Life as a multisport athlete in Wanaka by Dougal Allan
About 10 years ago I sat down with my coach Val and explained I wanted to move to Nelson, at the top of NZ’s South Island. When she asked why I explained it was where all the top multisport/triathlon athletes were living and training (names like Richard and Elina Ussher, Nathan Faavae, Sophie Hart, Trevor Voyce, Fleur Lattimore and Britta Martin) and it was something of a hub for endurance sport. I felt that moving there would help me become better as an athlete. Her advice was to stay in Wanaka as it had everything on offer to make this an endurance hub in the very near future. I trusted her judgement and hung around.
Flash forward a decade and Wanaka would have to be without doubt NZ’s endurance sport hotspot. Athletes like Braden Currie and Simone Maier have made this place home alongside some world class events such as Red Bull Defiance, Challenge Wanaka and Breca swim/run. The doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists and even local business owners all have an involvement in endurance sport and it just seems to be a ‘way of life’ in this town. Add to that the surrounding mountains, lakes, rivers and trails and you basically have an outdoor paradise that guarantees your involvement in multisport and triathlon will be constantly varied, inspired and fulfilling.
Right now NZ is on lockdown. Effectively we are expected to stay at home unless for essential trips to supermarkets, pharmacies and medical centres. Training and exercise needs to be done at home or in a small 2-3km radius from home. The spread of COVID-19 is a very real danger and our government has elected to be proactive, rather than reactive. It is easy to commit to the cause and abide by the rules when you realise you can save lives by doing so.
So what does this mean for training in paradise? The mountains and lakes that surround us are off-limits. We can look at them, but not touch. Much like the ‘forbidden fruit’! It would be easy to assume a feeling of ‘being trapped’ would quickly manifest but I have felt nothing but gratitude to live in such a place during the lockdown.
I am typing this while looking out of my bedroom window at Mt Grandview which stands 1400m above sea level. It is one of my favourite places to mountain bike and run. The views are sensational from the top and I am privileged to have been up there so many times that I can simply close my eyes and visualise the vista from the summit. That is all the inspiration I need right now to hop on Zwift or run around the block to keep my body healthy and happy. The biggest reward I find in health and fitness does not actually come through races and events. I find the biggest rewards come each day when my body allows me to reach the top of a tall mountain on two feet or wheels, or access the middle of the lake in a kayak. The places my body can take me are the biggest rewards of all and perhaps this lockdown has served as a reminder of this. I have never been so grateful to live in a place like Wanaka where the inspiration comes with a simple act like looking out the window each day.
I miss being in the wild and I miss getting out and training with friends like Braden. This is why I live in the endurance hub of NZ and I cannot wait to be able to do it again. But for now the focus is on doing the right thing for all kiwis while enjoying an adapted way of maintaining some health and fitness. The purpose of the training right now has nothing to do with a race, as nobody knows when the next one will be. The purpose instead is on staying healthy and happy and knowing the rewards will come when we can once again climb the mountains and paddle the waterways. Something I am guilty of taking for granted when the world is operating normally. If COVID-19 was a person, I would thank it for reminding me to be grateful for the lifestyle I am able to live. Then I would tell it to bugger off. Or something to that effect.