“What a great descent, what legs are you doing?”
“I’m hoping to do all of them”
“Oh Shit man, jump in behind I’ll give you a tow. I just don’t know how you guys do it”
Me either, I thought. The rider just in front of me makes me take stock. He passed me a few minutes ago as I was tucked in doing 75km an hour down a screaming descent from Dom Dom saddle. Now, with about 10 hours or so of racing ahead of me, here is a guy who I don’t know offering to let me draft for a while. I’ll take him up on the offer as long as I can stick with him though. His encouragement and attitude was to be repeated and reflected in hundreds of other competitors over the long day ahead as I take part in Australia’s Premier Multisport Race, the epic Marysville to Melbourne.
For the past 2 years we had put in a Tuesday Night Parmas Team Each year we had set new PBs as individuals and as a team. As this was the third year in a row that I had competed, I was keen to step up and attempt the lot. After all, how else was I to bag a PB? I wasn’t getting much faster but could I go further? I had trained more, planned my nutrition and made sure I improved my paddling skills. I had chosen someone to support me that fitted my race plan perfectly: Annie plans everything, she takes it all seriously enough to do a great job, but not too seriously that it isn’t fun.
Annie in transition with Meaghan, waiting for me to arrive.
This year, Meaghan and Os were also out for new records. Stepping up to half each, they were heading into unchartered waters – literally. They also headed off to ride, run and paddle further than they had previously.
The night before the race nerves were getting high. Facebook and Twitter updates started early in the day on Saturday as competitors headed up to Marysville. This year we stayed right at the start line and as we were checking in we stumbles across Phil from W.A. After deciding to make the trip across to Vic for the race just before the Anaconda Adventure Race in Augusta last year, he set about training. Training ready hard. He was looking edgy and very keen to get going. At registration we met up with the crew from Rapid Ascent, over the past year, I have come to know them all pretty well and they could see that I was a little nervous about what the race had in store for me. We stumbled across Joel as well and soon we were all sharing tall tales and nervous laughs about what lay ahead.
Sam from Rapid Ascent offered a description of the race that sums up our experience from the past two years perfectly –
“This race is so unique because it is really a journey. You start at dawn in a small country town high in the hills, destroyed by fire a few years ago the whole town comes out to watch the start, you disappear into the rolling hills and you could be anywhere. After the run you jump on the bikes and up and over some big hills you get a sight of the city in the distance. By the time you finish the second run you are in the outer suburbs following the Yarra, then you get to finish with a paddle right into the heart of the thriving CBD. It’s a real journey, much more than a race.”
My journey on race day started with a traditional Team TNP breakfast at the Marysville Bakery. Watching Os pull the M2M Bib on is funny every time he does it. Without fail and it is one of the defining moments of the race. He reckons they are a bit petit for real adventure racers and should come in a bigger size. This coming from a guy that defies lycra and prefers to run in boardshorts and a tshirt.
Os reckons lycra is for girls and that the bibs are ‘petite’
We caught up with Jen and Rachel, second place getters last year who both looked primed this year. Jen had rehearsed every element of the support crew tasks this year and Rachel was looking flighty. She was in with a real chance for a solo podium this year. I headed out for a nervous stretch and caught up with Steve Brydon, also competing in a team this year and Phil. Wandering over the start, Os and I were joined by Joel and before we knew it, 3, 2, 1 and we were away.
Up hill, left turn, up a steeper hill. Feeling good, warming up, “slow down – it’s a long long race”. Top of the first hill and Joel pulled away, I turned to chat to Os and he was about 30 m behind. I checked how I was feeling, this was far to early in the day to go out hard. For the next 15 km, I jogged along with Ironman finishers, Vigor Running mates and at least one Northface 100km competitor. All of them sharing tails from the trails and offering encouragement.
Megs at Dom Dom
I pulled into the transition at Dom Dom saddle and found Meaghan and Kate there waiting for me. Big smiles. I knew Os was only a few minutes behind me so thought, I’d get a start on him and try to stay ahead of Meaghan for the first ride. I know I would be faster downhill but was determined not to push too hard on the ups, to save my pins for the second ride and run.
The screaming descent from Dom Dom ends at Healesville. Just out of town I saw Annie, stopped on the side of the road for no reason but to give us encouragement ahead of the climb to come. Such a welcome sight. The climb to Toolangi is spectacular, this year I shared it with a newfound trail mate – Aaron. Having recently completed the 250km 3 peaks, he was motoring up the hill. His description of that event convinced me that it is another of the must do events for next year. He was so excited about the M2M and what lay ahead we chatted the entire way up the hill. It turns out that he was racing solo but a group of his mates had decided to keep him company as a team of first timers as well. Aaron has raised a huge amount for charity over the past year and is inspiring hundreds of people with his Challenge 4 Charity campaign. I didn’t know this at the time, it was a real privilege to be dragged up a hill by such a good bloke. I explained that I had about 10 mins on the rest of Team TNP but was sure they’d probably catch me on the 2nd run. Somewhere on the climb I hear a friendly voice, Os and Kate passed in the car yelling encouragement and telling me that Megs was flying in the descent and was making up ground on the ride. Bouyed by Meaghans performance, I settled into a comfortable rhythm and soon found myself at T2.
Kinglake. 9km before the transition area you cross a highway and get a sign that quite simply says Kinglake 9km. It should say Kinglake 9km – mostly uphill.
A quick chat, some food and time check and I was away again. The descent from Kinglake is scenic and can be quite dangerous. I sat up behind a convoy of 4 carload of bogans for much of the descent. While they bullied and yelled occasional abuse at a guy on a time trial bike ahead of them. I had no intention of passing and for a while there, I thought things were going to go really bad. Thankfully, the road straightened out and they passed.
Into the undulations of Kangaroo Ground we rode. I spent quite a bit of time with Jamie. A fellow solo competitor. By the time I caught him he was struggling with cramps. We had a bit of a ding dong battle for about 30 mins before we found ourselves in the tight switchback descents near Panton hill. He got away from me on one of the descents. Approaching the second of the nasty chicane corners the road veered sharply right then left. Jamie didn’t. He missed the apex and continued straight through the corner up a driveway and straight into a parked boat. It happened so quickly that all I could do was watch. By the time I got there he was straightening his bike up and checking for permanent damage. We ended up giggling about it then continuing on our way. By the time we got to the transition we were both in a spot of bother.
The transition was a welcome sight. As I pulled in I heard a group of folk on the left yelling out to me by name, encouraging me. I had only met Claire from facebook groups that popped up after last years Surf Coast Century. But here she was with her entourage and Team 1000/1 Chance support crew. Cheering me on as well.
Off the bike onto the second run
I am lucky enough to have a “nutrition sponsor” for this event. A small Restaurant Reviewing Club in Melbourne called Phat Phucs has provided much nutrition advice (And entertainment) leading up to the race. At this transition I was surprised to see 3 of their number (And our support crew from Surf Coast Century last year) there to support me and the two other members of Team TNP competing. Joel had been through about 30 mins ahead of me and I knew Os was only 10 mins or so behind. So a quick food stop, some soft drink and I was away.
20 mins later I was walking and jogging with Jamie and we were talking about our common interest in completing the Speights Coast to Coast – one day. Meaghan would catch me soon enough. At the 6 km mark she caught up and walked with us for a minute. As she pulled away, I resolved to jog the rest of the way. Which in the most part I did.
Pulling into the next transition Annie and Meaghan were there and they told me that Os was only about 15 mins ahead. Another quick change of footwear, some more food and I was on my way.
That is what this transition felt like as a competitor. Easy. I know that a lot of effort goes into supporting a race so that competitors can breeze through transition areas. It would be remiss of me here not to point out the outstanding service provided by the team from Vigor Fitness at the Kayak transition areas. If you need some skills training or to hire a kayak for one of these events I can not recommend this company to you highly enough. The kayaks were all lined up, labelled and set up ready to go. They helped us down to the water and offered nothing but encouragement. I understand that they also helped other competitors, some of which had arranged boats from other companies or brought their own. THANK YOU.
There had been a lot of discussion in the lead up to the race about the “rapids”. I was relieved to see them well marked and easily navigable. Somehow I had gotten a lead on Jamie into the first paddle, but being a seasoned kayaker he soon passed me. I hung on as long as I was brave enough to before dropping back to paddle my own race. Eventually I approached the Dights falls portage. As I did I heard “Go Adam, two more bends” More of Team 1000/1 Chance support crew. I rounded the bend and caught sight of Os. He was just ahead of me. Another good friend of ours Tommo was there to help me in.
“Fallen in yet mate?”
“Not yet, so far so good, though I’m feeling a bit tippy” as I pull up alongside a rock. Tommo grabs the front of the boat and I go to step out. Promptly, I overbalance and rather ungracefully fall in, in front of the expectant crowd at transition. Refreshing.
The portage was a mix of eating, drinking, shivering and grinning (I was nearly there). I was confident that I would catch Meaghan on the paddle, Team TNP had arranged their kayak from another company and had been disappointed by a late decision by the rental company. Because of the condition of the rapids, it was decided to put them in a plastic endorfin instead. After months of preparation and skills training, they were paddling a beginners boat. I am sure we will hear more on that at some stage.
Coming into the outskirts of the city I caught Meaghan. The next hour remains the best hour of adventure racing I have ever completed. I paddled into the sunset, through the Yarra river, right through the heart of Melbourne with Meaghan. The river was quiet, even glassy as we meandered through to Docklands. It was specbloodytacular.
Mind you, it very nearly all turned truly unromantic when I got all unstuck under a bridge, being passed by a ferry and two inflatables and being bounced around. I was convinced I was going in. If I had there would have been a rather miserable 20 min swim and restart before completing the final 300 m. A big sign under the bridge made it pretty awful consequences (WARNING FOUND GROUND BELOW) so I was determined to stay upright. It may not have been pretty (Judging from Meaghan giggles it was not).
Then that was it, we rounded a corner, into cheering and the lights of the finish line. We were heaved out of our boats, Os was there to greet us and we finished all three together.
Sam announced the finish
“Here he is. Adam Evans solo finisher with Meaghan and Os from Team TNP. We would expect nothing else from Australia’s Least Known Adventure Racing Team than to cross the line together. Well done guys!”.
12 hours and 3 minutes. PBs all round.
Walking back to the car we saw Aaron and his team of mates come in to finish as well. I remember last year and the year before watching finishers, after dark and being inspired by their efforts. Now I find myself part of that community. I didn’t win. I finished and I’ll be back to do it again next year.
What a journey and what a way to finish. This year I did this race to publicly raise profile and funds for Soldier On. A charity close to home for me and many of those that know me. If you’d like to know more about this cause please check out my fundraising page. If I inspired you even a little bit, please consider making a small donation.
What did I learn:
- The second ride is not all down hill.
- The second run really hurts.
- Contrary to Liam’s (Vigor Kayaking) advice to “keep paddling. When falling out of a kayak, stopping paddling, forgetting form and using the paddle in my left hand, tensing up everything and trying to paddle with my right hand while yelling over and over again “f#ck, f@ck, f&ck, f!ck” somehow meant I stayed in the boat, when under a bridge, in the dark in a river of shit.
- Every little connection along the journey is an important one. People lift each other up.
- The supportive attitude of the folk at Vigor Fitness, both trainers and members alike, extends to racing as well. It shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise to me to learn that this attitude of positivity, inclusion and encouragement also extends to their staff and volunteers in the transition areas.
Thanks again Annie, your smile and everyready support got me through a long day.