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The Mark Webber Challenge

Posted: 30/11/2008

Day 1 -Cradle MountainandDove Lake

After being quite nervous about this event and my ability to finish, it was great to hit the water for the first 5km kayak leg. There were 7 checkpoints all over Dove lake. The start was divided into 4 waves 10 minutes apart and we were the first to leave the water from the first wave. We were both feeling great about leading the race and confident but going up Cradle Mountain All but one team went past us. It was tough going with some really technical walking that slowed me down a lot. My new custom made carbon crutches worked well but the lightweight tips I took came off a couple of times in the mud. I changed the tips for the other days and they were fine. The weather was nice and the view from the top ofCradle Mountainwas amazing. Unfortunately in a race environment there wasn't much time to savour it. After the descent there was some rolling hills and Tony came up with the quote of the trip. He was navigating and looking at a topographical map and came out with "there are no more hills I promise". There were more hills and I was starting to work pretty hard. The end of the run came, finally. It was straight onto the bike for an 11km section on the road before we hit the dirt for another 32km. The ride included a couple of sections of wet marshland that was like riding on grass that is floating on water. It was very energy sapping and Tony and the tow rope were working pretty hard to get us through. I would learn through the race that the only flat sections of this race would be the kayak legs. Total time for the day was around9:30 .

Day 2 - Mt Roland andLake Barrington

The planned 19km run was shortened due to high winds, cloud and rain. The ride was lengthened though which was good for teamToyota as we knew our strength was on the bike. We started on the bike and again was in the first wave of starters. The pace was pretty high so we stayed with them for the first 10km or so but then slowly drifted back. I think both Tony and I were a bit slow to warm up cut we certainly were warm by the time we got to the end of the ride, the last 5km or so were steep uphill. What we didn't know at the time was that we were making lots of time on many other teams as they were off and walking up the hill. The ride totaled about 20km and then it was off for a 5km run. The run leg was very steep and uphill to the top of mt Clau de and back down again. There was some slippery stuff near the top and this time we were not rewarded with a view as we were up in the clouds and it was wet and windy. My toes started to get sore on the steep concrete road on the way back down. Back onto the mtn bike for a 14km ride with some long fast downhill sections on both dirt and bitumen. There was also some nice muddy sections, by this time I had no hesitation in hopping straight into whatever mud was around as I knew it was inevitable that I would be getting wet at some stage. It was then back into the Kayak for a very scenic 7km paddle back to our camp site. It seemed like an early finish after only5:30 hours of racing.

Day 3 - Lau nceston and Cataract Gorge

What looked like on paper my favorite day didn't turn out that way. The 3 laps of a 12km mtn bike loop felt like it was as much hopping next to the bike as it was riding it. The steep long nature of the climbs saw everybody off their bikes at some stage. Tony did his best to keep the tow rope on but there were still a few places each lap that required a bit of hopping. Each lap we also rode through a breakfast function at the Lau nceston Country Club. The uphills were a bit of a nightmare but the downhills were lots of fun. Some fast firetrails and a slalom course kept things interesting and gave us a rest from the steep climbs that were described in the race briefing as little pinches. After the 3 laps it was off to Cataract gorge still on bikes on the road. We then had some short run legs in between the 3 crossings of the gorge. The first crossing had the choice of a net bridge and a horizontal rope, I took the rope and Tony got the harder option of the bridge. The 2nd was a flying fox and the 3rd a walk across the side of an old arch bridge. The supposed rest day was only about 6 hours of racing. We finished off with a fun little ride on a raft which only lasted about 30 seconds but was very intense. We lost 2 people overboard but fared better than a couple of the other boats which flipped over. We then had a 3 hour bus trip toport Arthur.

Day 4 -Port Arthur

This was the day that I knew would be the toughest. 23km of running was on the schedule but the weather changed the plan once again and the 15km paddle was shortened to just 5km. My arms were thankful of this as they have to work hard in both the boat and the run legs. We started with a 15km run leg that was pretty slow going for the first 5km or so. It was either steep uphill or slippery and muddy and it seemed like most of the teams went past us in this section. It was a long slow jog for me and I was glad when we went past the quiet zone near the nesting eagles and onto the beach to finish it. Then a 20km or so ride with Tony towing me most of the way as I had some pain in my knee. Then the toughest test of all, a 6km run that was a very narrow sandy track that I basically had to do sideways for all of it. Very slow going. Another short 5km ride before the final 5km paddle. Another 9 hour day saw me pretty fatigued and on the physio's table getting some work done.

Day 5 - Hobart and Mt Wellington

The start at the top of Mt Wellington made the stage look easy in theory as we went from the top at around 1300m to sea level. Surely it would all be down hill. The 5km run saw us lose half the altitude and a quick poo stop also meant we were last at the end of the run. The 22km mtn bike stage was on a brand new $400,000 trail that was lots of fun. We were passing lots of teams and the fun trail combined with this saw some really positive vibes flowing from teamToyota . There were some steep and quite technical downhills and both Tony and I were loving it while some other teams were forced to walk down them. A minor naviagation error in town cost us a couple of minutes but we were happy with the race so far. At the end of the ride leg we learnt the paddle was cancelled with wind so it was a run up the 17 stories of the wrest point casino to then abseil down it. It was then about a 4km run past some checkpoints to the finish. An intense day of just over 4 hours of racing.

I would like to thank a couple of people for their support of our team. FirstlyToyota , without them we wouldn't have been able to race. Also Salomon shoes, bags and water bottles, uvex helmets and eyewear and Suunto heart rate watches. I am very appreciative to get the opportunity to compete in this sort of event and to experience some of the beau tiful places we went. Finally my thanks go to my team mateTony Bond, bondy was a tower of strength through the whole race, towing me on the bike, carrying water and all my stuff and being patient with my slow running legs.

4 Comments Posted

les&colleen Bond | Tuesday, 9 December 2008 7:39:39 PM
Congratulations... Absolutley marvelous effort...Just amazing..Two proud parents.
Cash & Marilyn Crews. Engadine NSW | Saturday, 20 December 2008 1:27:11 PM
Mate, you are a living legend!We just finished watching a rerun of the Australian Story episode. We didn't really know much about you before & were blown away by your attitude, determination & your successes. Best wishes for a long & happy future.
Carol Tippett | Saturday, 20 December 2008 2:28:45 PM
I aslo just watched your rerun Michael and our family having been in awe of you after listening to you talk at an "nswis"night. You also spoke at our local sports school where our own elite sportsman son attended. He has been inspired by you, and stops in his tracks whenever he hears your name!
We must have been under the cabbage plant michael, as none of us knew of your cancer ordeal. We wish you all the best, keep your mind strong, your body healthy and your family close. cheers and good luck in all your endevours.
Deborah Pratt | Sunday, 21 December 2008 11:24:56 AM
I have just watched the re run of Australian Story and you just inspire me to be a better person.. not many people can say that about their lives.