On New Year’s Day I set myself five New Year’s Challenges for 2012:
- Adventurethon – on Magnetic Island
- Cairns Airport Adventure Festival – marathon leg as part of a team
- Brisbane Marathon – full 42kms around the city
- Solar Eclipse Marathon – Port Douglas in November
- Bridge to Brisbane – 10kms into the city
On the same weekend Tough Mudder was happening in Melbourne, supposedly “THE Toughest Event on the Planet” – 20kms of obstacles and challenges! Oh how I laughed, Adventurethoners would eat Tough Mudders for breakfast as fuel for the day!
Try this on for size:
- 13kms open ocean paddle
- 4.2kms steep hill run
- 13kms open ocean paddle
- 30kms mountain bike ride
- 18.5kms steep trail run
In November when I first heard of the event, I looked at the different disciplines and thought, “Sure thing I can do that, I’ve just paddled 1600kms in a kayak for goodness sake!”. Training didn’t happen as it was supposed to. And if I’m honest, the last time I had a paddle before the event was February, so we’d just have to see what happens!
The big day arrived and the weather looked great, almost too good. Clear blue skies, no wind and blazing sunshine throwing down 32°C of heat onto the course and my fellow competitors.
As I wandered down the beach to my surf ski the pros were already in the water waiting for the gun, balanced on pencil-thin skis designed for speed, not buoyancy. I’d chosen the safer option – a wide floaty craft that I could at least stay on top of.
And then we were off, a rush into the ocean, a splash of paddles and the lead pack simply disappeared… it’d be a long day for me.
As I arrived at the beach for the end of Leg 1, the leader was already leaving on the return leg. He’d just smashed out a 5km run and had a good 30-minute lead already. Maybe I spent too long taking in the stunning views instead of concentrating on paddling hard, but when a turtle pops up next to you it’s hard not to stop and take it in!
The theme of the day for me was decided pretty early on; pain was to be my escort for the rest of the race. I rolled my ankle running too fast down the rocky course and straight away felt the pain shoot up my leg.
Suck it up Southall, this was never going to be easy!
I arrived at the transition area at the end of the second paddle leg to swap shoes, fill my face with bananas (as you do in Queensland), slap on the zinc and grab my bike, and off I went attempting to ride down the beach.
Bikes and sand don’t mix however, and as my tyre digs in and I almost go over the handlebars. Maybe some off-road riding would have been good before entering this event, Ben?
The MTB course is pretty extreme to say the least; any up-hill usually involves carrying the bike as the rocks are huge and impossible to ride over. But the downhills are amazing, flat out fast, hair-raising drops down gravel tracks and through gullies. Magnetic Island definitely is perfect for thrill-seekers!
I catch my friend and adversary Pat Kinsella during the bike leg. With the sun shining and our bodies sore, it only seemed right that we stick together and pull each other through the mentally tough sections.
The end is near
As we head out on the final leg – an 18.5km trail run around the island – my ankle was just about impossible to run on. Swollen, blue and the source of many a grumble, “Southall get on with it, we’ve got a race to finish!” comes Pat’s supportive response.
This is where I had to dig in, grit my teeth and take each kilometre as it comes. We made our way up the same course we carried our bikes up a couple of hours before. Halfway up I felt a cramp taking hold of mt leg – just able to walk on, I thought “this is going to be hell!!”, and ironically, as I lifted my head the sign said just that, ‘Welcome to Hell’.
We did it
An hour later we made it to the summit of the final hill. Pat and I snapped a photo and prepared for the descent and final sprint along the finish straight. After 9hrs and 10 minutes we crossed the line thoroughly exhausted but SO happy; we completed the Adventurethon!
Not a bad time considering I hobbled for 3/4 of the race… until you compare it to the winner who finished in 5hrs 40 mins. Oh well, next year with some real training I may get a little closer.
Still beats the hell out of not-so-Tough Mudder!