Off the back of the True West Adventure race in December, Tiger Adventure New Zealand had a few things to work on. Aside from that, it was nice to be rolling into a race with a bit of an idea of how the team would work together. We had a thorough debrief after True west but I will admit I was worried that the lessons we learned were possibly not going to change much. This left me quite anxious leading into the race, but I held out some hope that the closer to the race we got, the more excited I would get.
Around 4 weeks before the race we had a team meeting, basically all 4 of us had a health or injury complications coming out of True West just a month earlier. The biggest team concern was Kym and her knee. This meant the closer we got, the sooner we needed a replacement. Many options were thrown around. We had a pretty solid base of a team so it was a tricky balance to find the right person, and whether the right person would want to race with us was also key.
The evening the cyclone hit the central North Island, we managed to secure Kelly Wood from Gisborne. The area was pretty devastated with flooding as a result of the cyclone, so she had a less than ideal final run up to the race. It made for a busy week of work for her, then there was helping out friends and sorting out herself before escaping for the race.
I don’t enjoy packing for these races at all, but once I knuckled down and got it done, I was packed and ready to go in less than a total of 8 hours! Ollie and I had a stop in Geraldine overnight, before meeting up with Tim and Kelly in Queenstown the following day. Team together, gear together, next stop Te Anau. Dad, our support crew, coming from Dunedin joined us there.
Arriving late in the afternoon on Wednesday meant there was not a lot of time to muck around with gear and find some pre-race dinner. Due to the race start being pulled forward a whole day, registration, map hand out and race start made for an action packed day. We got through registration pretty quick then had a small amount of time for final final gear prep before we got the maps. With only 2.5 hours to go through the maps some quick decisions had to be made. The biggest decision we had to make was on the Packraft trek section and whether to drop packrafts or carry them with us. Initially I was quite happy to drop the packraft and tops travel. Tim was keen for the packrafting, but after some discussion we went with the trek option for the time being (at least).
Team photo pre-race
Stage 1: Mountain Bike 27km
From the start gun Tim hit the front of the pack, I couldn’t quite make it onto the back of the Tiger train, so I was separated and mixed in between Fear Youth and Avaya for a while. After about 5km, Tim pulled aside and the train went rolling through. We remained in the pack as is snaked its way along the single track weaving, ducking and diving all the way into transition. TA1 was chaotic. People and teams running and riding everywhere and a scrum to punch the first checkpoint (Thanks Deb for handing me the punch! :-)). We had a messy transition and already lost a bit of ground on the front teams. For some reason our plan to have everything in one bag for that transition did not happen and we needed all of our bins which were in a couple of different places. Despite the confusion and the chaos we still hit the water in an OK position.
Stage 2: Packraft 66km
Lake paddling is slow in a packraft and it seemed to take an eternity just to get around the corner and into Pearl Harbour. Unfortunately there is not a lot of flow in the Waiau at the lake end either. Add in a head wind and progress was really slow. Kelly and Ollie in the green packraft were well in front while Tim and I wallowed behind. Unfortunately they got well ahead of us and mistook another orange raft for us. That left Tim and I to battle behind in his orange Frontier raft. Slowly we lost ground on what seemed like everyone especially though in those MRS packrafts. They seemed to have a distinct advantage on the flat water. Mentally this put me in a really bad spot and I was seriously questioning my choice to race at all while getting getting grumpy and frustrated.
After what seemed an extremely long time we reached the others and the Dam. We changed up the boats to help get me out of the shitty mental space I was in and to hopefully speed us up in general. In the moving water with the change in paddle combination, we evened out quite a bit.
Although the water was now moving a bit more visibly, there was a lot more boney sections which required getting out of the boat multiple times. Every little bit of ground lost in this section meant that the chances of making the dark zone was rapidly evaporating. We pushed the 9pm time limit pretty hard, found an easi-ish spot to get out and had about 2kms straight-line from the checkpoint. A little bit of bush bashing, some left behind gear (whoops!) and one rolled ankle later we reached the raft washdown spot.
The washdown spot was before the checkpoint from the angle we approached. This confused Tim for a minute or two while he tried to argue with the marshal. Once the penny dropped we were able to leave the rafts and shot down to get the checkpoint. Unfortunately there was not a lot of space in TA and we ended up having to go a long way back from the check in desk to change. Ollie also discovered he had lost a dry bag of clothes which delayed our departure as we found him some replacement gear from the team pool.
Stage 3: Trek 32km
It was close to 11pm and full night time darkness when we left TA. The first checkpoint had the potential to be very tricky and based on the teams we could hear in the bushes around us it was! We managed it well and nailed it, dragging a few other teams through in the process. Somewhere there I dropped my compass and lost it, not a good sign….But I always carry a back up on my wrist even if its a bit of a trick to use it. Tim set the pace through this bit and for a while we got to hang out with the Estonian Ace team.
We diverged at the second CP to take a slightly different route choice. This choice was more difficult early on but had the potential to give us clean access to the control itself. Unfortunately for us we made a mistake here, we didn’t go far enough and ended up on a spur too early. We dropped some time here but realised relatively quickly. When cutting back to the control we again pulled up too early at one point. Tim rushed up the hill like a rat up a drain pipe seemingly in panic mode. I managed to catch him and pull him back in line… we reviewed our position, went a little bit further and quickly found the CP.
It was a long climb up onto the open tops. We had spotted snow up on Mt Titiroa during our paddle the day before and today was looking like a still and calm day. Frost was forming and even some ice in the tarns. The upper checkpoint wasn’t quite where a rational thinker would interpret the correct location to be by reading the description, but I managed to find the TWALK like CP just in time as another team arrived in the area. The cold light of Dawn hit us in the low point before the climb back up to Mt Titiroa. There were few teams in front of us we could see climbing out of the valley to go around, but we stuck with our plan to go up through the scrub in the valley. We took some good lines and were able to negotiate it with out too much trouble. A camera helicopter briefly visited us as we traversed higher into the basin which gave us an idea of where abouts teams were relative to us. Snow was lying in the upper part of the basin and completely covering the summit. Footsteps lead us to the Mandatory Way Point on the summit. It was quite icy up there, some of the sketch-ist traversing I’ve done in a race before. We were however rewarded which some pretty spectacular views right across Fiordland and Southland.
Mt Titiroa is a strange place, with lots of big boulders surrounded by sand all on the side of a hillside, a bit like being in a moonscape. This landscape made for a quick descent down to the bush line. At this point we found a small stream and tended to our feet. Previous Godzone’s have taught us all how important it is to look after feet….and investing time into sorting them out is pretty worthwhile. It was nice to have a short break too. I was starting to feel a bit more happy about the whole racing thing, even though we were sitting back in the field a bit. We had gained a bit of momentum and finally were making progress after the river and then our navigational error in the dead of the night.
From the bush line we chose to take a stream down to the river below. I wasn’t entirely convinced that it would be the fastest way down…but I went with the flow. We followed good deer trails to begin with and then a small spur at the edge for a while and in parts until it got real steep. It took us quite a bit of time to negotiate the windfall and steep sections but slowly the spur evened out and we hit the Snow White Clearing area. This was familiar territory from the previous Fiordland Godzone albeit in reverse. The last 6km or so were on a DoC trail so the going was good, apart from the odd section of windfall across the trail. We reached the shores of Manapouri in the early afternoon and boy I was glad to see the toilet at the hut there!
Arriving at TA 3 (Credit: GODZone)
Stage 4: Packraft 27km
Of all our our transitions this one was possibly the worst. We took quite a while to sort our shit out. Then once on the water Kelly had a minor freak-out that she had not loaded some gear in the boat but it turned out it was inside the boat, same issue Tim had at True West! So often the later in the afternoon it gets the winder it gets but luck was on our side today and the lake was glassy flat. There were a couple of portages to make things interesting. Ollie and I gained a bit of speed having switched into the MRS raft and it seemed we were now slightly faster than Kelly and Tim, go figure.
As the day was slowly coming to a close and we entered the South Arm of Manapouri. Rounding the corner it felt like we were hit by both Wind and tiredness which made things tough. We could spot a team just in front of us which we were closing in on which kept us partially awake. They had quite a strange paddle stroke going on but it wasonly when were close to the TA we discovered that they had a broken paddle. We hit the TA just after sunset. Sarah (friend from Uni) at the TA was waiting for us for our yearly catch up!
Stage 5: Mountain Bike 22km
It quickly got super cold in the TA and we were swamped with many sandflies which made for a quick transition. The stage ahead was only a short one, but it had around 1000m of climb and we had to carry all our packrafting gear. The extra weight on our back made for very sore backsides. Tim started off with a hiss and a roar, while I took a more measured approach especially on the uphill’s. Full darkness engulfed us about halfway along the road as we entered the second night. Eventually the real steep stuff hit, and that’s when the grinding started. I was least looking forward to the final switchbacks which looked like a prolonged tortuous death. As it turned out the worst was done by the time we got there and the actually switchbacks were quite steady going. We rolled in to TA late in the evening and set about fueling up and heading back out on the king maker stage.
The view that we did not see from the top of stage 5 TA (Credit: GODZone)
Stage 6: Packraft/Trek 73km
We were advised that the road was the fastest way back down to the track towards the green lake and we did not need much convincing. So we began the march back down the hill. I felt pretty tired pretty quickly especially after working out we had been up for almost 40hours now. While we discussed the possibility of sleep and when we arrived on the doorstep of the Borland Biv, door wide open and very inviting. It was the most decisive move we made the whole race and decided to sleep in there right away. We locked the door as there was no way anyone else could fit in there.
Soon after we had laid down to sleep another team came racing up to the door tried it. They sounded disappointed that it was locked, then decided it might have just been jammed so proceeded to ram it hard, so hard I was worried they were going to damage it. Just when I thought I might say something they became worried they going to break it, gave up and slammed it very violently. Luckily I went straight back to sleep for a blissful two hours.
Getting up wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. Surprisingly 2 hours seemed like enough to recharge and we set out, Team Devold arrived, working out perfectly for them! The first few minutes were spent wandering through the forest, then out into the cold open areas. Finding the trail in these parts was quite tricky as the visibility was pretty low and the tussocks quite high. Sleepiness was back and haunting me for a large part of this. I didn’t really wake up until dawn was approaching and we entered a section of large open flat land which was our attackpoint for the next checkpoint. It was cold and damp as well as a bit confusing. We messed around a bit near a stream trying to figure out what was going on with the track which had completely disappeared. After following along the stream for a bit coupled with the sky beginning to come light, we could see the shape of the hills surrounding. Everything slowly started to make sense and we corrected pretty quickly but were left a little frustrated that we had dropped the best part of 45min figuring it out. As we approached the saddle leading into the checkpoint Tim wanted to climb up another hill but luckily I managed to convince him that we were in the saddle right now. All we needed to do now was to quickly drop into the gulley to grab the checkpoint.
Next task was to get onto the main trail, on the map it looked pretty easy, just contour around and it should work out super smoothly. The terrain however did not look as inviting and we had to pick our way around, it seemed rough at the time but it was actually pretty clean and easy. Before we knew it we were on the track, and headed down to the head of Lake Monowai. Our 7am expected arrival was optimistic as it was just before 9am as we hit the shoreline for a morning of packrafting.
The water was beautifully calm and the air temperature pretty pleasant. We spotted a team in the distance as we arrived but they quickly were out of sight around the corner before we were on the lake. We had a drone for company for a while then, that was pretty much the last cameras we saw on course.
Once we had rounded the corner of the lake we were confronted with a headwind. The wind was just enough that I started to get cold and needed to layer up while Tim rushed up the dry inlet to grab the checkpoint. The closer we got to the end of the lake the more action we could see unfolding in front of us. There were a lot more teams going for the packraft option which surprised me and made me question our choice.
At the end of lake Monowai we were thrust into civilization, people all around, and critical decisions to be made. We were all confident earlier in the day that the Trek option was the best decision for us, but the sight of many teams taking the packraft option surely warranted some reconsideration. Ollie and myself had talked about reconsidering our options in our boat, so it was almost a bit of a shock to us all that it didn’t even enter into Tim’s mind that we might want to discuss the option again. I think we were all a bit shocked that our concerns didn’t weigh in at all on the decision, Tim had made his mind up and we just kind of had to go along with it.
Straight away I was a bit annoyed as I started to wonder if we had made a mistake. Right from the outset progress was slow. We even had to go backwards a short distance just to get around the bottom of the lake. I was calculating it over and over in my head trying to make sure we hadn’t messed up, pretty much the whole way until we got to the stream at the bottom where we needed to climb up. At the stream we did a bit of foot preparation, loaded up with water then started the climb up to the checkpoint.
The climb was steep, but very straightforward, just up and up and up. I was pretty sure we could hear voices at certain points but not once did we see any other teams until we reached the top. It tool 2.5 hours from leaving the CP at the base of lake Monowai to the next CP. About even with what I mentally calculated the cost of packrafting across then, climbing and descending back to the rafts. While the team just in front of us contemplated their next move we quickly moved along the ridgeline
The going along the tops was not very fast to begin with. The ridgeline was steep and the vegetation tough to make headway through. There was some nice views down to the lake, that was until the cloud started to roll in. Typical Godzone luck for me! Looking down at the lake, there looked to be some quite strong wind swirling about, so hopefully that was slowing the packrafting teams.
Just as the going got a lot easier the darkness was beckoning again. The fog kept the nav a bit tricky which meant that our ground speed was still not great. Full darkness arrived at a critical point where we had to descend down off a hill top with a trig on it. We couldn’t be sure that there was actually a trig on it as the vegetation was too thick. We changed our attack plan. We took a bearing from a gulley, not a strong attackpoint… but there wasn’t much else to go off. Then as we entered the forest the contours didn’t quite match what we thought it might. Tim who was leading the Navigation, kept switching the bearing and the constant zig zaging on the bearing had me quite concerned. This is definitely not an advisable technique. I could not be confident where we were now. After some heavy discussion we climbed a bit to hook onto the ridge we were looking for. As we popped out onto the ridge it all became somewhat clearer, both on the ground and in our minds.
We started to make faster progress from here as the terrain was easier to move through and not as steep. Around midnight I started to get really sleepy and could not concentrate. I had to hand over the map to Ollie, as as far as I was concerned I could be anywhere. I even got to a point where I struggled to keep my balance. I really battled the sleepmonsters, even “spotting teams hiding in the bushes” for a good hour or so until we reached the crux point of our route.
Our route took us along a narrow ridge to connect through to the next ridgeline, only thing was it was close to 2am, dark, and misty. We could not see a safe way down, for 30mins we tried to find the way down. Each time we had to back out due to bluff’s and cliffs that made things pretty dangerous. Finally after some more robust team discussion we concluded that we would need to back track to the trees and sleep until it was light again.
Dejected, we did just that. I was very relieved we were finally going to sleep. The place we found however was shockingly bad with little other options. I’m not sure how Tim’s tent passed the gear check as there was not room for 3 let alone 4 in that tent. Kelly and I both opted to sleep outside in our sleeping bag/survival bag combo’s.
Our three hour sleep was great, problem is it was not long enough (adventure race sleep is never long enough!). I’m normally a little bit grumpy in the mornings, but I was exceptionally grumpy this morning and took quite a while to warm up both temperature and temperament. We got the timing pretty good and reached the ridge again at daylight and the path forward was clear as day. It was still pretty misty but just the extra daylight was all we needed.
We quickly cut around and dropped to the creek where we had originally planned to sleep. It was great to get some fresh water, rehydrate some food and prepare for the day ahead. The climb out of the creek and up onto the tops seemed to go very quickly, too bad the vegetation on the tops was a bit scrubby and hard going. I went through a bad patch here, struggling through the terrain, and probably with some food deficit.
We chose to go over oblong Hill, having been down one shitty gulley already in the race, Ollie and I convinced Tim to stay out of it. In hindsight maybe it wasn’t the best idea as there was some quite thick scrub to push through to get out on top of oblong hill. It was surprisingly already midday when we reached the top. As predicted there was a marked route most of the way down to the DOC track. It was steep in places and looked reasonably well travelled right up until the point where it flattened out. I still did not have a map in hand here and was relying on Tim and Ollie to have a handle on the situation. We were initially right, then lost the trail. So we back tracked. Found pink markers again, lost them again. So we back tracked again. This time we followed them to a huge rock, this turned out to be a dead end…so finally we back tracked to a junction and followed another line pretty much the whole way to the end of the DOC track. Job almost done.
We had now broken the back of the trek, just a scramble down the hill and an 8km road bash to the TA. Dad was waiting for us on his bike at the lake Hauroko road end, along with a Japanese film crew. We jogged where we could so we could knock it out quickly and make sure we were through the crux of the following bike ride before dark.
Arriving at TA, we were welcomed with applause, which for being so far back in the pack was an interesting experience!
TA area at the edge of Lake Hauroko (Credit: GODZone)
Stage 7: Mountain Bike 120km
My spirits were up again, I was feeling reinvigorated, fueled up and ready to roll on the bike. Tim’s pacing strategy however seemed to be to go full noise until something blew apart. I was happier to ride at a consistent pace and avoid stopping at all costs. In hindsight this led to some internalised friction which really dented my enthusiasm. I was quite frustrated that team decisions were being made by the boss with no consideration of others.
The revisit to Rowallan Forest turned out to be easier than last time through there. Checkpoint collected, steep downhill complete, and out via a cemetery to collect some water. We were well on our way through Tuatapere and then even 10km further up the road before it was completely dark. 5 years ago there were a couple of road side food stops setup by the local farmers, these were an absolute highlight of the race last time. Southland hospitality did not disappoint, and once againwe quickly rolled up to a road side feast. We downed hot drinks and plenty of food at at least two places along the way.
The sealed and metaled road section was knocked off pretty quickly, almost 80% done in only 5 hours. Then came the climb and single/4WD track. It was well into night number 4 now, I found myself once again in struggle street with sleepiness, and it was holding me back quite a bit. We had spotted a team slowly gaining on us, and it looked like they were getting closer and closer the steeper the hill got. I could tell Tim was frustrated that we were not biking as fast as he would have liked but he also didn’t attempt to assist in anyway by offering to take gear or tow, or even just stick around me to keep me awake. He seemed to just ride off into the distance then wait at the top of the hill…
After cresting the big hill top, Kelly had a bike bag issue at the bottom, Ollie and Tim hadn’t seen and kept riding, I sort of hung around in between…all the while we lost more and more ground to “Out for the View” who caught us just after we crossed the bridge. We attempted to put up a fight and keep ahead, but they just came right up alongside us. We rode together for a while in the muddiest sheep shit-ist track think I’ve ever been on. At a gateway Out for the View got ahead, and slipped away down a side track. We missed the intersection continuing on as we were too focused on chasing them. We lost a bit of time and ground there especially through the heavy going swamp grass.
Transition couldn’t come soon enough and we arrived only just behind Out for the View. We quickly locked in a good 2 hours more sleep. Kelly managed to pick up a nasty cough somewhere along the way which made for some disrupted sleep. However it was quite refreshing to have the novelty of sleeping on flat ground on a semi-comfortable sleeping mat.
Very common occurrence for us… transitioning in the middle of the night
Stage 8: Trek 55km
The struggle was definitely real getting up, then I caused a bit of a delay while I had to bandage a few spots on my ankles. I wore a hole in my socks in the tops travel trek that resulted in some serious rubbing that needed covering for more trekking. We got away around 4:30am and ahead of Out for the View. We had only an hour before the sun would be up so we made good time across the boring flat bits in the dark. When we first started the main climb I managed to get into a bad place again. Tim strode off ahead, picked up the checkpoint and waited for me who was dragging the chain. This time thankfully he offered to carry some of my gear. I gratefully accepted the offer and was quickly back in good spirits, probably helped by a bit of team chat about our work lives.
By mid morning we had successfully knocked off a misty ridge traverse and found ourselves in the beaming sun down in a river bed with a good sized climb to get over to the next checkpoint. In the rush to leave I had forgotten to pack a hat and had to use a buff as some sun protection…
Morning quickly turned to early afternoon when we arrived at the hut checkpoint, only one more to go on this trek, now about halfway. The warm hazy afternoon quickly got away from us as we walked up another riverbed. Coming down the other side was a bit more difficult as there was lots more vegetation than was shown on the map. We negotiated the scrub quite well to reach the hut in the valley, then it was time for a quick food and drink top up before heading up yet another stream bed. We climbed out at one point, trying unsuccessfully to take Ollie’s preferred option, then relented to going Tim’s preferred way. Either way it worked out and we could now see ahead of us the final big climb of the race just in front of us. Team spirits were buoyed when we realised there was a team just up ahead of us.
High on the Takitimu’s (Credit: GODZone)
The heat was on now and we cranked out the climb surprisingly quickly. From the ridge top there was a lot of snow grass to negotiate between here and the bush. It took around an 1 hour of the remaining daylight to get to the bushline. Tim and Ollie then argued about what was the best way down, but in the end straight is great and it didn’t matter. These continual disagreements were now common theme, even to a point now I’d given up trying to voice my opinion or provide advice. Besides, we were entering night number 5 now and I was hit with that hazy late afternoon doziness, so it all seemed a bit surreal to me.
I made good use of the huts facilities as we collected the checkpoint then we made fast exit in hot pursuit of who we speculated were the Estonians in front. Using the last of the daylight Tim set a hot pace and was in full pursuit mode. I tried my best to also keep pace, but sleepiness started to really effect me yet again. It was quite a blur, eventually I gave up trying and said “this is just stupid” and Kelly who was right behind me at that point agreed. We kept moving fast, just walking, not jogging anymore. About 30mins after full darkness we caught up with the Estonians. They did not look in a good state and after a short chat, they allowed us past. Progress from here actually seemed to go really well. The only way I could stay awake now was to talk to my team mates. I’m not much of a talker at the best of times but I was in full on Cricket commentator mode. Time passed remarkably quickly on the trail and with only 6km’s to go we started to plan what our next move was. It quickly emerged that Tim’s plan did not quite gel with the rest of us. He was pretty keen to take a short sleep, then get going again and earn some time credits and essentially free sleep at the kayak transition. The rest of us were super tired and not keen to try and sleep twice, plus we didn’t think we were going to get there in time to gain a time credit anyway. We needed sleep, and as soon as possible.
It took a bit of munity but we successfully got Tim to reluctantly agree with us. We knew it was probably our last sleep of the race and to me it felt like it was the best sleep of the race. Once I was up, I was feeling pretty refreshed apart from the cough we had all picked up now. Dad, as our support crew was looking just about as tired as us now. Hopefully it was his last 2am wake up to get us sorted too!
Stage 9: Mountain bike 60km
It felt good to head out into the darkness on bikes. With a slight downhill and easy riding, it felt like we were moving fast and making good progress. As we arrived at the edge of the forestry blocks in the darkness, we knew it was going to be challenging navigation. We we quite on our game and got through relatively smoothly resulting in the early hours of the morning going by quickly. As we made the last key maneuver to get us on track to the last checkpoint the red haze of sunrise appeared in the sky. It was a super impressive and long standing sunrise. We collected the checkpoint then quickly descended into the valley with the knowledge that it was all downhill now and we were likely into our last day of the race.
We passed a farm house upon our exit from the forestry and as we passed the curtains opened. I wondered what those people thought of us, the bunch of crazy athletes who’d ridden through the night, still with over 100km of racing to go, cruising through their back yard! The thought of it did send a shiver down my spine, maybe grasping the enormity of what we were up too.
From forestry to farm, gravel and then sealed roads, the riding slowly got less and less interesting. I got more tired and more hungry the longer it felt like it dragged on. I had to rearrange my map in my holder then before I knew it a gust of wind caught the edge, and blew them out, all over the road. I immediately had to stop to regather them. As I did, I tired to yell to the others but none of them saw or heard what happened. I tired hard to catch them back up. They were just head down, in a pace line and whatever I tried I couldn’t get back to them. This went on for about 5kms before they actually realised and when they did they just stopped dead in their tracks…. all they needed to do was slow down… I was so annoyed with myself and also them that I just kept riding past while they were looking dumbfounded. Slowly worked off the anger as they caught back to me. Apologies all around and I was happy enough now to just move on and get to TA.
The TA had been moved which thankfully reduced the kayak by 20kms. It meant a bit more riding on roads and timing wise there was a bit of early morning commuter traffic to deal with. There was even one Green Land Rover driver who deliberately swerved towards us, he passed so close I’m surprised he didn’t hit us.
Crossing the bridge just before TA we could see Fear Youth departing, the closest we had got to a team in front for a while. Eager to hit the water we arrived at TA with the race mindset switched back on. But it turned out Dad had missed the turn off to the TA and continued a bit further up the road. We figured he was likely coming back soon, and as it turned out because the of the darkzone rules we were effectively darkzoned untill 9am anyway. It did seem a little unfair on us as if a team arrived after us at 9am they could start paddling straight away but teams arriving earlier than us were given allocated start times with adequate time spacings.
Anyway, I made sure that when Dad arrived 5minutes after us that there was some space between Dad and Tim…. Tim was likely to put his foot in his mouth and at that stage Dad was probably feeling a little bit embarrassed for turning up late… It pretty much had no effect on us at the end of the day anyway, especially when the tracker was almost left behind when we started paddling. On the positive side of things, it was a nice sunny day and was going to warm up nicely for our long day on the water.
Stage 10: Kayak 85km
Second mistake when entering water was the paddle pairing. Kelly and Tim stopped about 5 minutes down the river and switched Kelly into the steering position, probably a pretty good move, as paddling was definitely Kelly’s strongest attribute she brought to the team. The willow tree ridden river threw up some interesting obstacles here and there. Progress downstream seemed steady, and by around midday we were starting to hit the flatter wider and more boring stretches. Ollie started to tire a bit and it was hard to keep the pace on to keep up with Kelly (it looked like Tim was having a grand old picnic in the back their boat). Coupled with the uncomfortableness of being in a kayak so long, the tide started to turn as we got into the estuary. We had a bit of a panic for a while that Out for View might be catching us especially when we realised part of reason we were slowing was because there was quite a bit of water in our boat.
Just when we thought we were there, we turned the corner to the final TA we saw a huge mudflat in front of us. Tim quickly jumped out of the boat, proclaimed that we needed to portage across the flats and then complained that Warren had put the TA in the wrong place. Looking up and at the map for the first time in many hours I could see the flag for the TA as well as two people in bright orange vests. They were standing in roughly what I thought was the right place. From my view the best way to get there was to paddle further south then come up a closer channel. After my suggestions were ignored, some yelling was required to make my point. I really don’t like having to yell, especially at people but in this case it was required. It didn’t take much extra time to get so much closer and then we only had a short walk across the mudflats to the TA. Our supicions were confirmed when lifting our boat, the Hull was cracked and was filling with water the whole way. All the emotions came out then and I’m pretty embarrassed about the swearing and complaining that I did which was the result of some of my on going frustrations.
Stage 11: Mountain Bike 27km
I found the transition all a bit of a rush, I didn’t quite have it sorted despite having extra time at the TA before to sort myself out. Anyway, some food was downed, we got on bikes and rode off into the sunset. It was just a short ride on the road then down onto Oreti Beach. Once we were on the sand I thought we needed a bit of regrouping, I was still a bit flustered after the shambles in the estuary, so I tried to employ my best leadership skills, to get some positive conversation going. Not sure how it went down for everyone else but for me it allowed myself to switch back into the race. After 20km or so of pretty solid and good beach riding the trail took us along the side of some small lagoons. There was just enough room to ride around the edge. At one point I completely misjudged the small sand hill and I toppled over sideways. Along with my bike I ended up with a quick and salty dunking. All I could do was have a good laugh at myself and keep moving. The final TA was just a bike drop, then transition to foot.
Avaya on the final bike. The Photographers had gone for a sleep by the time we were here (Credit: GODZone)
Stage 12: Trek 21km
We still were aware that Out for the View were not far behind, but pragmatically assumed there was no way we would catch Fear Youth. We started out at a fast walk on the beach. It was good to be on the way home, I was ready for the race to be over and it seemed like a nice way to finish. It gave us some time to reflect on the race in between glances over our shoulders to check that there was no one behind, or chasing us down. We tried a jog every now and then, but by that stage it seemed both Kelly and Ollie had knee/leg issues so it was a good thing we were just about done. The Sun set on our final day just as we approached Riverton. As we rounding the point, the Coast Guard was out and they waved us downstream away from any thoughts we might have had about swimming across the river mouth. In the last of the twilight we collected the final checkpoint with only one or two final glances behind us as we made our way across the finish line into a solid 8th place.
Finishing was good, another Godzone ticked off. That’s kind of all it felt like for me. It wasn’t my best performance, it wasn’t my favourite or most enjoyable, but not the worst either. I enjoyed racing with Ollie again, definitely felt like we were on the same page. Kelly was a really great addition to the team especially at the last minute, we could not have got anyone better really. Tim was strong the whole race, really quite a beast trekking and biking. I found it difficult to navigate with him, so much so that I just had to leave him too it. This made it quite frustrating for me. I also think that having covid over Christmas time took away valuable training time. I was a bit undercooked both physically and mentally. I think 8th was about the position we deserved, for sure I feel we had the ability to place higher. Early on in the race we made some bad calls on both paddling combinations and route choice which put us on the back foot to start with. We paid the price early and after scrapping our way back in we got what we deserved.
Huge thanks have to go to Dad for his job as support crew. It was a hard task for just one person and with no real prior experience, he did a good job of holding it altogether. Also Heaps of thanks to Flash for seeing us at the finishline and driving us afterwards, and to Rikki Griffin and family for letting us crash at their place around midnight after the race.
From here, I’m not sure, no matter how many times I’m asked! I enjoy the racing a team work part of it but I really struggled to feel excited and not dread Godzone this year. Maybe the best thing to do is actually take a good break away from it for a whie to see that the hunger is still there. After clocking up Godzone #8 and expedition #10 over the past 5 or 6 years alongside a full time job, as well as trying to be good at Orienteering it seems to take a while for the body and mind to recover and maybe that’s just what is needed!
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