A third member of Team RAF 100, Charlie Butterfield, took time out just before leaving for New Zealand to talk about the team’s expectations for GodZone 2018.
GodZone Chapter 7 will take place from 1-10 March in the Fiordland area of New Zealand’s South Island. The course will be some 600km long and will include mountain biking, hiking, ropework, doubtless some swimming and lots and lots of paddling - kayaking and pack-rafting in flat and moving water. And of course all surprises, the team dynamics and challenging navigation in difficult terrain that characterise expedition-length adventure racing.
First a bit of Form
Quite a few members of the Squadron have become involved in adventure racing in recent years and I reckoned it was something that I might like - I am more of an endurance man than a sprinter and I like the different outdoor sports. My one bite of the cherry so far in adventure racing was the Basque Expedition Race in Spain, which we did together in 2016. It was brilliant fun. I loved the self-sufficiency and operating in an effective team.
Why Godzone, why now?
I haven’t been to the Southern Hemisphere, I never went on that back-packing trip after school, so I am looking forward to getting out and experiencing the country, which I hear is magnificent. In Spain, I remember spending most of the night ascending with the mountain bikes and then at dawn sitting on the top of a mountain with eagles soaring all around us. That’s what I hope for in New Zealand. That and the idea of linking together a whole lot of sports that I like.
Also, we’re pleased to be representing the RAF as part of their celebrations for their Centenary year.
Are you ready? What training have you managed to do? Is it enough?
Our final team weekend was up in Bala in Wales, where we spent the first night trekking and navigating through the mountains, just to remind ourselves what it was all about, and then we had two days of white water training at Llangollen, in rafts and then in the two-man pack-rafts, picking lines and descending the river Dee – by the end we could even make it down without tipping ourselves in… All four of us entered the Marmot Dark Mountains overnight event in the Forest of Bowland in late January, again to practice our night navigation. It is billed as a mountain marathon, but it was long hard hours of scrambling and running in the bog and marsh, working with a map and compass, so that was good training. Penny and Laura beat Jamie and me hands down!
Penny and I are from a triathlon background, so we’re used to the transitions. As far as managing our kit and managing the team goes, we’re in a strong place. That said, I am not sure you ever can do enough…
For the last two weeks we have been packing our bags, getting other things ready. Unfortunately some of us were ill over the Christmas period, so that’s a small concern - whether that will return during the race to bite us we don’t know - but we’re as ready as we can be and I am confident that we’ll be fine once it all starts.
What are your general expectations of the course?
I am really excited to be going to New Zealand itself. I’m looking forward to getting to the start line and I am confident that once the nerves are out of the way and we have the race plan and the maps we should be fine. I am particularly looking to the white water rafting and the pack-rafting.
There is a certain fear of the unknown, both in not knowing the full scale of the sports out on the course, and also within in the team, because we have not been under real stress in race conditions before. Hopefully our military training will help. My main concern is about managing time and fatigue, when to sleep and for how long, in order to remain as effective a team as possible for the full week or ten days.
What does achievement look like?
As before, we still want to cross that finish line… after completing the full course. We have been warned a number of times that if sections look too daunting then we should accept it and not complete them, but as a team I know we would like to complete the full 600km course and we’d be disappointed if we had to miss part of it out.
What does adventure mean to you?
I love being out in the bondoo - the self-sufficiency in the wilds, and pushing myself physically over multiple days, managing fatigue, managing kit, working as part of an effective team. Adventure racing brings all this and a whole lot of different sports together, which is great, but it’s about much more than just fitness. It’s up to you to keep pushing and make it through.
Team RAF 100 is competing in honour of RAF 100, the centenary celebrations of the Royal Air Force to be held in 2018. They were granted team No. 100 by the organisers of the event when the field was increased to 100 teams in total. You can also follow Team RAF100 on their facebook page. Also, read interviews with Laura Frowen and Jamie Buckle, other members of Team RAF 100.
And link to the GodZone 2018 website here.