Ever wanted to go on a real family adventure?
Well look no further; the annual Act-Belong-Commit Augusta Adventure Fest is the most family friendly adventure race around. Kids, athletes, weekend warriors, you name it, this event has something for everyone.
Now in its 12th year, the world’s biggest adventure race puts competitors through their paces as they race along the spectacular, untamed coastline of Western Australia’s southwest.
credit Rapid Ascent
The polarising landscape makes Augusta the perfect setting for such an event. The towering Boranup Karri forest tapers into sprawling coastal hinterland, providing varying degrees of difficulty for mountain biking and trail running. While the calm waters of the Blackwood’s Hardy Inlet provides a sheltered swim and paddle section before meeting the wild waters of Flinders Bay. Come for the
This years event saw more than 2700 competitors descend on the quiet coastal town, just three hours drive south of Perth, to tackle one of the three races on offer over the weekend.
Serious athletes and those stepping up to challenge, take on Sunday’s Act-Belong-Commit Augusta Adventure Race. The longest race of the weekend comprises a 13.5km inlet and ocean paddle, a 12.5km coastal run, a 2.2km ocean swim, followed by a 28.5km mountain bike and a 400m run to the finish line. The main event is not only open to individuals and teams, but also to pairs, who race each leg side by side the whole way.
Saturday morning's mini event kicked off with the spectacular sight of 1000 paddlers hitting the water for the mass paddle start. The half distance, Augusta Mini, is the perfect option for an introduction to adventure racing. While competitors still complete five legs - a 5.2km inlet paddle, 5.5km coastal run, 1.1km swim, 15km mountain bike ride and a 400m run to the finish, the course is set on more sheltered waters and hinterland tracks making the course achievable for the more novice racers.
Despite race organisers modifying the course due to the 15-20 knot winds, the swim remained the biggest challenge as racers battled the choppy ocean swell.
Busselton local, Steve Anstee, only managed five weeks of training, so he was surprised to find he was the first individual racer to cross the finish line.
“I didn’t even know I was winning, I thought there were heaps of people in front of me!”
As the last of the mini competitors made it across the finish line, the 800 plus army of children flocked towards the river edge for their time to shine. While an impressive number of kids take on the mini course, the Junior Survivor gives all the kids the chance to get in on the action, and of course, the mud! The 4km obstacle course winds its way along the bush and beach and features muddy balance beams, soapy slides, and a whole lot of fun! It’s a chance for the mums and dads to cheer on the kids and a great way to end a memorable day of racing.
Sunday morning brought more wind from the southeast, which meant tricky paddling and swim conditions lay ahead for the 800 athletes ready to take on the main event.
The racing was fast and fierce, with Bing Pascoe the early front runner, but after missing a marker on the swim leg, he received a 30 minute time penalty, allowing Perth’s Brody Baker to get home within that 30 minutes and take the win with a time of 4:15:45.
“It feels awesome to walk away with the win two years in a row, I really had to work for it this year, I felt like it was a lot harder race than last year, but it feels really good.”
“It’s such a great place here in Augusta, you never know how the course is going to challenge you,” Baker said.
The first female across the line was 41 year old, defending champion, Kristen Gadsdon, blitzing the field by eight minutes, in a time of 4:37:56.
“I went in really relaxed because I had no idea how I was going to go. I had no pressure so I didn’t get angry at the conditions, the rougher the better for me because it leaves everything up to chance, so as long as you survive those two legs in the water, it’s on.”
“I’m just so stoked,” Gadsdon said.
As the finishes ran, walked and stumbled across the finish line you could not wipe the smiles off their faces; the pride, surprise and relief at the finish line was palpable. Undoubtedly though, best part of the Augusta Adventure Fest is the unique community vibe of the weekend. I’m not sure if it’s the location, or the congregation of fit, likeminded individuals, the caravan park setting or a combination of all those things, but for such an epic race weekend, the orangisers created a truly welcoming and relaxed adventure racing event. Bring on 2018!
For Shar Baird it was love at first run. Completing the run leg in a team in 2015 was all it took; Shar was bitten by the adventure race bug. In 2016 she bravely took on the Augusta mini race as in individual competitor, finishing in a very respectable, sixth place. Spurred on by such a great result and a growing love of off-road racing, Shar set her sights firmly on the 2017 Augusta Mini. As the crowd cheered, Shar conquered the testing race day conditions to cross the line in second place.
Occupation: Teacher and mother
Hometown: Hillarys, Western Australia
As an amateur ‘have-a-go’ triathlete, the off road component is a whole new world for me. After struggling in the paddle leg last year, I stepped outside my comfort zone and competed in the Dunsborough X Adventure and the Rottnest Channel Swim earlier this year. The hard work must have paid off, because this year I had a great race and a great result! ]
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER?
My husband and I are always looking to challenge ourselves and each year we compete in an event that is out of our comfort zone to raise money for the Saba Rose Button Foundation. In 2016, I decided to tackle the mini solo as part of ‘Solos For Saba’. I was way out of my league in the paddle leg, but had the best day!
I’ve always been a runner and enjoy taking on the run legs of these events – so my challenge has been to branch out into the paddling, riding and swimming.
I’m enjoying the swimming and riding more and more as I gain confidence and force myself into conditions that freak me out a tad! The paddling part is a slower process!
HOW DID YOU FIND THE RACE CONDITIONS?
This year’s race was a beauty! I loved the change to the paddle course – especially as I was saved the pain of numerous turns. Once I got my balance and steering under control, I could focus on my technique, which helped a lot! The run was fantastic. The different terrain kept me guessing and literally had me on my toes. The swim leg had me quite anxious in the lead up to the event, but being the third leg there’s no time to think before diving in. I decided to leave my wetsuit in transition and I was grateful to feel the cool ocean water. Battling out to the first buoy was a bit of fun, but once I turned that buoy I struggled to sight the next one, or anything for that matter! The swell was so big and so was the chop, it was difficult to make out the course that seemed so simple from the shore. I was tossed about a bit and spent quite a few moments re-orienting myself – but made it to the river eventually. My watch tells me that the 1100m swim course took me on an 1580m adventure!
The bike leg was a blast and I loved every minute of it. I would have liked to ride the course the day before to build some familiarity and confidence but I didn’t get down to Augusta in time this year.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THIS EVENT?
The vibe of this event is what draws me in. The community-feel and the family friendly atmosphere make it an excellent environment for us to race with our two young children. We have made so many friends through adventure racing and our kids love taking part in the junior events and supporting from the sidelines. It’s brilliant to see the kids getting in the mix, getting filthy and loving it. It’s such a terrific way to connect with them and so valuable in creating lifestyle habits that will hopefully serve them for a long time. Our son is always stoked to be a part of it and is already plotting his rise through the course distances!
HOW MUCH TRAINING DID YOU DO FOR THE EVENT?
My husband and I tend to tag-team-train and I’m very lucky that he is a great motivator, supporter and pseudo coach. I work my training around an intense full time job and family life – so I take any opportunity I can. I rise early to sneak in running and cycling before the children wake. We hit the beach as a family so that mum and dad can take turns paddling or swimming. We have found that if you are committed to training (and willing to suck up any conditions) you can get creative about managing it day to day. I somehow manage to squeeze in:
4 x running sessions
1 x road ride
1 - 2 short MBT rides
1 - 2 ocean swims
1 paddle session
Some strength work each week – but would love to build on that.
WHAT’S THE NEXT CHALLENGE?
Well, we will definitely be back next year! We have already booked our campsite and have started nominating ‘horses for courses’. We have also just entered the Dunsborough X Adventure in April 2018 and we have 10 Team Saba teams swimming in the Rottnest Channel Swim next February.