By Luke Keddie - August 2023
Hells Bells 24 hour Adventure Race
Biggest event I’ve done yet! I'm so am proud of this one.
Sean Lynch and I took on the Hells Bells 24 hour Adventure Race this weekend at the Sunshine Coast as a 2 person team. We did the shorter version of this last year and were challenging ourselves to step up to the main race.
In the week leading up to the race we were given the logistics plan and the gear list - enough gear to fill a table.
The start line was at Cotton Tree, so we spent the week trying to guess what the route would be - would we be Kayaking up river or in the ocean, climbing Mt Coolum or be hiking Kondallila? Our guesses were no where near it!
We got the maps on Saturday at 8:30am and the race started for us at 12pm with a swim/float across the mouth of the Maroochy river, PFD’s on and carrying full packs, shoes and gear enough for 8 hours. We managed to quickly collect all 3 checkpoints and because the tide was going out and we didn’t run into any bull sharks, luckily this was a quick 45 mins and an easy leg.
The next leg was a 1.5 hour run along the beach from Maroochy to Coolum and then inland past the base of the mountain (not over it thankfully) then out to the Maroochy River. We decided to dry off and get into full running gear instead of travelling wet so were one of the last teams to start the leg. We managed to pass dozens of teams not up for pushing the pace on the sand - collected all the checkpoints and arrived at the transition area for the Kayaks. This was our fastest leg, things got harder from here.
'Into the river - Kayaking is hard work!'
Two hours of paddling up river into the setting sun got us to the next transition area freezing cold and desperate for a change of clothes and a change of activity.
Dry clothes on we started the hike up to the summit of Mount Ninderry - however 3/4 of the way up, the hunt for ‘pro’ checkpoints sent us all the way to the very bottom before sending us back up to the summit. This detour alone was 2 hours of hiking and was just brutal vert. I might have been hallucinating but I’m sure we saw a team with a school age kid doing this section - crazy impressive.
The trek down the other side saw us at last get to the mountain bike section. We flew downhill on the bitumen roads and were thoroughly enjoying the change of pace until it started to pour with rain. Memories of last year where the MTB tracks were peanut butter slush returned, but while the tracks in the Eumundi State Forest were bad - they were passable to our relief. Three or four hours later after some excellent navigation by Sean we were done and had found all the checkpoints including some that were 500 metres or more off track in the scrub. We were very happy at this point.
Then we hit Wappa for a short 8km leg with 180m vert… allegedly. This section was rough for everybody. The first checkpoint was at the top of mount Wappa which doesn’t have any tracks to the summit and is a hands and knees crawl over wet rocks to reach the top. Four hours, 15km and probably 800m of vertical gain later we left Wappa in the early hours of the morning - all checkpoints found.
Back on the bikes
A downhill start which saw us ride the trail in 7 minutes what we slogged up in 45 minutes hiking was revitalising and soon we were in the Parklands MTB park. We collected 2 of 5 checkpoints here but because it was 8am Sunday morning, there were scores of people on the trails and it wasn’t really possible to leave our bikes on the single trail and hunt for checkpoints so we abandoned 3 checkpoints for a time penalty and rode to Nambour Showgrounds.
This was where where our beloved kayaks were waiting for us to paddle up Petrie Creek back to the Maroochy river, all 14 kms of it.
The upper reaches of Petrie creek was an adventure in its own right. There was recent flood debris so a lot of snags to navigate around - even the odd tractor to avoid! The water was shallow too and countless times we bottomed out and had to get out and carry the kayak until we got to a deeper section. Three hours of paddling against the current and into the breeze, and with it raining heavy on and off the spirits were at their lowest, but as this was nearly the end. We just pushed through and ignored the cramping muscles and other suffering.
It was midday when we dumped the kayaks and with the sun behind a cloud, we were shivering wrecks as we hobbled through a farmers market and onto the Maroochy river bike path for a ‘cruisey’ 5km park run to the finish line.
In the end we crossed the line at 1:19pm, a little over 25 hours after starting and travelling roughly 135kms! We collected 46 of 49 checkpoints - finding every one we looked for - and finished 11th in our category. Hells Bells 24 hour Adventure Race is definitely an adventure!
Super proud of us and how we went in such a difficult and challenging race. It was a great event. Once I finish resting and healing up I will start looking for the next adventure if anyone is keen to join me!
Thanks to Kate Keddie and and the girls for putting up with the training and probably the worry such stupid things bring with it. Thanks to Jamie Hunter and Run Vault Performance for helping me get prepared and ready for this kind of challenge, also Run Vault for last minute gear and nutrition. Thanks to all of you for being my friends who support me along the way!
These races are great fun, and because it’s a team thing it’s even better!
Official Results HERE
Run Vault Performance offer customised training plans for all kinds of adventures. Road and trail running, obstacle course racing, triathlon, mountaineering and adventure racing. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your next goal and challenge.