After a five month build up, Race Day was finally here. We arrived into Rotorua on Friday afternoon and went down to the Holiday Inn to register and collect our goodies box – there was a fair amount of stuff in there courtesy of the sponsors – T-shirts, caps, water bottles, muesli, protein bars and chocolate. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, this rings very true for the Rays of Sunshine too!
We enjoyed a relaxing yoga session with the Yoga Collective from Tauranga before the much anticipated collecting of the race maps and notes. We were one of the first teams in the queue which was great so we could get back to the motel and start studying.
We decided to do a high level review of everything first so we could picture how the day was going to go in terms of what we were doing when and where our support crew needed to be and what they needed to be doing. Our support crew then prepared some dinner for us so we could move into a little more detail with the maps. We were really lucky that we had a more experienced adventure racing team staying next door – we had done some training with them in the lead up to the event and now they were happy to share their knowledge with us regarding reviewing the maps and plotting the most efficient course.
We then wandered back to the Holiday Inn for the medium course briefing where Neil explained things and gave us a few handy hints. It was then back to the motel for more study and to write up some detailed notes. Our category – Medium Course Veterans – was starting at 7.15am so we decided to get everything ready that night and came up with a timetable for the morning. 5.30m wake up call, the support crew were to load the cars with each team members gear boxes, the food and water and then the bikes. We were responsible for getting ourselves dressed and having breakfast! 6.15am and we were in the cars and on our way to Boyes Beach at Lake Okareka.
The order of the day was as follows:
1. A short walk from Boyes Beach around the Lake
2. Paddle Boarding collecting 5 check points
3. A trek from Lake Okareka to Lake Tikitapu (The Blue Lake) collecting 5 check points
4. A mountain bike through the Redwood Forest collecting 10 check points
5. A mystery activity which was the Redwoods Treewalk
6. A Rogaine collecting 15 check points
7. A mountain bike collecting 4 check points
8. Another mystery activity which was a shooting challenge
9. A walk around part of Lake Rotorua collecting 3 check points
The short walk first up was pretty straight forward. We then had to take our packs and our shoes off before donning a life jacket and taking our paddle board down to the lake. The weather forecast for the day was not flash – showers with some heavy falls. There was a heavy downpour as we left the motel and it rained during the drive out to the lake. Remarkably it cleared for the walk and the sun even came out when we got on the paddle boards. The wind had dropped and the lake conditions were perfect. We had an electronic transponder that one team member had to wear on their finger and clock it into each checkpoint. The checkpoints on the paddle board were easy to locate as it was a case of follow the leader. The designated transponder wearing team member went ashore to clock into the checkpoints while the other team members hovered offshore. We completed the paddle board section in a dry state : )
Shoes and packs back on we set off. In hindsight our team name should have been Katy and The Three Blind Mice. At 23, Katy’s eyesight is pretty good which can’t be said for the rest of us. Along with her good eyesight she is pretty good on the navigating side of things too so she took control of the map. After setting off from the paddle boarding we saw some teams going around the corner but Katy said we had to go straight up and then cut into the bush. After walking part way up the hill we realised this was probably not right so down we came again. The road sign which was also on the map should have been a dead giveaway. We put that faux pas down to nerves and got going in the right direction.
We entered the bush and began our search for the first check point. Unfortunately all the other teams had moved on so we couldn’t get a gauge from them either – we searched high and low but could not find the it. After about 20 minutes we decided we had to move on – it was extremely demoralising and we were feeling rather inadequate. We had another 36 checkpoints to find so off we went. Our confidence was a little down and we had some hesitation as to whether we were going in the right direction for the next checkpoint too until we found it rather easily. That was the boost we needed. We then had a bit of a walk down to the Blue Lake before we veered off to find the next three check points. We were slowly getting the hang of this map reading.
Next up was the mountain biking section. We proceeded up Tarawera Road and Ray 2’s gear and brake lever on the left snapped off – it must have been damaged in transporting it to Rotorua. She was in her small chain ring and the brakes still worked so we decided to carry on – we would do some makeshift repairs along the way. We had one false entry into the park before finding the correct entrance. After finding the first check point we actually caught up to some other teams so that made it easy for the second check point. We found the next check point easily before proceeding to the next one which was by a spring. Ray 3 ended up calf deep in mud getting to the next check point after some insight from another team – we are pretty sure the way we got that checkpoint was not the way it was meant to be got.
The next checkpoint we had made a note that it would be easier to leave our bikes at a certain point and walk in to get the checkpoint – the clue was ‘bridge over creek’. We walked in and found the bridge but again searching high and low bore no checkpoint! Meanwhile about 4 other teams arrived and no one could find the check point. Some of the teams had ridden in from the start of the track and said this was the was the first bridge – others said there was only the one bridge on this trail. After about twenty minutes we decided to move on. The next check point was on the Yellow Brick Road track which we went and rode – we got to the end and hadn’t spotted the check point. Oh no, we were starting to feel rather hopeless again. When we got to the end of the track there were quite a number of teams there so information was shared – apparently there was another bridge on the previous track but it was closer to the end where we were. Katy ran back in to find it and came back triumphant. We also learnt where the check point on the Yellow Brick Road track was so Renee and I ran back in there to get it. Running in bike shoes is not the most comfortable way to run!
On the bikes again – four more checkpoints to go which we found with a little help from our fellow competitors but not before making a wrong turn and cycling down a hill that we had to cycle back up again. Ray 4 was trying to ride and navigate and it was taking it’s toll. We were very happy to see our support crew at the end of the Exit Trail. We had spent about four hours on the bikes. We hadn’t eaten enough on this leg so we were all fairly ravenous. It is amazing how much better you feel once you eat and re hydrate.
The next adventure was a tree top walk which was fun for the first five minutes but we all agreed it was a bit monotonous. We can see how it would be enjoyable for tourists but we were not in tourist mode. After finishing the walk we located the marshals who had the rogaining maps.
Armed with our map we found the first few checkpoints fairly easily. Ray 4, the sighted one, had eaten and was back on form with the map. We had trouble locating the checkpoint in the kumara pit and met up with another team having the same problem. We went on to find another checkpoint and then regrouped to eventually find the kumara pit.
Ray 2 was having trouble with her ankle and planta fasciitis so broke out the voltaren. Not happy with the speed at which that was taking effect she asked Ray 4 (our resident nurse) whether she could also take some nurofen. Ray 4 wasn’t sure so decided this was an emergency so broke out the cellphone to call her friend Ollie who is studying to be a Doctor. The gist of the conversation was ‘he thinks it will be OK but if all else fails dial 111’. Meanwhile Ray 3 was trying to keep the team moving in the direction of the last checkpoints so Ray 4 was multitasking by seeking medical advice and navigating! We had trouble with one other checkpoint which cost us a bit of time but after two hours and twenty minutes we had located all the checkpoints.
We rendezvoused with our support crew again to get back on our bikes. The weather was closing in and it had got quite dark. We had one checkpoint to get before the second mystery activity which involved shooting. Thankfully none of us were at the point of wanting to shoot ourselves or each other – it had been a fabulous day from that perspective : ). After finding that checkpoint we got to an area where there were some buildings, archery boards and sports fields. We didn’t see anybody else so carried on – the heavens then decided to open up. It was the first time all day that we actually got really wet so that was pretty good. We back tracked and spotted a building that had a couple of cars parked outside. We went over to see if we could find anyone who could point us in the right direction and wallah we were in the right spot – a non descript building with a shooting range inside. Looking at the map after the event it actually says MA (mystery activity) 2 – Small Building – that might have helped if we read that at the time!
We each had to use the slug guns to hit a designated target twice – we had five shots each. Ray’s 1, 2 and 4 were dead eyed dicks, Ray 3 got there eventually but incurred a 30 second time penalty for the team. We had to stand in the kitchen to serve our penalty – it was like being put in the naughty corner. The guys running the shooting challenge were great – very helpful and friendly with a good sense of humour.
The rain had eased slightly as we got back on the bikes to find the next three checkpoints which were on the edge of Lake Rotorua. It was then time to meet up wth the support crew for the final time to drop the bikes off and set out on foot to get the last three checkpoints. They didn’t prove too difficult but we still managed to take a slightly different route to the finish line – we came down Eat Street the opposite way to all the other teams that we saw come in after us. This probably summed up our day – we got there eventually after taking some very scenic routes!
The glass of bubbles at the finish line tasted so good. We were very proud of ourselves – we came, we participated, we achieved, we had fun, we learnt a lot and all in the name of Spirited Women. Would we do it again – ABSOLUTELY, in a heartbeat : )
We enjoyed some more drinks and pizzas at the Brew Bar before heading back to the motel to get cleaned up – it took quite a bit if scrubbing to remove all the mud! A bit of stretching was also in order : )
We all felt pretty good the next day. We were up early due to the extra hours sleep we got thanks to daylight saving. A pre breakfast coffee and scone was in order – we were also hungry and breakfast wasn’t until 10am. We checked out the results board – we had got first at the wrong end due to missing the first checkpoint on the hike. Dreams are free…….
The Rays and their awesome Support Crew (SC) – from left to right – Viv (SC), Renee (Ray 2), Rachel (Ray 3), Vicky (Ray 1), Carla (SC), Rachel D (SC) and Katy (Ray 4 and the sighted one)
We would like to say a big THANK YOU to the Alterno Foundation for sponsoring us to do this event and for providing such wonderful support and guidance. The Alterno Foundation supports projects which have the potential to make our community a better place – better health, better fitness, better educated and more productive! We all feel very privelleged to know such visionaries who really care about the people and the little piece of paradise that we all get to call home. Check out http://www.alterno.nz
We would also like to thank Neil and his team at Dare 2 Sweat Adventures for a well run event – this was the inaugural Spirited Women’s Adventure Race but given it’s success I know there will be many more to come and they will just keep getting bigger and better.
Some individual thoughts from each of the Rays….
It was with trepidation that I arrived in Rotorua to participate in the inaugural Spirited Women’s Adventure Race. Up until five weeks ago I had no worries about completing the course as my base fitness was good. Failing to correctly negotiate a bridge on my bike during our second training weekend put paid to that!
A string of injuries had a flow on effect and I wasn’t able to train effectively again until a week out from the event. I knew I would be the weakest link in the team but that the team would be very supportive – our goal right from the start was to go outside our comfort zones, participate and have fun. I was proved right – we had a ball. There was not one cross word, one dirty look or complaint.
I personally loved every aspect of the race including my team, the other amazing teams, each and every discipline including the tree top walking and shooting, the amazing environment, faultless organisation and even the inclement weather. We didn’t set any records but we had a great day – all eleven hours and forty three minutes of it! ☀️
It sure was a case of the three blind mice! Thanks Ray 4 for having young eyes and being able to read that impossible map! I had a blast and I could not fault the support among the team – there was never a time that any of us thought to throw in the towel.
It was a lot of fun and the scenery was amazing – a big thumbs up to the event organisers – it was a well run inaugural event and I am sure it will be bigger and better in 2017.
Our support crew were outstanding – now I remember how much I love peanut butter sandwhiches. They had never done or supported an event like this before but they were like seasoned professionals! They were so positive and encouraging when we came through each transition which really helped to keep us positive and motivated.
I’ll definitley be back next year!☀️☀️
I loved every minute of the day which ended up being fairly long but the time seemed to fly by. I felt like we all learnt a lot and now that we know what to expect and how to read the maps I think we will fare better next time around.
I found the day more mentally demanding than physically demanding. I am one of the three blind mice so not being able to read the maps easily while in action was frustrating. I also don’t have a very good sense of direction so that coupled with not being able to see the maps clearly made me feel like I was not pulling my weight. We put a lot of pressure on Ray 4 (the sighted one) which in hindsight we would change next time around. A trip to the Optometrist and a lot more practice reading and understanding the maps is in order.
Next time around I would also do at least two training weekends in the area that the race is being held in – you won’t know the specific locations until the night before the race but I think it would help to have some sense of the area geographically.
I also didn’t fuel regularly enough which didn’t cause any problems but I wouldn’t recommend it – you should really be eating something at least every hour. Our support crew were fantastic and had prepared adventure race suitable food so we certainly made up for it while we were in transition. Peanut butter sandwhiches never tasted so good!
It was a brilliant weekend and I would encourage you all to give it a go – the camaraderie between all the participants and being challenged both mentally and physically is extremely rewarding. I can’t wait to sign up for next year. ☀️☀️☀️
Race Day rolled around really fast and I was a bit nervous about a supposed six to nine hour race that we had signed up to with a stormy weather forecast on the horizon.
After a few minor navigation mishaps I was designated as the sole navigator as no one else could see the maps!
The scenery was amazing and the weather held out until later in the afternoon. I struggled a bit on the biking leg due to biking being my weakest discipline and the added task of trying to read the maps and direct the rest of the team. I found this a bit much at times and as I got hungrier I could feel a tantrum coming on. Luckily the girls didn’t seem to mind being lead astray and we knew the next transition was not far off.
We were greeted by our fabulous support crew who had big smiles, hot coffee and a whole lot of peanut buter sandwhiches. After a little bit of food I was a new women and we had less navigation mishaps.
I loved the whole race and would definitely recommend it to anyone. It was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster at times getting lost and frustrated but then on the other hand it was super satisfying locating the checkpoints.
All in all it was an awesome day. Thanks to our sponsors and our amazing support crew Carla, Rachel D and Viv Lim (as in Nadia Lim) – we couldn’t have done it without you. Well done to my fellow Ray’s – bring on next year but not before you have all booked into your optometrists or had laser eye surgery : 0. ☀️☀️☀️☀️
Some thoughts from our Support Crew
I was very happy to be a support crew member for such an awesome team. They kept their spirits high, unlike some of the other teams we saw coming through the transition areas. We saw a few mountain bikes flying around or being kicked, and I am still puzzled as to what those mountain bikes had done wrong!
We learnt a lot and next year we will make sure that we bring the following:
1) A mobile coffee machine to make a nice coffee.
2) A campervan, so that the support crew can shelter from the elements and take a nap in : )
3) More peanut butter sandwiches or perhaps we could mix it up with a bit of almond butter.
4) A book to read.
I loved being part of the support crew to such an inspiring team. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and even found it quite emotional at times. To see the faces of the girls coming through the transition areas, not only our team but all the teams, was pretty amazing. We saw smiles, tears, and some angry moments from girls who were over it and usually the bikes wore the brunt if it. The encouragement from their team mates was pretty special to hear though. I guess that was what it was all about. Girls supporting each other out of their comfort zones!!
I picked up a few pointers re being a better support team member – more peanut butter sandwiches, chairs for us to sit on and I second the idea of the campervan.