They came, they cycled, climbed hills, navigated through bush and farmland and tubed down the Ōtaki River, all of 200 competitors in the Big Bang Adventure Race, around and through the lower foot hills behind Ōtaki and Ōtaki Gorge.
“Another great event with plenty of challenges, but some good times made,” event director, Carrie Yaxley said. “A great day for everyone, with no serious injuries.”
November 7 was the fifth annual six hour adventure race and the most entries to date, with teams of two or four competing as men’s, women’s or mixed teams. With perfect weather conditions, most teams made it to the finish line within six hours, but the last three teams were still out in the field and missed the cut-off time for the river section and had to cycle down the Ōtaki Gorge from Shield Flat to the end of Kaitawa Road (over the swing bridge), taking over eight hours to finish.
The start line was only revealed the previous night, so teams with their support crew and supporters were on private land alongside the Waitohu Quarry soon after 7.30am, ready to collect their course maps and last minute instructions for the 8am start. With the starting point at the top of the paddock, teams had to run around the paddock, negotiating five horse jumps before collecting their bikes and heading up the track to Gundy’s Hut. Several teams took a wrong turn and ended up in the next paddock!
It’s a steep climb up to Gundy’s — quite a challenge for many, but once at the top it was ‘leave the bikes and take to their feet’ for a tramp to the top of Kaitawa Road, Ōtaki Gorge, with five transitions and 12 check points before the finish line. There were also a couple of navigation detours, through private land behind Mansell’s farm.
The first was a mental challenge — the outline of a spade made up with matches with a piece of gorse at the top, they had to remove two matches while maintaining the shape of the spade and keep the gorse. For the second, they were faced with five upside down kayaks across a small lake, teams had to cross the lake over the kayaks and remember to check in at the marker at the middle kayak — the “captain” of each team was issued with an “identity” disc which they had to click into the recording markers at each checkpoint and transition, as a time check to show that they had completed the stage — every missed check point earned a one hour penalty. All members of the team had to be at the checkpoint before they could tag in.
Then it was second mountain bike course through the hills to the ford west of Shield Flat, drop the bikes, don wet suits and pick up their inner tubes, carry them down the Blue Cliff Track and into the Ōtaki River to glide down to Ian Arcus’s at the end of Kaitawa Road. But even here the agony didn’t end. There was no track to climb, so they had to make their way up the very steep cliff through the trees and scrub with only a rope to hang on to for assistance, while lugging their tubes up with them. At the top of the bank was a glorious sight – the finish line, a final check point and a rousing welcome from the crew, supporters and earlier teams in.
To reports of some competitors getting cramps at the end of the tubing section “professionals have ice baths at the end of a game — consider this your ice bath!” Ms Yaxley told the teams at the prizegiving. The icy water was due to cold temperatures, heavy rain and high water levels three days earlier, though she assured them the organisers had been down the river checking for danger spots and removing a couple of trees.
“Good fun,” Ōtaki competitor Caleb Royal said. “Really good fun. Bit of a challenge.” Happy he and his three former university mates had crossed the finish line in 6.30 hours.
Overall winners were Wellington’s Barryn Westfield and Ewan Dellow — Team Rem and Stimpy Return who completed the course in 4.31.45 hours, an hour and a half faster than they completed last year’s event. Team Run Like the Winded from New Plymouth, finished second overall in 4.43.53, the first college team home and in third overall the Who Wot Wot’s in 4.48.59 hours, the first men’s four team in with members from Wanganui and Hamilton.
First four mixed team were Team Broken from Waikato, women’s four top team were the G I Janes — friends from Wellington and Hamilton
“We’re very grateful for all the support we have from land owners, LSAR Horowhenua, Ōtaki Surf Lifesaving Club, Ōtaki Rotary, supporters and the crews,” Ms Yaxley said. “All the transition sites and the final winning post were on private land, thanks for your support and moving stock from paddocks.”
Many stages were on Department of Conservation land, for which they have a 10 year agreement to use for the event.