No walk in the park

GODZone: tackling the multi-day, non-stop, adventure race.

GODZone: tackling the multi-day, non-stop, adventure race.

Lincoln Reunion team members Trevor Hurley, Dave Divers, Gerald Holden and Kym Skerman make their final cycle ride from Blackmount towards Manapouri in the multi-day, non-stop, expedition-style adventure race known as GODZone, which started and finished in Te Anau. Pictures supplied
GODZone: kayaking across Lake Te Anau.
EXTREME: GODZone extreme challenge Lincoln Reunion team members, from left, Dave Divers (Milton), Trevor Hurley (Tauranga), Kym Skerman (Bulls) and Gerald Holden (Gisborne) pause for a breather with a view during their 450 kilometre race in some of New Zealand’s most challenging terrain.
GODZone 2018 is over for the second place-getters.



An extreme cross-country challenge through some of New Zealand’s toughest terrain gave Gisborne man Gerald Holden the adventure of a lifetime. Mark Peters pulls up an all-terrain armchair to hear his story . . .

Trekking through some of New Zealand’s most challenging terrain, kayaking on a river notorious for its sudden treachery, abseiling through bush canopy in darkness and climbing underground, with constantly wet feet over six days, isn’t most people’s idea of fun.

It probably isn’t Gisborne man Gerald Holden’s either, but he and a group of mates from their Lincoln University days made up a team to take on the multi-day, non-stop, expedition-style adventure race known as GODZone.

“My feet are still coming along, but slowly,” says Gerald, instigator of the Lincoln Reunion team made up of himself, Trevor Hurley (Tauranga), Kym Skerman (Bulls) and Dave Divers (Milton).

“I’ve got blisters on blisters and they’ve got infected.”

This is due to prolonged wetness, little sleep and limited time to take care of their feet throughout the 450 kilometre challenge held in Fiordland.

“When we finally had the opportunity to get our feet dry and put dry socks on we had to walk through a didymo bath, which instantly soaked the dry socks.”

The didymo baths were a precaution against the spread of the algae, commonly known as rock snot, as competitors moved to new river systems.

The hardest part of the course for the team was management of their feet.
“We had rules about feet management but, along with sleep deprivation, this became harder to manage as the line between what was a niggle and what could turn serious became blurred.”

That was not disheartening though, says Gerald. That’s just the nature of the country.
“It was never going to be a walk in the park.”

In fact, the particularly challenging nature of the country attracted more competitors than usual. The race started and finished in Te Anau.

Gerald took on the event as a personal challenge and the opportunity to see a bit more of New Zealand.
Chapter seven of the extreme challenge was made up of two separate events — GZ Pure and GZ Pursuit.

GODZone a surreal experience

The GZ Pure event ran for up to 10 days and teams were “unsupported”. Rather than depend on support crews at each transition, organisers moved equipment and gear boxes around the course.

The GZ Pursuit event ran for up to 10 days and teams such as Lincoln Reunion had a support crew. Each team had three males and one female. During the challenge, contestants would kayak, mountain bike, trek, raft, abseil, spelunk and climb.

To prepare for the event Gerald biked, kayaked and trekked when he could and spent a few weekends away training with the team. This included two 24-hour adventure races and a long weekend in Fiordland.
“We did a few events and learned a lot about each other, and what we could do and couldn’t do. You bounce off each other. You’re encouraged by people’s personalities and presence.”

Because testing conditions and fatigue could aggravate differences, the team had a few rules.
“If someone wasn’t happy with a decision it was tabled. We’d find a solution and move forward,” says Gerald.
“This was very much a connection thing. It was much like life. It takes you back to basics and why you’re there.”

Ensuring each team member was motivated and aiming for the same goal was established well before the start and formed part of Lincoln Reunion’s race plan.

Contestants were given a map of the course and a race passport. At various checkpoints on the route they clipped their passports with a special clipper.

Stage one involved a 120km canoe and trek, stage two a 55km mountain bike ride, followed by another canoe and trek over 90km in stage three. The next stage was a 160km mountain bike ride that included a 1000 metre uphill stretch, then a 25km trek and kayak to round off the challenge in the final stage.

In between was some portage, in which contestants had to carry their kayaks through bush to the river, abseiling and caving.

A particularly memorable part of the course for Gerald was abseiling 120 metres down a rock face in the dark.
“They set you with ropes and put you over the side. You go over as a team and cruise down through the bush canopy with head-torches on.”

The course had five transitions where a support crew set up tents and prepared meals for their teams. Lincoln Reunion’s supporters went beyond the call of duty.

“They were phenomenal. They had so much energy,” says Gerald.

“They put some quirky stuff in our tent. After a massive tramp through the bush we got there at 5am and music was blasting out. There were disco lights, a bubble machine and a spread you wouldn’t see in a restaurant.

“That was pretty wicked. We had our own buffet and entertainment in our tent.”

Support crew member Mark “Moon” Hurst recorded the Lincoln Reunion team’s progress with a drone and GoPro. A competitor would strap on the GoPro and at each transition Moon downloaded the footage then sent it to members’ family and friends. He later edited the footage and added a soundtrack to create a short, exciting documentary.

“At each transition he would collect short clips that he collated into a 30-minute movie,” says Gerald.
“He put music and a few words to it.”

Gerald also had some morale-boosting support laying in wait for him.

“I was lucky enough for my father to come down as support crew for the duration. My wife and two daughters came down as well and got there at the last transition before the final trek and kayak.”

Sleep deprivation brought more challenges to the team as they navigated the bush with map and compass (no GPS was allowed). The team made a few navigational errors. These cost Lincoln Reunion the lead but on completion of the final trek and paddle the team finished in “a whisker over” six days of racing time.

Given Lincoln Reunion’s goal had been to finish the race within seven days and to place in the top five, second place was a respectable result.

Gerald’s father, wife and daughters were waiting for him at the finish line.

“I didn’t expect there to be so much support. I’m pretty lucky to have a wife who gets the whole adventure thing.”
GODZone was a surreal experience. He’d do it again though, he says.

“But it’s a hell of a commitment.”



An extreme cross-country challenge through some of New Zealand’s toughest terrain gave Gisborne man Gerald Holden the adventure of a lifetime. Mark Peters pulls up an all-terrain armchair to hear his story . . .

Trekking through some of New Zealand’s most challenging terrain, kayaking on a river notorious for its sudden treachery, abseiling through bush canopy in darkness and climbing underground, with constantly wet feet over six days, isn’t most people’s idea of fun.

It probably isn’t Gisborne man Gerald Holden’s either, but he and a group of mates from their Lincoln University days made up a team to take on the multi-day, non-stop, expedition-style adventure race known as GODZone.

“My feet are still coming along, but slowly,” says Gerald, instigator of the Lincoln Reunion team made up of himself, Trevor Hurley (Tauranga), Kym Skerman (Bulls) and Dave Divers (Milton).

“I’ve got blisters on blisters and they’ve got infected.”

This is due to prolonged wetness, little sleep and limited time to take care of their feet throughout the 450 kilometre challenge held in Fiordland.

“When we finally had the opportunity to get our feet dry and put dry socks on we had to walk through a didymo bath, which instantly soaked the dry socks.”

The didymo baths were a precaution against the spread of the algae, commonly known as rock snot, as competitors moved to new river systems.

The hardest part of the course for the team was management of their feet.
“We had rules about feet management but, along with sleep deprivation, this became harder to manage as the line between what was a niggle and what could turn serious became blurred.”

That was not disheartening though, says Gerald. That’s just the nature of the country.
“It was never going to be a walk in the park.”

In fact, the particularly challenging nature of the country attracted more competitors than usual. The race started and finished in Te Anau.

Gerald took on the event as a personal challenge and the opportunity to see a bit more of New Zealand.
Chapter seven of the extreme challenge was made up of two separate events — GZ Pure and GZ Pursuit.

GODZone a surreal experience

The GZ Pure event ran for up to 10 days and teams were “unsupported”. Rather than depend on support crews at each transition, organisers moved equipment and gear boxes around the course.

The GZ Pursuit event ran for up to 10 days and teams such as Lincoln Reunion had a support crew. Each team had three males and one female. During the challenge, contestants would kayak, mountain bike, trek, raft, abseil, spelunk and climb.

To prepare for the event Gerald biked, kayaked and trekked when he could and spent a few weekends away training with the team. This included two 24-hour adventure races and a long weekend in Fiordland.
“We did a few events and learned a lot about each other, and what we could do and couldn’t do. You bounce off each other. You’re encouraged by people’s personalities and presence.”

Because testing conditions and fatigue could aggravate differences, the team had a few rules.
“If someone wasn’t happy with a decision it was tabled. We’d find a solution and move forward,” says Gerald.
“This was very much a connection thing. It was much like life. It takes you back to basics and why you’re there.”

Ensuring each team member was motivated and aiming for the same goal was established well before the start and formed part of Lincoln Reunion’s race plan.

Contestants were given a map of the course and a race passport. At various checkpoints on the route they clipped their passports with a special clipper.

Stage one involved a 120km canoe and trek, stage two a 55km mountain bike ride, followed by another canoe and trek over 90km in stage three. The next stage was a 160km mountain bike ride that included a 1000 metre uphill stretch, then a 25km trek and kayak to round off the challenge in the final stage.

In between was some portage, in which contestants had to carry their kayaks through bush to the river, abseiling and caving.

A particularly memorable part of the course for Gerald was abseiling 120 metres down a rock face in the dark.
“They set you with ropes and put you over the side. You go over as a team and cruise down through the bush canopy with head-torches on.”

The course had five transitions where a support crew set up tents and prepared meals for their teams. Lincoln Reunion’s supporters went beyond the call of duty.

“They were phenomenal. They had so much energy,” says Gerald.

“They put some quirky stuff in our tent. After a massive tramp through the bush we got there at 5am and music was blasting out. There were disco lights, a bubble machine and a spread you wouldn’t see in a restaurant.

“That was pretty wicked. We had our own buffet and entertainment in our tent.”

Support crew member Mark “Moon” Hurst recorded the Lincoln Reunion team’s progress with a drone and GoPro. A competitor would strap on the GoPro and at each transition Moon downloaded the footage then sent it to members’ family and friends. He later edited the footage and added a soundtrack to create a short, exciting documentary.

“At each transition he would collect short clips that he collated into a 30-minute movie,” says Gerald.
“He put music and a few words to it.”

Gerald also had some morale-boosting support laying in wait for him.

“I was lucky enough for my father to come down as support crew for the duration. My wife and two daughters came down as well and got there at the last transition before the final trek and kayak.”

Sleep deprivation brought more challenges to the team as they navigated the bush with map and compass (no GPS was allowed). The team made a few navigational errors. These cost Lincoln Reunion the lead but on completion of the final trek and paddle the team finished in “a whisker over” six days of racing time.

Given Lincoln Reunion’s goal had been to finish the race within seven days and to place in the top five, second place was a respectable result.

Gerald’s father, wife and daughters were waiting for him at the finish line.

“I didn’t expect there to be so much support. I’m pretty lucky to have a wife who gets the whole adventure thing.”
GODZone was a surreal experience. He’d do it again though, he says.

“But it’s a hell of a commitment.”

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