Let’s all be honest here, 750km of Navigation, trekking, mountain biking, packrafting and kayaking is not your usual weekend warrior race! Godzone to me felt like the crème of the crop, something way outside of the comfort zone of the human body. It scared the living daylights out of me, which is why we signed up to do it.
Last year I got asked by Ash Blacker and Victor Martinovich If I would like to join them in the 10th Anniversary of Godzone. It was a straight away yes, then followed by a “What the fuck have I just said yes to”. After a few meetings we were in and need a female, Georgina Thornton popped into our heads as a person that would never back down and be there to keep us boys on our toes. Throughout the build up we had some very unfortunate news that our anchor Victor had been battling with a lot of health and injury issues. It was a late minute call up to my old coach and friend Tim Brazier!
This is all our first (and my only hopefully) Godzone, we had no idea how to do this thing, which excited us all. Biggest questions were:
- How much do we sleep?
- When do we sleep?
- Do we even sleep?
- How much do we eat?
- What happens if we don’t get along when we are 4 days in the middle of nowhere…..lost
We weren’t afraid to ask for help, Bob McLachlin, Dougal Allan, Simone Maier were all key influencers in our strategies.
We knew we had to consume A LOT of food! And we made up “6 hour food bags” of around 2500kj or 600 calories, and look to grab these at each transition on how many we might need.
Our sleep (we thought) was going to be around 3 hours each night.
Perfect! We had a plan.
Then the race started, “argghhh shit I have forgotten to eat my meal the past 3 hours!”
“Ok I think we are lost”
“Shall we sleep now or push through?” Yep it’s great to have a plan until you get punched in the face!
The first day was ok, lots of energy and pretty simple Packraft/ Trek and navigation -18km, MTB 19km. Done, ok!
Then the 155km Packraft/Trek through the cascade was one to remember. Bush bashing, navigating in the dark, swimming in the river at 3am to try and cross….ahh it’s all part of it!
We might have made a vital mistake in following somebody else over the pass, it seemed like the logical and smart way of going over when we met up with another team. We all agreed that was the right way, 400m elevation vs 1300m elevation was a no brainer. But what we didn’t know was how much bush bashing there was on the other side! We were left relying on the other team and going their speed as we treaded through the bush at 3am in the morning not knowing where the hell we were!
A quick sleep and up we got a little refreshed. We had a quick debrief and realised this morning they were going in the opposite direction that we wanted to, we made the decision to go our own way from there and made it over 8 hours later to the Pyke river for the next packraft. At this stage we thought we were well back on the field, so the morale was a little low. We flew through the 30-40km packraft down the Pyke river and made it down to the Hollyford on dark.
One more pass to go and about 20km, no problems! We have lots of food. However, time wasn’t on our side and neither was the weather. Battering rain came down as we got to a hut at 2am in the morning. Cold, wet, tired, feet sore, infected ankles, we came to the hut and 6 other teams were bunkered down and ready to battle the pass in the morning.
As we woke, 2 teams were struggling with their own members and were fighting already. 2 others had injuries and were about to pull the pin. Just as that was going on the rescue helicopter was coming in and out of the valley picking up teams with either Hyperthermia or injuries trying to make it over the pass.
We had a discussion and said we weren’t going to make the cut off in Glenorchy and would be short coursed anyway. So decided to walk out via Hollyford, get picked up by our support crew and carry on and missing a stage. Several other teams did the same thing. By far this was a good and correct decision, we all have families to go back to, let’s not get the rescue helicopter in for us too.
A 24hour stand down…..
Then back to it! 170km on the MTB along with 20 other teams, our spirits were high, but again a few navigational issues (on my part) made us a little lost at the top of the Nevis in pitch black. But managed to salvage our way back maybe losing an hour. We came into transition in really good time, however the last 2 hours of that god for saken bike ride was hell and back. We ran out of water, and as I look over I find Ash scoping the fields for a water trough from the sheep paddocks…..even the dirty puddles on the side of the road looked inviting!
15 hours later we arrived in Lake Onslow, happy, but also swearing!
From there we felt we were on the downhill, not many stages to go!
Godzone had different ideas though…48km Trek and a packraft bought some more adventures as we found ourselves at 3am packrafting down the Taieri river where we could only see 3m in front of us due to the fog. We didn’t know how long it would take us, but 4 hours in and we hadn’t gotten very far. POP!!! There goes the packraft as we hit a waratah in the water, a 60cm slit ripped it wide open as Ash and I scrambled for the bank.
Let me put an image in your mind…..3am, ripped packraft, cold, wet to our bellies, and not knowing where the fuck we are.
We managed to tape it up and off we went again, but next thing hit us, Georgie was becoming very cold, slurring, and shivering. We made the call to get out and try get a message out to organisers to pick her up ASAP. On the side of the Taieri river we had a tent set up, emergency blankets wrapped in her as she was starting to go downhill.
Next obstacle! The message didn’t get out. 45minutes went and no reply. It was around 7km to the transition we thought, so instinct kicked in and thought “I need to run”.
Down a gravel road running a 4.30min per km pace (I thought) to try get help. 45min had been and I couldn’t see shit! I didn’t know where I was and not knowing if I would even reach the transition. Funnily enough though, at this time of the year it is nearly the Roar (Deer mating season), so all I could hear was red deer and Elk screaming in the misty fog all around me. It was truly something…..exhilarating.
Finally I found a truck coming down our way and flagged them down at 5am and went back in picked up the crew. Got back to transition, ate, slept for 2 hours. Georgie managed to regain her strength and we got back on the road for 100km MTB! There was no stopping us now!
We had been through a hell of a lot but kept persevering. This course was ridiculously tough. Along the way we swore at the organisers for putting bloody train tracks in the MTB for 10km, bush bashing for days, beach/rock walking for 19km, what the heck was this!! THIS IS GODZONE! HARDEN UP!
7 days later we managed to cross the finish line in Brighton (Dunedin). Over the moon, sore, tired, exhausted, but so proud!
This event was everything and more. Toughest thing I have ever done. I respect everybody who took part in this event, even more so the teams that got through all of it without being short coursed (I think there was only 7?), you guys are true adventure athletes and mentally as strong as they come.
Thank you to the organisers, I will never forget this.
Our support crew, you guys were the best out there, it was so easy to come in and have all our meals made, sleeping bags there for us. We really didn’t need to do anything. Unbelievable! Thank you. This was for you Victor!