One of the highlights of the winter is the Spring Challenge- an All-Girl Adventure Race. Our 2013 team ‘Thighs Of Steel’ consisting of Naomi Whitehead, Lynley Coventry and myself were looking forward to a winter of training together and lining up again as defending champions in 2014. Unfortunately, a series of illness and injuries meant that we went through 4 changes in team mates right to the last minute. A big thanks to Sia Svendsen who stepped in with only two days’ notice to fill the third spot along with Eloise Fry. After an uncertain time, we finally made it to start line.
As we drove down to the Hokitika on the Friday, we were met with the heavy rain fall that the West Coast has become synonymous with. An early briefing saw us back to our digs by 8 pm for some dinner, map preparations and general team bonding. This year’s race was being made into a documentary for a national TV program in Japan. Along with making decent cars, the Japanese definitely know how to capture everything on camera. There were cameras around every corner- on motorbikes, helicopters, speed boats and foot, following the lead teams throughout the race.
Sia taking off at the start line
At the early hour of 6 am the rain had not eased and it looked like we were in for a wet and muddy day. We set off for the 3 km run well-insulated in our wet suites. Sia took off like a rocket and we reached the fleet of rafts as the second team, just behind Seagate. We jumped in a boat together and rafted through Hokitika Gorge. This was one of the best rafts sections I had done, with stunning views and super-fast water.
Rafting through Hokitika Gorge
We reached transition (TA1) with a good gap on the rest of the field. A short bike section through lots of cow poo took us to TA2 and a 4 km run with some navigation. While we were off on our run, the our support crew, Josh and Mark, were being entertained by watching a stream of support crews in 4x4’s getting stuck in a muddy paddock. The farmer was only too happy to pull them out with his tractor after their tyres and egos had given up! Meanwhile, we jumped back on our bikes for the longest section of around 3 hrs including a 20 min run/navigation. Team El Rancho battled for our second place with their excellent navigations skills, but we managed to hold them of on the long bike section. The highlight of this section was riding along ‘The West Coast Trail’ before reaching the third transition at Lake Kanierie.
Real race food: pressed organic apple juice, fresh fruit and raw, organic awaken bars
While we were battling the rain and the wind, the boys went into town for a coffee. When they came back to the car they found that someone had reversed in to Mark’s car, hooked up their tow bar on his bumper and ripped the whole front end off! They drove in to TA3 looking like Mad Max on a rainy day. Nick and Gary (support crew Team Seagate) offered to carry the bumper in their ute. They seemed to have great pleasure in displaying it as their trophy as Seagate passed through transition.
Subaru Legacy 'Mad Max Style'
We set off on the 12 km run around the lake in second place. The race was still quite tight with the top 4 teams all within 15 min of each other. Straight out of transition, there were two tricky controls to find. I made a navigational error which cost us valuable time and our second place. During the run the rain had eased and the track was really good fun with technical and undulating sections. We had a local guy filming for the Japanese TV crew following our every step. It certainly makes things different when your every move is being filmed! Eloise was in great form and kept our spirits high while alternating between talking and eating.
Getting ready for the final stretch
After nearly 3 hrs on the run we were glad to see TA4 for a change of scenery. We climbed in to the big blue inflatable canoes and set off on the 8 km section. Our spirits were high and we had some giggles as we slowly paddled our way across the lake. We saw teams in front and behind, but everyone seemed to be moving equally as slow as each other, so we kept paddling at a comfortable pace while admiring the views and trying to stay warm.
As we approached our final transition (TA5) we were happy to exchange canoes for our bikes with the hope to warm up soon. All the support crews had dropped bikes off in a field for the teams. When we arrived there were about 150 bikes waiting. We knew that ours would be near the front and sure enough we nearly tripped over them. Still shivering and with chattering teeth we attacked the final 20 km of road riding. We were moving at a good pace to finish strong in 4th place. It was a fun day out exploring some new places on the West Coast with Eloise and Sia. The weather made for great character building, some important lessons were learnt and new friends made.
One of the 25 cameras awaiting us at the finish line