You’ve got to love travelling early in the morning, when you are heading off somewhere rad and the cues are minimal. My Virgin check in was seamless and easy, I even had in-flight entertainment, which I wasn’t expecting for a domestic flight, so all in all I was set to get out into Western Australia and hit the adventure trails in Augusta.
While heading down there from Perth I did make a few stops which I’ll go into detail about in the next article, hitting a sick skate park in Busselton and some rad bike trails at Margaret River along the way. I arrived at Augusta Friday evening to the Flinders Bay Caravan Park overlooking the shimmering Flinders Bay waterfront. It was an exceptional welcome from Western Australia that was waiting there for me!
It was then on to the Augusta Adventure Fest village at the Turner Caravan Park, where I met up with Sam Maffett, co-owner of Rapid Ascent and organiser of the event, he gave me some insight into the new program and how the race has evolved from humble beginnings.
“The very first event we held was an adventure race sponsored by Anaconda, including swimming, running, riding and paddling,” he began.
“For a variety of reasons beyond our control the interest in the long course event was dropping, so this year the format is different with a range of stand alone events on Saturday and then what is the equivalent of the mini short distance adventure race on the Sunday and the kids race is the first we’ve rolled out with this format. This is the only incarnation of the first Anaconda event that still exists even though it’s changed over that period of time.”
“This year about 1100 – 1200 adults and 500 – 600 kids are taking part. Make sure you can see the kid’s race on Sunday. Aged between 4 and 11 they are running a serious 4 km. Parents think there’s no way Johnny can do 4km, they get in with all these other kids and they smash it! We create fun obstacles, clambering through nets and wadding through water, walking some planks and going down the slippery slides,”exclaims Sam.
When asked about serious international contenders, Sam says there are competitors from all over the world including China and New Zealand. “We’ve got an elite athlete from Wanaka, New Zealand, Dougal Allan. He’s a coach and does a lot of races and triathlons and has won Challenge Wanaka in the past. He’s an athlete at the half ironman and ironman length. He’s definitely one to watch.”
After getting the inside scoop on all the new events from Sam I promptly headed over to the Augusta Hotel for a good feed to prepare me for an early night, as I was all ready to compete in one of the stand alone races myself the next day.
Early is right, the first race of the day, was the 2km ocean swim at 8.30am Saturday morning. Despite some light ripples on the water’s surface, the sun was out and everyone was excited to get underway as the race began in Flinders Bay. Brother and sister duo, Kyle and Courtney Lee took out the male and female events, commenting that they “enjoyed the clear water conditions and friendly camaraderie amongst competitors.
At 10.30am it was time for the larger 15km ocean paddle with 70 paddlers enduring some ocean swell at the river mouth then paddling south to Seal Island adjacent Cape Leeuwin. They made a U-turn at the island, taking advantage of great down-wind paddling that brought John Wilkie and Tara Smith home as first male and female.
‘Augusta spoilt competitors on Saturday with splendid weather and near perfect racing conditions for day one of the 2018 Augusta Adventure Fest in south west WA.’
At 1pm I got ready for the main event, the 17km Trail Running Race, and I must say, its a spectacular way to start a race! Firstly, a bus took the runners from the entrance of the Turner Caravan Park along the coastal road to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, south of Augusta, which is right next to the actual start line.
I hadn’t run a race in a while and the sheer surroundings were out of this world! The starting line is on top of the boulders right in front of the sea. Next time round I’m packing trail shoes as the boulders needed to be negotiated and the last thing you want to do at the start is tweak an ankle when you’ve got another 16km’s to contend with.
It’s a knarly rock hopping start for 2km’s along the coast then it narrows into a single track up through the shrubs and we followed it for awhile, getting further and further away from the lighthouse. There’s a bit of a hill that I was certain was the main climb. Puffing and panting I asked two competitors running on the single trail in front of me if this was the only one. They said there was two more hills to come! “What?…” I thought, “Better grab some more water…”
As informed, the hill did rear it’s ugly head. It was sandy and made the conditions tougher. It’s one stunning look out, as I glanced over my shoulder from the top of the hill. Not going to lie, there may have been a sneaky bit of walking up the steep section to recompose and get the mind ready for the second part of the race.
There was one water station after that second hill which couldn’t come soon enough. The route then leads into a 4×4 sand road and then a super quick downhill section, which was really fun. You can feel you legs having a mind of their own and gave me a bit of relief after the sandy track.
There was then a straight section for a while. Sam from Rapid Ascent was on the was on the way, saying not long to go, fingers crossed he wasn’t bluffing.
The finish was near and I could here the MC and music blasting out from Flinders Caravan Park. One last dash and I was across the line. The whole route is really diverse and keeps you guessing.
‘Coastal rock hopping, single track flora and fauna, 4×4 sand track and tree stump killer downhills at Augusta Adventure Fest made it one hell of an epic trail run.’
I was pretty happy with my finish time of 1 hour and 21 mins and an 8th overall. It’s definitely an amazing way to see this part of south west Australia.
After grabbing some more water and fruit, remember it’s been a good while since I’d run a race, I headed across to check out the 35km Mountain Bike Race, which took off at 3.30pm. The cyclists were geared up alongside the local Margaret River police cars. The cars siren went off along with the starting horn and it was go time. The final race of the day it again provided a scenic tour of the region’s variable landscapes and hinterland terrain with Damn Willmore and Kristen Gadsdon first home to complete an epic days racing.
Needless to say after event presentations, it was another early night for me, as there was another epic day of events to wake up to on Sunday.
I woke to a stunning sunset at 5.30am over Flinders Bay. I drove down to the lighthouse to get a second look at the boulder jumping madness from the start of the trail I had run the day before. It just had to be done!
The non-stop adventure race was held on Sunday. The mix of off-road races allowed people of all interests and abilities to be part of the action. Dougal Allan and Jess Reynolds were the overall male and female winners of Sunday’s headline act, the Adventure Race, which consisted of a non-stop 1km ocean swim, 6km coastal run, 15km mountain bike, and 6km inlet paddle.
Race Director John Jacoby, from Rapid Ascent who organised the weekend, was happy with how the weekend went.
“The weather has been absolutely perfect, with sunny skies and light breezes the Augusta region has provided us with another adventure paradise in which to run our races.”
“The standalone events were popular, but the camaraderie and team work seen in the adventure race today was just superb. It is terrific to see people of all fitness levels and backgrounds getting involved with the event, whether they do the whole course or just one leg its great to see people having a go. Thanks to all competitors and spectators for making it such an awesome weekend of adventure racing here in Augusta,” said Jacoby.
The final event of the weekend was the Act-Belong-Commit Junior Survivor, a 4km long running and obstacle course for kids aged up to 11 years of age that saw over 550 energetic little athletes take to the start line. The Junior Survivor provided a taste of the adventures their parents pursued over the weekend and included a range of obstacles such as the spiders web, net crawl, wicked wader and two long rad slippery slides that splashed up plenty of mud and bubbly smiles. It was certainly a high note for everyone to end on, with happy kids and happy parents all round, ready to trek on home.
In the evening I went back into Augusta to hunt down some fish and chips. The local “Shark Bait” is a must-try, you can take it down to the water and finish off with a beer at the Augusta Hotel, it has one of the best lookouts in town out on its lawn.
Organiser Sam was right with his recommendations with Dougal Allan winning Adventure Warrior Male and Kristen Gadson was top Adventure Warrior Female.
I reflected on what was an incredible weekend. There are so many things on offer in South West Australia, I definitely felt I needed a bit more time to explore. However, sneaking in a surf, mountain biking and trail run, it wasn’t a bad way to see the area. I’ll tell you more about these activities in my next article and I’ll be back in Augusta for sure!
Where’s your next adventure? Remember, its always the season somewhere – Oli
Photo credits: Rapid Ascent.
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