GODZone 2013 – Adventure Race

Well yeah sorry, I’ve been busy… but here it is! Could have written 10X more than this so consider this a brief summary of the race. Enjoy. (Cheers Rob for some of the photo’s!)

Preparation for this race sucked. With it only going to be 4 weeks since I had done Coast to Coast and the amount of recovery required, I didn’t really have time to focus of Godzone training. In fact overall I’d done barely any because my entire focus over summer was C2C. Then again how do you train for a almost week long non-stop adventure race? I don’t know! I haven’t done one before! After C2C I kept a healthy fitness level (as much as my body could handle) and spent most of my time gathering up all the equipment necessary.

I arrived in Queenstown just under 1 week prior to Race start. More than enough time to get ready – didn’t stop me from finding better things to do though! MTBing, running, kayaking, swimming and general chilling out in Wanaka and Cromwell.

Never really sure where or how to organised my clothing, food and equipment, it had me stressing a bit – really though, how could we know? We didn’t know anything about the race except that it was about 500km long. When it came to food the decisions were important but I’m unaware of what would suit my body for 6 days of activity. I found out pretty quick that saving money on this one was out of the question. I believe I spent about $400 on groceries alone. Arrg!! $$$

I have the food… now where to put it..?

Friday Morning we left Cromwell early to get on the Morning show for Queenstown’s More FM radio station. Live broadcast – tick off the list!  Then it was compulsory gear check where we also finally found out exactly what stages the race was broken up into i.e. discipline, distance, elevation and est. time to complete. All we didn’t know now was where the location of each one was.

Registration – getting too keen, they work better in water.

Saturday at 10am all competitors were on the buses and soon it was revealed that the unknown start line was Mt Cook – we were also handed all our maps. The race begins here. Once at destination X we spent hours intensively planning our routes and sealing the maps watertight.

Mystery Bus trip to the start line, sneaking in last minute naps where possible!
Just got the maps, wow.. contours are 5 meters right?

It began with 25km of mountaineering over Annette Plateau. From the start it had been a team decision that we were not ‘racing’ as such and out to there to finish really. My competitive side found this hard to handle at times – it was mildly frustrating watching others pass us and also knowing how far the leaders were ahead throughout the race.

This was Rob’s, Naomi’s and my own first real first Adventure Race though, how to pace ourselves was something we were very cautious on.

As soon as the start gun went we took it easy, shuffling our way in the mid of the pack, just fast enough to ensure that no one held us up later on or vice versa.

It was a dark and steep climb out of Mt Cook Village with mind-blowing views of the mountains, valleys and glaciers, in fact we were on one.  A surreal place to be racing. Once at the tops we had crampons attached, and carabiners hooked to the fixed ropes. The final, steepest section cased for an impromptu waiting line for safety reasons because some had fallen earlier. Naomi was super strong on her feet leaping over rocks and down the valley with ease, she was hard to keep up with.  The steep descent back down was hard on the feet early in the race. And boy was it stinking hot – layering on or off takes time so sometimes it’s a hard call to make to stop for it.

Heading up, up and up – out of Mt Cook village

Then 37km of rafting (in a leaking boat) down the rapids of the Tasman River. Rapids were good value but the rafts were not. Rob and I were together in one, apparently there’s a technique to paddling them but we could not get right. The floor deflated and the pontoons slowing going down meant the flat section across Lake Pukaki was painfully slow.

Not us, but you get the idea, Wahoo!

140km of Mountain biking started off by the Lake then went through Twizel and along the canals. We stopped near the edge of Lake Ohau for our first kip at around 4am for an hour – No, the body did not want to wake up, but I made it. Whizzing(highly exaggerated) up and around to the Clay cliffs before crossing Ahuriri River and finishing the stage at a Farm station up the valley, Approx 2pm on Day 2. Some may have seen me T.V in the Clay cliffs part, they used me as an example of someone who was tired at the start of the race – Just to defend for my man-liness sake they met me at the top of hill I’d just sprinted up in a rush and was of course in a tired state. (here’s the link: http://www.3news.co.nz/Godzone-race-well-underway/tabid/317/articleID/289864/Default.aspx ) I’m in at about 40secs.

Team Photo. Just before Clay Cliffs.

Next stage – 60km trek over to Dingle burn stream, then up, down, around, up, down and around to Lindis Pass. This trek is where our feet (if they weren’t already) got hammered (except for Naomi of course who had actually prepared for the race). It was hot weather still so our feet got moist with sweat making them soft and swell, mix that with a 10kg+ pack (I’d had never trained with that weight), with abrupt down/uphill with technical terrain hours and hours on end = throbbing pain below the ankles. We headed towards Lake Hawea which could be seen hiding in the distance once at height. After observing how steep the terrain around Mt Martha was, that route was scrapped and we went straight down the valley to the bushline which we planned to follow instead. Upon a quick scout the bush appeared very thin at our height and made for fast travel. Now following the river in the bush all the way to track instead. However we overshot the track. Bugger. Not really sure, we continued another kilometre until it met the main river which confirmed our mistake. A steep and thick bush bash upwards for an hour and back on track. We hit the check point shortly after at about Midnight and slept for 2 hours. Climbing up and out of there was steep and involved heaps or bush bashing, more than the map led on. Some nav errors + misplacing a map + more steep/impassable terrain meant we diverted course again and spent time off the map in the unknown. Another screaming hot day made the climb up to Stody’s hut(CP) hell – 500m up over 1km. Even more so for Josh who had wrecked his foot somehow on the climb. I was stumped with what to do. The other two took his gear up while I supported/ pushed/towed him. It wasn’t working. Two teams passed us on the way up. One had a doctor in them (Naomi is also a doctor) but he also could not diagnose it. Another team kindly gave their Nordic poles to Josh, now progress was being made, but it was very, very slow. Eventually at the Hut we had about fours there to try and get Josh repaired. We tended ourselves too – Dr Naomi was kept very busy.  Slowly we made it to the stage end. I really thought that our race was over but miraculously Josh recovered to the point where he was able walk more, well, briskly…

Start of 60km Trek, climbing out, up and towards Mt Martha.
Naomi keeping an eye on Josh, note the Norfolk poles.

Then a 55km Mountain Bike over Mountain tops of Grandview to Albert Town Via Hawea – that was hard!, So much upwards, so much pushing, walking uphill in MTB shoes with feet that are ruined is not nice, at all. I also managed to tear open my tyre near the top on a small downhill. The boy’s used this time to succumb to the exhaustion and heat to get a quick kip.

Rob Lord! Admires the sweet view during a wicked descent to Albert Town. Lake Hawea in background.

We arrived at Stage end in Albert town around 6pm only 1 hour until no one is allowed in the rapids of the river –‘ blackzoned’. We played it safe and decided to camp at the TA. A good decision regardless because here we discovered Rob had very large and very infected blister. The infection was clearly crawling its way up his leg. Thoughts were thrown around that we/he may not be able to continue. Not a great point in the race for him or the team. He had a lot of time throughout the night with medics ect. All tending to it and eventually got some antibiotics. In the end the decision was left in Robs hands. Like a true adventurer he kept his keen eye on the finish line, we all continued on together.

Rob’s has the worst of many blisters tended to here.This is the one we were worried about.

7am that morning we were allowed on the water for the 90km Kayak down the Clutha to Lake Dunstan finishing just north of Cromwell. Some great rapids then the flats was where I switched to robotic mode to trying and just power through it at a rhythm. My feet and legs hated being still in the boat – I can only imagine the pain Rob and Josh had. Naomi of course seemed sweet as!

Josh and Naomi just about to paddle under Luggate Bridge on the Clutha River.

No one was happier to finish the kayak than Rob – Rob is a tri-athlete, he does not kayak normally, I believe he had tired arms after that one.

A 35km Trek through the Pisa ranges to Cadrona Snow Park was dreaded especially knowing it would be spent in darkness. The Pisa Range is very hard to navigate due to its steep but barren land strewn with large rock features (Lucky dip which ones are on the map!). The race in November was also in this area, see the blog here. Most of it went well until we got lost. After much frustration it was decided to wait until sunrise so we could actually see where the hell we were. Sure enough we were no more than 400 meters from where we needed to be… Along with rocks there was Spaniard, lots of it. Don’t know what Spaniard is? –  It’s a plant made by the devil.

I reflect on the steep climb from Lake Dunstan to the Pisa range
Last checkpoint in the Pisa Range. Exhausted and hot! There’s nothing under that race bib..

Eventually we trudged our way through swampy land to Snow Park.

Snow Park! One stage to go…

The final stage: 72km Mountain Bike over Crown range to Queenstown Via the 109m Canyon swing to Finish. This race was far from over still, the stage wasn’t simple by any means. Another never-ending climb up the Crown Range but the descent was worth it. Nearly set the brakes on fire though!

Couldn’t find any photo’s of us so here is one of Team Harraway Oats near the top of Crown Range

We hammered the final 30kms (all on road/ easy flat trails) as hard as possible, Rob brought out his strength here and was towing Nomes at a pace I had to work to keep up with. The aim was to get to the canyon swing before darkness. We didn’t make and had to settle for a painfully slow abseil next to the swing. A short 10km ride to ponder thoughts and through the finish shoot we went. Pizza and champagne for everyone! First thing I did was removed my bloody shoes!

I have no idea what I’m up to here, but we are done! Fin.

Sleep deprivation was tricky to get used to, actually I don’t think you can. After starting at 6am our first sleep wasn’t until 4am the next morning and was only for an hour – so you can get the gist that our bodies had a hard time. A learning experience to be cherished. Adventure racing really requires ALOT more than fitness, things that will probably take years to acquire, but I’m still keen to stay in the game!

The team, post race.

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