That’s a wrap. Nargun and the Lakes, the 8th edition of X-Marathon

After restrictions finally lifted, teams were at last able to get a much needed challenge that took them on a voyage through the wilderness of East Gippsland. With all regions subject to various stages of lockdown and restrictions due to the pandemic, not all teams were able to participate, but the race was still a welcome relief for everyone that was able to, and eager for a challenge.

The Tiger team “Gold Coast Tigers”, for the first time in the team’s history, won the A1 Race and team founder Trevor Mullens commented after the race that it was  “Not the last time”, now set to continue on their success.

I thoroughly enjoyed X-Marathon & racing with a wonderful Tiger Team. As usual Trev was able to put together a fantastic team with short notice of 4 extremely eager athletes. The course was dynamic and challenging with amazing highlights along the way,”- Narelle Crozier, Gold Coast Tigers.

 The full Gold Coast Tiger report is here>>

The Prologue

Arriving Friday, excited adventure racers registered, passed a competency test and then had a short, but intense, prologue race to compete. The prologue, a navigation-based packrafting section on Lake Victoria, just off Paynesville, was designed to give teams a taste of what was ahead. The weather gods turned on a gale-force wind that whipped up ocean-sized waves. The Duo, Kathryn Morland and Josh Street, were first off the water with all-girls team BUFFalos right on their heels.

Before the race

Soon after the prologue, slightly nervous participants got their race maps, and team captains received a race briefing with last-minute instructions. Just a a few hours later teams handed over their gear for transportation to the transition areas.

In adventure races, to keep teams on their toes with anticipation, the exact course is kept secret until the evening prior to the start. However, the teams receive the course matrix approximately two weeks prior the race to allow gear preparation before heading to the race.

X-Marathon 2021 had relatively straight-forward logistics, with only one gear box, a bike box and a packrafting gear bag required.

In the wee hours (3.00 am) the bus took teams to the start location of the race. The pressure was on.

After arriving at Mt Taylor Campground, they assembled their bikes and got ready to dive in.

The start

The first leg map was not a part of the race pack received the prior evening, teams only received this just 1 minute before the start - and they were finally off.

A fun, fast, flowing single trail run was a brilliant way to get the body moving and in good step for what the race had install for us!”- Narelle Crozier Gold Coast Tigers

The trekking rogaine took teams for a run/hike through Mt Taylor’s trails. There were multiple route options to keep the race dot-watchers on their toes. Each team carried a live-tracking device that showed their race progress live.

While some ate the rogaine up, others got the first-hand experience of getting slightly lost in the confusing net of trails.


x marathon trekking den of nargun

The MTB section and river crossing

The second leg – a hilly mountain bike ride took participants to the Mitchell River - where the real adventures were set to begin.

At the last checkpoint before hitting the river, teams got their packrafting gear. It was an organisers’ challenge to deliver these packrafts to the checkpoint, with roads washed out by recent heavy rains, but the challenge was completed and teams got their gear in time.

Teams had to transport their packrafts down to the river bank and cross the river with their bikes onboard, which ended up being a substantial obstacle for some, and a serious challenge for everyone.

Kathryn Morland noted: “The Mitchell river was pumping and we did not know what to expect”.

Once teams crossed the river, they had a relatively short hike, then a bike to the transition area where the rest of their packrafting gear and bike boxes were waiting for them.

packraft bike xmarathon

Den of Nargun

Den of Nargun was a first checkpoint after the Transition area. The teams visited a sacred Aboriginal site where the ancient creature ‘Nargun’ was residing, as it was believed.

The cave, normally only slightly wet, was transformed into a spectacular waterfall with the roaring water.

“What a beautiful spot”, noted Deanna Blegg, team captain of Headless Chickens, the bronze finisher of the race.

Narelle Crozier Gold Coast Tigers:

“The enchanting walk into the Den of Nargun was a spectacular site which peaked at a cascading waterfall. Followed by a pack raft down the Mitchell river while in flood proved to be a thrilling fast ride full of excitement and laughter.

mtb gavin

The Mitchell river packrafting leg

After Den of Nargun, the teams proceeded to the third leg of the race - packrafting down the Mitchell River. The Mitchell River leg was designed to be a highlight of the race course - and it truly was!

The Mitchell River is the last unregulated river out of Victorian major rivers, and it was in its full power on the race day. The level was at the top end of “good” for downriver paddle. The grade 3, grade 4, and a lot of grade 2 rapids guaranteed a thrilling experience for all participants.

Unfortunately, not all teams got through successfully. The team “Let’s go crazy” fell victim of the power of water, getting stuck in willow trees. The team captain, Brian, dislocated his shoulder just before the final rapid at Glenaladale Weir and had to take  an ambulance ride to Bairnsdale Hospital. He rejoined his team soon after, but completing the race with injured team captain was not an option.

gold coast tigers trekking

The flooded trails

The following the 4th leg was meant to be a fast and easy mountain bike ride to the shore of Gippsland Lakes, however due to the heavy rains the previous week, the trails became knee-deep bogs and another substantial challenge to negotiate. Moormurng Nature Conservation Reserve section slowed teams down significantly and only two teams managed to arrive to the next TA in daylight.

The navigation challenges

Once the sun went down, the navigation got harder, and teams started to experience more fatigue which affected their speed and decision making.

Narelle Crozier Gold Coast Tigers:Taking time to pause and watch the sunset across Blonde Bay was a nice way to welcome the night air and a great distraction from the mozzies! I can’t think of many better ways to spend a Saturday night. “

The fifth leg, a foot rogaine in the Blond Bay Reserve and navigationally, the most demanding leg, was designed by rogaining specialists, Jonathan Sutcliffe and Thorlene Egerton. There were some route choice options, tough terrain and navigational difficulties to negotiate. Teams could skip some checkpoints and receive 1h for each checkpoint (except for one) in that leg. Some took this option and omitted some of the controls. It became a key leg where the placing was established, with race winners and bronze finishers collecting all checkpoints. 


x marathon navigation

To the remote Lakes Park

Another highlight of the course was the following leg, the paddle/trek rogaine in the Lakes National Park. This leg consisted of a total of 10 checkpoints, placed both on land and on islands. The leg offered teams an opportunity to split into two groups, where the teams with two efficient navigators could get a substantial advantage. After collecting the checkpoints, teams had to cross Lake Victoria to get to the finish line on Paynesville foreshore.

Narelle Crozier Gold Coast Tigers: Persistence was crucial for the night legs when teams split into 2 to go tackle challenges we could have not imagined possible. No one knew who was drawing the shorter straw when we took on the challenges but it turns out we all did!! The amazing skill set of the Navigational guys became key to hit the markers in pitch black conditions with limited features to go off. Thanks to our amazing Navigator who was flawless throughout the entire race! The wonderful smiles from the race organisers, volunteers and other teams was a welcome site as we crossed the line trying to process what a magnificent adventure we had just shared as a team over the past 29 hours. How fortunate are we to be able to do what we do and be part of such an amazing sport!”

 x marathon the girls finishing

 x marathon presentation