Alison Rennie tells TotalSUP about her 404 km Massive Murray tandem paddle with partner, Allistair Swinsco, which they completed in an amazing 47:40 hours and where they encountered daily temperature between 36-39 degrees (°C).
Why the Massive Murray Marathon?
It was on our bucket list, and after a few hiccups last year the 404km Massive Murray Marathon jumped out at us, it ticked all the boxes, it was a challenge, a decent distance & somewhere warm – we just had to make it happen (but it meant us missing the Nautic Paris SUP Crossing).
Give us an introduction to your race
We arrived in Yarrawonga on November 18th, a Saturday after 4 flights, 2 bus trips, a train journey and a lift. We met up with our support, Sally who had driven over from Adelaide, and set up camp. We had a full day to relax, meet the organisers, other competitors and get our kit together for the 6.30am deadline on Monday! Then the nerves started kicking in!
We registered on Sunday, the safety briefing was one of the shortest ever, take care on the water there are a lot of snags (trees and drift-wood) & if you are on land and you get bitten, assume it’s going to kill you!! In the run up to the event the organisers had been brilliant with safety updates, plans and information so everything had already been covered.
I admit I never believed we could do something this big, the furthest I had ever paddled in one go was 57 kms, however it never occurred to Allistair that we wouldn’t complete it! We were paddling the RedPaddleCo Voyager Tandem that red loaned us for the race. This race was going to take team work!
Can you talk us through each day?
Day 1, Yarrawonga to Tocumwal 93 km
There were 3 starts, as this is generally a canoe & kayak race, the SUPs were in the 1st wave at 7am.
Not sure what got us through that day, or should I say got me through! I didn’t set out thinking we had 93 km to paddle, it was always just 26 km to the next checkpoint, or twice across Lake Windermere (UK lake), this was how we ended up measuring distances lol, but we got there 10 hours 44 minutes later, with an average speed of 8.9 kph and we were extremely happy.
Day 2, Tocumwal to Picnic Point 94 km
Day 2 I felt was harder, but once we got into a rhythm the beautiful scenery passed us by and the miles went in. The river was always interesting with so many twists and turns and loads of snags in the water, so there was no time to get bored! We came to quite a fast flowing corner and there was a 2 seater kayak that had capsized, they were struggling to reach the bank. We towed them back upstream against the current onto the beach and made sure they were ok before we continued on our way, feeling glad we could help.
To say the sun was hot was an understatement (it reached 39 degrees at times) it felt like my skin was burning from my arms, the only way to cool down was to either pour river water over myself or to take a dunk in the water. We made good time and reached the last checkpoint just before 3pm, we were totally surprised to be told we had missed the cut off time and we would have to leave the water and finish the race there! Gutted, we pulled the board from the water. Whilst unloading the board we discussed this with the officials, with the help of all the other teams support and a persuasive Sally, we managed to get the go ahead to get back on the water and go for the finish! After all we had just done 70 km, and we only had just over 20 to go, I have never been so determined to make a finish on time, we arrived at Picnic Point with 2 minutes to spare!!
Day 3, Picnic Point to Echuca 78km
The starts were always a little hectic, this day was no different, not surprising with about 40 crafts of various sizes in our wave all setting off at the same time. But within half an hour everyone had settled and spread out. The 1st 3 hours of every day was amazing and beautiful, the sun was low in the sky and it was a lovely temperature the scenery was stunning. Finishing at Echuca by the paddle steamers felt good, we had broken the back of the Massive Murray (and my back was still fairly intact).
Day 4, Echuca to Torrumbarry 62 km
A short day at only 62 km, I felt confident, how wrong I was! This was the only day where we had a few long straight paddles, and there was also a northerly wind, it seemed to be twisting and turning all the way and against us! I have never paddled so hard, at times it felt like we were going backwards. On day 4 I cried (quietly so Allistair didn’t hear me) but we finished. That day more than ever I was glad to have my amazing Allistair who is so determined and stubborn to help me through it. There is definitely something to be said for being part of a team.
Our campsite that night was at the Murrabit football oval and with a meal organised by them (giving Sally a night off from cooking for us all), we had chance to catch up and socialise with some of the other paddlers and support crews and we allowed ourselves a well-earned beer/glass of wine or two!
Day 5, Murrabit to Swan Hill 77 km – Final Day
Mixed feelings at the start of that morning, so glad to make it that far but it was the last day! What a totally amazing week. I have never felt more welcome, everyday every one had been so lovely. Everyone that had spoken to us (normally as they passed us) gave us so much support and encouragement, their support really does bring a tear to my eye when I think back, this is my main memory from this race, the friendliest people of all ages, from all walks of life and I would like to say a massive thank you to them all, it definitely helped.
How was the support network?
We want thank all who sponsored us and donated to our 2 charities, they raised £1078 for the Great North Air Ambulance service and $694.31 for Red Dust Role Models. Donations which helped motivate us to complete the race.
Royal Brunei Airlines who we had flown with a few times before very kindly stepped in to help us out and thanks to their generosity team #BetterflyRoyalBrunei was born and the race was on, without their help this could not be possible.
Thanks also to Joanne Hamilton Vale (who also completed in an amazing 42:03 hours) and her husband Pete for putting us up before the race and getting us to the start. Sally, who had no idea what she was getting herself into, was our amazing support. Shannon and crew, this is an amazing race and your organisation, inclusion and support for us SUPs was very much appreciated.