Seagate build up to World Championships
Multiple adventure racing world champion Nathan Fa’avae shares team Seagates build up to World Championships as they take the next step, about to start the Raid in France.
I am writing from France a day ahead of the final round of the Adventure Racing World Series. As the reigning Adventure Racing World Champions, we have had a relatively quiet year but we have now begun our road to the 2016 World Championships in November, held in Australia.
Rewinding the clock, I wasn’t planning on racing this year, for a number of reasons I wanted to take a step back. I never used the word ‘retirement’ as it sounds like you’re going to completely stop racing and doing adventures, that has never been my intention, but I do intend to move back from racing at the top level, but obviously not this year, as it turns out.
With the World Champs close to home I decided I had a title defence still left in me so our team committed to racing. I didn’t race the Godzone Race in NZ earlier in the year as I did need a break from sport and I was helping with the course design so I couldn’t compete anyway.
My team mates, Sophie Hart, Chris Forne and Stu Lynch all took part in Godzone but in different teams. Chris won, Stu was second and Sophie captained an all female version of team Seagate to finish respectably in 11th.
We then had our sights on Australia.
During the year I was invited to attend a popular race in Denmark called the Yeti Adventure Challenge, the organisers wanted to employ me as a consultant to help them grow the event with the hope that one day it could become a major event. As I discussed the idea further I decided it’d be great if my team could take part in the race. It was only a 3-person team so when Sophie and Stu agreed to travel to Denmark to race we were entered. Chris was in the NZ team for the Orienteering World Championships held at the same time in Sweden, not that long after he won the Rogaine World Championships in Australia.
While we were all in Europe it seemed like a perfect opportunity to do a World Series round as build up to the World Champs and the Raid in France happened to be the week after the Danish event.
Stu however was already committed to a team racing in China, so Chris, Sophie and I needed to find another team mate to join us in France. After some discussion we decided to use it as an opportunity to give a young Kiwi athlete a chance to race with us and felt it would be most valuable for a female to join us. We asked emerging adventure racer Isla Smith and she was keen. The chance for Isla to race alongside Sophie was to be a hugely valuable experience. Isla, while only 21, has already taken part in three Godzone expedition length races.
But as the year went on, Sophie became unavailable for the 2016 race season so we were back to needing another team mate. Thankfully, Stu was willing to race in France and the Kiwi team he was racing with in China, led by Rich Ussher, agreed it would be fine and they’d find someone to cover for Stu.
First up was Denmark. After a fairly long journey for Isla and I from New Zealand, via Sydney, Bangkok and Dubai, we arrived in Copenhagen and then a final flight to Billund, the home of Lego. There we met Stu and spent a few days in Silkeborg getting ready for the race. It was a nice town with great mountain bike trails through forests and numerous lakes. It was an easy place to enjoy.
The Yeti Adventure Challenge was a 24-hour race and also the Danish National Championships. The route looked fun and interesting, combining a high number of sports. The standard sports such as running, mountain biking and kayaking were included, as well as orienteering, canoeing, inline skating, swimming, abseiling and a number of special tests, which included a maze, shooting and stand-up paddle boarding. About 150-teams were entered over the various divisions and categories. The long race started late in the afternoon and had teams racing a prologue around Silkeborg village before we headed out into the wilderness and into the darkness.
Our goal was to race as well as we could but we were aware it was the first time we’d raced with Isla and the first time she’d raced in an International competition in a top ranked team. Our goal was to take it easy, enjoy the race, not go full speed. The other reason for this was we’d just come from a NZ winter so we wanted to be careful racing in summer heat, plus we had the race in France a week later to think about. We also knew that the Danish teams had been training hard for the event and some of the teams were local to the area, we hoped we’d be competitive but we didn’t have to many expectations.
As it turned out that was a good strategy as we found ourselves struggling to stay in the top ten for the first part of the race, largely due to the inline skating stage which we found really challenging, we were focused more on staying injury free than trying to race. Once off the skates we were able to get into sports we’re trained for and for the night hours we slowly caught and passed teams.
As the sun rose we reached kayaks for the first time and that enabled us to gain more time on the leaders. The course was heavily orienteering focused which made the navigation intense for Stu, having to focus and concentrate all the time. After 20-hours of racing we crossed the line in 2nd place, about an hour back from the local team that won. We were happy, we’d raced as best we could with what we had and the course didn’t really play to our strengths, but it was great to see Denmark and race the local teams who are really good. The event was exceptionally well run so we were pleased we’d taken part. The next day we flew to France and met up with Chris.
Arriving on Sunday evening in Font Romeu, this would be our home in the Pyrenees for the week, a chance to recover from Denmark and prepare for the Raid in France. We’ve had a really pleasant week doing mountain bike rides, a few walks and runs. The food has been a highlight and just chilling out as we get ready.
As with Denmark, we don’t have to many expectations. While we’d love to win the race, we need to first race well as a team and pace ourselves sensibly. We’re at altitude and it can get really hot here, with the Spanish border not far away. It’s the first time the four of us have raced together and we need to make sure the race is a positive experience for Isla.
Our main goal for the season is the World Champs which is 9-weeks away so this race is valuable training and a stepping stone to the big event, we’re not at peak fitness at present, and speaking myself, I’ve still got plenty of work (training) to do before I get on the start line of the World Champs, but this will be excellent conditioning.
We’re excited to get underway, France has amazing nature and we’re sure the route will take us on an incredible adventure, hiking, biking, canyoning, rafting and kayaking, from mountains to the sea.
On midnight Saturday local time we’re underway, with about 100-hours of adventure sport to reach the finish. Our goals, to race like champions, stay safe and enjoy it as much as we can.
Special thanks to the team sponsors for helping us be here and chasing our dreams.
SEAGATE, inov-8 footwear, RAB clothing, Gemini Lights, Lowe Alpine, Absolute Wilderness Freeze Dry Meals, Ready Set Go Antichafe, Bridgedale, GU, Tineli, Torpedo7