The Wobbly Fat and the Broken Rib. How not to race Terra Nova 24h

Our team name is Alpine Quest.. We used to be fit and strong, but time flies way too quickly

Years  of complete give up on training do not help in racing. My name is Serge aka ‘Wobbly Fat’, and my mischief partner is Josh, the “Broken Rib”.


Green light to do an adventure race was given one week prior to the event


About a week prior to the event, my lovely wife Maria gave me green light to go to Terra Nova 24 h event. While she did not change her mind, (as she has every reason to, with two small kids), I booked entry, and then called Josh saying we are in. It was a nice surprise to him, or a shock. But he managed to finish all his jobs before the event start, and even managed to service his bike and take off from Albury to the event site in Kangaroo Valley Fri midnight. He slept somewhere on the road to get to the bike drop by 8 am. Considering his drive was somewhat 5 hours, he slept about 3.


Last-minute bike service maybe not that great idea


For me, almost everything went smoothly, except for my bike. I left a rear wheel in service to replace tire and said I’ll pick it up on Fri because I’m racing on the weekend. The guy said yes, I’m open till 5, but when I rocked up at 4:50 pm, he was not there, and an apology sticker was on the door. Lucky me and Maria’s gear is the almost same size, so I took Maria’s bike (thank you!) and pumped shocks a bit harder to sustain my extra ~10kg.


I had a 5 hours sleep before the 24h race


Fri arvo we rented a small car to accommodate family needs on the weekend, I swapped kids’ seats, put stickers on boxes and the paddle bag, packed all food for me and Josh (well Maria helped me here), and loaded almost ready boxes in the car. At 11 pm I was ready to go to bed, with the alarm set at 4:30 to take off for a ~3-hour drive from the Central Coast.


Final preparations on the spot went well


All the above is not the race, but it is just a funny preamble. We had no issues sorting our gear, placing it all in the right spots, marking maps and getting dressed for the 11:30 am start. We had some coffee and pies and were ready to go. Well.. almost ready, except Josh is convulsively trying to pump up his inflatable mattress 1 min before the start. He made it, so we were off.


The first leg was a swim/float. $5 matrasses did their job.. almost


We jumped in the river and started paddling with hand paddles. We got to the front fairly easy and kept pushing the pace with Thunderbolts. They had the same $5 inflatables, and funny enough, all their 4 and Josh’s got punctured and deflated. I was swimming in the middle of the river on my own, while Thunderbolts and Josh were scrambling along shores and swimming across the river when needed.



It was a cold start. I and Josh had swimming wet suits on, so I suppose we did not suffer as most others. Others just had their normal racing gear, which means they were frozen cold by the end of ~40 min bash to the exit checkpoint. We deflated remainders of mattresses, and ran along the small creek up, to pick CP3, and come to TA.




After the first leg we got to TA and spent ages getting off our wetsuits


We were one of the first teams in TA, but… I’m slow in transitions, compare to top elite racers from New Zealand, but Josh would double my TA time easily. Because we had to reshuffle our gear, remove wetsuits and put on warm clothes, it took us forever, and we left TA way behind. We were warm on the bike start, but I have to say, when it is about 10 degrees and constantly raining, it just gets cold on the bike, regardless of how well dressed you are.

After the bike, there was a freezing foot rogaine where Josh managed to repeat a swim


The bike leg was longish, and we rode it without many issues. We came to TA and ran off to pick three checkpoints A, B, C in any order. We were going ok, but the Broken Rib was complaining about being cold and uncomfortable rib, which I have been ignoring, and kept pushing on. At CP C the Broken Rib was going across the creek and found the deepest pothole and went headfirst. Ha-ha joking, he just stepped in there and went underwater completely. It looked funny, but he could not get warm before the end of the running leg, and the next leg was bike predominantly downhill. So, we stopped to change his clothes completely next to the fire, and soon he was warm enough to keep going.



Everyone makes mistakes in the dark except for me. Not this time though


We started the ride, rode downhill, found all CPs and came into TA3. This is where real stuff starts. We came to the CP M, I could not find it straight away, because it was a bit far from the creek junction, and I thought maybe it was a bit further. The description was saying under the cliff, so I imagined a cliff hanging over the road, and we rode further in an attempt to find one. It was not there, and the next creek was clearly the next creek on the map, so we went back, and I climbed over the rocks to finally find CP M.


The reality of adventure racing- you spend an hour looking for a wrong-placed checkpoint and then teams behind you just catch you there


But then there was CP E. We came to there when a team was leaving, saying it took them 1 hour to find it. That’s an overkill I thought, and we went in. CP was not seen and was not where it was supposed to be. There were no strong features, and we spent about 30 min when I ordered a halt. We went to TA, where I went straight to complain about it to the TA official. He informed it is there, so we went back, and went a further 150m off the track to find it hanging there. Certainly, the wrong spot, but there were four or five teams behind us, who just caught their luck seeing us leaving from the CP. They all took it and left, spending ~5min to take it. Very annoying little episode.


Low spirits and another genius night navigation from my side


The next ride to TA was without any adventures, we took all CPs and came into TA in low spirits. It was still raining, so we decided to put all our warm gear on before the paddle. The team that was next to us most of the race, rushed into the water in the same cycling gear. It did not sound like an option for us, so we wrapped ourselves up to the neck, and went on. We picked all three CPs without many issues. We turned back from CP 16, and I thought we can relax now and just go. Normally kayaking nav is very straightforward, but it was raining and dark, and switching lights would just highlight raindrops falling in front of you. Basically, no vision. I carelessly looked and the compass and said – go there. How wrong I was (saying that I don’t do mistakes in the dark!!!). Well, this was not our time, we got caught in some inlet, which I incorrectly identified, turned back, paddled a bit to realise we are going in the opposite direction, and then paddled back again to the same inlet with another team that caught us up. Then I did not paddle back, as the other team did the same mistake, as we did the first time. I went in the correct direction, but there were a few swamps and unmarked islands along the shore we needed to navigate across until we were on the right track. I’d be right to say, we spent 30-40 min just there, and this was purely my navigation mistake.


It was so cold that we rode to finish wearing our paddling attire  


The final ride was quick and smooth, except for the very last CP we struggled to find for about 5-10 min. It was enough for the chasing team to catch us up there, but we were quicker to the finish. One more funny thing I need to mention is our clothes at the finish. We did not take off any of our kayaking gear and just went in it on the bikes. Namely – tri shorts, frogskin neoprene and over pants  at the bottom, and thermal, jersey, cycling vest, frogskin, kayaking cog and lightweight jackets on top. The Broken Rib had about the same outfit. We cycled well and were nice and cozy at the finish line.



Conclusion: the race did not quite go as we planned


What a race it was. 10 degrees or even lower at the tops, constant rain, poor visibility and mud everywhere. I had of course expected a light 12 hours mistake-free adventure in the jersey and shorts, but I proved to be wrong. Everything went against us this time, but I’m proud to be at the finish line somewhere in the sixth position. Lack of training does not help, and every time we race like this, we swear we will do more training next time and will have a good night of sleep beforehand. However, lives take these promises away, and we go on with our usual routines. Me working and taking care of two little boys, and Josh is doing what the heck knows what but not training.


The future looks bright. A few more years and I will be training and racing again


I signed up for two events this September. One was Terra Nova with Josh, and another one is the Maximum Adventure novice course in the Blue Mountains with my 7-year-old son, Alex.  I’m looking forward to the latter one. This will be our first race together. Deeply inside I think the reason for such anticipation is just opening a new adventure and training opportunities. Instead of playing lego with my son and nurturing a little boy, we will be paddling together through the ocean swell in a double ski and riding big hills on our bikes in no time.

Follow my Strava to see my adventures, and hopefully, we will see the Wobbly Fat and the Broken Rib becoming fast and furious back some time again. I’m also looking forward to the time when Maria is out of being a super-busy-mum-and-business owner and comes back to racing. That’s when all the fire will start again.