Thursday, 14 April 2016

Godzone - Chapter 5 - Team Mountain Designs Race Report – by Kim Beckinsale

GODZONE Chapter 5 - Kaiteriteri - Wow - The perfect location for an Adventure Race.

This was a race that certainly lived up to all expectations! We wanted a well organised event and we got it, we wanted the wow factor and got it - GODZONE Chapter 5 certainly did not disappoint.

The Team:-  Leo Theoharis, Gary Sutherland, Kim Beckinsale and John Cosgriff.

Team Mountain Designs
HQ was at the quiet and beautiful seaside town of Kaiteriteri, near the Abel Tasman National Park on the South Islands NW coast. It was certainly a hive of activity as all of the adventure racers arrived in town, started to ride the awesome Kaiteriteri MTB trails and hit the local shops in Motueka. The sun was shining brightly and it even seemed like perfect weather for swimming, the views from our little batch over to Nelson were stunning, what a great place to race. I also love racing in New Zealand because the food is so good, and you can get most of the foods you can get in Australia. My favourites:- ‘Cookie Time’ Cookies, ‘Bumper Bars’ and of course ‘Em’s Power Cookies’. We tried to get a hold of Nathan Favae’s ‘Absloute Wilderness’ from the local outdoor store, but it had sold out…..surprise, surprise! Lucky for us there was plenty of ‘Backcountry Cuisine’ available even in the supermarkets!

Registration and Briefing
This is when it hits home that you are here to race, and not just on an Easter holiday! We were given a few hints on the course and listened very, very carefully to all of the safety briefings, as I have the utmost respect for the NZ wilderness and know that GODZONE is never going to be dumbed down, so you just have to be prepared! It was now a bit wet, cold and windy and we had to wander around in the rain, doing our gear checks. It was already time to pull out the new Mountain Designs ‘Pro –Elite SURGE’ Gore-Tex Jackets that we were given for the race and instantly put them to the test. We were given our box plan and soon headed back to our batch to commence our packing for the race; no we did not have the maps yet, just an outline of discipline, distance, time and elevation gain and loss.

The team getting our gear packed into boxes.
Map Handout & Race Day

The course revealed via the live tracking site.
Gary and I decided to both get up early and attend the ‘Captains’ briefing and map handout. At 6.30am in Kaiteriteri it was pitch black, cold wet and windy, yet there were a whole bunch of very excited adventure racers nervously awaiting the final briefing and maps for Godzone Chapter 5. The Shoreline café did a roaring trade that day I am sure, as many of the teams stayed put doing their maps right there at the beach. We went back to the house to finalise our boxes and prepare our maps, it was a pretty hectic time, but the laminator came in really handy! We had time cut-offs and weight limits for our boxes, so as our boxes were too heavy, we had to change things around, and it certainly got a bit confusing.  Johnny ended up taking the boxes to HQ while Gary, Leo and I were madly trying to get the maps ready to go in each of the boxes before they were whisked away! Soon we had less than an hour to go, so we grabbed our last cup of coffee and I think I ate half a sandwich, tried to tidy the house a bit, before sprinting out the door to the start line.

Team Mountain Designs and Team Triadventure - Aussie Training Buddies!
Leg 1 - Coasteer, Swim & Ocean Kayak - Tasman Bay - 30k
I could not believe that the event basically started with a swim, lucky we had wetsuits, and we didn’t have to carry our compulsory gear for the coasteer! Johnny and I had the ‘passports’ (punch cards) and were all prepared to swim to the island, but Gary had a superfast 2XU wetsuit and Hoka’s so he was way faster, so Johnny, Leo and I just had to swim around a boat and back to the coast. As it was a huge field there was little room to move on the rocks, so Gary opted to swim again, and we all ended up diving off the rocks a few times before arriving at the kayaks. The ocean was looking nice and calm and glassy despite it being a bit overcast. Teams were provided for this leg 1 x AR Duo and 1 x one yellow plastic kayak. Leo and I lucked out and got the AR Duo, poor Johnny and Gary got stuck with the yellow bathtub, so it was a hard slog for them to even stay on our wash. I really enjoyed this leg; Leo was so excited when he saw Nathan Faa’vae out on the water paddling in the opposite direction towards us. The finish in the surf zone was a bit of a thriller, so I was stoked that Leo and I managed to get in on a small wave without capsizing, unlike many others in the field. We were greeted by Greg and Michele Krome our Tri Adventure buddies at this TA, and I got a quick ‘Hi Kim’ from both Richard and Elina Ussher.

Preparing the kayaks for the 25k paddle.

Kim and Leo finish the kayak.
Leg 2 - MTBO and Mountain Bike - Rabbit Island & Richmond Range - 60k - Elevation Gain 1410+

We rushed to our bike boxes and unpacked our bikes, changed out of our wet salty gear ready for the MTBO. This was a split leg, so we had two maps. Gary and I went out to find CPs 1-9; Leo and Johnny went for CPs 10-18 and probably were out for about 30minutes. I really liked this part as we got to see many of the lead teams heading out on the rest of the ride, and some others still finishing the paddle, so it seemed extremely social for a big adventure race…..but the rain was setting in and the darkness would be upon us soon, so off we headed on the National Rail Trail for the Nelson MTB park where we had to find CPs 4, 5 and 6. Then the climbing began and the trails we were riding became maze like, with unmarked tracks and dead ends making navigation in this forest somewhat challenging. Here we greeted the Yogaslackers, Paddy Pallin, Adventure Junkies and many more teams as confused as us. Eventually we made our way out and down to the river ready for the big climb up to CP7 we lost about 30minutes at this point as we chose to try to find a trail that would be a short cut, but after riding about 10k we came across teams heading back, they did not say much, but we decided to turn around and go the long way! It was a pretty big climb but all rideable, except for the bit extra we decided to do…..lucky we realised it was off course and enjoyed the descent back onto the trail and to the TA. It was now pouring rain by the way, but not too cold, we were at this stage about midfield and that was where we seemed to stay for most of the race.

Kim and Gary in the TA getting bikes ready for the MTBO
Leg 3 - Alpine Trek - Red Hills - 52km - Elevation Gain 3250+
There were tents set up in the TA so we could at least pack our bikes and get our gear ready with some level of comfort. I even managed to eat my main meal (tuna and noodles) before we headed out….so that was a first for me! We set off in the rain and instantly the trail turned very steep, so there was definitely no running. This was a wide fire trail and took us to the start of the Ben Nevis Track. We got to the walking track and noticed a few tents pitched, so we too decided to have a small sleep, so we could hit CP 10 in the light. This seemed like a strange option so soon in the race, but at least it helped my food to settle, I felt so much better when we got up, but it was freezing cold! As we walked along the single track we saw lights and tents scattered everywhere before daylight broke.

Leo trekking along Ben Nevis Spur
Unfortunately it was almost like a blizzard up on Ben Nevis Spur, and we could barely see 20m in front of us.  I certainly did not feel very agile on the rocks and in fact must have tripped hundreds of times, which in hindsight is a pretty scary thought….lucky I had my walking pole at times to brace with. Gary was leading about 5 or so other teams up on this section of the course, it was very tricky, and after a bit of a false spur detour we made it up to the peak of CP10. We then had to follow a marked route down to a creek junction which was CP 11. We had a lengthy discussion here about our route, I wanted to choose the safe route (as we were warned about ‘high’ river levels during rain periods, and it had been raining) and Gary wanted to go the shorter but slightly steeper route. Leo and Johnny agreed with me leaving Gary to think he had chosen the ‘Gumby route’. It became known to us later that Chris Forne lead his Team Yealands Wines on the same route…..not so Gumby after all…..and as we did not have local knowledge we bush bashed up the ridge to the track leading to Beeby’s Hut, where as many of the local Kiwi teams just took the ‘new unmarked  MTB trail’ . We enjoyed another two small sleeps on this leg as we were out there for 30hrs, one was outside a hut and the other was 2hrs in Beeby’s hut. This sleep gave us enough energy to run almost all the way back to the TA, and I started to finally feel like I had some energy.

We  trekked from CP 11 down this creek for 5k before climbing the ridge on the left.
Leg 4 - MTB and Orienteering - Rotoiti - 47km - Elevation Gain 660m
Finishing the trek and realising that there were still many teams out there, and we were still midfield, was a bit of a relief, as we thought we would be almost the last team back. So we were in great spirits as we prepared our bikes for the ride out to the ‘Orienteering’ at Rotoiti. The only problem here was we were eaten alive by sand-flies, and even though I had doused myself in ‘Goodbye Sand-fly’. 
We made our way to the start of the orienteering and again were attacked by more sand-flies, so that made for a pretty swift transition into our running shoes. We had to collect 14 CP’s using an orienteering map. We had heaps of fun on this leg with Johnny, Leo and I, competing to see who could spot the most CP’s….it was a draw between Johnny and Leo.  As we rode out of the TA I was so excited to finally feel the warmth of the sun on my little cold body. The sun came out and the day warmed up, as we climbed out way over the hill to Lake Rotoroa. The descent into the lake was spectacular, and we just had to stop and look at the magical view….. ‘Wow’!

Lake Rotoroa
Pumping up the canoe in the TA at Rotoroa
Leg 5 -  Kayak and Trek - Lake Rotoroa and D’Urville - Mole Stream  - 34km - Elevation Gain1290m
We were trying to decide which craft to inflate – Canoe or Sevylor. We ended up wanting the Sevylor, but had to opt for the canoe as our pump did not fit. This meant we stayed dry for the paddle, but it took about 30 minutes longer. Honestly I did not mind at all being warm and dry, as at the end of this leg we had to run, and I had not brought spare clothes as I did not want to carry wet ones. This was a spectacular time of day to see this lake, the mountains in front of us as we paddled were just remarkable, and this was my second opportunity to go ‘wow’! 
Paddling Lake Rotoroa
By the end of the paddle the sun was just dropping behind the steep mountains behind us, and I was starting to get cold, so when we stopped, I froze. We were given a hot cup of coffee and a plate of ‘Absolute Wilderness’ Spaghetti Bolognaise by the volunteers at this HUT, but I was so cold I Leo Theoharis  most of the coffee and my food was cold by the time I could stop shaking enough to eat it. Gary chatted to a backpacker from overseas who have just travelled down the route we were planning to take, except he had been carrying an 18kg backpack….we could not complain. I was pretty keen to get moving here so off we set on the trail running, yes running! Eventually the trail got really steep and the pace dropped off, and we had to be very alert as the trail was not easy to see all the time. After a few hours we came to a hut where we found ‘Traces of Nuts’ having a sleep, we just stopped for a little bit to refuel and do some foot care, as we still had a long way up to the CP at Mole Tops Lake Stream.  We chose the longer less direct route via the trail and Mole Saddle, following some advice from the backpacker we met at the end of the kayak. The spur line we had to locate and trek up was just amazing even if it was pitch black. Johnny and I had a good look around at the top of the hill before we descended to get the CP in the lake stream as we knew it might be hard to locate on the way back. Gary set a bearing to the lake stream and we nailed the CP.

We took the trail and not the redline route!

Johnny punches at CP 17

We did overshoot the return and lucky Johnny and I had a really good visual of what we were looking for and we were soon heading for the TA. It was still dark as we travelled along Mole Creek Trail to Mole Creek Hut. It would have been very easy to stop here and sleep, but we had a paddle dark zone looming, and we were hoping to get to the TA in time to have a bit of a rest there and still have enough time to complete the paddle. We encountered a slight problem when the track disappeared. It had been washed away, so the next 5k would be bouldering down Mole Creek. The track reappeared with about 3k to go, so relieved we ran all the way to the TA. It was now 8.30am.
We had to run down the river for 5k as the trail was washed out!
Leg 6 - White Water Canoe - Matakitaki to Murchison - Elevation Loss 350m
So we had gone an entire night without sleep, we had a 4k walk to the start of the Canoe, we were told there were two portages, as teams the previous day had been thrown out of their craft and lost gear. Our notes indicated this leg could take us 8hrs and the dark zone was 6.45pm – did we have a chance??? No one was really happy that we were even thinking about continuing on this leg without sleep, I suggested we have a kip when we get to the water, so at least we know how much time we have, but when we got there this didn’t happen, and before long we were off floating down the river! I was so glad that the sun was shining, and I had warmed up in my wetsuit, but soon we hit the first rapid and all of a sudden I was a bit cold. The positive thing was that every time we hit the rapids you just instantly woke up and felt a bit refreshed.  Gary and I paddled together and Leo and Johnny were in the other canoe. We hit the first portage after a few hours and were, once again, greeted by Greg and Michele Krome. Without them out and about we would not have so many photos of the experience to share. They watched us and laughed as we struggled with the portage. The next stint was long and challenging as there were a few big rapids to negotiate, but we were moving well and it was looking like we would get to the end of the paddle before the dark zone.

Leo and Johnny negotiate the rapids

Kim and Gary working hard!

The portage was not easy
We thought we were approaching the second portage, and were greeted by a little man in a slalom canoe. We think he signalled us to follow him and thus we did, he was saying stuff we could barely hear but followed him down a few rapids before he disappeared. At this point I thought they must have changed their minds and we were no longer portaging. Gary and I saw a slalom pole and he said “Want to do the Slalom Course Kim”??? I said no way, and we headed river right…..unbeknown to us at the time this was a Grade IV rapid, and we were meant to go through past the slalom pole and portage, but there was no one there telling us or directing us, so we had no idea. So off we went down the grade IV rapid! It was so full on and I did not even have time to think about how petrified I was, the bag I had my feet on was forced out of the canoe still attached and this pulled the nose into a sucker. I was thrown out of the canoe and was soon in the washing machine of terrifying rapids, holding onto my paddle as hard as I could trying to lie back keep my feet up and my head out of the water.  I ended up swimming to the bank where I lay on the warm rocks and had a little cry.  Gary was still up on a rock with the boat and seemed stuck, and then I noticed Leo and Johnny coming down the rapid. Thankfully they stayed in and came over to see how I was; meanwhile about three of the rescue paddlers were trying to help Gary free the canoe. All of a sudden our gear started floating down the river….paddle bag, shoes, pump, spray skirts…oh no! Eventually Gary got the boat free and the boys caught it. Gary scrambled back to the canoe picked me up and then we were guided by the official down the rapid that we were meant to be guided through. Johnny and Leo had a bit of a spill on this one, leaving Johnny stuck on a rock with the canoe.  Again the rescue team jumped into action again making use of the throw bag yet again. We were so relieved when we saw our massive cheer squad at the end of the paddle.

The final rapids of the 57k paddle!

Jan greets us at the end of the paddle
I am relieved just to be standing there!
We shared our experience with Jan, Steve & Shan and the Kromes as we walked back to the TA. The boys could not help but stop for a pie along the way…while I warmed up on the concrete path. We decided to get warm and dry and go and have diner at the pub and a glass of wine! We also decided to sleep at the TA in a shed on the other side of the oval, so we could attack the summit of the trek in the light. So we slept till midnight and got up again ready to roll.
At the pub waiting for our meals.....yes i enjoyed a glass of red!

Our cheer squad wait for us at the TA!

Leg 7 - MTB – Nuggety Creek - 34k - Elevation Gain 270m
It was pretty cold, so I had everything on Gore-Tex jacket and pants, booties, thermal gloves! It was about 5degrees so not too bad and we could see the stars, so that was a good sign. This was a pretty short ride and only took a few hours we arrived in the TA just after 3am.

Leg 8 - Alpine Trek - Mt Owen - 35km - Elevation Gain 2280m
This leg was set to be the most epic of them all according to the notes. We had planned 19hrs but were prepared for more if it was anything like the first trek. So we made sure we had plenty of food and warm dry clothes, as we were going to be climbing to 1800m. We headed out at 4.06am and again were in pretty good spirits, we were even running some of the trail and enjoyed a few river crossings, despite getting wet feet we were cleaning off the mud! As the track got steeper the sun started to rise and soon we were treated to some of the most amazing views I have ever seen in my entire life.

Sunrise Peak
I could not stop saying wow, and I am pretty sure Johnny was the same. We followed the pink tape to the CP 21 then had to follow little rock cairns to the summit off Mt Owen. I was certainly well outside my comfort zone here as I looked down into the abyss, realising that one wrong step, or slip or trip could end in death! I tried to put this out of my mind and tried to just enjoy the views. I definitely noticed the altitude as we reached the summit but it was just so worth it. We stopped for a little bit to take a few pics and admire the views before heading down to Granity Pass Hut for CP23.

Mt Owen Summit
I so wanted to run fast….but after 3 days or more on the legs this was just a dream. After the hut the track disappeared, and we were travelling on more of a route than a track, so Leo was doing a great job here on the maps trying to make sense of it all as we travelled up and down and up and down etc.  Again as we kept moving from ridgeline to ridgeline it became apparent how far we had already travelled and how far we still had to go…. We were beginning to think we would be out for a very long time. But soon the track got better and we started to move quickly, we could see 3 teams in front of us also starting to cover ground quickly. This leg like many of the others had a great finish….lots of awesome downhill. I was getting tired and starting to tumble, slip and slide, but we were getting very close to the end. We reached the road just after sunset and hit the TA at around 7pm. It was all happening there with a few of the Pursuit Teams and their support crews buzzing around. We made the time to cook up some good wholesome Backcountry Cuisine and then had a sleep. I slept inside my bike box, and it was so cosy…..the best sleep I had had all race.

Leg 9 - Rameka - Abel Tasman National Park - 140km - Elevation Gain1470m
I sat up in my bike box and said hey it’s 1.18 guys, come on we’ve got to go! This was because I have already woken up one hour earlier and we had accidently fallen asleep. No harm done as we must have needed it, however my motivation here was so we could get to the final paddle leg in the daylight! We were all ready to go so off we set, most of the first 8-k was flat and fast, so we were wise to rest up, as it would have been so easy to drift off on this type of ride.

Leo sleeps in a really big letter box!
 We hit the climb up to Abel Tasman National Park and all was going well. I suddenly got really bad cramps, silly me, had eaten chips on an almost empty stomach, and soon I was suffering bigtime.  After something to settle my tummy and a bit of a rest, I felt a whole lot better, just in time for some gnarly single track. It was now daylight (lucky) and we had about 7k of this wet, slippery, rooty, rutted-out trail. Gary was fine and rode off confidently, but I was much more conservative, I just could see that one fall here could result in disaster so close to the finish. Leo and Johnny seemed to have a similar opinion and we happy to just sit behind me. Just as we exited the forest onto a single track we lost Johnny. He had not seen us all turn right and he scooted down the swamp track thinking that’s where we must have gone. When we realised Johnny was nowhere to be seen we backtracked. After some calls and cooee’s we heard Johnny was below, so we too rode the swamp track, and found Johnny…phew! We exited onto the fire trail and headed for the coastline.

Look at the view here!
We were now motivated by the thought of coffee as we were sure to be passing some café’s. We stopped at the first café we saw and indulged. I had a bacon and egg roll and a coffee but the boys had more. The people there we so friendly with many of the people asking what we were doing and wishing us all the best, the community spirt around this event was astounding. We took off with 4 fresh fruit muffins complements of the chef. There were still two big hills to climb before the TA and less than 25k, the weather was warm and were getting quite hot in our thermals… had to strip off….this gave me a chance to take a few photos along the way. We arrived in the TA at about 1pm, so pretty excited we would be paddling in the light!

Leg 10 - Kayak – Abel Tasman National Park – 35km

Our tracker had not been tracking, so no one knew where we were. So we had to get permission to set off without a tracker. This meant Gary had to answer some questions about the course and our route. Steve Gurney was the water safety official at this point and he ended up providing us with his personal tracker for the leg as there were reports of some bad weather on its way. I rugged up thinking we were going to have a head wind and I would get cold, but as it turned out the wind dropped totally and we had swell and tail wind. Soon I was overheating and had to take off my jacket as my face reacted to the Banana Boat Sunscreen and felt like I had face-planted stinging nettle. The more salt water I put on my face to cool it off the worse I got, so we had to raid the First Aid Kit for an antihistamine tablet as even though we were almost home. We still had about 5hrs of paddling in front of us. With such perfect conditions we were setting a cracking pace, and we got to the first CP in less than 1hr, it just took a while to jump out and get it as the tide was out. Navigation on this leg was not too hard because we had daylight. We saw seals, star fish and a stingray while paddling around the little bays and beaches. As the sun was starting to drop behind the mountains I was starting to freeze, so I just had to paddle harder and harder. It felt like I was sprinting to the end, but I don’t know how I had the energy to do so.

You can see the relief on our faces, we have made it to the finish!
Team Mountain Designs approaches the finish line

Leo punches the final CP

Finish – Kaiteriteri
We finished the paddle just after 6pm and were greeted by our fantastic team of supporters and the race directors Warren and Adam as Leo punched the finish CP. The beer and pies were great; however my beer was quickly replaced by Champagne J..

Kim swaps beer for Champagne!
 Wow, Wow, Wow…..what a course, what and event, what a race…..GODZONE Chapter 5 certainly had everything and more! New Zealand is certainly ‘God’s own Country’ where Mother Nature rules and I am just a humble Aussie who has great respect for every athlete who tested themselves out there.  A huge thanks to my team mates for being a part of the journey – Gary, Leo and Johnny! We certainly had our highs and lows out on course but overcoming these is what makes us mentally and stronger appreciate the luxuries of day to day living just that little bit more! Congratulations to all the Aussie teams who travelled and raced, it was great to be out there with familiar faces  and it’s always so much fun to hang around and share stories afterwards….Tri Adventure; Isodopes; Pady Pallin; Adventure Junkies; Stromlonaughts; Jarred & Rob from Adventure Medical Kits. I suppose we will all meet again at GEOQUEST for the annual pilgrimage to the NSW central coast for our own Premier 48Hr event!

Thanks to our supporters:- Jan, Michele, Greg, Steve, Shan, Bec and all those dot watchers back home, we hope we kept you entertained and on the edge of your seats throughout the 5½ days… least the dot kept moving ‘most of the time’! I hope that we have inspired some of you to get out and see the world, whether it be by doing crazy races like this or just going to some of these spectacular places to challenge yourselves mentally and physically…..the health and lifestyle benefits of getting outdoors on adventures are endless!  

Thanks to our Sponsors:-  Mountain Designs, Ay UP Lights and Hoka Footwear as without your gear we would not have been able to race with confidence and enjoy rather than suffer in the conditions!

1 comment:

  1. thanks for writing that up, we were among the dot watchers, and although we know the area well (it is our backyard) most of the terrain we've only ever seen by air. Total respect for all of you who completed the race.