It’s been an epic season of pure focus. You can’t blame me too much for this race story being two weeks after the competition ended. Every second since I’ve been doing all the activities (or lack of) and consuming all the food and beverages that wasn’t so ideal during the Summer training block.
For those that haven’t been counting, this is my fifth Coast to Coast 1-day race. It’s a big day over rugged terrain and wild environment, everything is trying to slow you down. It’s a survival of the fittest. Who wants it the most, who’s prepared for it the most. Who really can trust themselves to do IT.
I want to build this day up a lot more but let’s just crack into it.
Usual 3:25am alarm, 3 strips of streaky bacon, 3 fried eggs, 1 fried tomato, 1/2 avocado. All carefully chewed by 3:50am. I hand-grind some beans and produce an extra strong coffee. By 5:15am I am unloading the bike from the van, checking the tire pressures and give Dad a strong hug.
The startline was different, we started on the road rather than the beach due to some steep erosion. I stood one row back from the front for the first time. I can run fine, I told myself, I’ll be in the front soon.
The start was right on time. 6:00am. The usual sprint to begin with and a small group of 5 guys get a 10m gap straight away, I hear Hamish just next to me tell someone: “Don’t worry they’ll ease off soon”. But, while I agreed that this was likely, it did not happened. 3:09minkm’s all the way to the uphill section. Hamish came flying past me when he saw that they weren’t slowing and I followed suit. I was kind of OK with the pace however I had not trained for this speed. As far as I was concerned it was ridiculous, but the fight within me to be in the front bunch was too big.
After just over 7 mins running we are on the bikes and storming ahead to create a front group of 9 guys. At least two notable athletes are missing (well who I expected to be there with us), Sam Goodall and Alex Hunt.
It was 5mins into this 55km road cycle that I made a mistake with dire consequences. I dropped my Leppin bottle containing all 3 gels I needed for the stage. If I cannot replenish the muscles fuel then I will have a hard time, especially after that fast first run. I told Hamish and he kindly offered me his spare Gel…Which I dropped. Idiot. So all I had for the ride was an Em power bar, a bottle of water and a bottle of electrolyte (no carbs).
Anyway the bunch seemed to work reasonably well to start with, better than last year at least. However soon some chaps kept riding off the front or some got tired and stayed at the back and the nice ‘flow’ became non existent. The next bunch back was closing in. I was keeping a close eye on my powermeter to make sure I didn’t spend too much time above a certain amount but hard to manage when it’s your turn on the front!
We came flying into the transition to begin the mountain run and still ahead of the 2nd bunch (I think only 2mins). Sam Clark had cycled with foot plates so didn’t need to change shoes, Braden Currie had worn his compulsory mountain run pack since the start line so didn’t need a bib change. Great tactical plans. I opted for simply a slick transition, Bib off, jacket off, running shoes on, pack on, bib on. Support crew nailed it so well I exited the transition in 3rd place, 30m behind Sam Clark, and 60m behind Braden Currie.
I felt awesome, I was floating. Priority number one, consume a gel. Oops I don’t have any water for 3 km to wash it down with.. doh! Caught up to Sam Clark and I considered passing but told myself off for considering. However by the time we reached the first river crossing I tried to push ahead and took a direct line to the main trail. I felt so good!
Clark snuck in front just as we entered the trail and he stayed in front here forth. I took slightly different lines and stayed only a 1min back for a long time. My rock running was better than ever so my heart rate was lower due to efficiency. I was happy with the splits I was achieving regardless of my position.
When I reached Goat Pass a couple of marshals yelled support to go faster, so I did, they loved it! They cheered loudly as I did a quick stride out across the top boardwalks however it built some nasty lactic acid in my hamstrings and I kind of regretted showing off.
Just after the Dudley Knob descent I kicked a tree stump really hard, dislodging my big toenail completely. I also landed on my face. Had to happen at some stage! A sign of wear. I limped for a bit but was able to push through the discomfort while thinking the toe was now broken.
I kept moving quickly however the last 5km was not as fast as I would have liked, muscle fatigue had set in and I struggled to maintain the high speed. Reaching Klondyke in 3hours 7mins, 5.5 mins behind Clark and 17mins behind Braden. I blame some of the excessive hamstring fatigue from the fast run at the start of the day.
Now onto the middle cycle stage, 15km. It’s time to top up on anything I didn’t get enough on the run. I enjoy a bottle of electrolyte, bottle of Fortisip (protein) and half an Em power bar. I pushed reasonably well on this ride so was surprised when I found I lost another minute on this stage.
The run down the kayak was a struggle in my head, I believe all the blood had left my head to try and digest all the food in my belly and felt disillusioned. The plan had been to eat more on this short run however I’d consumed more than enough. I had a salt tablet and another 1/4 of my oaty bar.
A slick as transition into the battleship, thanks to the support team. And I was off. It felt so weird and foreign to be kayaking. Nearly 30mins later the brain signals finally made its way to the right places and I started getting more consistent and powerful.
I knew roughly the right braids until 15km mark due to a few laps the week before however other than that I read and run it all. Reading the river on the run is a skill that takes a while to perfect but can be done with practice. The more time you spend on this river the better you understand the way it flows, fortunately my work with TopSport Kayaking meant I was well tuned.
Some awesome support from mates doing safety on the rock gardens (Tai Poutini Polytechnic) provided huge moral boost.
I had planned to make all my moves on this stage to claim back time and pull myself further away from those behind. My kayaking skill and fitness level was far better than ever and I really thought I could get the fastest paddle time. However some seat issues (typical eh?!) caused me to lean back and use just my arms for the paddle. I can still paddle OK like this but no chance for a record time.
Knowing this river better than my own driveway due to the many laps with TopSport Kayaking meant that for the first time I really enjoyed this stage in the race. I knew exactly how far to go and made the stage work for me.
Having Leppin Squeezy gels easily accessed kept energy levels consistent and strong throughout, along with a litre of Coke.
The sore arse meant I was happy to be out of the boat by stage end however my legs were now pretty fresh for a solid last stage on the bike.
I didn’t know how far anyone was behind me as no one knew, but I trusted my arms to have held myself ahead of any of the others I knew of behind me.
I wanted a fast transition so was ripping the kayaking gear off asap. The team worked well and I was changed quickly however the hardest part was consuming the Steak and Cheese Pie I had demanded before the race. The crew had worked hard to keep it warm but my poor stomach was not happy with idea of solid food. I forced down one bite.
On went the bike shoes and I tried to run away with the bike. I was yelled at to have another bite of the pie “I don’t want it!” “YOU’RE NOT LEAVING UNTIL YOU TAKE ANOTHER BITE!!”. Tail between my legs I took another bite… and it was sooo good. The juicy gravy was amazing. I realised the pie really was a GREAT idea.
Off on the Bike, 70 km of straight road to go.
I felt great and went off charging! About 40mins later, cranking the cranks, my energy had not worn off but decided to throw some food inside me just incase. 3X shots of coffee, a Leppin Gel and a mouthful of coke. Not a great result. It was too much at once and took over 25 mins to balance out the energy levels. Meanwhile I was still flying past so many 2 dayer athletes!
Just like the paddle the long straight roads of this cycle no longer bothered me, I was loving it, I felt fast and strong all the way apart from a couple of ‘moments’.
My power did slowly decrease but still maintained to a solid level.
I’ve never finished a Coast to Coast so strong! It felt powerful.
I finished in 3rd Overall in 11 Hours 37mins.
I need to say a massive massive thanks to my coach Cam Durno who I’ve been working with for 2.5 years. Together we’ve become a great team I’ve learnt a lot off you.
Another massive thanks to my support crews on the day. While only two were allowed to physically assist there were so many other people that helped make this day. Rod, Len and Kate from TopSport Kayaking, Kristin, Mum & Dad and my sister Bex, for coming all the way down from Auckland and Hawke’s Bay, Uncles and Aunties and Cousins, Grand parents and of course all my mates! Special shout out to Liam and Staycie for coming down from AKL to visit the show.
Thanks to my awesome sponsors:
Over two weeks later the Vanette is still tagged in celebratory ink thanks to my younger local cousins! I get some interesting looks everytime I drive it!