Author Archives: Sam
My last individual multisport race was the 2017 Coast to Coast. The only big event I had done this year is the 6-day expedition adventure race “GodZone” in Fiordland back in March, + a 4 hour Duathlon in early August.
2018 has been all about a big base building block, preparation for another (6th time) crack and the Kathmandu Coast to Coast Multisport world champs longest day.Theory is that I need more volume in my training, more adaption, without the compromise of being under racing stress and recovery mode all the time. That is why I tried to experiment by not racing any events in China this year.
I began my training block in May, about the same time I had decided I had final recovered from GodZone.
After 4.5 months of training it was great to get back into the testing the limits at an endurance race – The famous Motu Challenge.
I drove up from Christchurch over two days and arrived in Opotiki just before the 5pm Friday night registration opened.
I’ve done Motu Challenge 2x before. 2012 and 2014. Both times getting well beaten by the locals such as Sam Clark and having a good battle with some fierce elements such as heavy rain, strong wind and a variety of temperatures.
Motu Challenge has a strong place for me as it the closest multisport race to my home town Wairoa, so the terrain is very similar to what I grew up in. Rugged country. It’s also times well to test where I am at in the coast to coast build up.
Starting with the 62km Mountain bike, I was caught a little off-guard with just how fast the start was. Eventually forming a group that was the 2nd bunch behind the lead. Our bunch was mostly 160 competitors + Andew Sclater, Neil Jones, and Jarrod Teddy. In the front pack, Tom O’Donnell and Tom Christinson.
Halfway up the first big hill climb I slowly let Sclater pull away deciding to pace slightly slower.
I rode by myself for the remainder of the ride, passing both Tom Christinson and Tom O’Donnell mid-way through but no sign of Sclater.
I came into transition 3 mins behind Sclater in 2nd place.
Running swiftly in the 17km run through the Motu trails and gravel roads but only got 30secs out of him. The sun came out which was great to try and warm up.
The 50km road cycle was a battle with the wind and a bit of snow. Initially both legs cramping meaning I had to ride very conservatively apart from some risky speeds on the descent off Traffords Hill.
I had lost 2mins on this bike stage so got into my kayak 4 mins down on Andrew Sclater.
The Waioeka river was at a good flow and here I felt a bit better sitting down after some leg destroying stages. It was a 27km long stage.
After 1 hour (17km) I caught Sclater and kept working hard to keep him behind me. Exiting the kayak stage with him less than 2mins back.
All that remained was the 8km road cycle and a 3km run.
I rode hard but Sclater still managed to claim back some time and arrived rather close to me in the final transition.
Then began the most painful 3km run I can remember in recent times as I sprinted to try and hold him off.
It was until the final 500m that I looked back and finally knew I had it in the bag. Sclater finishing 1 min back followed by Patrick Higgins in 3rd, a further 35mins.
From here I have week at home in Wairoa catching up with family. Then its back into the grind of the C2C training block. I learnt a lot again in this race and will change my training methods accordingly.
Thanks to my parents and my coach for being a great support crew. Coach Cam Durno and I have been working hard together and this whole Coast to Coast project No.6 is certainly looking to be the best one yet. Very excited for the summer ahead.
I’ve done this event three times before, all three times with Hamish and twice with Marcel and Simone. Although 2016’s version was very short (4 hours), it usually is reputable as a long one day race. Both 2014 and 2015 took 16-18 hours for us to complete.
2017 was a little different. Instead of breaking the stages up in to multiple ‘shorter’ sections, we were faced with long stages.
2015 version: 2km swim, 18km kayak, 20km inline skate, 60km MTB, 2km run+abseil, 33km kayak, 60km MTB, 35km Run.
2017 version: 2km swim, 128km MTB, 55km kayak, 43km run.
Logistically this is harder for nutrition and pacing/self-maintenance. But it proves especially hard to escape nearby teams due to drafting or slower paces due to the long distance.
We knew from the start who our competition would be. (We eventually ended up finishing within 15mins of each other)
It was two other teams who we knew would be challenging to beat:
Purao Biomedi: Alex Hunt, Daniel Jones, Jacky Boisset and Myriam Guillot.
Adventure Sport NZ team: Sam Clark, Elina Ussher, Richard Ussher and Dougal Allan.
Top 10 listed teams competing (next page had peak adventure Australia who came 5th in the end)
Here’s how it went:
6am start on the dot, the day was clouded over which was promising, it can be brutally hot here when the sun’s out.
2km swim: I didn’t rush off the beach and waded briskly through the shallow water without too much speed until the water was too deep. This method kept my heart rate low and walking in the deep water meant that I had efficiently kept near the front.
Once swimming I quickly got near the front and seemed to be leading the field. I was worried I was going too hard and looked up often to try and find Simone/Marcel who were swimming together (Hamish was right behind me). Because I slowed down Marcel and Simone suddenly came flying past.
I seem to often struggle to control my breathing and heart rate in any swimming event (in the very few that I’ve done) and today seemed to be no exception.
I began breathing nearly every stroke and decided to swim on Simone’s feet to get a break. But I couldn’t even stay on her feet (drafting). Either I was changing direction often, or they were, and I always seemed to be off to the side of them. About 1km I found the effort too much and let Marcel and Simone pull away from Hamish and I. It was too much for me and my energy to try and stay with them rather than my own rhythm.
To my left Team Adventure Sport NZ was catching up and I kept inline with them for a few hundred metres until I still couldn’t find a rhythm and was working harder than I wanted too, then I moved to the back of their team (Elina’s feet) and cruised easily in their wash to the end.
A good decision I thought but Marcel and Simone had to wait for us at the beach as we were probably 100m back.
Nevermind we didnt gain or lose any time and I was tired/dizzy enough after that swim.
We exited the transition last out of the three teams due to me dropping the whistle on the way out of the swim (a compulsory piece of equipment). Thankfully a Jacky of Purao team told me and I ran back.
I had no legs at the start of the bike so Hamish and Marcel led us out, doing the work and sprinting required to bring our team in touch with the front bunch of Adventure sport NZ and Purao Biomedi had grabbed a 100m gap on us.
From then it was pretty straightforward for the rest of the 128km ride. A fast course being mostly on road, some people worked on the front, some did not. Either way we averaged 35kmph and were often above 40kmph thanks to Dougal, Sam Clark and Alex Hunt from the other teams. Relatively uneventful apart from a couple of aggressive surges.
55km Monster Kayak: the top 3 teams all entered the water together and by this stage were a long way ahead of the next place team. Our team paddled well and were soon at the front.
Simone carries the mass amount of fluid and food required for the long paddle:
A strong easterly was blowing which meant we had large waves building on this lake, at the direction we were going (west) we were have a great time surfing them. By the turn around we had a bit of a gap on the other teams but now going into the wind, back to the start beach, we hoped to show our strength and pull away much further.
While we were still leading and still leaking
Straight away the waves were filling our boat with water. Splashing over the front and side. I was stoked. Why? Because I expected it and we had brought bilge pumps to save us. Something I knew the other teams hadn’t. I expected that the other teams would have far more trouble.
I was wrong. Not much water at all was splashing into their boats and Hamish and I were soon left behind pumping the water out. I didn’t understand!
Simone and Marcel had to turn around to find out what was going on. Very quickly Marcel pointed out that the back end was very deep in the water, it was clear the rear cavity/bulkhead was full of water and had a hole in it somewhere. We located it near the top of the boat so it must have filled while we were surfing the waves on the way over.
Hamish somehow managed to dig his fingers through the wall which was made of foam. The wall separated the cockpit from the bulkhead. Then the water flowed through to his area where he could pump the water out.
This process cost us a fair amount of time and the other teams had disappeared out of sight. Now able to pump the water out we were going faster and as we got closer to shore the waves were smaller and the wind even decreased.
In the distance we could spot the two front teams. Returning to the start beach marked about 23km into the 55km paddle.
We still had a long way to go. Time to make up some time!
Simone flicked on her waterproof speaker and started cranking some upbeat music to get the pistons cranking a bit harder.
4 more hours and 32 more kilometres later we closed the gap to about 5mins. These boats really do have a low hull speed and do not reward the efforts you out in.
43km run (god orienteering)
My hands were so soggy and blistered that as I rushed to put my running shoes on, holding the shoe open with my hand, my foot sliding in scrapped a lot of the skin off my hand. Yeowch.
We took off and I felt strong! We were clipping along at 4:30minkm and everyone seemed to feel great. Hamish led the charge with the GPS.
Surprisingly we passed team Adventure Sport NZ within 20mins. And flew past.
Soon we had Checkpoint 1 and it was a long way to checkpoint 2 on the other side of town. We were going well but could see Team Adventure were holding ground we’ll only 200m back.
Suddenly Hamish bent over and was throwing up, he was out of breath from the spewing and was determined to get something out of his belly. Turned out some olives weren’t digesting too well.
This was a big turning moment as Hamish is a strong team members and suddenly even though we were running again, it was not very fast and he seemed to be drastically low in energy.
Tow rope it was. I encouraged him to have a gel to to replace the missing fuel/empty stomach.
I took over for nav here forth and tried to get the team moving quickly again. We took a slightly different way to team NZ and were gutted to see them running towards us about 100m away from CP2. Now we had to turn around again and head back where we came from.
CP 2 was 20km in and there are 6 check points to collect!
It was very dark now and the rain was making me a little cold, which encouraged .e to also run faster.
The next few cps were all in a park which is a maze of trails, roads and ponds which do not go in logical directions.
We nailed all the cps in the park and had hope that maybe one of the other two teams made some mistakes as we had in previous years.
All that was remain was 5km of road running to the finish, the same place we had started the swim just 15 hours earlier.
We pushed hard and eventually we crossed the end of the race.
I felt quite angry at the finish line.
I was smashed but wanted to complain to the officials about our leaky kayak.
We had finished just 5mins behind 2nd place (Team Adventure Sport NZ) and 15mins behind 1st place team Purao Biomedi.
The officials just laughed and didn’t really understand what I was explaining (or maybe they did.).
Anyway I tried to eat and drink but struggled to get much down. Soon I found myself very weak and could bear to stand or even sit. So I curled up in the ground.
I felt nauseas and cold and dizzy.
I could compare it to being very intoxicated on alcohol and not wanting to move. Strangely nostalgic.
Not the most enjoyable activity 11pm at night after a monster event.
After a few days rehabbing in the Hilton in Chongqing we are now travelling to Zunyi for a two day stage race this weekend (9TH/10TH September).
Suqian is a place of flatness and quite warm when the sun comes out this time of the year. If the clouds cover we are look at a day averaging 24 degrees Celsius but if the sun shines then we have the burn and temperature of over 30 degrees.
Not so cloudy:
Above is the view from our massive hotel which in the past we’ve had to abseil off but not this year.
2km swim (starts in far the side of above photo and finishs at Ferris wheel)
128km mountain bike (described as all on road and flat and two laps of a 64km loop)
55km kayaking on the lake. (Known from previous times here as a hot and isolate place to be)
43km road/park run (navigation by GPS coordinates and a terrible satellite photo map)
The course ‘map’:
So the red line is the long kayak, the light blue line is the ‘MTB’ loop and the yellow dotted circle is the mystery run course.
Competing again with my great team of Hamish Fleming, Simone Maier and Marcel Hagener.
Top 8 teams:
We know what to expect from this course despite it being a new course to last time, the previous years were different but not by much.
We especially know what mistakes we have made in the past and therefore have a solid plan to ensure this day goes smoother than ever.
Race starts at 6:30am on Sunday 3rd September (10:30am NZ time)
Here’s some photos from the last few days here:
3rd and final day. Understandably we are tired and sore. The sun is out in all its glory today.
10km road run. We start at 30second intervals again in a small village. Off in second. The legs are screaming and in pain. They don’t seem to like this, and make this discomfort known right up until about 6km in when they seem to have woken up a little it. This course is slightly down hill too making the concrete running even tougher on the legs. We lose a bout 30seconds to Purao and team Adventure NZ seem to have gained of ground. We knew we had paced well though.
Into transition we grab our kayaking gear and have saved time by wearing our lifejackets under the race bibs for the entire run leg now we have to run 1km of downhill trail to the lake.
5km kayak. We enter the lake quickly and chase Purao who don’t seem far ahead. Soon we approach the high bridge across the canyon that we paddle in and knew what was coming up.
1.5km run + 180m abseil – only one team member had to do this leg and the others must wait in the kayaks at the bottom of the abseil. Today it would be me because I was in slightly better condition at that point in time even though I’d been having some slower days.
A tough climb but I arrived at the top to find Dan Jones of Team Purao there waiting to abseil too.
Once I checked in it was a no time zone so I could relax. I convinced a marshall to get me a bottle of water from a car while I watched Dan descend. We were very very high. I dragged out the rest as long a possible then prepared for the decent. Then away I went.
I wore two sets of gloves to prevent my hand for melting however it seemed like my figure 8 device and the rope was judging by the smell and particles flying off.
Eventually at the bottom I unhitched and jumped back in the kayaks.
7km kayak. We continue on the lake chasing after Purao. We unfortunately make minimal ground on them.
5km run. We scramble up the dirt bank to transition into our running gear and begin the 1km climb. I feel good and move to the front trying to help set the pace. Soon we are off the trail and have rolling conrete road all the way to the end. You want to run fast but it’s so hard with fatigue!
21km mountain bike. This stage is pretty much on road, concrete and gravel. It’s seem fast despite the hills but still seemed to be endless. We worked hard together confident we had had a fast leg. It was a nasty sting in the tail when they made us carry our bikes through a tourist walkway filled with steps just before the end.
4km gps orienteering. This is where things change. We arrived in a solid 2nd place not far behind Purao still and well ahead of the other teams. Gulpin down some TA water we set off for the last leg. Hamish and I take over with the GPS’s and punch in the numbers.
For the first time they tell us we can collect the check points in any order which is annoying but we decided to collect them in order anyway because I assumed maybe they would still be in a logistical order and they rule change was only because some other teams ha complained. However after the first CP we find ourselves running back to the start for one we could have picked up on the way past.
Realising our mistake too late we rush to get the final points running with team Thule and Adventure NZ who previously were in 3rd and 4th. We had lost nearly 10mins!!!! A token cargobnet climb and wall climb finished the day off.
We ended the day on a bit of a low but also knowing that despite it we still had locked in 2nd overall, which overwhelmed the small depression. A brutal three days but also incredible fun with incredible people.
It’s always tricky doing this many China races in a row. Starting the third China multi day race in a month, we are all anxious on how the body will perform. Usually they have a tough first day and then it seems to recognize the signals of what we asking of it and it adapts into race mode.
Today was freezing, around 15 degrees an pouring rain. Not what we are used to in China. Lucky I had packed a polypro thermal to the start line and used it.
Mass start and two team members had to carry a 20kg basket from 3km. We pushed from the start and broke into a gap between the main field and 1st place (Purao Biomed) who were flying well under 4minkms. My team worked together and shared the load although the quads and hammys had a massive workout. By the end of the 3km we have 2nd position.
3.6km road run. We dropped the baskets and work to claim back time. Even though the legs weren’t too happy post basket carry we seemed to be getting closer to Purao who maybe had pushed a bit hard.
42km mountain bike. A hard transition for me, legs were paying the price for the basket. We spent a short time in the streets before climbing a near hill where we passed Purao quickly but only because they weren’t moving due to a mechanical issue with one of the chains. Team Adventure NZ and the chinese team Koosa weren’t far back. The rain had made the course very wet and very muddy making the trails very slow and technical. We fought with the teams in the slipperyness for a long time and soon Purao came flying up front recovering impressively from their mechanical.
1km bike carry up and down very slippery steps made for interesting racing. I managed a crash off the bike in one downhill, tearing some skin off and bruising my hip/pelvis.
13km run. After finishing the mountain bike completely covered in mud we change to running. Initially fast downhill on road at which I realized I was have trouble with my running legs. The road changed to trail and was very cool travelling through isolate farms and valleys where we followed a stoney river and crossed it around 5 times. A fun stage but I just hung on to the team a the back. Last 2km was on wide clay 4wd track before we checked in to a time neutral zone we meet two teams here. Purao and Koosa who had both run faster than us. Here we had time out due to safety so we could safely put our harnesses on. There I also assess the damage from the crash and it is mostly bruising. The next team to check in is Team Adventure NZ but they were a safe 7mins back due to a mechanical on the bike.
200m run and 60m Zipline. A quick boost up a hill then we get two ropes per team to zip across a pond of water. This all goes pretty smoothly.
5km uphill road run. In classic Chinese fashion we a faced with final ascent to make sure we collapse across the finish to make for great TV and photos.
Crossing the finish in 3rd position however confident that we will make up time in the coming days. I hoped that my restricted leg power today was only because of the 20kg carry at the start of the day and the shock of racing again
It seems to be similar conditions to the previous day. Cold temperature and no sun plus lots of wet terrain. But little did we know it would change. This entire day had no course marking and were expected to follow a track of our GPS. Hamish and I had managed to upload it to watches so that made it easier to follow.
20km mountain bike. A staggered start dividing teams by 30 seconds. We scoot off 3rd and quickly catch Koosa. Just after a fork in the trail we see Purao running with with bikes back up the muddy downhill. They had made a wrong turn and we had followed the tire marks in the mud. This meant now all top teams had now either caught up or passed. It is hard to tell which fork to take on the trails due the gps track being very wide and no background.
Again the trail is very very muddy and even though we nearly make it back to the front of the field, we have several ongoing issues with the bikes chains and derailers clogged up with mud causing us to fall behind often. But we work very hard and actually begin the next stage very close to the two front teams still (Purao and Adventure NZ)
16km biathlon. This means we only take two bikes for our four team members and wear running shoes. Hamish and i initially run together and Marcel and Simone ride first. But quickly we realize the mistake that Hamish and I have both the GPS’s! We swap out and now I am running/biking with Marcel. After pushing ourselves for 40min we see we have caught the other teams and pass them because they took the wrong fork. By the end we finish together with Purao and just a few minutes ahead of Adventure NZ.
27km kayak. We have often proven to be the strongest paddling teams so planned to get some time on this stage. However because we enter the water together with Purao it is very different to escape due to the effect of drafting. Eventually we work together with Dan and Alex from Purao to share the front work. Here the sun comes out burning fiercely. A few kms from the end Adventure NZ manages to catch us and join the train of boats. Albeit I’m sure that they would have worked a lot harder than we had on that stage making us slightly fresher (if i can use that word) than them.
11km trail run. Last leg for the day. We hopped out of the kayaks first but we’re faced immediately with a steep staircase to the transition area.
Limping our way up and tearing race bibs and lifejackets we have a fast transition and exit in first. The sun is truly out now it’s burning. It’s all uphill for the next 3km and Purao, who are always running well squeeze past us. We make effort to not let them out of sight but once in the thicker bush trail they disappear. Eventually we climb out of the trail onto a road which traverses the high hills. Along the tops we can see Purao in the distance and keep moving quickly.
A big descent back to the farmlands it looks like we are only 1.5km away however they make sure we go up another steep trail over another saddle before descending more road and farm trail an eventually bursting out at the finishline.
Turns out we weren’t far behind! We claim 2nd and well ahead of the rest of the field.