In the blink of an eye, we’ve reached the end of 2021. It’s interesting to have a read over the wrap up from the 2020 racing season where we were looking ahead to our plans for this year. Team Rogue entered 2021 with an air of optimism after having the bulk of 2020 written off due to pandemic cancellations. And while it certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing, on the whole it has been another fantastic year of competition with some great results for the team.
The year kicked off for team Rogue with a short and furious sprint event at the Max Adventure Race at Enoggera Dam. I was joined by Thor again on another free-roll, having won the last three QLD Max Adventure races we’d raced together. We stormed out of the gates starting about a third of the way back in the pack with the staggered start times. By the time we hit the top of the first hill climb on South Boundary Rd, we had moved into the lead and I’d blown away my previous best time on Strava for that climb, leaving my lungs behind half way up the hill. Racing in our backyard, it was a flawless navigation run and a handy overall win for the fourth time in a row. We couldn’t race the second race in July due to a clash with XPD, so we’ll be back again for another crack in July 2022.
April was a big month of racing for the team. It kicked off with a second place at the inaugural 30 hour Explore Gippsland adventure race. Getting to the race wasn’t easy for Queenslanders at that time, with travel restrictions requiring a last second change in flights and a juggle for covid-testing logistics. The team raced with myself, Chris, Mish and Thor. As the first race in the Adventure 1 national series, it was a small but highly competitive field on the start line including four teams that had previously won A1 races. You can read the full report from our race here, or check out the race video below. The team walked away with a hard fought second place in some extreme and challenging conditions on what was fantastic course, setting up their A1 season nicely.
The following weekend, I was joined by Bevan Koopman making his team Rogue debut for the local Wildfire Raid. I’m obviously a big fan of the Raid format of adventure races and jump at the opportunity to race them where I can. We managed to sweep the 6 hour event in a time of 4:09 to take out the overall win, which was a fantastic opening to the Queensland rogaining calendar.
Just another week later, was the PreRogueative. This event was the brainchild of Paul Guard and was intended to be a training exercise for those teams looking to prepare for the Rogue Raid. The event followed the same rogaine-format, multiple discipline stages of the Raid races, however it didn’t offer any in-race support and was on a somewhat un-vetted course. Instead of using check point flags, the course was set with the Map Run App, and teams tracked using their GPS on a smart phone device. Despite not being an official race, there was a start line and a finish line which will always ensure the competitive juices get flowing. I was joined by Leo to use the event as a training run for XPD. To be honest, this was one of the most fun events I did all year. The location around Hastings Point and the surrounding hinterland was fantastic. The pressure was off without it being an official race and it was great to paddle the double ski in the ocean and get away with a few locations that you probably could never get a permit to host a normal race on. One low light was dropping and losing my phone in the river, but it was an otherwise challenging and fun day out. Despite taking a very relaxed approach, having a shocker with the navigation and abandoning a handful of CPs to avoid a bash through lantana (even though we were on the edge of the CP circle), we still managed to sneak away with the overall win when our main rivals, team Astrolabe, returned back late.
By late autumn we are typically in the thick of the adventure racing season proper, with the Rogue Raid being the biggest show in town. The Rogue Raid is the second race in the Adventure 1 national series, the only one in Queensland and was ultimately the only A1 race not to be impacted by the threat of some form of travel restrictions in 2021. As such, it attracted one of the most competitive fields in an Australian adventure race this year. The Rogue team were racing with Chris, Mish and Ali, and were joined for the first time by Richard Mountstephens. Richard was racing as a replacement for Dan after he went down in a nasty bike crash in a criterion race and suffered multiple fractures. You can read about how the race went down in our organisers report here. The team put in a solid performance for fourth place overall. Check out the race video below.
Two weeks after the Rogue Raid, I was again joined by Bevan for the 8 Hour Rogaine. The event covered an area I’m relatively familiar with in and around Lake Manchester. I’ve done a bit of reasonable amount of training on these trails and hosted an event out that way, so it was great to explore the area as a competitor. We had a fantastic run, moving well and not making any notable navigation mistakes. The last half hour resorted to panic stations when we got caught up some of the worst lantana I’ve ever been in descending down from the final check point, however we made it out in time. Usually when we’ve have such a good run at a rogaine where you wouldn’t change any decisions you made, I’m pretty confident of the result. In the end, we did come away with the overall win, however it was only by the slimmest of margins – 10 points – against Gary Sutherland’s team 3 Points of Contact who also had a perfect day out.
Towards the end of June I once again paired up with Leo for a crack at the 12 Hour Rogaine champs as a final training hit out for XPD. The race visited an all new area in the Lockyer Valley which I was excited about. Leo and I continued what has now become a bit of a common theme of ours, with terrible navigation and poor decision making. I think we generally get so caught up in chatting about AR gossip that we distract each other, while at the same time being too supportive and encouraging of each other’s terrible suggestions and bad ideas. We honestly spent more than half our time in the daylight hours of the race going in the wrong direction. Once it got dark, it forced us to knuckle down and concentrate and get things back on track. In the end we covered over 50km and did enough for second place, with team 3 Points of Contact taking out a dominating win. To be honest, it’s a miracle we managed to finish so highly with that performance.
July saw the big dance finally arrive: XPD. Expedition length racing is my favourite format of AR. However, it takes a lot of time, effort, money and luck to get to the start line of one of these races. Throw in international travel restrictions limiting racing options lately and XPD was not a race I wanted miss. It seemed like all of the AR community in Australia felt the same, with another competitive field towing the line. I was joined by Leo, Ali and Dan back from his injuries. The team had a great event, racing for just over 4 days to take out fourth place. You can read our full race report here, or check out the race video below. The podium was taken out by the ever consistent Thought Sports, Thunderbolt and Avengers – all former national Adventure 1 champions. There was some great racing by all the teams throughout the field, however what was encouraging to see were the performances of teams like Chipesti, Astrolabe and 3 Points of Contact. I fully expect to see these three teams competing at the front of Australian races throughout 2022 – don’t be surprised to see them on the podium steps in the future. It’s particularly exciting to know that all three of them will be racing up against the likes of the Avengers, team Mountain Designs, Rogue, BMX Bandits, Capital AR, Dynamite Adventure and the NZ national champion team Swordfox at the Raid 100 next year.
The Mojo Raid made its return in August this year after not running in 2020 due to covid restrictions. I raced in the 2019 event as a solo competitor, so it has been almost three years since racing a full Mojo Raid. I was joined by Gary Sutherland on a picture perfect day on Lake Somerset and its surrounding hills. We entered the race with a conservative approach in terms of pace, which really helped to nail the navigation. We swept the opening paddle leg, trek rogaine in the Mt Mee area and subsequent bike legs, returning with an hour to spare. There was certainly not enough time to collect all the controls available on the final bonus stage, however we had done enough to secure the overall win comfortably. It’s always fun racing with someone with the experience of Gary. Knowing where the Mojo course is heading to next year, I already can’t wait.
The win at the Mojo Raid also meant that I had done enough to take out the overall win for the Queensland Rogainer of Year Award. This is a competition I had quietly been chasing in 2021. I had previously won the series in its first two years, but hadn’t targeted it for a while. When I saw that my planned calendar at the start of the year fit in well, it become a bit of a secondary goal, which was nice to tick off. It’s not looking likely that the calendar will work out in 2022 to defend the title, however rogaines always are fantastic events and I should hopefully make it to a few regardless next year.
September onwards is typically a busy time of year in the adventure racing calendar. However, due to a combination of inter-state covid restrictions and the need for some rest and recovery, it was time to back off the racing a bit. Leo and I did manage to sneak out for the 3 hour option at the Metrogaine where we managed the overall win. Mt Tamborine as the perfect location for this event – you would have no trouble getting me back there again for another race.
Unfortunately, due to the covid restrictions, it was a much reduced field at the third race of the Adventure 1 series, X-marathon. No Queensland based teams could make the trip, including team Rogue, and the fact that the race needed to move from its regular September slot did not help matters as well.
However, the border situation did resolve just in time to see a contingent of teams make it to the rescheduled date for the 36hr Wildside Adventure Race. Team Rogue returned to defend their title, taking out the overall win for the third edition in a row in a time of 18:11. Significantly, with the team racing with the line up of Chris, Mish, Ali and Dan, it was the first time an Australian Adventure 1 race has been won by a team with an even gender split. The team set their own course from the outset, opting to do the first rogaine leg in the reverse direction to all the other teams. It was a nervous wait for dot watchers at home as their tracker failed to register for the first two stages, however we were reliably informed that they powered through the second stage kayak leg to take the lead and never looked back. Their lead yo-yoed during the subsequent pack-raft, abseil and mountain bike stages, however it was on the navigationally challenging foot rogaine through Johns River State Forest where they truly stamped their authority, knocking the stage off 1:08 faster than the next quickest team. From there it was a procession home to take the win. Check out the race video below.
The win at Wildside was also enough to catapult the team to take out the overall win in the Adventure 1 series, meaning that team Rogue will be crowned the 2021 Australian Adventure Racing National Champions. To be fair, it has been a disrupted calendar due to travel issues, which has meant that not every competitive team has been able to make it to all the races that they would ideally want to (team Thought Sports should be particularly acknowledged in this regards). However, the team has shown consistency for a while now, finishing second in the national rankings in the last two Adventure 1 seasons. While it feels like the team is sometimes punching above their weight, it’s great to see them take the title of National Champions after such consistent effort and hard work: I couldn’t be more proud of the guys.
Looking Ahead to 2022
At this stage, it’s too early yet to lock in races and team line ups for 2022. On a personal note, my primary focus for the first half of the year is to get everything in place for the Raid 100. I want this to be the biggest and best Raid course yet, and it’s certainly shaping up to be just that, so I’ll be giving it my undivided attention. The Rogue team will be racing the Raid 100 with the same line up that won Wildside.
Beyond the Raid 100, there looks to be another fantastic array of race options. The Adventure 1 series has another three great events including Explore Gippsland and the return of Alpine Quest, both in Victoria. It will be hard to say no to Wildside again, particularly given the location in the Barrington Tops region – I’ve been itching to get back there and race again since one of my first long adventure races at a GeoQuest in 2009. On the local Queensland scene, Hells Bells and/or the Oceania Gold Coast event look like convenient racing options. And of course there is the full calendar of rogaine and Raid events.
Stretching the bucket list even further is Nathan Fa’avae’s new race in New Zealand, True West. The 48 hour race is set to be the first Adventure 1 World Series Final and looks like it is going to be a truly spectacular course. No doubt it will have all the challenge and amazing scenery of a GODZone, without the time away required. And if we are stretching the bucket list even further, the feet are starting to get itchy for another expedition race: let’s see what the new year brings.
Finally, a big thank you to all of our families, friends and partners that have supported the team throughout 2021. The team’s success is just as much yours as it is ours as we couldn’t do it without your shoulders to stand on.
See you on the trails, Liam.