The final countdown is on till Godzone, the world’s biggest expedition adventure race. Tomorrow morning, 100 teams of 4 from around the world will begin racing for up to ten consecutive days through the wilderness in Fiordland, covering around 550 km of rugged terrain. There is no set course or trail for the event – teams must navigate their way on foot, in packrafts, in sea kayaks and on mountain bikes between different checkpoints. Sections vary in length from around 14km to 160km. Eating on the go and sleep deprivation is a given.
A number of ex-Nelson College students are competing in this event. Among them is 24 year old Quinn Hornblow, who graduated from Nelson College in 2011. He’s racing alongside three friends: Jessie (23), Alex (22), and Will (21), all from the University of Canterbury, in team UC Engineering. They are one of the youngest teams competing in this year’s event. After Godzone Quinn is returning home to Nelson to begin a new job as a water engineer for Tonkin and Taylor.
After graduating from Nelson College Quinn took a gap year, working for a bit and then spending six months in SE Asia. He became a certified kitesurfing instructor while in Thailand and spent the rest of the time backpacking through Laos, Cambodia, and Nepal. On his return to NZ he studied environmental management in Dunedin. He joined the university tramping club and made a lot of new friends who were into mountaineering and exploring the national parks. After two years in Dunedin he headed to Christchurch and switched to engineering. He continued to spend most of his spare time in the outdoors, tramping in Arthur’s Pass, rock climbing in the Port Hills, or surfing if there was swell. He was inspired to give racing a go and in 2016 he ran two Ultra Marathons (The Hillary Trail, 80km and The Old Ghost Road, 85km). The routine of training and achieving those distances gave him the confidence to embark on something bigger.
We caught up with Quinn amidst the flurry of race preparations:
What motivated you to enter Godzone?
I watched a couple of mates as they prepared for and raced in previous GODZone events and always thought it would be a cool thing to do. A group of us who had done some rogaine and orienteering events together just talked ourselves into entering one day. It was the perfect time to do it as we could make the most of the university break to train and put off full-time work until after GODZone.
What has your build-up looked like?
The build-up to GODZone has been great because there’s a lengthy list of skills you have to develop. I was lucky enough to take the whole summer off work and had nothing on my calendar except a few races and lots of time for missions. The first big event was a packraft race around the Hollyford / Big Bay / Pyke loop, roughly 80km in packrafts and 50km on foot. None of my GODZone team could make it so I raced with another classmate from Canterbury. We had perfect weather and that part of the NZ coast is simply stunning. After racing non-stop for 18:35hrs we finished in 2nd place by only 20mins. Frustrating to be so close but being our first time in a packraft and given that the pair in 1st had won GODZone last year, we didn’t feel too bad.
After the new year our whole team went to Fiordland for another packrafting race. The three-day course was kept secret until race briefing. We travelled from Manapouri to the south coast via lakes Monowai and Hauroko, traversing the mountains in between. It was the first time any of us had done a multi-day race and gave us a taste of what GODZone will be like. The team learnt heaps from this event and finished in 2nd, again.
The last big event in the build up was Coast to Coast. I left the GODZone team behind and raced this one with my two younger brothers. Coincidently each of our preferred disciplines were the three disciplines of the event: Keegan biked, I ran and Blake kayaked. Keegan was definitely the most well prepared, I hadn’t done any run specific training for months and Blake is much more comfortable in a whitewater boat than a multisport boat but we made a solid team. The last time we were all at the Coast to Coast was 16 years ago when dad raced and Keegan was only 6 months old. The hype at each transition and involvement of support crews (or parents) made it one of my favourite events to date. We finished 4th overall in the three person team category.
What are the goals of your team?
It’s really hard to say. I feel like the team is reasonably well prepared but GODZone will be different to anything we’ve ever done before. It’s difficult because we don’t know where other teams are at, throw in navigation choices and Fiordland weather… we could end up anywhere. It’s our first GODZone so the big goal is just to finish the full course and still be friends at the end of it.
What are you most nervous about? Most excited about?
I’m most nervous about the logistics of gear. It would be a shame to have done all the preparation just to realise we’ve packed gear into the wrong box or forgotten something small. I’m sure we’ll be fine but those are the things keeping me up at night. I’m most excited for, as always – going somewhere new. One of the best parts about this type of race is that you can almost guarantee it will take you somewhere you haven’t been before.
Do you think you’ll beat Richie McCaw?
Haha probably not. We have managed to beat him at most of the evening rogaine events in Christchurch so I like to brag about that. When it comes to GODZone though, he has had the experience of doing it before, as well as being in a very experienced team.
To follow the progress of all the teams:
There will be live tracking from 8am on Thursday 1st March at http://godzoneadventure.com/ – Quinn’s team is #71 UC Engineering.
UC Engineering Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/overengineeredAR/
UC Engineering Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/ucengineering.ar
Ms Martig, outdoor education teacher at Nelson College, in team Loose Moose (#35), will be competing against Quinn’s team for the Colt trophy (teams with a total combined age of under 110 years and all team members under 30 years old).
Other ex-Nelson College members competing include Jimmy McKay in Ground Anchor Systems (in the pursuit category) and Nathan Fa’avae (five times adventure world champion) in Avaya.
Good luck out there!