Debbie Chambers – Auckland, New Zealand
WHO YOU ARE AND WHERE DO YOU WORK AND PLAY?
I have been involved in the outdoors all my life. My most memorable adventure was cycling through Asia from Japan to New Zealand in 1993. I have been competing in the sport of adventure racing since 2000. Over the past decade I have raced in numerous adventure races ranging from 24 hours to 7 days both locally and internationally. I have raced through the New Zealand Alps in the Southern Traverse and GODZone, the Amazon jungle in the EMA, coastal and inland regions of Brazil in the Ecomotion and through the outback and wilderness of Australia in the XPD and Geoquest.
I started my racing career with Team sportzhub.com but in more recent times have been the driver of the Girls on Top adventure racing team which is New Zealand’s only all women’s adventure racing team. When not adventure racing, cycle touring or out in the outdoors training I organise fortnightly runs and rides around Auckland through Girls on Top and work for Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development where I promote Auckland as a study destination for International students.
How and when did you first get into adventure racing?
My first ever adventure race was the Aquaterra 24 hour in Auckland in 2000. I then did the Southern Traverse in the same year and was completely hooked on the sport. I have been racing ever since. I was particularly attracted to adventure racing as it brought together all the things I loved tramping, mountain biking and sea kayaking. I also loved the fact that it was a team sport and involved navigation and cunning rather than sheer speed or brute force.
What keeps you coming back to race and what do your family think about it?
I keep coming back to adventure racing as it gives me an amazing sense of being alive. The places we get to go, the experiences we have and the challenges we face in one race are things most people don’t get to do in a lifetime. Adventure racing pushes me to my limits emotionally, spiritually and physically and keeps me in touch with who I am and what is important to me. Adventure racing isn’t a hobby or something I do it is a way of life and a way of living. I love the teamwork aspect of Adventure racing the most but also enjoy the freedom of being able to race through the night and the amazing places you get to explore. There is nothing more satisfying than completing a gruelling adventure race that takes you through the most incredible scenery and pushes you and your teammates to mental, physical and emotional extremes.
How do you structure your work, family and training in a way that keeps everyone happy?
I don’t have kids so I don’t have any pressure in that department. In general though I think if people see that what you do makes you a better person and makes you happy they generally support you. Work is very supportive of what I do. The skills you learn through adventure racing can be an asset to any workplace.
What do you think are the key things you have learnt about racing at GODZone?
The key things I have learnt about racing at GODZone are that planning and preparation are key. In the GODZone it is essential that teams understand the type of terrain, weather conditions and flora New Zealand can throw at you. It is important to hone your skills in bush craft and off-track navigation as well as your white water and sea kayaking skills. It is one thing to be able to navigate your way through the course it is another to know how to manage the weather conditions and terrain that New Zealand has to offer.
We don’t think we’ve ever seen you look unhappy at the event. How do you keep so mentally strong and positive?
I think I was born to adventure race. I am at my happiest when I am out in the outdoors with my teammates pushing myself and my teammates to beat the course that has been put in front of us. I love the excitement of discovering a new area and sharing that discovery with my teammates. I love the sense of freedom that being able to race through the night gives you. The fact that we don’t go indoors for 4-6 days in an adventure race makes me incredibly happy. I love overcoming the challenges that get thrown our way. I also know that if you don’t stay strong mentally in a race then you won’t get to the finish line.
Do you have any useful Dos and Don’ts for novice teams racing at GODZone for the very first time?
- Planning and preparation are key
- Spend as much time with your teammates prior to racing as you can
- Train in conditions as close to you will get in the race as possible (ie heavy packs, wet feet, steep terrain, cold and wet, at night etc)
- Buy good quality light weight clothing and gear
- Underestimate NZ weather and terrain
- Train like you would for a multisport event or marathon
- Take any risks with old or poor quality equipment
- Forget to have fun and focus on the journey rather than the result