This year I decided to ditch the Canterbury Champs for about the first time in 10 years (sounding like and old hand at orienteering!) in favour of this Adventure race. I knew it was time to do something different and I knew the Canterbury Champs will be around next year so my team mates and I gave this race a crack. It was the first time racing together and for some of us the first and longest adventure race to date, so there was a lot of unknowns going into it.
Friday morning, Dave, Nathan and I headed down to Bannockburn near Cromwell where we met Jess, and got our gear ready. I little bit of time was spent planning after the briefing at 7:30pm, more gear flaffing and just enough time for an attempt at sleep before getting up again for the midnight start. I was almost on the point of sleeping when the alarm went to get up, but once up, even after only a short lie down I was rearing to go.
The race started with a Mountain biking section, and the bunch took off at a great rate of knots. The gradual uphill meant that the teams got strung out pretty quick, leaving us in a comfortable position near the front. Part way to the first control we even managed to nudge ahead of Seagate who were dealing with a puncture. I pulled up too short on the first control, worried that I was going to overshoot, but it was quickly sorted. It was quite a nice climb, semi-technical in parts and a real grunt. We powered ahead and came into transition in 4th place…although not before I hit the deck within site of the transition. While glancing down at the map for a second I did not notice the wheel rut I was riding in was quickly getting quite rounded and before I had time to think it was too late and over the handlebars I went…
The trekking section on top of the old woman range was fairly straight forward but travel across rough ground to take the straight line didn’t quite work out for my team as I would have hoped. There was also some confusion about what we were actually looking for at the hut too and in the results although we have not been credited with being there we were most definitely there and just couldn’t find the correct tag. Disaster struck me part way through the decent into the last control as I started to cut across country my second battery for my headlamp went flat. This meant that I had no light and Dave had to take over the navigating. We got to the control eventually but after getting back to transition it was clear we had lost some time with a few teams making some ground on us. As we started to leave the transition I also discovered I had a puncture, and lost more time fixing it, although it was a pretty quick turn around.
After getting back on the bikes it was eventually starting to get light which helped a lot on the descent for me with minimal light… I struggled midway through the bike as the sun came up, but having the map back helped me get back into the game a bit and we gained considerable ground in the later stages of the bike section with some tidy navigation.
To get to the kayaks it was back onto the bikes, and down to the river for some paddling. We had two double kayaks, the same as what they use in Godzone. The first short section of paddling was down to the Abseiling beach. On our arrival we had to make a quick exit from the boats as there was limited harnesses available for the abseil. With almost perfect timing we managed to get the abseil done and back into the boats just ahead of Tim’s team. I have to admit although it wasn’t that high I was a little scared by the abseil but once at the bottom a little bit disappointed I didn’t look down while making my way down! Back into the kayaks I was feeling much more comfortable and Dave and I got into a good rhythm with the paddling. We made some good progress down stream but coming back up against the current the timing became more difficult and both of us were getting tired. We almost lost Jess and Nathan at one point where we managed to slide across the current, and they got turned around and drifted down stream a bit. It was a real grind upstream to the top control and a quick drift back down leaving us still neck and neck with Tim’s team going into the trek.
Tim’s team headed out in a hurry and I thought it we were able to keep it close maybe they would have a blow out by trying to go too hard. Unfortunately we were not quite speedy enough to match their pace and they gained a solid time advantage over us. The climb to the top of the course was horrendous, steep and tough, but we all made it to the top. As we all began to get tired, the lack of water was starting to slow us down a bit, and the teams ahead of us just out of sight were having a negative effect on our moral. The climbing seemed to suit us to a point however and eventually the lead to the team just in front of us appeared to get a bit smaller. We pushed hard downhill to catch them up but they just seemed to have another gear downhill. Moral was a bit low by the time we were on the home stretch and the pace had slowed to a walk but with noone else insight behind us there was no point in pushing hard.
We finished up just over 19hrs, around about 5th place (8th officially as we got the Old woman hut code wrong), Seagate took out the win as expected but they had a tough day out too, taking 15hours to complete the course. We definitely learned some lessons and gained a huge amount of experience during the race. There is heaps we can improve on but in saying that we had a fairly good race as it was with no huge dramas other than my puncture, 3 crashes on the bikes, and my headlamp issues. Near the end downhill I was feeling stronger than the others and in hind sight I should have taken some of the weight of the others who were struggling through the rough stuff where I corrected a slight navigational error… Anyway a great race, and a great day out!