by Tim Boote
2019 Hells Bells Adventure Race could not have been scheduled for a better weekend as far as the Thought Sports team could be concerned with the worst weather forecast in the Southern states all winter, the only issue with this would be ensuring our flights wouldn’t be cancelled. Rob and Kathryn headed up Thursday with no issues and Tim managed to sneak out of Melbourne Friday morning but Pete wasn’t so lucky flying out of Sydney getting delayed but making it to the “Sunny” Sunshine Coast in the early hours of Saturday morning, thank goodness for the relaxed start time of 11.30am. This wasn’t the ideal lead up to the race but we were happy to have a full team as the weather stopped some unfortunate competitors from making the start line at all.
Leg 1, 8K Paddle
The race start was a little out of Maroochydore so we were bussed to the start line which allowed us to ensure we had all our gear (especially our tracker after last year’s effort). Lake BAROON was the
first leg of the race with a short paddle across the lake and back but a mass start and some decent wind added some challenges. Despite this we had a good paddle and got off the water a few minutes behind first teams and headed off for a trek up to Kondalilla Falls.
Leg 2, 9.5K Trek
We basically ran across the dam wall and dropped into Obi Obi creek where were spent the first couple of kilometres rock hopping and swimming through some deep pools (hence the PFD’s that we were required to wear for the whole trek), the water was quite cool and refreshing except that we were all ready cold from a wet and windy paddle. It wasn’t long before we caught up with the Alpine Avengers who picked up the pace and we stuck together for the rest of the trek including the long climb up to the next TA. We were treated to a brief glance at the impressive Kondalilla falls as we
climbed past it dodging the local day walkers who were struggling to work out why these random people wearing PFD’s and backpacks were running up this steep track.
Leg 3, 24k MTB
Coming into TA with the Avengers hot on our heels and the Wild earth Tiger team heading out after sneaking past us on the walking trail we didn’t muck around. By the time we had completed the first kilometre on the bike we had warmed up thanks to a little climb but the Avengers put the hammer down and gapped us. We rode well at our own pace and caught up with the Avenger’s half way through the leg that were repairing a bike as Angus had managed to avoid near death with a large tree limb falling on his front wheel as he was riding. Again we rode with the Avengers until CP9 where we also caught up with the Wild Earth Tiger team looking for CP9, after a bit of searching we located it but the other two teams managed to grab it first and sneak away a few minutes in front. It was only a couple of more kilometres until the next TA so by the time we arrived at TA neither team had left yet.
Leg 4, 16.5k Trek
This was the optional leg that had been hotly debated between teams prior to the start as if you messed it up it could completely ruin your race. It was a no brainer for us to attempt as both the Avengers and Wild Earth were clearly having a go, we arrived in the day light and with our team strengths being foot travel and navigation we were confident of completing it with plenty time to finish the rest of the course. It was interesting to see that all three teams (Avengers, Wild Earth and us) all headed off in different directions from the TA to attack the 6 CP’s in this leg. We had a solid trek as it got dark making no errors and moving well, it was interesting to pass both the other teams at various stages keeping us all motivated. We arrived back at TA just in time to see the Avengers head off on their bikes which surprised us as we thought we may have made up some time on them and Wild Earth who hadn’t arrived back at the TA as yet. Impressed at the Avengers Trek we realised we had to keep pushing on the next bike leg to keep them honest and put the pressure on for the next and final trek leg.
Leg 5, 22k MTB
This was a relatively straight forward and fast ride with a couple of steep hills to keep us honest to start but then we got into some tricky fire trails and motorbike tracks so spent some time pushing our bikes. We kept pushing hard knowing the Avengers were just in front and that Wild Earth were probably not too far behind and this paid off as we caught the Avengers near the end of the motorbike track after they overshot a turn. Again we rode with the Avengers until they had another minor mechanical letting us get away into the next TA in front.
Leg 6, 9.5k Trek
We managed to get out on the this final trek leg before the Avengers or Wild Earth made it into TA but Rob and Kathryn kept the pace up knowing that we would need a buffer over them as we knew we lacked some local knowledge that they had on the next MTB leg not to mention a long paddle to finish which is the Avengers strength. While Rob and Kathryn put the hammer down Tim and Pete began to struggle a bit but kept pushing, although this trek leg was shorter than the last the combination of fatigue and some steep hills ensured it was just as challenging. Again thanks to some spot on navigation we made good time and got back into TA with a lead over the Avengers but we didn’t know how big it was so it was straight onto the bikes for the final MTB leg that would prove to be the crux of the race due to some local MTB trails.
Leg 7, 25k MTB
We started this leg just after midnight and after around 6k of fast road riding we hit the all-
important single track section of this ride. Not having any local knowledge of the trails we had already made the decision to stick to as many fire trails as possible to avoid getting caught out. Not long after hitting the trails (that included some steep hike a bike sections) we came across the Thunderbolt team at CP15 who had decided to skip the optional trek leg as they had lost their lead navigator before the event even started (Hugh was one of the unlucky few who’s flights were cancelled and never made it to Maroochydore). It took some eagle eyes from Pete to spot this CP which was stashed behind some rocks, the rest of the CP’s on this leg were not as difficult to spot as we made our way around the trails as efficiently as we could. Pete was really beginning to feel the hills with not as much training in his legs as the rest of the team who have been training hard for the upcoming Eco Challenge in September. Again we were crossing paths with different teams including the Avengers so we knew we needed to keep pushing all the way to the final paddle. After nearly 3hrs of riding time we hit the next TA thinking we rode and navigated well through some unfamiliar trails but checking the trackers post-race it appeared that we dropped around 35 minutes to some teams that used their local trail knowledge well (more about that later...)
Leg 8, 20k Paddle
Coming into TA we were unsure of our position but knew that the Avengers and Wild Earth would most likely paddle stronger than us. As we were half way through our transition the Avengers rolled into TA which got us going but we were well aware that we needed a more than a few minutes to hold them off on the paddle down the Maroochy River to the finish line. Despite this we got on the water as quick as possible knowing that anything can happen in these races and you just need to keep pushing right through to the finish line. We hit the water just after 3am and began paddling against a slight incoming tide but with a strong south westerly breeze pushing us along. It took the Avengers just under a hour to catch us and we tried to hang with them as long as we could but they were to strong and left us behind. We kept pushing as hard as we could which was good as un be known to us the Wild Earth Tiger Adventure team were also chasing us down from behind. As we hit the final section the river opened up and so did the wind, before we knew it we were wet and freezing wondering how you could get so cold in sunny Queensland. We grabbed the final CP shortly before the finish line as the Sun was rising but not quick enough to warm us up.