XPD Whitsundays 2007
We had been training and preparing all year and the big event finally arrived…XPD 2007, the Whitsundays!
Airlie Beach was a great venue for HQ, and it truly is the gateway to the Whitsundays. The race anticipation was already building, seeing other teams at the airport, preparing gear, buying food, etc.
Race briefings were exactly that this year…brief. Due to an accidental death in the Geocentric staff prior to the race, things were a little behind schedule, and this necessitated forgoing the usual competency tests, which was great as it gave the teams more time in preparation for the race.
The maps were handed out for the first third of the race (the remainder to be handed out during the race) which is interesting as you can only plan out this first third of the race. It meant we didn’t have to stay up all night before the race marking the maps for the entire course and thus getting a bit more sleep prior to the race start…
We were also given materials (plastic tarp and two broom handles) to build our own sails for the kayaks. This meant we had to scramble around town for other equipment to complete the sails eg rope, cable ties etc…It was fun seeing all the teams going to the same hardware stores, jostling for equipment and even groceries. Some items proved very popular and certain shelves (powdered energy drinks and chocolate bars) in the supermarket were left totally empty.
It was interesting to note different teams food requirements for the race. As we were flying up and had weight restrictions on the plane, it meant we had to purchase the majority of our race food in Airlie Beach. Again, it’s all fun, particularly as you factor in a vegetarian’s dietary requirements amongst a team of carnivores.
Even though we were in bed early I don’t think anyone slept that well…the nerves were already starting to kick in.
So the big day finally arrived, it was Wednesday morning 22nd August 2007. We were packed and ready and got down to race headquarters for the 6.45am shuttle bus ride to Shute Harbour for the start of the race. It was very quiet again on the bus, nerves totally kicked in now…the quiet before the storm.
At Shute Harbour the teams inflated and launched their boats in preparation for the start of the race, along with a lot of nervous toilet stops throughout. The start line was several hundred metres out on the water, so as we paddled out the first thing we noticed that these damn boats (inflatable Sevylor kayaks) were not so easy to steer. They were barge-like and many teams had difficulty keeping them straight, not a great omen for the rest of the race.
It was around 8AM that the teams were lined up on the water, the siren sounded and there was a huge cheer as we started the 800km journey. It had finally started, what a relief.
Leg 1 – Kayak with snorkel/trek (30-50km) Shute Harbour – Airlie Beach
This was certainly the highlight of the race, as we got to paddle and snorkel around the Islands of the Whitsundays in the beautiful aqua coloured water. It was absolutely magic! It was hot and sunny, great for paddling and snorkeling.
We also had to locate several checkpoints on the islands, and it was equally as nice on land running through the various resort islands, climbing the hills and checking out the various views across the Whitsundays. We were very lucky as we spotted a whale 80m away, before it dived right underneath our boat!
In this section you were given the option to collect which checkpoints you like and receive a time penalty later in the race for those that you did not collect. There was also a night cut off at 6.00pm to be off the water, so after much discussion we decided to miss checkpoint A (as most teams did), and we got back to Airlie Beach just in time before the 6.00pm night cut-off.
Leg 2 – Trek (30km) – Airlie Beach – Brandy Creek Road
After a relaxed transition we stopped at Subway to pick up some dinner before climbing out of Airlie Beach and onto the Great Whitsunday Walk.
Leg 3 – Mountain bike (47 km) – Brandy Creek Road – Dingo Beach
First mountain bike ride was fun descending along a dirt track. We arrived at the TA with a dark zone in place and set up a ‘room’ to sleep a few hours.
leg 4 – Kayak (43km) – Dingo Beach – North Whitsundays – Bowen
Unfortunately they had given away our kayaks (each team had their own numbered kayaks) and so we had to wait 1.5hr for other kayaks. Not good as the wind would be picking up later in the day, making it harder to get to all the CPs on the kayak leg and making us work a lot harder than needed against the increasing wind and current. Again we stopped at islands to pick up CPs and did some more snorkelling in the beautiful waters of the Whitsundays, the walks being a welcome break from the paddling. A lot of teams struggled and were picked up by the support boats.
Leg 5 – Mountain bike (105km) – Bowen – Sonoma
It was another hot day, and water was scarce, and we were pleased to find to find a farm house who were happy to fill up our bladders. We were lucky riding with tubeless tyres and stanz as we saw many teams fixing punctures along the way. This was a long bike section, and we seemed to follow some power lines forever, which seemed to mainly go up hill. But at the end we had an amazing downhill section into Sonoma that made it worth the effort getting up all those hills. Jude even learnt how to ‘fly’ on the downhill.
Leg 6 – Rogaine (35km) – Sonoma
This was one of the toughest parts of the race, having to collect 11 out of 13 possible checkpoints with difficult navigation over tough terrain in extremely hot weather and no water on the course.
It was not a great start, as we walked up the wrong hill. After many hours in the heat of the day we were running very low on water and were considering going back to the start to refuel. Luckily we found a small stream (mud puddle) to replenish our water allowing us to continue without hiking all the way back to the TA. It was truly hot out there! There was one amazing granite rock canyon that we hiked through, which was truly awesome, and a highlight of the race.
We all agreed that that was the most difficult rogaine we have done, being out there for over 24 hours in some really rough terrain.
Leg 7 – Mountain bike (145km) – Sonoma – Eungella (Midcamp)
This was to be the longest ride and after the monster rogaine, we headed straight into the town of Collinsville where we had heard there was a pasta shop! We took a break and had a fantastic dinner before heading out on the bikes to start the long ride.
We rode along the Bowen river, a straight red dirt road for approx 100 km in the middle of the outback. We rode a long time together with Clayton’s team before they decided to have a rest and we continued alone. The ride just went on and on, with lots more climbing before a final descent to arrive at mid-camp.
We made it to mid-camp where we had a hot meal and we were given a bucket of hot water (one for the boys and one for the girls – lucky me!) so we could wash ourselves before having a few hours sleep in one of the tents that were provided.
Leg 8 – Trek (43km) – Eugella – Crediton
The Makay Highlands Great Walk was a Rainforest trail that followed the Broken river. Very easy navigation for this leg before finishing at a rough old shed.
Leg 9 – Mountain bike (76km) – Crediton – Mia Mia
The course notes indicated that this next ride had a long down hill. However we soon realised that ‘To go downhill you have to go uphill first’. After many hours riding up hill we were rewarded with lots of fast downhill, some proving quite treacherous as it was on rocky terrain. We all took it in turns to have a stack. First it was Mikey’s turn, then Jude managed to tear her labrum in her right hip with her stack. At the time it wasn’t painful and after re-attaching the light we were on our way again until Muz stacked it a bit later.
The last part of the ride was tough as we had a strong headwind, riding through the Queensland sugar cane fields.
Leg 10 – Kayak (22km) – Mia Mia – Marian
We were now on the river, so some nice flat water. We started the paddle in the night after Muz had a quick snooze whilst we prepared the kayaks. After a few hours paddling we decided to have a few hours sleep on the river in the boats before continuing the next morning. This river had a few portages around weirs and we did them during daylight and enjoyed the small rapids. We had to carry the kayaks up the river bank and across the road to the TA at the hall. Last paddle now finished.
Leg 11 – Mountain bike (91km) – Marian – Cathu
Another long ride, a lot through the sugar cane fields where we had some fun eating the sugar cane and climbing on top of the train carriages to take some photos. We also tried to ride without hands on the smooth tarmac.
Leg 12 – Trek (90km – shortened to 75km) – Cathu – Hill Rise
At this TA we found Karen and Lisa and Muz seriously crashed. He needed a 13hr sleep before we could move on and we spent much of it in the yellow dome tent from the TA. When we finally started we hiked up a hill and just kept going up (luckily it was a gentle climb) for approximately 7 hours.
Navigation on this leg was hard and after the first 2 teams had reached the very remote CP the race organisors had decided to cut that CP out for the rest of the field. This meant unfortunately that the hike out (instead of via the CP) was along a boring dirt road. We overtook Clayton’s team again on this road as we had decided it was easier to slowly job instead of walk that long section of road. But first we still had to find the CPs. At some point we bumped into another team and spent some time hiking together until we found CP34 on top of a hill.
When we reached one of the CPs where they had a fire going we took a short break and discovered there was a 100% eclipse of the moon ongoing. That kept us entertained on the long hike out along the dirt track to the next TA.
Leg 13 – Mountain bike (60km) – Hill Rise – Airlie Beach
The course notes outline a short 3 hour 60 km ride back in Airlie (Not).
It is a ride with some tricky navigation and very frustratingly we struggle to find the way through a tricky bit, resulting in Muz needing another sleep before we finish the ride. Once we get through that section it is a relatively easy ride to the finish line.
We arrive at HQ just before 10AM in the morning and are on an absolute high.
Pizza, champagne, beer and ice cream on the XPD winners couch (anyone who finishes is a winner) as we drank out of our new ‘XPD Finisher’ champagne flutes.
Massive smiles on our faces, and an absolute high as we had finished XPD!!.
We were out on the course for 177 hours (7 days, although you sort of lose count of the days while out there), which put us in 15th place overall, out of 56 teams starting the race.