We did it – we completed our first ever GodZone Pursuit the first time it was ever run! We were all new to expedition length adventure racing but had all competed in multiple shorter adventure races before. I did not know any of the guys before joining the team. A team member got injured at the last minute and we only just managed to get a last minute replacement. Thanks Simon!
Standing at the start line on the beach at Kaiteriteri, I looked around. We were the youngest team by miles with Nathan – 19 years old, Lachlan 19, myself 21 and our replacement Simon, bringing up our team age average at 58 years. When you are out there together as a team age doesn’t matter, what does is working together to get through the race. We were off on the first leg, which was coasteering and sea kayaking. The kayak was okay but not great. My stomach decided not to like me much, I was feeling pretty sick and threw up while paddling. Not a great start.
We got fantastic support from local friends and family at the Rabbit Island transition onto our mountain bikes. The guys are from Richmond so they knew the biking area reasonably well – we even biked past Simon’s house and his family was out cheering us on. I really enjoyed the single track in the Richmond Hills. We caught up with a few teams on this leg. There was a big climb up to control point (CP) 8, it was a bit of a slog so the boys pulled out the towline to give me a bit of a boost up the hill. Once at CP 8 we enjoyed an awesome downhill ride to the transition area (TA) to find our support crew ready to feed us some nice warm food.
It was dark when we headed onto leg 3 – the alpine trek in the Richmond Range. We climbed up Ben Nevis and had a clear night sky once we were at the top. We keep going along the ridge for a bit longer before stopping around 4am for a nap. We wanted to bank some sleep early on in the race and not to burn out too early. Lachlan and Nathan got to sleep quickly while Simon and I struggled and got really cold. I managed about an hours sleep before we had to get moving quickly as we were freezing on the ridge. The weather had deteriorated so we woke to fog. We keep moving until we hit a point where we were not quite sure where we were…This became a trend for the next 6 hours as we tried to navigate in the fog. We ran into some other teams in the same situation. We also discovered that our two compasses indicated that north was in different directions as one was 180 degrees out! Eventually, we found a point we could identify and then Nathan successfully navigated us out of the fog and onto the track.
It was pretty smooth sailing from there. Lachlan was having some issues with his knees but we still managed to keep moving. We walked along the track for several hours until we reached the bike pick up point. I was relieved to get there, as the soles of my feet were painful. We biked up a little hill to the transition area to find our support crew ready with hot chocolate and warm food. We were pretty tired at this point so we slept and hit leg 4 – a mountain bike in the day light. It was the most amazing sleep!
After waking, we fueled up and set off on the 73km mountain bike. We all felt good at this point, which made for a nice ride. We had a section on the road to start with and then a hill to get over. The downhill was awesome and we spotted a good view of Lake Rotoroa. Once passed the Lake an onto the next section of the bike were we had a super cool downhill section which was so much fun.
Then it was off the bikes and onto the paddle down the Matakitaki River. We had not done much training for this leg so we weren’t going to be super quick, but it didn’t take us long to get the hang of it. Lachlan knows how to raft guide so him and Simon went in front so we could follow their lines. We got though the ‘middles’ run section of the river and got ‘dark zoned’ just before the river run ‘lowers’. We camped up and enjoyed a nice long sleep. Fresh in the morning we set off on the river and had a blast on the grade 3 section. We got off the river in Murchison and headed along the road to the TA where we enjoyed some breakfast, yum – spaghetti on toast. We then set off on a short 34km bike to the next TA.
Before heading off on the 25km Alpine trek Lachlan had an injury checked, which gave us time to chow down some pies! We had a nice hill to start with, it was a steady climb but we made good progress on it. We keep moving steadily on the trek while keeping the eating and drinking up. It was good to be doing it in daylight with Nathan keeping on top of the navigation. We spotted some teams on a ridge but they were all Pure teams. It started getting dark on the downhill section. Everything was going well until the end of the trek where careful navigation was needed to ensure we took the right four-wheel drive track. We took our time and nailed the nav. As we neared the road we realised a bull was rapidly coming towards us! We jumped onto the side of the track to see the farmer herding it away from us and the track. Phew!
After the trek, it was onto the 140km mountain bike ride to Totaranui. Before starting, we had a good feed and had our feet looked at, in preparation for a long night ahead. Everyone still seemed to be in good spirits. We headed off on the bikes and into the night. The first part of the ride was just riding on the road so we tried playing a game called Goose to stay alert. It involved trying to spot yellow road signs and yelling out goose…..it seemed so exciting at the time……. We finally made it to the start of the Takaka hill roughly around midnight. It was a slog of a climb that we steadily conquered. The whole ride seemed to involve a few too many stops involving light issues/battery changes, layer changes and lots of peeing. Eventually we made the top of the Hill and we headed onto the Rameka Track (about 3am), an awesome single track that was super fun and kept me awake. We had a sudden stop when Simon spotted a Native Snail on the track and rescued it. Once we were back onto the road, I started to feel a bit drowsy so I smashed back a gel, which managed to wake me up. The last hill over to Totaranui bay was killer but we finally made it to the TA after a long night.
The sun was up and it was a beautiful day to paddle the Able Tasman to Kaiteriteri. Paddling is not our teams’ strength, but we managed it. We all found ourselves dozing off at points and struggling to stay awake. Not that it mattered much as all we only had to make it through the paddle. We paddled around the corner and spotted the finish line. After 4 days 2hrs 27min we had made it! We had completed GodZone Pursuit, the first ever expedition length adventure race for all of us. It was an incredible journey with its ups and downs (literally), we stuck it out together as a team and made it through. We finished 4th place over all in the Pursuit teams and 3rd in the mixed teams. The Pursuit race was a good first expedition race as it made the organisation a bit easier and meant our support crew could look after us in TA’s. It was a fun way to experience expedition length adventure racing and made me want to do more. It is more than just a race – it is definitely an adventure.
We could not have done this race without our amazing support crew – Team parents. Thanks Mum, Nathan’s Dad and Uncle and Lachlan’s dad. Also thanks to Lachlan and Nathan’s mums who joined in on some of the fun as well (they provided lots of good food and brought us pies). The support crew seemed to work nearly as hard as us (they even gave us their beds at one TA) and were up at crazy times. Strangely enough, my Mum does not seem put off by this and already wants to come along next year. Also thanks to Awaken Bars, they were super yummy and easy to eat. I always looked forward to them while out on the course. So what’s the next big adventure?