Six years is a long time between races. In the time since I last competed in the Coast to Coast World Multisport Championships race I have effectively discovered a side-career in ironman triathlon. So, a shift back to off-road racing has involved a rediscovery of the unique and specific skill sets and fitness requirements that this race presents. It is a race of the most epic proportions. The road cycling begins and ends the race while also filling the middle. The mountain run may as well be called a ‘mountain scramble, clamber, jump, grunt and all going well in various segments, run’. It effectively follows a series of river beds that take competitors up and over the main divide of the South Island’s Southern Alps. The river kayak is 70km of strong currents, rapids, bluffs, braided channels and stunning gorges which quickly wear thin as the fatigue starts to set in at a time when most civilised people are enjoying a Saturday afternoon siesta.
Part of my preparation for this event has involved hardening my mind as much as my body to these environs. I have trained alone for long periods, as the reality in the Coast to Coast one day event is you will large chunks of time in complete solitude. It is both an attractive and an intimidating prospect. My ability to push myself to be my best on the day has had to come from within. It has been an introspective summer of training.
Kayaking was my biggest concern at the outset, as I had been swimming for five years and hadn’t made time to kayak. Though it has come on faster and stronger than I expected. Perhaps it has been muscle memory, maybe some crossover from swimming, or even just six more years of aerobic endurance and physical maturity. My coach Gordon Walker is a sprint kayak specialist. My rapid progression likely comes as a combination of all these factors but whatever the exact reason, my kayaking feels far from vulnerable and I am not complaining.
My run has always been competitive. Not a weapon as such, but always strong. But the shift back to manoeuvring over, under and around house-sized boulders has taken some practice. I wouldn’t say I feel like I am one with the mountains by foot just yet, but I am closer than I expected to be which is encouraging. It may be the run on race day where I’ll need to prepare myself to forfeit a bit of time. But from the moment the run is complete there is still approximately 7-8 hours of racing to come.
Cycling, especially on a time trial bike in a true non-drafting format - that is my happy place. While previous winners have tended to make race-winning moves on the run and/or kayak, I am open to the idea of making my biggest tilt for victory on the final 70km cycle to the finish line in Christchurch. For this to happen I will need to be coherent, which is a task in itself given the previous 9 hours of racing can take a toll. But I have done some hectic bike sessions. One involved 6 hours on an indoor erg, with a normalised power of 280 watts. Others have included 4x 20min efforts holding 340-350 watts to help prepare my legs (and mind) for one final big push at the end.
So, the preparation and journey to the start line on February 9th has been both rewarding and challenging, but importantly it has been consistent. A block of training I reflect on with pride and hope for what it might help me produce. Of course, race execution is a science and art all in itself. Nutrition, equipment choice and logistics must be flawless. Racing across such a wild environment presents countless variables on the day. With Camino backing my every move I can at least rest assured I will be wearing the right gear for the job, whatever the day brings.