Ness Gundry is this months ‘Client of the Month’. In the last weekend of September she completed the 9hr Spring Challenge (a women only adventure race) and on the journey to the finish line she has learnt a whole lot more about herself and continued to improve through her training. This is her story.
Spring Challenge Challenges
It is a year on from the Wanaka Spring Challenge and today I’m lining up with my team at race briefing headquarters Tukuroa in Golden Bay. The Spring Challenge is the worlds largest woman’s adventure race. Nathan Fa’avae is on stage, he has a captive audience. But, not all of these girls and their support crews are laughing at Nathan’s jokes. Hell, I always find him funny, he’s an inspirational speaker and naturally demands the stage. I feel tension in the air. I look around us. It’s not just a 6hr race briefing we are at, we are attending the 9hr briefing and this is at a whole different level. We are among some of the toughest, hardest and fastest athletes. Some of these athletes have travelled the globe seeking the adventure of a life time to achieve personal goals and break records.
Right now I’m feeling excited and quietly confident that I’m both physically and mentally ready for this challenge. I have trained for weeks diligently following ‘Coach Ray’s’ programme. Although he might disagree. I have become a more focused and disciplined athlete under his guidance. [I don’t disagree Ness, you are more diligent now that you have been in the past – Coach Ray]. I’m extremely confident my team is up for this 9hr challenge too. Not only have we trained hard we have done our homework and taken every opportunity to get familiar with the area. But, was all the groundwork going to benefit us on race day? In some ways yes, and later we were to find not much benefit at all.
Now to briefly introduce the team. The Spring Challenge is a team event and each member has a role. Marg is in charge of Nav and helps us find our way. Rach is in charge of motivation and making sure we keep working hard.
Okay, where do I fit into the picture. I haven’t told the girls, but they are a means to my own individual achievements. Don’t get me wrong I’m very much a team person. Relationships are key to any teams success and performance. If you don’t have the right mix, you won’t get to the finish line together. My role is to ensure these girls cross the finish line with me.
This years Spring Challenge was a huge contrast to last year. I was fit to complete the 6 hour in Wanaka. The views were amazing. This year the weather played a huge factor in the race. The hills were blanketed with clouds and rain. Our team felt the fittest and strongest we’ve ever been more than ready for the 9 hour challenge. We all set individual goals, Marg was focusing on strengthening her navigation, Rachel was to finish like she had given it her all, mine was to not only go out there and have FUN, but to complete the race and do it well, but finish in the top 20.
September 24 our day begins at 4am. It takes an hour to drive to the start. The time is now 5.55am we are on the start line and we have no idea the next 14.5hrs is going to be tough mentally. The race starts off with a 1km mad crazy dash to the rafts. We were heading further down the line of rafts and get herded towards a guide. He is an extremely young guide. I’d say not long out of college. Gus helps me with my pfd, I was having trouble pulling the straps to make a firm fit. He starts giving orders I couldn’t make sense of, but just went with the flow. Next thing I feel myself wading in deeper water. I scramble onto the raft and find Rach is just about under the water. I drag her in the boat. I’m thinking this is not a good start. It was obvious Gus was keen to get on the water. We start to make our way down river and I notice a couple of things. Gus is either having difficulty steering the boat, or he just lacks experience. How I know this is he didn’t put the boat in the fast moving water and we kept getting grabbed by eddies and spinning around. I think the real give away about his inexperience was when he completely missed the mouth of the rapid and beached us on a boulder the size of a dinning table. We were stuck there for a few minutes. We had to let boats pass us before we could lower our boat into the head of the rapid. In TA 1 (transition one) we were swift. No time was wasted getting out of our wetsuits, getting shoes on, helmets on, grab a banana and we were gone. The MTB stage was only a short 12km ride through farm tracks into the back of Bainham. We were making good time here too passing teams. We were aware the rafting put us way down the ranks. Speed was the essence. It was all falling into place, we were moving swiftly up the ranks. Again we wasted no time in TA2 grabbed a banana and some baby food. Our next stage was a 12km hike across more farmland and native bush in the hills. Navigation was treacherous. We lost around 2 hours of valuable time looking for a check point. Getting to it was hard. I couldn’t tell you how many electric or barbed wire fences we clambered over, rolled under and went through on this stage of the race. It was a shocking experience. My team quickly discovered my lack of co-ordination climbing fences. I’m so happy I provided entertainment for them. Apparently I need lessons on “how to climb farm fences.” No guesses who gave me that feedback. There was some discussion about waving the white flag coming into TA3. Our morale was low. We didn’t need to look around, there were very few vehicles and support crew left. We had just ran / hiked 20km and now the realisation hit we weren’t looking so pretty in the ranks now. But just to test our mental strength we had a gruelling 24km MTB ride through the Aorere Goldfields. There was no challenge navigating, just hard slog riding through mud, mud and more mud. Our spirits lifted when we reached our final TA. We ate bananas, oranges and homemade chocolate coconut slice. The rain had stopped. We changed clothing for the last leg of the race which was a relative easy 14km hike / run on farmland and trails through Milnthorpe Park. We ran 90% of this stage in the dark. The tracks were a mud fest. We had a short paddle in kayaks across an inlet. There was no briefing on the mechanics of these boats. We quickly worked out the person in front paddles and the person at the back steers (and paddles). When we reached the other side of the inlet it was a 2km run along the beach to the finish line where were cheered on by our support crew. I think they might have been slightly pleased we made it. They led us to the food line. A burger has never ever tasted so good 😉
I can honestly say Coach Ray’s training programme this passed year well and truly set me up for the 9 hour Spring Challenge. Not once did I feel like sitting down and putting the brakes on. Sure I hit the wall several times. But I had the stamina to move on. I have a huge amount of appreciation for all your support, guidance and patience Ray. I also have the utmost respect for Marg and Rach. I couldn’t have crossed the line without them either. It was a tough day out!!!
by Ness Gundry
As client of the month Ness received a bouquet of flowers delivered to her today.