May 9, 2024

Jason and Alan Tackle Kaikoura Adventure Race for Cure Kids


Jason Free | Senior Consultant | Digital | Author | Adventure Race Athlete


Trekking around hidden parts of New Zealand that most people never get to see while testing both your physical and mental limits is not something you would typically associate with working in an IT industry.

However, Theta is not your average IT company. Many of you will know our long and proud association with Cure Kids – the largest funder of child health research outside the government. We support this organisation by drawing attention to the charity by pushing our bodies to the limit. So, on April 20th, we set off again to meet the challenge; welcome to the 2024 Kaikoura Adventure Race.

This year, we chose this event as our annual Cure Kids challenge. And what a challenge it was. The start area was a hive of activity: people setting up, running around finding that last piece of equipment, grabbing a last-minute bit to eat before the day starts – it will be a long day, so every bit counts!  

Finally, we’re off. The sun has only just risen, but here we are out in the middle of nowhere, running. The first stage is a 15km trek; it starts off easy enough but soon starts to climb – the first of many.

We gain significant height in a short distance – the going is hard. Not only is it steep, but the surface is rocky and loose – with the additional bonus of large pockets of matagouri (pictured below), it always seems to be on the path we are taking.

Soon enough, we’re at the top, we clicked off a few checkpoints along the way and moved on the descent. We grabbed a quick bite to eat then we started the decent to the stage finish.

It starts out simple enough, working our way down – we even had a few scree slopes that allowed us to make a rapid descent. Then oddly enough, there was some more climbing!

With the trek done, we were on to the first bike stage – nothing too extreme, just mashing out the miles with some hills thrown in for ‘fun’.

Next stage is a Rogaine – you get as many checkpoints as you want, but there is a cut-off, so we set a modest goal and worked our way around most of the course, getting what we felt was a reasonable number of checkpoints. But by this stage, we were around the 7 hour mark and started to feel the effects of the day's adventure.

With the first rogaine done, we were off on the bikes again, making our way to the next rogaine stage.

Again, the bike is a mix of flattish trails with the inclusion of a few very welcomed downhills – which, of course, are followed by yet more hills and some river crossings.

I found this second cycling stage the toughest part of the day. The constant ups and downs take a lot out of you. But we pushed on through to the finish, while still an honest 7-8 hours away felt closer, giving us the mental boost to keep on going.

And at last, the end of the cycle – to be fair, it was a fast downhill section to the transition area - but fading light, fatigue and hunger can make it easy to lose focus – the results of which could be significant. But we all got down with no issues, ready to tackle the final rogaine section.

This section, the largest of the two rogaines, we were to complete in the dark. But this was not an issue as we are prepared (and expected) to work in the dark.

We opted to only collect a small number of checkpoints at this stage, as we were all feeling the effects of the day plus running low on water.

Interestingly, we spotted a lot of hedgehogs – given our location this was not expected! (sorry no photos).

Once we completed this stage, it was back on to the bikes for the finish – the map indicated this was a short section and would be mostly downhill – after the massive climb up to the ridgeline!

At least in the dark, you couldn’t see the climb, so that made it easier (!?!).

Once at the top, it was a fast descent down into a layer of fog on the valley floor – it was eerie watching the teams ahead of us descending, their lights glowing in the mist.

So we started the decent – not too fast, but the excitement of reaching the finish line was growing. The day had been long and hard.

The finish was a hive of activity – people cheering at the base. Many huddled around the 2 fire pits and it was getting very cold now.

So over the line, dropping the bikes and the gear, a big sigh of achievement. We made it.

There was plenty of food and drink, we sat around a fire debriefing our adventure. A huge relaxation moment.

After 60 km and 13.5 hours of trekking and cycling in some spectacular countryside – that not many people get to experience, I can easily say it was a fun day and I will gladly do it again. It’s not easy and certainly not to everyone's liking, but that is part of the appeal.

Thanks to Theta for continuing to support these adventures. It would be easier to just transfer money to support Cure Kids, but where’s the fun in that!

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