Over 16 years of preparing and leading summer staff for the pressure cooker environment of American summer camps has revealed to me a few anecdotal observations of the mental and emotional make-up of youth and young adults. My “first summer” in the late 90’s with this aforementioned age group had the initial welcoming introductions, pleasant greetings and greeting of others with the figurative high outer wall of nicety and tactfulness. This was contrasted with a low inner wall that once one made it past the high outer wall the candor and honesty flowed. This high outer wall of mental and emotional strength included a ‘I have it all together…’ to reveal a low inner wall of ‘I don’t really have it altogether’ revelation and here’s who I really am.
Conversely recently I have witnessed a flipping of this. Where the outer wall in now VERY LOW. “Hi my name is …. and I have depression or bipolar or….”. Boom straight out there, no warning, no concern or care for who hears it, who doesn’t want to hear it, you are gonna hear it whether you like it or not. And forget the inner wall, there’s no need for it anymore.
What has changed? Why has this generation developed an outrageous contempt for sensitivity or tact to cut straight to the “new definition” of who they are. Something previous generations would never had disclosed. Now almost to the point of wearing it as a badge of honor.
I would argue and suggest that we in the church are partially responsible for this new honesty. But not in a something to be celebrated kind of way. These are church youth & young adults who were raised in the church, still attend church, have articulated a statement of faith, prayed, participated (even lead) bible studies, sung in church and more but yet were boldly disclosing some needs that the church was not responding too. Forget what those who are unchurched or not of faith were disclosing. All to say “I am drowning in my mental health and don’t know where to turn”. Or perhaps put another way. The new low outer wall of introductions is a desperate cry for help.
The point is that issues of mental health and suicide are all around, it’s almost like the new sexy term to refer to oneself with… almost like saying you only eat gluten free or organic. Youth and young adults in and outside the church are disclosing boldly and unashamedly to whomever will hear the state of their mental health. Not because they are trying to one up the next person or extract pity, but because they are hurting, in pain and are losing hope and meaningful avenues for help. If we cannot provide for those within the church, for our own youth, we can’t even begin to imagine where to start for unchurched youth. What will we do? How much more shockingly normalized honesty do we need to hear?
Its been a few weeks coming, not out of deep thought or anything, just distractions, laziness and a reluctance to write it.
The last chapter ended like this…
“And so it was over. But not all the feelings that needed to be addressed and spoken about.
That my friends will be talked about in the next and last installment. Part 9 the final chapter. The chapter that doesn’t have any more race happenings or details to share. But more the part that dives into the top 2 inches and shed some light on what went down several days earlier when we walked away from the race and short-coursed ourselves.”
Yes we walked away from a big race. The decision to short course ourselves was a team decision, however the reality was it was one person who didn’t feel like they could continue and because of that the rest of the team had to follow suit.
And that person was…ME! Yes Paul Timothy Humphreys. Yes folks that person who felt as though they couldn’t continued was yours truly. You might read and think so what big deal move on Paul. And thats true and so I will, end of blog…
But I do have to process this and have done a lot of that since mid March.
For me to quit a race is very uncommon. I have certainly not ended races before for lots of reasons… injury, missed time cut-off’s, weather, other team mates…. but for me…never. I felt like I was more prepared for this race than I have ever been. Even had time to treat, doctor -up and harden up my feet in anticipation of the race. Had done long sessions, had done long sessions in some god-awful weather (even got blown off my bike one night at 2am). And then BOOM “Hey team, I don’t think I can continue!”
I’m still not there as far as completely processing it, probably never will be. And one might say. Move on, you had some failure its happens to us all. And I know that and know it well. But for me to quit and walk away or take the easy way home as it might be in this race is not me.
I definitely know about failure but I know failure of this kind is unusual to me and that’s why I want to and need to explore it more.
This is also hard for me to write about this in a public platform. And not because I am afraid of “what people might say” or destroy/ lessen any perceptions people might have. I couldn’t care less. But more so how did I get to that place in the race where I wanted to quit and walk away when it’s not in my nature to do so. This was Fiordland for goodness sakes, one of the last truly wild places left in the world.
My personality, spirituality, faith is very much made up by my experiences in the outdoors. And the harder the better. Therefore GodZone sounds like a perfect scenario right? Right but….
Therefore that is why this has been hard fo me to process not to mention a feeling letting 3 other people down.
That will take time and without rattling off the cheesy cliches of “everything happens for the reason” or “you’ll get it next time”. I do not and will not hang on to those. I am a realist and life isn’t always the way you want it. And its often the times that life goes not the way you want it that end up being more meaningful.
So the journey continues. That said GodZone 2019, Chapter 8 has just been announced and its here in Canterbury… GULP. I was considering volunteering next year and giving back to the race but now…
Yup thats it, all the processing I want to do for now. I’m nothing special just passionately curious.
And so end with the 2 quotes on my bio page at the top. These are more true right now than ever.
“I have no special talents I’m only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein.
“True adventure doesn’t begin until things start to go wrong.” Yvon Chouinard.
The Rowallen Forest was this combination of commercial forestry and native bush and was littered with roads, trails and pathways. And of course the map didn’t match up reality and reality didn’t match with the map. Being a commercial forest in places there were roads created over time and roads abandoned over time. It wasn’t unusual to be biking along and have a road totally stop or disappear into thick bush or scrub. And in the dark it only added to the frustration. Several CP’s were out & back rides, just to add to the “enjoyment” and it was super muddy in places. There were a few hike-a-bikes in places and then times when we were staring at a map with 2 or 3 other teams trying figure where “that road” is on the map, and “why dosen’t this road keep going like on the map.”
Pete’s navigation through here was outstanding and while slow in places to ensure accuracy we were out of the forrest around dawn the next morning after going in right around sunset the night before. I tell you this because about 36hrs after we had finished we were down at the finished line hanging out with other teams and family and friends and we saw one of the teams we left T3 with into the Rowallen Forest come into the finish line. We were talking with the female in the team and she said they were in the Rowallen Forest for over 24hrs. They got all turned around and lost. Took some really decent sleep to clear their head and start again at sunrise. GLUP.
We did sleep for about 45mins in the forest just before dawn. We only had 1 more CP to get at that point and so lay down in a ditch to sleep until rain falling on our faces woke us.
The hardest (or most painful part) of the forest was on the exit as we flew down a long downhill section out to the road when Craig came off his bike and was scraped up a bit. He soon recovered for us to get to the road and begin peddling the long ride to Manapouri. Not before stopping at some very hospitable farmers shearing shed where we were greeted with water, some food and even the radio was on. There was random scatterings of opened bales to sleep on if so desired. Having just napped and with the chance of other teams coming in we pushed on.
This road was long and tiring and it was raining hard and we were biking into a headwind. Lucy was quite sleepy here and literally rode her bike off the road into a small ditch after falling asleep. No harm done though. As we passed by farm after farm the support from passing vehicles was enormous. We stopped at one point as pulled into a roadside school bus stop to escape the rain for a bit and share some food. We were quickly visited by the local farmer and owner of the rickety bus stop. He had the upmost time and respect for us, offering to have us “come up to the house” for some food, warm clothes and even sleep if we wanted. We politely declined and knew we must be on our way. As we left one of our team mates questioned if he was legit. I was quick to respond and inform him… yes the Southland hospitality would have been for real and wouldn’t have been extended if it wasn’t genuine. We might have had swedes and turnips in every-way you could imagine but it would have been genuine.
We biked over a big pass and then finally saw Lake Manapouri off in the distance. The rain had stopped and so it was nice to coast downhill without feeling too cold. As we rode into Manapouri we passed the road where the house we were staying at was on. Pete & I joked about going there and getting some of his favorite gear that had finally arrived and was sitting on the door step. We did however hit the local cafe in Manapouri and felt like we ordered one of everything. We were hungry for real food, stinky dirty and tired. We got back on our bikes for the short ride to the next TA where we said goodbye to our bikes for the last time and prepared for the last 2 sections of trekking and paddling to the finish line.
We left the TA is relatively quick time and trekked up river left of the river connecting Lakes Te Anau & Manapouri which 5 days earlier we had paddled down. We crossed the bridge and left the comfort of a hiking trail to begin a steep uphill bush whack towards a Ridgeline and more CP’s. After some time I noticed there was a bit of a worn path, it was goin in the right direction so we stayed on it. It got better and better meaning our travel was quite quick. We had discovered a animal trap line that park staff and volunteers regularly travel on to reset traps for catching rats, stoats , possums and other introduced mammals that are literally KILLING our bird life.
At this point I would love to tell you that the bird life in this part of Fiordland NP was amazing, but it wasn’t. The bush was for the most part silent apart from Fantails & Bellbirds…. sad.
We followed the trap lines and each time they led us to another CP. I think the race directors wanted us to find these for without the connivence of them the bush was thick. We continued to trek along the Ridgeline in the now early evening light hoping to get off this section to the lake before dark. That was not to be. We still had 1 CP before the lake and of course it was the most difficult to find. However after sometime we did find it and made our way through the bush to the famous Kepler Walking Track to descend to the lake. Not before I fell flat on my face into a small creek and got soaked and scratched up my nose. I had just managed to get my feet dry from being out of the water for a extended period of time too.
We arrived at the lake I’m guessing around midnight Monday and loaded into the Kayaks and paddled off into the night. The race volunteer there allowed me to borrow her phone so I could call Robin to see if she would be at the finish line…. no answer. So we paddled off towards the finish line not knowing if family would be there.
We followed the shortest route to a mandatory way-point then crossed the lake to the finish line. Where the bright lights could be seen. This was familiar territory to me. I had spent over 2 weeks here in January with my job running camps and had paddle this very section of the lake late one night one my own at about 2am. Who would have thought, huh.
As we approached the finished line our celebrations were mixed and subdued. We were finally finished 5 days later. But had short-changed ourselves. Not a nice feeling to have when crossing the line and people are excited to see you and celebrating.
The good thing was that Robin WAS THERE. She is one smart (& Hot) woman. She had figured out by the tracker where we were and what time we would arrive. And there she was cheering and hollering at us at 1am or something as we approached the beach. Of course I heard her before I saw her. That was a highlight. We exited our boats and walked the short distance to the finish line. There we were handed a beer & and meat pie. That part was good too.
And so it was over. But not all the feelings that needed to be addressed and spoken about.
That my friends will be talked about in the next and last installment. Part 9 the final chapter. The chapter that doesn’t have any more race happenings or details to share. But more the part that dives into the top 2 inches and shed some light on what went down several days earlier when we walked away from the race and short-coursed ourselves.
There were multiple teams coming and going, which is a good sign one is in the right area. However as a team you never want to give away the exact location of a CP. By this point the light was fading and while other teams were around you could be right next to it not know. Every point in AR is plotted on the map and is accompanied with a written clue listed in the race notes. CP17 had “20m north or stream confluence” or something similar to that.
Being Fiordland, everything is wet, with thick bush and low visibility therefore the whole landscape looks like a stream or bog…. NOT HELPFUL. We now had our headlamps on and were trying to find stream coming into the main stream to then go 20m north from there. Mix this in with other teams coming and going. Some banter going on with other teams. Then keeping a watchful eye on them, making sure they don’t suddenly disappear a sure sign they have found it and leaving the area. But at the same time not playing follow the leader because they only know as much as you. Add to that we hadn’t slept in close to 24hrs.
For the life of us we couldn’t find 17. We were feeling turned around and even unable to ascertain where we were at that point in time. With thick bush and now post sunset, the river had so many twists and turns that left us thoroughly confused.
After a team meeting we decided to leave the area, go get some sleep and come back in the morning and re-attack. So reluctantly we left there totally demoralized and dejected. We walked/bush whacked back to the trail and back to the hut way back where we had got off the river all the way back around 2or3pm earlier that day. We arrived back at the hut around 2am and therefore had spent about 10-12hrs looking for this one CP.
Not a good feeling!
We slept uncomfortably in the hut with lots of distractions of other team coming and going for about 3hrs. We awoke to be the only team left in the hut and decided to have another team meeting. There was not a consensus of thoughts and feelings about what we should do. We still had a long way to go on this section. Probably about another 48-60hrs left on this section of some very difficult terrain.
This is where it got awkward and difficult, because you always have to go with what the majority decision is for the team. Some wanted to continue others wanted to “Short-Course” ourselves. This would immediately put us essentially out of the race and we would be continuing only as “Unofficial”. This would be a very concrete decision and from which we wouldn’t be able to change. We were effectively skipping about 100km of this trek/pack-raft section to go directly to TA3.
What do you think this did to the morale of the team? There wasn’t a good feeling. While we had daylight and would be able to go back to the area where CP17 was and should have found it relatively quickly and then move on with the rest of the race being still Full Course. This was not the feeling.
I should say at this point for the sake of the recounting this race as a race report there will be more written on this but only in the last chapter, so save your opinions & judgements til then… Keep you reading and interested.
Meanwhile, we decided to pack our stuff and head towards TA3. This still meant a 40+km trek along the Coastal Track to the east of us. This was an all day trek which was done in beautiful sunny weather.
We arrived at TA3 early evening to be eagerly welcomed by a large TA of lots of race volunteers. This didn’t help us feel any better knowing that their applause was not warranted as we had just skipped a big chunk of the course and hardly deserved considering the “choice” we had made. As we punched the CP at the TA we were greeted by race officials who told us they were going to hold us there while the legit leading team came through and we could potentially be there for 36hrs… GULP. That just made us feel worse. Effectively we had arrived there too early and even though now we would be sent of a slightly different course than the full course teams they weren’t prepared to have a short course team arrive there so early.
And so we sat… well and got some well needed sleep. While we didn’t seep well that night we did get some good rest. The next morning saw the leading team (full course) come through. It was hard to watch this and I personally didn’t really hang around to see. We did spend our time in the TA cleaning our bikes and getting them ready for the time when we would be allowed to leave.
After talking with Adam (Race Director) we were told we would be allowed to leave at 6pm. Making it about 22hrs that we had spent in that TA. By this time about 6 or 7 full course teams had come through and about 4 teams that had short coursed themselves with us where all eager to leave by that by 6pm time.
This all meant that now we would be on a different course and that included an approximately 180km MTB ride to Lake Manapouri, we would not get to complete some of the other highlights of the course including Percy Pass (MTB), paddle the western part of Lake Manapouri, trek over the Kepler Mountains and finally a 3?km paddle to the finish line. We would get to MTB the Rowallan Forest, which was the first challenge as we left TA3. This proved to be more difficult than it looked and in the dark presented a lot of challenges. Challenges that we encountered with numerous other teams too. We still had over 24hrs of racing left to complete.
As we left that TA we at least had full bellies, but that combine with full packs meant I was full of not being happy. For some reason as we made our way down to Lake Hauroko I was not doing well mentally. This isn’t uncommon in AR as there are always moments when a person in tired, sleepy, unhappy, in pain, feeling great, no energy, lots of energy…. However I was in a bad place. Thankfully my team mates gave me my space with about 100m separation as we fast walked down the road.
I was really zoning out and taking in the massive trees either side of the road and and beautiful untouched Fiordland bush. The birds, the forrest the density of it all were slowly working their magic on me and bringing me back around. We arrived at the lake after walking for I’m guessing about an hour. There were 3 or 4 other teams there, all inflating their pack rafts to begin the paddle across and down this long lake. I do remember one team there patching their raft that somehow had got a hole in it.
We pushed off and were essentially heading west in the early morning. It was calm, cloudy and very still an amazing Saturday morning to be out on the lake.
Part of my funk was somehow I had got into my head that the 1st cutoff was to be out of TA 3 by Monday @ 5pm. Which wasn’t the case. We knew this section was going to take at least 70-80hrs and by my math Saturday morning to Monday at 5pm was way less than time than what we had estimated for this section and therefore we would get to TA3 after 5pm Monday. And so in my head it made me think that this was all pointless. However Peter put me straight and the reality was to be out of the TA we had just left my Monday @ 5pm. So we were well ahead of the time schedule.
We turned south on the lake and continued paddling to the southern end where the lake emptied into Wairarahiri River, which flowed all the way to the sea. The breeze picked up for a while and we had a few heavy downpours of rain. I recall in the pre race meeting them saying that on some of the lakes we would be on that if the wind got up…. don’t continue or try to paddle. And looking around I figured this was one of those lakes. It was huge and being surrounded by ALL bush made one feel really small. Not to mention Hauroko is the deepest lake in NZ.
Before heading down the Wairaurahiri River we got a checkout at a hiking hut near the river mouth. While the river didn’t sneak up on us, I sorta did too. We exited the lake into the river and paddled around a corner and boom we were all of a sudden into whitewater. And to save words… that was what it was like for the next 3hours. No joke. Just one wave train or rapid after another and while we were told it would be Class II there were definitely 2 or 3 that felt more than a Class II.
Our fun intensified after about the 2nd or 3rd rapid when we were both ejected out of the raft. We managed to get it to the side and we were about to climb in and Pete got swept down stream and was gone. He still had his paddle. So there I was standing on the side of the river, Craig & Lucy go flying by I tell them to look out for Pete. So jump in and position myself at the back of the raft b/c up till them I was at the front and a-way-we-go. Well a-way-me-go. So here I am piloting this pack raft down stream looking out for a swimmer (Peter) and where the hell did Craig and Lucy go. I come around a corner having successfully navigated multiple rapids by now to sell the 3 of them on River Right waiting for me. I pull over. Pete tells me that he’s not sure why he was sitting at the back trying to navigate that thing when I had more history with kayaks/rafts etc. So the switch was permanent and away we went again as a team.
We then were in a white knuckle ride essentially all the way to the ocean. The rain set in at times but we were already wet. And there were several tricky rapids and strainers to avoid or pay attention too.
We finally made it to a hut on River Left, which we almost shot right past. paddling hard to make the take-out. climbing up a bank we then proceeded to get out of wetsuits to strap even more on our packs and trek a bazillion km’s. We got to Waitutu Lodge late afternoon where we were able to ditch the wetsuits for this section and at least travel a little lighter. We left their in pretty good sprits. Buoyed on by the amazing birdlife we were encountering as we trekked through the bush. I got to see a kaka and the amazing reddish color under it wings and at least heard a kakariki, I was loving this.
The trail was super muddy and you were resigned to this being actually the best mode of travel, knowing what was coming up. This was CP17. We travelled west along the trail, parallel to the ocean, CP17 was on a creek that crossed the trail at approximately 45 degree from Southwest to Northeast. The question was do we trek to the creek and trail intersection or save time and just bush whack towards the creek, cut off the corner and then follow the creek upstream to CP17, easy right.
The bush in there was soooooo thick not like anything I had seen before However as we move more up stream we were finding beaten paths or elehpants trails all heading in the right direction towards CP17. This was all going down around pre sunset.
Then things went wrong, bad, ugly.
As mentioned before sometimes getting to the start line is a major achievement. And this year was an exceptional one for that. In fact some of the challenges we had didn’t resolve themselves till after the race and started and by then it was too late.
Peter arrived on the Monday evening from the USA a little delayed but nothing scary. We drove to Timaru to break up the drive to Te Anau. Unfortunately his stuff didn’t make it with him and was lost in transit. No problem its only Monday. We will get it before the race starts on Thursday.
2 items were missing. A bike box (kinda important for doing an adventure race) and big duffle bag with the majority of his race gear. Not bike lights or headlamps though.
As we drove to Te Anau on the Tuesday we received confirmation that the bike box had been located and actually would be in Te Anau before we would arrive later that afternoon. Thats not bad service. However the duffle bag was AWOL.
And this is where the fun and game began. I decided to take on this project and deal with “Customer No Service” at Air NZ in part b/c I had working phone and could navigate this issue here in NZ a little better And it was one less thing for him to stress over along with getting over jet lag.
By the end of Tuesday we had heard that they had located it… lies and it was on its way to us Wednesday…. Lies. When it didnt show up Wednesday lunchtime I called again. Still being polite but to the point and going up the chain. The issue was they were showing the duffle had been delivered and they were now off the hook. The reality was the bike box had been delivered. Some how the tags or tracking numbers on 2 missing items had got switched and so they were showing a completed case, resolved and closed. It got to a point where I had to get the person on the other end to draw pictures with a crayon and count 1+1=2. And 2-1=1, which means 1 item is still outstanding. In fact I think I did do that at one point. I had gone so far up the chain at this point I was able to call John Key, now Air NZ board member but he was busy practicing his short game for President Obama’s recently completed trip here.
When they finally gone the picture some more time passed and it was finally located. In the meantime though we were now at Wednesday late afternoon and Peter had none of his personal race clothing etc. We were able to give him the rest of ours, pass the gear inspection. Oh and thankfully the other pack-raft we were using was in his bike box or else we would have been up the creek without a paddle and a raft. BTW… we found a friend in Te Anau who had an extra paddle. But in the meantime Pete had to go into Te Anau and ‘go nuts’ at the only outdoor store and spend up… GULP. While the rest of us hustled around town to try and track down various pieces of gear and clothing to use.
Needless to say this put us under the pump quite a bit. With gear drops and final packing we didn’t get to bed as early as we wanted on the night before the race. No excuses, just saying.
Race day dawned….. vomit. lets not start that way. We drove to the start line. Parked the truck and as we were about to walk over to the start line. I receive a call as I go to turn off my phone and its Air NZ telling me that they have Pete’s duffle and its in Christchurch and they are working their hardest to get it down to Te Anau ASAP. “We will have it to you sir by late morning”. Like that was supposed to impress me. I responded. “Well sir, too late. last night would have been ok, but today is too late. Take your time, we won’t need it or see it for another 7-10days, have a nice day.”
In the next post I will pick up the race reporting. haha keep you hanging.
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…”