Transitioning from gym manager to organising gruelling adventure challenges all over the country snuck up on Joel Savage; but now he’s consumed. Originating in Townsville, there are now five Adventurethon events as far as his hometown of Albany, WA; with the latest at Magnetic Island proving to be the most well-oiled yet. But what really goes on behind the scenes to make these multi-terrain events such a success?
In a nutshell: Advanced preparation, hard work and contingency plans. But you know what they say about the best laid plans: “We’ve had wheels fall off trailers, water safety craft not show up and trucks carrying vital equipment not fitting on barges,” Joel tells. “We always have something like that at every event, but we can usually get around it.”
There were 60 volunteers involved with the latest Adventurethon and the core team, including Joel and his wife Tamara (who becomes the logistics champion during the actual race days), got to Picnic Bay a week before the race to start setting up. Two days out from the island-wide event, a team of people who knew the course well began painstakingly marking it out with ribbons — mainly on foot over the difficult rocky terrain. They were followed by a second wave of volunteers with signs, markers and trail-clearing gear to limit the chances of anyone going AWOL. The day before, volunteers lugged water up the steep and slippery post-rain slopes of the pipeline trail (now known as ‘savage canyon’); carrying 80 extra litres to account for the 94% humidity. The remainder of the day was dedicated to setting up the Race HQ area — the station from where each competitor is closely monitored.
“I want to see people succeed and see the joy/pain on their faces as they cross the line” - Joel Savage
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is making sure we know where the competitors are so we can identify a potential wrong turn early and the potential for search, plus identify fatigue before athletes let themselves go too far,” Joel says.
But he also likes being positioned at Race HQ for an entirely different reason.
“I want to see people succeed and see the joy/pain on their faces as they cross the line,” Joel says, who started the event as a way to challenge people and push them outside of their comfort zones. “I had no intention of making it any bigger than what is was, but people really enjoyed it and I thought, ‘Wow, I can really get people to challenge themselves and think more of themselves’. Once I realised that, it became an obsession and Tamara and I started to take Adventurethon all over the country.”
The next Adventurethon is in Townsville on June 21 and 22; and Joel says this event presents an opportunity for those who did the Duathlon and Enduro at Magnetic Island to take it up a notch to the Ultra. It’s also a good race for those who want to try their first multi-sport challenge.
“We try to keep Townsville fun and beautiful with less pain, where as we start on Maggie with a lot of pain,” he smiles (a little sadistically perhaps? ☺). “The terrain is a lot easier to navigate and the humidity is much lower so you can generally cover the same distance you would have on Magnetic Island an hour faster. If you are going to do an Ultra this is the one.”
Early Bird Registrations for Adventurethon Townsville close Thursday, May 15. To register or find out more about the course and distances, visit adventurethon.com.au