ADVENTURE RACING

Team racing together for the first time cleans up Torpedo7 Spring Challenge North



Team Fit to Live Radix Nutrition. Credit Steve Knowles/Sportzhub.com


It was a clear-cut victory for 9-hour Team Fit to Live Radix Nutrition in the Torpedo7 Spring Challenge North, in Auckland, where they beat their closest rivals home by about an hour.

It was an impressive display of team work from experienced adventure racers Rotorua’s Rachel Smith, Aucklander Louise Mark and Emma McCosh, of Taupo - especially considering they had never raced in this combination before. In fact, Rachel and Louise only met for the first time yesterday. The trio gelled quickly and stormed through the course, which involved a raft stage in Vector Wero Whitewater Park; orienteering stages in the Botanic Gardens and Duder Regional Park; plus mountain biking stages in Totara Park and Waitawa Regional Park.

Emma summed up their day as “a whole of fun with some great people. Beautiful weather and stunning scenery.”

As the first 9-hour team to finish they were rafted off Vector Wero Whitewater Park’s 4.5m Pump waterfall. It is modelled on the Kaituna Falls, near Rotorua, and every 9-hour team finishing before 6pm received the same exhilarating treatment.

Louise has paddled off the real Kaituna Falls but enjoyed this man-made version just as much.

“It was really cool. It was awesome,” she says.

The Spring Challenge was the ideal training outing for these three athletes, as they are putting together an all-women’s team for the Godzone Adventure Race in Fiordland, in March, along with Taupo’s Debbie Chambers.

“We are really looking forward to it. I’ve never raced with these girls before but I’ve raced in an all-girls team and we’ve all raced Godzone previously, so it should be a lot of fun,” she says.

The second team in was Say Yes to Adventure made up of Christchurch girls Hollie Woodhouse and Jessy DeBont, plus Jacqs Manson, of Lake Hawea.

Hollie says the course wasn’t as steep as some of the South Island events the team have done, although it had plenty of navigation to keep them on their toes.

“We didn’t climb, the elevation wasn’t as high as probably what we do back home but it was still awesome, just as challenging.”

Jacqs took a while to get used to the different scale of the orienteering maps and made a joke about the high number of checkpoints there were to find.

“It was just a checkpoint-fest out there,” she says.
 
Vector Wero Whitewater Park. Credit Steve Knowles/Sportzhub.com


Jess credited her team and the winning team. “They were just fast. Our navigation was spot on. My girls were amazing. The team that won are very good athletes,” she says.

A young team, all in their early twenties, Chasing Jaffas, made up of Hannah Charan-Dixon of Wellington, Brechtsje Tacoma from Palmerston North and Hazel Bowering-Scott, of Christchurch, was third.

Like many of the 9-hour teams, they found the orienteering out at the coastal Duder Regional Park, the scenic highlight of the day.

For Gemma McCaw this event was “right up there” with the other two Torpedo7 Spring Challenges she has competed in down in the South Island. Now that she has retired from an incredible hockey career as a Black Stick, she hoped to turn her training hours from intensity into endurance, as she looks to compete in more adventure events.

Course designer, five-time Adventure Racing World Champion Nathan Fa’aave was confident he had pulled off an authentic adventure race, for the 120 teams entered, in an urban environment. He ticked the box for running the first adventure race in the world to be based out of an artificial whitewater park and also introduced a lot of women to the wilderness areas around Auckland.

“One comment I heard throughout the day was that the competitors didn’t realise what a network of trails there was, or the density of the forests.”

“From a management aspect the urban environment has worked really well and that has been echoed by the participants. It’s what we hoped - that once people got out on the courses into the bush areas, gardens, and farm parks they would realise there are adventures to be had not far off the main highways,” Nathan says.

The 9-hour teams had un-timed driving stages to access the wilderness areas and the other novelty factor was that no teams required a support crew.

Spring Challenge is always about a lot more than just the fastest podium place-getters and some amazing stories have surfaced before, during and after the event.

Wellington's Emma Gardner had an inspiring tale to tell. She was born with bi-lateral hip dysplasia and could only walk 100-metres before she had both hips replaced 18 months ago. This evening she completed the 6-hour course with her friends Michelle Buckley and Amanda Batt in a team named 2 Mad Mums and 2 New Hips.

She crossed the finish line repeating the words “we made it, we made it” and grinning from ear to ear. When asked if two years ago, she would have ever thought she would complete an event like Torpedo7 Spring Challenge North, Emma replied: “Never in my life”.

Whangarei veteran category 6-hour team Scrambled Legs - Selena Wallace and sisters Julie Harold and Marie Notton - only learnt to ride their bikes before the 2016 Spring Challenge in Rotorua. Now they have set up a regular ride group in their hometown and have even got their husbands into riding as well.

Taryn Moore, who works for Tauranga’s Bay Radiology, encouraged three teams of her work-mates to enter the Corporate Challenge category in the 3-hour course. She was the only experienced adventure racer and wanted to share her love for the sport with her first-timer colleagues.

Hamilton mum Vanessa Williamson was racing with her two daughters Amiya (16) and Shakira (14) in team Little V and her Two Angels, in the 6-hour course. She was proud of all the training they have put in over the past three months. At the finish line the family trio hugged for a long time, overcome with emotion at what they had achieved together.

Torpedo7 Spring Challenge North will run in Taupo next year on October 13
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