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Getting Spirited

Contributor: Ugly Footed Cinderella

Whose got spirit? Yes we do! We've got spirit how 'bout you? GOOOOO Team Balance!

Just short of having our own pompoms, our weekend squad was totally full of spirit as we took part in the Inaugural Spirited Women Adventure Race in Rotorua over the weekend. It was a fantastic weekend and if you don't read any further past this paragraph, just know that yes the weather was average (a mix of thunder, lightening, pouring rain and sunshine), there were 116 teams of 4 women per team and we had an epic time.
A few pre race snaps of Team Balance, wearing Zeenya leggings (of course!)
A few pre race snaps of Team Balance, wearing Zeenya leggings (of course!)

For those of you who have kept reading here's a bit more about how it went down.

Our team mentality from the beginning was 'let's wing it'. I would highly recommend against this approach. But we did what we could with entering 6 weeks before the race. To introduce Team Balance our members:
- Stacey Huston (Brand Manager of Balance Sports Nutrition and the main driver behind our team entry, when you get entry as part of a sponsorship, always take it, winner of the Most Committed Team Member Award)
- Hannah Wall (winner of the Team Spirit Award winner, always laughing and making faces at the cameramen in the trees)
- Georgina Bond (Our tallest member, winner of Most Supportive Team Member Award and all round good woman)
- And me (Winner of the Map Reader of the Year Award and the Least Fit award, especially for cycling)

Such an epic bunch of women.

Let's get one thing straight, none of us had done an adventure race before. We had some experience in Multisport but none where map reading was essential. We honestly went into the event thinking we'd have a 2 - 3km paddle, a 8 - 12 km run and a 30 - 40km bike ride with two transition points. We couldn't have been more wrong. The order was Run, Paddle, Run, Bike, Mystery Activity (this was the Tree Walk recently opened in the Redwoods), Rogaine/Run, Bike, Mystery Activity (Shooting), Bike and then run. 6 Transitions total. So not only was it a big day for us women, it was a huge day for our support team. And we only found all that out the night before when we received our maps (plural, many maps). In fact we had three maps over the day, each with a different distance scale. As I was in the team from having done orienteering in high school (I won't say how many years it's been), I was pretty stoked to have all that learning come back and applied in a very short period of time.

Let's go back to Preparation. Friday afternoon we picked up our race packs, with numbers and general information. Let me say that this was one of the most epic goodie bags I've had for an event. T-shirts, hats, drink bottles, bars, protein and chocolate as well as vouchers for hot pools, magazines and so on. Don't forget the bunch of bananas. After getting this, we then had to collect our maps. Stace and I then poured over them as best we could, learning in this process the scale of the day ahead and the multiple transitions. We mapped out our expected course and then promptly changed most of them when we got out on course the next day. I'd also like to admit that Turkish food makes excellent pre-race deliciousness.

After logistically sorting out the next day with our support crew, this was the moving of Stand Up Paddle Boards, Mountain Bikes, nutrition and water between transitions, we were ready to crack into the race.

I've already mentioned the weather once, but honestly we had it all. Even at the start line. While the soundtrack being played was decidedly average (queue Girls Just Want to have Fun, Beyonce and other classic feminist works of musical genius), I did enjoy dancing around in the rain as warm up.

Without much ado, we got into the race, ran a short couple of KM around Lake Okareka to our paddle boards, where we made Stace do most of the technical paddling around getting the electronic check points. I may have dropped our map in the water, leading to me lying on my belly on the board trying to retrieve it. I did manage to scoop it back to surface with my paddle for Stace to grab and we were done. A huge thanks here goes to Stace, Troy, GG and Bevan for providing us with race boards. For the unfit paddler in me, this was just ideal. Those things can really move!


The first run, Stace leads us, and Stace and Hannah getting onto the SUP
The first run, Stace leads us, and Stace and Hannah getting onto the SUP

Our next run is where we dropped off from 3rd place into who knows where. We totally nailed our navigation to this particular checkpoint (description, Old Track Junction), but we couldn't see for looking and learnt our first hard lesson. Never follow another team. Chances are they have no idea either. We lost around 45mins trying to find this checkpoint which was gutting but we pulled it back together, nailing the next few.

I'd have to admit that there was a lot more talking in transition than there possibly should have been. But we were having a good time, finding our support crew with the bikes, eating peanut butter sandwiches and laughing about the run.

Bike time. Ouch time for me. The first entrance into the Redwoods tracks was up a logging road where literally everyone we saw were pushing their bikes it was so steep. Honestly I was thinking at this point I wasn't going to make the end of the race. It's amazing how getting your first checkpoints under your belt can lift your spirits. We had only one mare of a checkpoint (CP from now on) on the bike, which turns out it was in the middle of a spring. Massive props to Stace for making sure our transponder beeped at every CP and for wading into the spring to collect this one. Honestly she by far did the biggest distances, either scampering forward or backward to collect the damn CP's.

After around 26km+ of riding we came to our next transition at the Redwood Centre. Where we took part in mystery activity one: the Redwoods Tree Walk (a scenic 30 - 40 min stroll through the canopy over a series of swing bridges). Which we smashed out in about 12mins. Scenic whatever...

For those of you outside of orienteering, a rogaine is a series of CP's which can be obtained in any order, not necessarily chronologically. Sorry for not explaining what a rogaine was GG! I must have been confusing the crap out of you all day by talking about it.


Rogaining in the Redwoods, map reading at it's purest
Rogaining in the Redwoods, map reading at it's purest

After stumbling around in the bush for a while, interrupting a lovely couple's wedding photos we were back on the bike and heading towards the city. En route to mystery activity two which turned out to be air rifle shooting. We were all really pumped for this activity and with the sun out we were enjoying riding the paths and pushing ourselves.

In short, we nailed the shooting. You had to get 2 out of 5 shots on target or face time penalties which were to be enforced before leaving the range. Each of us got 2 out of 2 and no penalties incurred. And yes, that's my bullseye. Breathe in, breathe out, then fire. Not too shabby for having the shakes from having exercised for around 6 1/2 hours by this point. Please see proof of our shots below.


After that it was mind over matter, well at least it was for me. After all these hours out and about my legs were starting to seize up and my low back was like rocks. I knew the final run was going to be my undoing. Covered in mud with the skies getting darker around us we took off at a slower than average pace for our last three checkpoints. I'll admit that by this time I was directing the team from behind telling them to run left/right/over the bridge/out to the point. Stace's totally rad stepdaughter, Summer, joining us for the run making me feel even older and more slow in the process. But her enthusiasm and knowledge of where the waka was on the waterfront was totally awesome.

With lightening and thunder coming ever closer up the lake we made the last dash across the Village Green to Tutanekai Street where the crowds erupted for our arrival. I almost had a tear of relief and exhaustion but held it together. Hugs all round, wine in our hands and an overwhelming feeling of achievement that I've not felt in a long time.

So at this point if you're still reading, thanks for hanging in there but thanks also to Troy, Summer, Bevan, Tim, Rob and Ali (and Annie the dog) for supporting us on the day. You all kept us going, getting us to the start line, carting our gear around for us and keeping us positive at transitions. It was always delightful to see you on the way and even better to see you at the end.

In 2017 the Spirited Women's Adventure Race will be in Taupo. And honestly I can't wait. Next year, long course and more training!

Now it's time for new goal... any suggestions?

Official Race Photos: Jason Beachman @ 208 Media
Follow Ugly Footed Cinderella on Instagram @uglyfootedcinderella

The Mudtastic finish line. Left to Right, Hannah Wall, Chloe Wickman, Georgina Bond and Stacey Huston
The Mudtastic finish line. Left to Right, Hannah Wall, Chloe Wickman, Georgina Bond and Stacey Huston