Sneaking around with the Weasels

For the third year in a row I found myself heading down to the Southern Lakes 24hour race. Its a good little(?) 24 hour race, pretty low key but really high quality and especially good value for money! Once again I was in a different team, roped into the Sneaky Weasel Gang as a replacement for Mitch’s brother who is still overseas. Its a long way down to Cromwell from Christchurch but it was and is definitely worth the trip.

Third time around at this race and I was prepared, with all my gear packed(including my food for once!!) prior to even arriving, so it was even more pleasing to find out that the maps were pre-printed this year… there was a thought for a moment we might actually get some sleep before the midnight race start! But as it does time evaporated rapidly and before I knew it it was 10:30, just enough to get a quick 40-50min sleep in.

Waking up, all set to go at 11:30pm is an odd experience, the sleep was fairly refreshing, I was still feeling a bit tired but with a little bit of excitement creeping in, I pulled myself up and out to the start line. There was a little bit of a last minute panic when I found out my front tyre didnt have quite enough air in it, then the last last minute clip card panic meant that there was just enough time to throw my pack on before the shotgun went off signaling the start.

It was a mad midnight bunch ride on Mountain bikes to start with. Having just thrown my pack back on too, I hadn’t strapped it up which was a bit distracting especially with all the panic and jockeying around for position in the bunch. The course took us out from the Lowburn hall straight onto the main road. They had set up some traffic cones with a stop/go attendant who apparently for the half hour beforehand had not seen any cars…until all of a sudden just when he heard the hum of the bunch of 100 or so Mountain Bikes coming towards him cars and a bus turned up. It must have been quite a sight, all of us together in this massive bunch lights all over the place, moving quite quickly! It was a fairly quick ride down, through the outskirts of Cromwell and down the side of Lake Dunstan. I think at one stage Mitch looked down at his speedo to see we were doing around 55km/hr! No one anticipated the hill to come and after a furious and chaotic scene as the bikes were chucked over the fence, everyone who jumped back on was completely in the wrong gear for the grind ahead.

I got pretty cold on the climb up the hill, I went into a pretty dark place, definitely questioning why I had been silly enough to sign up to another adventure race! For future reference I think I needed to get warmer clothes on earlier! Anyway when we finally arrived a the transition at the top of the hill I was pretty glad to get just about all of my compulsory gear on, along with some panadol and no-doz! I warmed up reasonably quickly, and quickly I got back into things and came right all of a sudden. There was a lot of climbing in the early hours of the night through some fairly rough terrain, down and up through a gorge full of bluffs. Eventually when we were out on the far side of the course the sun made it up. Its such a nice feeling to have made it through the night and into the next day, one of the special moments of adventure racing I reckon!

Sure enough there was one further hill climb to go before we got back to the bikes in the early morning air. It was a fresh downhill, around 1200 vertical to drop and Stru’s brake pads were not in the best of condition. There was a quite intense burning smell and a bit of black smoke coming from the back wheel of his bike. I think he might just need a new brake disc now!

Having been out all night when you arrive in at the kayak transition at 8am it already feels like its about lunchtime but this didn’t stop us from making a quick get away across the lake in pretty calm conditions. It didn’t take long at all for us to reach the Abseil. It was a fun little interlude but it did seem to cost us a little bit of time…or it let the “race mode” mindset take a back seat for a brief moment. The surface of the water had chopped up a little bit on our way back across the lake but the thought of the young team behind us getting closer pushed us hard to the end of the paddle.

After the paddle there was one more mountain bike ride… up yet another big grunty hill. Right at the start of the bike I pointed out to Georgia that the team right behind us was gaining a bit. This seemed elevate some urgency into the team and for the next hour we raced around the shoreline at high speed. We eclipsed past some teams on the 12 hour course like they were standing still. Eventually the enthusiasm waned a bit with the 1000m climb up on the Pisa range looming above! It was a grind, steep enough to have to work hard but not quite steep enough to warrant pushing. After about a hour and a half of climbing we reached the summit and were back down at base before we knew it. Somehow Stru’s brakes or lack of brakes made it to the end!

While climbing up the hill in full cynicism mode we speculated that the rogaine to finish with was just a big joke! Turns out it wasn’t and although we were pretty close to the end we still had about 2 hours to wander around the hills to collect some controls. The challenge got me excited and I took charge a bit and navigated us round with a little bit of backing up from Georgia. Just on 2 hours later and just after 6pm we rolled into the finish in 5th place!

Categories: Adventure racing

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