Nelson’s Brendon Crequer was so impressed with the GODZone Adventure race when competitors traversed through the Tasman district’s backcountry last year, he roped his partner Marina Buonocore into taking up the epic challenge which starts in Queenstown on Saturday.
Brendon was one of the volunteers at a remote checkpoint up in the Red Hills in last year’s GODZone and he came down inspired to give the week-long team’s adventure race a shot.
And the first person he recruited for his team was Marina who admits she was initially very apprehensive about agreeing to join Team Waypoints.
“Brendon said to me ‘we can do this if we train hard’. I thought, oh my God, really, but I still said ‘yes’.
“Then we talked to Glenn (Lilley) who lives down the road and he said ‘yes’ so all we needed was one more guy.
I was talking to Rob Hambrook at Subway and said we were looking for one more guy and he suggested Tim (Bygate), so he became our fourth team member.”
Once the team was assembled, the novice expedition racers started training and soon realised the magnitude of their commitment.
Teams in GODZone will trek, kayak, mountainbike and raft around the clock over a 450km course that includes a daunting 10,000m of vertical climbing.
“It’s such a big unknown,” Marina says. “In races like the Coast to Coast, you know where it’s going and what to expect and how to train, but this is a whole different ball game.
“You don’t know if your feet are going to hold up after six or seven days of trekking through rivers or how you will be after six or seven days of sleep deprivation.”
Marina says team dynamics will also be a big part of the race and it will be critical that “everyone looks after each other.”
“I’m pretty stubborn and not the kind of person who asks for help very often, but in a race like GODZone you have to put that aside and ask for help when you are suffering. It’s not good for the team if one of you hits the wall and crashes – it takes too long to get back on track.”
Marina says Team Waypoints has completed a number of “big missions” in training including a 50km mountain trek with little sleep over two nights.
They have also upskilled in white water canoeing and abseiling which will be key disciplines in GODZone.
Navigation using a map and compass (no GPS are permitted) is also critical, especially at night when the land features can’t be seen, and Marina says for that reason they have spent a lot of time wandering around the Richmond Ranges in the dark.
She says the team is fortunate to have Tim, who is the only one of their team to have raced in GODZone, as a navigator.
A number of other Nelson teams and competitors have entered GODZone including Dan Busch from the defending champion team of Yealands Family Wines.
Dan joins six-time winner Chris Forne, Dan Moore and Simone Maier.
“They are definitely the team to beat,” race director Warren Bates says. “Chris is the world’s best adventure racing navigator and relishes an expedition like GODZone where he can pit himself against the rest.”
Nelson-based team Swordfox with Brent Edwards, Ash Whitehead, Stu Lynch and Georgia Whitla are another team with all the attributes to take a podium place,” Warren says.
“They have heaps of experience, great navigation options – with three very talented orienteers on board – and a track record of achieving high placings at other GODZone chapters,” Warren says. “They will be going all out for the win, that’s for sure.”
Tineli-Rollo’s Outdoors includes Sakkie Meyer, Gilbert Robertson, Gerard Malcolm and Emma McCosh, Brendon Hickman leads Anthony Oswald, Adam Stanyer and Tina Moore in Team Virbac Animal Health and Cal Irvive captains Stephen Busby, Vicky Shelling and Paul Dukes in Team Silky.
Nathan Sturrock is back in Team Greenhorns, Richard Ussher is in Rebel Food, Graham Dawson leads the Dawsonators while Jane Orbell, Mike Buschl, Nigel Kelly will be dragging their ageing captain Simon Bloomberg around the course in Team Stihl.