When contestants sign up for the Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge, they know they're going on an adventure. What kind of adventure they'll be on, however, isn't revealed until the race begins. Not only is the course kept secret, but also the tasks that must be done to complete it.
The five-day race started as a charity fundraiser, put together by F1 driver Mark Webber. Webber wasn't able to attend this year (he was a little busy going out in style) but has participated in the past – famously suffering a badly broken leg that put a serious damper on his racing season back in 2009.
This year's challenge stretched over five days, beginning in Mole Creek with a typical surprise – the first task on the course didn't involve running, biking, paddling or even climbing. Instead, teams were handed a two-man saw and had to cut some pretty large tree trunks in half before going anywhere.
Over the next few days, they covered hundreds of kilometres on bike, foot and boat, before finally taking on a Mt Wellington summit run and finishing up near Hobart's Bay. Each day of the race brought unique challenges, and none of them were easy. The mileage alone takes a serious toll on the body – Day 4 alone had athletes logging 80km.
Joining the ranks of competitors this year were numerous high-level athletes, such as teammates Courtney Atkinson and Kenny Wallace, both highly respected triathletes and competitive kayakers. But claiming the overall win were adventure racing legend Richard Ussher and teammate Braden Currie, who spent just one minute shy of 20 hours on the course, over 2.5 hours faster than their nearest competitors.
Competitors commented on the long kilometres over mixed-surface running trails as the biggest challenge. Says world-class kayaker Kenny Wallace, who is a little more used to using his arms: “No question about it, that run today absolutely buckled me. By the end of it I felt like a ragdoll, as [teammate] Courtney was dragging me along. Getting down the hill, there was so much rock, there really wasn’t much of a path.”
Of course, with Mark Webber's recent retirement from F1 racing, one has to wonder if he'll be back among the competitive ranks of his own multi-sport adventure race. Could Webber's focus and dedication to speed on the racetrack translate to the ability to put the pedal to the metal when the engine is his lungs? The world will find out if Webber lines up on the start line at next year's challenge. In the meantime, check out the website, and ask yourself – are you up for the challenge?
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