Adventure Racing World Championship 2011

Merrell Adventure Addicts Take On Tasmanian Devil

Team Merrell Adventure Addicts pedaled home to complete a 730km route at the Adventure Racing World Championships in Burnie, Tasmania’s gateway city to the West Coast wilderness region. Out of astarting line-up of nearly a hundred teams, the SA foursome raced hard to claim a phenomenal 7th position.

Four hundred racers; 23 nationalities; 730km of harsh terrain; and the unforgiving Tasmanian weather … these were just a few of the obstacles standing in the way of MERRELL Adventure Addicts as they lined up a week ago at the AR World Champs event in Burnie, Tasmania. The event’s no-holds-barred Race Director, Craig Bycroft, promised them ‘an experience like no other’, and after nearly seven days of non-stop racing, the four AR campaigners can certainly attest to that.

As seasoned adventure racers, they had a prettygood idea what would await them at the annual ARWC, the undeniable gathering place for the world’s AR Top Dogs. Ahead of them lay at least six days of multi-disciplinary racing following a true, expeditionstyle course through genuine wilderness conditions.Four-person teams (generally male and female) navigate a course using map, compass and landmarks via a series of control point (or CPs).

Teams typically rest only when they can no longer function effectively, transitioning between a range of human-powered disciplines such as mountain biking, trekking, kayaking, swimming, technical rope work and
orienteering. Teamwork is also of the utmost importance, and this is exactly where the true strength of the MERRELL Adventure Addicts lies.

They have been racing together, both locally and internationally, for well on four years now, and have as such built an innate understanding of each other’s individual strengths and weaknesses, thus shaping a formidable racing unit. Captain and navigator Graham Bird is ably supported stalwarts Hanno Smit and Donovan Sims, with the diminutive Tatum Prins bringing her special brand of girl power to the mix.

ARWC2011 would be no ordinary race, though, with everything from Dark Zones and navigational challenge or natural obstacle lying in wait along the grueling course Down Under. Lining up at the start just after dawn on 2nd November brought the harshness of the challenge awaiting them home to the team: “I am not at all shy to admit that I was scared by what awaited us”, said Bird, “but what I did know was that every one of my team mates would do their utmost or die out there”.

The MERRELL Adventure Addicts survived the race, but this does not mean they did not bleed, sweat or suffer during more than 134 hours of balls-to-the-wall racing. According to Bird, the route was incredibly well thought out and varied. “It had ocean paddling; lots of varied trekking legs – forest, beach, dune, jeep tracks, trails, grasslands, rocky, coasteering; great mountain biking with great single track (with lots of mud though); river paddling and flat-water paddling”.

Right from the initial ocean paddling leg, the scenery and landscape did not disappoint. “To me, the race showcased Tasmania from the inside out”, says Hanno Smit. “It’s a remarkably beautiful place, which at times made me feel like I was travelling in a kind of Lah-Lah Land. There was extreme wet and cold, and the competition was fierce and intense. For me, the second half of the race was all about survival, and it tested our resolve absolutely”.

Donovan ‘Tiny’ Sims is in total agreement, admitting that the huge treks and abysmal weather tested his resolve. “I had to go into some really deep, dark places in my head to get through this”, he said after the race. “ Six days is a long time, and although ARWC Tasmania has come and gone, this phenomenal experience is sure to live on in my mind for many years to come. We once again pulled together as a unit and I walk away from this race with one clear thought in my head: my team members are all legends!”

The words of Tatum Prins, known to both her friends and the AR community as ‘Hobbit’, arguably best captures the essence of what the MERRELL Adventure Addicts went through, and why they put body, mind and spirit through this purgatory of punishment. “Wow what a race … and a race it was! From start to finish we were constantly being chased, or chasing, with just minutes apart, hard and fast. It was cold; it was challenging; it was constantly unforgiving and in our faces. But once again we worked brilliantly as a unit. The one thing that kept me together physically and mentally is the love I have for my boys – they are incredible, unstoppable, unforgettable”!

Even though the MERRELL Adventure Addicts didn’t achieve their intended Top 5 ranking, they walk away from ARWC2011 knowing that they gave it their best shot. “We raced as hard as we could and take satisfaction from the fact that we left nothing out on the course. We are content with our seventh place finish and take heart from the fact that we were in the mix with the top teams”, says Bird. They will now revel in a rest period over the festive season, and recharge their batteries for an even bigger 2012.

The team’s sponsorship agreement with MERRELL, an internationally acknowledged leader in both the footwear and outdoor apparel industry, has enabled them to focus their energy on racing, and this is an arrangement which will continue into the new year. The MERRELL tag line “Let’s Get Outside” makes for a perfect partnership with Adventure Addicts, a team that epitomizes a love of the great outdoors.

Other sponsors include PVM Nutritional Science, Giant Bicycles, Island Tribe Sunscreen, Squirt Bicycle Lube, Glider Eyewear and Black Diamond head torches. For an introduction to the Merrell Adventure Addicts check out the following video -:

Watch the video XPD Race Day 1 - Part 2

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