Spring Challenge by Susie Cole

This Years Spring Challenge was epic for me.  It took a long time to get a team sorted for the event.  For some reason there's not that many woman I know who are chomping at the bit to do a 6hr adventure race!   There were a few women who said they'd love to but couldn't afford the entry, a few who said it sounded great but they'd never be able to do it.  So after registering 1 team and pulling out, I slotted into a friends team who had an injury.  After weeks of training together and only 3 weeks from the race 1 of the team members pulled out due to pregnancy.  We were really lucky to get a another woman to join the team at such late notice, especially one who was such an athlete.

The race briefing on the friday night was for the 3, 6 and 12 hour events all lumped in together which was confusing.  But coming from Blenheim originally I was excited to learn the finish line was at Pine Valley recreational camp.  Familiar territory... I thought!  We got our maps showing the 15 check points, 4 transition areas and were told we would get the orienteering map at the last transition.  Navigation was always going to be the biggest part of the challenge for me.  I spent plenty of hours training, which was one of the coolest parts of the journey for me.  Mt. Grey, Mt. Richardson, Mt. Karatu, Mt. Isobel. Wharfdale track, all accessible from chch and all new to me. Many hours of biking and hiking meant I felt fit and strong for the race but there are blind people with better sense of direction than me!

The atmosphere at the the start line was charged and it was still a little dark at 6am.  We ran down to the Wairau river and into the rafts, choosing a 'mature' looking guide and jumped in with another team.  We got off to a good start and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise on the river. We paddled for an hr and a half before landing, changing out of wetsuits and jumping on the bikes.  Approx 25km bike back up the valley, then up the hill, what a grind, before coming down the other side.  At this stage I'm wondering how I got left holding the map and if we were even going in the right direction!  Eventually weget to the checkpoints which confirms we are going the right way.  Down into 2nd transition and our wonderful support crew tell us we only have 15 teams ahead of us, this boosts us for the run/hike.  Around a small hill through 5 checkpoints then back onto the bike.  Now had we been able to map-read a little better it would have been obvious that the shortest route to CP9 involved an un-ridable climb up a nasty hill, we pushed our bikes for just over 1km.  Then took a wrong turn twice before finally finding the illusive CP9.  At CP10 we drop our bikes at a swing bridge and had to find another 5 markers, 2 of which I swear if it weren't for other teams showing the way we would still be looking for.  

The team spirit and comradeship of some of the woman on the day was awesome.  Nice toknow we weren't the only ones who struggled with the map.  We lost just over an hour with the Navigation, so was ironic that we came 7th over-all in the orienteering leg.  The winning team came in at 7hrs, the last at 12.5hrs.  We made it home in 8.5hrs, which we were pretty happy with.

The Spring Challenge next year is in Canterbury.  I will definitely be doing more to improve my navigation skills if I'm to do it again.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and feel proud of our efforts as a team.  I'd wanted to do this event for some time and now that it's over I find I'm looking for the next adventure already.

Happy training