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Red Bull Defiance 2017

Red Bull Defiance 2017

by Joanna Williams 


Experiences of Team Outside Sports


I was excited to have the opportunity to race Red bull Defiance again with Sia Svensen.  We raced together last year and previously tandem on the C2C.  It is always a fun couple of days. <

"To race locally is also a real privilege."  An opportunity to venture into areas which are otherwise hard to access!" 

As the event approached and with talk of a highly competitive field, it does make you nervous, but you just have to trust that you and your team mate have done enough to get through and you can only do your best.  So after a bike check with Outside Sports and a body Attack at body works with Kevin, there wasn’t much else I could do, apart from get race gear ready.

Sia arrived on Thursday, which was great, it gave her an opportunity to have a practice at clay bird shooting and have a bit of a rest day before the gruelling event started. Gear checks, and registration, hanging out with all these extremely fit looking athletes, can make sleep hard to get.


Off on the bus and to the barge to Minaret Station.  It was a cold overcast day, but not windy which was promising for the kayak later in the day. Great to catch up with everyone on the barge crossing, enjoying the unusual start to a race.  Then to the start line and we were off… it was all a little crazy, so many people charging on bikes, hard to keep track of team mates. It is the most stunning ride, which I always enjoy, despite the pain of getting up some of those hills, but we made it.  Then onto the run up rocky hill alternative route, it is great to find so many different ways up a hill, it was hands and feet at some points, but we made it to a point where the volunteers pointed us in the direction of the abseil, and that meant down. So it was with relief and a little inkling of cramp that we descended.  It was great to catch up with Floortje and Hamish at this point waiting for the abseil, as we had spent some time training together over the last few months.  A quick zip down and a run across some farmland to the West Wanaka bridge onto the Matukituki river and out to the lake.  The change in activity did set of a little cramp at this point for me especially if some steering was required.  But it did improve after a while. We had a few mixed teams ahead on this paddle so it gave something to chase. Although, all teams ahead were close to over shooting the buoy turn around in Glendhu, I guess when you could see Wanaka it was hard to turn off to the right! It seemed a long slow paddle, Ruby Island taking a long time to get to and then Wanaka township itself took a while... running out of steam a little towards the end…next time more liquid food for me! It was great to find we were the first female elite team over the line day1. We just hoped for as much of a buffer as possible for day2! It was 15 minutes between us and second and 20 or so between us and third.  So not much time to spare!  A clean up of gear and a look at the weather revealed southerly gales on tops with snow for the next 24 hours or so to 1400m.  Knowing Mnt Alpha was at least 1640m, I was packing my red bull duffle bag with all sorts of warm gear.  Wondered what shoes to wear in the snow!  E-mails later that evening from Sally confirmed we were in for a cold day on the tops, but that a risk of change of run coarse was a possibility.


Day 2

We woke to snow across the hills and constant rain on the roof. At 5am we were up and about to get down to start line, check kayak and see if there was any quicker way of getting into kayak with Spray skirt ….We tried sliding in, seemed to work, starter hooter went off and Sia and I slide into our kayaks only to find I couldn’t steer, the kayak only wanted to go right! Meanwhile everyone was charging away from us, I straightened for a minute only to turn right again. So off with the spray skirt and move my pack which had jammed against the steering peddles causing it to malfunction. Then we were off trying to catch everyone, knowing we had lost valuable minutes and what’s worse, less potential for getting any drafting help.  We paddled hard and somehow made up a little time, to come in ahead of the other girls and to crawl up the hill to the clay bird shooting.  Sia went first having practiced on the Friday, and then I had a go and managed to hit a clay first shot…was delighted with myself!  I think seeing where the clay was coming from with Sia going first really helped.


Then onto the bikes. It was incredibly wet and muddy from the start and the transition a little frantic….how many clothes to put on!!?  On up the Criffle hill with Floortje and Hamish and Simon and Misha, always fun to be around your friends, although I was told off for chatting at one point!  It seemed like a lot of climbing, but ok, then it benched out only to climb again into the southerly storm, so it was bitterly cold and even biking uphill didn’t warm you up. On with a jacket for me and then further along again Sia needed more clothes as well, so even more layers- leggings and waterproof pants, no point in getting hyperthermia!  A real risk I would have to say.  We helped each other helmet buckles etc as cold hands meant they weren’t working as they should. We had quite a few teams including Collet girls team catch up us at this point. But it was worth the change, I think it was important to keep some warmth, especially with a technical descent ahead.  It was muddy and slippy, and then there was the tall grass with big rocks to cause havoc.  So we took it carefully and made it down in one piece although Sia did have a wee head plant of the edge of the track, but soldiered on. The Cardrona River was in good flow so crossing with bikes for us was tricky, but other boys sports team came to our rescue and helped carry Sia’s bike and help her across.  I was very grateful for this.  We charged through to transition, which was slow I would say due to cold fingers and hands. It was so good to have so much support from the locals at the transitions.  The last leg was altered to an 18km run up towards Alpha and then cutting down avoiding the ridge top travel where the snow was quite thick and the southerly was raging at ridge top.  It still had the main climb up which always seems to be hard going.  Again on stopping to delayer the girls were right on our tails, so we had to keep moving.  It is great to have some close racing to keep us on our toes, quite literally I’d have to say.  On up to the first saddle to a ridge and then on up to get the main ridge to see the Volunteers on the top, wow they were amazing as it was really very cold up there- thanks so much! Steve Hannon in particular on a very exposed cold spot!   Then it was turn right down the ridge line and fence line to the track which leads us down to Waterfall creek.  It was an enjoyable run down with Lake Wanaka looking stunning with snow on the hills and a flat calm lake. I guess you could see the finish line at this point, you could certainly hear it.  But we were still a wee way off.  It was a fun run down hill, down waterfall creek to the lake to follow it around for a further 4 km to the finish line.  


We knew we were getting chased down and thought Julia and Kristy would be fast along the lake front, so we tried to keep the legs turning over at some speed to get us home!  We made it and were delighted to take home the women’s title again this year.  Thanks to Red Bull Defiance for another great event and to all the Volunteers and the locals support, it really helps to get us to the finish line.  Thanks to Sia for pushing so hard and for being a fabulous team mate.  Thanks to Outside Sports for the ongoing support and for keeping my trusty Specialized stead on track and in good health.  Thanks also to PAK'nSAVE, always very supportive.  It was a very tough race made harder by conditions, the cold and the snow just made it even more of an adventure out there.


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Floortje takes on the Kepler Challenge

The Kepler Challenge Race

By Floortje

Floortje on the Kepler Challenge race

Running the Kepler with Floortje:

Kepler was a big Challenge. I had the pressure on all day, I didn't even have time for toilet stops!

I ran comfortably with a friend up to Luxmore Hut. And started to realise I needed to get ahead to chase the other girls. I was running 4th by the half way point, 32km at the Iris Burn hut.

I had no time to grab goodies from transition, this meant missing out on Christmas cake!!.

From there I thought the hills were over and I would be on flat terrain..... turns out I got that absolutely wrong......

With the girls on my heels I started to pace out fast, working on mental strength to stay ahead. After holding the lead for 1.5 hours of fast pace I still hadn't found the flat terrain I was expecting, and so I decided the guys in my train could lead for a while.  It was at that moment I realised one of the girls was hanging on and passed me freshly.

The fast out pace bit me in the bum. I kept going, sitting in a black box, I got passed by another girl in the last 10km. Still looking for the flat terrain I finally found it in the last 500 meters before I happily finished.


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Routeburn Classic 2015 New Zealand

Routeburn Classic 2015 New Zealand

The Routeburn Classic adventure running race is a challenging lifetime experience over New Zealand’s world famous 32 km Routeburn Track. One of New Zealand's National Parks and inside a World Heritage Area in Fiordland on the south west of New Zealands South Island.

The event will be held on April 25th 2015 and is limited for only 350 lucky athletes who will face aggressive uphill climbing to 1127 meters above sea level and technical downhill descent along changing terrain with rocks and tree roots all part of the challenge. Set in Alpine, bush and waterfalls, Fiordland is renowned for its extreme weather, exposed to the elements. Athletes have been tested on the track in the past, experiencing gale force winds, snow, ice, heavy rain and intense sunshine.

This is true adventure run. If you like a challenge, a feeling of isolation and running through areas and landscapes straight from a post card or fantasy novel then you’re in the right place.

Footage from the Routeburn Classic 2014

Get prepared for the Routeburn Classic with Outside Sports online and instore at Outside Sports Queenstown, Wanaka, Te-Anau and TouchLab, for a great range of running and fitness gear from great brands.

Registration at Outside Sports Queenstown store, Friday 24th April 2015 from 10am.

Check out the discounted specials for all competitors in store Friday 24th April 2015. Including 20% off all compulsory gear including. 

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Queenstown International Marathon

The Air New Zealand Queenstown International Marathon will be held November 22nd 2014, are you ready?

A new international running festival incorporating 42km, 21km, 10km and 3km kids run options. Set between the backdrop of the world renowned Crown and Remarkable mountain ranges, and taking in the best highlights of the Queenstown Lakes region including Millbrook resort, Arrowtown, Lakes Hayes, Shotover River, Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown Gardens and finishing in the heart of Queenstown itself.

Queenstown International Marathon NZ

More Race Information

Make sure your in the right gear to help you achieve your goal in the Marathon with our selection of men's running shoes, women's running shoes and running clothing from Adidas and New Balance.

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Routeburn...it's a classic!

Sarah Douglas Running Blog - Routeburn Classic

The event started with what I can only describe as the most entertaining race briefing I think I have ever attended. While walking to the briefing, my husband said he would stay for the start but might pop to the pub when it started to get boring. To my surprise he was still there at the end, giving as much applause and laughter as the others around him. That means it was one hell of a briefing to keep him from going to the pub...he is british afterall! If you were there for the briefing you will understand what I have to admit to next. I did get 8 hours of sleep. And I did drink a coffee before the race (ok ok ok, you twisted my arm, one mug of coffee with three shots in it!). According to Evan (race director) these two things (along with popping ibuprofen) will give you an advantage over the other athletes and constitute an “unfair advantage” in the Routeburn Classic. I still owe Evan a urine sample, I really think he needs to give us bigger containers...and maybe a funnel!

The day begins at crazy o’clock with a bus ride in the dark for over an hour on a winding (very winding) road. I hadn’t really thought about it beforehand, but if you are prone to road sickness, perhaps make some plans for this (I don’t know, brown bag or a big purse maybe!?) Luckily no-one was sick on our bus (or they were quiet with a big purse) but I had a few nausous moments. A few minutes in the very very fresh air at the start line will sort you out though...you could see your breath! (or maybe all of us were sneaking the pre-race cig!) This also brought my first dilemna....one that all women, runner or not, can relate to....what on earth to wear??? Really it was what layers to race in. It had been very chilly with a bit of fresh snow on the mountains in Te Anau the night before and knowing it was meant to be about 17 degrees and sunny in Glenorchy...it was a tough decision. Warming up in all my required gear, I made a spur of the moment decision right before the start to strip to just a drifit tshirt, arm-warmers and shorts...I felt a bit naked lining up with many others in their icebreakers, longsleeves and tights. Luckily, it was the right decision for me, I was never too hot or too cold. I didn’t have to waste time to stopping to take off layers...every...second...counts.

The race started as expected and I found myself in a good position to start the single track. I got into a rhythm on first uphills and passed a group of guys and Jess Simson early on. But it wasn’t long before some of the guys passed me back on the technical downhill. I knew that this was something of a weak point in my Routeburn Classic plans, and they showed me how the Pros do it!! Wow! They made it look easy...which it most definitely was not. This continued for a while...I would pass them on the ups, they passed me on the downs. It wasn’t long before Jess Simson passed me on the downhills too, it wasn’t much before the Mackenzie Hut she effortlessly flew by me. I was stopping and starting, looking up and down, left and right over the rocks...picking my foot placing...maybe I should be “Little Miss Clumbsy!”

Sarah running down technical rocks

I was looking forward to the uphill to Harris Saddle. My race plan was to attack this section...but unfortunately I started to go through a bad patch. I just wasn’t feeling good, my legs were missing their usual drive and I wasn’t making up any time on Jess. It took a while for me to get myself together, my thoughts were hectic. And then I focused on things other than the race. How was my breathing? How was my form? I think I might of even...(shush)...started singing to myself! I would never admit to that in public...except for this diary...(which is just between us isn’t it?) I managed to find a second wind (It was in my pack the whole time!!!) and I started to make inroads into Jess’s lead. By the Harris Saddle I had caught back up to her, I could almost touch her pack (I didn’t...that would of been weird!)

What goes up, must come down, and that is exactly what happens after the Harris Saddle. A very very technical descent to the Routeburn Hut. There was absolutely nothing I could do to stop Jess from running away from me. She made me feel like I was standing still. I could see her jumping from rock to rock, not even breaking her stride, as I was using all four of my limbs (and various rocks, branches and utter utter luck) to keep myself upright. 

At the Routeburn Flats it was here that I learnt Jess had put 90 seconds on me. I couldn’t help but think how my inability to run on technical terrain had really let me down. I am blown away...stunned and seriously in awe at the ease of which the runners who finished ahead of me...and probably many of the runners behind me, were able to cascade so smoothly on. How do you do it?! This may warrant a “WTF”. Seriously....I need to know! If you know of this dark little secret that can help me to be a better technical runner, please, please let me know! It is an area I know I need to work on. But enough of my cries for help, back to the race. The math was simple, I had 7km to run down 90 seconds. No matter how I calculated it, the only answer I came to was = “you better hurry!” So I lengthened my stride and all thoughts centered on running the best final 7kms of a mountain race I have ever run! Engage Afterburners.Sarah on her way to winning the Routeburn Classic 2014

To my suprise, I managed to catch Jess with about 4km to go. (Quick side note: I really have to hand it to Jess, she ran an amazing race. She is the type of runner who is just born to run well over the Routeburn Track and I am really glad she went under the record...simply an amazing competitor). Before now it had been all about focusing (I mean really focusing...like driving a brand new car) on the downhills, pushing the uphills and catching Jess. Now it was about me vs. clock (and not falling over!) At this point I had no idea of how I was doing for time, I knew I had another gear stowed away for the last few kms so I started to really push the pace. It wasn’t until I saw the sign for the carpark that I knew my time was going to be a good one. It really was a great feeling running up to the finish! Up to the finish??...yes...you did read it right, after running up over mountains it finishes with a short uphill! Nothing in comparison to what you have run up already but after running on the flats, your body has forgotten what it feels like! I did savour and enjoy that moment...thank you to all the supporters who came out and cheered me on. And a big thank you to the volunteers and marshalls who make the event possible.

A big thank you to Evan for a fantastic event! Not just a race...it was an “Event”. A special event for all who participated. Some races lack a sense “togetherness”, “compassion” and “soul” but the Routeburn Classic has it all in spades. It was great to see you...on the finish line...not looking the best...a bit of sweat here...and lot of mud there...(ME...not Evan!) You shook my hand and congratulated me, as you did with every other finisher, it is those little personal touches that make this event so special and meaningful. Another big thank you to all the special someone’s out there who dedicate themselves to achieving our dreams...mine is to my husband for driving myself and two of my friends to Te Anau on Friday, getting up early to drive back to Queenstown, walk our dog, getting straight back into the car to make it to the finish before I did. Legend. To Outside Sports and New Balance, thank you for believing in me. To Ultimate Direction, your pack really is better than the rest (and I’m not getting paid to say that!) If your not happy with the one on your back, give Ultimate Direction a go, you probably won’t even realise your wearing one (and that’s a good thing!) Last but not least, thank you to Gareth at Southern Sports Podiatry for going out of your way to get me to the start line and over the finish line!

I look forward to seeing you all at the Routeburn Classic in 2015.

Sarah Douglas xxx

About Sarah Douglas - Mountain Runner

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