This year I took quite a serious approach to the Coast to Coast.
I sacrificed some other races in summer and instead put all my eggs into the Coast to Coast basket.
I felt ready.
I had recently signed New World Wakatipu on as my premier event sponsor and things seemed to be lining up nicely for a really good crack at the Longest Day. I was excited to be heading back to the iconic multisport race that got me into the sport.
Standing on the West Coast start line at Kumara Beach felt good. I thought I was ready.
3 2 1 GO!
The start run was furious. We ran from the beach at top speed and I thought that the pace would surely relent. It was unsustainable. The pace remained the same, and I realised that I would need to increase my effort if I was to make it into the front group on the ride to follow. Always a rude way to start a 243km race!
A quick transition onto the bike and we were away onto the 55km road cycle stage. There were 8 or 9 of us in this front group. Again the pace was steady here and I found myself struggling to find any real rhythm on the bike. I was probably working only 2 or 3 percent harder than I would have liked, but was concerned about this, knowing what lay ahead, so I just tried to relax and look after my nutrition. I ate and drank well.
Eventually we reached Aickens Corner and after a quick transition we were running. Already I felt that I wasn’t having a strong day. The first ride had felt harder than it should have and I could tell that the legs had been affected. I relaxed, happy to drop back a bit to try and find the legs and some rhythm. Again, I focused on what I could control, my nutrition, and now my pacing. I tried to reason that if I was consistent and built into the run I would soon start catching some people in front… but I just wasn’t running free and couldn’t find that strong race feeling that I was looking for.
Soon I was joined by Alex Hunt. He was having troubles of his own and had ridden with the second bunch after dropping his chain. It turned out that there were quite a few strong athletes in the second bunch and that they had transitioned only a few minutes behind the front group.
I was happy to see Alex, reasoning that we would be able to push each other through the run. Alex is a great athlete and I figured if we were together then perhaps I wasn’t doing too bad…
Alex and I swapped the lead regularly. I had one fleeting period on the run where I found my legs and my energy and the flow and pure enjoyment that comes along with this. I thought “yuuus! I’m back”. I managed to get ahead of Alex for awhile, but unfortunately this feeling disappeared as quickly as it had come and my pace dropped once again. Frustrating to say the least!
By the time we had crossed Goat Pass and made the river flats near Klondike Corner Alex and I were still together, but I was struggling a bit to stride out on this flat section and Alex pulled ahead into Klondike.
Coming into Klondike I was feeling a bit flat. I had high expectations on myself this year and felt I was under performing. I had run the 33km in 3.27… Last summer I had done the run event in 3.06 and the year before I had raced it in 3.15 as part of the longest day…
It was however great to see my support crew, especially my mum who was waving the famous FYPOS flag (see the image at the very bottom – warning not PC).
Onto the 15km bike and my legs felt terrible! It was very interesting… the last time I did the longest day I had ran 15 min faster and felt great on the middle bike… ohhh dear.
I felt like I was in survival mode and was passed by another rider on this section.
Heading down to the kayak it was time to re-focus. I had a good chat with Steve Norton, my crew member and kayak coach. He said I was still in touch and a strong paddle could see me back into the top 5. I liked the sound of this, but at the same time didn’t feel like I “had it”. It was a strange feeling. The story of my day.
Into the boat and off, I was on the water with Sam Goodall. We had a quick chat before he slowly pulled ahead. Dam, another position down. I focused on my race plan, building into the paddle slowly and refuelling. I found a good rhythm in the boat and was happy with my progress. I passed an athlete near the Red Bridge (about 2 hrs from the end of the paddle). It was here that I also ran out of liquid food and realised that the bars I had with me had become a saturated mush. I ate what little I could from the bars, but effectively was out of food for the rest of the paddle.
Coming into the transition at Gorge Bridge is always uplifting. I had passed a couple of people on the paddle leg (although I only saw one) and had seen another not very far ahead. My crew did a great job of getting me out of the boat and up the hill to my bike.
This is where I made a mistake. I should have let my crew know straight away that my nutrition was gong poorly, that I had run out in the boat, but in the hype of the moment I didn’t. I thought I would be all good once I was on my bike and could refuel then.
My legs again felt really heavy on the bike. No power. I sucked on the Coke in my front bottle, and that went down well. I drained it in the first 30 mins of the ride… Should have brought more… I had too much solid food and no gels. Big mistake. I started to really feel the bonk from the nutritional deprivation in the boat. I couldn’t get much solid food down, as hard as I tried. This was the worst leg of my race. Out of the boat I was sitting in 8th, with athletes not far up the road, within range… instead I was passed by 4 people on this ride, as I struggled to keep moving. It was devastating to be passed so close to the end of such a big day. I had nothing in the tank and couldn’t respond or challenge anyone who passed me. I was doing what I could and that was all I had on the day.
Crossing the line was a relief. It was over. I was gutted and destroyed. I had got it wrong again. I felt like I had let myself, my sponsors and support team down. Sport can be brutal. The consolation for me was that although I didn’t have the day I wanted, I had still left it all out there. I was spent and nutritionally deprived.
What a day…
I learnt a lot from my race and already think that I will be back next summer, slightly wiser and hungry for redemption. I’ll get it right one of these days… and hey, it was still an awesome day out and a great accomplishment to race from one side of the country to the other!
A massive thank you to my generous sponsors and support crew! This race is a huge undertaking and it would not be possible without your backing.