Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The ultimate team challenge

As our final team training camp before we head off overseas for the 2011/12 World Cup season, the Australian Ski Cross Team spent three adventurous days at Mount Buller; my home mountain in Victoria. The camp kicked off in Melbourne with an ice hockey training session at the Ice House. Being padded up from head to toe in protective gear is always a bit of fun… if only we wore that kind of protection in ski cross! This was followed by a strength testing session at the VIS.

When we arrived at Buller on Friday evening, we were told to pack a backpack with enough food and clothes for three days. That was literally about it. We had no clue what was to lie ahead, except that it was undoubtedly going to be a tough two days. Little did we know how tough it would actually be!

When I was woken up the next morning, I checked my phone for the time. 3:13am. Hardly awake, the team met outside within 10 minutes. Between the four of us, we were given two small headlights, a carabineer each, and a rope to latch ourselves onto. The next two hours would involve us hiking to the summit attached together, working as a team. We had no idea of our final destination; when we reached a checkpoint, we were given another location to travel to. And to make things interesting, about an hour into the hike it started to pour with rain. After 4 hours of hard hiking and running with 10kg packs on our backs, we reached Howqua Gap at 7:30am where we were met by our mountain bikes. The next challenged involved us riding to the top of Mt. Stirling, a solid 7km climb up hill on a rough stone track. We were given a map of the bushland area with directions as to where to go from there. The pouring rain didn’t help our situation, and when we got lost about four hours into the ride, things weren’t looking great. We lost about two hours backtracking what we had already ridden. Finally, with Anton’s knowledge of the area, we made it back to Mirrimbah at about 4:30pm; tired, cold, wet and starving. We had been going for 13 hours by this stage, and all I could think about was a hot shower and an endless supply of food.

(Still in high spirits at the summit at 4am. The first checkpoint)

The next morning, we were woken up at 5am (almost a sleep in compared to Saturday!) and we drove to a reservoir past Whittfield, about 90km out of Mansfield. Our next challenge was to build a raft that was able to travel down ‘class 10’ (advanced) rapids. With the limited materials provided, as a team we worked together to come up with a reasonably functioning raft. I doubt how well it would have travelled down advanced rapids, but I think we did a great job considering the lack of directions we had.

(Our creation)


By 10:30am, we were on our road bikes. We rode 20km to Whitfield, and then continued on from Whitfield to Mansfield. The first 30km were basically all up hill. By the time we arrived in Mansfield, we had ridden a total of 85km. I thought surely the ride would stop there, but that was definitely not the case. After refuelling with anything I could get my hands on at the Mansfield bakery, including sandwiches, chocolate milk, cake, chocolate, protein bars, nuts and an energy gel, we jumped back on our bikes. Next stop was Mirrimbah, the base of Mt Buller. Once in Mirrimbah, we had totalled 115km on the bike. Before I could even consider the day to be over, next I knew we were riding Danish cargo bikes up Mt Buller, carrying each other up the hill. By this stage it was 5:30pm, and given the task ahead of it the day seemed as if it would never end! At about the half way point up Mount Buller (8km of steep incline), I hit the wall. I have never been so depleted of energy in my life. I could hardly walk or talk, my lungs were exploding; and I could hardly move. I rode 125km in total. Not a bad effort I thought, particularly given the exhausting day before. The boys jumped on their road bikes and finished off the last 8km of Mt Buller, almost collapsing at the top. The final challenge was one last hike to the summit. By the time we reached the top it was 8pm and we were all just about ready to roll back down the hill.

 (The team after 85km in Mansfield)

(Me looking a little nervous of the task ahead...)
(About 3km into the Buller hill climb)

(No time for stopping at the gnome house!)
 (Pushing Sami up the hill)

All in all, an extremely tough (both mentally and physically) training camp, but enjoyable none the less. The team worked extremely well together, and it was a good ‘test’ leading up to the long four-month season ahead.

(Sunset at the Summit: Matt, myself, Sami, Anton, Scotty and John)