Race notes promised the ultimate multi sport weekend incorporating a paddle, run and ride on tropical Magnetic Island. Enjoy a dirty weekend the organisers encouraged. Sure, why not? For the 300 adventure-fuelled fiends who turned up on Picnic Bay beach post-dawn, the island delivered. And then some. It was dirty alright. It was also brutal and bruising leaving some competitors broken and demoralised after an exhausting day. But it was also damn good fun. Particularly in the aftermath as the muscle soreness subsides, the bruises morph from blue to yellow, and I ambitiously plot a strategy for a better time next year.
Magnetic Island Adventurethon is a thrilling event for those who like to step outside the restraints of their comfort zone, giving those chains a good darn good rattle. It’s as much a mental test as a physical one as competitors call upon all their resources in order to clutch that sought after finishers medal. For a handful of elite athletes it’s about the glory that comes from being leaders in their field. But for the majority it’s about finishing. While the ambitious aim for a respectable time, most of us intend merely to complete the course, regardless of how long it takes. For some it takes the best part of every daylight hour, squeezing maximum value out of their entrance fee.
I mentally slotted myself into ‘finisher’ as I lined up for the Dirty Duathlon event: a run, ride, run course over 48km, mostly over forest trails, beach or pitted bitumen tracks. Continental Magnetic Island throws up some hilly challenges too with run and ride legs including significant ascents. Others with stronger shoulders than mine had signed up for the Ultra ( 26k paddle, 30k ride, 28.4k run) or the Enduro (13k paddle, 21k ride, 12k run) events. Good luck I thought as they set off into a brisk 20kn headwind and nasty chop. A keen runner who is gradually clocking up training miles enroute to a marathon in July, rather foolishly I underestimated the run. After all, I’d lived on Magnetic Island for the best part of four years and had run or walked most of the island trails with gusto. But the first rule of any endurance event, which clearly I forgot, is to respect the distance.
Trail running is hard work. So too is mountain biking. Particularly when the ascent becomes so steep and staggered that the only way is to carry the darn bike over the boulders and up impromptu steps. Not an easy task for a small-framed woman with a dodgy shoulder. Sure I’ll play the sympathy card while I can. But it made no difference out on the trail. The only way I was going to get through the aptly named ‘hell’ section was to nurse my brand new Specialized 29er up, over and down significant obstacles. Most of my bruises can be attributed to this hellish section. ‘Hell’ was also responsible for rider and bike parting company briefly. But I’m sure I’m not alone in that regard.
Popping out on the flatlands of Horseshoe Bay I realised that the sole of my trail runners had not survived the trail. Painful calf cramps were also causing me some grief. Calling up my friend and interrupting her weekend grooming as she applied the last touches of polish to her nails, Lyn met me at the Forts carpark. Armed with a knife to cut away a flapping detached sole she sent me on my way, sweetly downhill on the goat track known ambitiously as the Radical Bay Road. Potholes bigger than I am have been gouged into pitted bitumen after a couple of wet seasons with little maintenance from Townsville city fathers.
Ascending from the beach, the uphill climb from Radical Bay was our very own ‘heartbreak hill’. My admiration goes to the unknown rider who passed me on this leg, maintaining his saddle while I acquiesed and became a walker rather than a cyclist. Nine tough beach legs nearly did me in, with all but one done on foot, pushing the bike through coarse soft sand. But there is a mountain bike God. A low tide towards midday provided perfect firm beach riding conditions for the final bike sprint to transition before the last ‘dash’ up to Hawkings Point.
I can only think that the organisers must be closet sadists. Who else but a sick puppy would think it was a good idea to finish off a gruelling event with a 2.4km run up a 70m ascent from the beach. Sure the view from Hawkings Point is to die for. Which is what I could have happily done by the time I got there with 47km behind me. Perhaps organiser Joel Savage was more focused on the rewarding downhill run towards the fnish line outside the Picnic Bay pub. If so, it was indeed a welcome final leg to a challenging day. Clutching that finisher’s medal a just reward for the mud, sweat and bruises.
Will I return in 2014? You bet! If you want to join me, register early as the event sold out quickly in 2013, limited to just 300 competitors.
Congratulations to the other 299 lunatics I shared the trails with on 23 March. Special thanks also to the scores of volunteer marshals directing competitors along the way.