The sport of adventure racing is difficult to define. No two races are the same. Some take five days, or more, to complete. Some less than a day. Some are tackled by teams of four, some individually. A common factor that brings them all together, however, is that all are staged in stunning locations. Think the wilds of Patagonia, New Zealand’s Mount Cook and, most recently, the Kimberley’s Lake Argyle.
The fluid nature of any two adventure races makes the concept difficult to define. Their combination of athleticism and skill present an unusual package, which is always unique – not only in terms of what you do during the race, but also in terms of where you do the things you do during one.
There are no world records or aspects of consistent symmetry to measure achievement in adventure racing. Of course, ultra trail runs are typically staged over the same course year after year; so too endurance MTB races; but one of the core disciplines of the big adventure races, like New Zealand’s GodZone event or the Patagonia Expedition Race, is negotiating and navigating over untried and unanticipated environmental obstacles. The course is revealed to participants at a briefing just before the start. If the course were known to them beforehand, the best route and strategy would soon become obvious to most teams. Keeping each course a mystery ensures that quickness of thought, planning and team cohesiveness become key determinants of good racers.
WHERE DID ADVENTURE RACING COME FROM?
Racing outdoors over remote custom-designed courses for multiple days and nights has a range of influencing factors.
Adventure racing tests athletic skill, but also ingenuity, organisation, bushcraft and resourcefulness. Indeed, these attributes are arguably more important than athletic skill.
Encompassing elements of everything you could expect to encounter in the wilderness, each race asks questions posed through extremes of weather, natural obstacles and unremitting exposure to the vagaries of Mother Nature.
Adventure racing also has a sporting pedigree – an event is typically a timed race designed to find the fastest team or individual over a course comprising a number of set elements. These elements nearly always include navigation, mountain bike riding, trail running, trekking and paddling as core disciplines. Added to these may be alpine or rock climbing, swimming, rafting or canyoning.
In September this year, the striking Kimberley landscape will form the backdrop to a unique series of adventure races staged around the magnificence of Lake Argyle.
“People continually underestimate how remote and rugged the East Kimberely terrain is — and there’s no better example of this landscape than the country around Lake Argyle,” adventure race course director and event manager, Glenn Taylor, explained recently to Outdoor.
Lake Argyle is situated 75 kilometres from Kununurra, approximately 700 kilometres from Darwin and 1000 kilometres from Broome.
Recognising that it takes a long time and plenty of effort to travel to the East Kimberley, Glenn and his team have devised a stacked program across three days.
Unlike the big professional sponsored team events, like GodZone and the Patagonia expedition, the Lake Argyle adventure race is a solo affair. The total distance of the main race, spread over its four disciplines, is 42 kilometres. It’s not a multi-day event. Competitors will battle it out on the stunning Ord River, with remote transition points over gorgeous, but hellishly challenging, terrain. There’s a two kilometre swim, a 13 kilometre paddle, a six kilometre run/traverse, followed by a lazy 21 kilometre mountain bike leg. Glenn and his team will organise and facilitate transition logistics — no support team is needed and they’ll even provide the kayak.
As well as the solo event on day one, there’s a team event on day two and a mountain bike shoot-out to finish. Hardy competitors could tackle all three.
A BIT ABOUT LAKE ARGYLE
Lake Argyle was formed when the upper reaches of the Ord River were dammed more than 40 years ago, creating a freshwater lake 22 times the size of Sydney Harbour.
Water temperature during September, when the races are staged, is typically a pleasant 26 degrees Celsius, so you can leave the wet-suit at home. The clear blue water of the lake, contrasted against the red rock in the morning sun, makes for a great start to the day.
The kayaking leg down the Ord River is a spectacular experience, but provides logistical challenges for organisers.
“The remoteness of the Ord means that the first vehicle access point is more than 45 kilometres downstream, so we’ll be establishing a remote transition point with the support of Triple J Tours,” Glenn says.
This effort to facilitate this remote transition area will allow competitors to experience some of the best stretches of the river, with some spectacular steep gorge sections on offer.
It is worth noting, organisers take care of a lot of the participants’ transitions needs for the solo event. As well as providing kayaks, competitors just have to check in their bikes and race gear on the morning of the race. The organisers transport everything to the remote transitions in readiness for athlete arrival.
After the swim and paddle, solo competitors will find themselves deep within the remote terrain of the Carr Boyd Ranges.
“Competitors will experience, first-hand and up-close, the rugged terrain of the East Kimberley. The course is well marked, but do not expect a smooth path out there,” Glenn says.
The rugged nature of the run course is best exemplified by the run-leg race record: just under an hour to cover the six-kilometre distance. The run is a true “off-road” experience.
If the first three legs are not spectacular enough, then the mountain bike section will leave you breathless – literally and emotionally.
“Again, the terrain is hard which is what makes it so unique, but building dedicated single track for bikes has been a labour of love for the local mountain bike enthusiasts,” Glenn says.
The course was hand-built with simple tools, but despite this the local club has managed to build spectacular and sensitively engineered single track through the country, with the ‘Lake Argyle Link Trail’ being finished late last year. The track completes the circuit to and from the Lake Argyle Resort.
Riders will climb for the first half of the trail to a spectacular view overlooking the lake, before descending back down towards the finish line.
“It has taken me years to develop a course that truly captures the essence of the Kimberley and we are all exceedingly excited for all our competitors who get to swim, paddle, run and cycle in this amazing place,” Glenn says.
Because not everyone is ready for a full day adventure comprising four challenging disciplines, day two of the adventure race caters for relay teams of two or four competitors. The course is modified to allow for a family-friendly transition point by the pool at Lake Argyle Resort, making it very easy for teams to juggle participation with family commitments.
Juniors are well catered for with six to eight-year-olds getting an adventure race of their own, including a pool swim and a giant “slip-and-slide” on course. This is in addition to the ‘Enticer’ adventure, for ages nine to ninety-nine, for those just looking to get a taste of adventure.
In contrast to the fast and hard racing, there’s a three-course dinner on Saturday night, adding a touch of luxury to the outback challenge. The presentation ceremony for solos and teams is accompanied with live music and dancing late into the evening. Perfect dry season conditions ensure a great dinner will be had under the stars.
If you’re looking for yet another reason to explore the East Kimberley, then you have one in the form of the Lake Argyle Adventure Race. With its unique terrain and fulfilling course, it’s every adventure racer’s perfect motivation.
THE 2019 LAKE ARGYLE ADVENTURE RACE SCHEDULE
Friday 6th September
Solo Adventure Race: Swim 2km, Paddle 13km, Run 6km, Mountain Bike 21km
Saturday 7th September (morning)
Team Adventure Race: Swim 2km, Run 9km, Mountain Bike 17 km, Paddle 7km
Saturday 7th September (afternoon)
Enticer Adventure: Run 3.5km, Mountain Bike 8km
Saturday 7th September (afternoon)
Juniors 6-8 years: Pool Swim, Cycle 1.5km, Obstacle Run 0.7km
Saturday 7th September (evening)
Adventure Race Dinner
Sunday 8th September
10km Mountain Bike Shoot-Out
For more information head to www.lakeargyleadventurerace.com.au