Every year for the past seven years I've been trekking around the South Island to compete in an all female adventure race called the Spring Challenge. A combination of orienteering, rafting, mountain biking and running, teams of three can enter a 3, 6 or 9 hour challenge depending on your chosen level of punishment. This year my teammates Erika, Selena and I were in stunning Wanaka for the event and the area didn't let us down for either amazing weather or impressive views. The course was set at 111km and we were pretty excited to receive our maps on the Friday night and see we would be climbing to the top of the Pisa Ranges as part of a 64km mountain bike.
The next 12km of the Hawea River took us over some smaller rapids and past a few swimming holes I dreamt about later in the day and on to Albert Town where we disembarked for another short sprint to Transition 1. Wetsuits were torn off, food stuffed in mouths and within a couple of minutes our support crew were throwing us on our bikes and off for the longest leg of the day - a 64km mountain bike. The sun was out in full force as we made our way around Dean's Bank and back in the opposite direction along the Clutha River towards Luggate. Our expert navigator Selena made short work of locating the first handful of controls before we made our way south to the start of the Pisa Range Ridge Track. Our support crew were waiting to refuel us a couple of kilometres up the first hill but getting to them proved the first real test of the day. There's nothing quite like biking up steep, seemingly never ending hills to really make your quads hate you and I was ready for a proper break when we finally reached them. No such luck though it was straight back on the road and onto the mountain for more than two hours of dragging ourselves and our bikes to 1444m. While several sections we were able to ride, soft dirt and a rutted out track meant pushing our bikes more than half of the distance. While the ever improving view was some consolation it was back breaking work and I'm not ashamed to say I hugged the trig upon arrival at the top.
After reaching the highest point we had one last push through soft snow (just incase we hadn't pushed our bikes enough already) before hitting a fantastic downhill all the way back towards Luggate. About half way down we were plied with lollies and soft drink by race organisers as they warned us about the scary bits of track that were coming up. Fuelled by Fanta and Licorice Allsorts we smashed out the rest of the ride and rolled into Transition 2 feeling pretty good about the mountain after all. The second to last leg was a rogaine section taking us west through farmland, up a few hills and across two rivers. It was here where we started picking off some of the teams that had beaten us on the previous bike leg and with a good amount of energy left we ran into our third and final transition back onto the bikes.
Two minutes down the road we picked up another two teams and the race was really on. We had been on the go with nothing but a 3 minute food break for 11 hours and the finish line was only 20km away. I have to admit my two teammates had a bit more left in the tank than I did at this stage and it was all I could do to just keep peddling after them through a rabbit warren of mountain bike tracks. We managed to hold onto our lead despite my trying to bike straight through a inconsiderately placed tree and ran across the finish line in 8th place after 12 hours and 4 minutes. Thanks to my team for encouraging me through the last 15 minutes and to our awesome support crew for keeping us fed and watered. Bring on next year.
Rachael and Jeremy