Spring Challenge Provides Magical Adventure
The iconic Spring Challenge women’s adventure race was held for the first time in the Whanganui River region with 480-participants spread over the 145-teams. The teams were treated to what many have termed a magical adventure experience in a unique location.
The course was held in the Atene and Parikino areas which included a rafting stage down the river, a gorging trip through the Whakaihuwhaka canyon, then mountain biking and hiking near Tirotiro.
The teams of three or four women, took part in the three, six and nine hour events, which tested the teams ability to navigate through the course using only maps and compasses.
The weather on Saturday was typical spring time with some early showers but cleared to a stunning warm day, ideal for adventure racing.
The first race start was at six o'clock with the experienced nine hour teams. As they waited for the daylight, the local Iwi representatives performed a karakia and blessing, welcomed by the teams and setting a special tone for the entire event.
Once underway, the teams had a 1.5 kilometre run to the rafts via the oxbow, now a farmed bush area but was once the original river bed and path. That was followed by a 9.5 kilometre rafting stage. Exiting the rafts teams went directly into the canyon, a scramble up narrow ravine with pools to cross and rocks to negotiate. Then it was onto some open land for orienteering style test, a total distance of 5 kilometres.
By this point pre race favourite team NZ Adventure Retreats (Kym Skerman, Rachel Smith, Elke Beca) was in the lead. They passed through transition area one changing swiftly to mountain biking for a 22 kilometre multistage that had some foot orienteering loops along the bike stage.
In second place was Whangarei team, Generations of Warts (Olivia McLeod, Courtney Crum, Bridget Johnson). During the stage NZ Adventure Retreats opened a sizeable lead, a combination of a fast pace and precision navigation. They posted a very zippy time through stage 4, an 8 kilometre hiking stage before the final stage, a 4 kilometre bike and hike section. They took first place in an incredible time of 6-hours and 33-minutes.
Team captain Skerman said afterwards “we weren’t pushing really hard but focused on moving quickly from one place to the next and accurate navigation which is key”.
Generation of Warts finished second in 7-hours and 44-minutes. Third was team Tron in 8-hours and 8-minutes (Pieke Mestrom, Lynn Johnstone, Taryn Moore).
The largest category, the six hour race started at nine o’clock. They followed the same route as the nine hour teams but climbed out of the canyon directly onto their mountain bikes. From there they had an 11 kilometre mountain bike stage through some sharp ridged and steep spurred hill country. For many teams this stage was a highlight with exciting descents and some majestic views looking into the Whanganui River Valley.
The early race leader was junior team from Motueka, team Happy 16th Birthday Kyla (Jessie Fa’avae, Kyla Rayward, Davis Syndbye). The youthful team moved nimbly through the canyon and got a sizeable head start onto their bikes. They were followed by veteran teams Nachos (Gabe McAlpine, Caroline Laband, Jo Henderson) and Rum Punches (Jennifer Davis, Jade Bishop, Emma Jones). It was the Motueka junior team that kept the pace setting, clocking the fastest time though stage 4, a 7km hiking navigation challenge. From there they only had a 4km bike and run stage and with a sizeable lead, they could relax, winning the race in 4-hours and 35-minutes. Nachos was second in 5-hours and 29-minutes and Rum Punches third over the line. The winning Corporate team, Rototuna Physiotherapy was fourth fastest on the course in 6-hours and 2-minutes. The total distance of the six hour race was 35 kilometres.
By midday with 100-teams already on course racing, it was time for the 3-hour to start. The three stage, 19 kilometre short course was won by a close battle with veteran team, The Young and the Breathless (Sarah Gilbertson, Anna Hare, Rochelle Waugh) in 2-hours and 30-minutes, just 40-seconds ahead of open team in second place, 4-musketeers (Kirsty Staples, Kylee Webb, Rosie Linklater, Kimberly Gloyn). Third place was also close behind, Naki Bits (Bindy Free, Jane Kerr, Sharyn Kjestrup, Anna Speedy) in 2-hours and 33-minutes.
The race finished at the Parikino under the shade of a kahikitea forest. Teams celebrated the competing the challenged and enjoyed a hangi cooked at the local marae.
Overall feedback was that teams throughly enjoyed the course, which was almost entirely on private land.
Race Director Nathan Fa’avae concluded “Every location we take the event to is special in its own way, but every now and again we have a race that is extra special, I think we had that in Whanganui, it was much more than a race, it was an experience on many levels, the local community have made this event magical, they should be very proud”.
The event sponsors were: Whanganui & Partners, Juliana, Torpedo7, Merrell, Suunto, PURE sports nutrition, Rochdale, Stoke, Sea to Summit, Camelbak, Em’s Power Cookies, Absolute Wilderness Freeze Dried Meals, MacMillian Pottery, Tineli, Buff, Chill