GodZone AR 2017- Emily's Viewpoint
GODZone AR Expedition Race February 25th -March 4th , 2017
Have you done an expedition length race before? No? Well, for your first, why don’t you try one in the motherland of adventure racing? Known for its superb AR athletes, community, and its rugged terrain, New Zealand is where we decided to go for our first 7 day Expedition Race. It did not disappoint!
Standout Moments & Memories:
Every route eventually “goes”
Rugged, Challenging & Remarkable (no pun intended!)
Bike Herding & Gates Tussock Hotel (Thanks for the label Gavin!) & the Star Blanket
Could I get some more Matagouri, please?
Location: Queenstown, New Zealand
Distance: 450k give or take Time: 4 days, 11.5hrs (7 day cut-off)
Place: 10th Overall
Team: Richard, Emily, Dusty, Gavin
Disciplines: Trekking, mountain biking, gorgeering, white-water and flat-water paddling, abseiling
Favorite section on the course: The gorgeering in the first long trek. At the time, it wasn’t that great being stuck in a rushing creek in the middle of the night, but looking back I see how neat that experience actually was. There was a section in particular where you had to scale the vertical sidewall of the gorge on a couple of precariously placed metal pegs for your hands and for your feet. We hadn’t experienced gorgeering to this degree before. Our first exposure was only a few hours earlier in Stage 1d. Would I consider gorgeering in my spare time on my day off work? I just might…
What we Loved: The challenge & remoteness of the course. As a spectator, you were exposed to the very well managed social media. As a competitor, you had no clue what was going on in the outside world. Your only concern was the terrain in front of you, the teams around you, and the state of your body…until you reached a TA where the wonderful volunteers would approach you all excited and say, “How was it being the only team to go AROUND the mountain?!” At that point, you got some exposure to the rest of the world that was still spinning around you.
Moment that Made the Race: Making the time cut-off before the darkzone for the white water rafting. We were on the approach to the last CP on the trek between the whitewater canoe and the whitewater raft when we were faced with a rather sketchy grass covered rock scramble. We checked the time, it was 5pm, the cutoff to start the whitewater raft was 6:30pm. Our options were to beat feet back down the hillside to the river and find a lower access to the last CP (we would miss the cutoff this way for sure) or try and go for the sketchy climb in front of us where we would at least have a chance at making the cutoff. Well, we went for the sketchy climb that ended up not being as bad as we thought once we started up it (every route eventually “goes”). We had seen another team before us using their whitewater throw line as a handline up this section so we decided to do the same. Once we all made it to the mellower area above we started booking it, sidehilling across a grassy hillside to the last CP and then down final rocky descent to the whitewater raft. As we crossed the hillside, we could see several other teams converging on the CP and then disappearing over the other side of the saddle, all with the same motivation- to make it before the cut-off. We were pushing hard, but doubtful that we could still make it in time. I should say, all except for Dusty. He was determined to make it and it was his determination, especially, that pulled us along. We managed to reach the river’s edge with 15 minutes to spare! Quickly we got our wetsuits, PFDs and packs on and squared away and were ready to get on the water in less than 10 minutes. Needless to say, if we would have missed that cutoff, we would have been stuck at that transition for 12 hours until the darkzone lifted the next morning and would have lost any chance we had at top 10.
Most Breathtaking Moment: When we stopped for our 2 hour nap in the Tussock Hotel around midnight on the 4 th night- our last long trek- Stage 9. We left the last TA around 5pm initially up a steep road into an ascending tussock-filled traverse and by sunset we had reached the ridge we were shooting for. After a few more hours of ridge traversing in the dark, we decided to take our planned 2 hour power nap on a saddle between two high points along the ridge. We chose our resting spot for its relative flatness compared to the rest of the ridge and for its semi-soft appearance (hence the name- Tussock Hotel). We ended up just pitching our sleeping bags on top of and in-between the tufts of tussock. As soon as we lay down all you could see was a sky full of brilliant stars! There was no moon either which made the stars an even more spectacular sight to see! And then…it was time to wake up…
Low Moment: Arriving at the TA at the end of the bikeschwack on Stage 8. Though we are now proud of our accomplishment of being the first team to successfully go around Cecil Peak (way to go Team #10 on making it too!) after 4 hours of matagouri whacking, the rough farm road after the matagouri whacking, the massive amount of sheep blocking our path, endless gates, mud bogs, electric fences, sand flies, & a look at the leader board at the TA tested our competitive fire that we had possessed at the start of the stage.
Most Exciting Moment: Seeing a team pull away from the beach in Kingston at TA9 and having a volunteer tell us that the team pushing off is in 10th place. During most of that last long trek, we had been slowly gaining our competitiveness back. We started that section saying, “We just want to finish” and ended it saying, “We still might have a shot at top 15.” Once we heard we had a shot at top 10, the switch flipped on and we were all business. That was probably one of our fastest transitions for the entire race.
Key Gear Pieces:
Icebug Kayis- Awesome grip on rock, tussock, steep side hills…you name it! Also, we love this model in particular for its durability & stability. The slightly higher ankle gives some added support on rough terrain. Did I mention they don’t get heavy when wet? Key when we are in and out of the water as much as we were during this race.
OutThere AS-3 30L pack- Handy to have some added space for longer races (we usually use 20L packs) and great organizational options with this pack. One issue we tend to run into in Adventure Racing is a place for all of the little things. This pack has ample pockets (mesh, zippy, cinchy, stuffy, clippy…you name it) great for organization and stowage. DirtBag Bikepacking Burrito Haulers- These puppies are just the right size for a spare tube, multi-tool, patch kit…all the little bike repair items you could need in a pinch. It was great to keep those items organized and with the bikes at all times. You could also stash those items elsewhere and fill the Burrito Hauler Bag with several hours of food in an easy to reach spot – right on top of your top tube.
Moxie Gear Shin Gaiters- This was on the Bend AR race report too, but they retain their rep as best impulse buy ever and one of our top gear pieces.
Nite Ize Gear Ties- Whether it be to fasten our dog leash tow to the bike, secure our bike frames in the bike boxes or keep our paddles together- these gear ties ended up being one of the best multi-use items we had on hand.
Favorite Foods: The new flavors of granola aka muesli bars we got to try! Apricot, chocolate covered banana, honey & chocolate…yum! There were also this cranberry nuggets that were almost like a taffy consistency- awesome! We had several the ramen packets for more of a “real food” item. The Roast Chicken and potato dehydrated meal at TA6 was amazing too. Heather’s Choice Packaroons were also a great fuel addition to our stash. Our fav is the Chinese Five Spice flavor.
Take Aways: Every route eventually goes
Keep racing & stay positive, even in the low moments
Don’t forget to look around you and enjoy the little things
Our team for this race (Richard, Gavin, Dusty & Emily) was a new arrangement for all of us. Even with this new team configuration, I think it is safe to say we fared pretty well. There were moments where we disagreed or were frustrated with each other, but that is normal for even the most seasoned team. We learned a lot through this experience and can’t wait for more to come! Thanks to the GODZone Race organizers & volunteers for a race that just “kept on giving” as Gavin would say. And, to all the dot watchers and spectators that followed us- thanks for the cheers in-person & electronically – what an amazing community we have! Until next time…