An adventure race is something I’ve always wanted to do. Something about the diversity of the race is what drew me to it. I’ve always loved hiking and the outdoors, but I knew I had to step it up a notch — so it was definitely motivation for me to get more into mountain biking and running in the last couple of years.
Before I launch into the do’s and don’ts of Spring Challenge, this is what it’s all about: It’s a multi-discipline adventure race that incorporates rafting, running, mountain biking and navigation. You can do a 3-hour, 6-hour or 9-hour event and the length of the event is based on the time they think the winners will complete the race in. You do the race in a team of 3 or 4, all team members must do the whole race together hitting checkpoints along the way.
What makes Spring Challenge different from other adventure races is that it’s all female and it’s the largest all-female adventure race in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s very well run and celebrates women getting out and active, encouraging them to get out there and give it a go. The approachableness of the race has been well received but this doesn’t mean the race is easy. Whether you are doing the 3-hour, 6-hour or 9-hour — you’ve got some work to do.
Despite having only done the event once, there were some key things that we did well and not so well that I want to share. I hope it helps you on your journey.
- Your team is EVERYTHING. So, choose them wisely. You need to be on the same buzz. This could have gone really wrong for us especially considering I’m in Christchurch and my team mates live in Wellington, so we didn’t train together. We had a few conversations in the lead up and all decided that we would aim for ‘top of the mid pack’. We thought this was a good goal for us to push hard throughout the day, but not be too hard on ourselves if we fell short.
- Food choices will make or break you. Do your research and work out what works for you. We had a timer on our watch that reminded us to eat every 20 minutes. This seems easy but when you’re on the go is easy to forget, and sometimes the last thing you want to do. Throughout the day the 20 minutes just get faster and faster. But don’t ignore it. If you lose energy you will have a really tough time.
- Navigation. Make sure you know how to do it. You will get given a map the day before the race and being able to pick your route strategically will allow you to save energy and time in the race. There are some really good navigations courses you can do – I did one run by Nora (who helps to organise the race) from Just For Girls. I know this was one of the keys to our success on the day.
- Gear up. Think about each item that you have and need. We each had a hydration pack (15-20L bag) and a runEZ Hip Bag to keep our snacks handy. For the professionals – this is too much. But for us entry level go-getters, it did the trick. We had our waterproof gear and something warm in our bags (thankfully we didn’t need it) and chucked our bike accessories in there for the bike section. What we didn’t quite nail was map holders. Having an around the neck plastic thing is great for run navigation and having a map stand attached to your bike is super helpful for the bike section. We managed without the bike map stand but there was a lot of faffing around trying to work out if we have passed certain points already.
- Read all the rules to the race. This was our BIGGEST downfall. And I hate having to admit this to you – but I hope that if at least one team can learn from this massive fail then it will be worth sharing that this happened. When we started the orienteering leg, we came across a checkpoint that we didn’t think was quite in the right spot… but we couldn’t see any other ones, so we checked it anyway and carried on. We WANTED it to be the right one, so didn’t question it too much even though we knew it wasn’t right. On the course we met a lady who said a few teams had a few issues with a certain checkpoint and we quickly realised we had messed it up. We decided we would fix it on our way out. Before we did, we had a blow out on the last checkpoint. After nailing point after point without much trouble we just lost it. We all disagreed and wasted time and energy finding that last point. By the time we did, we wanted out. So, we made a call – let’s not fix that point. We thought the penalty was a time penalty and we knew we were ahead of where we wanted to be anyway so decided it was worth it. It wasn’t. There is no time penalty. As soon as you miss a point you place below EVERYONE who got more correct check points than your team. Needless to say — this is HUGE and is definitely the major regret on the day.
- Have fun. It’s what you’re here for. Enjoy it. You’ll have tough times and that’s what your teammates are there for. When you’re having a low patch, someone else will be thriving, and vice versa. So, hang in there! Take in the views. We even had a few sing songs along the way which gave us and some other teams a few smiles.
- Think about the whole race, not one part. If you’re a runner — make sure you work on your biking. The course we did had a technical mountain biking section which slowed down a lot of teams who had heard it would be pretty easy. It was our team strength, so we were stoked! Others — not so much.
We LOVED the race. We nailed so many important parts and crushed our goals. Our time for the 6-hour race was 7 hours 17, which gave us the 15th fastest time overall and the 7th fastest time for our category. HOWEVER, we didn’t come 15th and 7th due to not hitting that check point correctly. So, it’s a little bitter sweet but overall, we feel we came out in the middle of the top pack - well surpassing our team expectation of top of the mid pack.
Looks like we will have to do it again next year!
Don’t stop until you’re proud.