Most of the team are either stateside again, or enroute home from New Zealand as this goes to post. It is always fun to relive the race via the photos and look back at the commentary. Thanks to all the family and fans that followed along! Rather than do a traditional race recap - we've taken 10 questions from you all - and answered them. Hopefully this will give a little insight into the race, and our experience of it.
It was my first time racing with Mari Chandler - and it was a blast! She certainly lives up to the hype.
I was overjoyed to see Max again, and see his videos of his "race interpretation". I love seeing him get more involved in our racing like he did in Patagonia and GZ!
Lets dive right in!
1. How long did Stephen wear sandals? Did he think it was a good call?
Wore sandals whole first stage (the multisport day with coasteering, trekking and packrafting). He wore bike shoes for the MTB section. Kept his feet super dry and blister free that first day, so he would have fresh feet for trekking later. They fatigue his feet in a different way, so that is nice. He knew the distances were not too far compared to his sandal training.
2. Foot Care. What do you all do for footcare - pre and during the race? As a captain of a team, I am always looking to help keep my team's racing experience less painful.
Prepping the feet with Skin Doctor (Angelina's Organic Skincare product) helps us with preventing water ingress. Also, taking prescribed stops once in a while (even if our feet are feeling ok) to relube/dry them. Depending on how competitive we are pushing, we do this less. Sleeping with bare feet, feet elevated.
We also take a low dose Nsaid (Ibuprofen, naproxen etc) protocol early on in the race and throughout, to keep blister formation (inflamation) down.
3. What did you all Crave this race?
Stephen - vegetables/fresh greens. Daniel - chocolate milk, and regular black licorice (he brought too much red licorice) Jason - Ramen. Everytime I ate it, I wanted more, but I only brought one pack per leg. Mari - burger and chocolate milk. The first 24 hour post race we went through like 6 liters of very expensive Belgian Chocolate milk.
4. What to you think of the HMG (dyneema) Packs? I love the "Out There" packs for organization but like the idea of the waterproof material.
Yes HMG packs (and Jason used a Z Packs brand this race) are the most amazing packs we’ve ever raced in. Not perfect yet, but closer than anything else. Can carry weight fine, and with the addition of shoulder and hip pockets (Mari pulled some water bottle pockets off her Out there pack and put them on the hip too) these have enough pockets, and their hydrophobic material is the best ever for AR. Just waterproof period. Not just an outer. The Dyneema Composite was park of our packs and our jackets. Unfortunately, for now, the jackets are no longer made...so if you find them somewhere, snap them up!
5. How was that long trek? (the longest in GodZone history!)
Trek was spectacular and tough. Had to adapt our nav alot, as the terrain was very different then prevoius GZ in fiordland. We planned routes avoiding valleys and draws, as in fiordland they are choked with brush. In this race they were often open, and the creeks were all low flow....so we could save lots of elevation by connecting passes and avoiding ridgelines as much as possible. Also the scrub was different, so short cutting around peaks across the scree was possible. The routes we mapped “pre-race” were almost never taken once we got out to the field.
On 1000' scree descent was particularly amazing, losing all that elevation in only a few minutes!
6. WTF is up with Mari Chandler? She does more races at a high level than anyone else in the sport - male or female!
Mari's answer: "Sugar"
But seriously she has a fascination with teamwork and efficiency that rivals the best in the sport. She is always choosing teams based on who is on them, how good the teamwork is and decision making process when things get rough. She also has a bunch of secrets that I am sure will come out when she retires.... But she races to have fun - and ultimately getting the team to keep moving through the hard stuff is something she is great at finding joy in.
7.What were some your favorite moments out there? Least Favorite?
Mari singing dixie chicks (earl’s gotta die),
The dance party with Chelsey’s music mix on the big bike. We had a little speaker with 5 hours of amazing music and camraderie pushing us along.
Oversleeping (by 3 hours) on our first sleep. Instead of setting the alarm, Mari accidentally changed the time on her watch...so not only was there no alarm, but then her time was changed....but we all rallied, loved the sleep, and pushed hard after that feeling much better than we would have with an 90 min sleep.
The scree descents were amazing and sometimes scary
The packraft/kayak leg on the Rakaia was so fast! And all the braided channels made choices interesting (except when we got separated that one time and lost 30 minutes trying to find each other again - whoops!)
Finishing with all 4 of us able to walk (compared to last year when several of the team had to be carried (Andy Magness on Jason's team, and Erik Sanders on Stephen, Daniel and Mari's team)
Mari's - instant smoothies (only available in NZ)
The look on everyone's face when Stephen finished the first leg in Luna sandals.
Solving a potentially race ending bike mechanical where Stephens entire cassette slid off his rear hub and we lost one of the tiny pawls that makes the drivetrain work. We were nervous the rest of the biking, but it all held together.
Seeing so many little cute hedgehogs in the middle of the night (Hello Spirit).
Cresting the final climb on the big trek as the fog rolled in and our speaker blared "Survivor" (Rocky theme song).
End of big bike on the windy washboard roads. Especially since the off-trail mountain section of that leg was so amazing and one of the best off trail hike a bike ever (we actually rode a lot of it!).
The last 20 km on the kayak to the end of the Rakai river. Never getting closer it seemed, and then wind coming up.
Hiking to the finish line with our packrafts with our gear stored inside the T-zips, only to have them ask us to remove our packs so that we could cross the finish line carrying packs instead of packrafts. So much for our triumphant race across the line carrying out sweet red boats!
8. How was the Navigation?
The nav itself was pretty easy this race, but there were so many route choices, with lots of interesting terrain. Huge distances between CPs, especially in the big trek. CP were usually not difficult to find, but route choices in the mountains could impact timing and impact on the body.
9. Based on some photos we saw, Stephen was clearly managing some pretty acute pain on the big trek. How did he manage this and how much did it slow you down?
Stephen started do develop a pretty severe knee issues on the first packraft trek and long bike. It really manifested fully on the first big descent on the 84 km trek - where he was unable to bend his leg at all when we worked our way down a steep ridge. Stephen - who is among the strongest athletes in the sport - consciously spent some time deep in the pain cave and came out with the decision that he didn't want his "knee" to be the story of our race. So he accepted pain medication and offloaded some weight on the descents and some flats. Ironically, he remained the fastest uphill trekker on the team the rest of the race! Often carrying extra weight during the ascents.
His mental fortitude was so good that he was able to keep up our pace, and most times actually push it. And this is one of the first races in awhile were trekking poles became indispensable to us. We had 5 Leki poles total, and used them all that entire last trek, especially the downs. Stephen became a pole ninja of sorts using them in inventive rhythms to offset his "peg-leg" knee. It was amazing how fast he could descent with them.
10. Were you happy with your results?
Yes. The team had a solid race and really enjoyed it from start to finish. As always the competition level in GodZone is one of the reasons that we go there, and this year was no exception. The team improved upon their 12th place finish from last year, making into the final of the coveted top 10 spots. We gave up the international trophy however to Mari's former teammate and all around amazing racer Rob Preston and his top Australian squad "Thought Sports". Congrats to them, and we are excited for all the bits that we learned racing with Mari!
Thanks to all our fans, family and supporters. Especially Chelsey, Deven and Lotsie who kept our little ones alive and entertained while we raced! Thanks to all our amazing sponsors as well - Leki, Inov8, Ellsworth, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Nite-Ize, Alpacka Raft, Pili Nuts, aos Skin Doctor, and anyone I forgot.
Finally - our thoughts and prayers remain in New Zealand in the wake of the recent tragedy in Christchurch.