Hells Bells is the one adventure race I try not to miss ( I missed '07 due to injury). Its SE Queensland's big local event, logistics are simple, we always have a good time and its a great chance to catch up with friends.
Getting our fins on for the body board leg.
Dan and myself were unable to find a female team mate for this years event and Liam and Darren had the same problem. In the end Darren opted out and Liam teamed up with us in team Off The Map. The goal this year was to stay on the map!
We dropped the bikes off at the end of Bells Creek road and met at Mooloolaba Primary School which was race HQ for the second year in a row. After marking up and contacting the maps we calculated a rough time of 12 hours. It was pretty clear that the local teams would have the advantage on this course. At 11 o'clock we jumped on a bus to the start at Curramundi. The first leg was a beach run with everyone starting together in a mad sprint up the beach to CP1. We arrived in around fifth spot and lined up to punch our cards. All three in each team were given a control card this year in an effort to stop competitors breaking the 100 metre rule. Fine by me. After a short run through the streets we arrived at the first kayak leg and proceeded to pump up our boat only to lose all the air when we detached the pump! After doing this several times we worked out how to operate the valve..we really should know how to pump up these boats by now. We eventually paddled off down the canal to punch a CP on a bridge before arriving at the start of the coasteering leg between Curramundi and Golden Beach. On the way we stopped to build a sand castle (seriously) to obtain the next CP. Liam's knee has been giving him grief since Geoquest so we didn't push too hard on this first run leg in case it really gave out later on. The rock hopping around the headlands was great! At the next kayak leg we did a much better job of pumping up our boat and got on the water without wasting too much time. Thankfully Liam is a strong paddler and did a great job of keeping us on course into a stiff head wind as we made our way down to the mouth of Bells Creek. We switched from kayak to body board and fins for a fin/paddle/crawl through the mud up Bells Creek to our bikes. Due to an action most adventure racers rarely perform, body boarding usually causes a few cramps in the calves, this time around was no different with a few strong athletes needing a bit of assistance from their team mates.
After inhaling some chips and pb&j sandwiches we were off on our bikes for a 40ish km ride through the hinterland. Liam kept us on course as we picked off the check points and headed up into the hills behind Landsborough. We had agreed to make a decision about which route to take between CP13 and 14 when we got there and had a look at the terrain. Liam suggested we go back down the hill and follow the train line around to CP14 and Dan and I quickly agreed. This tuned out to be a good move, Mountain Designs had taken the top route and lost a bit of time. On the way up to CP13 Rush came down the hill past us so we got an idea of how much time we needed to make up. As we rolled into the tunnel at CP14 Mountain Designs came crashing down through the scrub looking a little confused. We arrived at the next CP without incident but mistakenly rode up someones driveway as we left. We found the map a bit hard to interpret in this area but sorted it out fairly quickly and were on our way again for a muddy ride around the edge of Ewen Maddock Dam. Before we made it out to the main road we made another nav error by trying to take a small side track out to the road, in hindsight we really should have played it safe here and just stuck to the trail on the edge of the dam. Undeterred we hit the bitumen and got the pace line working, a couple more checkpoints, through the familiar tunnel under Steve Irwin Way and we were at the next run leg.
Before the run though we had a bit of archery to do. I like archery in an adventure race, it gives you a chance to recover and its a fun diversion from the regular disciplines. We did ok in the archery, I think we had to wait for 11 minutes.
The next run leg is where we thought the race would be decided. Knowing we had some time to make up to Rush and Scar we really pushed hard, running everything we could and concentrating hard on the nav. We elected not to get CP F, it turned out that F was in the wrong spot and the other teams wasted valuable time looking for it. As a result we ended up making up all the time we'd lost early on and arrived back at the transition area in first place.
We quickly refueled and prepared to head home on the final 30km bike leg. As Liam was about to jump on his bike there was the sickening sound of a tyre with no air in it. We worked together to change the tube as quickly as we could then jumped on and pedaled off. We knew that both Rush and Scar knew their way home very well and if we were to stay ahead of them we would have to nail the nav. This didn't really happen. The first mistake was missing the Laxton rd turn off, when we hit the Bruce Highway we knew we'd stuffed up. We back tracked, worked out our mistake and carried on. We were still in front and felt confident until we entered the cow paddock section. We weren't sure exactly where we were on this track until we found CP 25, as we came to each gate we just looked for a punch. Our next hesitation is where Rush caught us, as we came to the turn under the motorway on the bike path it seemed as though the path went straight ahead, we rolled through, stopped to check the map and they were on us. We jumped on their wheel and charged off to the last CP. We both rode straight past it and had to back track a few hundred metres to punch in. They rode away from us and we crossed the line less than a minute later in 11hrs and 51minutes. Congratulations to Shaun, Russ and Ali from Rush.
Unfortunately Rob from Scar suffered a major mechanical on the last bike leg and they had to do a lot of towing, it would have been great to have those guys up there too.
Anyone got an opinion on -
Should there be an extra leg/s for faster teams at Hells Bells?
Should Adventure Races be in the same general area on consecutive years?
How much of an urban element is acceptable in AR?
Should we expect better maps in AR?
A big thanks to Craig and Louise from Geocentric and especially the volunteers for another great event!