A legend in his own backyard (and mine), Grant Guise, a Kiwi runner of standard stock recently made the trip over to our fair island to take up the challenge of the Wild Goose Chase over in Western Australia. And when he offered to pen a few words based upon his experiences, who was I to turn him down. Here’s Grant lowdown of what went on this weekend just gone, which for those of you tat like a challenge, certainly sounds as though you would get one.
If I had expectations for the weekend away in the Avon Valley National Park, in Western Australia, they would have been blown away! Long ago I stopped going into trips and events like this with expectations, preferring to simply embrace the experience. It turns out the first thing I embraced was a bear hug from the event director Shaun Kaesler, just before he handed me a Fat Yak.
The setting was like the Great Naseby Water Race and Northburn 100 base areas’ had a love child, that, somehow, was covered in Blue Gum trees. The camping facilities in the Avon Valley are impressive leveled out spots, fire pits, bathrooms and large shelters. But this was not going to cut it for Shaun and his team, so BBQs, couches, hot showers and a catering ten were all set up. Add a little Jimmy Barnes over the speaker system, a cold bevvie (there was a fridge) and the sunset through those blue gums the Wild Goose Chase event had already delivered, and it hadn’t even started yet!
For the precious types, such as myself, the event had a “Glamping” option (if the hot showers were not enough!!). We arrived to tents already set up, double beds, blankets, pillows, towels, the works! Certainly not my usual style when camping, but traveling from New Zealand and NOT having to bring a single thing for staying 3 nights in the Australian bush was convenient and made the trip a lot easier.
The Wild Goose Chase is a 3 day event 18km on the Friday, 45km or 106km on the Saturday and 22km or 53km on the Sunday. You can line up in anyone of these, or combo it up in either the “Loose Goose” (18, 45, 22km races) or the “Duck’s Nuts” (18, 106, 55km).
As I mentioned above, I am a little precious, so I opted to “only” do the 106k race. I generally hate when people say “oh, I am only doing……distance” at races with multiple options, but here I took great pleasure in saying “only 106k”. I didn’t know too much about the race going into it honestly I was excited to experience a new event and figured the less I knew, the richer the experience would be, so I did little research. From what little I did do, I just assumed the Avon Valley and the race to be some easy, rolling fire roads, with the odd steeper section…
Yeah, I should have done some homework. Around 40km into the race, I told fellow Kiwi Logan Vicker, that pre race I was guessing it would be around 10-11hrs, but had certainly readjusted that time goal to 12-13hrs! While the rolling fire roads were plentiful, the rolls were steep, often walking steep. And then there were the trails, or lack of trails. Overgrown, off camber, steep and rocky, it was as if Terry Davies or Sean Greenhill had popped in for some cameo course setting. But no, this was all the doing of the lovable event director Shaun (seriously, what’s not to love about a guy that makes you breakfast on a BBQ, spatula in one hand, beer in the other). And if Shaun wasn’t to take the praise (or the fall?) for the gnaw, then his righthand man, Dave Giles would be just as guilty. Dave, having just won the Downunder 135 and finished three 200 mile races in the US last year has a healthy appreciation for a trail less travelled.
This terrain is much to my liking and made for a nice surprise. I started to find a sort of rhythm, whether it was on those steep, short ‘grindy’ climbs; fast flowing single track; or the fun off trail adventure stuff. I have always appreciated a course that requires a wide range of skills, whether it be grinding a steep uphill, dancing over technical terrain, bombing quad busting descents, or rolling out sub 5min/km in the dark, 100km deep into a race. I am certainly a master of none, but I did get to work on those skill sets as a whole over the weekend!
Well, I should say over a day, as unlike most at the Wild Goose Chase I was not doing one of the 3-day events. This was great at it allowed for a late afternoon beer on the Friday and a sleep in on the Sunday, I honestly don’t know how Felix, Wayne and the rest of the crazies got on and got after it to do another 53km on Sunday.
The western side of the West Island is a bloody long way from the Mainland, heck, it’s even a long way from the Eastern States of the West Island. But Shaun and his crew make the trip out for the Wild Goose well worth while! The course marking, aid stations and volunteers were all great and as stated above, the Wild Goose Village is amazing. It makes for the perfect race hub and a place to hang out and embrace the thriving Western Australian ultra-scene.
Post race, when Shaun asked about what I thought of the course I gave him a few comparisons, that might be worth sharing, to help give an idea of the 106km race (hint, it’s hard!) Below is comparison of similar distance races I have done, year included as there have been a few course changes.
- 106km Wild Goose Chase- 12hr36
- UTA 100km (2017 course) 10hr06
- Ultra Easy 100km (2016)- 11hr28
- Canadian Death Race 125km (2012)- 13hr27
- Tarawera Ultra 100km (2011) 9hr08