WE MADE IT!
Before we get cracking into our journey we would like to say a MASSIVE thank you to everyone that helped make this race happen. A big shout out to our main supporters, Alterno Foundation and Whai Ora. Of course big thanks to all the marshals, and people who made this event perfect. Also to our family and friends for the support leading up to the race, special mention to Steve, HI STEVE! Without you we wouldn’t have been able to compete.
All right take a seat, relax and enjoy some of our highlights of our Spirited Women adventure race journey.
Anything that starts off with 2,000 volts of electricity surging through a bike as it hangs precariously off a fence is a blinking great way to start the day! And the day only got better from there. After our 30-minute zap session at 5.25am we were able to conclude that bikes are great conductors of electricity. After this we were wide awake ready to get on a treasure hunt for an apple tree...which would have been great if we were looking for check point 7, unfortunately we were looking for check point 2 so 45 minutes later we stumbled upon a very un-apple looking pine tree and we were off again in the hunt for check point 3! Woohooo!
As the sun started to rise the most amazing terrain surrounded us, we traveled through rugged farm land (which caused some funny mountain bike crashes), native bush and powerful rivers. We made up some ground here, as this is what we were use to training in. This all led us to our first activity stand up paddle boarding, which we managed to A) not fall off (WINNING) B) Complete the SUPING in good time and C) Find all the check points within 10 minutes of each other… which believe us it is was miracle.
So we finish the SUPING and off we go again fast forward a few hours, several handle bar flips and hundreds of laughs we were having the time of our lives...the legs were burning but what a feeling! We hit our first running adventure, which we could all tell Bill was bloody fizzing for an off road run.
After our first running adventure our lungs were dying, legs were pumping, ankles were rolling and the sweat was dripping. During this leg Mama nature never failed to teach us lessons we didn’t know we needed to learn. We learnt that nobody has yet invented strapping tape that survives a 16-hour race. We learnt that if you are true to the earth she will be true to you, you can't fool old mama nature! We learnt that simply being present in this race is not enough also simply showing up is not enough, you have to put your BEST foot forward always. We learnt first and foremost you must take responsibility for yourself, before you can contribute to a team… like remembering to eat your food, before getting to the hangry (hungry/angry) stage. We all learnt that you cannot disguise the moments when you are struggling and need your teams support, and boy oh boy does it help when you just let them know. All of us had moments when we just stopped, and stood still for a moment, to feel the brilliance of the earth around us and the love of the people who were crazy enough to embark on this journey with you.
Wooohoo we are back on our mountain bikes ready to start ticking off our next 30 checkpoints!
Little did we know we would soon be bush whacking trying to get onto the right bike tracks… slight confusion of going the wrong way/ getting lost to find check point 36, you illusive little bugger...maps upside down and inside out we eventually got there and that little 'bing bing bing' of the check point couldn't have sounded sweeter!
WE MADE IT… not to the finish line but to our kayaking leg. We had multiple laughs on this leg, we think it was the water that made us feel fresh and re-energized, we are all water babies after all.
After we smashed the kayaking leg we were off again on beloved mountain bikes, which were rather bedraggled at this stage. Eventually after some seriously intense mountain biking tracks we made it to our second running adventure. So off we were again to gallivant around some sweet hills that really made the legs burn, however at this stage of the race it was more of a numb feeling. This leg had us stumbling across geysers, Andy taking us on the wrong track that led us to wild Kuni Kuni pigs and some pretty steep hills we realised just how damn beautiful NZ really is!
Eventually we were on our way back to complete our first mystery activity, clay bird shooting!! Some of us had never done clay bird shooting or in fact never held a gun, so you imagine that there we a few haywire shots. However our superstar Dani managed to hit it first go, which made our clay bird shooting experience a fast one.
Ohho now here’s a story you don’t want to miss… the rogue game. Dani, Bill and Andy head in to complete this game and to begin with we, we were smashing it. We found letter A and B in the first 10 minutes. So of course we thought this would be the easiest challenge to complete… oh how we were wrong, so so sooooo very wrong… An hour later and only 2 more letters found we were running around in the dark like headless chickens going a little crazy. After bush whacking and going off track for every ‘broken log’ we FINALLY found checkpoint letter J, if only J was the hardest. Soon after finding J, we realised that there were many tracks that were NOT shown on the maps. It was a solid 45 minutes of listening to wild pigs and seeing many possums we managed to push through our fear of never returning we found I, hidden in a dark, scary cave, near a river. We were determined to get to the rock climbing before the cut off time at 9pm, we smashed out letters G and H in 10 minutes, GO US! And off we went sprinting to the rock-climbing with marshals commenting “Wow you girls are the only ones still trying to find all the letters”… “What are you doing?” we simply told them “Our goal was to finish the race, no matter what.” So we managed to get to the rock-climbing 3 minutes to the cut off time, and you have never seen 3 girls boulder a wall so fast, sweat, mud and all.
5 check points to go, 16 hours banked and we were still smiling and having the time of our lives. It was a mad dash to the finish line because as well as reading maps terribly we also read instructions terribly and thought we only had 40 minutes till the cut off time. After all our struggles we needed to finish the race, the last 5 checkpoints were a blur.
16 hours, 40 minutes. DONE. Greeted to people cheering and a bottle wine as we crossed the finish line.
For the first time in a looooooong time, we are ALL in the same place. Lucy rolled off a plane and into Auckland a couple of days ago and we are right back into the team trainings. We had a sweet training session planned out this weekend, a trail run and a mountain bike through the woods out at our home turf in Muriwai. However mama nature had other plans – and dumped a torrential storm on us last night. Although there was a part of us all that wanted to tackle an outdoor train come rain hail or shine, the wiser of us (ie, Billie, the more experienced adventure racer of us), pointed out the risk of injury and jeopardising our ability to race at our best, also keeping in mind that rowing nationals are a week away.
So to try make up for the lack of cooperation from the great outdoors, we decided to do back to back spin classes at the gym on Saturday afternoon, and a wee run to get the legs feeling good and warm. Our goal with this training session was to have maximum time moving, with minimal breaks. The aim was to simulate the endurance and muscle fatigue that we will be experiencing on race day – obviously we weren’t biking or running for twelve hours straight (thank goodness), but being continuously active for three hours was a good way to give ourselves an idea of how our muscles and minds would cope with the longer distances and time put in. The hardest thing was that the spin classes we did were both the same releases - so it was a little boring the second time around.
We also took hold of this rare moment of togetherness to organise who would be carrying what, and what kind of nutrition and hydration we would be organising for race day. We’ve divided up the race supplies in accordance with our strengths. Billie, the paramedic among us will have the first aid kit and survival gear, Andy, the baker and team mom among us will carry some delicious nutritious snacks to keep us fuelled up along the way. Dani, the only one with (some) map reading skills will be in charge of the race map and race notes, the only risk with this is she might herself get lost with them. Or lose them. But we feel it’s a risk worth taking – and at least one of us will finish the race! Lucy, the queen of buying waterproof phone cases in the hope she can make her electronics lifeproof (note: “lifeproof,” is yet to be proven as “Lucy-proof” RIP iphone 4 and RIP iphone 5), will be carrying the team phone and the survival blanket. We will also all be carrying an adequate supply of water, electrolytes, and food as well as the compulsory items such as whistles, head torches, and warm clothing.
We’ve planned out our food for race day, and everybody knows the best part about endurance racing is that its an excuse to eat whatever you feel like post race so we’re excited for post race pasta, and pizza, and potatoes, and chocolate, and bread, and peanut butter, and you get the idea.
We will be eating a protein and carbohydrate rich meal on Friday night, and a waking up early enough on Saturday morning to eat a decent but not too heavy breakfast before our 5:30am start line appearance. For breakfast we’ll be thinking along the lines of porridge, yoghurt, or maybe eggs.
We will be preparing all our food at home prior to race day, to ensure we’ve got good whole foods going into our bodies, and not exposing ourselves to wild sugar highs and lows, or too much processed food that may upset our tummies. Andy is going to bake us some cheese and chai scones for our carbohydrates, and some muesli slice for a bit of fast acting energy should we need the boost. Lucy will prepare some raw protein balls to give us some longer lasting bite sized fuel. We will also carry scroggin, and Dani is going to cook up some delicious mini vege and egg fritatas to keep our bellies full and our minds alert.
We are both super excited and ridiculously nervous for race day, but have full faith in our abilities to power through the race course and come out, maybe not on top, but mostly alive. We all know that endurance racing is largely a matter of the strength of your mind (and your quads), and all of us have some pretty powerful mind over matter powers within us which we know how to dig deep and use when we most need it.
We look forward to checking in with you all post race, and letting you know what wild things happened in the bush along the way.
Til next time
The Adventure Squad
We're still hacking out our trainings from across the Tasman ocean from each other. It's coming up to that time of the year where it seems every sports event we're involved in happens all at the same time. We're training harder than even and pushing ourselves and our fitness which is otherwise amazing and exhausting.
We have a wild few weeks coming up involving half marathons, half iron mans, off-road duathlons, rowing nationals, not to mention other fun things like the start of the new uni semester, new employment opportunities, and moving houses.
With all this going on we're realising the importance of self love, self care, and REST.
Bills probably learnt this the hard way!:
The last two months in Billlie land have consisted of four things; sleep, eat, work and train this allowed me a new sense of respect for the sleep and eat aspect as I have been living off 4-5 hours sleep a night to fit in morning and evening trainings and eating my body weight 5 times over a day (yum!) The mornings have consisted of either; cycling, rowing or swimming whilst the night sessions have been dedicated to getting those sweet gains in the gym and again on the bike! A huge learning curve has been the discovery of a simple thing called "the rest day" and the pretty average crappy consequences of what happens if you ignore this wee gem! Good old Bills found out the hard way and ended up feeling and looking pretty dusty and bedraggled at a rowing carnival after an intense 2 day multi sport race in the mountains in Wanaka and then rolling straight into a week of training...key learning from this...when the quads are gone they are gone and the only way to get them back into your good books is to give them that crucial rest day they deserve! So learnings aside the last 2 months have seen huge improvements in strength, cycle and run fitness and of course and most importantly my ability to shovel down 5 courses in 25 seconds. So looking forward to the last 6 week push which I am sure will be filled with awesome laughs, tight quads, scoarched shoulders, full bellies and of course good times with awesome teammates!
Over the past month or two training has been on an all time high… WHICH I LOVE!! I’ve found that every training or prep I have done for this event has been pushing me further and further outside my little bubble that I tend to stuck in.
Firsts things first, Biking.
I went on my first proper mountain biking adventure a few weeks ago in Woodhill Forest, and I have a newfound respect for pro mountain bikers, or any in general. By the end I was sweating like no tomorrow, my quads were on fire, and I was VERY hungry. I also learnt that its all fun and games until the hill you just came zooming down you must somehow get back up… hence ‘quads on fire’. But overall I’m one very happy girl.
Along with my mountain biking adventures I have taken up training to be Les Mills SPRINT instructor, which is on a stationary bike. This has pushed my training to a whole new level physically, mentally and emotionally. Its pushed me to go harder for longer, encouraged me to push that little bit more and motivated me to keep trying. Plus my mentor knows a thing or two about bikes so she is giving me pointers for great technique, which will help after 10+ hours of adventure racing!
Last but not least, rowing. It has been insane with numerous 5am trainings, ergs (rowing machine) and every weekend travelling to awesome beaches around New Zealand racing against amazing athletes. This has lead me to push myself beyond my limits in all aspects of my training, this might be a bit of my competitive nature coming through.
I've been learning that preparation is definitely my biggest downfall. I wake up and say to myself “yeah sweet I'll go for a big bike ride today,” and roll out the door. Two hours later Im 40kms away from my house trying to read the map on my phone and counting the coins in the bottom of my backpack to see if I have amount money to buy a snack. Do not recommend. I'm still learning that apparently you have to plan for things and also if you travel in one direction - at some point you do have to account for making your way home. I'm also terrible at eating before I train. I hate it! I feel sludgy and weighed down and slow! So I have been working on timing my meals more productively and also inventing recipes for food that is going to burn off slowly over the day without making me feel full. Eggs, oats, and coconut yoghurt have been my go to staples the last wee while. I'm still not too skilled on the map reading front, and stupidly forgot to get my flat mate who has a degree in geography to teach me a thing or two before he moved out. Oops. The amount my running fitness has improved in the last few months is awesome considering I've been a tad half hearted on the training front and a tad while hearted on the ice cream front. I'm starting to incorporate intervals into my longer runs, as Melbourne doesn't actually have any hills, so you don't get the same spikes in heart rate and changes in muscle use that you do when in Auckland. I'm looking forward to coming home and having my old playground back and really smashing out my fitness til then.
Has been training hard too, however between work, study and training hasn't had a chance to sit down and breathe, let alone write. She's on the water almost every day enjoying the sun and getting mad fit and skilled on the paddle boarding front. We're excited for her to teach us a thing or two about how to make our stand up paddling too notch when she has a chance. The last couple of months have been some of the most challenging months for myself EVER in fitness, not as much physically but mentally I have been on struggle street. It’s that sucker called motivation that’s disappeared into sweet thin air and taken away my drive to do the things that I know I love, I love to train and I love to train hard, there’s something so rewarding about bettering yourself every day, whether that means you eat one less choc thin than usual or can finally touch your toes haha. I have since returning to the motherland NZ gotten some of that back, every time I go away I forget how amazing NZ is! She is so beautiful and we have so many playgrounds in every direction. One of my favourite trainings at the moment is taking the dog for a run along the beach and around the rocks trying to get some more off road training in, whilst also getting in those K’s on the road bike. This next 4 week push is going to be a hard and good one! I cant wait to keep getting out in the sunshine, or rain haha and just smash it!
Overall our training is constantly pushing us outside our comfort zones. We all are working on finding a balance between pushing ourselves, and pushing too hard, resting, and slacking, and making sure we have the fuel in us to keep us at our best.
Over the next few weeks we'll be working on sussing out the very important technical aspects of our team approach. This will include figuring out our nutrition for race weekend, considering what tools or other things well need to carry with us, sourcing all our gear, and sussing our transport down to the event.
Thanks for reading and we’ll check in with y'all in a month.
The Alterno Adventure Squad
The Adventure Squad have been adventuring right through the silly season, although, some non training related and more food related adventures have definitely taken place. That said we’ve been doing our best to keep each other motivated, and jump back on the training schedule as the new year rolls in.
The biggest change and challenge since our last update is that ½ of the squad have gapped it to another country for the summer. The good news is that being the mint team mates they are, Dani and Lucy gapped it to the same place. So we’ve been working on training with two of us based in Melbourne, and two of us based in Auckland. While we’re doing a pretty sweet job, it is challenging and honestly we just kind of miss each other sometimes, since we are all vital to the team dynamic.
We are still making a good effort to communicate with each other and keep the team spirits high, specially through these warm and busy months where we’re all dealing with a few different things on our plates. Having a really open and honest level of communication with each other is really important, and it’s one of the things that has made us a strong team to date. We’ve spent enough years around each other and training with each other that we all have the ability to let each other know if we’re struggling with something, or need a little more motivation here and there. Billie and Andy are well into the rowing season and are keeping their fitness up through rowing trainings and competition. Dani and Lucy are both building up longer distance runs and working on their endurance.
Another awesome team strength we have is our motivation to make our trainings as intense, sweaty, and fun as possible. We probably do a good job working out our cores just from how much we laugh when we’re training together. We thought we’d share one of our sessions with you below so you can give it a go and get your sweat on!
Our favourite place to train is outdoors - always. While when we’re busy and the weather is average we will always be up for a spin class and also understand the importance of weight training, we all love to be out in mama nature soaking up her goodness.
Our favourite place to train is the Muriwai Stairs - 300 stairs that run through the bush between Domain Crescent and Oaia Road out by our home beach on the wild west coast. All you have to do is run up and down those bad boys a few times and you kind of feel like maybe you might die. The cool thing is that the style of high intensity, team training we use can be adapted for almost any outdoor space and any number of people, and we like to make it more exciting than just running up and down. Here’s what we got up to last time we tackled those crazy stairs!
Warm up: run to the top and back down
Set 1 to the top: 10 squat jumps on each platform (running up stairs in between platforms)
Set 1 to the bottom: 10 press up on each platform (running down stairs in between platforms)
Set 2 to the top: Piggyback each other up two sets of stairs then swap partners, continue this til you reach the top.
Run back down ¼ of the stairs.
Set 3 to the top: Wheelbarrows up the top ¼ then sprint down and swap partners
Set 3 to the bottom: Run down two sets of stairs run up one set all the way to you reach the bottom of the stairs.
Set 4 to the top: Run backwards on tippy toes all the way to the top
Set 4 to the bottom: Run down, 10 frog jumps on each platform.
Warmdown: lie on the grass and drink some water and remember how to breathe, and get some protein in within 30 minutes of finishing the workout.
While we’re doing awesome at upping our fitness and and aerobic capacity to ensure we all have the endurance to tackle this race from start to finish, we definitely need to get a bit better with training in some of the skills we aren’t so slick on. Our team goals and plans over the next few weeks include:
Thanks for checking in and having a read. We hope you're having an epic summer of sweat, adventures, and adrenalin.
Til next time - The Adventure Squad Gals
Andy, Dani, Lucy & Billie
Getting started – Setting team goals, improving key fitness skills and planning structured trainings.
Having Mother Nature right outside our back doors makes training exciting, fun, and ever changing. All of us have grown up in the Rodney District, on the Wild West coast of Auckland. The winding gravel roads, steep black sand dunes, pounding waves and swaying kauri trees have been our playground as much as any swing set, or patch of grass.
We've had loads of fun the last few weeks training on our home turf, running the infamous Muriwai stairs, surfing, kiting, and doing some longer distance runs and bikes.
Our biggest area we need to work on as a team is developing our navigation skills. Billie and Dani have some knowledge from orienteering in high school, but that's a bit of a distant memory and Andy and Lucy are absolutely clueless when it comes to map reading. We've got some fun ideas for developing our skills and building our confidence when it comes to orientation. Once we've taught ourselves the basics we're amped to put our skills to the test by setting up some treasure hunts and mini navigation races in teams of two in and around woodhilland riverhead Forests.
Training as a team has been a tricky task given how busy we all are in such varied areas of life, work, and location. What makes a huge difference is that we are all members of the same gym, that has a huge range of facilities and locations. It means we can jump into a group fitness class together if we're feeling uninspired, and meet up in whichever place is easiest.
We have some epic plans to do some cool runs together. One of our favourite runs is from Muriwai to Bethells, tricky off-road trails with incredible views of the coast the whole way. We're also very keen to run the pinnacles and the Tongariro crossing together. The challenge will be that Dani and Lucy are living in Melbourne for a few months over summer, so the team will be split in two for a wee while. The great thing about having a team that is so motivated and amped about being fit and achieving goals is we trust each other to stay on track and train hard no matter where in the world we are.
A challenge that Dani and Lucy are facing is learning to run off-road again after injury. Lucy had reconstructive ankle surgery 6 months ago, while Dani has herniated a disc in her lumbar spine.
Lucy: Recovering from surgery has been long, slow, and at times frustrating. Prior to surgery I had fractured my left ankle three times and ruptured all the ligaments six times. Running has always been such an innate part of my existence I could barely imagine surviving 4 months without it. I have spent a lot of time in physio, a lot of time jumping on bosu balls, cushions, and trampolines to develop my propreoception which is the biggest thing I lost with this injury. I am just starting to build up to longer road runs and small off road runs. What has made my recovery a thousand times easier is an amazing physio who understands the dynamics of running, and the science of foot landing and running shoes, as well as helpful and patient training partners.
Andy: RUNNING! GAH! With always having a love/hate relationship with it, this is going to be a challenge to stay motivated to run often to be able to achieve the distance needed. This is frustrating as I enjoy pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, but continue to choose other exercise options. During my own training for this adventure race I will be focusing on running twice a week on flat and off road to gain endurance, I know that the thought of possibly letting my wonderful team down in this area will keep me motivated!
Another area I know will be a challenge is learning SUPing, I have 100% confidence when it comes to water activities and my fitness ability. However learning the techniques to be able to go the distance will be my main challenge. I am super excited to add this onto my weekly trainings and by Dani and Lucy knowing how to help me overcome this challenge will only boost confidence and team unity.
Billie: Ultimately we would have all the hours in the world to train and get out amongst nature unfortunately with work and university this is not the case, I feel that this will be the hardest challenge of all. Learning how to get the balance between work, life and training without overtraining. Fatigue and burnout when training for a sport that involves multidisciplines is all too real, especially when you have a team of extremely gutsy individuals. I have learnt this personally and it truly rears its ugly head at the most inconvenient times. I made this mistake when training for an ironman, rowing and working full time. I can safely say my goal is to embrace the training and all its ugliness, excitement and justenjoy getting out with three extraordinary humans - at the end of the day if we are tired then maybe we do some map reading practice instead of going for that 4th extra mountain bike training for the day.
Dani: At the moment I'm just excited to be training when I can get the chance, it's awesome being able to slowly be getting back into that. I recently hurt my back and from that have been taking things really easy. It's nice to still find a way of maintaining some fitness, starting with some aqua jogging it's good just to try keep the back mobile haha. Training with these ladies is truely inspiring, each an incredible athlete in one way or another its awesome that we get to learn off each other. I'm excited to do some orienteering again should be fun I like treasure hunts. One of my goals will be to get on the mountain bike over summer, I haven't done much and it'll be fun to get out in Melbourne and see some different scenery. It's an adventure and exercise.
It’s been a few weeks of training and living the good and hectic life, and we’re pretty excited for summer and warm weather to be coming so we can keep getting outside. We’ve been biking, running, paddleboarding, and gymming and probably eating way too much chocolate the last few weeks.
We are super excited to be taking on this massive adventure together and smashing our goals together. We’ve been going on epic adventures for a long time, both together and apart and are no strangers to each other’s weirdness and craziness.
We were all brought together through Muriwai Surf Lifesaving Club at various ages. Lucy and Andy started in the surf club as little nippers, and Billie and Dani joined the club a little later as teenagers, where they started as qualified lifeguards. Amongst a few moments of teenage rebellion we also spent a lot of our teenage years running up big sand dunes, getting sunburnt, jumping off rocks into the ocean, and driving our coaches a little bit mad as they tried to keep up with us.
This lead us all to eventually pursue surf boat rowing, a sport not for the faint of heart. As rowers we quickly became friends and between the four of us across a couple of seasons, broke 6 oars, 5 teeth, ruptured a few ligaments, got lost in a few towns around the country, aged our coach ten years within two months, and claimed 7 national gold medals.
Through rowing we have spent many long car rides, early mornings, and survived some intense and tough life moments together. These experiences mean that we know we can rely on one another and trust each other with our lives, our sanity, and our success when we’re out there battling the elements. We couldn’t think of better people to spend 12+ hours adventuring through mother nature with, so coming together as a team for this event was almost a no brainer.
What do we hope to achieve over the next 6 months on our journey toward the finish line?
Competitive by nature, we’re hoping to train ourselves to the peak of our fitness, and reap the benefits of that training with a rewarding result on race day. We’re prepared to push ourselves to our limits and get a little weird with it out in the forest. Reaching new heights together we know that we’ll learn new things about one another, and our friendship and mental strength will be challenged.
We all have a huge passion for getting out into mother nature and introducing others to the brilliance and beauty of the outdoors. We hope to include other women in our training and adventures and ignite some motivation in others to get out there and get their sweat on. There’s an incredible satisfaction to getting out there, setting ridiculous goals, and getting full of sunshine, fresh air, and beautiful endorphins and we want the world to know how epic this feeling is. If we can create a space where women feel empowered to use their bodies as a weapon to smash their goals, we’d be pretty stoked.
Over the next few months we’ll be keeping y’all posted with our training, and both our low and high points. You’ll get a little insight into the life of the adventurous, and some delicious recipes, rookie tips, and groovy events where you can come get sweaty and amongst mama nature with us.
It’s going to be a wild ride, yeeeeeeeha!
We have had the incredible opportunity to compete in the 2017 Spirited Women's Adventure Race with support from the Alterno Foundation, who have sponsored us to take on this amazing mission.
We are four adventure loving, life living, crazy young women who are all excited to embark on this journey together. We will be documenting our training, our achievements, our fallbacks, and our mishaps all on this blog. As well as sharing our own insights into the world of long distance and adventure racing, and hopefully inspiring your good selves at home to get amongst it and embark on your own adventures!
Mama Nature is a beast like no other, and damn do we love her. We'll be keeping you all updated on the highs and lows from now til the finish line.
We are all absolutely pumped and honoured to have been chosen for this hella rad opportunity, and we hope you'll enjoy hearing about our shenanigans.
Things might get weird, and they'll definitely get exciting.
Much Love and Rad Vibes,
Billie, Lucy, Dani, and Andy