A lot to be said about this one, certainly the highest profile race I’ve done. Not only did I train harder, smarter and longer than ever before, but it also required the most $$ and effort to get to the start line than any other I’ve done previously. Never the less it is that race that has to be done as a multi-sporter or by any challenge-seeking human. I’ll be honest, I want to win it… but who doesn’t?
I spent Xmas and New Years at my home town in Wairoa so I did a lot of the hard training time there. It was hard getting out in the heat of summer while family members were really living up the holiday break. New Year kind of came and went like a normal day, made it a little bit hard knowing that my sisters and friends were all an hour up the road at the country’s biggest New year’s concert. Some might say I was a bit hard on myself and that simply having a day or two off to drink in 2013 would not affect my racing performance. Probably correct but for my mental strength side of things doing anything that isn’t improving myself would just end up with me being upset and then blaming anything that went wrong during race day on ‘that one time’. I feel much better knowing I’ve got minimal holding me back.
6am start. Not used to that. Had to eat at about 3.30am and it was still dark when the gun went off. The 3km start run was messier than I imagined and it was almost a game of bull rush to get to the front of the pack. Feeling extremely strong and fresh and full of adrenaline I led the pack setting the pace until just before the gravel ended. I didn’t look around much but it seemed it was just me and Braden Currie until the flats at the top where the rest caught us. A flawless transition onto the bike and I think there were about 11 of us in our lead group. I was so excited to be in this wee peloton of elite athletes that I could stop smiling. Interval training must have paid off because I barely drew a sweat in this leg. Turned out we set a new course record for that stage too!
In TA2 I couldn’t find my support crew initially (Dad and younger sister Bex), but then I did, handed my bike over and ran for Mum who had my pack and running shoes, turned around and ran back to Dad, asked where she was, found her, quickly grabbed my gear, slipped over in style then finally exited the TA.
Despite finding the Cycle stage easy my legs were really heavy. I couldn’t hold Richard Ussher’s pace, ended just behind Dougal Allan and followed him for the first section of river rock running. He gapped too much and Trevor Voyce ended up in front of me so I followed him for the best routes. We went in to bush trail and now he gapped me and I was alone. Now the route choices were up to me. Straight away I made a bad choice which gave Dan Moore a great chance to sneak past very quickly on the opposite side of the river (where the very obvious trail was). I swam across immediately but Dan was long gone and I now had a pack that weighed twice as much because everything inside was now wet. Thankfully I did remember a lot still from my practice run in November & didn’t make any more wrong turns until the final few kms where I made some really dumb choices.
TA 3 was smoother than the last and it was awesome to see my Grandad standing there holding my bike for me. I hadn’t seen him for a while but there was no time for greetings! The cycle was short (15km) but still painful because I worked hard on it. I had someone pass me during but we came into TA4 together in the end.
My uncle and Dad had my Kayak ready in the water for me. Some fumbling with the drink system and clothing change and unfortunately the other guy (Luke Vaughan?) was out of sight so I had no one to follow. The river is braided and unless you are in main flow it can get very shallow. I went down almost every wrong braid possible. It wasn’t long until I bottomed out hard, cracking the boat and bumping the lap button on my Garmin watch making it think my kayak stage was over. I didn’t really know what to do so just pressed lap again so it thought I was on the final cycle, at least it would give me distance travelled. I then hip thrusted aggressively to slide the boat while digging my precious composite paddle between rocks in order to get back into deep water without exiting the boat. This happened about 5 more times before I got back into the main flow just below Goosebeery stream. The Gorge was straight forward, couldn’t go wrong there. I did however have a crack in my boat meaning was I was non-stop pumped hard with the bilge pump which is attached to my foot pedals. It required a lot of extra energy, made my right leg get more worn out that my left and caused some skin removal from my lower back from all the pushing. At the end of the gorge Graeme Hill flew past me with a short greeting. Once out of the gorge I once again got myself stuck several times by taking the wrong braids. I swore… A LOT. Then about 1km from the end I well and truely beached myself and meant for a voluntary 400m run stage. I was really pissed. I said right there to myself that if I could somehow maintain 9th that I would not deserve it. Being out on the river much longer than planned I had also run out of food.
Very happily, my uncle and Dad threw me out of the boat at TA5, nice and quickly. Never wanted to see the boat again at that point and time. I jogged up the hill to my bike. Plan was to change/refuel and grab what I need on this short run, however only my uncle could keep up with me! Once again my Grandad held my bike out ready for me and I gave it all, right from the start. I started off averaging around 37kph however I gradually got slower and slower and slower. The head wind was weak but very noticeable and very hot too. The flat, straight, long roads were really boring too. Holding aero position on the bars was painful to maintain for my weary body. Then my Garmin went flat so I had not a great idea of how far I had to go. My young cousins were holding support signs as I went near West Melton. An awesome sight to see when you’re hurting lots. I ran out of food on this stage too so relied on my bottle of coke for energy near the end.
I really had absolutely nothing left when I came round to Sumner beach, but I still ran the final stretch of sand to the finish line strong with only a small limp. I got a really inspiring cheer from the crowd as I raised my hand in the air. The body could not have been more relieved to stop. My parents, sister, cousins, aunties, uncles, and grandparents were all there to cheer me in too. The cousins had made signs and baked me cookies with name on them and when I got back to their house they had draw messages of support all over the windows of the building! A cheering family was just what my spirit needed after the long day. They really made me feel special.
I maintained 9th place all the way from the gorge in the Kayak stage to finish in 12hours 27 mins and 7 secs.
So it seems my imagination of winning the C2C on the first shot got a bit carried away. I learnt a priceless amount of knowledge during that race. I’ve been assured many things I shouldn’t and should do next time. It was a big price to pay to learn the hard way, but at least I have learnt!