Saying Yes to New Adventures — dammit!
I’m the kind of person who really loves to sit in the comfort zone — and I know nothing great comes from doing that — new discoveries aren’t made about yourself and passions aren’t ignited. So after some recent introspection I had just set myself a new mantra — SAY YES TO NEW ADVENTURES
And that’s when I got this txt.
You know there’s trouble when friends who you only ever txt with, want to actually ring you and talk to you in person, something that’s usually reserved for dire emergencies or news of death. Turns out the “exciting opportunity” was to join her in a team to do the Spirited Women Adventure Race. Of course my instinctive go-to answer for such events — no way Jose — now had to be carefully reconsidered.
So, I’m just going to come out and say it before anyone else does, I am not built for endurance events, I like to lift heavy things for short amounts of time. I hadn’t ridden a bike in cough-ahem years. I didn’t even really know what stand up paddleboarding was and my navigation skills barely get me out of a shopping mall on a good day.
None of these things seemed to matter to said friend. “It’s just a bit of fun” she says, “we just need to sign up then we’ll have no option but to learn new skills” … I’m preeetty sure this is not how you should approach a skills-based endurance event, but I suspect we weren’t alone in this enthusiastic reasoning! Damn my stupid new mantra, I was in.
So, team G&T (Go and Train) was alive and kicking! Meet Caro, Moira & Megan — my amazing new team members! (James Kuegler on the left who very kindly helped us with some valuable bike and navigational skills) and why doesn’t anyone ever look at my camera?!
Training got off to a slow start — there was Christmas to get through, New Years, summer holidays away (man, I wish I coulda got all that time back come event time), but eventually we started.
Taking advantage of the lovely weather and the rest of my summer hols I thought I’d tackle the stand up paddleboarding first (SUP) and rented a board at Wenderholm when we were up there picnicking one sunny day. As I pushed it out I thought to myself that I really should have at least watched a youtube on how to do it! I stood up within a couple of minutes and paddled merrily down the stream and back again — awesome! Woop, one down, on to the next!
I dragged my bike out of the garage, gave it a good dust off whilst my brother-in-law admired it’s “retro-ness”, which is I think was code for ‘omg what the hell is that thing and are you really going to ride that?!’ Oh man, did I need a new bike?! Fortunately my bike-brother Benny (yes, I have so many brothers I have to give them extra names so people know who I’m talking about) who knows everything there is to know about anything bike related said he had a ‘sweet ride’ I could borrow for the event and to just do my training on retro-bike unless I really wanted to commit. I wasn’t sure. I kept the old bike.
It was a decision I came to really question as our training progressed and the rest of the team rode over big tree roots and ditches with ease, their suspension swooshing nicely giving them a semi-smooth ride, the retro-bike following behind making the worst thudding noises and just about giving me whiplash every drop or big tree root I went over — it’s character building I told myself, it’s working your core, think how nice that ‘sweet ride’ is going to feel on the day. I should have commited.
Women of our ‘life-stage’ are quite well scheduled — work, family, kids, social events, taxi service — so, yep, it took some time for us to get in the groove for sure. We started biking the waterfront, with Caro having done little to no bike riding until now, we thought the long, straight, flat course was the way to start. In hindsight we should’ve prob hit the forest a bit earlier — aaah yes, lots of hindsights!
The first time we took our bikes off-road I was seriously terrified — Caro even more so and I could see the struggle in her head was getting to her big-time. Self-talk is hugely important when learning new skills and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and it took all my conscious effort to not fall back into “waaah this is so scary, I can’t do it” mantra time after time. I tried hard to talk to myself positively “you got this, you just need practice and this is practice, focus on technique, you’ve got the strength, you just need the skills”. I tell you there was an inspirational Instagram feed running through my head some days! (If you need a little help with this kind of thing I really recommend Bevan James Eyles podcasts if you have the time, they were key in getting me through my early CrossFit days).
By this time we thought we might benefit from a little professional help so we decided to go to Mangawhai for a girls training weekend …. ROOOOOAAAAD TRIIIIIIIIP!!
We had the most amazing session with Sadie Parker from Bike Mangawhai and I think we’d all be in agreement that this was the session that, like, literally changed our lives (yes, I live with a teen). Not only has Sadie got the best sense of humour, she totally got where our level was at, and worked with us at our pace and scaredy-cat skills. We came out of that 2 hour session, feeling in control of our bikes, no longer scared of downhills and even with a bit of race strategy (we didn’t even know we needed race strategy!). We followed up with a SUP lesson with Che from Aoteroa Surf who showed me how to pump my feet to stop foot-ache which weirdly was my biggest concern at that stage. We felt like things were slowly coming together — and you know, girls weekend, fist pumps all round!
It was quite a time after that when Megan mentioned she might try her hand at orienteering. We were still focussing quite a lot on SUPing and the biking and didn’t really see it as much of a priority … remember that hindsight I keep banging on about? OMG thank god for Megan and her super organisational look-ahead type personality because once I saw those maps I knew we should have started on this sooner!
We joined in on some of the Summer nav series put on by Auckland Orienteering and the people there were so friendly and welcoming and took the time to explain the basics and get us up to speed — and when I say speed, I mean just finishing the courses. It turned out to be such a lot of fun and it’s definitely something we’ll continue to do together and with our families.
Our training progressed, we got better on the bikes, better at reading the maps, worked on our hills (and bridges^) and generally had THE BEST FUN EVER! There’s nothing quite like the feeling of driving home after an early morning session with the team, all sweaty and dirty, maybe a few fresh bruises, our bikes on the back, the sun shining, the jokes still going — for me that’s what really living feels like!
As the event got closer, we bought our packs and gear (no mean feat I tell you), sorted our food for the day, discussed our individual roles for the race and talked endlessly about which order the disciplines will be in and what the mystery challenge might be.
I think we almost felt ready. Then the nerves kicked in.