Nelson teams get ready for Godzone


Nelson’s John Harris, Vicky Shelling, Stephen Busby and Callum Irvine aren’t expecting to get much sleep over the next week as they take on the biggest challenge of their adventure racing careers.

Team Silky is one of 71 teams entered in the Godzone adventure race that starts this weekend. The expedition-length multisport race will involve kayaking, canoeing, trekking and mountainbiking through the Tasman district’s hinterland and John says its extreme scale will make it “a big unknown” for their novice team.

Although John has done a lot of 24-hour races, he says the Godzone Pursuit teams will cover around 400km in up to six days and that’s a big step up. It will be even more of a learning curve for Vicky, who has only done 12-hour races, and Stephen and Callum, who have been limited to six-hour races.

“We have gone on some solid training missions where we have only slept a few hours over two days, but racing for six days will be very different,” John says. “It’s hard to know how your feet will feel after six days or how sore your backside will be on the bike – it’s a big unknown.”

Team Silky, Stephen Busby, Callum Irvine, John Harris and Vicky Shelling.

Team member Stephen Busby admits he’s feeling “nervous” about the challenge, especially dealing with long days and nights without much sleep. Adventure racers typically only sleep a few hours a night during six or seven day races.

“It’s one thing to do a decent, long day in training but it’s another to do an expedition-length race,” Stephen says. “It’s a long time for things to go wrong.”

However, Stephen says he’s confident they have the “right mixture” in their team to get through the challenges and reach their “ultimate goal of finishing the race as friends”.

“We have a good team dynamic with a good range of skills which is important. The top teams are successful because they are fit, but also because they get along well and work well together.”

John says they have been training hard for the race, spending weekends mountainbiking, trekking and kayaking around areas likely to be included in the race although the course is not revealed until hours before the start. However, Nelson’s world champion adventure racer Nathan Fa’avae, who helped design the course, has made it clear racers will experience an extremely diverse range of landscapes.

“Every stage of this year’s Godzone will have a very special feel to it… racers are going to experience a smorgasbord of microenvironments all in one region. What we have here is like no other area with the diversity of rivers, lakes and mountains,” he says on the Godzone website.

Team Silky are entered in the slightly shorter version of the race, Godzone Pursuit, which starts on Sunday.

The seven-day, 500km Godzone Pure starts on Saturday and includes top Nelson adventure racers Ash and Naomi Whitehead and Brent Edwards who join Auckland’s Stu Lynch in Team Swordfox.

David Ayre and brothers Rhys and Huw Johnhave teamed up with Maketu’s Anna Bartlett for Godzone Pure.

Nelson’s Dan Bush is a member of Team Yealands Family Wines, Tim Bygate has joined Tag Team, Tracy Perry is a member of Team MD Outdoor while Gilbert Roberston, Robyn Dunmore, Gerard Malcolm and Ed Steenbergen are in Team Village Cycles. Former Waimea College students Nathan Sturrock and Lachlan Brownlie, who at 19 are the youngest competitors in Godzone, are racing in the appropriately named Team Greenhorns.

For more information and live tracking of the race see