The Spring Challenge was ment to be my last adventure race of the season before getting back into some serious bike training. But when Team Absolute Wilderness (Dan Moore, Dan Busch and Jeremy Mckenzie) were looking for a girl to race the 12 hr Next-Generation Adventure Race, I jumped happily to the rescue. The exact start was kept secret until the night before race day which made for interesting speculations during the long drive to Christchurch. Organised by well-known orienteer and rogainer Tim Farrant promised a challenging and fun course.
Waimakariri River at 7 am in the morning
The race start was approximately one hour north of Christchurch with a 10 km paddle down the Waimakariri River. Everyone gathered at the early hour of 7 am at the start line. As the hooter went every team collected a piece of paper with the following puzzle:
Now try and solve this puzzle before you read on and imagine adrenaline rushing through your veins eager to get going combined with increasing anxeiety as more and more teams around you are disappearing. I'd say it was a case of third time lucky when we finally had the right answer. We hopped in our boats and quickly floated down the river with a few rapids adding some excitment and speed.
Dan and Jeremy Paddling the Waimakariri River
I was happy to get out of the boat after one hour of paddling and was looking forward to getting on my bike. Not quite paying attention to the strong current at the exit point, I lost balance and took a nice re-freshing plunge. Luckily dry clothes were waiting at transition and the sun did the rest.
Riding along the banks of Waimakiri River
We set off on our 70 km bike ride along the river. After only 15 minutes of riding, I saw Dan's wheel going dangerously close to some drift wood, the next second there was a horrible noise and a broken derailleur. We turned his bike into single speed and carried on playing catch-up with the rest of the teams.
Long flat road riding
The first part of the ride consisted of lots of flat roads- not ideal for a single speed. Dan Moore went on Dan Busch's tow rope and Jeremy took the wind in the front. That way we were still moving at a steady pace. Just to test Dan a bit more, he had to grind it out up a steep hill to transition.
Great running and walking tracks in the Oxford Forest
We dropped our bikes in transition and went on a four hour hike. The bush was amazing and the tracks great to run on. We left those tracks too soon and navigated up a narrow stream to our next checkpoint. From there we headed up to the highpoint of the hike through native bush and thick undergrowth. I went on tow and got pulled through, over and into trees, logs and vines and anything else that was in the way. We reached the top after about 30 minutes of bush bashing and were rewarded with a great view over the Canterbury plains. From there we dropped back down and follwed a series of tracks and gravel roads back into transition and our bikes.
View from the highpoint of the hike
Nearing transition after a four hour hike
Bike-Hike-Bike transition: take your pick
The final leg consisted of another 50 km bike ride including some single track. While I was looking forward to this section, I'm sure Dan was feeling differently. We took a number of steep gravel roads within the Oxford Forest to get to the start of the Wharfedale track. This 53 km long track sidles around Mt Oxford with various technical rooty sections. We rode for approximately one hour before reaching our checkpoint. We turned around and had the best section of the whole race ahead of us: technical, rooty downhill single track. I definitely need to come back and ride the entire track- it was so much fun. After the Wharfedale we rode on farm roads back to the start at the Waimakiri River and arrived just before dark finishing second (in 4-person teams) and fourth overall.
Single speed Dan- not sure if it will be his future career
It was a great expirience racing with the boys. The team work was superb, everyone kept up their spirits and we finished with a smile. I'll be missing the team aspect of adventure racing over the summer when going back to bike racing but the freindships will remain and there is always next year, of course.