GeoQuest 2019 Delivers Epic Challenge
Under new event director Chris Dixon and his Wild & Co team, Mountain Designs GeoQuest delivered to the adventure racing community an event of epic proportions. After completing Australia's premier adventure race and getting some well-earned rest, Kim Beckinsale and Jan Leverton from the Mountain Designs Wild Women team recap the weekend that was.
What A Race And What An Adventure
Mountain Designs GeoQuest has been reborn just like its major sponsor Mountain Designs…born of the mountains! Australia's premier adventure race certainly delivered to the adventure racing community an event that was like the GeoQuest we have always known and loved, but with a few little tweaks here and there to satisfy the ever-changing demands of the sport. There were two sub-categories to race in:
- Geo Full - 48hrs - Teams of 4 - supported or Adventure 1 unsupported and
- Geo Half - 48hrs - Teams of 4 - supported or unsupported.
Mountain Designs Wild Women Team finished 1st Female Team in the Adventure1 unsupported category and 10th outright, completing the GeoQuest Full Course and finding every checkpoint (CP) in 45 hours and 30 minutes.
Location, Location, Location
Yamba was the perfect location for GeoQuest! The event in the past has always taken us to beautiful towns on the NSW coast, and this year Yamba certainly lived up to GeoQuest expectations.
East Coast Wild Weather
Well there just always seems to be an Australian east coast low pressure system pop up on the radar on GeoQuest weekend and this year we could not escape some of the wild weather that it produced. There was lots of rain to make the mountain biking really muddy, and plenty of wind to chop up the ocean and increase swells. These conditions are exactly why we need all the amazing wet weather gear that Mountain Designs provides for us, to not only survive but to thrive.
It would not be a GeoQuest without an opportunity for an ocean paddle and it was certainly on the cards in 2019. But the above mentioned wild weather patterns at this time of year always make it a bit touch and go and that was exactly what happened. When teams arrived in Yamba there was a 3m SE swell and winds of over 20 knots. Predictions for race day were for the wind and swell to drop so teams were provided with an option - to either paddle and be fully ranked on the full course, or trek the distance and still be ranked, but behind all teams that paddle. The half course, however, being a race that attracts more novice competitors, was eventually told that they would just trek leg 1, which I think was a smart call after being out there in those conditions.
Our team decided to paddle so we fully prepared for the wind and rain, putting on waterproof pants and our amazing new Mountain Designs Springbrook jackets, along with our long sleeved Mountain Designs Merino Blend thermals. The ocean paddle took us out through the breakwater at Yamba then 20km south to Brooms Head and the swell was definitely up there - as in I am not sure that it had actually dropped to the predicted 1.8m. We were quite relieved to see a definite presence of Surf Life Saving Australia rescue craft out on the water for most of the paddle and at some of the more critical points, such as the breakwater exit, the big bombie out off Shelly Beach Head. We managed to get in to the transition area at Brooms Head but Lucy and I did have to execute a timely re-entry to our kayak about 200m out from shore after being taken out by a rather large set of waves.
We arrived at Brooms Head and it was great to see so much action at the TA. There were tents everywhere and lots of people cheering us on, mostly support crews from teams who opted for a 'supported event'. Yes, well that was how GeoQuest always was - everyone had a crew and they looked after you at the TA's. They would have all your gear ready to go, some food ready for you and the team would be in and out in a flash thanking them for their support and always for the amazing tasting treats that would be on offer! This is also a great way to recruit new team mates or adventure racers, as often many who experience crewing want to set themselves a goal of actually doing the race the following year or at least in the future.
It also created a family atmosphere, where kids were welcome and helping either mum or dad get through the event, which is just so great to see. I definitely missed that about being in an unsupported team, as that meant we were on our own every leg, getting gear out of our pre prepared box A, Box B or Box C, like an expedition event. We managed but it just meant that we are out there longer and I suppose honing some skills for expedition events like XPD which is a part of the Adventure Racing World Series.
This year teams were treated to either 2 or 3 beach treks depending upon whether they decided to paddle or trek leg 1. Our first trek was leg 3 which took us from Minnie Water to Wooli. It was mostly along the beach and quite enjoyable as the tides were low. We had three CPs to find on this leg, on headlands either high or low, meaning at some points we were rock hopping around the headlands or going up and over. It got dark as we were nearing the end of the trek, so it was lights on for the next 12 hours.
A Bit Of Hike A Bike And A Bit Of Sand Riding!
This year the course had more sand riding than usual but definitely less elevation, as the course traversed mostly coastal areas without too much travel out west into the hills. Sand riding is a bit of an art and worth practicing if you know you have to do it in a race. The ride from Brooms Head to Minnie Water was mostly sand and teams had a choice of riding the beach or the inland trail which was still sand - not sure what ended up being faster as the beach was mid to high tide and the track was longer and not flat. So route choice in events like GeoQuest can really make or break a leg! We took the inland track and thought it was pretty good travel but only because it was wet and the sand was hard-packed.
Leg 5 was only a 25km bike ride, however due to the conditions (rain and lots of it), the trails were very slippery and muddy traversing the Cando Forest. After CP6 we had a great hike-a-bike - this means that it is too steep to ride and too steep to push your bike, so you throw it over your shoulder and carry it up a hill. Now this is great if your bike is light but not so fun if you have a heavy bike. It then becomes all about team work where the faster team mates go back and help. In adventure racing there is a 100m rule, which means there can only be 100m between the first and last person in the team. This is one of the important safety aspects of the sport.
There was also lots of mud due to the rain of course and bikes did not sound all that flash after a while, so it was really important to ride carefully to prevent a broken chain, which is easy to do when the running gear is saturated with mud and sand. Bike lube is always handy to have packed in your bike box or take with you for times like these. We even washed off our bikes under a shower at the TA in Minnie Water and that was before the really muddy part of the race. No doubt after events in such challenging conditions that the bike shops stay in business, as most bikes will need a bit of TLC. On the other hand, these conditions make it all a bit more challenging and that's why it's adventure racing.
Challenging Navigation Day & Night
Adventure racing is different to a multisport race, by the inclusion of the navigational aspect of the sport. Teams are required to navigate their way to all of the checkpoints marked on the maps for their course. Once upon a time back in the early days of AR or when I did my first GeoQuest in 2005 teams had to mark up their one set of maps and plot their own CPs using grid references. The trend now days is that teams receive two sets of maps meaning more time for route choice planning as opposed to plotting.
This year, like traditional GeoQuest events, there was a challenging night Rogaine (which means teams can collect/find the CPs in any order they choose). This year teams in the half course only had to find 4 CPs, whereas teams in the full were required to collect ABCDEFG with H and I being optional, however if teams opted not to get H and I they would be ranked behind any team that got them all. Now this trek was navigationally challenging because it started in the dark and the vegetation was extremely thick and most of the CPs were well off track, meaning you had to hike off track into the bush or jungle to find them. We were pretty happy to get through the leg in just over 7 hours finding all the CPs to remain fully ranked despite the fact that it felt like we were almost the last team on the full course! The top team times on this leg ranged from 6 to 14 hours.
Gear And Equipment For GeoQuest AR
We used the following items from Mountain Designs out on course and would highly recommend them to anyone for use in training and/or racing:
- Waterproof Jacket - GORE-TEX® or Repel Water protection;
- Thermals - both tops and bottoms for base layer core warmth;
- Mountain Designs Socks - lots of them;
The winning teams in all of the categories, and placegetters in the Premier Mixed categories in both the GeoQuest Half and Full, received vouchers from Mountain Designs worth over $7,000 in total.
The Mountain Designs Wild Women team are proud to be associated with such a quality brand like Mountain Designs and hope that we can continue to inspire more everyday people to get out and explore what's out there to be found. So whether you are planning a hike, a bike, a paddle or even your next adventure race, knowing that you have all the right gear to support your everyday adventure is important…so what is your next adventure?