If the 400-participants expected a flat course for the Spring Challenge based in Cambridge, in the Waipa region, they would have been surprised that the course was in fact mountainous.
Course designer Nathan Fa’avae themed the event course around Maungatautiri, Sanctuary Mountain. The mountain is one of the most ambitious restoration projects in New Zealand being home to many endangers native birds.
The event started with a bang at the Mighty River Domain at Lake Karapiro with an orienteering prologue. The teams had to run around the domain collecting control points, the fastest team took 10-minutes with the last team just under 30-minutes. The teams then attended the race briefing where the official course was announced.
The main race started and finished at Epworth Retreat & Recreation Centre. The teams started with a kayak stage up the Pokaiwhenua River through the canyon and return. The river is a local icon known for idyllic night time kayak tours to view glow worms. Once back at Epworth they switched to mountain bikes for a ride to Mangakara Stream. Teams then had a hiking stage at Kiwitahi Pastoral which tested their navigation. It was then back on bikes. The 6 and 9-hour categories biked to Tari Road and Sanctuary Mountain, the 3-hour category rode to Arapuni Dam and crossed the historical swing bridge to join the Waikato River Trail. From there they descended down the river trail to the last stage, a short kayak across Lake Karapiro.
The teams that headed to the mountain, the 6-hour teams climbed to Pukeatua and return, and the 9-hour teams climbed Pukeatua and Maungatautari. The mountain proved to be a massive challenge for many participants, but equally rewarding for those that reached the summits. The route to the peaks was on the rough steep single track section, with slippery roots and rocks to manage, they returned on the main trail creating a loop on this epic adventure.
Once the teams completed the mountain stage, the 6-hour teams finished by joining the 3-hour course at Arapuni, while the 9-hour course biked to Arapuni Dam then kayaked to Jones Landing and joined the Waikato River Trail to link onto the 3 and 6-hour routes.
Race day started cold and clear, as daylight filtered through to Lake Karapiro, clouds of mist rose off the water. It was going to be a warm and sunny day. The atmosphere was set.
Fa’avae praised the support from the local landowners who provided access for the event, Iwi, farmers and Waipa District Council.
He also applauded all the teams that finished “These were tough courses in many ways, they required great team work, accurate navigation and a lot of perseverance. The teams were legitimately tested by monumental challenges, all the teams that finished, especially those who achieved better than they expected, should be very proud of what they accomplished”.
First away was the 9-hour teams on the long course. Braving the chilly start they set off paddling on the lake and up the river, with extra checkpoints on Swamp Island and Findlay Bay. Ahead of the teams lay an authentic adventure race, a difficult course that would test fitness, skill, navigation and problem solving.
The teams exited the kayak stage close together but from that point on the spread started to occur. After a full day of pushing hard, the eventual winners were Open team, Tron Express (Lynn Johnstone, Pieke Mestrom, Katrina Whaanga) stopping the clock in 10:46:29, including their prologue time. Second home and first Veteran team was Flying V (Gillian Trower, Amy Beech, Rachel Goodrich)12:59:28. Third across the line was Super Veteran team the Fossils (Jacqui Mckenzie, Lyween Cornaga, Lesley Doughty) in 13:44:48. The last long course team had a full adventure racing experience racing into the night, finishing 15-minutes before midnight, team Oh To Explore Chicks (Claire Bentley, Lynda Pitcaithly, Emma Jane O’Brien) in 20:51:14. The fastest team through the long course was Soldier On (Amanda Rowe, Ashleigh Blackmore) who reached the finish line in 10:32:10, it was a stellar performance but unfortunately one of their team members couldn’t race so they were only a 2-person team meaning they were officially unranked.
The 6-hour category was dominated by the Open teams clocking the three fastest times on course. Winning the 2020 race was the Nachos (Gabe McAlpine, Jo Henderson, Anna Edwards) posting a time of 7:24:49, second place was very close behind, Stunned But Stoked (Katie Brennan, Casey Pilkington, Libby Clifton) 7:25:51, with the Mighty Mountain Mangamohaoe’s in third, (Amber Mckinnon, Megan Schurr, Lisa Yates), 7:34:46.
Scoring the podium positions in the 6-hour Veteran category was first place the Escapadees (Alison Andrews, Jol McGarvey, Pamela Kane-Sanderson) 7:42:47, second place the Mangawhai Blister Sisters (Tasha Kimani, Lisa Johnson, Tania Mclean) 8:21:08, and third place went to 2nd Time Lucky (Janna Grant, Louise Hooper Smith, Steffi Bourke) 8:45:18.
The Super Veteran category was won by Need An Upgrade (Sarah Wood, Simone Nicholas, Sally Wyatt) 8:50:01, with Human Weapons in 2nd, (Trudy Ringrose, Carol Sanford, Karen Ives) 9:34:08, and Razor Glass claiming third (Elissa Menzies, Cherie McCleery, Sarah-Jane Steel) 9:39:41.
The 6-hour Corporate Challenge division combined teams from workplaces which always creates a social and fun culture. The winners were Rototuna Physiotherapy (Jo McConnell, Kate Wilson, Michelle Donald) 8:10:15, second went to Who Put That Wall There! (Tara Lloyd & Debbie Goonan ,Michelle Johnstone) 9:19:59, third place after a truly massive day went to Directionally Challenged Strikes Again (Sarah Orton, Elizabeth Webley, Helena Tobin)15:45:22.
There was some close and exciting racing as the teams did an anticlockwise loop around upper Lake Karapiro. In the end it was won by Super Veteran team Forever Young Bayleys Orewa (Kirsty Macky, Liz Andrews, Robyn Currin) 4:02:54, second was Veteran team 3 Peez (Alison Perrett, Tania Dugdale, Shannon Perrett) 4:14:49, and finishing in third overall was Open team Crazy Cougards (Debbie Hansen, Be a Bagnall, Natasha Fickling) 4:20:27.
Second place in the Super Veterans was Threesome (Morag Gurnsey, Mandy Knebel, Kath Dobson) 4:29:55, third was Spring Chickens (Carol Harker, Cindy Bradburn, Ina Donat) 4:43:17.
The 3-hour Open category was once again highly competitive with many teams finishing close together, 2nd place went to Motley Moo (Jessie Cowie, Julia Foxley, Helen Thoday) 4:31:20, Run For The Hills in third (Hesta Cudby, Sarah Hunt, Laura Peers-Adams) 4:36:28.
2nd team home in the 3-hour Veteran category was Hima Hawaii (Vikki Cheer, Leigh Signal, Merey Lane) 4:27:18, with Cambridge Vikings in third (Sara Gainsford, Michaela Walmsley, Kristin Andersson) 4:30:40.
The 3-hour Corporate Challenge results were Anglesea’s Spring Babes (Kaye Lamb, Nicky Van Praagh, Cathy Wine) 4:51:01. Second place collected by What Were We Thinking (Nicola Anderson, Christine Hay, Tash Lord) 4:52:44, with Angelseas’s Agents in third (Barbara Bright, Jane Rollitt, Sharon Appel) 4:58:22.
A special thanks to all event staff, Cambridge Rotary and Waikato University Students who managed the logistics on the day.
The 2021 Spring Challenge event for the North Island will be held in Hawke’s Bay on October 15th-17th.
Waipa District Council, Destination Cambridge, Wicked Rogaines, Sea To Summit, Camelbak, Juliana, CSdesignz, Stonehill Horse Trek, Merrell, Torpedo7, Ems Power Cookies, Pure, Buff, Starborough Wines, Waikato Orienteering, Kiwitahi Pastoral, South Waikato District Council, Waikato River Trails, Boatshed Kayaks, Epworth, Tineli, Absolute Wilderness Freeze Dried Meals, Fonterra
For full results and event information