Adventure Racing, Races & Places, Sports Travel

The Allure of the West

Clock Posted Jan 25, 2019

By Dougal Allan, October 2018. 

There is something that draws you back. My first taste of Western Australia was when I competed in the August Adventure Fest in 2010. I ran,  swam, kayaked and mountain biked my away around the small but picturesque seaside town of Augusta that day and a suspicion within me grew, I would be back for more experiences of this part of the world in the very near future. Since then I have been back for this same event a couple more times (2013 and 2014) as well as competing in Ironman Western Australia up the road in Busselton last December.

Augusta Adventure Fest to me represents an opportunity to spend a weekend doing the sports I love in a natural setting that was seemingly designed for such experiences. I remember diving into the waters of Flinders Bay and being captured by the colours and clarity of this underwater paradise. The sea temperature was stunning and it was actually one of the early open water swimming experiences that encouraged my foray into triathlon. Running around the coastal rocks, trails and beaches was as much an adventure as a test of endurance and the kayak and mountain bike sections seemed to produce an equal release of endorphins. It is little wonder it has cemented itself as the biggest adventure race weekend in the world!

Over my three attempts I have placed 4th, 2ndand 2ndagain. So I am hoping to improve on previous years when I return in 2018. I will be aiming to apply some improved approaches, having learned specific lessons in previous years. The transitions are important and being organised and well-rehearsed (as either a team or individual) on getting through these efficiently is important. Also for the individuals, spending time kayaking after swimming will be a clever way to condition your arms (and mind) to this unique challenge, not found in many other events. Finally, having adequate nutrition accessible throughout the race is likely to have a significant influence on race day. Keeping in mind the warm climate in Augusta in November, hydration becomes particularly important. Check out my race day tips below:

  • Arrive Thursday or early Friday to give yourself a chance to visualise transitions and the course and feel organised and confident for race day
  • Choose a kayak that you feel comfortable paddling in swell and chop, it is an open ocean after all
  • Select bike tires that will handle sand and gravel well and run at a lower pressure to optimise traction
  • Stay hydrated by drinking fluids throughout (except for the swim!)
  • Fuel yourself well, especially if competing across both days. Keeping in mind CLIF Bar are the official event nutrition suppliers, I’ll use at least one CLIF Shot or 3x BLOK’s on each of the run, bike and kayak stages to keep energy levels high. I’d also recommend having a CLIF Bar energy bar immediately following Saturday’s efforts to help replenish glycogen stores in anticipation of performing again the following day.
  • Thank the volunteers at every opportunity!

A perceived barrier for many of my kiwi countrymen (and perhaps a few of the eastern-based Aussies) might be the travel required to hop across the outback and land in the western state. But Perth is more accessible and affordable than ever and it certainly doesn’t take long to appreciate the unique and special landscapes, cultures and climate that this part of the world presents upon arrival. The trip is more than worthwhile and the real problems arise when it nears time to leave. It is an easy place to greet but a hard place to farewell. See travel tips box for handy hints on getting to and from the event.

As far as events go, Western Australia currently plays host to a broad and expanding range of sports, arts, cultural, culinary and business events. It is fair to say it is a bit of an events hotspot on both the Australian and global stages. But from an endurance athlete’s perspective, the major attractions to this part of the world have to be the natural settings where the events are held, alongside the people and townships you’ll encounter.

I love Perth as a city, but I especially love the drive south, through the various coastal townships that connect Perth to the Southwestern hinterlands of the state. Augusta feels almost like a pot at the end of the rainbow and the sense of adventure is tangible upon arrival. The Augusta Adventure Fest makes the best use of the area I can ever imagine. As someone who is happiest with an elevated pulse, fresh air in my lungs and a sense of connection to nature, the only battle I have in this town is dropping my excitement levels at night in an effort to sleep before I get up to do it all again.

There have been some changes to the event course format for 2018 and this has me keen to return for my first crack in Augusta since 2014. Saturday hosts four standalone events (2km ocean swim, 15km ocean kayak, 15km trail run, 35km mountain bike). Where Sunday sees a return to the non-stop format over shorter but more exciting distances as well as the ever popular junior survivor obstacle course event for kids aged up to 13 years.

Making a weekend of it seems most appropriate and it is great to see the events spread across the two days. I will make time to explore the beaches and coastlines (searching for humpback whales, dolphins, turtles and manta rays) and drinking coffee in some of the wonderful cultural pockets close by such as Margaret River and Prevelly. In years gone by I have explored expansive cave networks with my young family, visited many of the local wineries with my wife and even spent a day mountain biking in forest trails near Margaret River. I’ll be spoilt for choice in and around the event this year, but will aim to arrive in Augusta in peak condition to take on the Aussies on their home soil!

It is not too late to enter and join the action; just click here! Whether you prefer to do one stage as part of a team or take on the entirety of the various stages, I am sure you will enjoy adding to the wide variety of people and competitors on race weekend and feeling part of a unique and adventurous community. Perth is now an extremely mainstream and accessible airport, so getting there and back won’t be hard. My advice is to rent a car from the airport and allow yourself a bit of extra time either side of race weekend to explore some of the stunning beaches, townships and vineyards en route.

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