Know before you go - AdventureSmart

It started out with wanting to claim a little time out from their combined total of 7 kids and ended up with team 5 Minutes Peace winning the Spring Challenge Taupo 9-hour race yesterday.

Grinning with disbelief as they ran across the Whakaipo Bay finish line to find out they had won in a time of 9:18:52, Varnia Smith (Alexandra) and Amy Elworthy (Waikato) put their victory down to their “amazing navigator” Olivia McLeod, of Blenheim.

In their 80km race that involved a 6km raft down the Waikato River, a hike, two bikes, plus two orienteering stages, strategy became vital as they entered the final stage in close proximity to the eventual second-placed team Making Waves and third-place-getters Make it Dirt.

Olivia credited their two rival teams for being strong mountain bikers as she talked through her team’s rise up through the rankings.

“We got off to a good start first on the water, about sixth off then we just plodded along and paced ourselves, like Nathan [Fa’avae, event founder] told us last night. We came out of the forest in third [on the stage five 11km mountain bike] and we just headed in on foot and just kept running, was the secret,” she says.

Team 5 Minutes Peace on their way to victoryTeam 5 Minutes Peace on their way to victory
(Photo: Plateau Productions; click to enlarge)

They made a strategic decision to go a different way to the other teams through the final orienteering stage and “to be honest we didn’t realise we were first coming through the finish - we thought we might have been second,” Varnia says, beaming.

Adding to their achievement was the fact they have never teamed up before, Amy says.

“Actually this is our first race together. We didn’t do any racing together as a team, leading up to this which is unreal. Just Strava.”

Making Waves’ Nixie Boddy says she and her team mates Nicole Symons, also of Christchurch and Hokitika’s Kat Reynolds were happy with their performance.

“We just had to run our best race. We gave it all we had and we were stoked.”

Their favourite part was “easily the mountain biking. We are all mountain bikers. Just the technicality of it was right up our alley,” Nicole says.

Team Make it Dirt – Anna Barrett, of Maketu, plus Heather Logie and Lydia Hale, both of Rotorua - had led off the raft and had a nine-minute buffer going into stage 4 the 6km orienteering activity. They held the lead until the end of the final mountain bike.

Anna says: “We got to the last orienteering section and it was a hell of a lot more. We had an ankle problem and fixed some stuff on the bike and we made it through a whole lot of things.”

She was originally meant to race with Hannah Johnston, founder of the Make it Dirt adventure website, but when she injured herself recently it looked like the team would have to pull out, until Anna thought of her mountain biking buddies.

“I said I was pretty sure I could find two other people. We haven’t done anything together before,” she says of the teamates, who she roped in three weeks ago.

Spring Challenge event manager Wendy van den Berg was impressed with the number of women doing this event for the first time. Now in its third year in the North Island, the Spring Challenge Taupo attracted the highest number of entries up north to date. In total there were 247 teams racing today – 16 in the 9-hour, 137 doing the 6-hour and 94 in the 3-hour category.

“I saw so many great attitudes out on course today. Women just sticking it out and being gutsy North Island girls,” she says.

Wendy describes the course, which was completed in cool, calm conditions today as “quite technical.”

“It was definitely not on the easy side – quite a challenging course. Single track riding in the Craters of the Moon mountain bike park, for example, might not have been everyone’s forte but I think the competitors did really well embracing the challenge.”

“For the 9-hour competitors, the views up on the tops of would have been amazing on the last hike on Ngangautu peak.”

“Thanks to all the landowners, volunteers, Taupo District Council and the local waka ama club for providing a great feast at the finish line,” Wendy adds.

This is the first year that Spring Challenge organisers five-time Adventure Racing World Champion Nathan and his wife Jodie Fa’avae have offered four-women teams. It was a popular addition with 70 four-women teams, joining the 181 three-women teams.

While the 2019 Spring Challenge South event in Cromwell is already sold out, the Spring Challenge North destination will be announced shortly.