Spirited Women - Mel Giles

Spirited Women - Mel Giles

Mel doesn’t call herself an athlete, in fact we think she’d hate us even calling her an inspiration. But we think she’s far too humble! She’s one part of the Whaiora adventure racing team (of which there are four inspirational ladies all up). We sat down to chat to Mel and find out why she loves adventure racing.

Tell us about Whaiora racing team.

We’re really just a group of mums and friends who like to dabble in fitness events. We first heard about Spirted Women in 2016 and decided to sign up for our first adventure race in Rotorua. We saw it as a great opportunity to try something new and embark on a new adventure, and we ended up surprising ourselves and doing really well!

I think we work so well together because we have heaps of laughs along the way but still have a very competitive spirit. We love to push ourselves outside our comfort zone but we also push each other.

Why do you love the Spirited Women event?

It’s a very supportive atmosphere throughout. There’s definitely a competitive nature and some teams just look out for themselves, but we always help others where possible because we strongly believe what goes around comes around. It’s also nice that it’s an all women event as some people get intimidated having to compete alongside men.

The best part is when you cross the line you get a glass of bubbly – I don’t think there are any races which do that! We often joke about that during the race too, when the pain kicks in or feel like you’re about to hit a wall, we’ll say ‘come on girls, taste that bubbly!’

Why do you do Spirited Women?

For the challenge, to be pushed out of my comfort zone, but also for the fun! Every race requires resilience, patience, planning and teamwork but we have so much fun while we’re doing it. People often ask why I do it, how I get out there and push myself for six to eight hours straight. But it honestly is just hanging out in the bush with my mates having a laugh, a girl’s weekend away, and a break from the kids.

Any big challenges you and the team have had to overcome?

Many! But one that comes to mind is when I discovered I had a bent disc brake right before the start of an event in Levin. It essentially meant one of the brakes on my bike was locked on the whole damn time. My teammates were taking turns literally pushing my bike up the hill as well as their own bikes. But we still came first! Because I have the best teammates in the world!

Really the event is all about overcoming challenges with great teamwork. Everyone makes mistakes - you miss a checkpoint or misinterpret something on the map - but you just have to laugh it off, say ‘oh bugger’ and keep pushing forward. That’s why we’re so successful. We don’t see the point in pointing fingers or holding grudges, it doesn’t achieve anything and it doesn’t make for a fun time! And it just adds to the race time in the long run. We’ve seen some proper fights or outbursts among teams and we don’t want to be like that. We want to be supportive and encouraging as well as being competitive.

Why did you choose to work with Whaiora?

As a team, we push ourselves to have fit and strong bodies but also calm minds which I think really fits with Whaiora’s values. We like being active and good role models to our kids, it’s great for them to see us getting out there and achieving something. All of us are conscious of trying to eat the best we can and getting as much good nutrition as we can.

Tell me about 2018, what training are you doing now?

We’re doing the long course in 2018 for the first time. The last two races we’ve done the medium course, which takes six to eight hours, while this will be more like ten or twelve hours. We’re a bit worried about keeping our fun happy spirit alive with the harder challenge but we’re going to try! We’ll just have to constantly repeat our mantra - go as fast as we can while still having fun.

What would you say to women thinking of entering the 2018 event?

Honestly just sign up and do it. We had no idea we would embark on this adventure racing journey but we’re so happy we did and it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done. It’s been great watching friends be inspired by us and take on the journey themselves, the huge smile on their faces when they cross the finish line makes it all worth it, it’s such a confidence boost.

What’s your pursuit to wellness?

Gosh, it’s a constant journey, but for me it’s about being fit, strong and healthy but also having a calm mind. Some weeks I nail it. Other weeks there are challenges like sick kids and having to work extra hours.

I’m an event junkie. Entering an event makes you commit and do the training, because you know it will be a hard day if you don’t, and you will let yourself and your team mates down. But I haven’t always had the confidence to try these things. I know a lot of people are apprehensive about trying something new but ask yourself - what would you do if you couldn’t fail? We can do anything we set our minds to and the only obstacles are the ones that we create in our minds.

The most important question! What’s your favourite Whaiora flavour?

Definitely gold! I often have it for breakfast. It’s quick and easy to whip up and I really like the delicious flavours.