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Great finish . . . Kristy Jennings with team mates Dan Cullen, Nick Aubrey and Steve Grieve at the finish line of the Godzone at Brighton Beach earlier this month. PHOTO: SEAN BEALE

Not bad for a first-timer.

Former North Otago woman Kristy Jennings surprised herself the most when she competed in this month’s Godzone adventure race in the south.

Jennings (43), a former Miss New Zealand and old girl of Waitaki Girls’ High School, was part of a team which won the pursuit section in the Godzone race which went coast to coast from March 3.

Most of the teams entered in the event raced in the pure section, while 10 teams were in the pursuit section.

However, the pursuit section was not exactly a walk in the park. In reality Jennings said there was nothing, really, between the two sections.

‘‘They say in the pursuit section you get help, but there was no difference between the two. At the start we had three legs while they had one long leg — pack rafting on Jackson Bay to start. But from there it was the same, that was it, really,’’ she said.

The pursuit teams started off with a small paddle on rafts in Milford Sound, a cycle through the Homer Tunnel and then kayaking down the Hollyford River.

From there Jennings, and her three teammates, Dan Cullen, Nick Aubrey and her partner Steve Grieve, ran, cycled, paddled, crawled and sort of slept their way to the other side of the South Island, ending up at Brighton Beach, near Dunedin, in just over a week.

The team, which included only one racer, Cullen, who had competed in the event before, set a blistering pace and won the pursuit section of the race by a whopping 17 hours, finishing about midnight on March 10.

Jennings (nee Wilson), who is a planning consultant in Wanaka, said it was so hard to believe the team did so well.

‘‘It was totally above our expectations. We were just going to compete and try and finish. Maybe in the back of my mind I thought we might have been able to finish in the top three of the pursuit section.

‘‘We kept waiting to get passed by the Avaya team but it took a while and we just kept waiting — where are they? Have they got lost?’’

Avaya eventually got past them in the Nevis Valley but Jennings and her teammates, known as Team Ocula, kept going to finish third overall.

Over the week, the team had a total of 15 hours of sleep, Jennings said.

It was amazing what the body could do when asked, she said. Her background in triathlons for many years was a big help.

‘‘You just keep going to be honest. It was a very hard track.

‘‘We did a hike through bush, where you were falling into holes and into brush that was above your head. We did a 37-hour hike . .. followed by a 170km mountain bike which was very hilly — climbing and climbing a lot.

‘‘But I never thought it was too tough. Never once did I think I can’t keep going.

‘‘I’ve been doing triathlons seriously for a number of years and you become used to being active all the time.

‘‘You develop mental strategies for that. It is still a very physical challenge but mentally you have to be well prepared.

‘‘It sounds crazy having had that little sleep. I can’t understand how we did it. But the body has a lot to give and when you ask it, it can give some more. Obviously there is a limit you can get to but we just kept going.’’

Finishing at midnight, the team celebrated for a short time before going to grab some sleep. It was not a long sleep but over the weekend and into this week the lack of sleep was starting to catch up with her.

She said being in the right physical shape was a huge advantage, not having any injury niggles going into the race. She came away from the race with one blister and nothing more. Her partner Grieve had a knee operation two weeks before the event and was told by ‘‘every man and his dog’’ he should not compete. But his surgeon said he could do it so there was no stopping him.

The performance of the the Ocula team led to organisers declaring they would not be allowed to race in the pursuit section again and would have to compete in the pure section next year.

Jennings said she would be a starter next year.

Jennings was Miss North Otago in 1998, Miss New Zealand in 1999 and went to the Miss World pageant in Trinidad and Tobago where she met the owner of the Miss World pageant, one Donald Trump. That is a memory but there were plenty of better things to occupy the mind now.

Flashback . . . Kristy Jennings (nee Wilson) was crowned Miss New Zealand in 1999. PHOTO: REUTERS