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Race Report from Team Crank – Mountain Designs GeoQuest 2005

Team Crank lined up at Geoquest to compete with the cream of Australia's adventure racers. After a hard fought and close contest they emerged on the podium. Read more for details.

Bonny Hills on the NSW mid North Coast was the location of headquarters for the 2005 Geoquest 48hr Adventure Race. Since its beginning in 2002 this event has attracted the best adventure racers in Australia and this year was no exception with AROC back to defend their title.

Team Crank was unchanged from the Arrow 24hr raced 3 weeks earlier with Tim, Myf and Matt support crew for Matt de Belin, Jane Cooksley, Andrew Cooksley and Michael Meryment. Yes, the support crew are part of the team and this event had them working extremely hard with multiple disciplines per leg, a car shuffle out to the top end of the course and just to make things interesting we through in a raft rebuild to keep them on their toes. As well as mountain biking, running, roping and kayaking this event included tube rafting with each team required to build a vessel with 4 inner tubes as the primary means of floatation.

Although the official start was a 7am on Saturday the event commences on the Friday with the briefing, gear and competency checks and the course is released. Bonny Hills is on a surf beach so the kayak competency had us out through the breakers to do a deep water re-entry and back through the breaking waves. This accounted for one team's double boat on its re-entry when the sand bar came up to meet it too quickly.

The unveiling of the course showed that is was in 4 legs with multiple disciplines in each leg thus ensuring the support crew were kept on their toes with gear drops and pick ups throughout. At this point we were happy to have a trusted and reliable team backing us up. The disciplines and distances were as follows:

Leg 1
Kayak 14km
Trek 10 km
Raft 3km
Trek (with raft) 7km

Leg 2
Mountain Bike 30km
River Crossing x 3 500m
Raft 2km
Trek 5km

Leg 3
Mystery 60 km MTB and 15km Trek

Leg 4
Trek 23 km
MTB 24 km
Kayak 18 km
Trek 7 km

Although there was a mystery leg we were more concerned with the 2 tube rafting legs and the trekking section with the raft. As it turns out, we weren't the only team concerned about this section and there was frantic activity throughout the teams with fast re-engineering a priority. Fortunately the Crank raft was light but extremely short on testing as it was first paddled by the team on the Friday afternoon. The verdict was - very stable, better with single blade paddles and roomy !!

At 6.45am on Saturday we assembled on the beach for the kayak start. Again our crew were the envy of all with wetsuits on, showing their dedication to the cause (and desire to remain warm). The entire field paused for a minute reflection on the task ahead and those who are part of the AR community who are no longer with us.

The first wave to leave was the Geo "Half" competitors. We watched as these teams battled in the surf with the slow moving inflatables and noted that for most it was brute strength that got them through. When our turn came it was on with the decks and point the nose of the VOK Explorer at the surf and go. Once around the headland we watched the faster skis move away but held our own in the top 5. As we moved through the break wall at Laurieton we made good use of the running water and kept the lead teams in sight but then as we moved into the channel we found that the outgoing tide and shallows made it a tough paddle. After collecting 2 controls we were surprised to see Landrover-G4 behind due to a poor nav choice, putting Crank in 3rd place. This was to set the scene for the rest of the race with places constantly changing.

A quick transition saw us out on foot and setting off on the 600m climb up Big Brother Mountain to find Mountain Designs running back towards us. It seems Doug left his race bib behind. But 20mins later and MD's pass us at a run up the steep track. We all had the same thought here "ouch !, they'll pay for that later". With a control at the lookout on top we momentarily enjoyed the view and then headed back down to a roadway passing several teams hot on our tails still heading up - Mexicans, Tangerine, Blue Edge-Stingers, Hardtale. The descent off the mountain is good and we navigate well, catching MD's on the way. We saw AROC again on the summit, not realising that this would be the last time we would see them for the remainder of the race.

The next transition was to get onto the raft and paddle 3km across Lake Cathie. We hit the water with MD's and quickly realised that our raft was of "sub optimal" design. This was a temporary low point and the only time in the entire race that a Cooksley marital tiff looked on the cards. We lost around 20 minutes to some teams here with the most frustrating element being that the body of water was so wide you could see them paddle away for a long time. The Mexicans came past us like there were outboards hidden in their tubes, so it looks like the engineers on the team did more than drink beer at uni. But, all was not lost and what we lost on the 3km raft, we nearly gained on the 7km raft carry. We passed Landrover and the Mexicans while running along the 7km track with our trusty contraption.

The start of leg 3 was on bike and took us back up the trail we ran down so we could see how other teams managed with the large portage, and some were managing better than others. As we knocked off controls we caught the Mexicans, who had beaten us out of transition, and we continued on for much of this section with them. The bike section finished beside another lake and involved us swimming across to pick up an inflatable kayak, hand paddle/swim it back and ferry the bikes to the other side. Originally this was to be done using the rafts and ours was setup perfectly to do this. However, after the first raft fiasco, we had issued modification instructions to our support crew who managed to rebuild the contraption during the bike leg and get it to the transition point. We jumped onto our modified raft only to all fall off. We began swearing and ripping at duct tape with teeth and as we'd left the TA the crew couldn't assist. 5 minutes of further modifications and we were off paddling at snail's pace once more. Luckily, this raft section was short and soon we were running down the beach, again with Landrover.

We arrived back at Bonny Hills to find a shocked support crew who had only just arrived themselves. This TA was where the Leg 3 mystery course was unveiled and we spent time marking up maps for the MTB section and were told that the adventuregaine controls would be given to us at the beginning of that leg ensuring that no teams could pick up any foot leg controls on bike. After taking time to eat while doing the maps we flew out of transition and were all sitting comfortably in the saddle, ready for what was to be a mammoth ride. Along this leg we rode with Stingers, Mexicans, Mountain Designs and Landrover and managed to pull away from all except Landrover by a combination of route selection and bike speed (I think we make up a lot descending in the dark and wonder what we'd be like with more effective lights). The push up to the Bago ridge trig was tough although faster than the route taken to ride around and made us a lot of ground.

After climbing to around 600m (again) we descended to the lake bank to begin the Adventuregaine 1 minute ahead of Landrover. We plan the course and leave at the same time as them, but in different directions. After collecting 60 points we get to the abseil point to once again find Landrover and while waiting for the rope Blue Edge-Stingers arrive. We all get down the 60m rope and head in opposite directions- we head into a lantana maze where we waste so much time that we are sure other teams like Stingers (self-confessed navigational legends) have passed us. We get our last CP and arrive at TA to be greeted with the news that we are 2nd !! Landrover come in two minutes later and no-one says anything. At this stage the race is on and we want to get rid of each other. Back on our bikes and it is an adrenaline-rush of a ride with Landrover into HQ. Janie stacks in the mud, but we manage to arrive back with Landrover with Matt on driving duties doing a big turn on the bitumen. The rules for leg 4 called for a mandatory 20 min break at HQ and gave 1 hour for a car shuffle before starting the leg. At 3am, 1 hour and 20 minutes later (and a snooze in the car) and we are running the start of the leg we have been dreading - 25km on foot. The first 5km and 3 controls take us 3 hours ! This is due to mainly to a canyon section of creek between 2 controls that saw us climb upstream, search the banks for easier routes and wade through the water. The canyon was beautiful in the dark with glow worms all over the cliffs. Matt disturbed a bat cave looking for an easier router and Cookers thought he found breakfast when he caught a good size crayfish.

The remaining 20km take us 5 hours and included another large climb, Big Nellie. We didn't see Landrover again after this section as they started only a minute behind. We made a good call at the start by using a trail to move upstream then hit the creek via a ridge and that put us ahead of them, but then the pfaff factor crept in and we became indecisive and made a mistake coming out of the gnarly 5km creek section. The sun came up as we left the creek giving us all a boost as well as for the next 20km being pushed along by the thought that a number of teams were close behind us.

Hannan Vale, the location of the bike transition, could not appear quickly enough and again we were happy to get back in the saddle. The 18km to the river was uneventful although we were worried about Blue Edge - Stingers and others that may have had a faster trek. At the river banks we learned that the next team was Tangerine who had a 'blinder' of a trek and had picked up 4 teams on foot. They were still over an hour behind which gave us a feeling of relief and with Landrover an hour ahead we weren't in a position to push to catch them. Janie relaxed so much that she was nodding off in the kayak. At one stage she wakes up suddenly when the boat nearly tips in and Cookers gives a yell. Luckily, they have a good repertoire of 'stay-awake-songs', so the rest of team Crank got to listen to the wiggles, playschool, the BEE Gees, Rolf Harris and the HooleyDooleys.

After the kayak CP and portage the bridge at Laurieton can't come quick enough. We are flagged in by our 'Nuded-up' support crew (thanks for putting your gear back on before we got too close Timmy) to the TA. One last Le Rice is downed before we run down the beach for 7km. We were all working well with no other teams in sight until Janie stops for a quick pewk. Assuring us that alls better now, we climb the headland to find Timmy again. He has his clothes on! We stop for some photos (we can see well down the beach behind us and no teams are in sight) and then head to the finish line.

YAHOOOOOO! It was such a great feeling to hit HQ in daylight and cross the line in 3rd place !!!

Probably more so that any other in the past, this race was about team work and we found that CRANK teammies and crew are a well-oiled and great to be part of machine. We have fun, be serious when we have to and get out and enjoy the course and racing.

In a bit of a race post mortem over pizza we tried to figure out what we'd done and how we'd achieved what we had. The summation:

Janie is the backbone and drives us on, knows when she needs towing and not and has a good pfaff meter
Cookers has the nav on foot, excellent map to ground and bearing work. He moves quickly as well
Matt's ability to read a map while moving quickly on the bike is 2nd to none
Mike - to quote Janie 'just solid all over', route selection, planning and attention to course details
After Arrow we found the paddling combination that worked best and with all our backgrounds in cycling of some form we made the most of those legs.

We couldn't have done this without support - Myf, Matt B and Tim are the greatest. Bikes never missed a beat thanks to Bike Addiction and we all kept it together in iRule's adventure racing clothing.

Till next time,

Team Crank






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