our bikes and out onto the ride through Colquhoun Park and railtrail.

Teams were to split into pairs to tackle the MTB park CP's and meet back on the other side of the park. I was riding on the Tim Boote express through the awesome singletrack that was fantastic and fast. Tim actually helped build many of the trails so he knew it all like the back of his hand. The team met up on the other side of the park after collecting all of the points
and managed to ride into 1st place. I believe we picked up the 10 min bonus here for the fastest mtb split? Paul had a massive stick catch between his derailleur and his cassette on the way out and was lucky not to rip it off. Highlight of this leg was riding into the TA in 1st place with all of our families and friends there cheering us on. It definitely helped spur us on for the next leg.

Into Boggy Creek Gorge we went for some cannyoning. Four CP's to find along a marked line took us on one amazing adventure (Plotting the correct locations also gave us time credits, so the pressure was on Paul). Jumping from rock to rock and swimming many sections was how we spent most of this leg and maybe slipping over on a rock here, there and everywhere. It was tough (and we have the cuts and bruises to prove it), but one of those AR legs that make you say "this is why I do adventure racing!" It felt like a place few people have the privilege of entering and that we were exploring it's secret beauty. Climbing out of the Gorge and up to Mt Tarra in the daylight was the goal and we achieved it. The Gorge (and spotting the CPs) would have been super hard at night, and we hear a great place for eels! We stuck to the tracks up to the summit as we discovered the density of the vegetation slow going after just having climbed our way out of the gorge.

Riding out onto the next leg we were out of TA in first place, very happy to hold off the gun teams on a trek leg  such as this as it certainly hasn't been our teams strength in the past. We did know this Mtb leg was going to be hilly and super tough, but we had no idea it would take us close to twice as long as predicted. An early mechanical put us into action with a quicklink fixing the chain break on Gus's bike. The visibility due to the fog in the hills made it hard to see more than 5-10 in front of you at time, which made the downhills quite defensive. Concentration levels were high as there were plenty of sticks, logs and washaways to avoid. Peak and TSSN went past us up one of the many climbs,  but due to a tricky CP location we managed to pull a bit of time back on them. With TSSN taking the lead and powering ahead, we then spent a bit of time riding near Peak, after they missed a turn off. We took off from one Creek CP and we thought they were right behind us, but they disappeared somewhere and we didn't see them again until the rogaine. Into the TA3 at about 5.30am we packed our bikes up and headed out on the rogaine.

I (Karina) was feeling quite nauseous after failing to eat my food in transition. The tummy was upset and the pace slowed, the boys having no option but to adopt my slow pace and help with recovery. We kept moving forward but it wasn't pretty and to add to it I started to get the sleep monsters. I know these moments are just windows of hurt and couldn't wait to see the light and feel good again. It was in my moment of hurt that Adventure Junkies went past us. We had a quick chat to them before they ran off into the distance. The highlight of this leg would have been the decent down the creek to the Snowy River which took us down steep slopes, with slippery mossy rocks and massive spiney vines everywhere. The sight of the Snowy was great, except seeing how shallow it was as we knew that meant a hike-a-kayak was looming.

On heading to the kayaks we discovered that our kayak steering pedal on Tim/Pauls boat had been broken in transit, so after some spare parts pulled off an unused boat, we were on our way. We had struggled with a dodgy foot pedal that was popping out on the first paddle, but managed to finally work a solution part way down the river using a river rock and a cable tie (don't leave home without them the boys say). The first half of this paddle to the Orbost bridge was tough going, hike a kayaking to switch sides of the river so many times was taking its toll. The river was spectacular but it was hard to appreciate dragging the boat through the sand constantly. Two CP's to collect both near the end of the paddle, the first one took some time as it wasn't where we thought it should be, but we found it eventually up near where the road crossed the creek. Kayaking into Marlo and Teagan was a welcome sight in transition. We were all very happy to be back on the bikes.

The next ride was fast with Tim towing me at times and the boys helping push me over the top of the smaller climbs this leg delivered. The creek crossing had us with bikes on our backs crossing it right on night fall. We were riding a solid pace, but overshot a couple of CP's slightly here,  but managed to minimise these issues and not waste too much time. The ride ended with a long sand ride past the hundreds of prawn catchers in Lake Tyers along solid compact sand with plenty of slime. Many of our kids and families came out to this TA to cheer us onto our last leg, I'm pretty sure they woke up much of the neighbourhood. It was great to hear all of the kids cheering well before we could see them. After packing up our bikes quickly, we headed out onto the run from Lake Tyers to Lakes Entrance.

Finally we were on our last leg. With Tim's local knowledge of this area, he guided us onto the beach. Our running was more of a fast walk, slow plod pace at this point of the race. Along the beach we went, across the rocks, along the next beach to collect our checkpoint. Very happy that we could finally get off the beach, we opted to run a few extra kilometres through the the town along a nice path to the finish line. Running back across the bridge where it all began 35hrs 50mins earlier felt fantastic and once again our wonderful support crew was waiting at the finish line for us.

We are stoked to walk away with 3rd place on this super tough course, racing against some very strong competition. It was great going head to head with these top class teams and seeing friends out on course on numerous occasions throughout the race was great, everyone is so friendly and it spurs us on to come back for more.

Thanks Serge and Maria for once again delivering one very tough course that definitely tested us over and over. This one really had that WOW factor, but we can see that there are just so many exciting options for future races in the Gippsland Lakes region! X-Marathon  looks to be squarely set for a bright future on the AR calendar with the stunning location, great pricing, roving photography and video, awesome tracking and challenging terrain and navigation. Thanks to all of the helpers, especially Tim's fiance Teagan and Tim's dad who both gave up there time to help out Adventure Junkies with the logistics on race day. A massive final thanks to our amazing massive support crew, all of Gus, Tim, Paul and my families. The kids (there is 9 of them in total) don't normally get to see many of these races, so it was great to have them all cheering us on at various TA's at a Victorian race.

Photo credits: Fedor Iskhakov
Website: xmarathon.com.au