A post race report of Spirited Women from Ambassador, Eve Southan
When the Zeenya Clothing crew put the call out for team members for the Spirited Women Adventure race I thought, oh yeah, sign me up! It sounded like a whole lot of fun! The adventure race is a mixture of running, mountain biking, kayaking and some extra mystery challenges thrown in. You compete the course as a team of four and navigate from the map provided, while clipping off a race card at all the check points along the way. There are no marshals out there except at transitions, no fancy aid stations and no course markings. I don’t really do water activities, or mountain biking, or map reading, what’s the worst that could happen!
We packed up my bike and compulsory gear and headed up to Gisborne for the weekend. It was weird having no idea about the course until the night before the event. We knew there would be kayaking, bike riding and running/hiking involved, but no idea of the distances or in what order they would be. Even when we got the maps at the briefing the night before I still had no real idea how long each leg would take. I was really nervous the night before when we were going over the maps and talking through the routes we would take. Although I was secretly a little happy the sea kayak section was removed due to the high swells expected!
On race morning our team were so relaxed. Erin, Suze and Sarah have all done a Spirited Women race before and are all experienced and high performing athletes (no pressure!). They kept reassuring me I would be sweet and that we were out there to have fun.
The race start was at the Wainui Beach Surf Club, the sun was up, and it was a beautiful morning. Chloe from Zeenya was on the microphone and she came over to give us some encouragement before we started our adventure. Our wave began at 7:20am and we headed up the beach and started collecting our check points. We were moving quickly across the sand and it was great to get the adventure underway. Sarah was our team captain, Suze was on navigation and Erin had the race card to clip when we found each check point (I was there for terrible jokes 😉).
We moved through the steep terrain pretty quickly and were greeted by spectacular views along the way. About halfway through this section we came to our first mystery activity. An obstacle course! This was heaps of fun and we worked together to move through it (which means when the obstacles were too high for me, my tall team mates gave me a boost up!). We carried on running after this, collecting more clips and eventually made our way back down towards town.
When we arrived into town we found our next mystery activity. It was jumping as a team off the bridge and into the river. Crap, I am not a strong swimmer, this was going to be a disaster! Thank goodness as we got closer to the transition we saw everyone was given a noodle floatation tube. Yay, I can float and swim back to the river edge with that! We dropped our gear bags and I took my shoes off (I thought it would help me float). As I was taking my shoes off I unfortunately got stung by a bee on my calf, which gave me such a fright and hurt so much! No time to worry about that though we made our way on to the bridge. We got the briefing, you jump as a team and if you don’t jump with the team you have to go back. You will get a 1,2,3 countdown and then you jump. And then within seconds we were standing on the ledge looking over and oh, my, goodness we were high up! My fear had now moved from drowning to panic as I thought there is no way I can throw myself off the bridge. I started shaking so badly and I thought I was going to spontaneously cry! Then I heard 1,2,3 go. I went to jump, flinched and then just sort of made myself fall in. It wasn’t graceful, and I was too scared to even scream. It seemed to take forever to reach the water! But I did it, the adrenalin was intense, and the water was pretty cold! I couldn’t actually believe I had jumped!
Once we got back on shore we grabbed our gear and carried on to the last of this run section. This took us to the 1st transition where we got in two kayaks and headed along the river to collect more clips on our card. We spent about an hour kayaking on the river and it was a nice break for our legs after a long run section. It looked so awesome seeing all the other teams out on the water too.
Back at the transition we carried the kayaks to shore it was time to head out on our bikes for the 1st bike section. I am not confident on a bike and I was pretty worried about the two bike sections we had to do. But my teammates reassured me to just take my time and if I needed to get off and walk then that was ok. It was easy going to start with and then we got into some trail that was difficult to ride. The course was really congested too, so we walked our bikes a lot. Finally, the course opened up and we were set for a long climb up a gravel road. It was hard going and a real fitness test. I felt ok going up here, it was smashing my quads but I managed to get my gears working ok and I was able to keep riding.
Once at the top we had another run/trek section through a steep gully. This was superbly navigated by Suze and we got through it quickly. Which meant we were back on our bikes and off to start the last leg. I figured since we had climbed so much already it was going to be all downhill right!
This section was really, really hard for me and I struggled to keep up with the team. I was nervous and uncomfortable on the bike and the terrain was farmland and narrow track. There were steep sections both up and down and I just didn’t have the confidence and experience to navigate the track well. I tried my best and only walked when I felt it was just too much. My team would yell back to me “you are going to want to get off” on the really gnarly bits. The section seemed to go on forever and every time I looked up I could just see riders far off in the distance. It became harder to be enthusiastic, but my team were so encouraging, and I just kept moving forward as best I could.
Eventually the farmland ended, and we dropped down to the road and were on the home stretch. We had to do a little bit of road ride loop back up to a checkpoint we missed as we came down a different track and then we were heading in to town. It was so nice to be on the road again, my butt and shoulders were sore from all the lumpy riding!
As we got closer to the beach we could hear the finish line festivities, I couldn’t believe Chloe from Zeenya was still on the microphone! I was looking forward to hearing her announce the Zeenya team finishing. One more checkpoint (that was nearly impossible to find) and then we dropped our bikes and ran back along the beach and over the finish line together. We were out for 8hours and 18minutes and looks like we just snuck in a top 20 finish. It was a physically hard and mentally challenging day out and I had a blast. Such a different experience from Ultra running and so cool to see so many teams working together and having a so much fun out there.
My favourite parts were the first run section because the scenery was beautiful, and I love being out running in the hills, and jumping off the bridge. The bridge jump was absolutely terrifying, but I was so proud I did it. My least favourite part was the second bike section, simply because I just didn’t have the experience and ability to relax and enjoy it. I can imagine if you were confident on a mountain bike this part would have actually been pretty awesome!
I want to thank Zeenya for having me on their team and my awesome teammates Sarah, Erin and Suze for making the day so much fun and being so calm and encouraging, you guys rock!