- Mahiku Activewear – I’ve worn my Black Mamba tights religiously at this event since 2014
- Betty Designs – for always channelling one’s inner bad ass
- Running Skirts – the most epic long sleeve crops to keep the sun off and chafing at bay
- CamelBak – always ensuring I have fail safe hydration systems that stand up to the task
- Brian Szymanski – creating boards that are more works of art than pieces of foam and fibre glass
- ZRE – the paddles I’ve used since the very beginning
- NSP – for making me welcome and part of your posse all weekend long, it was a lot of fun!
- The Blocade Runner Hotel – incredible hospitality
- Katie & Patty – it just wouldn’t be the Carolina Cup with out you two!
- On It Pro – always ensuring that my boards make it to the line in ship shape and looking pristine
- Chris from Carolina Paddleboard Co – thank you so much for your help with logistics
- Spencer, SUP ATX – coordinating shipping and making sure everything arrived on time
- Greg Panas – always there to capture the shot and shoot the shit on the problems of the world
- Countless others no doubt.
Multisport events are quintessential to the gritty fabric of South Island, New Zealand sporting history. A way of interacting with the landscape and traversing however possible via human powered craft.
No rhyme or reason, rather the landscape dictating what you are going to do.
With iconic events such as the Coast 2 Coast which became the breeding ground for some of the the world’s most well known multi-discipline endurance athletes. The modern evolution of the sport has brought ideas, creative minds, pioneering spirit and the ability to open up new terrain bringing a new breed of Multi-sport events to pit people against the elements.
Coming from one of the nerve centres of multi-sport, Wanaka is home to a breed of uber endurance athletes who hone their crafts in the surrounding mountains of the Southern Alps and waters of the Southern Lakes. They say you become a product of your environment and that is exactly what these physically honed species are.
When considering one of these multi-day multi-sport events, it would be wise to consider the depth of what you are getting yourself into.
When a message arrived 3 weeks ago to see if I could step in to cover for an injured team mate, there as a question of ‘why the heck not?’. With no good reason other than no specific preparation and having never met my potential team mate it was head first into the abyss of Red Bull Defiance, the two day, 8 stage, 142km journey of up and down mountains (5,000m of vertical gain), across lakes and down rivers by mountain bike, foot and kayak.
Held in the latter part of January, Central Otago is usually burnt to a crisp having baked in the searing summer sun, but this summer has seen as much snow as winter, plenty of rain and a less than ideal amount of heat.
With the menacing presence of two massive low pressure systems the forecast was far from ideal.
Add to that your first true foray into multisport and having never met your team mate – I was leaping head first into the deep end.
Logistics, gear, hydration, nutrition, planning, planning and more planning. Thursday saw multiple trips to hardware stores, my bike mechanic, friend’s gear sheds, the vet clinic and the local outfitter’s – each time bumping into mildly familiar faces all scurrying around checking boxes on job lists.
(It might be worthy to mention at this point that I spent most of last week chewing tramadol for an untimely bout of something not-so-nice and my mind was churning with ‘as long as I make it to the start line I’ll be fine as this weekend can’t be nearly as rough as the pain of the past few days’……)
With bikes racked, transition bags packed (multiple), compulsory items loaded into back packs, forecasts checked and race kits chosen appropriately the reality was fast setting on what the reality of what was about to be undertaken.
I spend a good amount of time running and riding around the hills when I’m home – it’s the yin to the yan of the rest of my year but racing around these hills non-stop for two days is a whole other story.
As the chopper pilot made some scarily close passes at the Minaret Staton barge transporting us to the start of the first stage of Day 1 it set the tone for what we were in for. A roller coaster of emotions and a fair amount of seeing cross eyed while teetering on the rivet of control versus losing it….the consequences of losing it on a course like this major and potentially fatal.
Having consulted with my teammate Sam about our approach to the race, I knew that the pace would be hot and hasty off the line for the first mountain bike stage 56km of Minaret Station traversing the remote and unaccessible western shores of Lake Wanaka on a mixture of farm track, stock track and walking track and I knew that if you burnt your legs in the first 10km attempting to keep on the front train of the best men’s elite teams, it would more than hurt you as the weekend rolled on.
But sure enough, the pace unrelenting through the first undulating kilometres and I was wondering if this hectic pace could realistically be kept by all around me. Sure enough, the first real climbs saw the macho start to splinter and might I say that one of the most satisfying things to do is to simply be able to ride past guys hiking their bikes up hill. Very quickly it was becoming apparent that this was not just a weekend jaunt on the trails but a savage exercise in masochistic outdoor pursuits.
The climbs were pinching and relentless, the creeks frigid, the bogs…ankle deep in sodden mud trying to suck your shoes off and the descents – sketchy at the best times as the front wheel and obliterated AC joint of a couple of competitors will attest to.
Coming into transition I knew we’d put ourselves in a decent position but like everything to do with this event, you never quite know what is lurking around the corner. Sure enough we hit the climb of run and the marshal points left to the top of the hill. This ain’t a run….it’s a scramble up a near vertical slope covered in braken, fern and rock. Make your way across the first plateau, up the next climb, clip into a harness and send it via rappel. This is not your average ‘trail run’. Scamper through some dodgy rocky outcrops and then chew your way through a few boggy cattle fields, hop a few fences and pop out at the transition ready to paddle 20km back to town.
The weather gods shone down on us for Day 1 (the easier of the two days) and as we re-packed transition bags for Day 2 the next front started to hit.
Arriving early swaddled in rain capes and gumboots, not a soul was to be seen 30 mins prior to the start ensuing in a mad dash of people, packs & paddling gear as all 65 teams set off from the Lake front at 6.30am to ring in Day 2.
The normally epically scenic journey around the lake to the outlet and down the Clutha River turned into an upwind battle as everyone began to string out into a draft train seeking shelter from the oppressive Nor Westerly coming down the lake.
Many twists and turns later and my bet to wear wetsuit booties for the run up the hill to the claybird shoot paid dividends as those around us sloshed and slipped in the mud.
I’m not quite sure what happened in the shooting department as I’m quite sure the bird I shot at shattered…cue a minute to relax before we were allowed on our way.
As I knew would be the case, Day 2 was going to be a day of attrition due to the course and to the weather. Like any event with transitions from one activity to another speed is of the essence, but taking a few moments to throw on the exact layers we’d need up the top of the Criffel Range would prove to be money-in-the-bank.
I had ridden up the descent of this ride last summer after which we affectionately called it the Little Bastard rather than Little Criffel. It would be fair to say that the ascent across the Criffel Station should be referred to as Little Bastard II. Right from the very bottom, the gradients were unforgiving and relentless, the surface a challenge in remaining back wheel traction as well as front wheel contact.
As we started to ascend the first pinch to make our way to the bottom of the real climb to the top of the Criffel Range the first victims of the day were starting to be strewn along the climb. Hiking a bike now would prove to be an extremely long day of pushing sh*t uphill.
But these events are not so much about competition but about completion. Debriefing at the end of Day 1 Sam and I had agreed to attach another towline to my bike should we need it as a matter of self & team preservation to make it to the finish. Teams racing really does add a totally different dynamic to your approach, your thinking, your planning and your execution. Given the magnitude of the weather forecast and that Sam had suffered crippling cramps at the start of the run on Day 1 this was about getting to the finish in as good a shape as possible and doing what ever it took to make that happen.
Having spent a decent amount of time chasing some of the fast kids in this race around and hearing some of their stories of what happens when they jump on planes to do adventure stage racing in China, I was fully aware of the ‘you never know when you’re going to be the one needing help’ and it’s about making sure you all get to the finish as a team. Having been in a few situations where I’ve seen the the strongest guys ‘go down’, it’s not about brute and brawn, it’s about being honest to your team mates and asking for help when you need it. There’s been a few occasions on missions amongst friends when I’ve had to raise the white flag to ask to help and after the week I’d had prior chewing tramadol and perfecting the foetal position, I was hoping like hell it wasn’t going to be me needing to raise the white flag for help.
I’d pulled through Day 1 well and felt like I had plenty in the tank to tackle the two mountains that were between us and the finish. We hooked the tow line over Sam’s stem and I was on a one track mind of firstly maintaining traction in the mud and secondly about passing everyone we could see in front of us.
With the exception of a major near-miss accident involving the only descent on the climb, thigh high overgrown grass, a water table and a corner which sent me ass over end landing on my head in the water table I was back on my bike before Sam knew what had happened with the sole instructions of “AHHH that wasn’t good, I heard a crack in my neck, I landed on my head, my handle bars aren’t straight but screw it – keep riding, I’ll fix the bars if or when we have to hike”. It was an awakening to the seriousness of the conditions and attempting to operate some kind of control while soaked to the bone in temperatures that continued to drop as we gained altitude.
As we climbed with the contours of the ridge, the gradient was relentless and the terrain unforgiving. Slowly but surely gaining on each team we found in front of us we, this was a game of the tortoise and the hare.
Meeting the cloud layer, the temp starting to drop like a stone and we came across team after team stopping in to attempt to put on additional layers. My bet to bust out my winter riding jacket and knee warmers was starting to come in mighty handy.
The farm land had given way to tussock which gave way to a rocky saddle full of shale and single track not much wider than the width of your tire. Fingers were frozen, feet felt like bones in your shoes and concentration was a combo of sweat filled eyes going cross eyed under the exertion and the conditions. One thing was for sure, you didn’t want to stop and you didn’t want to fall.
The descent was sketchy at best busting our way down the to the valley floor dodging stray rocks, busting through matagouri bushes and ass sliding down muddy fence lines to the the raging torrent of a muddy Cardrona River in full flood.
But the real test was yet to come. Shoes off, socks off, tops off, fresh gear on, running shoes on and we made it through transition thankful for the cheers of support from familiar faces that greeted us and sent us on our merry way with the welcome news that the run course had been shortened to the 17km ‘short course’ due to the 30cm of snow that was now resting on the tops.
Making our way through the boggy paddocks we did our best to make gains while we could as we knew the stream of teams we’d passed on the ascent would likely be hunting us down. Not that we were worried, but the quicker we made it up, the quicker we made it to the finish.
I’d had the heads up that this was more of a power hike than a run and as we turned corners, my eyes scanned the skyline and my mind went ‘holy sh*tballs that’s steep…’.
I’d made a solid attempt to keep the chat rolling all the way up as we leant over our poles and trudged up the hill but 80% of the way up I could feel the expenditure of the past two days starting to catch up. Now it was a matter of survival in the cold and I smashed two gels in quick succession (having not used them all weekend) waiting and hoping for the kick to be enough to get me to the end.
Over the tops and the brunt of the weather was in full force. Slipping and sliding through the snowy path the first half of the descent was a scramble down a ridge line before hitting a 4WD track. Two years ago there’s no way I would have even contemplated walking down something like this, let alone embarking on a two day multisport race with 42km of running on a knee that has had 9x surgeries, multiple blowouts and a sizeable amount of regenerative therapy in the hopes of regrowing it. It’s 90% good – but that scramble down the mountain was pitching it at it’s limit. Once upon a time I would have been able to scamper down that kind of slope like a mountain goat….but hey, we’ve always got to have something to aim for and a reason to do rehab eh?!
Descending through the clouds, the view of the finish line was coming into view. Just across the road, down the road and around the track….but don’t underestimate just how hard those last few kilometres are at the end of 14 odd hours of racing.
I had steady (which was probably ‘easy’ on a recovery day) but I didn’t have much more to give by that point. Maybe the towing on the bike was catching up with me, possibly the 3 week preparation. We took the chance to shed some layers while on the move and managed to pass another team of guys in front of us.
I don’t think that run around the lake has ever seemed to take so long as it did on Sunday but the clouds had parted, the lake was calm and the rain had stopped by the time we made it along the beach and through the finish arches.
Red Bull Defiance was done. We were still standing, in one piece and we’d made it.
Standing in the lake in an attempt to make the recovery on our legs a little easier, I don’t think a can of Red Bull ever tasted so good.
Red Bull Defiance '17 is in the books! Totally stoked I got a late opportunity to be a part of the action and just roll-with-the-punches. Our goal was to make it from the start to the finish and that we did with smiles to burn and 5th in the elite mixed event. This event is no joke, no walk in the park. It's rough, it's tough, it's grit…..they call it Defiance for a reason. You're only as good as your team mate and it's about getting each other to the finish. It's a 180 from racing by yourself and it's an experience you learn so much from. Multi sport is a different beast as is racing in the mtns and dealing other the mother of all weather bombs. It's character building at it best. Special mentions must go to mum for support crew extraordinaire, @bettydesigns for epic kit that did the job all weekend long @sweetcheeksnz for making sure nothing rubbed in the wrong places @mopscycle for the cheap chats in transition that kept the mood where it should be @graememurraynz for always being there to capture "the moment" and @redbullnz for getting behind a ripper event in a rad little place I call home @lakewanakanz #redbulldefiance #timetoeat #mightbereadyfor2017now
To be able to race around the hills of home, battle the elements, overcome the physical limitations of some mega injuries of my past and feel relatively good was a pleasant surprise. There was a whole lot of steady as well as plenty of time spent on the rivet.
If I was to balls up and have another crack, I know what I’d do – and we’d joked most of the way around that this was the ‘ultimate course recce’. But I was more than happy to get from the start to the finish in solid shape merely on the ‘summer fun stuff’ I do when I’m home.
Like many of these more ‘extreme’ events, with a bit of dedication and discipline you’ll be able to make it – if you’re in the off-the-couch category, it might be a bit more of a 3 year journey to the start line.
And I’m not going to lie – you’re going to have to come face to face with some situations and inner reflections either during training or during the event….and deal with them.
It was clear that it wasn’t just the course that was the biggest challenge, it was dealing with the weather. The mountains are a different beast and there is no way anyone would have bet on there being 30cm of snow dumped along the tops. And those that don’t spend a great deal of time in the hills paid the price.
I’d decided that it was going to be a weekend of mental resilience and having come out the other end, I’m pretty sure I was on the money.
If you’re mad enough for a crack and fancy a couple of days of masochist sight seeing in paradise, then sign up. But be warned, you’ll be mesmerised by the experience and left wanting to come back for more.
….just do a little more than 3 weeks preparation and you’ll be sweet as mate. In fact I think I could write a pretty killer training program having dissected most critical elements on the way around as a way of keeping us entertained.
If you want to know what you might look like after being savaged by the hills and weather of Wanaka this might give you an indication of what you’re in for
From snow to sun, over 142kms, they just mountain biked, ran, kayaked, shot clay pigeons and abseiled down a gnarly rockface… yeah, we’re not sure exhaustion even begins to explain the state they’re in.📷 @graememurraynz #redbulldefiance #adventureracing #exhausting @ptsmalls @rickardnorlin @markwilliamswanaka @braden_currie @mollymeech @hannah_m_lowe @ferretman89 @elinaussgernz @russher @philrobertsonracing @alexhunt91 @levi.hibbert @hannah_wells_nz @josiahmiddaugh @goodfortuneracing @redbullnz
Might see ya on the start line in 2018 (give or take…..)
Now is likely a good time to give thanks where it is due:
To Mum & Sam’s partner Lydia for picking up our mess and making sure we had hot food & dry clothes as soon as we finished (never underestimate the value of your support crew and shower them in praise…and possibly gifts/bribes). Lifesavers….
Check out the action from the 2017 Edition here
Oh dear….what the HELL did I just let myself in for?
Did I really think about the consequences of saying ‘yes’ without giving full thought as to the repercussions of what just rolled off my tongue less than a month out from an event like this?
I think I may have firmly thrown myself in the deep in on this one, the exception being that for most of it I’ll be high and dry and I really should have dedicated a minimum of six months to a proper preparation.
It was never officially in the plan to do Red Bull Defiance, the gruelling two day, two person teams multi sport race around Lake Wanaka, but when you drop a couple of loose words into conversation that you’d ‘be up for it’ you have to be careful what you wish for.
Sure enough the phone started ringing to see if I’d fill in for an injured half of a team.
‘Yes’ seemed to roll off the tongue before a deluge of a few ‘oh shit’ moments started running through my mind as the reality of what I was committing to began to sink in.
Don’t get me wrong, I spend a fair bit of time running and riding around the hills of Lake Wanaka, the Southern Lakes and Central Otago when I’m at home, often with some of the best in the adventure racing and multisport business, but it’s a very different proposition going from some fun in the hills with your mates to lining up on a start line of a multi discipline, multi day event.
Call it respect for the craft of others and respect for how others ply their trade – but multisport is no joke and these are some of the baddest hard-asses you’ll ever come across.
Racing back to back over two days and with one of the harshest run courses you’ll come across, there’s a reason they called this one ‘Defiance’. It’s more than likely that one half of your team will be suffering at some point and teams racing is vastly different to making it from the start to the finish under your own steam.
But when the opportunity arises to step out of your comfort zone and get down and dirty in the hurt locker, it’s hard to say no. I’m stepping into the unknown and it will be as much about doing and experiencing as it will be finishing.
Managing the highs and lows of a team dynamic, avoiding costly and frustrating mechanicals and operating in a state of physical deterioration is just the challenge that has been needed to spice up the month of January.
To think two years ago that I’d be even contemplating doing something like this on a knee that has had 9x surgeries and countless injuries is testimony to the benefits of regenerative medicine and rehab.
Stay tuned for some of the logistics and preparation that go into preparing for an event like this, i’ll be putting the best of my planning experience to work on this one to ensure we hit the start line in the best possible shape to make it from the start to the finish on January 21 & 22.
I have asked a few times recently about how to deal with injuries, which means really means how to deal with rehab as the two go together like peanut butter and jam.
Having been an expert in the art of self destruction over the years – formerly rather than latterly, when you destroy (or semi-destroy) yourself, there are the following stages
- The OH SHIT what have I done now stage
- The DIAGNOSIS: not-so-bad, bad, very bad, oh F*&k it’s really bad
- The Acute Phase: stabilising the injury
- Healing: a mixture of pain, discomfort, disruption of routine, modification of lifestyle
- Managing the injury: the pain is less, mobility and movement as you once knew it are starting to return but you’re far from feeling awesome and you’re still far from the point you were at when you toasted yourself
- The mid-long game: the light at the end of the tunnel, you’re coming out of the clouds, normality is resuming but now managing your mind is the greatest challenge
First things first – get your head around the situation. It’s not the end of the world – although that is how it will see right now. In some cases it may be – deal with it (OUCH!).
Fast forward through the diagnosis, initial healing, healing and you’ll find yourself at the point of ‘managing’ this on an on-going basis.
Whether you’re and athlete or an athlete of life, being broken sucks like no tomorrow and is a serious damper in the fun department. Pain drains your mojo and takes away the good vibes you have to give out to the world. And it makes doing simple day to day activities a right pain in the ass.
Here’s a few of the things that I’ve found have that have significantly helped make life on a day to day basis a lot more bearable, meaning a lot less pain and frustration all around.
These should become part of your weekly schedule. Get a functional movement screen (FMS), find out where your weaknesses are and start working on them yesterday.
They’ll be boring as batshit and likely humiliating to execute (cue 1lb dumb bells and stretchy rubber bands) but everything has to start from somewhere.
It’s called ‘maintenance’ and you have to rebuild the patterns of movement to be able to doing things as you once did. Find a local guru, get busy, get disciplined and embrace the maintenance.
MANAGE the inflammatories
As many wise people have always said – you are what you eat and a diet of inflammatory processed food and beverage is not really going to do you too many favours long term.
I’m not talking about converting to an OCD expression of vegan-ism, gluten free, sugar free dairy free, wheat free, meat free what ever – I’m talking about eating a wholesome diet of unprocessed real foods. Food is medicine and has been for thousands of years. Sounds simple doesn’t it?
I HATE popping pills, but there is a place in life for everything and as we get older, sometimes our body needs a bit of help in order to function at it’s best.
Having encountered no less that 13 surgeries on my legs, I’ve been critically aware of the need to prevent/delay the onset of creaking knees, not to mention the strain on the tendons and ligaments in my arms from use and abuse they endure on a daily basis. Age is not your friend and you need to help your body out where you can (50 may be the new 40, but a 35 year old body doesn’t bounce the same way a 15 year old one does).
There’s a lot of fang-dangled lotions and potions out there, but I’ll cut to the chase and tell you what I use.
It’s called AllInFlex and blow me down, it was created for horses and dogs. It’s all natural, comes from the ever so tasty NZ native Green Lipped Mussels and it literally a god send in a capsule.
I ran out a couple of months ago and sure enough I was pretty stiff in the mornings. Three days back on the good stuff and whoah…hold your horses (or feed it to them as well), I’m running down mountains and leaping out of bed in the mornings again.
This stuff is no joke, it’s plain and simple and it’s natural. Bonus.
Great things don’t happen by accident and if you’ve danced with the art of self destruction, you’re now going to have to plan how to deal with this in your life on an ongoing basis. It’s not the end of the world, but life as you once knew it may be a little different.
- Plan to incorporate the rehab and make it as much fun as possible
- Plan to deal with the mental side of being broken
- Plan to make what you put into your body a little better
- Plan to enjoy everything a whole lot more simply by having a bit of a plan.
Happy planning and here’s to being pain-free!
To all who made and helped make 2016 the success that it was – THANK YOU
‘We’ finished on top – where ‘we’ have been since 2012.
There’s a reason I use ‘we’ as even though this has been a fairly solo journey the past year, there’s a lot of people who have helped in small and not-so-small ways to make this happen.
If you’ve been a part of this – thank you. You’re a freaking insane tribe of mates and every time there’s a taste of success, I hope you’ve all savoured a bit of it as well.
Winning is hard, winning and performing consistently year in/year out over time is far harder.
Rising to the occasion when you’re far from at your best which had to happen on multiple occasions in 2016 takes a solid dose of grit, but it’s also known as getting-the-job-done one way or another.
To everyone who had my back, believed and helped THANK YOU.
Ever felt like you’ve been on Struggle Street? Like you really should have rolled over and not gotten out of the car, let alone out of bed?
I think you all know what I’m talking about – there’s going to be times when you’re winging it on less than ideal preparations and you know exactly what you’re in for.
Those are the days that all you can do is trust your intuition, have faith in what you’ve done before, realise that you could be in for a rough day and know that what doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger (one way or another!).
In my part of the world it’s unseasonably cold right now, wet and more like winter than ‘spring’ (If the Northern hemisphere is looking for some snow, come see me – I know where to find some).
Last week a few of the crew had admitted to putting in an entry to the annual end of November AK47 hurt-fest through the Nevis Valley (you might as well be sprayed by a machine gun as this is what you may feel like).
I was sitting on the fence on this one – I simply had not spent enough time back in the saddle and having done it last year and almost passed out from exposure over the climbs I knew what I would be in for.
Friday rolled around and so did a severe weather warning of rain and gale force winds with a freezing level dropping to 800m.
But it’s amazing what your friends can talk you into….and before I knew it I was in the kitchen getting my baking on whipping up my customary post-ride baking favourites for the team…and deliberating about what to wear to stave off the cold as not only do you climb over two mountain passes, but you cross a river close to 30 times and that was is coming straight off the snow further up.
I’m not sure what draws the crowds to this particular race as it’s more a battle with your mind and the elements than against other people falling into the category of ‘to finish first, first you must finish’, but they come in their droves every year. You also could ask yourself why people turn up to Tough Mudders to be electrocuted ……obviously people like to satisfy their inner masochist.
Within 2km of the start you hit the first hour-long climb. Straight up and over you go, gales in your face at every switch back.
To put it in perspective, I think I’ve ridden one decent hill since getting home and sure as shit – it was not at race pace.
I’d been feeling fairly average all morning and knew that I would likely be in for ‘one of those days’.
20minutes in and my thoughts were confirmed.
My lower back was aching, I was debating if I’d gambled on the right selection of clothing layers and I could feel the every ounce of the 3L of fluid and safety gear that was weighing my pack down as people flew by me (for those that have ridden with me they know that this is usually the opposite way round). There was a large roster of big hitters out in force and I was very much there to make up numbers and support a local Central Otago event.
What I did know is that this race is never won in the first half of the climb.
As we made our way further up, I started to find some rhythm and started to reel people back in.
On this particular course this is where’s it’s a bit of a gamble – do you go out hard and try to to descend with a bunch to ride through the valley with company, or do you ‘self preserve’ and hope you’ll find a buddy to ride through with?
My lack of preparation and average-ness necessitated the latter.
As I crested the plateau along the top of the range, I unrolled my sleeves back up my arms, pulled on my wetsuit gloves and tried to suck as much fluid on the descent as I could.
It’s a bone chilling descent into the Nevis Valley and as soon as you hit the valley floor, you hit your first river crossing.
If you weren’t cold yet, you’re now cold, wet and freezing.
If you’d over done it on that first climb over the Hector mountain range you’re now about to suffer through two hours of no-man’s-land through the valley straight into a bone chilling head wind.
As I came off the hill, I clicked down my cassette and aimed for the wheels I could see in front. I caught them and hoped to find some company but blew through as they didn’t heed my call to jump on my wheel.
Now I was in the place that you never want to be – no man’s land, all by yourself.
Thankfully about quarter of an hour into the valley a big guy came hurtling from behind. Hell no was I not going to lose that wheel!
It ended up being more of a ride side-by-side with a steady stream of banter and chit chat as we picked off rider after rider as the km’s ticked over, each time expecting our group of two to grow as we rode through the remnants of the first climb that were now scattered through the valley, but no-one jumped on (that first hill takes scalps of epic proportions).
As we encroached on the head of the valley and the end of the ‘flats’ the final climb stretches far beyond what the eye can see up and over the Carrick mountain range before it drops over the other side into Bannockburn.
Rather than weaving to the contours of the landscape, it’s more a series of steep straight grunts that result in pinch-after-pinch through a maze of never-ending blind corners that lead to yet more pain-inducing suffering as you hit the each pitch riding at anything up to sixteen degrees of gradient.
Throw in some gale force side winds that whip your front wheel out from underneath you and it’s more a test of mental fortitude than physical that will get you to the top.
When you have bugger all deposits in the training bank, you have to spend your pennies wisely.
Having been in a few situations like this, I knew that if I just kept turning over, respected my heart rate and used every easing of the gradient to click up a gear and keep the speeds constant, I’d ride myself up to the guys in front. And sure enough 3/4s of the way up I caught them.
That’s also the point where it all starts to get a bit sketchy. With temps at freezing level on the top, gale force winds and an 8km descent ahead of you, what ever internal heat you generated on the climb just got released straight into a blast chiller.
You’d think an 8km descent would be all-sorts-of-awesome come this point in the ride, but no – this is (and was) a descent of survival, attempting to lean into the wind from your right side while maintaining enough weight on your front wheel to avoid losing it in a gust.
Add in corners and corrugations and by the time you reach the sealed road for the final stretch to the finish you’re greeted with a blasting headwind and a couple of pinching rises just to well and truly finish you off.
And yes, there was a guy lying in a ditch having been taken out by the forces of mother nature on the descent (he may have been rethinking his choice to ride a cross bike at that very point).
As you crest the final brow to the finish I’m not sure what you’re more excited about. The thought of hot chips and free beer at the Bannockburn pub, or getting out of your damp shoes and manky riding gear to toast your ass in some fresh clothes beside the fire. What I do know is that you’re bloody thankful to just make it to the finish.
It’s one thing to finish near the pointy end of an event like this (and somehow I’d ridden myself into second for the second year in a row) but what’s fascinating (and inspiring) is the amount of people that turn up to ride through some country few will ever see and yes, some of these people are out there for the best part of 6-8hours….which is a totally different battle of the mind and body to those of us who finish in half the time.
With a significant field of heavy hitters hailing from mountain bike, road and multi-sport including our resident world cupper extraordinaire Kate Fluker who rode like a demon to win there’s no lack of talent in these parts as they all build into their summer seasons – most of which they dominate (this is one of those parts of the world there must have been a mutation in the genetic code giving unnatural human physical abilities out if you drank the water) making local events extremely competitive raising the bar all around which is awesome.
So this time next year, if you think you may be in need of a good dose of ‘harden-the-freak-up’, I might know a ride you’d like to lock in. You will probably hate me for it half way through, even more so at the end – but I’m betting you’ll thank me for it a couple of months later.
In case you’re wondering what my choice of gear was for a ride like this – here’s what I used (and it was a marked improvement in the comfort stakes on last year). Hands down I’d rock the same combo next year or for any other ride through the mountains that you may experience extreme weather conditions.
- Betty Designs bib shorts and jersey
- Icebreaker merino teeshirt (underneath – categorically a saviour as merino doesn’t get cold when you sweat or get wet – of which you will do both)
- Icebreaker merino socks (same as above)
- Wetsuit boot covers over my shoes – total godsend
- Neoprene headband under my helmet – another saviour through the valley and on the descents
- Mahiku arm sleeves – slide them down on the climbs, pull them up on the descents
- Camelbak Soltice pack with 3L bladder
What happens with you walk into a room full of women from all works of life that have collectively kicked ass at what ever they set out to pursue?
….You get a spine tingling sensation to get up the next morning and get very busy turning your visions and dreams into actions and reality, that’s what.
As women we often talk about the need to ‘rise together’, that we ‘have power in numbers’. But all too frequently the stories of those who have gone above and beyond have go unrecognised or untold.
But this is not one of those stories.
This is chapter and verse about a girl squad who have collectively taken on the impossible, become the bumble bee that flew, said ‘no’ to a life of status quo and who boldly announced ‘game on’.
Why? For no better reason than ‘getting on with the job’. Head down, butt up, most have hardly had a chance to come up for air, given the rate they have been kicking life goals by the dozen.
Cue Next Magazine and their annual Woman of the Year Awards recognising and celebrating of women from all walks of life, society and industry who are quite simply setting records at the game of life.
They’re sisters on a mission; their motivations diverse and their measures of success anything but conformist.
Celebrating 30 women across the fields of Arts & Culture, Business & Innovation, Community, Education, Health & Science and Sport; The Next Woman of The Year awards dig deep to uncover and shine light on women who are forging the way and shining the torch in their chosen fields. The result? An eclectic collection of the known, the unknown, every single one of them inspirational.
Such events fast become a humbling experience listening to the snippets of people’s journeys which often lead you gagging to find out more.
If one person can affect many people with their actions and leave an everlasting impact the people that have been touched by what they done, they have done something very special indeed.
Meet Billie Jordan, 2016 Supreme Winner who is exactly that.
A refugee of the Christchurch earthquake who transplanted herself on Waiheke Island, rounded up a gaggle of the island’s over 70’s brigade and turned them into a gang of world beating hip hop dancers.
They took on NZ….then they took on the world in Las Vegas.
Their story was turned into a documentary, now they’re being made into a feature film – Hollywood-style, telling the story of the lady to proudly blames herself (tongue in cheek) for creating the world’s oldest dance troupe.
With no previous dance experience and no funding, Billie simply believed and went about it dragging her gang of golden oldies along with her.
Billie’s was just one fine example of what these awards are all about and trust me, there was a room bursting at the seams with stories equalling as compelling.
To Next Magazine, Bauer Media and the partners who made this event possible – THANK YOU for recognising the value of creating a platform to celebrate the kiwi women who are forging these untrodden paths. It’s their stories that make others start to believe that they too can become all of their potential.
To find out more about the #girlsquad of 2016 you can click here
I’d highly recommend parking up with a pot of tea and in a comfy chair and watching Billie Jordan’s TedX talk that lead to her being hunted down by Hollywood.
As the home straight of the year is almost upon us and all the fun, madness and chaos that is brings, how about taking a moment to laying the foundations to set up 2017 to be your best yet, to kicking ass at the game of life, lighting fires and blazing trails where ever you set your intention.
Harness the challenge and embrace it understanding that to rise above, you have to ride the joy ride of the ups and downs that come with the path less traveled.
Thank you to the brands and companies that partner to support initiatives like this. It is your belief and support that empowers many more to take the step, make the plunge and aim higher than they ever thought possible.
Ever had that sense that you may have had too much of a good thing?
Feeling a little ‘fatigued’ but not really sure why?
The clocks have turned and it’s dark at early-o’clock.
Welcome to the dearth of the “Off Season” and taking scalps the world over.
While the lands down under are emerging from winter hibernation, the harsh realities of the winter are about to unleash on our northern comrades
While the temperatures may be plummeting this can be the time to embrace and welcome a whole new world of fun and games you never knew existed.
They say a change is as good as a holiday and the change of the seasons is exactly that.
But while many will extol the value of working on your weaknesses or what you need to be doing in your “off” season (no matter what your sport, job, passion, hobbies or pursuits), I like to take a different approach – and it all starts with mind set.
Regardless of the season, I start to make lists along the lines of ‘if anything was possible, and time or money were no barrier’ what would I want to do? And I’m not talking about sport – I’m talking about life in general.
It’s a pretty powerful statement and it can be pretty intriguing looking at what you write down.
Once you’ve conjured up your list (this comes recommended to do this over a fine brewed drip of caffeine or decent glass of fermented grape juice) the fun really starts and the jigsaw of how to incorporate these things into daily life begins.
A sucker for trying to pack too many things in, I invariably end up with a list that I know is completely unachievable – but by jotting it down I know that at the very least I have acknowledged the things that has been lurking in the depths of my subconscious.
I revolve on a yearly schedule that is fairly unusual, and being someone who thrives on routine and structure, I have to exist in a world which allows little of either.
But what I can do is section out the year – and yes, I hollow out an ‘off season’ and guard it with my life.
In years gone by, I’ve succumbed to the lure of either pleasing other people or foregoing my own sanity to do what I felt others wanted and needed me to do.
The result? A pretty decent dose of mental fatigue, elements of burn out and starting to hate the things I liked to do. (I’ll temper that statement with the reality that at certain points in your career – no matter what it is, you’ll have to go above and beyond if you really, truly want to make your mark).
So for the 3rd successive year, I have officially declared ‘the off season’.
A period of recovery, rejuvenation and reconnection with the things that really matter. It’s unstructured (yes, that still challenges on many levels), there are no rules but there is a massive emphasis on doing many of the things I miss doing during the year.
Simply put, there’s a mental, physical and emotional triangle that needs to be put back into equilibrium.
It’s an evolutionary process and one which I find myself changing and adapting each year depending on what feels out of balance.
Having grown up around many different environments of high performance sport and people who have reached momentous feats in many different walks of life, I’m fascinated with what makes them tick and what allows them to consistently perform to levels of greatness.
One of the things I recognise in those that have to spend large amounts of time away (as you do when you have to travel prolifically for work or sport) is that these people are fiercely protective of their ‘off’ time – be it an ‘off season’, time with family, a vacation or something far removed from what they have to engage in for majority of the year.
So where am I going with this and what is my point?
Embrace your ‘off’ and don’t be afraid of it.
The more you do something, the more important it becomes.
On a personal level, this means coming home. Back to the mountains and to relish the opportunity to do things I don’t get to do much of throughout the year. Depending on how unbalanced my triangle of equilibrium is (mental, physical, emotional) – I use this to guide what this time entails.
It’s a time to debrief and to plan with absolute objectivity. It’s a time to rebuild and repair from the bottom up. It’s a time to go and be humbled in the most humbling of ways (this happens frequently when you hail from a village of super human athletic specimens). It’s a time to challenge the status quo and re-evaluate.
I’m not going to lie – it can be a challenging time.
Be it the end of your season, a staleness in your career, a dissatisfaction at work or the imminent challenge of SAD (seasonal affects disorder) as the grim realities of winter set in – embrace the opportunity to do things differently.
Here’s cheers to the off season – may it be as epic as the rejuvenation, challenge, change, growth and excitement it may bring.
If someone tapped you on the shoulder and said you’d drawn the golden ticket to spend a fortnight on a tropical island, it’s quite possible you’d be jumping for joy, bouncing on beds and swinging from the rafters.
Sun, sand, warmth, possibly even some waves!
Sounds Ah-mazing right? Possibly even a tan to boot…pack that bikini now girl!
For most, this is precisely the image that is conjured up – it’s one heck of a sell. “Who” wouldn’t want to escape to paradise, you’d be positively nuts not to.
When you got home, there was a letter. It detailed everything about the trip and what to take, but it didn’t say when.
Each week you checked the mail, hoping for another letter with some more information about this ah-mazing golden ticket to paradise.
You’d told all your friends, promised to send pictures to your mum, the anticipation was building, but you still didn’t know when you were going.
After weeks of waiting you called the number on the golden ticket and got the answer phone. You left a message. Actually, you left messages every second day in the hope of getting something other than the answer machine.
As the weeks rolled on and the information didn’t come, life threw you a couple of curve balls. That early excitement was fast starting to fade into low level anxiety when combined with all the other things that were lining up in your life.
All of a sudden you got the information you’d been waiting months to receive…and you could feel the pressure of all the balls you were trying to juggle starting to mount.
I’ll cut a long story short – this is a some what accurate analogy of the build up to this year’s ISA Prone and Paddleboard World Champs.
Months came and went and we still didn’t have information about where it might be. Fiji was mooted and finally announced as the host months after the initially schedule dates of the event while any other information was scarce to find.
The dates were set, the dates were changed. Given a small amount of information as to where it might be be held, this then changed again.
Having won the NZ Nationals for the 6th consecutive year in both the distance event and the surf racing event . I accepted my position on the team as the female representative for SUP racing based on what I knew I would be able to commit to back in February….fast forward a few months and my world got a little turned upside down and shaken around.
While there is not need for the details of my world being turned upside down and all around to be aired for public consumption, it definitely began to affect the decisions I was making and it necessitated a reconsideration of my plans and schedule. Was any of this in my control? Only the decisions I was making in the wake of the information I was faced with.
Fast forward to October and I made it home with all my gear in tow prepared for anything and everything. I was fit, I’d just finished up a season highlighted with some incredible highs and I finally had the chance to get my head around the planning and execution of this ‘fortnight-in-paradise’ that was fast turning into a nightmare-covered-in-chocolate.
While the proximity of Fiji seems relatively close to NZ, the reality soon began to be anything but. As I costed everything out, it soon became apparent that this little jaunt to the South Pacific was rather to be a rather pricey affair.
At the same time, some other, shall we call them ‘life commitments’ started rolling in at 100% over budget with a time line coinciding with the dates of Fiji.
Time was running short and it time for some fast decisions to be made.
As with any decision you make, there is always the cost of what you’re not doing. And often what you’re not doing is a hard pill to swallow.
Looking at the facts objectively as to what was best for me (not what was best for others) the decision was simple.
And as with all decisions, there is always the potential ramifications and fallout of the decisions that you make. Good or bad, you take it on the chin and roll with the punches.
But when some of those punches come a little below the belt, are of the red card variety, and the hits at your chin miss leaving you with a bloody nose and the start of a black eye – it’s probably time to take stock of the situation and yes, there were a few cheap shots sent in my direction.
Gotta love a good round of chinese whispers in the era of Facebook eh? Nothing like a bit of banter eh? What, someone took a screen shot of what you just posted? Yes people – don’t be the person about to give themselves a MEGA PALM FACE…..
There are a number of reasons that contributed to the decisions I made a week ago. Some were concerns surrounding the event (which instead of debating publicly, I raised directly and constructively with the ISA) as I was more than aware that others shared similar concerns.
Asked why I had not gone down the route of crowd funding to assist in covering some or all of the expenses associated with attending this event, it came back to personal values.
While crowd funding and the likes of give-a-little are a powerful medium and most definitely have their place, I struggle with the deeper meaning of asking people to hand over their hard earned cash for my me to spend a couple of weeks in paradise.
Maybe I’ve always had to earn it, but I value just how hard it can be to earn a dollar. So when you ask for a dollar, there’s always some kind of ‘transaction’ be it in the form of a good, a service or an emotional deficit. A sense of ‘owing’ to those that have stumped up.
Quite simply, I didn’t feel comfortable asking for handout. I know of many others that are more than comfortable doing this and good luck to them. I’m more of the ilk that you save that kind of trump card for a time of serious emergency when the shi*t really hits fan and you are in desperate need of help or assistance. A fortnight in the South Pacific didn’t really fit the profile for me on that one.
So there you have it. This is not a decision I took lightly and it is DEFINITELY not for the reasons that some people have aired.
I take seriously the responsibility that goes with representing myself, my family, my friends, my sport(s) and my country which I do week in, week out for a large portion of the year and hold myself to the highest levels of personal delivery. I also have goals and ambitions both inside and outside of sport.
Like all things I do – I see it in the context of ‘winning the game of life’. It’s a privilege to be having to make decisions where many will never have the opportunity to have either choice.
Good luck to everyone attending the ISA World Champs in Fiji later this month.
May you be safe, may you make your country proud, may you play to the best of your preparation and may you rise to the occasion.