Magnetic Island Adventurethon is known for its physically and mentally challenging conditions – and electric atmosphere – and today didn’t disappoint.
As I write this, there are Goers from Townsville, all over Australia, and even New Zealand at Picnic Bay Hotel kicking back and swapping war stories after a gruelling day in the sun battling the elements. There are plenty of smiles and laughter that are synonymous with post-event celebrations, and that sense of camaraderie you get when you’ve survived something tough together.
And on Picnic Bay beach this morning at 7am with 15 knot winds and 1.5m seas already, the 350 or so competitors knew it was going to be tough.
Ultra paddlers Mick de Rooy, Sam Clark, Guy Andrews, Sam Stedman and Luke Smythe led the charge – their race taking them 13km to Radical Bay and back – while the Enduro paddlers got to Alma Bay and turned around. Extremely rough seas posed a problem for countless competitors with everything from frequent capsizing and sea sickness, to safety boat rescues due to fatigue after battling the strong current.
The bike leg was also a good challenge through soft sand with ‘hike and bike’ sections and the run sapped what remaining energy contenders had, but they were rewarded by spectacular scenery, encouragement from fellow participants and huge cheers as they crossed the finish line in front of the Picnic Bay pub; many immersing themselves in the ice bath before heading to the hotel to claim their free beer.
New Zealand athletes and Speight’s Coast to Coast champions Sam Clark (5:45:37) and Jess Simson (7:08:35) both claimed the male and female elite victory in the BNG Sports Ultra race, with local Luke Smythe earning the top spot in the male open Ultra individuals (6:23:32). Michael Richardson (3:19:59) was first male home in the Mike Carney Enduro and Sam Hoey (NSW) for the girls (5:15:28). Brett Housley (3:55:53) and Brandi Watson (4:23:57) were in first for the Performance Physio Dirty Duathlon, and a team comprising paddling gun Mick de Rooy and talented runner Allan Jefferson claimed first team home (5:39:23).
We caught up with Kiwi winners Jess and Sam not long after they’d crossed the line. We asked Sam if the race was as tough as the iconic Speight’s Coast to Coast multisport race.
“The toughness is just compressed into one big ball of pain,” Sam says with a laugh. “I really enjoyed the paddle actually. In NZ we don’t often have multisport races where we actually have a good ‘on a surf ski’ paddle, so it was great.”
However, Jess begged to differ: “I didn’t enjoy it [the paddle leg] at all! It felt really hard to get any momentum, and the chop as well as having to keep way out from the bluffs. It was pretty challenging, but I think a couple of coaching sessions on the surf ski would change that [it was Jess' first time on a surf ski yesterday].”
Sam added that he was rapt to beat Ironman turned adventure athlete Guy Andrews and local adventure racing gun Sam Stedman, with this win being his first on the international stage.
Local favourite Sam Stedman says he didn’t have his best racing day, struggling to keep up in the paddle leg, but placed third just a few minutes behind Andrews, coming in at 5:55:57 vs. Guy’s 5:51:20.
“Everyone certainly pushed themselves today and Magnetic Island turned on its charm,” Sam says. “It wasn’t an easy win, second or third – we were all on the six-hour mark so we were on the money for good times for those conditions.
“I love my running – I’m a trail runner – and I guess I just don’t enjoy ocean paddling as much as I should and that would improve my paddling skills, but a lot of the other races we do we are in different craft and in different water conditions, so sometimes you can’t practise everything; but it was a good day. I just hope the newbies aren’t too put off the ocean paddling as there were particularly tough conditions.”
We also chatted to one of TheGo’s Fit for Adventurethon winners Kate Donnelly who was in a team with fiancé Mitch Annetts and good friend Natalie Dowse – it was the first Adventurethon race for all three. Nursing a long-term hip injury, Kate was originally planning to paddle, but swapped with Mitch to tackle the run at the last minute.
“I’m just happy because I went at the same rate and didn’t stop, and with my injury, that was a big tick in the box for me,” tells Kate. “We were just talking about doing the Pallarenda Adventurethon – we were thinking do it as a team again, but then do the Taste on Sunday too to see how we go solo – just to give us that mini version of it.
“We weren’t in it to set a world record time or anything… we just had a cheers to say that we’re glad we all got roped into it [through the competition] – I love the atmosphere and I’m really enjoying the people.”
Adventurethon organiser Joel Savage says he’s impressed that Guy Andrews held off the younger competition, using his experience on the course from two years ago to his advantage. Looking forward to the Adventurethon National Challenge in July at Pallarenda, Joel says he’d love to see Ultra winner Sam Clark return to take on one of Australia’s premier multisport champions, Melbourne’s Jarad Kohlar, who has already signed up to return for the event.
For the full results from Saturday and the Taste of Adventurethon on Sunday, see here. Well done to everyone who got involved!