Suqian Ultra Quadrathlon – ’24hr Race’

I’ve done this event three times before, all three times with Hamish and twice with Marcel and Simone. Although 2016’s version was very short (4 hours), it usually is reputable as a long one day race. Both 2014 and 2015 took 16-18 hours for us to complete.

2017 was a little different. Instead of breaking the stages up in to multiple ‘shorter’ sections, we were faced with long stages. 

2015 version: 2km swim, 18km kayak, 20km inline skate, 60km MTB, 2km run+abseil, 33km kayak, 60km MTB, 35km Run.

2017 version: 2km swim, 128km MTB, 55km kayak, 43km run.

Logistically this is harder for nutrition and pacing/self-maintenance. But it proves especially hard to escape nearby teams due to drafting or slower paces due to the long distance.

We knew from the start who our competition would be. (We eventually ended up finishing within 15mins of each other)

It was two other teams who we knew would be challenging to beat:

Purao Biomedi: Alex Hunt, Daniel Jones, Jacky Boisset and Myriam Guillot.

Adventure Sport NZ team: Sam Clark, Elina Ussher, Richard Ussher and Dougal Allan.

Top 10 listed teams competing (next page had peak adventure Australia who came 5th in the end)

Here’s how it went:

6am start on the dot, the day was clouded over which was promising, it can be brutally hot here when the sun’s out. 

2km swim: I didn’t rush off the beach and waded briskly through the shallow water without too much speed until the water was too deep. This method kept my heart rate low and walking in the deep water meant that I had efficiently kept near the front.

 Once swimming I quickly got near the front and seemed to be leading the field. I was worried I was going too hard and looked up often to try and find Simone/Marcel who were swimming together (Hamish was right behind me). Because I slowed down Marcel and Simone suddenly came flying past. 

I seem to often struggle to control my breathing and heart rate in any swimming event (in the very few that I’ve done) and today seemed to be no exception. 

I began breathing nearly every stroke and decided to swim on Simone’s feet to get a break. But I couldn’t even stay on her feet (drafting). Either I was changing direction often, or they were, and I always seemed to be off to the side of them. About 1km I found the effort too much and let Marcel and Simone pull away from Hamish and I. It was too much for me and my energy to try and stay with them rather than my own rhythm. 

To my left Team Adventure Sport NZ was catching up and I kept inline with them for a few hundred metres until I still couldn’t find a rhythm and was working harder than I wanted too, then I moved to the back of their team (Elina’s feet) and cruised easily in their wash to the end.

A good decision I thought but Marcel and Simone had to wait for us at the beach as we were probably 100m back. 

Nevermind we didnt gain or lose any time and I was tired/dizzy enough after that swim.

128km MTB: 

We exited the transition last out of the three teams due to me dropping the whistle on the way out of the swim (a compulsory piece of equipment). Thankfully a Jacky of Purao team told me and I ran back.

I had no legs at the start of the bike so Hamish and Marcel led us out, doing the work and sprinting required to bring our team in touch with the front bunch of Adventure sport NZ and Purao Biomedi had grabbed a 100m gap on us. 

From then it was pretty straightforward for the rest of the 128km ride. A fast course being mostly on road, some people worked on the front, some did not. Either way we averaged 35kmph and were often above 40kmph thanks to Dougal, Sam Clark and Alex Hunt from the other teams. Relatively uneventful apart from a couple of aggressive surges. 

55km Monster Kayak: the top 3 teams all entered the water together and by this stage were a long way ahead of the next place team. Our team paddled well and were soon at the front.

Simone carries the mass amount of fluid and food required for the long paddle:

 A strong easterly was blowing which meant we had large waves building on this lake, at the direction we were going (west) we were have a great time surfing them. By the turn around we had a bit of a gap on the other teams but now going into the wind, back to the start beach, we hoped to show our strength and pull away much further.

While we were still leading and still leaking

Straight away the waves were filling our boat with water. Splashing over the front and side. I was stoked. Why? Because I expected it and we had brought bilge pumps to save us. Something I knew the other teams hadn’t. I expected that the other teams would have far more trouble. 

I was wrong. Not much water at all was splashing into their boats and Hamish and I were soon left behind pumping the water out. I didn’t understand!

Simone and Marcel had to turn around to find out what was going on. Very quickly Marcel pointed out that the back end was very deep in the water, it was clear the rear cavity/bulkhead was full of water and had a hole in it somewhere. We located it near the top of the boat so it must have filled while we were surfing the waves on the way over. 

Hamish somehow managed to dig his fingers through the wall which was made of foam. The wall separated the cockpit from the bulkhead. Then the water flowed through to his area where he could pump the water out. 

This process cost us a fair amount of time and the other teams had disappeared out of sight. Now able to pump the water out we were going faster and as we got closer to shore the waves were smaller and the wind even decreased.

In the distance we could spot the two front teams. Returning to the start beach marked about 23km into the 55km paddle.

We still had a long way to go. Time to make up some time!

Simone flicked on her waterproof speaker and started cranking some upbeat music to get the pistons cranking a bit harder. 

4 more hours and 32 more kilometres later we closed the gap to about 5mins. These boats really do have a low hull speed and do not reward the efforts you out in.  

43km run (god orienteering)

My hands were so soggy and blistered that as I rushed to put my running shoes on, holding the shoe open with my hand, my foot sliding in scrapped a lot of the skin off my hand. Yeowch. 

We took off and I felt strong! We were clipping along at 4:30minkm and everyone seemed to feel great. Hamish led the charge with the GPS. 

Surprisingly we passed team Adventure Sport NZ within 20mins. And flew past. 

Soon we had Checkpoint 1 and it was a long way to checkpoint 2 on the other side of town. We were going well but could see Team Adventure were holding ground we’ll only 200m back. 

Suddenly Hamish bent over and was throwing up, he was out of breath from the spewing and was determined to get something out of his belly. Turned out some olives weren’t digesting too well.

This was a big turning moment as Hamish is a strong team members and suddenly even though we were running again, it was not very fast and he seemed to be drastically low in energy. 

Tow rope it was. I encouraged him to have a gel to to replace the missing fuel/empty stomach. 

I took over for nav here forth and tried to get the team moving quickly again. We took a slightly different way to team NZ and were gutted to see them running towards us about 100m away from CP2.  Now we had to turn around again and head back where we came from. 

CP 2 was 20km in and there are 6 check points to collect!

It was very dark now and the rain was making me a little cold, which encouraged .e to also run faster. 

The next few cps were all in a park which is a maze of trails, roads and ponds which do not go in logical directions. 

We nailed all the cps in the park and had hope that maybe one of the other two teams made some mistakes as we had in previous years. 

All that was remain was 5km of road running to the finish, the same place we had started the swim just 15 hours earlier.

We pushed hard and eventually we crossed the end of the race.

 I felt quite angry at the finish line. 

I was smashed but wanted to complain to the officials about our leaky kayak. 

We had finished just 5mins behind 2nd place (Team Adventure Sport NZ) and 15mins behind 1st place team Purao Biomedi. 

The officials just laughed and didn’t really understand what I was explaining (or maybe they did.).

Anyway I tried to eat and drink but struggled to get much down. Soon I found myself very weak and could bear to stand or even sit. So I curled up in the ground. 

I felt nauseas and cold and dizzy. 

I could compare it to being very intoxicated on alcohol and not wanting to move. Strangely nostalgic.

Anyway eventually I got a little energy back and helped the team begin the horrible task of delivering ALL our race gear and equipment and bikes back to our hotel rooms over 1kilometer away!

Not the most enjoyable activity 11pm at night after a monster event. 

After a few days rehabbing in the Hilton in Chongqing we are now travelling to Zunyi for a two day stage race this weekend (9TH/10TH September).

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