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.
Talk about a cliff hanger!