ANU Inward Bound 2014


ANU runs an annual competition between the residential colleges, where teams of 4 runners are blindfolded, driven around on buses then dumped in the bush somewhere. We take maps and compasses, figure out where we are (hopefully), then race 30-100km on foot to the “endpoint” (somewhere else in the bush). There are 7 divisions with 8 or 9 teams in each div, totalling around 250 runners plus heaps of volunteers and support, so it’s a logistical nightmare and pretty epic event. This event is student run, so mad props to the committee for getting a successful IB done in 2014.

The division 1 course seemed physically easy but navigationally difficult relative to past years. I think our route was a bit under 80km with about 2000m elevation gain. You can check out our route and all the other teams/divisions on the tracker website (we are Griffin Div 1). We started about 10km NW of Wee Jasper near a quarry, then finished at Cotter Dam.

I’ve made a little video using some footage from the last few hours of the race (figured it was ok to mess around with the camera once we were no longer busting our guts to race to the finish line).

Here’s a bit of a timeline:

Friday 1700 – scrutineering. Basically this is where we get our gear checked to ensure we have all the compulsory safety equipment and accessories required to make it through the race safely. One of the requirements is 200mL sunscreen for the team. We had a 110mL tube and an 85mL tube… awkward. The scrutineers were eventually satisfied after we assured them that every member of our 4 man team had pre-applied 1.25mL to our skin.

Bright eyes before the bus trip

Bright eyes before the bus trip – me, Dan, Jack and Tom

Friday 1800 – blindfolds on! We are blindfolded and board the buses that will be our home for the next few hours. We had mini buses this year which was more comfortable than usual and reduced the likelihood of rubbish banter with a big crowd of people. We were given a special envelope with an “extra compulsory map that you will need for the course tonight” and the speculation began. It ended up being a decoy map of Bateman’s Bay, just to mess with our heads.

Friday 2300 – blindfolds off! We get to see our course information for the first time and start looking for clues. The way private property works is that we can’t trespass, unless the property is listed on a “whitelist” of places where the committee has sought pre-approval from landholders. We were skimming through the whitelist and noticed “Brazier’s Mum’s house” on there – good one IB committee, that’s in Belconnen so not really going to help us!

Plotting endpoint and selecting possible locations

Plotting endpoint and selecting possible locations

We plotted the endpoint coordinates – Cotter Dam! However, the drop location was pretty tough and we couldn’t find many reliable clues to reveal where we were. We did find a mailbox for a homestead and treated this as our number 1 clue. My team headed off second behind Ursies (but in the wrong direction), hit a major road, realised where we were, and ran back through the starting point an hour later. It turned out that the mailbox wasn’t located AT the homestead, rather at the start of a 10km road that leads to the homestead… oops! This was a disappointing mistake and self-imposed handicap, but in hindsight I would probably make the same decision with that information – hopefully just realise the error a bit quicker next time.

Saturday 0000 – So we started in 9th position and began overtaking a few teams who had started in the right direction but were now trying to locate themselves exactly in the Wee Jasper quarry/forest. I guess there was a silver lining to our bad start – at least we could pinpoint our location. This was really important as there was really only one legitimate path to the east – all teams had to hit a small branch of the Hume + Hovell walking track. This was a fun technical downhill track to run in the wee hours of the morning with heavy packs!

Saturday 0300 – we got to the town of Wee Jasper in equal 3rd with Fenner (safe to say we have a little bit of a personal rivalry with them), while B+G and Johns were both a few hours ahead duking it out for 1st. Fenner decided to try a shortcut through the mountains, while we took the slightly longer but flatter road around (that should allow for faster running). I thought this was a cool experiment in pacing/route choice but it was a lot of effort to go to just to see the difference between the two routes!

Saturday 0500 – we were grinding out a pretty solid pace along Doctors Flat Rd for the first 50km or so, heading past Mountain Trails horse riding – one of our guys remembered this place from his high school adventures! I reckon this is the hardest time of the race as everyone feels a bit cold and sleepy. We just had to keep kicking on until the sun came up, that’s always a solid boost to morale.

Saturday 0700 – we had pushed pretty hard along Doctors Flat Rd and had about 25km to go, when some of the boys started cramping up and having a less than lovely time. So it kinda stopped being a race and became more of a “let’s survive and get to the finish”. However, the sun was coming up and our circadian rhythms were telling our brains to wake up, which helps a lot! At this point we got the gopro out and started doing some video logs, now that we were doing less try-hard racing.

Saturday 1100 – I got distracted doing videos and accidentally turned off early before Vanity’s Crossing over the final river, so we had to do a little bush bash for 200m or so (the cramp guys hated me for this). A painful little 5km shuffle from there to endpoint and we finished about 12:30pm, coming in 4th for division 1 (about 40mins behind Fenner, bummer!). B+G had finished around 10:30am, outrunning Johns comfortably in the end. Full results on the IB website.

Coming into the finish line

Coming into the finish line

Some teams didn’t finish until about 8pm on Saturday night, which is pretty crazy after being awake since Friday morning. It was generally a successful event though, with only a few teams out of around 60 having to pull out/get picked up in cars. There were some crazy stories floating around when we had our debrief the next day – it’s amazing to hear about some people finishing the event who sound like they had no idea what was going on the whole way through. If you ever have the chance to be involved with Inward Bound – it’s a unique and incredible experience. I’ll be back again next year if they’ll have me.

Gear: La Sportiva Helios – lightweight for efficiency and moderate grip/cushioning suitable for fire trails, single track or roads (you never know exactly what surface you will be running on in IB). I missed my little 12L Ultimate Direction race vest – instead had to use a 30L hiking pack to fit all the maps and compulsory gear, so much bulk! Conditions were perfect so most of the warm/dry gear stayed rolled up in the bottom of my pack.

Nutrition: Roughly every hour – 500mL water plus 60g home made powder mix (80% maltodextrin, 20% soy protein isolate, pinch electrolytes/flavouring). Some LCMs for morale and refills coming from dirty paddock/creek water treated with Aquatabs!

Next up is the Buffalo Stampede, this weekend! Not ideal for my racing calendar. I feel pretty good physically, but I’ve dropped from the 75km to the marathon – mentally I feel like it will be difficult to get psyched up again so soon, but we’ll see how it goes – sure to be fun regardless!


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