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Sleepmonsters for Team Stihl

Tuesday 14th March 2017

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After five days of trekking, mountainbiking, kayaking and rafting around Queenstown’s backcountry with just eight hours sleep, it finally happened.
Of course, I’d heard countless stories about it and knew it would probably happen to me as well but it still came as surprise when the creepy Lord of the Rings character Gollum walked onto the small stony beach on the shores of Lake Wakatipu where I was sitting late at night on the final stage of the GODZone Adventure Race.
I told myself it was nothing to worry about and that Gollum was only what adventure racers affectionately call a sleep monster, a kind of hallucination brought on by extreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation. And I was right because when I rubbed my eyes and looked again the Smeagol was gone and there was only my team-mate Mike Buschl on the beach getting his sleeping bag out of his pack.
A few minutes later I started confusing another team-mate, Jane Orbell, with one of my wife’s friends. I called Jane ‘Biddy’ at least five or six times before I realised and apologised although I needn’t have bothered because Jane was so out of it as well she hadn’t even noticed.
But I didn’t care if I was losing my marbles because I knew we only had four hours of kayaking to go before we crossed the finish line in Queenstown. It would be such a relief after 410 brutal kilometres of racing that had already destroyed my feet, legs and arms and was now assailing my mind.
But for all the fatigue and suffering we had endured, we all agreed it was worth it. GODZone had been an adventure like no other, with more than 10,000 metres of vertical climbing being rewarded with some of the most amazing views I have ever seen.
At the top of the list was the sweeping panorama of Lake Wakatipu on the second trek. We could see from Glenorchy, where we would kayak to on the next stage, to Kingston where we would end up two days later before kayaking to the finish in Queenstown.
On the same trekking stage, Lake Isobel was so pretty and inviting that all I wanted to do was take off my smelly clothes (we are talking serious odours here) and plunge into her crystal clear waters and then lie down on the tussocks and sunbathe. Instead, I had to settle for a quick splash of water on my face before hurrying after my team-mates.
The white water rafting down the Shotover River and 100m abseil off the Skippers Canyon Bridge were adrenalin-charged blasts and the big mountainbike stage around the Dart River and the western edge of Lake Wakatipu, past the tourist walking Meccas of the Routeburn and Greenstone trails and over the 1300m Afton Saddle before racing down the Lochy River was amazing.
But the scenery was just a small part of the enjoyment. I loved battling through the epic challenges GODZone presented and also thoroughly enjoyed my team-mates’ company. Although Jane, Mike and Nigel Kelly were all focused on racing hard, they were great fun. We laughed long and hard at some good, and not so good, jokes and they were always quick to help out a team-mate when things got tough.
The only really bad and scary moment we had was on the summit of Mt Creighton when I had to inform Mike and Nigel that they were not Sir Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and needed to come back up here right #*@! now. Fortunately, they listened and retreated from their precarious positions and set about finding a safer route off the mountain.
It was also fun interacting with some of the other teams. Although it was a race, most teams recognised that they were battling against the course and terrain, not the other competitors. They were always happy to shoot the breeze as we trekked, biked and paddled side-by-side.
And what amazed me was how many times we bumped into the same teams. It was even more incredible that many of those teams were from Nelson.
We spent a lot of time with Tineli-Rollo’s Sakkie Meyer, Gerard Malcolm, Gilbert Robertson and Emma McCosh, including a yeehah bum-slide down a steep tussocky descent into the Shotover River early on day two. Team Motueka were also good company.
The Nelson athletes did pretty well too with Yealands Family Wines’ Dan Busch finishing second. Brent Edwards, Ash Whitehead, Stu Lynch and Georgia Whitla of Swordfox were third. Tineli-Rollo’s Outdoors was 11th followed by Greenhorns in 12th. Our team Stihl was 18th while Marina Buonocore, Tim Bygate, Glenn Lilley and Brendon Crequer of Team Waypoints were 36th. Team Virbac Animal Health’s Brendan Hickman and Adam Stayner finished first in the shorter Pursuit race while Team Silky’s Vicky Shelling, Cal Irvine, Stephen Busby and Paul Dukes finished third.
Well done to all those teams for taking part in an adventure like no other.

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