Torpedo7 Spring Challenge Rotorua
On Saturday October 8th under the watchful presence of Mount Tarawera, 180-women gathered on the shores of Lake Tarawera at the Outlet Camp, for the first of three start waves in the Torpedo7 Spring Challenge Women’s Adventure Race. When the starting horn sounded at 6:30am, swirling mist off the lake quickly dispersed as the sun rose and a breeze started to funnel down the Tarawera River.
The 540-participants had attended race registration and briefings in Rotorua the previous evening and were set to go on the various challenges, in either the 3, 6 or 9-hour challenges.
By midday all 180-teams were on course and Jodie Fa’avae was excited to see the women underway “We’ve been planning this event for almost two-years so it’s awesome to see it happening” she said as the last riders climbed away from the camp “the South Island Spring Challenge has been so incredibly popular and due to constant demand from North Island Women wanting to do a Spring Challenge, we wanted to support that, to encourage them and grow the sport. It’s been a quick turned around from the South Island event 2-weeks ago but seeing all the teams here this morning is energising and motivating, we love it. Now we hope they’re all safe out there in the wilderness and having fun, we’ll now get ready to welcome them home!”.
All teams began with a 6km mountain bike stage from the lake heading east. They then dropped their mountain bikes and ran 2km through a forest trail to join the Tarawera River below the ever impressive Tarawera Falls. From there teams were treated to a 6km guided raft trip through the ‘Bridge to Bridge’ gorge, a stunning section of whitewater, regular rapids in fast flowing crystal clear water and native forest shrouding every twist and turn in the river, making this a popular highlight for many of the entrants.
Once off the rafting stage teams transitioned on the river bank to their mountain bikes, the different divisions and categories on their respective courses.
In the 3-hour event, team WART (Macey Polwart, Geneva Overwater, Alesha Aherns) led from the line, building up a sizeable lead in the short ride and run to the rafts. After the rafting stage they rode with determination through the maze of forest roads, whilst only 7km long, it contained a long steady climb to reach the final stage, an 8km hiking escapade up the Tarawera River track, past the cascading falls and onto the finish line at the lake. The teams were required to navigate their way around the course, using only a map and compass, locating checkpoints along the route. Team Wart, racing in the School Teams section, won their category and in doing so recorded the fastest time for the 3-hour event. The young girls were acknowledged at the awards by Nathan Fa’avae, New Zealand’s most acclaimed adventure racer and current World Champion, he commended the young team for their prowess and spoke about the importance of developing youth opportunities. Team WART won their entry into the Spring Challenge which was donated to the girls for being in the Hillary Challenge winning team, the most prestigious adventure race in secondary school sport. The second quickest team in the 3-hour event and winning the Open category was the Karapiro Crazies (Rosie Smith, Christy Mills, Anna Hicks), and third fastest time was Veteran category winner, Team Jellytip (Anna Murphy, Chrissy McCallum, Jo Twaddell)
The 6-hour event participants mounted their bikes after the rafting stage and embarked on a 27km stage through a myriad of forest and bush trails. With many more trails on the ground than marked on the map, the course suited strong navigation teams who could quickly and accurately interpret land features. Despite an ominous weather forecast threatening in the skies, by now the sun was shining brightly to produce 20-degree temperatures making it hot going for the teams as they journeyed through the spectacular trails, next to tranquil waterways, up and over the terrain. The winner of the 6-Hour event was Nelson team, the North Island Newbies (Irene Firestone, Sandy Vincent, Zoe King). They navigated with precision and set a fast pace to comfortably win their category. Second fastest time was an impressive performance by Wellington Super-Veterans, Team Betty Goes North (Jo Holden, Siobhan Quayle, Nicola Mitchell). Team Whisky Tango Foxtrot (Nicole Blackwood, Rachael Ireland, Julia Cree) won the veteran category. Run Like The Winded (Kate Salmon, Ella Walmsley, Vida Fox) won the Junior category.
Only 19 of the 180-teams entered tackled the 9-hour event, the most challenging event in terms of distance, duration and difficulty. Many of New Zealand’s elite adventure athletes formed teams to create a competitive field. As expected, Team Rebel Warriors (Kym Skerman, Nic Leary, Elka Beca), fresh from a top placing at the Spring Challenge South Island event, were the early pace setters, with speed a weapon for their team. Exiting the rafting they shot out to a handy lead but navigation errors put them back to the middle of the pack on the 52km mountain bike stage. In contrast, the experienced and skilled navigators of team Expedio Girls On Top (Debbie Chambers, Emma McCosh, Rachel Smith) moved into the lead, gaining time in the Te Haehaenga rogaine stage. Rebel Warriors honourably clawed their way to second place but couldn’t recover from their mistakes enough to contest the win, in third position was team You Run, I’ll Bike (Lizzy Bunckenburg, Kathryn Bunckenburg, Nicola Kirkham), they raced consistently and were always a threat to the teams ahead of them. The final stage took the teams up a narrow canyon, involving climbing over rock formations, traveling up a dry creek bed, and around the lower reaches of Makatiti Dome, across scoria flats where Wallaby can often be seen hopping about. Cresting the top rewarded a magnificent view across the lake to the Tarawera Crater. The final challenge was a steep descent to the lake, joining the walkway the finish. This stage was a test but it was a high quality wilderness experience that left teams raving about its exceptionally unique beauty and isolation.
The 9-hour veteran race was dominated and won by Nelson based team Topzone (Victoria Shelling, Jane Orbell, Jackie MacIntyre). They took the lead after the rafting stage and executed a superb race to win comfortably, clearly a team with a high level of skill and ability.
Team captain and overall winner of the 9-hour race Debbie Chambers, applauded the organisers for a fantastic event acknowledging what the Spring Challenge provides for women around the country to be challenged and have access to adventures. She warned the first time adventure racers that they could become addicted to the sport. “I did my first race in 2000 and since have always strived for the perfect team and perfect race, that’s motivating, we achieved that in this race and it’s why we are standing on the winners podium” Chambers said, encouraging others to set goals and work towards podium placings of their own.
Race Director Nathan Fa’avae complimented the course designer Mark Rayward for his efforts in creating safe and scenic courses, by working closely with Iwi, the Department of Conservation and Forestry Companies. “We had overwhelming feedback from the event from the racers and support crews, for a smoothly run event in a stunning location, the whole Tarawera area is amazing, the volcano and remnants of the eruption, it’s a wonderland for adventure sport, I’m thrilled we had such a successful launch of the Spring Challenge to the North Island, there were very happy people crossing the finish line, that’s the magic and motivation for running these events, I do get a great sense of satisfaction seeing so many women enjoying adventure racing, a sport that has been a huge part of my life”.
Jodie Fa’avae concluded by thanking the event sponsors who collectively provided $60,000 worth of product giveaways to the participants. “We feel extremely lucky to have a family of supportive sponsors, they’re so committed to backing us with what we are doing and trying to achieve, the Spring Challenge can have such wonderful positive outcomes for women and to have sponsors that share our vision and philosophy is really special. I also want to make mention of our staffing team who do such an amazing job, giving their heart and soul to ensure the teams have the greatest event experience they could hope for”.
In just 2-weeks, 1890-women took part in the Spring Challenge events, making it the biggest Adventure Race in the World.
Torpedo7, Merrell, Yealands Wine, Tineli, Ems Power Cookies, Buff, Absolute Wilderness Meals, Stoke Beer, Rochdale Cider, Bluebridge, NZ Avocado, Camel Bak, Pics Peanut Butter.
The 2017 will be held on October 13th-15th, planned for the Auckland region.
For full results & photos