Lessons from an almost bonk

Posted by Bridget Irving on 20 October 2013 | 0 Comments

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This weekend was Spring Challenge weekend. Spring Challenge is an all woman adventure race run by Nathan Favae and wife Jodie. There are 3, 6 or 10 hour options each involving a combination of running/hiking, mountain biking and rafting. This year the event was held in Gibbston Valley near Queenstown. It is the 3rd year I have competed in it.

Spring Challenge 2013 was a doozie, definitely the most challenging I have done. The event always starts with a mad dash to the rafts, this year waiting at the edge of a very very chilly Kawarau River. The section of the Kawarau we were doing is a Grade 3, so one would have expected it to be reasonably mellow. Not so…our raft guide managed to snap his paddle and so we headed into the Dog Leg rapid with no steering. Unsurprisingly we ended up sideways and then upside down. By the time the raft was flipped back over and everyone got dragged back in we had only 3 paddles left to get us to the end of the raft leg…so the adrenaline started pumping pretty early on!

From there we set off on leg two a hike leg back up river. The event involves an element of navigation so as we were hiking back we are required to navigate to a number of checkpoints before getting to Transition two at the Kawarau Bungy. From there we were into Leg 3 on our Mountain Bikes. Most of the Bike leg was within the newly opened Rabbit Ridge Mountain Bike Park, which was wicked. Will definitely be heading back for some more riding. However, it was the mountain bike leg where I learnt some salutary lessons about my nutrition plan. In leg 2 one of our team mates began to have some breathing troubles that slowed us down a bit. She ultimately made the call to pull out about 5km in to the bike leg.

From that point we were in catch up mode.

We began to push pretty hard through the middle of the bike leg, I was concentrating on navigating and getting through each of the checkpoints as quickly as possible.  I had forgotten my watch and was not keeping track of time. My nutrition plan went out the window.

We made excellent progress through the middle section of the bike, picking off team after team. In the final 3rd I started to battle. We had made it through the Waitiri Creek stage and were heading to Victoria Flat.

I began to fade, and fast. I knew we were only 5km or so from the next transition, so just tried to push on. I just faded and faded, no strength left in my legs. I started to feel dizzy and shaky.

This was something that had never happened to me before.

About a km from the transition (I could actually see it), I had to stop, I seriously felt like I would just fall sideways off my bike. I stopped, inhaled a gel walked for 20m or so and almost instantly started to feel a little better. Once I had made it to the transition I stuffed basically any food I could get my hands on into my mouth. Banana, muesli bars, bacon and egg pie, banana muffins you name it, I ate it. As a result our transition was a little slow, but as we headed off for the final leg I was feeling like a human again and in good enough to finish the race. I borrowed my Mum’s watch for the final leg so I would eat on time.

Prior to the race I had planned my nutrition, following what my nutrition plan suggested. For each leg I had a snaplock bag full of things I needed to eat on those legs, plus a little extra just in case. But, I allowed myself to loose track of time and I got distracted by trying to make up time and got into ‘debt’ so to speak. What surprised me the most was how quickly I deteriorated. I went from feeling really good to total shit within a couple of kilometers. So the lessons learnt…

  1. Always take a watch
  2. Do not get distracted
  3. Do not try and keep going – EAT!!


What lessons have you learnt about your race day nutrition??