Our team was made up of the following:
Alan Moore - Adventure race legend & chief navigator
Jason Free - Head of Strava tracking & pacesetter
Volodymyr Leonov (Vlad) – Previous top supporter & Theta team rookie #1
Gemma Wigley – Fellow Garmin enthusiast & Theta team Rookie #2
And of course, NZ’s best support crew of Emily Wong, Haixia Qu, Donka Tzolova, Brent Wilkinson
With the race as a rogaine format, there was a high level of strategy involved. For those unfamiliar with this style of racing, you’re time capped (in our race, the team started at 10 am and finished at 6 pm) and if you finish outside the designated time, the team is penalised. This means that the team must decide the best route to take, what checkpoints to hit, possess a good knowledge of individual physical abilities and have superb navigation skills.
The final result? A first place in the Cure Kids category! Here’s a recap from our team rookie #2 Gemma.
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After tracking Alan & Jason (our team pros) on Strava for the past 12 months, it’s safe to say I was feeling pretty intimidated. However, I’m pleased to announce it didn’t completely put me (or Vlad) off. Knowing that we were doing the race for Cure Kids, I was also 100% sure we wouldn’t give up.
Start of the race
On the day of the race, we had a cruisy 10 am start. Plenty of time to have breakfast, try to cram all equipment into Camelbaks, agree to a well-planned strategy from Alan, and down some coffee. The first part of the race was a nice, flat mountain bike ride & a short run to checkpoints 1 and 2 at Long Bay. At this point, it would be easy to think “this will be a breeze” until you turn around and cycle up a never-ending slope. Alan and Jason cruised up it. I secretly wondered if they had e-bikes.
Down at the other side of the hill, we threw ourselves onto a rubber ring and swam across to Whanganui island (130m). Shortly after this, we realised we were one map down. Believe it or not, that’s now 2 out of 2 adventure races I’ve taken part in where a map has been lost. Luckily this time, we had a 2nd map.
On the island
After a bit of coasteering, we made our way up the first of many, many hills. I started to appreciate how fit adventure racers must be – it’s one thing to do an 8, 16, 24 or multi-day event – but it’s another to be doing it at speed and up hilly terrain. How the navigator deals with the stress and pressure is equally impressive, it’s a very admirable skill.
Along the way, we bumped into a few other teams. It was nice to see so many schoolkids getting involved; they’re also extremely good! What a great thing to be encouraged to do at that age. The island loop took us along some of the coastlines, up some hills, down some hills and across some hills. There was a particularly memorable steep downhill section where a fear of heights & lack of ropes got the better of me. Luckily, I had the full support of Jason, Vlad and Alan and some light humour to get through. In hindsight, I enjoyed Vlad’s comment “the branches are like natures ropes” although at the time my face would’ve said something very different.
After getting all 12 checkpoints on the island, apart from a mysterious missing one that no one else could find either, we swam back across to the mainland, picked up the bikes and once again faced the Wyuna Bay Road ascent.
Our support crew of Emily, Haixia, Brent & Donka were outstanding. It was like entering a free buffet, where you are hand-fed sandwiches and have every whim catered to. To be honest, it was hard to leave. I could sense Alan knew the dangers of this scenario well, and we were ushered along eventually. Support crew & volunteers make all the difference in long races, it’s as long a day (if not longer) for most of them – we’re forever grateful to you all!
Stage 2 - Back out on the bikes
We headed out along the 309 Road for the mystery activity. Not wanting to miss out, we decided to do this first before tackling the other checkpoints. As it turned out, the mystery activity was at Waterworks. Once again, we got a bit of a soaking after wading through a river to get to a checkpoint. By this time, it was getting a bit overcast and cooling off, so it wasn’t quite as refreshing as before. Waterworks was a fun addition to the race, quite unexpected, and we had a bit of a laugh venturing round it. On that note, it’s worth mentioning that we were all still smiling by this stage; veterans Alan and Jason had not entirely broken the rookies - or perhaps we were just very good at hiding it. We carried on back down the road to venture through the forest, hitting off a few more checkpoints.
On the way back to Coromandel town, our fantastic support crew did a drive-by – still super enthusiastic and busy snapping away! Into transition two, there was one more checkpoint we could attempt in the next 25 minutes. I knew as soon as we went into transition, Alan wouldn’t let us get away with finishing early. Our bikes were swiftly dropped off, and off we ran to the final checkpoint (surprise, surprise…up another hill). It was probably a bit of a gamble, but Alan and Jason’s quick decision making meant that we just made it back in before 6 pm cut off. Again, a skill that I’m sure you must develop with experience. The more inexperienced of us might have been settling down for a beer at 5.35 pm instead!
Finishing any race is a good feeling, it’s hard not to enjoy the ups and downs (quite literally) of adventure racing. It was even better this time knowing the reason behind doing it in the first place – “It’s all for the kids”. Special kudos also to our competing team BHW who raised an outstanding amount for Cure Kids as part of their race entry.
All in all, it was an incredible experience. A fun way to get to know your fellow team-mates, visit places you’d never normally get to see and to contribute to an incredible cause that has genuine meaning and impact on kids in New Zealand. Here’s what Rob says about the reason behind doing these races,
“We all know what an unbelievable job Cure Kids do by finding cures for our sick children. Our team went out there and put it on the line to help raise funds to keep this happening. And what an effort, we all applaud you, Team Theta! Hopefully, this new Cure Kids race category has got some traction, and we can do even better in future.”
A huge thank you to our support crew – Haixia, Emily, Donka & Brent and all the others who organised us with numerous checklists.
Thanks to Cure Kids and ARC for helping to make this race happen.
And a final thanks to the entire Theta team for supporting this race and running many other fundraising initiatives throughout the year.
If you wanted to donate, our everyday hero page is always open 😊 https://give.everydayhero.com/nz/theta-for-curekids