The first Summer Challenge event took place in Nelson over the weekend under glorious sunshine the region is famous for. The women’s adventure race saw 240-teams lining up for the challenge in either the 3, 6 or 9-hour events.
The sister event to the iconic Spring Challenge which was created by Nelson couple Jodie and Nathan Fa’avae, they decided to introduce a new event that could compliment the Spring Challenge, with 6-months separating the two adventure offerings.
The key difference between the two events is that the Spring Challenge has river rafting whereas the Summer Challenge has kayaking. Both events include mountain biking and hiking, with a strong navigation component to the courses. Both events are for teams of three women.
On event day teams were released onto the course in 4-start waves. First away was the long course 9-hour teams setting off at first light to maximise the daylight hours. 20-expereinced teams lined up for the advanced 9-hour course, which was designed for a 9-hour winning time, with the course open for 18-hours.
The first stage was a 6km kayak from the Trafalgar Centre, the mouth of the Maitai River across to the Boulder Bank, Te Pokohiwi, a very unusual naturally formed rocky landform stretching 13-kilometres. Teams had 2-checkpoints on the bank with one of them on the prominent lighthouse, a local landmark. Then it was back to the Maitai River mouth to complete the stage.
Having only been issued the map for stage 1, teams changed from kayak to running for stage 2, which was a 3.5km trail run up the Maitai River valley to Branford Park. As expected the strong paddling teams exited out of the water first, with Canterbury veteran team WHERE’S THE SAT NAV (Rachel Schmack, Claire Le Grice, Tania Leslie) breaking the way. The teams were all close together as they entered Branford Park to collect their bikes. Here they were issued with the next map which instructed them to ride to Windy Point and then onto Coppermine Saddle, a 21km stage. As expected, strong biking team from Nelson took the lead, BOWATER TOYOTA NELSON (Laura Biessy, Susie Wood, Hannah Greenhough). With multiple route options to reach Windy Point, some teams opted for the more direct but more climbing route going over Fringed Hill, others stayed on the lower incline taking the Dun Mountain walkway, and other teams did a variation of routes. From Coppermine Saddle teams left their bikes and continued onto a 10km hiking stage, a loop that included Dun Saddle, Rocks Hut and Mount Claude. BOWATER TOYOTA NELSON held the lead exiting the stage after some technical navigation. Then it was back on bikes for the fast descent to the Maitai Valley, then out to the stage end. The final stage was a 3.5km run over Centre of New Zealand, across the city to the Cathedral with the final task, descending the church steps to the finish line. It was BOWATER TOYOTA NELSON who broke the finishing tape, in a time of 8:49:30. Second home was SISTER SQUAD (Mercy Jones, Bree Drinkwater, Abby Carver), with third place to Tasman team OFF THE RADAR (Caroline Gibbons, Jodie Dobson, Amber Bonny).
WHERE’S THE SAT NAV won the veteran category with third fastest time of the day, second in the veteran category was Nelson team TWISTED SISTERS (Rachael Baxter, Catherine Smith, Frances Mackie). Third in the veteran section was Marlborough team ROOM ON THE BROOM (Clare Moore, Brigid Graney, Jenny Riley), who moved smoothly through the course with accurate navigation. The Super Veteran category was won by NELSON CARMINE BEE EATERS (Alison MacDonald, Yvonne Daly, Nicola Hardaker) ahead of Christchurch team ADVENTURE BEFORE DEMENTIA (Jenni Blyleven, Amanda Smith, Wendy Riach), who finished first but accidentally missed a checkpoint so they received a time penalty which knocked them off the top spot. The course was approximately 75km.
The Summer Challenge isn’t all about racing, many of the participants are simply there for the adventure and personal challenges. The event caters for all abilities and welcomes all women to build up to an adventure race of some level. There are always amazing stories from out on the course, teams getting lost, teams helping each other and people having to overcome many barriers. One participant broke their bike and ran 23km with their bike in order to finish the course.
The biggest category of the event is the intermediate 6-hour race with 130-teams taking part, the teams had 7:30am and 9:30am start waves. They completed the first two stages the same as the 9-hour teams, but departed on a different mountain bike stage from Branford Park. Stage 3 was a 16km ride up to the Maitai Dam and then a steep climb to Teal Saddle. Once at the saddle they dropped their bikes for a 9km hiking stage around Teal Valley, a mixture of forestry tracks, stream travel and native bush trails. Returning to Teal Saddle they collected their bikes for a 22km ride through Sharlands Valley to Branford Park. The final stage was a trail run across town to the finish line.
In the race for first, it was the veteran teams that took out the top three spots with the fastest times on the 64km course. First place went to Nelson team SHORTCUTZ (Katie Harrhy, Serena Hobson, Kylie Anticich) in a time of 6:37:56. Second place was team THE BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL (Karen McMillian, Sharon Scott, Kellie-Lee James). Third veteran team was WALLACE & THE GROMMETS (Claire Gray, Julie Wallace, Lucy Raynor).
There wasn’t much separating the top 10 teams in the 6-hour race, winning the Super Veterans category was Christchurch team CRAZY, FAST AND MAD (Sheryl Fraser, Kate Anderson, Kate Rattray). Second place was earned by SPEEDPLAYING NELLY GIRLS (Maria Voigt, Juanita Holmwood, Anthea Lees). Third Super-Veteran team was the 3 TENAS (Lisa Anderson, Megan Whitaker, Robyn Hewitt).
The first Junior team had a superb race to clock 7:00:30, the Golden Bay High School trio in team HERE TO SLAY (Anya Murray, Pippa Struck, Amelia Scotland).
In the Open category the winners were PATTI’S HAMBURGERS Paula Drew, Emma Johns Eleanor Thackery, with second place NEVER EAT SOGGY WEETBIX (Chloe Thompson Ella Thompson, Becky Norris. Third open team was GO WITH YOUR GUT (Lara Malcolm, Georgia Thomson-Laing, Shannon Thomson-Laing), only 10-minutes operated the top three open teams.
The 3-hour event completed a 24km course. They started with a 4km kayak stage similar to the 6 and 9-hour teams. They completed the same stage 2 and then had a different stage 3 mountain bike ride. The 12km bike stage took them up the Maitai Valley and climbed to Tantragee Saddle, teams then returned to the Maitai Valley river trail and then descended that along the river bank to Branford Park. The final test was a climb to the Centre of New Zealand and then across the city to the finish.
First place overall in the 3-hour race was Nelson school team SAVE THE KAKAPO (Ella Dawson, Ruby Fullerton, Erica Batchelor), they raced strongly to lead home the ninety 3-hour teams in a zippy time of 3:01:10
Second fastest time and winning the open 3-hour grade was RUBY TUESDAY (Maya Ellery, Katie Cox, Ruby Took). Second open team was WHERE ARE WE (Irene Firestone, Madison Turner, Teresa Rodgers) third open team THE SOLDIERETTES (Michelle Hollands, Nicole Hollands, Katie Hollands).
The veteran grade was won by RUSSIAN POM POMS (Anastassia McIntyre, Rebecca Murphy, Katherine Shepard). Second place was BETTER LATE THAN NEVER (Anna Orbell, Sarah Carr, Penny Greenslade), Third went to I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW #2 (Janet Watt, Libby Slack, Natalie Gallagher).
The Super veterans was extremely close with the top three teams finishing on the same minute. First down the church steps for the win was THE SENIORS (Caroline Allan, Kristen Russell, Mandy Evans), followed by JKM – JUST KEEP MOVING (Michelle Richardson, Kim Anderson Melanie Savill) in second, with third going to HERE WE GO AGAIN (Taryn Simpson, Chris Henderson, Sandy Jordan).
The overall feedback from the teams was glowing praise, a reflection for the stunning day Nelson turned on, and the high quality of outdoor adventure opportunities accessible from the city. The visiting teams to the region were highly impressed and also with how the city had welcomed and embraced their challenge, finishing in the heart of the town was a splendid way to end the epic adventure.
Organisers wish to thank Ngāti Koata, Tasman Pine, Department of Conservation and Nelson City Council for land access.
The 2022 Summer Challenge will be held in the Lake Tekapo region.