10 Years In Review

Race Director's memories of the last 10 years...

Over the last 10 years the Lorne Adventure Race has continually provided rewarding adventure challenges in the pristine Otway environment around Lorne. Looking back over the years it seems that just about everyone has tackled the celebrated courses at Lorne, from Olympic gold medallists and TV celebrities through to first timers and juniors who were still in nappies back when it all started in 2005.

The course has been tweaked and refined over the years to provide the best possible adventure for participants at the front right through to the back. We’ve had our winners and our losers, hot years and wet years, good years and great years… with plenty of adventures delivered from start to finish

Jotted down below are a few ‘Race Director’s Memories’ of the adventures we’ve all shared at Lorne. So grab a coffee and sit down for some great reminiscing, either read the whole thing or skip a year or two with these links:

  1. 2005 - When it all began
  2. 2006 - The Series kicks off
  3. 2007 - Picture perfect
  4. 2008 - The Kiwis start their dominance
  5. 2009 - Competition is hotting up
  6. 2010 - Junior Survivor shine
  7. 2011 - The stormy year we'd rather forget
  8. 2012 - Hello MINI adventure race goodbye Anaconda
  9. 2013 - Welcome to the Lorne Adventure Fest
  10. 2014 - The 10th edition of an iconic race

(If you’ve done a few races at Lorne over the years then we also welcome your account of the how things unfolded. Send your stories to [email protected])

2005 – When it all began

The Anaconda Adventure Race at Lorne was the first race the newly formed Rapid Ascent had ever conducted – and boy did we have a lot to learn! In fact the race at Lorne was only ever planned as a ‘training event’ for the longer five-day Keen Adventure Race that we were working on. But with its instant popularity it soon became front and centre of what we do.

The entries in that first race were higher than we’d ever expected with 835 competitors lining up to tackle this new adventure race down on the surf coast. Although we’d competed in a few races ourselves we’d never been on the other side and in the words of Race Director John Jacoby, “it was chaos from start to finish!” Everyone got around safely (enough) and enjoyed themselves but we felt like swimming ducks with legs running frantically behind the scenes to pull it off.

The race started with all swimmers in the water for a deep water start and Anaconda Man jumping off the pier to signal the get-go. The swim back then was a shorter 1.2km course, equal to the Pier to the Pub swim, and set competitors up for some fast times – in fact the race winners times from 2005 have never been beaten. The MTB leg was a bit shorter at just 15.4km whilst the final beach run was a massive 2.8km from Stoney Creek through to Lorne.

At the end of the day it was Jody Zerbst from the Gold Coast who won in 3hr27.34, ahead of Guy Andrews and a young Jarad Kohlar. Whilst local Jan Juc lady Wendy Wilson won the women’s individual race in an unbeaten time of 4hr19.36, ahead of Rosi King and Delyth Lloyd.

2006 – The series kicks off

By the time the secondevent came around Rapid Ascent had generated a bit of experience by running an equivalent Anaconda Adventure Race on the Gold Coast and also one Dunsborough in WA, The Anaconda Adventure Race National Series was up and going!

2006 brought roasting heat with a 35 degree day and a sky full of smoke due to the bushfires raging in Gippsland. This made it hard going for everyone. In many people’s eyes, the 2006 course (and 2007) were the classic Lorne adventure courses, where kayakers paddled from Lorne to the Cumberland River beach and the run leg ran up the Cumberland Valley, over Castle Hill and down into the Sheoke River valley before the far more technical coastal section from there around to Lorne. This was the start of the classic days.

Entry numbers were growing and included Mr Stuart Tripp, an amputee who did the swim leg as part of a team and which saw his team mates create a chariot to push/pull him along the beach to complete the team run together – a mighty effort from everyone involved.

Winners at the end of the day were Jarad Kohlar in 3hr53.32 ahead of Richard Ussher and Guy Andrews – one of Jarad’s finest ever victories. Whilst in the women, Karla Gilbert (4hr49.18) finally got one up on Christie Sym (4hr51.26) after a lot of closer racing between them earlier in the series, with third place going to Kim Beckinsale.



2007 – Picture perfect

We were starting to get into the rhythm of things in 2007 and entry numbers were still growing with 1137 competitors taking part in the action on Sunday’s race day.

Lorne and the spectacular Loutit Bay were at their picture perfect best with a warm sun shining and the sea an iridescent blue with small shore break to keep things interesting when paddlers came into Cumberland River. In fact we tried to extend the swim leg in 2007 so that you’d swim across the bay and then up the Erskine River to the bridge in an attempt to add a bit of adventure but after testing it at a couple of course familiarisation days we then learnt that the E.coli levels in the river were a bit too high for swimming – so if you got sick after a training session in the river we apologise!

I also remember the excitement of a helicopter flying at arm’s length from a lot of competitors during that race and seeing the pilot swing his landing skids just inches from the water at sea level.

By now the MTB course sent riders to the top of the Benwerrin climb and screaming down the Reedy Creek Track descent into the transition area at Stoney Creek. 64km/hr was the fastest speed recorded on that flying descent – on a mountain bike over water jumps!

Ben Allen from Wollongong took the honours in 4hr02.08 ahead of a career best performance from Glen ‘The Bull’ Kirby and Jarad Kohlar. Meanwhile Deanne Blegg started her winning streak with a gutsy race to finish in 4hr45.01 ahead of Kim Beckinsale and Naantali Marshall.



2008 – The Kiwis start their dominance

For the last 3 years we’d enjoyed some magnificent racing weather at Lorne with a generally flat sea and easy water conditions, but all that changed on Sunday morning 2008 when we woke up to a strong south westerly and rough ocean beyond the protection of Point Gray. So with our hearts in our mouths we were forced to change the course on race morning and get the message out to all volunteers and competitors that we were going with Plan B – a lap paddle in Loutit Bay.

Little were we to know that Plan B would actually be the most popular course change we’d ever make and it’d set the event up for some great racing in the following years – because the Plan B course meant all the transition areas were on the Lorne foreshore. No longer did support crews and team mates have to drive around to Cumberland River and battle for parking whilst racing their team mate on the water. Now you could sit on the beach at Lorne all day and watch the racing unfold in front of you. It remains that way today.

2008 also signalled the start of the kiwis success at the race with Richard Ussher cruising to an easy victory in 4hr13.21 ahead of Jarad Kohlar and Tristan Read. It was also the year that we went international with the Anaconda Adventure Race International Series including a race in Waihi in New Zealand along with Forster NSW, Gold Coast QLD and Dunsborough WA. We also added the Anaconda Junior Survivor to the program of events which saw 460 kids tackle their own off-road obstacle course.

Deanne Blegg continued her dominance of the women’s race scene with a strong victory in 5hr11.12 over Christie Sym and Wendy Wilson (the inaugural event winner).

2009 – Competition is hotting up

Coming into 2009 we listened to the feedback we’d received after the course change in 2008 and went ahead with all transition areas being located on the Lorne Foreshore from go-to-wo. The weather turned it on and we had some great racing on our hands in perfect conditions.

With the race turning 5 years old and a number of other multisport races on the calendar it meant that competitors were getting better and faster. There was greater depth in the race field and some competitors were even trying to tackle the sport professionally. Gear was coming on too - ocean racing surf skis dominated the beach, hard take 29er MTBs were the rule of thumb for the elite and everyone was getting well and truly ‘into it’.

2009 in particular saw some great racing in both the men’s and women’s categories with a series long tussle between Geelong boy Grant Suckling and Sean ‘Mr Nice Guy’ O’Neil from Scarborough in WA. These two had chased each other’s tail all year but Lorne was the first time that Grant got the one up and stormed to the finish to a rousing victory on home shores in a time of 3hr57.32 ahead of Sean O’Neil and Chad Meek from Mansfield.

The women’s racing was equally well contested with mere second separating some places after more than 5hrs of racing. For the first time in the event’s history a 40+ year old won the race with Kim Beckinsale finally capturing the race win (after 5 attempts) in 5hr04.22 ahead of Skye Taylor and Peri Gray.

2010 – Junior Survivors shine

The weekend at Lorne has always been a family affair with car load upon car load of families fully laden with race gear, kids and support crews making their base in Lorne for the weekend – and this is part of the joy of the Anaconda Adventure Race at Lorne. We have always made a specific effort to welcome everyone to the race at Lorne with kids’ entertainment and activities a crucial part of the race. And the Anaconda Junior Survivor is integral to this family feel.

Now in its 3rd year the 2010 Junior Survivor challenge attracted nearly 600 kids aged up to 13 years, and every single one of them made their way around the course with a smile from ear to ear. The aim of the Junior Survivor has always been to get kids outdoors and illustrate how much fun you can have outside away from the couch and the TV. Anyone who has watched the kids run down the finish chute couldn’t help but see the smiles of absolute joy on their faces and would have to agree that this is a priceless event. 2010 was another mega year for junior survivors and had helped inspire hundreds of kids to get into the outdoors.

Meanwhile the main race also went off without a hitch and saw Deanna Blegg achieve her 3rd race win in a time of 4hr46.37 – the only person to win the race 3 times. And not only did she win the women’s individual race but she placed an incredible 18th amongst all individual competitors male and female. The second lady was Peri Gray and third was Kim Beckinsale.

The men’s race was dominated by local legend Grant Suckling in a time of 4hr03.58 becoming the first male to win it twice (ahead of Jarad Kohlar and Guy Andrews).


2011 – The stormy year we’d rather forget

Lorne is a true jewel in the crown that is the Great Ocean Road and the Loutit Bay is protected from most prevailing weather conditions – except when the wind is from the east, as it was in 2011.

The swim leg was completed without major concern (due to the tail wind and following swell) but things did truly get interesting when the paddlers hit the water. Although we went ahead with a revised paddle course featuring two smaller laps inside Loutit Bay this was still pretty tough and knocked a few competitors for six. If the water conditions were one thing, the fact that the North Lorne turn buoy lost its mooring and drifted onto the rocks also did not help – especially since some competitors risked life and limb still trying to paddle around it just metres from the rocks! The water safety team did an incredible job and advised all paddlers to cut their second lap short and head to shore before any major injuries were encountered.

The rest of the race was completed without incident or delay (thank goodness) and despite the compromised paddle course, the cream still rose to the top with two incredible athletes taking the top honours – both being from overseas.

Myriam Guillot won the women’s – but only just – in a time of 4hrs42.12, less than 2 mins ahead of Peri Gray who was just 12seconds ahead of Naantali Marshal in third. Super close.

The men’s saw two kiwis battle it out for the victory with Richard Ussher finally getting up on Braden Currie in a time of 3hr52.52, with Sean O’Neil in third.



2012 - Hello Mini Adventure race and Goodbye Anaconda

One of the key objectives of the Adventure Race at Lorne is to grow the sport of adventure racing and allow as many people as possible to experience the wilderness, the challenge, the thrill and the reward that competing in events like these delivers. So in order to allow even more people to catch the adventure racing bug we added the MINI adventure race to the schedule of events in 2012.

The MINI is a half distance race that includes the same disciplines as the ‘premier race’ but is half the length, allowing those with less time to train and new-comers - especially women - who might be tackling something like this for the first time the chance to get in on the off-road action. The MINI was an instant success with 250 competitors testing themselves on the fun little course on Saturday afternoon.

We also said goodbye to our naming rights sponsor Anaconda after the 2012 event following an eight-year relationship. We owe a lot to Anaconda and appreciate the significant contribution they made to adventure racing over that time. They helped and encouraged us to establish a national series and to take adventure racing from a grass roots sport for super-freaks into the mainstream.

The racing in 2012 was as competitive as ever with another couple of internationals taking the top honours on a new course that included a shorter (but steeper) MTB course up 5 mile track. Male winner was Braden Currie (again) in 3hr31.26 ahead of Jarad Kohlar and James Pretto; with the women’s field being led out by Myriam Guillot (again) in 4hr20.21 ahead of Deanne Blegg and Elizabeth Dornom.



2013 – Welcome to the Lorne Adventure Fest

We’re all trying to get used to not calling it ‘The Anaconda’ but otherwise the Lorne Adventure Fest is the same as ever with strong numbers, a friendly atmosphere and a great weekend for all.

A strong south westerly wind called for a new paddle course on race day resulting in a new change for the best that will be carried into the new course in 2014 – being a long out and back paddle to the North that allowed paddlers to surf the swell in a long ‘down-wind’ section, before sneaking back in-shore to get back to the transition area. Plenty of paddlers were smiling from ear to ear.

One particularly happy competitor was our women’s race winner – Peri Gray. Having first tackled the event in 2009 she had stood on the podium no less than 3 times but never on the top rung. Well 2013 was Peri’s year: after a lot of hard work, persistence and training on the course just about every weekend she finally got there, winning the women’s race in a time of 4hr44.21 ahead of Bernadette Dornom and Elizabeth Dornom.

Braden Currie continued his winning streak – he is the Multisport World Champion after all – winning in 3hr39.35 ahead of Jarad Kohlar and Paul Patrick (another 40+ who belies his age).



2014 – the 10th edition of an iconic race.

Ah the weather strikes again… we rolled into the 2014 with the best of intentions, planning to conduct the Mini and Junior Survivor on Saturday and the long course race in Sunday but the weather god had different plans.

With a howling Easterly wind and large swell forecast for Sunday we made a last minute change to bring the long course adventure race forward and conduct it on Saturday at the same time as the mini. Ouch, this caused a lot of leg work to change plans and ensure that all competitors were aware of the changes, with roughly 70% of competitors able to re-arrange their plans and still compete on Saturday.

The weather on Saturday was still a little ‘interesting’ but the water legs were completed safely and the rest of the races went off without a hitch. In fact the foreshore was pumping with competitors in the Mini and Adventure Race coming through together and high fiving each other down the finish chute.

One competitor who was certainly offering plenty of high fives was Naantali Marshal who won the female long course in a time of 4hr47.15. This mother of 2 has tackled this race on numerous occasions with many podium finishes but never secured the top stop until today. Her smile was the broadest of any winner over the past 10 years of the race.

The mens long course was once again dominated by Braden Currie who completed the wind affected course in a time of 3hr48.11.

The final smiles of the weekend was from Rapid Ascent directors Sam and John when they saw the wild wind and weather the ocean delivered on Sunday morning – meaning that it was worth rescheduling the race after all.


We thank everyone who has ever competed in, support crewed or watched from the side lines at any of the Lorne Adventure Races… it has been one hell of a journey over the last 10 years that we've all enjoyed through and through.