Adventure - - Events -

Con­tin­ual road clo­sures on the Coro­man­del penin­su­lar should have been in­di­ca­tion enough of how wet it had been, in fact it has been the wettest win­ter on record, so we knew that the con­di­tions would be chal­leng­ing. On race morn­ing, the tem­per­a­ture gauge was reading a chilly 10 de­grees and it had been rain­ing steadily all night cre­at­ing sub­stan­tial pud­dles on the gravel road lead­ing out to the start point. How­ever, the less than ideal weather did noth­ing to stop the 700 peo­ple who turned up to com­pete in this year’s Bivouac Whanga­mata Ad­ven­ture Race.

As we stood in the rain wait­ing for the event to start, wrapped in ev­ery layer we had in an at­tempt to stay warm, I couldn’t help but won­der what it was that drew so many peo­ple to an event like this and what it is that makes ad­ven­ture rac­ing one of the fastest grow­ing sports in the world? Most ad­ven­ture races are held away from main city cen­tres but it doesn’t stop peo­ple from want­ing to take part – in fact it’s the op­po­site. Ad­ven­ture rac­ing al­lows you to get ex­pe­ri­ence some of the most beau­ti­ful and re­mote spots in the coun­try. This is one of the draw cards of ad­ven­ture rac­ing for me and the Whanga­mata event was no ex­cep­tion, be­ing held in the pic­turesque moun­tain ranges of Whanga­mata and One­m­ana on the Coro­man­del penin­sula. Be­ing im­mersed in the out­doors and es­pe­cially in such stun­ning scenery seems to of­fer a coun­ter­bal­ance to the phys­i­cal de­mands of ad­ven­ture rac­ing.

Ad­ven­ture rac­ing is also as much about (and in some ways more about) chal­leng­ing your­self rather than be­ing in a race against time. It's more of a race against na­ture and what you as an in­di­vid­ual or team can achieve; over­com­ing ob­sta­cles and find­ing your way from place to place. Of course, there are teams who are in it to win it, but for many it’s sim­ply about com­plet­ing the event rather than com­pet­ing against another team.

But one of the things that draws many peo­ple to ad­ven­ture rac­ing is the ca­ma­raderie of be­ing part of a team, and I think that’s re­ally the win­ning in­gre­di­ent. It is of­ten said that a prob­lem shared is a prob­lem halved, and ad­ven­ture rac­ing is just like that. You have a group of peo­ple you are work­ing with to over­come chal­lenges and this makes the ex­pe­ri­ence that much more en­joy­able. As part of a team even the most in­clement weather and steep­est hills are that much eas­ier to over­come.

Com­ing into the Whanga­mata Ad­ven­ture race this year, most of our team had not had time to do much phys­i­cal train­ing so were not an­tic­i­pat­ing a plac­ing, or even a fast race. The de­mands of work, fam­ily com­mit­ments, lack of sleep and a month-long bat­tle with the flu meant we were well be­low our phys­i­cal peak. Visit­ing the Whanga­mata bike shop for a few last-minute bits and pieces we ex­plained to the bike shop owner that we were feel­ing a lit­tle bit un­der­pre­pared. His re­ply was clas­sic. "You could train and put your body through hell for three months so that on the day you can move more freely, or you can do noth­ing and just put your­self through hell for one day only!"

With speed be­ing ruled out as a strat­egy, we de­cided to use the event to fo­cus on our nav­i­ga­tional skills and set out with a goal to col­lect as many check­points as pos­si­ble. The trou­ble with this plan was you needed time on your side to com­plete the ex­tra miles needed to get all the check­points, and as well as be­ing less than at our peak fit­ness we made a rookie mis­take on the first leg of the race by fol­low­ing the crowd rather than re­ly­ing on our own sense of di­rec­tion. As a re­sult, it took us half an hour to find the first check­point, putting us to­wards the back of the pack through­out the whole of stage one.

Dur­ing the sec­ond trek stage, de­spite be­ing be­hind on time, we were de­ter­mined to find all the check­points as well as the bonus points and found our­selves very much on our own. Most of the other teams to­wards the back of the pack re­alised time was pre­cious and kept to the just find­ing the check­points but we were happy to go out alone and see what we could find. Be­ing more on our own meant we couldn’t “fol­low the team in front” as there was no-one else around, and there­fore we re­ally had to rely on one another. We felt a great sense of achieve­ment at reach­ing each bonus point and de­spite the fact that we were walk­ing in the foot­steps (and bik­ing through the mud pud­dles) that 700+ peo­ple had also biked through, we felt like it was just us against the el­e­ments. De­spite our best ef­forts, how­ever, our nav­i­ga­tional skills fell short, and al­though we hiked some se­ri­ous dis­tances, some of the bonus points re­mained out of our reach.

The third and fi­nal leg of the six-hour race was another moun­tain bik­ing leg with the chance to gain a lot more bonus points, how­ever, we had spent so long on the first two legs we were run­ning short of time and were un­able to com­plete the last leg in full. Yet as the day had wore on and the tracks be­came more slip­pery and most of our bikes and bod­ies be­came caked in mud, some things had be­come clear. We were out deep in the bush with our friends, bat­tling the el­e­ments and bat­tling the chal­lenges of our age­ing bod­ies, yet we were hav­ing an in­cred­i­ble time. We were cov­ered from head to toe in mud and muck and at times our legs ached from bik­ing or hik­ing up a steep hill, how­ever we were con­tent, laugh­ing and en­joy­ing ev­ery mo­ment. At no point did we stop or even think about where we were placed in the field, it sim­ply wasn’t at all im­por­tant. It was not at all about win­ning, we don’t even know where we placed, it was sim­ply about chal­leng­ing our­selves and we def­i­nitely did that. It's in­cred­i­ble what you can achieve when you work to­gether as a team and as we all cel­e­brated the end of the 6 hours with a cold beer or two we were al­ready plan­ning our next ad­ven­ture. We look for­ward to see­ing you there.

Above top to bot­tom: Nav­i­gat­ing one of the many stream cross­ings - Mys­tery ac­tiv­i­ties to gain ex­tra points were fun -The ter­rain was both beau­ti­ful and chal­leng­ing - Im­ages by Paul Peter­son

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