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

Southern Raid on Rotoiti

As the Southerly passed through the South Island on a blustery Wednesday night, it dumped a good amount of snow on the mountains. This made for a cold and wet night of picking up controls from the Night Nav! By Friday night the roads through the mountains were open again allowing us to get to St Arnard for a freezing cold night in a freezing cold holiday house. It got so cold overnight I had to get up early and light the fire!

The sun arrived reasonably early and things began to warm up enough to venture outside. When we did however the day was all on. Nick went early on his road bike to catch Brent riding in from Nelson; Georgia, Lara and I jumped on our Mountain Bikes and rode one of the trails one the hills behind St Arnard to the Red Hills hut, and the other 3 climbed up to Parachute rocks.


The beginning of the snow biking

The view from the top (pic. Emily Kelly)

The view from the top (pic. Emily Kelly)

There was quite a bit of snow on the tops which made for some cool riding…. excuse the pun. As we started to descend there was a chorus of squealing brakes, and a lot of slipping and sliding. I in fact took a bit of a forward tumble which saw the bike land on top of me and some delicate extraction was required. There was some very nice technical riding couple with a very smooth downhill back to home base.

By the time we had made it back to the house, Brent, Nick and Emily had moved onto there next activities, while the others we sitting back doing some study. There was just enough time for a quick lunch before the itchy-ness of the fine weather caused us to get moving again. Before we knew it we were all on the water in various watercraft. Our motley crew of 5 explored the top half of the Buller river for an exciting ride down around about 2-3km of pleasant rapids.

Getting ready for exploring the Buller river (pic. Emily Kelly)

Getting ready for exploring the Buller river (pic. Emily Kelly)

By the time we reached the house again the sun was going down, but this evening the house was roasting hot, perfect preparation for the purpose we were actually all there for the Wily Weka rogaine!

Gear explosion after and action packed activity day

Gear explosion after and action packed activity day… I counted 18 pairs of shoes!

Sunday morning was again a very cold start, but once we were underway in the rogaine, this was quickly forgotten. Brent’s efforts to wear Nick out the day before didn’t quite go to plan and nick was on fire for the first few hours. I was a little more conservative, but still was pushing pretty hard. It came clear quite early on that clocking the course was definitely on, especially being out the back end of the course with 4 hours still to go. 2.5 hours down we passed Brent and Dan, who also looked like they were moving pretty quick.

A small fire was lit under Nick when we reached West bay and we absolutely smoked the orienteering controls…. well Nick did, I was just hanging on as best I could. Around 3.5 hours in the fatigue was finally starting to slow Nick down a bit causing a little bit of brain fade too, and almost a punch up on course with some less than obliging 3 hour competitors!

I felt it was my job here to keep the pressure on Nick as we headed around the bay to the last few controls. Things were going well until we got a bit stumped on one control that was not quite in the right place and we just completely didn’t find it even after going back to where it should have been on the map and taking a photo. Oh well, we didn’t have time to muck around, so we moved on and smashed out the last few controls, finishing up 45 mins early with basically all the controls, but most importantly the win under our belts.

This wasn’t quite the end of the story however, Nick is a competitor and so am I to be honest so we headed to the planner to discuss the mysterious control we went past but did not see. Both parties left the discussion dis-satisfied, which did kind of leave a bit of a bad taste in our mouths after all we had just collected pretty much all the controls, covered 46km and finished 45mins early to take the win!

Georgia, Lara and Em did a good job in the women’s grade, also winning followed by Sophie and Sonia in second place. So a pretty good job all around for the Southerly Storm! An awesome weekend, awesome weather, awesome place, awesome results…. cant get much better than that!

An Epic Southern Orienteering Week

This has been a long time coming but finally, and since I’m currently otherwise incapacitated, I thought it was about time for a recap just over 3 months later….

Back in the midsummer this year and just before Coast to Coast I had a pretty bad kayaking trip down the Waimak gorge. I really wanted to get back up and do it straight away but a week of orienteering beckoned around my original hometown of Wanaka! So the car was loaded up with orienteering gear, camping gear, then a whole lot of adventuring gear, and of course a Kayak as that is what I really needed to practice.  Gear loaded it was time to pick up my travelling companions, Georgia (in full on Godzone training mode) and Lizzie ( Pro NZ orienteer, on her summer holiday/escape scandi winter mission).  Some serious questions of our orienteering intentions were asked by Lizzie as we left Christchurch with a fully laden car of gear, bikes on the back and a kayak on the roof! while she was left wondering what she had herself in for….

I had set my self on a self prescribed “Chris Forne” training diet of kayaking, kayaking, and more kayaking basically every day, as I needed to improve my paddling strength and stability ten fold to ensure I was going to achieve my Coast to Coast goals. This actually delayed the whole leaving process on Saturday afternoon somewhat as I was out paddling that morning, before doing 100 other things before getting home to pack. That meant dinner was in a sea gull infested part of Tekapo before slipping into a difficult to detect camping spot somewhere over the Lindis pass in the dark.

Day 2 was meticulously planned out, with some orienteering training in the morning to get us in the game ( and partially to make sure Lizzie knew we were serious about orienteering!) then a scary trip to the supermarket with way too many tourists. After some much needed lunch away from too many tourists at Glendu Bay I had to get my paddle in on the lake, while Georgia rode her Mountain bike to Wanaka and back and Lizzie tried to do some strength training with out the “central park phenomenon” kicking in. With still some daylight left and the opportunity for some more training we headed up to Raspberry Flat for a short jog up the Rob Roy Glacier for some touristing in the fine weather. I was pretty tempted to paddle down from the car park to the Otago boys lodge (our accommodation for the night) but eventually I thought better of it having already paddled for an hour that day. There as a small chance to get a bike ride in to the lodge itself set back approximately 500m from the road.

Day 3 and the rain had set in early in the morning, things were not looking fantastic for some orienteering, but luckily we didnt have to go all that far to the starts as the lodge was the event centre for one of the best New orienteering maps in NZ.

Matukituki my new favorite/hometown orienteering map!

Matukituki my new favorite/hometown orienteering map!

Unfortunately I wasnt entirely in race mode, but really enjoyed the map and the terrain, it was amazing and I can not wait to get back there to race again. At the end of the day the sun came out for some control collecting, and then guess what a paddle! I had decided I was going to kayak down from the bridge just as we had done so in Godzone a year prior, but I needed some friends to paddle with too. All this talk of me paddling down the river got a few people excited and soon enough there was a flotilla of various boats paddling down the river. After some early excitement in the rapids just down from the bridge where we put in it was all plain sailing, a little bit too plain for the pack raft and the play boat! They pulled out an hour or so down the river while I continued on to West Wanaka.

Preparing for the paddle down the Matukituki

Preparing for the paddle down the Matukituki

A middle distance race on day 4 turned out to be a “Chris Forne” middle distance, ie multiday distance race. Quite fun but very scratchy when off track, and you had to be onto things in the technical sections to ensure you hit the controls nicely. Mountain biking was on the agenda for the afternoon for some of the others, while for me it was some more kayaking. This time from Bremner bay round to the outlet and the Albert Town bridge. Georgia went Mountain Biking while Lizzie went into town to escape the crazyness for a bit of relaxing at a cafe. A little bit intimidating on my own but I managed to survive ok. The evening’s activity was orienteering once again, this time a sprint race at the Wanaka schools map. Both schools I went to and the site of my first orienteering victory way back before the primary school was ever there! Try as I might though I was unable to replicate my victory from back in the day!

By Day 5 I was struggling with the motivation to paddle, and with two long-ish orienteering races ahead of me I took a break from the paddling… besides I had already arranged to paddle down the Clutha the following day with Al Cory-Wright! After Lara’s Birthday breakfast pancake feast it was time for some orienteering just across the road from our campsite. It was pretty intense, straight into the technical scattered Manuka forest. My race was not particularly great so heading into the chasing start that afternoon I was starting just a few seconds behind Lizzie! It was chaos after picking my map up there was people running everywhere quite randomly all over the place. I made a little break on my group, then later another small break before blowing it all out on the last control. Damn. I was not very happy at all. Eventually I got over it and myself and it was on to the next event, the rest day!

Chris and Emily were on their way through to Queenstown, moving into their new home town with all their worldly possessions including their double sea kayak. Unfortunately Georgia’s plan to camp up at the Brewster hut was looking less feasible due to the weather and Lizzie had decided to ditch us for the relative calmness of the Robertsons who were heading to Queenstown. So Georgia and I hatched a new plan to deliver Chris and Em’s kayak to Bannockburn via the Clutha and the top end of Lake Dunstan.

Early morning and the wind was up with it forecast to get stronger, so Al and I eventually made it onto the Clutha for my first trip of the week down the river. It was a pretty scary trip for me, there was some big wave trains and I felt quite unstable in places. The wind also made life difficult and I had a number of close calls wobbling my way down. I managed to stay dry but by the end of the trip I had pretty much made my mind up that I would revert to my trusty old eclipse for Coast to Coast. The afternoon’s entertainment was mountain biking with Nick Hann, we had a pretty fun but relaxing ride over Deans bank and along the tracks back to the outlet.

There were a few people jealous of our mission to deliver the kayak the next day. We had to make an early start to make sure we were going to get to the orienteering in Cromwell in time (4pm that afternoon). It was a fantastic morning when we started and less wind than the day before but more was scheduled to come later in the day…. the first part of the river was great, it was much nicer in a big stable boat. Then came what I think is called the washing machine rapid. In my unstable Sharp the day before I approached with caution, and somehow made it through fine, but this time I was in a stable double sea kayak, so no holds barred I stuck the nose straight into the rapid and we were through the wave train quickly. There was a big eddy to the right which opened up as we cruised on in and wham, before I knew it we were upside down in a double sea kayak! Shocked and surprised I popped the spray deck, and looked up to see an equally wet and surprised Georgia clinging onto the boat! Somehow we must have caught the edge when the eddy spun the boat and the wave train hit the side at the rear of the kayak. Anyway we floated down the river for a little while, attempting to get back in while in the middle, but didn’t quite get there in time before the next rapid. So we ran it holding onto the boat. There is a lot of volume and a lot of water in that river so it was quite an effort to get it to shore and emptied out. Ironically the weather turned a bit at this point too, it ominously got darker and a little cooler. The wind however had not picked up much by this stage, and it was still a long trip down the river the lake. The last few km’s was all plain sailing and then onto the lake we had about two hours to make the final 12km in Cromwell for the orienteering.

After a quick pit stop we were underway on the lake and the wind was building. We picked the close side early on…. not sure if this was a mistake or not but it definitely was the shortest route…. the waves started to build, thankful it was behind us. Then we started to surf the waves, and thing got pretty exciting. It was pretty good for a short while until the direction we were heading was some cliff’s… at this point I was struggling to keep the boat under control, surfing down the breaking waves. Things were not looking too good, I was panicking a bit, unsure what to do. Then I heard yelling from the back, “JUST PADDLE!!!” So in a very small lull, I managed to get the boat going away from the rocks while it was not breaking and then as soon as the boat caught the wave, it was turn and surf. Once on the wave the boat powered forwards quite quickly. The waves were quite short in there frequency, so when surfing the front half of the boat was well above the water, Georgia’s back seat was submerged and the rudder was sticking out of the water! This continued for what felt a very a long time…giving rise to the “why is it always like this!” comment, which became the catch cry for the rest of the paddle. It was a pretty harrowing ordeal and a huge relief to reach land after a total of 5 hours of paddling. It wasn’t just physically taxing but mentally taxing too as Georgia and I stumbled into the Cromwell camping ground to hitch a ride to the orienteering.

Not sure if this is the best place to store a kayak?

Not sure if this is the best place to store a kayak?

It was safe to say that the days events had taken its toll a bit and I had a good navigational race but a pretty poor physical race! Then it was back to the kayak for the final push for the camping ground in Bannockburn. Thankfully the winds were a bit calmer, but we did have the last few kms upstream to battle with. Finally we were done, one big day of paddling! Lizzie came back to join us again too, deciding that maybe we weren’t as stressful as her company for the previous two days!

We had made it to the final two days of the long week orienteering, and it was time for the long distance at Earnscleugh. I wasn’t really in the best of shape for this race so I suffered around the course with an alright time but still a bit of the pace. After the long drive back to Bannockburn I could feel a cold coming on so instead of paddling I opted to rest for the afternoon, so at least I would have an alright day at the Bannockburn Slucings.

The last day at Bannockburn

The last day at Bannockburn

The final day of an epic Southern O Week was another Central Otago stunner, super hot and dry with the threat of a thunderstorm looming. I raced hard and had a good time out there, I did manage to roll my ankle twice quite badly which slowed me a bit on a few controls. It was one hard slog up the hill to the finish. There were some pretty amazing fruit trees at the finish area which was a pretty satisfying way to finish Southern O Week 2016.

The week wasn’t quite over with the final orienteering race, there was time for one more paddle in the heat of the day before heading home to Christchurch! Mission complete one epic week of training, racing and Orienteering!



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

Exploring all options

There is a saying that goes:

” if Plan A didn’t work, don’t worry, the alphabet has 25 letters.”

…..and that sums up the weekend just been. Plan A was a no go with the weather, Plan B was also a no go with the weather so it was down to Plan C.

Plan C started off without a hitch, Myself, Emily and Georgia packed up some sea kayaks with the intention of driving out to Akaroa to for a bit of an explore. Plan C would have had us leaving Christchurch at 8am, which after a busy evening getting gear sorted, eating etc, evolved to 9am (Plan D). Plan E came into effect when Emily slept in and we ended up leaving town at around 10:30!

We were very efficient once on the road however and Plan E was going pretty well until we got out near the entrance to the harbour. The wind had picked up and the swell was getting a little bit much for me in a single sea kayak while Georgia and Em powered through the rough seas ahead of me. I was not in a happy place out there and feeling quite uncomfortable, and in the end I had to turn back before we reached our planned destination. Around about halfway back we pulled into a nice calm bay for some lunch and formulated Plan F!

Unfortunately we spent way too long lounging in the sun and the wind swung around, making it a headwind for the paddle home! We paddled across the harbour then ventured into some small caves, managing just to avoid a gigantic bird poo in the process. This was followed by a real slog into the wind home. I just managed to avoid getting run over by not 1 but 2 boats ferrying passengers from the Cruise ship anchored in the bay… Em and Georgia were a bit more onto it and managed to maneuver out of the way quite quickly.

Its always surprising how quickly you cool down after getting out of a kayak and even though there was a hint of Summer in the air, it cooled off really quick. Fish and Chips were in order to warm us back up.

Plan F was going pretty well to plan until I failed to get up in sufficient time to get ready for the orienteering on Saturday. So onto Plan G… The trip down to Timaru took a little bit longer than expected, I guess I didn’t account for the flaff factor of picking Georgia and Greig up. Plan G didn’t last too long before we decided we were running out of time to go to the Supermarket and make it to the orienteering on time. So straight to the Orienteering at Paramanui we went.

The orienteering at Paramanui was pretty technically challenging. I think I went in with the right attitude and had a fairly consistent run. I wasn’t immune from making mistakes but comparatively to others around me I seemed to be on target most of the time. Not quite good enough to take the win however. Really lacking the orienteering practice of late. I did take some satisfaction in being the car winner though.

It was back to Timaru briefly before an ‘Eskimo pie’ fueled trip down to Dansey’s pass camping ground for the night. A relatively warm evening turned to a cool and rainy morning for the orienteering at Humpy Bumpy. This time around there was a bit more running and orienteering combined. I also felt like I had a good attitude going into the race. Sadly I got a bit panicky around some of the controls when there was others around. Greig was a contributing factor to my biggest mistake. I went out of the previous control, knowing I needed to turn 90 degrees once around the rock to get back on the red line. This didn’t quite work out all that effectively under the pressure of having Greig hot on my tail, and I went off into never never land for a good minute. This proved to be costly  in the end when after finished very quickly I couldn’t quite manage to pull the extra 3 seconds back on Nick Smith!

There was a few changes to Plan A but it didnt get anywhere close to Plan x, y or z so it turned out to be a pretty good weekend all round really, good way to spend the long weekend!