Challenging one’s Diemens

By Patrick Kinsella 30 November 2013
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Pat is battered and beaming after taking on the Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge.

IT’S THE DAY AFTER the week that’s just happened, and while the words of organisers and lead athletes who took part in the Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge are still ringing in my ears from the wrap-up party – where they universally thanked the F1 star for his vision in setting up the event – I feel as though the Red Bull driver has just run me over in his Renault. Repeatedly.

While my legs are no longer talking to me, however, my brain is all sorts of excited, and given half a chance (plus half a Tasmanian beer) I seem to have put myself in the distinctly dangerous position of offering – possibly even pleading – for the chance to do it all again next year. Truth be told, I’d do it again next week if I could.

The last five days have been a frenetic flurry of mountain biking, trail running, ocean paddling, whitewater kayaking, open-water swimming, orienteering, climbing, abseiling and Olympic-standard swearing. It’s been one of the toughest challenges I’ve ever faced in the line of duty, and I’ve bloody loved it.

With beer in my belly and a proper night’s sleep in the bank, it all seems rather dislocated from reality as I go back through the mental highlights reel – but the chaffing and muscle soreness soon reassure me that it did indeed all happen. 

In a whistle-stop tour of the most stunning parts of Tasmania – starting in Freycinet and finishing in Hobart, via the Tasman Peninsula, Bruny Island and the Hartz Mountains – we have just copped a serious eyeful of just how adventurous Tasmania can get if you’re prepared to let her.

The race attracted some of Australia’s top adventure athletes, such Jarad Kohlar, Guy Andrews and mark Padgett, but there were other familiar faces on the starting line too. Mark Webber himself raced the first day (before having to leave for F1 commitments in Europe and India), and Red Bull V8 Supercar driver Rick Kelly raced the entire event alongside team mate Ryan Sandes, an internationally renowned ultra runner. Former footy hardman Glenn Archer took part in the three-day event… and then there was us.

Twenty-five teams of two started the full five-day event, with an additional 17 joining the fray for the three- and one-day stages later in the week. I’d never met my race partner, Bruce, before kick off, but now he feels like a brother to me. When you spend nine hours a day racing your socks off with a stranger in super challenging wilderness conditions, that’s what happens. (Well, either that or one of you gets buried in the bush.)

Together we’ve paddled around the Totem Pole, been serenaded by seals and danced across the waves with dolphins. We’ve punched our way up peaks, bounded down sheer rock faces, soared above old growth rainforest and sped through woodland trails.

Admittedly, as a group, we’ve also jumped over snakes, picked leeches from under our eyes, turned arseways-up in a waterfall, flown over handlebars and become hopelessly lost in the bush – but that’s part of what everyone signed up for. Even the lad who crashed head-on into a logging truck. But that’s another story… a story you can read in an upcoming edition of Australian Geographic Adventure.