GODZone – commonly referred to as “the race Richie McCaw does”, is an annual, multi-day, non-stop, expedition-style adventure race held here in New Zealand. Chapter 9, Rotorua, was almost a non-event thanks to ol mate Covid. Initially the race was changed from November 2020 to March 2021 with support crew’s mandatory for all categories. Then, with a week to go, Auckland went into level 3 lock down and the rest of the country level 2. Thankfully our team wasn’t affected by this, we feel for those who were! As promised this particular chapter of GODZone was an “ultimate” edition; approx. 650km with 15,000m of elevation was navigated by foot, mountain bike, pack raft, kayak and helicopter (no this wasn’t in the initial route plan) over one week on approx. 16 hours sleep.
Our team “Ocean Flooring Adventure racing” had never raced as a group before. For two of us this was our second attempt at the race, the others were lining up for their first time. As a team we were aiming to finish full course, with the group intact, a bold goal in itself. In typical GODZone style we were drip fed information hinting at the race route and various stages during the build-up; after much anticipation we finally got our hands on the maps around 2pm the day before we were due to start. Yes, you read that correctly – less than 18 hours to prep and plan our route!
As you would expect the race began and ended in the Redwoods on Mountain bikes. Thankfully a staggered start made this a lot less hectic than anticipated. Overall highlights of the race included packrafting down the Mohaka river, the boys (not me, this part was awful) rated biking/mostly hike a biking the Moerangi track, dinner (cold rehydrated meals) with the most amazing view atop of the Kaweka ranges, cups of tea (we were also offered Merlot and Woodies) with Mary mid-kayak across lake Taupo and the teams overall s**t chat.
We were tracking really well throughout the race, meeting all mandatory cut offs and working our way slowly up through the rankings - we even managed a 5th place finish in the rogaine section largely thanks to our phenomenal nav man Sam! Midway through stage 7 (an 88km hike with 6000m of elevation) we hit a snag. Multiple compounding factors meant we were forced to make a safety call and opted to hike back on ourselves to the last manned hutt. On arrival we had a team member with a severely infected leg, to continue he had to be cleared by a doctor so the decision was made to get a chopper out as a group with a plan to reconvene at the start of stage 9 once he was given the all clear.
We managed to finish the race early on day 7, unranked, but as a group. GODZone aims to deliver an adventure like no other, and this was certainly no exception with only 21 teams completing the full course. It’s a race that truly pushes you outside of your comfort zone and challenges both your mental and physical limits – you learn a lot about yourself. It is an event that should be on the bucket list for anyone into adventure racing and a race that remains unfinished business for me – third times a charm?