An Epic GODZone 

I was pretty excited heading into this GODZone, we had a team that was well balanced, with a good amount of experience, probably our only collective weakness was we were all small and light so if it got cold it was going to be rough! We went into the race as relative unknowns, no mention of us was made in the pre-race predictions, complete underdogs. But that’s how we liked it.

This year the logistics planner was released early and coupled with that the maps were made available the day before. This took quite a bit of stress out of the pre race planning so sleep the night before was easy. Eventually we found ourselves milling around in the dark with 70 other teams pre start. Nervous chatter was exchanged and then finally it was time for us to start.

The pace was hot, sort of as expected to start with. We all ran at a quick pace along the foreshore before beginning the charge up the hill. My first navigational mistake came out of a lack of local knowledge, luckily we recovered ok, but it got stressful for a moment. A little bit further up the trail it was time for the leading teams to panic a bit as the control appeared to be placed differently in reality to on the map. I think here we did a good job in figuring what to do quickly which put us into good stead in 5th place.

Transition at the gondola to mountain bikes, was quick and efficient, 1.5mins down on the lead 4 teams. The bike trails were quite cool and a good bit of fun, little bit stressful navigating down through the trees as I was pretty scared about overshooting the checkpoint! Then it was onwards navigating the urban streets of Queenstown so we could get out and away as fast a possible. Mitch set the tone for the whole race with the team at this point too, “we have got a good gap on those teams behind us now, lets make it difficult for them to catch us”. Queenstown hill was a bit of a grind on the bikes, I’m not sure we made the best routechoice but we got up onto the tops without giving up any distance on those trailing. In what felt like no time at all we were back in transition, this time packing our bikes away and onto the water in 1 double kayak and 1 inflatable canoe between us. We went with the tactic of the two stronger paddlers in the slow boat and the other two in the kayak, which evened things out quite nicely when the tow line was attached.

The hardest part of this section was at the very end. We had to get everything, 30kg or gear plus a kayak and an inflatable canoe up a steep little goat track up to the main road. It was by far the toughest section of the race looking back now! Once it was done it was onto the gorgering section. For somewhere so close to Queenstown you could have mistaken it as anywhere in the country. It was not a place that there was much evidence of tourists at all… for good reason too, it was not the most spectacular place I’ve been been either, anyway we were just glad to be out of there and into transition with AMK (Team Adventure Medical kits) in the race for 5th place still.

Grabbing that full pack and running out of transition was hard work (we were not required to carry as much gear for the first Multisport stage) but it was a relief to actually feel like we were into the race now. There was a 45km Trek ahead of us and if we made good time we would be getting some sleep tonight at the start of the Darkzoned river. Our first route choice turned out to be a good one I think, Tiki Tour gained ground on Yealands taking a different route but our one meant that we caught Torpedo 7 at the first checkpoint. We stuck with them for a while as the walked fast down the valley. We then made a break when the going got a bit slow. This seemed to kick them into action and they took a different line through an ugly gully and the race was back on. I was pretty happy to get to the next checkpoint in the day light as it was surrounded by bluffs, but in my opinion we spent too much time mucking around in the creek before getting going again. This resulted in us seeing a rather gleeful looking Mrs Forne and her boys going down where we were coming back up from. This in turned spurred us into a bit of action and we were soon jogging again. From here our route over the top seemed more sensible than the river gorge but on further anaylsis it was apparently slower. No worries for us though as we had a similar route to those in front and behind.

We hit the skippers bridge around nightfall, just enough light to see the abseil that we were going to have to make tomorrow though! A little bit scary! At the lights on stage we were back together with our old mates T7. After some light issues, I had a dead extension cable, the gap had opened again. There was a long track follow through the cold stream so I kept the pace going to make sure we were kept warm. We arrived at the checkpoint around midnight and knew we were going to make that darkzone sleep. However there was a big hill in between us and it, the spur up provided us with a nice goat track, complete with an actual goat! The way down provided challenging, and we had to negotiate some quite steep terrain, avoiding bluffs and sliding too far on the slippery grass. T7 had got out of our sights on the way down but as we wandered into transition we saw them leaving with their gear bags, heading back to the put in point to catch some sleep. We followed suit, finding enough space in a gazebo to avoid having to pitch the tent for something like 3 hours of broken sleep.

Several teams made it though the night getting anywhere between 6hours to 45minutes of sleep, so there was a hive of activity at 6am as we all prepared to hit the river bang on 6:45am, when the darkzone opened. We didn’t make the best start on the river, better than Mrs Forne’s boys but our lead evaporated somehow on the abseil section and we found ourselves at the back of the darkzone pack. Mitch did a pretty stella job of steering us down the rapids, which was  a pretty fun way to start the day. Unfortunately We had a bit of a mix up out the front, mistaking one of the bivouac boats for Stru and Isla, and had spaced ourselves a bit far ahead at one point. We were back together for the abseil, which got very cold standing around waiting for our turn as it was one rope per team. Once over the edge it wasnt as scary as I thought it might be and I was down quickly as I could hopefully not holding proceedings up too much.

Carrying the kayaks and the canoes up the hill on day 1 was pretty bad bad but almost just as bad was the up-down scrub bash of 7kms to get to the start of the rafting section. We opted for wetsuits on, the majority decision, as there was way too much gear for us to carry comfortably. Starting from the back of the pack, we worked our way back up the field, making good route choices and following the right people when it counted. We all felt this was the worst section and really struggled to find the best way down to the rafts, especially carrying a whole lot of extra gear. Its quite hard negotiating death defying cliffs while carrying packs, drybags, pumps, 3 lifejackets and a drink bottle in one hand!

Such a relief if was to get off that horrible trek. No rest for the wicked as our raft guide, the infamous “Chief” had us hurrying to get on the river (I think the guides must have been racing each other too!) The raft section was quite fun and exciting, I enjoyed it for the most part as I didn’t have to think too much and was able to recharge the navigation brain. The others didn’t have much to say either so hopefully we didn’t upset Chief too much by being so quiet as he was very the legend on the river he was portrayed to be. At the very end were steered through the tunnel, which was quite pleasant, but holy crap the staircase we dropped down was a surprise and a thrill all rolled into one, quite a nice way to finish the raft!

Talk about dusty transition at the end, everything that was wet got coated in sand! My bike box ended up with a whole heap of sand after everything was chucked in there. It was super hot leaving on the bikes, and straight up the hill we made a very small error, just by not having someone to navigate out the front. Once corrected and switched on we sorted our shit out and proceeded forwards! I found the first bit of single track hard, because it was hot, because I was riding with my pack and because there was quite a bit of false flat riding. I sensed Isla was struggling a bit too, Mitch was out the front paving the trail, and there wasn’t much navigation required for a while so I let him and Stru go for it, and I was keen to sit at the back and blob out a bit to warm myself into things. I started to feel a bit better once we caught up to Mrs Forne’s Boys again, it felt like they were a bit slower than us, and after a successful checkpoint, Isla got us motivated to put some distance into them. This was all going well until we hit the Mountain Bike orienteering, I took a wrong turn somewhere and got a bit confused with where the Eagles nest actually was.

Unfortunately for us we got to the Eagles nest right as our rivals we had just gaped caught up. Annoyed about the situation, we were back into a full-on battle. The pace got a bit crazy and by about the 3rd loop we managed to open the smallest of margins. It was about here that Bivouac and AMK? turned up at the eagles nest to find a full on test match to rival the All Blacks vs Wallabies in full force! They all looked a bit perplexed as to what was happening, as there was some intense faces and a small amount of yelling going on too! Eventually we broke away and calmed down a bit, settled into the repetitive pattern of going round and round in circles… then somehow we had some issues and were suddenly passed . A bit dejected we finished the loops and finally got out. Escaping the forest, out onto the road and into transition, surprisingly in 5th place with no one else around? A little bit confused we found out they had also made a mistake and had to fix it up before moving forwards.

Onto the trek, almost dark and into night 2, we made for some quick pace walking and eating, loading up after a day of not having much solid food at all. A little bit complacent, too involved in discussion and we overshot the first control, hidden down a silly little “track” that was all over grown and hard to see in the dark. So back we were we Mrs Forne’s Boys…. this time everything was a bit more civil and we wandered around the next control with them too. This one was pretty hard to find too so we eventually had to round up the troops and redirected them, another 20mins or so wasted. The final checkpoint on that little loop was also down a faint disused track, but we were honed in for them now. At the checkpoint we split away from the others, we knew they were planning to stay in the hut, but we were also battling and in need of some sleep so we headed straight there. We were alone when we arrived so we made a call to sleep in the hut too…knowing this might upset Tim a bit but really you cant “bags” a hut in a race. When they eventually turned up ( not such a great route choice…) we let them in and managed to fit 7 onto 3 mattresses! A tight fit. Having had an extra hour sleep the first night out we opted for 2 and them 3 hours.

Once up and away we never saw them again. It was good to finally get a break but the next few hours were quite challenging bashing our way along a series of contours in the dark hoping not to get bluffed out. With some joy I finally spotted lake Isobel and I knew we had the crux of this stage complete just before sunrise. Several teams were camped up at the lake, my guess was that they were all pursuit teams, but as we found the gap in the ridge at the top of Mt Crichton, T7 came barreling down firing off rocks as we descended the narrow little gut section. We were not that impressed and told them so, not realising they were probably annoyed we had just passed them again. So back together with our old trekking rivals we made reasonable time down the ridge line in good spirits as the sun came up, for our paddle up to Glenorchy.

We might have had T7 under a bit of stress in the transition as we jumped in our kayaks not long after them. It was a pleasant paddle in very nice flat water, and what was shaping up to be an awesome day in a very cool place. For some reason T7 had a complete mare at the control, we punched first and got ahead of them again.

Transition we were a little slow, and T7 leapfrogged us yet again. The pace was hot on the bike to begin with, too hot for Viv’s pursuit team, well all except one who rode of the front of our bunch with an excitable Stru for a moment. After knocking off the sealed section we consolodated our position and just rode at a comfortable pace for a while. This seemed to work for us and before long we were back neck and neck with our old mates T7. We were pestering them and I think they might have been getting sick of it. All along the lake it was like that, backwards forwards, backwards forwards, then again up the road to Afton saddle. Here we were unaware of what was going on in front of us but, Swordfox apparently looked down and saw us and T7, getting a little bit of a fright! We had a break at the saddle, T7 were well down the road when we got there. Finally getting away from us I guess.

After food in we decided and talked about going fast but sensibly on down the hill. So that what we started out doing… then Isla caught her front wheel on a rock that it just didnt roll over, the back wheel flicked up and she went over the handlebars, the bike still attached landing upside down and partially on top of her. Mitch and I were first on the scene, Isla doesn’t make much noise, pretty much never complains but was clearly immediately unhappy. Mitch and I freed her from her bike, realised quickly that we needed the team medic Stru, as there was a big cut in her arm, through which there was a bit of blood and some white stuff? maybe bone?

Isla was most concerned about her bike while Stru set about patching her up, Mitch and I were thinking that this was potentially race ending and now a battle of survival. Testament to her toughness Isla got up and got going again, a little slower and a little hesitant with some guidance. The race went out of us guys for a while I think, but Isla was storming on. I’m not sure when her adrenaline kicked in but we were up an racing, and racing hard not so long after! It was clear she was using some of the pain and frustration to drive her, as she just started smashing it up the hills towards the transition.  Not a lot was said about what was going to happen once we got to transition, so I figured we had to make it clear so that when we got there we were not going to sit down and have a picnic. Before I asked the question I expected the answer but not quite the delivery as I was definitely told in no uncertain terms that she was good to keep racing! Sweet, game on them one tough team mate!

At Transition there was a medic waiting for Isla, he was pretty impressed by the seriousness of the cut, the best one of the race so far! We transitioned almost with a new lease on life, we could see the finishline again and still right up there as the wet tyre tracks we had been seeing were those of Torpedo 7. Indecently still in transition when we arrived.

Out of transition it was good to be moving again, I was feeling better as the route had now been suggested to us through the bluffs as the organisers had a change of plans. Im not sure what Greig and our old mates T7 were up to but again we were back in a tit for tat battle up the track. They gave in for a bit and followed us as we picked our way across the scree. Mitch and I scouted some tracks through the traverse that got us a good way through but eventually we reached an impass of sorts and we took the option to sleep, Stru was pretty much dead on his feet. We found a nice flat spot, pulled the sleeping bags out and got a couple of hours of quick sleep. It was hard getting up again, into the third night it gets harder and harder to get up from sleep, but we were moving again and rejuvenated. From Wards creek we climbed and then began our massive siddle. In the dark I felt like we were going further than we actually were and encounted some pretty difficult terrain. About 30mins before daylight my confidence was low on where we needed to go up. I had been struggling on the bike a bit to concentrate and now this was beginning to exacerbate things.

As things were not going well we took the option to stop, catch a little sleep and then get going again when it was light. This technique worked well, however all it really did was confirm where we actually were and had we have just kept going we would have been fine anyway. Thats what you pay for a piece of mind anyway. We got up on the ridge early on in the day, the team was feeling a bit down again, convincing ourselves that we had been passed in the night and probably lost more than 1 or 2 places. We were brave enough to talk out loud about it and realised we probably were not as bad off as we thought. Stru was starting to struggle now, his feet had him in a bit of pain and who knows how much pain Isla was in but you wouldnt know it.

We reached the ridge line and again to there dismay T7 were not that far in front of us again, clearly we took a more optimal route at some point along the way as they seemed to be moving faster. Stopping was becoming a bit more frequent today, and after killing off all of our hard earned climb for a checkpoint we were on the uphill again. I took some of Stru’s gear, had some food, and bashed a path up the hill in front. I took an alternate route, keeping us from T7’s view and our view of them so we could see no one behind or in front for quite a while.

Eventually after and agonising climb and siddle we started to make our way down the spur. My feet started to ache and I was struggling to concentrate but Mitch seemed in good condition so pack carrying and map reading became his job as us zombies followed him down through yet more bluff’s in the forest. No sighting behind and only one brief glimpse of those in front started to play on my mind at least and once we got down to the flat, we even broke out into a jog just to make sure the gap was maintained behind us.

At Kingston there was a doctor waiting for Isla to stitch her up but we knew there Mrs Forne’s Boys were hot on our tails so she refused to let the doctor touch her. We were on a mission to get on that water and bring it home fast. Once again we were treated with the most perfect conditions you could imagine possible, a far cry from GZ2015 when we were paddling in the opposite direction. There was a fair amount of support out there for us to keep us awake, several kayakers came out and paddled near by  for a while. Darkness hit us right at the final checkpoint on the lake, a good stress relief for me. All that was left now was to skirt around the bay and up Frankton arm. Longer than it looked like especially in the dark, but we had a good chance to have a good chat about the race, about what we had achieved and how excited we were about it all. Eventually it started to get cold, and Isla called for us to paddle hard for the final few kms to keep warm. The power went on, there was a little hesitation about where exactly the finishline was, the closer we got the further it actually felt but then finally it was all coming to an end. Getting out of that kayak seat was a little difficult but it was so good to walk across that finishline with three of the best team mates. We all worked hard together, we all helped each other, we all had the same focus, the same drive and it all fell into place so well.  In a fast and furious Godzone, the underdogs, mixing it with the big names and Sneaking our way into the top 5!

Looking online afterwards it looks like we got some good coverage during the race, the Sneaky Weasel Gang definitely has some name appeal I think! But I think those we impressed the most was the Race organisers, and much to our surprise we were awarded the “Young Guns” trophy. We were out there with the aim to challenge for the win and thought that this award was set in stone for a team which has a total age of under 100  (we were 108) but as explained by the prizegiving it is open to some subjectiveness, so it was a special honour to be recongnised for our efforts with this trophy!

Thanks to Bivouac Outdoor, Inov8 and Cycleways, for helping with gear, shoes and bikes!

All images from, or the Sneaky Weasel Facebook page and maybe subject to copyright

Not much noise…

When things have gone quiet here it probably means there’s some other things brewing in the background….. Since bombing some training with the weasels it’s been full steam ahead with Godzone training…. and I’ve recently started a new job! So here is a quick summary of what’s gone on:

Just after New Year I was up in Reefton for some Mountain Biking with Hilary and Isla. It rained the entire time we were there, but there was a Mecca of bike trails in and around the area. It was really cool, not without drama however as Hilary managed have a bit of a crash and rip her arm open requiring me to pull out some first aid skills!

Riding in the rain

Nothing to do but stand around and take pictures

Not long after returning to Christchurch it was back out into the hills with Isla for some Coast to Coast training. We did the ‘double’ as it’s known, the run and paddle sections on a sunny Sunday before heading back to my old job the next day.

Two weeks back at Tait to tidy up and off I was to start the next week at Enphase Energy. A bit of a change but refreshing and something I probably needed to do to advance that part of my career.

In between switching jobs I also managed a Kayak run kayak mission with Flavio, Sam, Sam, and Sam. Across the harbour and up mt herbert return. Then a Bike/trek through Craigieburn with Georgia and Stru. Somehow in all of that I upgraded my Mountain Bike, planned an Orienteering course with Georgia on Quail Island (yes, logistically difficult) and… then did a quick trip down to Dunedin with Riki for Dad’s 65th birthday party…. I’m tired just from writing that all down…

Some gorge exploration in the Cragieburn area

Crazy summer sunset

Evening flight to Dunedin

New bike, thanks Cycleways!

Evening orienteering planning!

Waitangi weekend allowed for some team training  (not Isla… coast to coast tapering) where we bashed up a valley onto the tops, then followed a well warn path through a couple of passes in the dark. Since we were practically back to the car by that point we kept going. And were treated to the rear sight of an actual kiwi! Pretty exciting, but I guess not many people are fastpacking around in the hills at 2:30am.

Up high above Mt White bridge

Next weekend was Coast to Coast. I helped Isla as support crew which was fairly exciting as she did really well coming in 4th, very close behind 3rd!
Now its the final packing stages before GODZone. We have a few things left to do tomorrow then it’s all business. So look out for team 34 the Sneaky Weasel Gang!

Isla on her way down the Waimak in Coast to Coast

The Weasels bomb down Snake ridge

The last weekend before Christmas last year we thought it was about time to get together for a team training session. Friday afternoon Isla and I were picked up by a very excited Stru (and Nat) and we headed for Tekapo to ready ourselves for a classic Mitch training mission in his wider backyard.

We hit the road on our bikes after a leisurely start on Saturday morning, up the lake towards Roundhill. Gravel turned to single track, and eventually bike carrying terrain as we made our way to Camp stream hut. From Camp stream hut we were able to bike again and were at Rex Simpson hut in no time. Here we filled with water from the nearby stream and began the long uphill ride/push on a well worn horse trekking path up Snake ridge. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to be a free flowing and as ride-able as it appeared, never the less we were able to make it up to about 1700m. We ditched the bikes and headed out for a bit of a trek.

We headed along the ridge to the top of the range and then ducked down to the east side to avoid the wind. Once in the lee of the wind, we descended down to Royal hut for some late lunch in the tussocks. There was not much mucking around before we were going back up again, via part of the Te Araroa trail, then cut across a Boulder field round the side of Mt Hope. Mitch had a bit of a run in with a rock which sliced quite a deep cut in his shin that needed some attention. Stru came to the rescue with his company issued first aid kit and patched him up best he could.

Daylight was now starting to become an issue, and we quickly made tracks to our bikes for the crux of our mission, biking down snake ridge! It was definitely worth the push up, it was almost all ride-able, quick, interesting and fairly spectacular with a good view of the lake as we cruised down the hill. There was just enough daylight left for us to drop in and visit Mitch’s Dad with some tramping clients at Rex Simpson hut for cup of tea. Then a short hike over the hill to Camp Stream hut where we met the girls (Nat, Anna and Rachel) who had tramped into to meet us. Nat set about work on Mitch’s leg (she is a doctor) which provided much entertainment to all those that were camping out at the hut.

It wasn’t the warmest of nights, especially for summer, but we all survived ready for the bike/walk out the next morning. The walk back up the hill definitely felt worth it for the ride down the Richmond trail in the tailwind, the precursor of some bad weather making its way down the lake. It was this ride back into town that made me realize the the hard tail was not going to cut it for Godzone and I think I need to go to Full Sus!

Adventure in Zunyi

Late on a Sunday afternoon as I was out kayaking in the Estuary with Lara who was training for the World Adventure Racing Champs and I missed a phone call from Flavio. Damn better call him back… maybe I’d left something behind at his place the previous day?

Flavio cut to the chase pretty quickly: ” Would you like to come and race in China next month?”

There was no hesitation at all from me: “Yes! I’m definitely keen!!”

I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been hanging out to be invited to go to one of these adventure races in China. I had previously had to turn down one offer as it was really close to the World Mountain Running champs and in a relatively slack year (overseas racing wise) I was pretty keen for something adventurous to round out the year. This opportunity ticked that box!

In our team of four there was the experienced Flavio, Myself and two other China first timers, Julia Grant and Sam Bell. Flavio, I have raced with and against before, the other two however I had never really met before but I knew both of them were top class athletes in Ironman and Duathlon. The team strength had been built on a foundation of running strength so it sounded like we had the makings for a pretty strong team!

It was only in the airport late on a Wednesday Night we finally assembled as a team to travel over to China. The plane coming in was pretty late and this meant a pretty late get away time for us, 2am I think! The long flight was followed by a short connection and then a bus ride of around 5 hours to get us to Zunyi, South of Chongqing (in Central, sort of South East China).

After a good sleep we were ready to start getting ready ahead of the race, building bikes and preparing gear. Once the bikes were built up we took them out for a little ride on the city streets with a quick side trip to the local bike shop…. bike shop Number 1 turned out to be a pet shop and then Number 2 was gone so it was back to bike shop Number 3 to get a couple of the guys bent discs sorted out. Traffic on the city streets was an experience in itself, everyone tries to avoid hitting everyone else unlike New Zealand where everyone tries to follow the rules…

Day 1 of the race was upon us with the first stage of the race consisting of just a 30km Mountain Run. We thought we had things all sorted, meeting down at the bus on time, only to find we were missing our Bike Helmets-a strange rule in China that we had to follow even though we were only going to be running today! After some stressful moments going up and down elevators to collect our helmets we made it onto the bus, which left 20mins late anyway…

We arrived at the start with plenty of time to spare, although we were told to hurry and assemble in various places while they organised the opening ceremony. The cameras all came out from the crowd, everyone wanting their photos taken with us, the TV reporters asking questions and the obligatory drones buzzing around capturing it all on video. Finally after about an hour of this we were underway, jostling for position on the gentle uphill road run.

We stuck together as a team really well in all the chaos, then we hit the stairs China is so famous for. My first impression was that they were super slippery, and just about arsed over several times! As the stairs rose, the teams gradually seeded themselves, the Chinese out the front and us and a bunch of other Kiwis at the head of the main pack. The slippery uphill was followed by a bunch of slippery stairs down too, then some proper off track running in the cut bamboo forest…try not to slip over and skewer yourself! The legendary descent lived up to its reputation (this section had been a part of other races in the area previously) and was quite steep, muddy and slippery, my favorite part of the race!

A lake on day 1

A lake on day 1

This section was followed by some real running, and pretty much the make and break point for most of the teams. I think this is were our strength shone through as a team of strong runners we worked really well together and managed a consistent pace all the way to the finish. The last 2kms on the false flat road was an absolute slog feast however and I’m pretty sure everyone of us was happy to cross the finish line. Happy with our first race together as a team we finished in 5th place, about 20mins behind the first place team. Our split times showed just what we thought, we lost a all of our time on the up and technical running but maintained a good pace through the rest of the course, not losing any time at the end.


Attending to the Media

Back at the hotel we prepared ourselves for Day 2. The next and final day was to be what I would call an actual adventure race, starting with a 2km run, 27km Mountain Bike, 2-3km Orienteering stage, 7km further Mountain Bike, Archery section, then a 21km “Pavement trails” run ending in town with a Building abseil and then a vertical ramp obstacle to get over before the finish line. I was pretty excited and looking forward to what lay ahead!

The start in Day 2 was slightly less chaotic as there was a no “Public race” runners with us today. Quickly the fast Chinese runners were off at high speed, while we stuck to our consistent pace attitude that was working well for us. Finally we transitioned to our bikes and got to work speeding through the little town, then grinding up the paved roads we had run down the previous day. We slotted nicely into 4th spot as we climbed the roads and eventually got onto a muddy trail for some “real” mountain biking! Here we gained quite a bit of distance on our rivals ahead, for a relatively inexperienced Mountain Biker Julia did a pretty good job. Eventually we caught the Chinese team in 3rd place, passed them and just when we thought we had seen the last of them they rallied and came back at us. There was a bit of jockeying for position, but in the end they managed to get a very small gap in front of us going into the orienteering section.

In a way this was tactical, it had occurred to me and maybe Flavio that if we were in transition together they may pick up on the fact that we could actually navigate and that they would be best just to follow us around. Things were going to plan just how we wanted it really until we rocked up to transition. We came through the gate expecting to find our gear bag but it was nowhere to be seen. After some stern words and some frantic backwards and forwards action, the shoes were on and I was about to step into my element!

I was fairly nervous about the orienteering section, there was a bit of pressure on me to perform, but as soon as I got that map in my hand I switched on and it was all go. Flavio described the look on my face like a little kid with a great big lollypop! I was so excited to be orienteering in a pretty cool area, an old medieval castle. There was lots of steps and quite a bit of route choice/room for errors. This played into our hands well as we caught and passed two of the Chinese teams ahead of us. I even caught a glimpse of the NZ team in the lead at one point, and had to ignore a mashall trying to point us in a less and efficient direction! To come back to the transition having made up ground was a thrill in itself, unfortunately they would let me keep the map at the end though.

Back on the bikes everyone in the team was feeling good. We had worked hard to get ourselves into a good position and things were looking good. The short bike to the Archery went pretty quickly, and then it was Sam’s turn to shine with the bow and arrow. The target looked fairly difficult to hit, slightly lower than the shooting spot and a good 30-40m away. Sam quickly took aim with his 5 arrows but unfortunately was unable to hit the target. Tough luck under pressure! This meant that we had an agonising wait of 10 minutes to serve out as our penalty. About 2mins into the wait Chinese team number 1 arrived, hit the target and were off. Then 8mins in another international team arrived, hitting the target just as we left the penalty box.

Having a bit of a rest may have been a blessing in disguise in someways as we were now eager to get out on those pavement trails to the finish. I was confident we could hold 3rd position at least, and maybe we could get closer to that Chinese team too which could mean 3rd place overall. I was still fizzing from the orienteering and took the tow rope on one of the steep hills, setting a solid pace. The tow rope was really good at keeping us altogether, cranking out the kilometers through the steep hill section.

Cruising up the hills, Julia is hidden perfectly behind FlavioCruising up the hills, Julia is hidden perfectly behind Flavio

Eventually it was time to go downhill, then uphill again, down some more and then up again! I’m pretty sure the elevation profile they showed us a the briefing did not have this much climb at the end. About 3.5 to 4 hours in our real strength started shine in the run, Julia was cranking along, with Flavio and I sharing the towing while Sam, even after his biggest run ever the day before still keeping pace. It was great, we were one big(?) unit, and didn’t even pause to take a breath when we went past the Chinese team in 2nd place. The morale lifted a notch when they dropped behind us and were out of sight.

On the final leg home

On the final leg home

Eventually the massively long bike path we had been following came to an end, descending into town. All along the bike path there was spectators videoing, watching, cheering but in town there was huge crowds of people lining the streets. It got me quite excited and an excited Tane corresponds to a fast running Tane, so probably a good thing I was the tow master at that point. As we made our way through town we approached the abseil, first we had to get to the top of the building, all crowds disappeared replaced by some concrete walls. And then Darkness as we hit the stairwell.

The auto lights had switched off, and it took movement to set them off so I lead the way using my hand as a guide on the wall. Memories of the Skytower Challenge came flooding back to me as I ran up the first two flights a bit fast, then settled down wondering just how many flights of stairs we had to go up. Thankfully the light from the top floor was shining through the stairwell about 5 stories up, signalling the top. Harnesses on and then it was business time. There was a frame overhanging the building and by the quick look I had it wasn’t too high but it still looked quite far down. I tried not to think too much, sorted my harness out and was ready. I abseiled in tandem with Julia who was initially sounding pretty terrified but once we were over the edge the terror disappeared and was replaced with enjoyment as we made our way to the ground and waited for the other two. Sam, as Flavio described him, was as white as a sheet before they edged out and hung over the edge!

Abseil done and another short run to the stadium to the end, but first one short obstacle to get over, the ramp and vertical wall. Sam and Flavio sprinted ahead straight for it, grabbed the ropes hanging down and pulled themselves up first time. Then it was our turn, I sprinted forward, grabbed rope then as I was pulling myself up got a massive attack of cramp, luckily Sam was able to give me a hand otherwise I think I might have fallen back. All up in a matter of a minute or two, and only 100 slippery meters to the finish.

We crossed the line together as we had raced all day in second place, an awesome team performance to end to a great race. For myself I had a really good time out there and I think they others were pretty happy too. To place second on Day 2 as well as finish comfortably in third place over the two days was just so satisfying especially from a bunch of first timers in China! We were rewarded with a trip to the podium, some prizes and some celebratory champagne spraying afterwards!

The Escaping wall!

The Escaping wall!

No time for too much rest once we were back at the hotel, the bikes needed to be cleaned and packed, key for getting back into NZ smoothly. Then it was back on the bus early the next morning, headed back to Chongqing where we had a few hours to have a look around. Some more waiting and shopping around in Guangzhou before the late night flight back home. The Biosecurity team was ready and waiting for us at the border, along with a camera crew from the Border Patrol TV program. They were fairly impressed with most of our gear, all but Julia who needed her bag vacuumed apparently, so watch this space we may make an appearance on TV sometime in the near future!

Team New World!

Team New World!

All told a pretty awesome trip, great team mates, really good time, great result, really keen to go back and do it all over again on another trip or two next year, but for now the next few months the “China” switch is set to off!

Special thanks to St Martins New World, Bivouac Outdoor, Inov8 Shoes

Road Trip with the Girls

North of Nelson on the West Coast is a place I haven’t actually spent too much time exploring and I have been on the look out to go check it out sometime. Unfortunately for the El Equipo Spring Challenge Team (Lara, Georgia and Emily) they were down a regular support crew member as (Riki had shirked his responsibilities and gone to a stag party in Queenstown), so I jumped in, in his place. It wasn’t too hard to convince me, especially when bribed with a shuttle and the chance to ride the Rameka track on the way there!

Since I had to take a day of work I was pretty keen to maximise my “holiday” and headed away Thursday night with Matt and Lara. We camped overnight at Marble Hill which had not yet filled with Freedom campers for the season, and instead was awoken by “Tane, look out! the baby weka are going to attack your tent!”

Baby Weka!

Baby Weka!

We had a leisurely start to the day, a goat was sighted in the back of a car in Murchison and lunch at the Riwaka resurgence before jumping on our bikes at the top of Takaka Hill. Here we meet up with Rob who was going to ride alone but gladly joined with us. The track was very cool, heaps of fun, but almost a little bit challenging for a Hard tail. The Kennett brothers extension tracks were also a very exciting addition to the end of the ride. Some of the corners on one of the trails was a little bit much for me and had to walk a few. A slight navigational/land use issue caused by Matt sent us on an extra little road bash before we managed to find Lara. Our fun over for the day it was now time to do some serious work….

River just below the Riwaka Resurgence

River just below the Riwaka Resurgence

The Sunset after a brilliant activity day for Matt and I

The Sunset after a brilliant activity day for Matt and I

Its surprisingly easy to get up at 4am for a race as support crew, I guess having been on the other side of the coin before, you know what it feel like so to not have to be nervous and ready to fire it can be quite a lot less stressful…. however this did not mean that we could rest on our laurels, to get anything wrong in transition is something that no-one wants to have to face! The sunrise was not anything special unfortunately as rain was forecast later in the day. Not ideal for us standing around waiting at the transitions. The girls were pretty speedy off the raft and we had to be too, to pack up and move to the next transition. I think the support crew next to us was left a bit speechless and very impressed the speed and with our efforts in the whirlwind of activity.

The Devils Boots. The girls came through here on their bikes later in the day

The Devils Boots. The girls came through here on their bikes later in the day

Next transition the rain came, and by the time we got to the 3rd it was bucketing down. Luckily there was a reasonably covered spot at the cafe nearby we could hang out in. The final transition was a joint one with 6 hour teams and it was in a cow paddock, wet and very muddy! Nice to see the girls out going hard despite the average conditions however not too much fun for us, especially picking up the muddy (+ cow shit), wet bikes….

Along the beach and into the finish

Along the beach and into the finish

It was a close finish, to a see saw battle between three of the top teams. Unfortunately for Georgia, Lara and Emily they ended up just being edged out into second place by 54 seconds. Georgia’s race report is here. In the 6 hour race, Isla and Hilary had to also make a bit of a come back from the bike section and coincidentally finished in second place of their race, only a few minutes after the others.

I had itchy feet once we were back to the house, but since the race was over we were allowed to have our own little mission and headed out for a run, right out by Farewell Spit. It was a very cool desolate looking place, and the track runs right up along side some big cliff’s around Cape Farewell. Eventually it started to get quite dark and we cut back along the road just as it got dark and started to rain hard. Quite a unique end to a really cool little run.

It rained all night, and it was a bit of a mud pug at the prize giving tent. Faced with a long prize giving, and a long drive back to Christchurch, I was able to sneak out for another quick run along the beach, timed to perfection. I was pretty glad to have got out running when I did, because the entire drive home it was raining on and off!


Followed by the Luke Skywalkers

Followed by the Luke Skywalkers

Having missed the previous two TWALK’s, this year I was definitely keen to get back out there for the 50th one. So 7 weeks post-op on my wrist I figured that if I was careful I could probably manage at least 1 of the legs and then crash out in the Hash house for the rest of the time. In fact when brain storming ideas, I figured that I was going to wear my full arm brace, so maybe Id get some sympathy from the others if we all dressed like we had just had surgery, which brought rise to the team name of “the Walking Wounded”.  The forecast had been looking fairly terrible all week, but after some pretty solid rain (and likely snow where we were heading) a small weather window of opened up just for us.

As always it was a somewhat murky and cool morning meeting in the UCSA car park. The buses were all there ready and waiting and an excited bunch of crazy costumed people were gathering in anticipation. By 8am we were on the buses taking us away to our mystery start location, the buses swung south out of the car park, the first hint of many on where we were heading. Two and a half hours later the buses pulled up and in the middle of a great valley every  piled out, straight to the fence to pee! Two guys dressed as portaloos, peeing out the door was possibly one of the most funny things I had ever seen at TWALK.

There was a short but entertaining briefing, which included the line, “….its not Godzone, there is only socks for prizes!” then it was time for the real crazyness to begin! Races are always a bit chaotic at the start, add to the mix a whole lot of weird and wonderful costumes and you start to wonder what the hell is going on… from men in skirts, to dragon boats, muppets and Luke Skywalker, everyone is off like a rocket trying to get to that mysterious checkpoint as fast as possible. Suddenly Darth Vader emerges from a rosehip bush and he is off, his team in pursuit and the rest of the teams left to wonder where actually he found it. Tatics come into play a little here, no one wants to give away just exactly where the marker is!

Crazyness at the start

Crazyness at the start

We found ourselves up the front end of the field from about an hour in, with quite a few TWALK’s behind us and the only other teams around us stacked with a bunch of orienteers its no real surprise really, its just a regular weekend out for us…. minus the costumes of course… well some might suggest that orienteering pants could be considered a costume! After a close fought battle with the Luke Skywalkers team through the final controls we arrived at our first stop at the Hash house. It was early afternoon by this stage and bags were only just arriving from the buses, and food just coming out. With our half hour compulsory stop I was just able to pitch my tent, as after the next leg I had enforced myself to sit and sleep out the night legs as there was a higher chance of falling over, which pretty much could ruin the surgery I was just starting to get over!

Leg 2 we were hoping to get done before dark, there was some serious climb in between us and the next few hours and it was likely we were going to get into some snow too! The flat was way too easy and the sandwich that I had scoffed down before leaving was not sitting all to well. Surprisingly it was nice to be going uphill, things were about to get very cold however. We were lucky to find one control perched on a rock that allowed us to make a break on the rest of the teams, so we had the tops to ourselves and the bittingly cold wind. Slowly we waded into the snow, ankle deep at first and then upto knee deep at the top. There was some fairly spectacular scenery on display up high and while Greig was bashing us a path through the snow, I managed to take a few photos with my left hand all the while trying to keep moving to avoid the cold and trying not to fall over!

Relief from the wind came eventually, just in time for us to head down the hill. Just on dark we came to a tricky control and the searching motivation started to wane a bit. After a good 30mins of searching we gave up, quickly moving to the next two before getting stranded again trying to find something that didnt appear to be there. Tempers frayed a little and frustratingly we gave up soon after we were caught by the chasing teams. Back at the hash house it was a close race and there was any one of 5 teams in hot contention seperated by about 5mins in total!

I sat out the next two legs and hung out in the hash house catching up on all the gossip. Eventually I gave up waiting to see my team come back in and went to sleep around 1am. It was a pretty cold night in the tent and I kept slipping of the end of my sleeping mat, getting cold feet and waking up… finally at around 7:30am I gave up for good and emerged hoping that Id slept in long enough to avoid having to go out again on 5th leg. Then as I opened the toilet door my team arrived back, all ready for some rest before the 5th and final leg! Some might say perfect timing, others might say slightly inconvenient timing.

Once Id got my gears on and warmed into the idea, it was quite exhilarating to be heading out in the lead onto the last leg. I quickly realised that I was in much better shape than Greg and Greig how had been out road bashing all night long. I also got to do most of the navigation which was a welcome distraction in the warming day light. After crossing a swollen and freezing cold looking river we spent a short time searching in vain in what I now suspect was the wrong place. Given the time we had left, we had to make a smart decision to drop it and move on to the next one. This unfortunately required 3 more crossings of the river! Having had the longest time out on the last leg we were fairly confident that even with dropping that 1 control we still had the time advantage of the others and made our way quickly back to the Hash house finishing about half an hour early. Our good judgement (?) seemed to pay off and we managed to take the win, over a relatively speedy team since we were back before them!

50 Years of TWALK – The Film – First Teaser from Tobi W on Vimeo.

Recovery mode

Time to hang the washing out!

Time to hang the washing out, all set and ready for another day!

Recovery isnt much fun, but Ive been preparing for this for a while. My wrist has been giving me quite a bit of trouble for over two years now. I did a good bit of damage crashing my bike on the first night of my first Godzone in Kaikoura. I really did myself over in that race, apart from a very sore wrist, I was nursing a concussion, had suspected broken rib/ribs, a sore shoulder, sore neck, numerous wounds including a cut that got a bit infected and a whole lot of tiredness that goes along with pushing yourself to the limit and then there  was the sleep deprivation on top of that. In short, I was pretty run down and it took a while to come back to somewhere near normal. I had my wrist x-rayed at the time, which showed nothing sinister so life went back to normal, and the pain just became part and parcel with it.

Roll on Godzone 2015, up on the Brewster Glacier (actually just the terminal face because of the weather…) I slipped on the smooth, wet rocks. Naturally I stuck my hand out to help brace myself as I hit the rock. Something went a bit funny here and it felt like my wrist wasn’t quite sitting right. I gave the joint a good squeeze and the pain significantly was reduced. Godzone didnt quite go to plan, but my wrist made it through alright. This time however this wasnt the end of it and the pain didnt go away so it was back to the doctor…

After bouncing backwards and forwards from doctor to Specialist to Surgeon, to Specialist, a couple of cortisone injections, Luxmore Grunt and a One day Coast to Coast effort, surgery became the next option. Lucky enough I managed to fit it in to coincide with the end of daylight saving, so I got to make the most of the sunshine and still was able to go to nationals!

The 1st of April (in the morning too), I went in for Arthroscopic surgery for a suspected tear and repair of my Triangular Fibro-Cartilage Complex (TFCC). The wrist joint was still reasonably stable which the Surgeon was suspicious of, especially after the MRI didn’t show up anything obvious. But once she was able to get a good look around inside she found what she later described to me as a “good” peripheral tear of the TFC. She repaired the tear and when I came around from the anesthetic  I quickly realised I had a cast on, right up around the elbow! Now I and 2 weeks down of 6 in a brace, with some more weeks after that of easing back into things.

TFCC Tears

TFCC Tears

Resting up with the cast on

Resting up with the cast on