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Mountain Designs GeoQuest Reflections

Some time has passed since we disappeared into the sea-fog and humping surf as Team 19 for our GEOQUEST and adventure-racing debut, and like the texta marks on our crumpled topographic maps, the memories are a little smudged, but sharpen up nicely with the thought of a thundering beach-break stabbing sea-kayaks into the sand like perfectly weighted javelins.

It’s pretty hard to crystallize two days of hard play into a few words, much harder for the fact that those days afforded us only a couple of hours sleep, and in reality, the race was much more than that long weekend. Over many months, three towns, and a thousand emails, the runningwater adventures team took shape, the mould finally cast at a brilliant gathering in the Grampians just a month before the race. I think those days set friendships in gold and gave the team a backbone that would be hard to break.

Along the way we met some damn fine people, and I think etched out a pretty nice groove in the minds of those that crossed our path. That was important. I’ll only mention Rob the kayak instructor because he is the first person on the planet to purchase a runningwater adventures garment, and fits nicely into the good bloke category too.

And so to race day and those heaving swells that played havoc with the fleet, emptied Damo’s stomach, and had Shandor fairly inclined to give the rocky coastline good clearance. The boats seemed so small in the rolling blue water, and a bright sun shone on a perfect, almost ‘fatal’ shore, but more than anything I’ll remember the dolphins that decided we were just the right team to play with. I’m still not sure how we paddled so far, too far, down the NSW coast, but it makes me smile to think of the water police encouraging, “might want to check your map, fellas?” before we crashed into Gabo Island.

A gaining sea-breeze that pressed against our faces for much of the return to dry land, did nothing to dampen spirits, although Mitch and Nick must surely have wondered whether their support crew skills would ever really be needed? We did run a little late.

The snorkel leg was deemed unsafe in the big swell and closed to all but the fastest teams. No complaints on this outcome after our extended stay on the water but underwater mischief always shaped as good fun and I hope will be a considered inclusion next time ‘round.

Bike thoughts are only about hills, those endless hills, and then a few more, but nothing to slow our relentless progress through forests of pine and eucalypt on cracked tracks, fire trails, and occasional bitumen. A telephone booth checkpoint in tiny-town was novel and remains a beacon in our adventure that flashes memories of a cold, cold night. Thank God for thermals.

An on foot we marched as troopers, never too quickly. Sometimes we closed our eyes and dreamed and walked all at the same time, never more so than on that vast expanse of soft beach that begged and provided an immaculate, painted sunrise in our final race hours.

In the hard light of retrospection, I don’t think GEOQUEST ’04 was ever a race for us. Not that we planned it that way, but arduous navigation, a legacy of inexperience, forced us to take a slightly different path. Our ‘race’ became a simple test of human endurance. Did we pass the test?

Of course! Fifty hours competing on a couple of hours sleep with a bagful of checkpoints and memories to last forever will do nicely for now. Unfinished business? Yep.

To Chris, Damo, and Shandor….I’ll race with you any day. To Mitch and Nick…a support crew without peer.

Until next time.

Mark Wilgar.







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