Day one of the Mark Webber Challenge was hard for Rick and Ryan but day two will be gruelling. Tougher weather, longer stages, more navigational elements and the accumulated fatigue of day one with ensure that day two will really test our debutante adventure racers.
At 4.30am, the athletes meet and are bussed down to Pirate’s Cove in the Tasman Peninsula. Here, the twenty-five teams are loaded into two 900 horse power speed boats and taken south past the stunning sheer cliffs, waterfalls and myriad caves of Tasmania’s Eastern fringe and are dropped 100 metre’s shy of the beach at Fortescue Bay.
A grey pallor sits over the shimmering clear blue-green water as the athletes jump off the boats to swim to the beach. It almost looks enticing, except that we’re about as south as you can get in this continent, so you know the water temperature will be in the low teens.
On day one, Rick started to suffer late in the day and just before the start of day two I got the rundown from him.
“I massively hit the wall after the abseil, but Ryan gave me Red Bull Energy Shot and I pretty much bounced back straight away,” says Kelly. “When I got back to the hotel, I had a shower and I felt, well I certainly felt like I’d done a days work, but I did feel like I could keep going and that’s great. If we can keep that up for a week, we’ll be in good shape.”
After scrambling to the beach, the teams pick up their kayaks and set out east to a point between the cliffs and a huge rock tower called The Candlestick. All up the first kayak stages is about 11km and Rick and Ryan have a solid leg, coming out of the water in fifth place.
Rick and Ryan head out of the kayak transition area and Rick takes a hard tumble, when his foot catches a loop. A few cuts and bruises and a minor hand injury is the result, but nothing stopping the team from ploughing on.
At the beginning of the race, Rick and Ryan had decided to opt out of some of the optional runs on some days, including the first longer run on day two. In this case, it ends being up a shrewd move, with race leaders Team Iron House taking more than two and half hard hours, all to pick up just two ninety-minute bonuses.
“We didn’t do the optional run on day one and that was the right thing to do,” says Sandes. “I’m not sure where our energy levels would have been if we did.”
The two French teams take a similar amount of time to hit the bonus running check points and, after trying a little of off-track adventuring, meet some of Australia’s least hospitable flora. “Plus Band Aids s’il vous plait.”
AROUND THE TASMAN
The 17km mountain bike stage is more brutal than day one, but Rick and Ryan get through it without losing much ground, despite misreading the map and spending about half an hour more on the bike than they had to.
“I was so angry with myself,” says Kelly. “I just didn’t do enough prep last night and today I’m suffering because of it. I’m still finding it incredible watching Ryan power up those hills. I’m mouth open, gagging for air and he looks like he’s riding to the shops.”
Arriving from the mountain bike stage to the transition area just outside of the Port Arthur historical site Rick and Ryan find that the boxes they put their running gear in is nowhere to be found. The course officials tell the boys that they’ve put their shoes in the wrong bag and will have to complete the next stage, (which is orienteering around the historical site) in their cycling gear. At this point it looks like Rick’s toys may be on their way out of the pram, furious with himself for not reading the race literature closely enough.
The eternal voice of reason, Ryan settles Rick down and the pair down a couple of Red Bull power shot s they head off onto the next stage, Ryan barefooted and Rick still in cycling cleats.
Entering the Port Arthur historical site, the teams are tasked with finding seventeen checkpoints and at each, answering a question about Port Arthur. Despite driving with the wrong tyres (or in Ryan’s case, none at all), the team manage to transition to the second kayak stage with only one team in front of them. The wind is whipping up some waves as Rick and Ryan kayak to the Isle of the Dead, a mass unmarked grave for convicts and troopers from the nineteenth century, past Point Puer and into Safety Cove.
As was the case for day one, Rick and Ryan start to pick up their stride for the last stage of the day and decide not only to pick up the bonus time on offer, but try to chase down the one team in front of them.
"They had quite a lead on us when we left the run, but we got on top of a hill and saw that they were much closer. Then I saw that mad look that (Rick) gets in his eyes,” says Sandes. “So we pushed hard to catch them and got them just at the last checkpoint. I could see (Rick) wasn’t stopping at that point for anyone. The last two kilometres were tough, even comparing to some of my other (ultr-marathon) races.”
“Today was so much harder than yesterday,” says Kelly. “The course and the navigation, and we suffered a lot from not having done a race like this before,” says Kelly. “We’re pretty happy how we ended up.”
Day three looks to combine the spectacular views of day one with the relentless difficulty of day two, as the boys head down to Bruny Island. The day will include 65 km of hard mountain biking, another 20 km of paddling, and a couple of classic Tasmanian vistas. Make sure you join us then.
To watch how Rick and Ryan are doing in real time, make sure you hit up www.markwebbertasmaniahallenge.com and click on ‘Track the Teams.’
WANT MORE? WATCH THE ACTION FROM DAY ONE HERE