Nicole Walker – 14th September 2019
It’s not the birthday present most would ask for, let alone to agree and grasp the gift of opportunity with two hands. When Gary Bit-Of-A-Legend-Round-Here Sutherland asked if I wanted to join him for the 12 hr Mojo Raid Rogaine on my 30th last month I thought, I am sure this is a decision I will ask myself “why?” many times over but also knowing it would be a fantastic experience I didn’t hesitate to sign up. Also with 12hrs running round in the bush, what better way to get to know someone new? Since it seemed to bring together two of my favourite past times AR + making new friends, I would be silly to say no…right?
4.30am Saturday 14th September morning leaving Brisbane watching the moon set, bright orange from the recent bushfires and then the dawn break was quite spectacular in itself – a reward for being up at sparrow’s fart in my mind. I had it easy, the drive from the Goldy for team mate Gary had him leaving in the 3am’s *shudder*.
I must admit I was feeling a little nervous, will I keep up?, will I do something stupid that would stuff up the race? – mostly centered around gear worries! Forgetting mandatory, or lights or to take shoes or getting blisters, injury etc just so much can go wrong over 12 hours and 3 disciplines. So I have decided that instead of stressing over the million and one things that can go wrong, just imagine it will go right and I like to walk myself through the race, “dress myself” with the gear, look at the temp try to imagine racing in 31 degrees, the impact of the dry, dusty terrain on what food and water and gear I will need. It pays to work on the mind from there and I just told myself this guy is good but he asked me knows I’m a novvie therefore he probably knows better than I do what he’s getting himself in for!
Bike drop was one country block down the road before checking in at Race HQ Lake Moogerah with the passionate and welcoming Jo and Erran from the Mojo crew. Next thing briefing was up and maps were handed out 1 hr pre race start.
WARNING: I don’t have many photos of this race due to the lack of Go Pro and energy from my behalf to stop and take pics whilst keeping up therefore I have photo credited up a storm and patched it together with maps for your reading enjoyment.
We were off to a beautiful kayak start on a glassy lake filled with the classic look in this area of dead white/grey trees protruding boldly from the surface, a perfect place to hang checkpoints apparently…
Most of the paddle was pretty straight forward with one particularly epic CP – up into one of the small corners of the lake with surrounding cliffs proving to be pretty spectacular. Gary and I enjoyed a good yarn, a little too much so in that our chat distracted us from navigating, and I realised he was only human after all having to backtrack a couple hundred metres to a CP we breezed passed moments before. From then we sharpened up, keeping up a solid pace in the barge like double kayaks provided at these events. Turning up to the next CP watching team Mountain Designs Wild Women portaging across a mudflat – exposed only because the dam was at just 50% capacity meaning the CP was now more on the shore than in the lake mapped out. Thankfully this observation gave us the advantage we needed to steal back into lead position on the kayak. However we had to get to this CP first! The mud threatended to swallow us whole, taking two steps and falling flat stuck up to the thighs and elbows in mud is not an easy possie to get out of! Gary called his technique the “paddle crab maneuver” to swim/slide on the mud into the puddle of water where the checkpoint was. I decided I didn’t particularly want another mud facial therefore took a look around – just 2 metres to the left was a river bank looking more like gravel than mud – I took my chances and strolled out of there no sweat, mud or tears! Hopefully others didn’t follow the first couple sets of footprints! Cruising around the rest of the kayak was rather pleasant and we took the opportunity to drink and eat up finishing in about 1 hr 50mins – 10min ahead of schedule!
Transition to the first Run/Trek leg was calculated by me – I made a call to change shoes, unnecessary time that race-mode-Gary didn’t require. I was willing to consider this call except for the fact that I was only 3 days out from taping up my blisters for work shoes from a hike the weekend before and I wasn’t keen to risk blisters on blisters in wet kayaking shoes. Sometimes a little more time here, saves a hell of a lot of issues down the track! But of course with only one shoe off – I look over and Gary is in different shoes, mostly eaten a tin of baked beans, ready to go and saying so how are you getting on? I get my A into G and a couple minutes later I am running out of transition still dressing, finding my map, compass tucked too far away, half a banana in my gob trying to run on Gary’s heels towards the first CP. So with my head still in a flurry, at first fence we come to with barbed wire, Gary kindly steps on two of the wires, lifts the other two – a handy slot for me to crouch through. Then rude and oblivious old me…. keeps running! Only to hear behind me “Really!!!???”. I turn around and here is my poor team mate stuck on the other side of the fence due to me not repaying the parting-fence favour! I think he realised in that moment truely how rookie I am with some of this stuff! Feeling truely embarrassed I quickly got schooled on Rogaining courtesy on how to “hold the fence” for your team mate, and how best to avoid a barb to the bum while maneuvering onself through the fence. I need to sharpen up my game here!
One CP down I was at least dressed. Two CP’s down I had the map out. By the third I found where we were on the map and was able to call out the clues at least! Some team mate! I then spotted the next CP (stoked!) to gain the nickname “Eagle-Eye” to which began the day’s customary Eagle bird call by the first CP spotter. After this admittedly – I did wonder why we weren’t going up the creek which was the route we had marked on the map. But I trusted the experience of my team mate and was happy enough that I was keeping up + enjoying this race so far. 10mins later I said to Gary, so which high point is it? This one ahead or that one? … … *crickets*… … “oh no”… ” I can’t believe it” he says, ” I’ve done a 180!” 10mins later … we were back at the creek. I needed to play a part of this team especially with the heat boiling our brains and the best I could do was keep convo strategic and support my personal GPS!
The rest of the run was a bit of a blur and looking back I was probably a bit ill from the early – mid 30 degree heat after a winter of 12 degree morning trainings. Feeling my heartbeat in my mouth going uphill, a little nauseous and definitely struggling to eat much more than snakes, face like a tomato and sweat struggling to trickle out I identified that I was on the cusp of having to stop. But I did manage to take in the stunning views from the high points, slot canyons and all the other incredibly placed CP’s. Sprouting bird calls with every find, it was overall a great time! Popping out to the CP with surrounding cliff marks on the map was definitely one of the highlight CP’s on this leg. By this stage I remember only blood running down my leg from a nasty vine scratch that I didn’t feel due to the heat, trekking turned rock climbing up the cliff face – challenged by Gary to follow him up the climb vs taking the slow and safe way round, and some amazing person taking the only pic of the day of us as a team!
Finally making it to our bikes at TA and some more fluids it was a welcomed change. My can of baked beans however was not welcomed while feeling so off colour, unfortunately it meant I had to carry the extra 220g with me! Setting off the breeze but soon again finding heat demons on the hills skirting round the first couple of CPs on farmland was hard yakka and it wasn’t until we got to the glorious CP 42 that life changed for the better. What awaited us was a cool, blue billabong which we took no time in deciding to dive into – it was absolute heaven in the moment and the 10 points for the CP was worth a hell of a lot more. Favourite bike CP of the day… apparently unintended by the organisers but absolutely adored by us at least!
Feeling alive again and now having hope I would actually finish we set off for the range. Riding up Spicers Gap Rd was a darn good hill! 3.5km, 370m elevation according to Google maps (no GPS allowed in adventure races to Strava it) and after 6 hrs of racing it was no easy feat but a fantastic climb! Arriving at Spicers Gap in the cool shade of the trees, at higher elevation was lovely and after a short TA we set off into the stunning Main Range National Park. I wish in some respects I had more energy at this point or we had been here earlier in the race as it was a remote beauty full of amazingly tall trees providing a fairly dense canopy, bird sounds loud and a bright green surround in colour. A stark contrast to the barren, burnt farmland of the land surrounding the dry lake. But this also meant for big hills and very dense, uncomfortable looking bush bashing terrain. We got the closest CP worth just 30 pts at the Well and progressed up to the Lizard Point Lookout CP for a 70 pointer which offered incredible views back of Lake Moogerah. At this stage we re-grouped, weighed up our options and decided on our priorities.
The call was made to return home comfortably, enjoyably – avoiding some dense bush bashing and steep terrain. And besides, by this stage a cold beer with Craig Keeling back at HQ was high on the priority list. So we made our way back down the range, stopping at the Governors Chair lookout for a “mental photo” and once again amazing views. I made a promise to myself at this point to return to this stunning place and really get amongst the Main Range National Park another day.
Finally tucking into my baked beans back at TA (well I wasn’t going to carry them for 3 hrs, up a 350m climb for nothing!) fuelling up for the downhill ahead!! Hooning down the dirt road we felt absolutely high on life, while the sun set on the hills around us and the moon rose again in the crimson sky ahead – the exact opposite scene to my drive that morning seeming so long ago now.
Just a handful of CP’s to go in the dark and I was still learning things from my awesome team mate. Such as, that mountain bikes can be ridden almost anywhere until proven otherwise, don’t leave your bike and run, take it with you! And that consequently, long farm grass makes a comfortable landing for when the enevitable happens anyway! And that etiquette with farm gates is not the same as barbed wire fences – it is perhaps strategic for the fastest person to open and close the gate and the slower not to wait or be polite but to simply ride on and be quickly caught up again.
And we made it in at a respectable 6ish pm, with 2500 points under our belts, happy, high spirited, not broken but understanding our enjoyment may not have been strategic for the best placing possible. I was stoked at this point to have achieved my goal of finishing in one piece and feeling like I somewhat kept up with my something-of-a-legend-round-here team mate’s “social pace”. Cruising over to camp we find the other legends on site Craig Keeling and his 3hr race team mate – 9 yr old daughter Meagan. Craig had those ice cold beers waiting for us – the ones we had been dreaming and talking about since 10am that morning! By 8pm and official race finish time I was pretty pleased I had managed to pitch my tent for the night, pack away my gear, have a long deserved shower and sink my first beer.
Coming away with the overall win was a nice surprise after deciding to cut it short a touch but absolutely stoked with this wicked trophy from the Mojo team! Gary got his name on the 12hr Mojo trophy to match his name on the 6hr from the year before but I was pretty proud to have my name on an adventure race trophy of any sort for the first time and especially next to Gary’s.
Thanks to Jo and Erran at Mojo for a fantastic race and absolutely brilliant course! Cheers to Gary my new team mate and adventure buddy for sharing your skills and apologies for the early race rude manners! Massive high five to Craig for the cool beers at the finish. And of course Tiger Adventure for enabling my two favourite past times as always the rich spirit adventure combined with getting to know some amazing people along the way. Nothing could make me feel more alive!
Stay tuned for my long awaited Hells Bells post now I am back on track with the blogs and the next Adventure Race … 36hr Wildside in October.
Note: I intend to update this blog once race organisers pics from the day come through.