One of the tricky decisions about AR is how much sleep, when to sleep and the all important where. Transition Areas are some of the worst because they are busy places with teams coming & going all the time at all hours of the day. Sleep strategy is very important and there are lot schools of thought on it. With no slam dunk guaranteed approach its very situational. I’ve tried all there is from early and often to go as long as you can. Lots of short 30min naps to well just about anything. I’ve slept in ditches, abandoned houses, churches, under bridges, under trees, in tents, in the rain, in the shade, in a canoe, just before going into a TA, after just leaving a TA…
As we biked down the road into the 2nd night we were moving but busy debating and negotiating with each other when, where and how much around the topic of sleep. We knew there was rain coming and agreed that if we pushed through it we might get really bad sleep monsters (when you can’t stay awake but continue to ride you bike or run/trek when you are actually asleep.) believe me its real. Can even happen while paddling.
We figured if it rained it might rain for a long time and we wouldn’t be able to find a dry place without putting the tent up (which always takes time & wet tent = more weight). We didn’t know what might be available as far as buildings ahead, knowing we were about to head into a forrest. So we decided to find somewhere around where we were. There were plenty of farm buildings on the road we were biking along, and so picked one, found an implement shed and started to bunk down.
When you are that tired, you aren’t fussy. It was dry and out of the weather. The particular shed had used bailage bags and when placed on top of each other in multiple layers made a nice comfy surface.
We slept for about 3hrs… It was wonderful.
The rain passed as we rose and soon we were off on our bikes, slightly chilled but biking up a big hill soon warmed us up. In AR you are constantly having to respond to body temp issues. Too hot, too cold, raining too much need to put a jacket on. Not raining enough, getting too hot.
We wound our way through the forrest collecting points along the way. Some of the roads didn’t match up with the map and vice versa so this kept us on our toes. One point almost left us in a bit of a mess. It was located a short distance into the woods off a left hand turn. We ditched the bikes, and packs and Pete & I wandered in to get it. It was further in that we thought and soon were a ways from the road. We finally found the point but had gotten sooooo turned around we were is disagreement as to which was the road was. No problem look at the map…GULP neither of us brought a map. Ok… get a bearing of West. The point was directly East from the road. Just do the reverse and walk until we reach the road…GULP neither of us brought a compass. Mine was in my pack, and Pete’s was on his bike. hmmmmm. We were very turned around. Pete thought it was one way I thought the other.
So calmly we tried to make sense of it all retuning to where the point was. I tired yelling, each time louder and louder to get Craig & Lucy’s attention but we were over the brow of a hill in a pine forrest and they couldn’t hear us. We weren’t desperate but heading that way. I turned my mouth sky-ward to get my trajectory on my voice and yelled like I haven’t yelled in a while. Finally I heard Craig calling back way off in the distance but only because he had marched into the forest looking for us to see what was taking us so long. Whew. Oh Adventure Racing, they make for some of the best stories.
We got back to the bikes. I took my compass out and put it around my neck, we laughed a little and rode off. The rest of the ride through the night was pretty uneventful. Although I did have bad sleep monster right before dawn, but thanks to Craig’s conversation with me I managed to fight them off as we rode. Eventually reaching TA2 around dawn. To begin our transition to the monster 150km Trek/Pack Rafting section. The key here was, pack lots of food then try and jam some more in there.
I ate so much in that TA and probably consumed several thousand calories in camping meals to replace and prepare. We left there with very heavy packs and me not in a good place mentally.
I know this might all seem a little drawn out, however it helps me recall the race and all the highs and lows.
The abseil/rappel me was quite the ride. Most of it was in free space and a long way down in the dark at around 2am after one hadn’t slept in almost 24hrs. After this we bush whacked down to a trail and continued our exit of the valley. Right before dawn we decided to take a nap and put the tent up and slept for about 2hrs. Pete & I don’t usually put a tent top unless its raining but was happy to climb inside the shelter with 3 other tired bodied to really only get average sleep with a snoring team mate only 2 bodies away.
We exited the valley to some early morning rain and continued our trek through the grounds of Borland Lodge and onto more trails that connected us with the Monowai River. Even with some sleep I don’t remember that last part of the trek and was in my own Lala land probably taking to myself out loud. Thankfully there is no judgement in AR.
At the river we had to wash all our gear that had been in Didymo infected rivers. Commonly known as Rock Snot this algae like growth is choking some NZ rivers and the Dept. of Conversations (DOC) efforts to stop its spread across Fiordland NP included washing/dunking everything is trek troughs and barrels to sanitize everything. No worries. happy to do our part.
We got on the Monowai after a quick transition and set off down our 2nd river of the race in just over 24hrs. This was fast moving river that meant that the short paddle was over quite quickly. But it was a fun ride with lots of reading rapids and wave trains etc. A teaser for what was to come 24hrs or so later.
We had a couple of km’s portage to do from the Monowai to Waiau River. Which was a deep flowing river with some small wave trains. The scenery was amazing with lots of cool birdlife of Kereru’s and Tui’s and Bellbirds. Along with some funky rock formations. We got off this river around early/mid afternoon at TA #1. Wow 36hrs in and only 1 TA.
Towards the end of this long 150km sections I was beginning to be effected by some bad chaffing. My feet were doing great, but the chaffing between my legs was now at the point of being infected and causing me to walk with quite a gait. As we wandered into the TA I sort a 2nd opinion. This was meet with ewww from a race volunteer. There were reports already filtering out about others having bad chaffing and foot issues already. I dont usually have issues with chaffing so wanted to take care of it quickly. The best response I could think of was to douse it with an alcohol pad… yes that would hurt but kill any infection. And its Adventure Racing and I feel like the letters pain are hidden between the lines of any course description. There was no point in trying to dry it out. This was Fiordland and we were going to be wet…. ALL THE TIME. So on went the alcohol pad and yes it hurt. I’m happy to report after that treatment it did start to improve and actually scabbed over later on in the race.
We left TA1 on our bikes happy to be on the saddle of a bike. After a short ride we reach a caving section where all teams were required to stay there for 2hrs whether it took 30mins or whatever to complete the cave system. There were CP’s in there to collect. We were log jammed by people in the cave and by the time we got out were only had about 20mins rest. But it was still good.
We quickly left there to a setting sun, end of day 2 to the sound of thunder in the distance as we rode towards it.
The day was quite warm and we had already felt that with all the sweating we were doing, thankfully being Fiordland water was easy to find in streams and rivers and all safe to drink. We dropped down into our 1st valley to cross a stream where we stopped to eat some real food in the form of Absolute Wilderness meals. Peter & I had about 50 of them to last the week and great to eat whether mixed with hot of cold water.
As we left the creek we entered one of the classic adventure racing dilemmas. You have to get from point A to point B and you can choose your own route. There is usually no trails or tracks certainly no sign posts and you just have to go for it. So we picked a line up a creek slowly gaining height but loosing daylight. No worries its totally normal to push through the darkness in AR unless its moving water whereupon they enforce a Dark Zone, which usually means you can be paddling on said waterway if its moving water.
We made it to the top of the valley just as we lost daylight not after some very steep bush whacking and scrambling of trees and scrubs. By now we will in darkness with our headlamps and in the clouds with rain coming and going. We finally started our descent as the streams began to flow the other way. We were still below the tree-line but knew we needed to drop down into and through the trees to reach the valley floor and a trail running along the bottom. As we descended into the trees, mostly of mixed scrub and Manuka the travel became increasingly difficult but we are use to this and not surprised by this challenge. The travel became more and more difficult as we literally down climbed over Manuka. Still descending but ever so slowly. Then on one occasion I began to slide of the wet Manuka sliding downhill face first. I managed to break my fall but still sliding face first was quite intimidating. Soon after that we had our biggest drama when Pete lost his footing and began to slide down hill on rocks and fast, he start to scream and couldn’t seem to arrest his fall. He slid about 10meters screaming all the way down trying to grab something. He finally came to a stop a mere meter or so from a 50meter bluff down to a creek.
This paralyzed us all for a fe moments as we caught our breath and made sure Pete was ok. This didn’t solve our problem though as we couldn’t seem to get down past this parallel band of rock bluffs and cliffs that ran the length of our descent. We were quite demoralized at the thought of having to climb up another 250meters in all that scrub to traverse along some more and hopefully find another way down. We sat and had a team meeting about our options. Our maps weren’t of the scale where we could see if there was a gap to get down either. The frustrating thing was we could see the bottom of the valley when we turn our headlamps on full beam. But couldn’t get through this 50meter wide cliff. The other dilemma was that the creek we were now using for our descent of trying to get into to descend had large waterfalls to which which could or would never be able to down climb safely. Pete was convinced we were close and that if w could just get down to the creek we were low enough now that the topography had leveled out enough in the creek that we wouldn’t encounter anymore waterfalls. It was a gamble but it was try this or go back up 250meters. So group decision was lets try.
It paid off and we made it safely to the creek and didn’t encounter anymore waterfalls. Safely on the valley floor we quickly started moving again to stay warm as we moved through the swampy ground. We stopped at a hikers hut for a few minutes to re group then get underway. This travel was easy and took us on a trail all the way to our next adventure the 100+ meter abseil/rappel IN THE DARK!
This was going to be the biggest/longest race I have ever done and dutifully prepared for what was promised to be 10days of adventure and perhaps hardship and misery at the same time. I have certainly experienced those things before in over 10years of doing this sport all over the world however this was a different level… 10days and in Fiordland NZ, the most fiercest, remotest part of NZ. Which could be best summed up as very steep, very wet and very thick bush and forrest. And upon brief reflection… it delivered. Now for all the details.
In AR you always feel as though you are a little undercooked when you toe the start line, but hey how can you prepare for 10days of very little sleep. Before our enforced rest before we were short-coursed we had slept about 6hrs in 4 days. I will say that the other parts of preparation for this race had gone well. I have found time to label gear bins (usually done last minute or by someone else) and even practice assembling and disassembling my bike multiple times in and out of its box for safe transportation on a truck when not being used. Something I never have time for.
Anyways the race started on a Thursday morning @ 7am in the middle of Te Anau with 1000’s of locals and media looking on to create quite a spectacle as we ran down the Main Street on the only payment we would see for several days. The short run ended with at a lakeside part where we had dropped our gear for the 1st paddle/trek section of 110km. We quickly inflated our Pack Rafts and ran to the lake to launch with the other 99 teams. Our team consisted of 2 friends from Picton who I had guided with for 2 years when we lived in Marlborough and my old racing Buddy Peter, with whom we have done over 25 races together in the past 10years. Lots of good memories of racing with this guy.
Once on the lake we quickly settled into a rhythm of paddling playing follow the leader around the Lake Te Anau shoreline and then across to the control gates where we portaged onto the Waiau River than feeds water into Lake Manapouri. We were feeling good and rattling off the km’s. After a portage of several km’s and 2 Control Points we were now paddling across Lake Manapouri. We headed to the small settlement there to collect another CP then to the Mandatory Boat drop where we deflated our pack rafts and headed into the bush on the rest of this 110km stage. This is where we launched into some full on bush whacking, when really it was a tame version of what was ahead. We hit the 2 points in & around The Monument then headed towards Hope Arm to climb over the top into another valley, which is where the 1st drama happened.
Just got the logistics planner for my next adventure tonight. The GodZone Adventure Race releases this a week before the race so you know what you are in for. This is their biggest race ever… and mine, come to think of it. 10 days of the Fiordland New Zealand Wilderness. Below is a pic of what we are in for. This doesn’t tell us where we will be going, but only the order and the distance. OUCH!!!! some of these sections are going to hurt and be really long.
Our team name is Checkpoint Zero. Team number 22. You can follow along online as one of my 3 team mates or me will be carrying a tracker that pings to a website where you can stay up to date. Its affectionally known as ‘dot watching’ and can be quite addictive.
Race starts next Thursday @ 8am NZ time.
This might be a tough read. However having lived in the USA for over 13 years, and seen this occur many times while living there and even meet several survivors and even a surviving family member I believe I have a platform. However never can fully walk in another persons shoes.
So here goes…
America is a flawed race!
The unbelievable has happened again… another school shooting and this time with double-digit deaths.
What’s the definition of flawed…
Lets start with the response of “its a complex issue” (mostly cited by 2nd Amendment advocates, numerous gun owners… not all.) Well if its a complex issue that will take time to solve, when do we start to solve it.
If it will take time, when will be a good time to start solving it. How many more mass shootings will have to occur before the complex argument case is taken over by… yikes enough is enough.
Or heres a random idea… if its complex at least make a start on doing something. Putting a man on the moon was a complex challenge and guess what. We had to start somewhere and finally they got there. Americans none the less… well done. Moreover what does its a complex issue argument and inaction say about how much one wants it to end.
Complex is the solving of a math problem, complex is curing cancer, complex is the fall of the Iron Curtain. Yet those are all behind us or we are further along than we were even last week or last century in curing something.
While the “its complex” argument reigns supreme, kids DIE!
Lets go a little further. Several other countries have had mass shooting events over the years. And while one might argue that their response was a little knee jerk it has lead to a drastic reduction if not a total elimination of anymore mass shooting events. And y’all up the ante even more by having mass shootings occur in schools… That’s flawed.
A flawed race is when ….Whether you support your presidents policy or not. Whether you think people or nations meddled in the election or not. To have that represent you as a person who’s set of morals, ethics, bullying behavior, name calling and list of acceptable practices he chooses to get things done on behalf of you. To allow that to represent you is flawed.
A flawed race is when… To be a country of people who stand by & continue to let it happen. That really it hasn’t got that bad yet to really motivate and call enough people to enough action to change and force change… That’s flawed
A flawed race is when… To hear the same response over & over & still no change. From politicians. And some of that response being only that all representatives standing on floors on Capitol Hill and taking a minute silence, perhaps reading some names out, lowering a flag. Heck take 5 minutes silence if it will make you feel better. I know why do we do a whole hour or even a day or week, maybe longer… wait you already do take longer to doing nothing. Then not demanding change and not demanding it loudly enough to see it actually happen… That’s flawed
A flawed race is when… Maybe you think it wont touch you, that this won’t happen in my town, my school, to my coworkers kid, to my neighbor, to my niece or nephew or cousin, to my sister, brother, son or daughter. But really who does think it will. Statistically theres probably still more chance of dying in a car wreck. It doesn’t bother you enough to do more.But it does happen… That’s flawed
A flawed race is when… Now living in NZ (home) Robin & I are bombarded by questions and statements every time this occurs. They come to us bewildered, puzzled and then move on because like y’all they privately know nothing will change and it will happen again and again and again. We have no answer, we don’t know what to tell them America. Please contact us and let us know so we can pass on why this continues and nothing happens… That’s flawed
A flawed race is when… You have given us so many wonderful things. Several years ago when Robin grandfather died in his mid 90’s I would sometimes think about all the things he has seen… the development of the car, space travel, computers, phone technology, medical breakthroughs, organ transplants, so many different genres of music. Many of which came from you America. You are supposed to be America the worlds leader, start acting like one and please don’t export this thing called school shootings anywhere else, we don’t want it, and anyway if it did happen here we would demand change and would demand it with such a swift loud clear voice that it would happen quickly… that’s flawed
One thing that not flawed… but even worse is how embarrassing this is. You have become a joke and yet still no change or action. You’re losing your mojo America. You might be the worlds #1 economy, you might win more gold medals collectively than anyone. Your biggest city (NYC) is still the crossroads of the world,. You might think you are #1 and you probably are, I mean its not Syria is it. However you also have the embarrassing title of being #1 in this claim to fame that no one wants… school shooting. Oh and thats because it doesn’t happen in other countries. And guess what, ultimately you are flawed and children continue to die in schools.
A flawed race is when… your leader can slap a ban on travel of people from certain muslim majority countries not long after he becomes president and do so with such haste and swiftness. Again with a short term ban, till we get thing sorted out I do believe he said something along those lines. Yet that same person cannot slap a similar short term ban of the sale of assault weapons with such haste and swiftness, till we get things sorted out. Funny how one ban can happened (or attempt) so quickly, yet another one to stop the weapon the choice being used to kill kids takes so long…
A flawed race is when.. If its complex and not as you say about assault weapons. Then set a short term ban to set a goal deadline & prove your point! If you really can. At least then schools kids are safe. And if you are right then we will know once and for all. But quietly we all know the real truth. It’s about money & control. And all you do is roll out the 2nd amendment argument to sucker people in.
People who say Paul, your “preaching to the choir” well then get out of the choir loft & stop singing silly praise songs and do something MORE about it
I am certainly not advocating or trying to start something. However the term civil disobedience comes to mind and perhaps the next option (of potentially numerous) to get enough attention and stop this senselessness. I really don’t know what a flawed race is. But I do start to wonder how this can continue when the themes, methods and tools of death are the same bed fellows with inaction, dismissal and ‘its complex’.
U2 have a song on The Joshua Tree album called “Bullet the Blue Sky”. In the song Bono and the boys sing lyrics about Central American conflicts that American is “behind-the-scenes” mixed up in. No this is not the first time. The lyrics are written to make one feel uncomfortable. With Bono then speaking towards the end of the song “Am I buggin’ you, I don’t mean to bug you”. All targeted and aimed at getting a response from us the listener into perhaps action against what went on in this conflict.
And so I end with these words from U2 “Bullet the Blue Sky” (1987)
“Am I Buggin’ You…”
After a day of getting our expedition group together and packing we spent Sunday morning packing all the food for 6 days and final arrangements. Which included how much the youth had stuck to the equip/gear list. This list was the minimum however several students needed to borrow some items and were naively unaware of what lay ahead of us as far as preparing for any type of weather. While it is summer, snow down to low levels is not unusual.
We were shuttled to the top of the Haast Pass which annually receives 4meters of rain with its location sitting on the main divide and obviously gets slammed with lots of rain off the Tasman Sea.
We begin walking in light rain that did ease up as the day moved on. We crossed the main east/west road using a foot bridge to cross the Makarora River. Our packs were heavy and full. I couldn’t even close the lid of my pack correctly.
At this point our leadership model was for the 3 of us to share this role, however we quickly empowered the students with a long and lengthy debate unfolding over our first overnight location. There was lots of analysis paralysis which meant the students spent way too long debating on whether to stop at one place and have done a good first day (and get eaten by bugs) or push on with super heavy packs and have a short day tomorrow. After much debate it was “collectively” decided to push on. This exercise proved a helpful metaphor for many leadership conversations later on in the expedition.
Our eventual campsite was a good choice with great views and sightings of various native NZ birds, some of which are threatened or vulnerable.
Day 2 dawned clear and calm as we donned our STILL heavy packs on to some raw shoulders (we needed to eat more to lighten the load). A good opportunity to re-visit some of the facilitated teachable moments from yesterday. This was rounded out with the 1st of our 3 navigational map lessons.
We made our way up the Young Valley stopping for lunch and a lesson on macro invertebrates found in the streams. All while empowering a Leader of the Day to facilitate our movement up the young valley. As the week went on we had quite a few insights into how youth lead youth. But more on that later.
Our pace was quite slow, due in part to the big crisis section we had in students abilities. WE didn’t encounter too many other people which was nice. Our day ended at the confluence of the Young River South & North Branch camping out in the rain and singing surrounded by water falls. And brief and brisk swims in the river.
Day 3 was a beautiful day and wee quickly were out on the trail making our way up the North Branch of the Young River. The going was slow but inspired by still more bird life and even some BellBird chicks singing for their mother. Our slow but steady progress allowed us to have lots of great conversations with 1 or 2 students at any one time. Many of these centered around plans for next year after high school and how we see our experience our faith out in the wilderness. Often it was easy to let the experience speak for itself knowing we couldn’t do anything to improve the metaphors that existed all our us screaming glory to God.
We were always quick to remember that the NZ mountains and backcountry can be a dangerous place ensuring our Leader of the Day was making sound decisions with our presence very much in the background.
Our day ended in a stunning basin at the top of the Young River surrounded by sheer cliffs, waterfalls and rainbows. This would set us up well to go over Gillespie Pass the next morning with a few showers forecast, but generally the best weather window for the next few days.