This race report is brought to you by Gen Nawrot, from the “Not Wandering, Just Lost” team, who tackled the 36 hour course at the 2019 Wildside Adventure Race, Southern Highlands Edition.
We definitely got an adventure and so much more this weekend.
After a leisurely drive down on Thursday to beat the public holiday traffic, Amy Robinson and I had a whole day of nervous waiting before the briefing and map giving for Wildside Adventure Southern Highlands Edition.
A year and a half ago, we went in our first ever adventure race. In a team of four, we carried our large hiking bags and loads of unnecessary equipment all day and all night, finishing our 12 hour race in 19 hours and 45 minutes. Back then, I couldn’t run the 800m to my nearest Aldi let alone a marathon. We seem to be well known as the girls that wore glow stick glasses and accessories on our night kayak, karaoked all the way up the river, ate iced finger buns at 6 am and never stopped smiling despite being so far behind absolutely everybody.
So now, this time as a team of 2, we were looking at our first ever 36 hour event. There’s been hours and hours of training to turn me from the kinda fit woman I was 1.5 years ago to the hopefully much fitter person I am now – Aldi isn’t far away at all anymore! With a second 12 hour and a 24 hour event finished successfully we hoped for the best.
Getting the maps and logistic plan did make the butterflies in the stomach start flying around a bit faster. It looked tough! Even trying to get everything sorted as quick as possible meant we still got to bed only at 11pm. Unfortunately, cars aren’t the best things to sleep in prior to a long adventure race. But with the choice of a 90 minute round trip to be back at the start at 5am, it seemed like the best option. So finally, at 1am with my undies over my face to block out the showground lights, I made it to sleep. And at 4:30, the alarm went off – time to go!
At 5 the bus took us out to the start of our first paddle at Tallowa Dam starting at 6. I’d hoped, just once, to have a rain free adventure race. Nope! It poured down while in the kayaks and kept drizzling into the start of the trek. As we walked up Bundanoon creek and Nyes Creek, this kept the rocks nice and slippery. The first part of the walk was not too bad, then things got a little tougher after the first fork. It definitely was boulder country and trying to snake around or through was pretty interesting. Going up Nyes Creek though was a different level again, going on sketchy inclines to miss huge boulders and a 20m vertical drop at one point. It took us 3 hours to cover a distance of 2km as the crow flies at one point. But we made it out…
…just in time for a very shortened mountain bike orienteering session before heading back into Tallowa gorge. We made the decision to cut short the MTBO to try to reenter the gorge before dark. We knew the reentry to the gorge would be steep, sketchy as all hell and for me, slightly terrifying. There were many thoughts swirling in my head at this point. Oh Fuck was prominent. The trackers don’t show us well in the gorge, if something happens, how long before someone will look for us? We are the lucky last, there’s no one behind us. And we are only 2, if someone hurts themselves, one person may have to hike out on their own while the other is left behind.
With these super reassuring thoughts, I had a few little cries and then we headed back into the gorge. And darn it, in the dark. It was just as scary as I thought, sliding down steep rocks, minor rock climbing and now knowing that there was no way to get back up, the only possible way is down. We had a few little hints in dodgy spots where we could see the routes the other teams had taken. When we finally heard the creek at the bottom, we were thrilled! It was just a matter of a 7 hour trek back to the boats at this stage, finally getting there at almost 2am. On the way, we met up with the Tiger Lizards. Unfortunately one of them had fallen and hurt her back right at the start of the descent . I definitely admire how well she did to manage the rest of this leg. At the boats, she and another team mate decided to kayak back to Tallowa to get picked up, also incredibly painful for her, while their other 2 team mates, Oren and Volker decided to continue with us as they would not be allowed to continue without a tracker and mobile phone.
So back in the boats and a 24km paddle back to Bendeela. The fellas weren’t too keen on paddling at our pace so they hooked us together and gave us a tow, to increase our paddling speed considerably. Very helpful considering the rhythmic paddling motion put me to sleep several times before dawn and Amy got in some micro sleeps after the sun came up. I never thought I could sleep anywhere. But not matter how hard I tried, I would be paddling and then suddenly jerk awake and noticed we’d steered off to the side as I slept. Oops. We left at 3am and got into TA2 at just after 8.
With Amy’s feet absolutely covered in blisters and me mentally exhausted, the thought of another million kilometres on a bike filled us with dread. By this stage we had only had just over 3 hours sleep in the last 50 hours and it was a real killer. Even food and brownies (yum!) didn’t help. We decided to short course ourselves and not do the huge MTB loop to the north, we’d just pick up the southern end and head home. Even this was hard. At one point my vision went grey so I got off the bike before I fell off. We rode into the end after 30 hours out in the bush.
While we technically finished (with a huge time penalty for missed checkpoints) for me it doesn’t feel like a huge success. I am proud of not backing out of the 2nd leg of the trek even though I wanted to with everything I had. Despite our name, we actually never got lost. But lurking in the back of my mind is the feeling that I should’ve done more, pressed on just a little harder. Judging by the other teams, we may have finished the full course early Monday morning, likely after 40+ hours. At the end of the day, this race was just a little bit more than what we could chew. The distance increase was hard yes, but more difficult was the terrain they pick only for the real pros and the real sleep deprivation of the 5am start of a huge race after only 3 hours sleep. And I while the sensible part of me says we still did very well for our experience level, the rest of me isn’t very sensible! But oh well! It was all part of my huge learning curve over the last 2 years.
They haven’t scared me off yet! I’ll be back, but in the 24 hour category. Once I can improve my times there, maybe then its time for another go at a 36 hour.
But only if there’s some type of cake!
The great photos are courtesy of the talented Wildside photographer
The map shows the blue where we did go, red is the route we didn’t do.