As soon as the Coast to Coast was finished up the focus was switched to Godzone. Looking back now I don’t think it was the best idea in the world to go all out and do both Coast to Coast and Godzone for the first time in the same year. The stress levels were high and there was many many trips to the shop for more and more gear and useful items. I thought I was all done and was finally heading out of town only to remember at the very last minute I had forgotten Potato Flakes! After the Southerly Storm (which I predicted ;)) rolled on through Kaikoura was looking pretty good weather wise for the week ahead.
Straight off the bat we were into kayaks on the sea shore, neither Nathan or I had any experience in a sea shore launch and immediately after getting into the water we realised that the rudder was locked up and we couldn’t unhook it from the water. Try as we did to stay in a straight line without a rudder was did a complete circle, and landed on shore again, but tipped out in the process. We tried to bail as much as we could and then got back in, this time unhooking the rudder. This little mishap had us in second last place right from the outset. Following the races marshal’s directions we negotiated our way through the rocks with the waves crashing all around us. Up in the top corner of the course, we just had one more rock to get around. Nathan was having touble steering the boat, and as we got closer to the turn around rock another rock covered in seaweed appeared between the swells. We tried in vain to avoid it but somehow we ended up right on top of it as the swell abated, then as is came back in the wash tiped both of us upside down and we found ourselves swimming alongside the boat.
Pretty much all the other boats had gone past us by this stage and we were left to fend for ourselves. In the commotion one of the bailers drifted away just out of reach. I chose to stay with the boat rather swimming for the bailer. As most of the field had gone through, the safety boats had also gone away. initially we felt wee needed to get away from the waves crashing into the rocks nearby which we were slowly drifting towards, and as we did that the boat was slowly filling with water. We tried to bail water out of the cockpits but with a cut ice cream container we were not having much luck especially with the waves coming and swamping the boat just as we thought we were getting somewhere. Eventually we had to get assistance and without another kayak to give us a hand the rescue boat was the next available option. Thankfully they came over and helped ensure we didn’t get swept into shore and emptied the boat out for us so we could get going again.
Once back in the boat it was a tad daunting trying to navigate and negotiate the remaining rocks knowing what had just happened to us. Eventually the effects of being in the seawater for 20mins or so were starting to make me pretty cold. I swallowed a reasonable amount of sea water too and the shock of it all was taking its toll. I started to shiver and was really keen to just get back on dry land. I was pretty relieved Once we had rounded the final mark that we could soon get off the sea, and start running to hopefully get some warmth back into me.
On shore and into the transition I became aware of actually how cold I was and be perfectly honest a bit shaken by the whole experience too. Nathan and I set out on a mission we had to get around the course and back before Amy and Dave else we were going to be way behind. As I pulled myself away from the beach I saw Chris and Stu on their way in from the Coasteering, to my surprise and shock I was unable to reply to Chris’s greeting as he came flying past in a hurry! It didn’t take too long to warm up, and by the time we were round and ready to jump into the sea again for the checkpoint swim. Racing around the headland we made some progress and were no longer completely last, in fact we had made up just enough time to meet Amy and Dave at the transition.
Once on the road it was nice to have put Kaikoura behind us and craziness of all that went on in the sea. It took me quite a while to settle down and we initially rode quite well as a team on the sealed road. Unfortunately the start of the gravel road we sort of started to splinter a bit and the team got a bit stretched out with a whole heap of teams going backwards and forwards it made keeping track of every a bit tricky. At the crucial point in the paddock however we didn’t stop and figure the map out, we just followed those that had been before us and I made a poor decision as a navigator to follow tracks rather than read the map. This slight deviation meant for a huge change of plan and plan b had to evolve into plan c which involved some bike carrying through some fairly dense beech forest in the dark.
Eventually we emerged gaining a few places in the process and making our way back up the ladder. Onto the steep downhill it was getting fairly late at night. After being up early for the maps and the planning I was starting to feel quite tired already. With the transition not too far away now and all the tough stuff behind us I had a brief lapse in concentration as we were coming down a steep part of the farm track….
After being pretty hard on my brakes behind Amy, I decided I should use gravity to its best advantage and let go a bit. I rounded the corner and almost immediately I found it steeper than before and suddenly I had lost control of the back wheel as the brakes had locked up. Letting go of the brakes I just built up more speed and now I was further out of control with the back wheel fishtailing all over the place. I was hoping I could ride it out, hitting a couple of big rocks on the way down, eventually I though just maybe a crash wasn’t imminent and maybe I could ride it out. Next thing I know I was in the air, I must have tucked my head hitting the right side of my helmet and then rolling down my right side to end up facing uphill in a ditch by the side of the track. As the dust settled I knew I had hit my head, but I also knew I hadn’t been knocked out. It took a bit to compose myself and a kind passerby (I think from the Epics) helped me up. I cant exactly remember how I got to the rest of my team, and then to the bottom of the hill but I was feeling pretty dazed and my vision had gone a little blurry along with a slight headache. Thankfully Dave managed to navigate us to the transition not problems and I think I assisted but I couldn’t be sure!
It wasn’t too long before we got into transition and I got checked out by the doctor who happened to be hanging around. I must have seemed fairly coherent and with it as the doctor thought I was all good to carry on… well with a concussion you need to stay awake anyway right? and we planned to go the whole night without sleep the first one.
The navigation on the first part of the trek was fairly straight forward and I let Dave keep a hold of the navigation while I settled myself a bit. It wasn’t too long though after some food and I was back on the horse. Dawn broke when we reached George saddle (almost half the trek behind Seagate already) and it was a long morning walk down the riverbed to the Clarence crossing. Almost already the sleepmonsters were with me, missing Jam hut and then incorrectly identifying a pile of sticks as a jet boat! Lucky for us there was a raft waiting for us to cross the muddy brown Clarence…I wasn’t looking forward to getting wet…