The third Saturday of every March witnesses the return of the Kathmandu Sprint AR series to the Wildhorse Mountain region of the Sunshine Coast. The consistent date and logistically convenient location has seen this race grow to the point where it attracts almost double the number of teams compared to any other race in the state. I find this a little unusual, as personally one of the major appeals of adventure racing to me is getting out and exploring somewhere new. None-the-less the race does serve as a solid competitive hit out against strong teams early in the year. Over 210 teams were towing the start line for this year’s race.
This year Craig and I lined up together as team Rogue-Samurai. Our training coming in to the race has been focussed almost primarily on the Godzone Expedition race in NZ, with generally longer, grinding sessions with heavy packs. As such, it was with a certain degree of trepidation that we approached this sprint race, knowing that the pace would be quite hot. My very first AR was the Kathmandu Sprint back in 2006 – we made nav mistakes before the first CP with the map tucked safely in the back pocket of my team mate’s board shorts, before eventually finishing in the middle of the field. This year would now be my sixth time around.
From past experience, we knew that to have a good crack at the race we would need to stay with the lead teams early in the race. This meant going out a little faster than comfortable at a pace that was inevitably going to be unsustainable. To make things trickier, the first leg on foot was a rogaine where we had to collect only 5 out of 7 CPs. A quick survey of 3 other teams revealed 3 separate route choices. After flip flopping back and forwards, we stuck to our original plan to collect CPs A, B, D, E & G in order. We lost about a minute on CP D when we hit the right track before second guessing ourselves, but ultimately the times for this leg were pretty even regardless of route choice. We rolled into the bike TA in fourth place less than 5 minutes down on the lead team.
Onto the bikes and we set about chasing down the front teams. Craig and I were sharing duties with the timing punch (Craig on foot and me on the bike), giving the other person a chance to have a quick rest and a bite to eat by the side of the track while the other person punched the CP. This worked well and we rode our way up into second place, less than 2 minutes behind Team Mountain Designs by the time we hit the kayaks. Some of the puddles on the track during the boat portage were big enough to float the kayak along. As the paddle was an out and back, we got a good measure of the gap we had opened up between us and the trailing teams which included team GU and some other strong all male teams. The mosquitoes down on the creek were like nothing I have ever seen before. The back of my shoulders where skin was exposed are now covered in over 200 bites, and they only let up when a brief but heavy rain shower passed through. I really felt for the volunteers at the TAs who must have been hammered by them while standing still.
Back on the bikes and we continued the chase during the next run leg having not been able to close the gap on the kayaks. The second run leg involved a swim crossing of Coochin Creek followed by 5 CPs. Heading to CP18 about two thirds of the way through the run, we spotted Gary and Kim from MDs coming out of CP19 and we still hadn’t lost much time to them. However, between that point and the end of the run leg they put another five minutes on us through a better route choice and running harder. Back onto the bikes for the last time and we made a number of on the move changes to our route choice to opt for the faster but longer main roads. The plantation region where the race is held turns into a complete mud pit for weeks after any rain, and the recent shower and 400 bikes riding through weren’t helping either.
Before the start of the race, we were told that there would be an advanced course for any teams that finished the race in under 3:30. Winning times in the past were typically around 2:45, so we just assumed that we would make this easily, along with a bunch of other teams. My watch had managed to switch over to calories, as opposed to time, so I had no idea how close we were to the cut off. When we hit the finish line, Todd from Max Adventure told us that we had to head out on for a final run leg as the advanced course, and pick up the 2 CPs we missed from the first leg. This news was a mixed blessing. My initial fears were that we would either have to head up Wildhorse Mtn itself, or instead head into an area of the map which I had cut off during map prep thinking we wouldn’t need it. Still, the news meant that we had to do another run even longer than the first leg of the race.
With no idea of the distance between us and the teams behind us, there was nothing to do but grind out this leg. Amazingly, we went from racing amongst 400 other competitors to not seeing a single other team on this leg, with the forest all to ourselves. It turns out that we only made the advanced course cut off by two minutes, finishing the original course in 3:28 and that only two teams were set off on this leg. We rolled across the finish line in a touch over 4 hours, never coming close to team MD’s lead. Brett and Britt from Team GU rounded out the podium as second mixed team with a collection of other strong male teams taking out the remaining top positions.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent watching the rest of the field cross the line: a montage of happy and muddy faces. I think the Kathmandu race makes for the perfect introduction to adventure racing given the ease of logistics and navigation (sans mozzies and mud in the future). After six Kathmandu races and two Max24 races, I’ve never encountered a single missing or misplaced CP, so full credit to the Max Adventure crew. A big thank you to the volunteers, who I’m sure must have suffered much more from the rain and the mozzies. Craig and I were joking after the race that the mosquito population of Beerburrum must look forward to the third Saturday of every March like it is Christmas. After what was a very solid morning out, focus now switches back to the final preparations for Godzone as well as the Rogue Adventuregaine. Thanks go out to our sponsors Samurai Sportswear for looking after all our team uniform needs.