Any excuse to go back to Wanaka.
Ever since I did Challenge Wanaka a few years ago, (where I declared within about 5 minutes of arriving that we would be retiring there) I’ve wanted to go back. So when Pete suggested we take on Defiance it didn’t take much convincing.
Less of an ‘adventure race’, (no navigation to speak of, no checkpoints) and more of a 2 day, off road, multi-sport stage race. Given how navigationally challenged I am that suited me down to the ground; you can just race hard and follow the well marked course. The vital statistics are as follows:
Distance: 43 km
Altitude Gain: 1200 m
Terrain: Well formed 4WD/rough farm tracks/potentially muddy/river crossings
Expected Fastest time: 2hr 20 min
Altitude Gain: 501m
Terrain: Steep technical climb/fully formed trail/abseil
Expected Fastest time: 1hr 13min
SPECIAL STAGE – Absail
Distance: 17 km
Expected Fastest time: 1 hr 45min
Distance: 20 km
Altitude Gain: 0 m
Terrain: Lake/river/rapid/fast flow
Expected Fastest time: 1 hr 30mins
Distance: 28 km
Altitude Gain: 1278 m
Terrain: 4WD track/single track/rough terrain
Expected fastest time: 2.5hrs
SPECIAL STAGE – Shooting
Distance: 25 km
Altitude Gain: 1848 m
Terrain: Farm tracks/markers/exposed alpine route/rocks/shingle
Expected fastest time: 3 hrs 15min
However, due to high winds on day one the Kayak was cut short to 3km – but they added an additional 14km of running – which as you’ll read didn’t exactly play into our favour!
Fuelling for an event like this is less metronomic than for a race like a triathlon. The nature of the terrain and the different disciplines means that you can’t always take in what you want, when you want, (e.g. eating solid food on the kayak legs isn’t practical); flexibility need to be part of the plan.
I went for UCAN Superstarch in the bottles on the first leg of the day, (it’s slow burning nature makes it ideal to take first on longer races) and then Skratch labs after that, (nice, simple, easily digested and the osmolality means better absorption of solid food – my primary source of calories).
Solids were a combination of Blue Dinosaur bars, (again, clean and slow burning, higher in fat) and Hammer Nutrition bars, (nice and clean but a bit higher glycemic load).
I also ended up grazing from the aid stations, even had a gulp of Red Bull at one point, (seemed appropriate… was as disgusting as I remembered it).
Lets get the obvious out the way. Spectacular. Just look at the images… that’s where you are racing… nuff’ said.
Really well coordinated; the events team do a fantastic job and Red Bull throw plenty of cash at the race so they can make a good show, (they are a media company after all). In terms of slickness it puts the WTC races I’ve done to shame… and all for a race of 80 people!
Vertical! Lot’s of vertical! The ‘km’ distances don’t look that imposing, but the climbing is either steep, technical or steep and technical. If you’re training for this event I highly recommend trying to simulate the climbing conditions as much as possible. And if you can marry that with some long climbs you’ll be a step ahead of a lot of the field.
Some of the descents can also be a bit hairy and if you’re a confident rider you can make up a lot of time here. My descending skills are not where I’d like them to be and I was defiantly slowing up my team mate, Pete in some sections, (sorry, Pete!).
Kudos to the organisers for supplying very decent 2 person craft! Very stable, not tippy. Great!
Day 1 was cut short so nothing to really speak of there. However, day 2 was business as usual – but conditions were good on the lake with only our ability to slow us down; the ‘rapids’ once on the river section, (which is pretty dam fast) were very tame and certainly nothing to worry about, even for relativity inexperienced paddlers.
Enjoyed the ride!
As I mentioned earlier they ended up jacking up the day 1 run distance a fair bit! Which didn’t play into our hands. Normally the run would have been one of our strongest legs, however, Pete was having really, really bad cramping issues – completely uncharacteristically. Nothing seemed to help and we ended up having a pretty slow run/walk. The day 1 course was fantastic though – not super technical, but some of the rocky decent bits and some of the steep climbs are certainly more of a walk than a run… suggest keeping that in mind for training – specificity is the key and don’t be afraid to get some hiking in or your body will have a shock on race day.
Day 2 – let’s face it, was all about ‘that’ climb. Now this is where our official DNF comes in – Pete’s cramps didn’t let up and he, (wisely) decided to pull the pin before the ‘up’ started. Keen to ‘complete’ I left him at the aid station and pushed on solo. More. Hiking. But what a reward – the views from the top of Mt Roy and Mt Alpha are like nothing else… if there is one reason to do this race, it’s taking in Wanaka from on high. The one piece of tactical advice here would be not to underestimate how far you still have to go when you get down, (the decent takes ages as well) – make sure you have plenty of food/water/willpower.
The Special Stages:
These are the little something extra that sets this race apart; you don’t really have to ‘train’ for either the shoot or the abseil, (maybe the abseil if you have problems with heights… I did see a couple of people balk at the top when I was there). Just enjoy the experience and the break from the endurance component.
Red Bull did a fantastic job at filing the event, (they had 2 helicopters!) and if you want to see more of the event, here is the full race recap: