RedBull Defiance (RBD) a two day multisport race in Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand. The course was created by Braden Currie a professional multisport and Ironman athlete from the area, he describes the race as ‘the epitome of everything I love about multisport… a challenging race format…combined with the most spectacular and varied terrain on offer’.
The main format of the race is raced in pairs (mixed, male or female), at which you and your partner must complete all stages together, remaining within a certain distance of each other.
Day One (RBD description, Ali’s & Liz’s description)
- MTB 42km, elevation gain 1020m. Well formed 4WD/rough farm tracks/potentially muddy/river crossings. Fast easy ridable track for the start, then hike a bike up narrow un-rideable terrain (when there’s a queue of people in front of you). Full-on, bra line deep river crossing.
- Trail Run (+abseil) 10km, elevation gain 550m. Steep technical climb/fully formed trail/abseil. Starts off flat and runnable, then steep climb to top of abseil. Epic abseil- you learn fast. Enough time to rest the legs and refuel. Recommend pushing hard on the climb as you have good recovery time whilst waiting to abseil).
- Kayak 20km, Lake Wanaka. + few Km run to your kayak initially. Big chop and waves (in 2018), stick to the shoreline and follow buoys back to Wanaka town.
- Kayak 27km, Lake/river/rapid/fast flow. Starts off on the lake everyone drafting off one another, swings right down the Clutha river (6thfastest flowing river in the world), through Albert Town to Poplar Beach. Some good rapids once on the river, which take a bit of navigating for a first time paddler. I’m not sure how we stayed upright…but we did.
- MTB (+clay pigeon shoot) 31km, elevation gain 1030m, 4WD track/single track/rough terrain. Starts off on good flat trails along the river, before climbing up through farmland. Relentless, rideable climb- just keep going. Once at the top, steep descent, with some annoying fences and gates to navigate over.
- Trail Run 30km, elevation gain 1594m, Farm tracks/markers/exposed alpine route/rocks/shingle. Flat and runnable to begin, but ease yourself in. A winding 4WD track quickly gains elevation to an exposed alpine traverse at the top of Mount Roy (nothing too scary). There are a few false summits on the run, beware! Once you join the main DoC track, you start winding your way back down with the masses of trampers heading up. At the road, you pick up the well-formed lake trail for ~5kms back into town.
In 2018 this was the first multisport race we had entered, let alone the first race where we had to paddle, race a bike off-road and most importantly race as a team. What was hardest? All of it.
We’ve learnt from the hours of training together how we both work, and believe me we learnt the hard way at times. Many of those times over a minor dispute with the words ‘hurry up… slow down…you’re not helping’. So, leading up to the race we promised not to utter these words and try help each other out, team work!
Turning up on the start line in 2018, everyone is ushered on to buses, driven out to the middle of Lake Wanaka and then put on a barge taking you across the lake to the Minaret Station, the start line. With nothing much more to do on the barge ride than queue for the toilet, take in the view and soak up everyone’s pre race nerves we noticed a few bikes with dog leads strapped to the back and people carrying tow ropes. ‘Liz, have we missed something off the compulsory kit list…?!’
So apparently tow ropes are one of the best tricks of the trade, and come in the form of a dog lead for the MTB stage, which retracts the rope so as to not get in the way; and for the run a simple piece of bungy cord clipped onto one another. It was a shame we didn’t know about this sooner, but as soon as day one was over, we headed straight to the hardware shop and bought some bungy cord for the run tomorrow (they were out of dog leads for the MTB stage). The bungy cord on day two was a saviour, it made us stay together and allowed us to work equally as hard as one another, keeping the positivity and pace high. Even on the decent when Liz was feeling the heat a little, it allowed some focus and pull towards the finish line (at which she then had to tow me for the final few kms).
2018 saw the race on one of the hottest weekends in Wanaka, with numerous athletes struggling with the heat and hydration, especially the last run of day two, which see’s you summiting Mount Roy carrying all your own fluid.
Last year we finished third female team overall, racing non-elite class. The first MTB ride I (Ali) shot off like a rocket and did exactly what I said I wouldn’t do… I quickly learnt, and from then on we worked so well together, pushing up the hills when needed and smashing it down them when we could, gaining some places with the consistency of pace. With a few gentle nudges up the hill on the run we made it to the abseil placing well, and continued on to the kayak in a good position. The kayak leg was tough, difficult to remain focused on and there were some big waves in the mix, which brought us back to reality a few times. The shoreline did eventually appear and before we knew it we were running to the finish line of day one feeling pretty tired but pumped for more the next day.
The second day started a little earlier with all the kayaks lined up on the shore for the athletes to sprint towards after the whistle was blown. Watching everyone simply hop into their kayaks, fit the spray decks and paddle off into the distance was frustrating for us two first timers, who look like absolute novices flailing around with our spray decks. Being the last people off the beach was soul destroying, but we paddled our socks off and took some good lines managing to get ourselves back into contention. A long mountain bike up a gradual and, at times, ever steepening gradient then ensued. A few kms in we hit the clay pigeon shoot and managed to get some beginners luck with Liz nailing the second shot. Pumped from this we continued on our bikes. Eventually we hit the downhill and after heaving our bikes over a few fences we landed back at transition. The heat of the day was pretty fierce here and it continued for the whole run, which was intense itself. Gradual slopes, exposed tops and relentless downs, but eventually we made it to the finish. A finish line we were very happy to cross.
The main learning’s from last year:
1. Use tow ropes- they make you both work as equally hard and do not allow you to get frustrated with potential differences of pace
2. Practice getting in a kayak with a spray skirt on- we were last, literally last! off the beach on day 2 which led to us smashing ourselves to catch up
3. 1. Don’t try run all the way up Mount Roy- it will hurt on the descent
Here we are, a few days to go and we’re ready as we can be. We’ve put all the hard work into our training as best we can, injury problems have hindered some progress, but we’ve done our best. We’ve paddled more, rode our mountain bikes at every opportunity, and our elevation gain has probably tripled to what it was in last year’s training. We have the tow ropes in hand, and positioned on the bikes.
See you on the start line…and hopefully the finish.
(Photographs copyright of RedBull Defiance)