Taking their ability to shake off late team changes and ongoing health issues into account Hawke's Bay's Twisted Arms will be hard to beat when an edition of the Spirited Women All Women's Adventure Race is staged in the Bay for the first time next year.
Despite losing one of their original team members, Sarah Massingham, a fortnight out from the event with a knee injury and triage nurse Debbie Sunnex being nagged by heart problems throughout the race, the Twisted Arms team of Sunnex, Danielle Burroughs, Andy Curran and former New Zealand orienteering world championship representative Amber Morrison won the open women's and veteran women's middle course titles at the Gisborne-hosted fourth edition of the event in March which attracted 1600 competitors.
"When Sarah suffered her injury Amber was overseas on holiday when we contacted her. While she didn't know anything about the race she said she was keen as. We didn't know Amber but when she got back from holiday we all met up and just clicked. Amber was phenomenal in Gisborne ... a real mountain goat," Burroughs recalled.
"Debbie had her health issues but she had given us specific instructions on how to deal with them. I cramped up twice and while we were leading for most of the race we needed a late pass to win our titles. It was very exciting. We beat our nearest rivals by 18 seconds ... it was quite unexpected," Burroughs said.
To qualify for their veterans age group they had to have a minimum combined age of 160 years. With Morrison in her early 30s and Sunnex, Curran and Burroughs all in their late 40s or early 50s they easily met the limit.
Twisted Arms finished the race in six hours and one minute. As per most adventure race rules they had to race together and couldn't be more than 20 metres apart.
The race started at Waikanae Beach and involved orienteering legs on farmland around Gisborne, mountainbike legs, kayaking legs running treks and two mystery adventures.
An army-type confidence course and jumping off the Kaiti Bridge were the two mystery adventures.
The fact the Twisted Arms quartet had no time together before the race added to the significance of their wins.
"While us three older ones had done adventure races before, Amber hadn't but she had done Coast to Coast," Te Mata School teacher Burroughs recalled.
"I know Andy because I taught her children at school. I knew Debbie through friends who told us she was into her sport."
We had a nurse [Sunnex], a personal trainer [Curran], a podiatrist [Morrison] ... and I was just the bossy teacher who kept everyone together. Amber kept up a good pace and us oldies had to hang on," Burroughs said with a laugh.
Teams were not allowed support crews and had to carry their own foot, water and basic first aid equipment.
Burroughs agreed there will be more pressure on them when they compete at next year's Central Hawke's Bay-hosted edition of the event on March 28 because it will be on "home turf". However, they won't be able to train over any of the terrain involved as they won't receive a course map until the eve of the event. As part of their buildup to that outing, Twisted Arms will tackle the Moxi Cafe Wander Women Adventure Race in Whakatane in November.
"A neat friendship has developed between all of us. As we are all so busy with our own lives we have to do a lot of training on our own. But we all got together recently and did a four-hour walk into the Kaweka Range to prepare us for hill treks. We intend to get together again soon for a mountainbike and long run," Burroughs explained.
She pointed out Morrison hadn't done much mountainbiking before the Gisborne event but recently won a Taupo-hosted mountainbike race.
Rotorua hosted the inaugural Spirited Women All Women's Adventure Race in 2016. Taupo hosted the 2017 edition and Ohope the 2018 edition. Alexandra will host the inaugural South Island edition from February 14-16 next year.
In addition to the middle course categories short course and long course divisions will be part of the Central Hawke's Bay event.