Saturday, 29 April 2017

X-marathon Adventure Race 2017 - Dynamite Adventure

By Paul Gruber 
Location - Metung, Gippsland
Purpose - X-marathon adventure race
Format - 48hrs of kayaking, MTB, trekking and packrafting

Last year’s X-marathon was a great event, so we knew we weren’t going to want to miss out on the 2017 edition. With a HQ in Metung and knowing the type of terrain available to Serge and Maria to use, for the race just sealed the deal. In discussing the team makeup, early on we flagged a likely two team assault, given our no.1 support crew Teagan was pulling on a race bib with Tim and their Gippsland training crew. Bruce, Karina and I were joined on this race with new Dynamite recruit, Eliot. 

After a more than early morning bus ride out to the Angusvale Camping Area on the Mitchell River, we grabbed and set up our kayaks and got ready for the start. A quick trekking leg to break-up the field resulted in a fast dash through the open grassland followed by twig in an eye, then a few tumbling rocks as we got back down towards the river. 

Being in a pinball machine best described our paddling for the next five hours as we bounced our way down the Mitchell given it’s low level after the dry conditions in the lead up. After making some good progress Bruce and I ended up finding ourselves with an unsteady boat that was impossible to steer. After finding our way to a less than ideal rock on the side of the river we spent some time emptying the kayak and realised a loose hatch had been the culprit. Onwards we set, fighting the rocks the whole way down. A beautiful setting i’d love to return to when there is more than an idle flow of water. 

We got into TA1 near Iguana Creek with numerous teams, unpacking the MTBs. Setting off we had Peak Adventure II close on our heels. After a quick stop to adjust a seat post, they pedalled past us and this began a race long tussle for position. We had the tow rope out for much of this leg, being mindful also not to overcook ourselves in the process.

Coming into TA2 we were having fun and ready to stretch the legs. We headed off a road and down along the path of a creek to the first CP, (a decision based on the OOB area) that seemed logical to us but cost us time and a fair bit of skin as we ducked and weaved through blackberries and dense scrub. We eventually found our way to an open rocky section and then bush bashed out to another road, leading us to the next CP. The lack of off track trekking was unusual for x-marathon and with one of us in recovery mode it ended up being a long walk along the roads. On reaching the CP just after darkness fell, we found ourselves without bikes and had to wait until Robbie arrived with the trailer before we could transition to the next leg (and were given a time credit)
The Adventuregain section allowed us to bike or trek to collect the CPs. Bruce and I headed up to the top of Mt Taylor and grabbed several other CPs on the way, while KV and Eliot grabbed a few around the base and then spent some time recovering. I enjoyed the climb up, though Bruce less so after donning a long sleeve top before heading out of the CP resulting in him sweating his way through most of the stage. This was highly unusual for Bruce to overdress…. it almost never happens ;) !!

With a rejuvenated team, we set off on bike, climbing our way up to our first CP, before losing altitude and climbing again before finding our way onto some overgrown motorbike trails and then some long unridable hike-a-bike climbing. We ran into Peakadventure II shortly after here again and followed each other up and down hills until we met again at TA4 at Fairy Dell. A short hike up and back and we were back on the bikes for a quick MTB towards Bruthen. As we got closer to sunrise, what should have been an easy CP at an old railway station turned into a  funny adventure that woke us all up. With Peak Adventure II edging in front we soon found them heading towards us. Thinking they’d gone past the CP, we all began searching for the CP at an old railway station slightly off the rail trail track. KV and I slid through the fence before Bruce got an almighty zap from the electric fence!! Soon realising that it wasn’t the right one, we then slid back through the fence (though a little more cautiously than before) and found the CP 100m further down the trail. 

It was just starting to get light as we left TA5 at Bruthen. Knowing the rivers were likely to be low and seeing Tiger new Cal having to jump out within the first 50m we decided to hike as far as we could before inflating the rafts. after fighting against more walls of blackberries and seeing Peak Adventure once again go past us, we gave up and got our packrafts out. 

This leg seemed rather painful and pointless, as given the low water levels, we spent more time out of the packrafts than in them and little to no advantage seemed attainable by travelling on foot with the rafts packed up. After several hours of walking along the river and concluding the main reason for the leg was to fill our shoes to the brim with sand, we were able to pack the rafts away and jump into kayaks. 

From here the battle began with tiredness. We connected our kayaks together to keep the speed up, but we struggled to steer as a result the further down river we got and boat traffic we encountered. After several stops along the way to readjust/regroup or reapply sunscreen, Peak Adventure caught us just before the end to the Tambo, but a CP pinpointing error from all three teams brought Tiger New Cal, Peak Adv II and us together for a last dash across the lake towards the last CP and finish at Metung. Originally thinking we were no hope, Peak Adventure II opened the door with a navigational error as they headed too far south and allowed us to sneak ahead of them as we got into town. We grabbed our gear and ran through Metung and through the finish just after Tiger New Cal, but ended up a few minutes ahead of them once our time credit from Mt Taylor was taken into account. 

We had a great time out there and were really thrilled that Dynamite East Gippsland had done so well. 

Lessons learnt:
1. If someone tries to high five you, don’t pull back cause you’re worried you might knock them off their bike. They might hunt you down in the kayak leg later in the race!
2. Check to make sure the hatches on the kayaks are water tight before you start a whitewater leg. You could sink! But it could also make you laugh alot. 
3. Wearing paddling thermal pants unawares while bike riding can be extremely hot, especially when towing a teammate.
4. Grown men getting zapped by electric fences can be funny and may also wake you up from your dozy state.      
5. You can packraft in 5cm of water if you’re very light, it’s just not fun for the rest of your teammates who’s shoes are full of sand!
6.  Packrafting is more fun if you can paddle more than 50m without getting out. At least I think so, one day I might get a chance to test this theory!