So after thinking about it all for the last five days (post-race), I still seem to have the same thoughts about how it went, which isn’t normal. I normally start to forget about all the difficult times and battles I had during the race and only think about the fun parts, but not this time.
To take in and understand the whole thing I will have to start two weeks out from the start of the event. I had a good weekend training and was feeling excited and ready to tackle the large race that was ahead. Leading up to the event I had no injuries and couldn’t wait to get down there with the plan familiarizing myself with the course a little, especially the run and kayaking stages. Monday morning came around (12 days out from the race) my coach had decided a rest day was in need, as training was going awesome. That is when things decided to start its down-hill; woke-up the next morning, to milk the cows, to a sore chest. Milking was a struggle, as it really hurt, but I assumed that I must have just slept on my shoulder wrong. Me being me, I thought ‘oh it will come right in a day or two. No big deal.’ I was well wrong, Thursday comes around and it’s only getting worse which is making me stressed and nervous. Three days of training missed as my chest was making breathing and moving a struggle. This ‘no training’ was taking its toll, being so close to the event I had to do something. I thought a small paddle would test how bad it really is, take it easy, test it out and extend if it’s going well. FAIL… ten minutes in and I had to turn back the pain was getting worse, time to make appointments with the physio,chiropractor and masseuse. All confirmed that the muscles were strained and told me good luck for coast to coast. This just made me feel really nervous about the week ahead.
Saturday the van is all loaded up and we begin the long trip down. Feeling grumpy, frustrated and nervous we were on our way. The lead up was not what coach and I had planned and it was beginning to take its toll. Was I going to be able to train once there or even start in the race?
Monday (5 days till race day) the pain in my chest had improved but wasn’t 100%. I decided a familiarizing and training run was needed so went out on the course. Here I am enjoying myself even though I was nervous about the pain still in my chest; I thought ‘yeah, I’m going to be good on this run. The terrain is going to be challenging but easier than some of what I’ve trained on. Running is my strength so I’ll tackle it with all I’ve got.’ Things are going pretty good, feeling sore but bearable… until the last 200m! Not far at all to the car and I kick my toe, like REALLY kick it hard. It hurts so bad, but it will come right before race day I’ll be fine. The following day I go for a paddle down the river. I could feel my chest still so decided just the top ten kilometres will do to get a feel for the braids of the river having never paddled in a braided river before. Finished the paddle feeling nervous and a bit concerned due going for a swim in a relatively simple rapid. Well, all the preparation and training is done, time for rest and recover with a few little spins and jogs to keep things moving till race day. Hopefully the toe improves, but the chest is slowly getting back to normal.
Friday (day one for the two day race), my girlfriend’s (Anna) first day of racing. Watching her go through transition and out onto the mountain run was a thrill and made me feel excited for my own race. When results were in for that first day of racing I was super stoked to hear that she was sitting as the first female off the course.
I don’t seem to get too nervous before race start, so heading down to the start position I was feeling okay. Still knowing my toe and chest was an issue but thinking I’ll forget about it once I’m out on the track, the plan was to have a good mountain run (one of my strengths) by following someone fast up to the top. From there, from what I had heard, the track becomes more defined and easier to navigate. My paddling is nowhere near as strong as the top ten- thirty competitors, but by having a strong run I could possibly hang on to a good position for the rest of the race.
So we are all lined up on start, 10 9 –5 4 3 everyone starts moving and we are off. Two steps in to it, someone clipped my leg and next thing I know I’m face down in the sand with people running over me. I know that I have to get up rather smartly and get back up to the front. So with that in mind I pushed a little harder than planned weaving thru the whole field to get up to a precious front spot. The pace was decent and I was comfortable maintaining it, I was a bit pleased to listen to everybody working hard to get enough air to maintain the pace that was set. I guess most endurance runners don’t do a lot of fast pace training. Meanwhile I’m still breathing through my nose after a sprint to catch up.
With everyone warning me how in this race it is crucial to have a good first transition it made me nervous, I did not want to miss that front bunch. So coming to the end of the two and a half kilometre run I decided to pick up the pace, break away from the running group to give myself plenty of time. Having a good transition, I was out on my bike cruising down the road till the front group formed around me. I was expecting the pace to be set around 38-40 kilometres an hour, not the 32 that was. I can remember thinking this is slow, but oh well. Easy start to the day although I would have rather had a good hot pace and lose half of the sitters on back of the bunch. Another transition in and out pretty fast; with my running shoes back on. I could see Sam Clarke just up a little ways so I decided I’d follow him. He set a fast pace that I was feeling pretty comfortable with. After a good quarter of an hour I couldn’t see anyone behind us and I was starting to get a bit dehydrated. Still a little bit behind Sam and trying to follow his path through the rocks I slowed just enough to fill my water bottle. In that amount of time Sam had taken off onto one of the side routes and I was unable to see where he went.
So at this stage of the race it wasn’t looking too bad I was holding a good position, feeling okay about my chest and the toe was sore but manageable. So things were looking up… but this all changed very quicky, where momentarily I lost concentration of my footing and slipped over while looking ahead trying to see where sam was going at about six kilometers into the run, landing awkwardly on my quad. The pain was immense, definitely going to leave a nasty bruise that one and an uncooperative leg. Perfect!!, sore toe, chest and now quad. I got up and tried to soldiering on. Leg now like rubber peg I set off at a limpy/ walk pace. From this point out I was in survival mode not racing anymore.
So I’m walking along, by myself, just thinking I need to get this leg going again (hopefully before the next people catch up.) What seems like 15minutes later I’m making slow progress but have started at least some jogging to try get moving quicker again, I saw Brent Edwards followed by Alex. I’m way over on the opposite side of the river to them, stupid place to be in Iassume, so I make my way over and follow them up the track to the top. Still battling along with a dead leg that feels like it could give out on me at any time, and the other leg taking most of my weight with a bad toe, things were looking… well it could have been better. My whole body feeling rather tender, I get to the top and decide I’ll take the pain and hoon down to catch Alex. So I pick up the pace and not long after I pass Brent, 2 minutes later, bam, I’m face down again on the ground. Stupid leg ended up giving out, argh. This gives Brent the opportunity to pass me again while checking if I was okay. ‘Dammit, just going to have to take it easy on the way down too.’ So I’m on my own again and I’m feeling really angry about not being able to run like I can normally can. There goes that toe again, kicked it (not on purpose) on another rock. This made me yell, so much pain all because of toes. By the end of the run another competitor(Tane) had caught up and passed me, as well as having kicking my sore toes twice more.
I must have been a sight to see cripple running into the bike transition; dead leg, munted toes on the opposite foot, bleeding knees and elbows from falling. I’m afraid of how my quad is going handle being the bike. I’m on the bike and it feels awesome to be off my feet, so I don’t care. I had a good bike catching up to Tane in front and was thinking I might sit behind him and follow his lines down the river, since I’m such a rookie and going into this river not knowing what is around the each corner. So I hobbled down the hill and get set up in the kayak. Yay he’s going a perfect speed for me to easily hang on behind him and follow. We made it about ten kilometer’s down the river before other competitor’s started coming past at full speed. Tane speed up and I tried to stay with them but I couldn’t. In 30 minutes six guys passed me. It’s pretty deflating but I knew it would happen. So I’m on my own again and my bum just blew out big time. I’ve had this happen to me before, on the Motu race, but only had to deal with it for an hour or so till the end. This time I had the gorge coming up and around 4 hours of paddling to go. The nerves rebuilding as I’m half lying in my kayak trying to cope with the cramping in my glutes. Having noother choice but to grind my teeth together and deal with it, while telling myself how much ‘I hate kayaking.’ I was pretty pleased with how I got through considering I only took one swim about half way through, when I just stuffed it up and went down the wrong side of a wave train. My butt was kind of thankful for the five minute break from the seat and made me feel a little better than before. The river just seemed to go on and on like everyone had warned me of, but I was doing ok energy wise. Only my cramping butt was killing me and was stoked to finally see the end. Heading for transition I’m looking around for my support crew (Chris and Jess) to pull me out but they were nowhere to be seen. I was really confused so I headed for the guys in orange highvests. They pulled me out and I think it was meant to be like that with Jess and Chris just behind a line, ready to help me change and get me on my bike. So I’m crawling up the hill to the bike, butt cramping, bung toes, sore quad and all. But finally I’m on the bike and passing the competitor that was able to pass me up the hill. Yuss! Off I go but I really need to go for a piss. I’m trying to go on the bike as I don’t want to stop as I have that guy behind me even though I can’t see him. Really can’t go, so after holding it for an hour I have to stop. Let me tell you it was the most satisfying feeling letting it out and I still can’t see the guy that is behind me, but by now my brain is doing funny things, and I can’t quite tell if just down the road if it is that guy on his bike or a mailbox.
Heading towards the finish now, I can see it in my sight. Stoked as to be hobbling up the stairs to the finish and complete the Coast to Coast in 11th place.
Well done to Sam for killing it out there. Wish I could paddle like him. Definitely didn’t feel like it was my day or even the lead up to the event, but injuries just seem to be part of the parcel to be an athlete/dairy farmer. Also well done to Anna who had won the 2 day female race, she deserved it.
Post-race I felt really weird. Absolutely buggered but unable to sleep and my body just wouldn’t wind down. Was in a slight sweat all night which is highly uncomfortable so I slept on the tramp at the campground. So off to prizegiving and the mission of a drive home and back to reality of farm life…well uncomfortable, self-inflicted, painful farm life. Hobbling around the farm and cowshed with a munted quad and extremely sore toes six days later isn’t making me want to do it again in a hurry. Well we will see if I forget the parts that should be forgotten. Also learnt that I should of put sunscreen and lip balm on, my face is peeling and lips feel like they are falling off my face.
Huge thanks to Chris Willett for coaching prior and being a awesome support crew during the event. Jess for flying down to help support crew as well. But most importantly to my Mum, who had to get up early and milk the cows for me for a whole week. It is a huge weight off my shoulders that she will do it right and sort anything if it arises. So also another big thanks to Anna, for listening to me moan about my sore bum every time we went for a long paddle and trying to explain what I was about to take on so I was ready for it. I am super proud of her achievement too.
Coast to coast—DONE
The start is always surreal, standing on a beach ready to sprint a quick 2.5km to the road bikes for a 55km cycle. I had a good run and found myself in a bunch moving along comfortably, the bunch wasn’t surging and after a bike accident in December my confidence has taken a hit so it was nice to be feeling safe.
I took in my surroundings, looking to see who was around. Hayden Wilde was up ahead wearing the very distinct Whakatane Cycle Centre shorts, I thought that maybe he had a stuff up and missed the first bunch/s so I asked the guy next to me.
“Is this the front bunch?”
“Yeah” he replied.
“But there’s no lead vehicle?”
“Two team riders got away so it will be I front of them”
This was great news and as we got further into the 55km ride we reached some small climbs and the bunch got smaller as it split. I was riding well and remained in the front group with one other female who was in a tandem team.
|Super fast transition but wasn’t in front of Hayden for long!|
A quick transition and onto the mountain run. Crossing the second river my legs felt like they were spaghetti, I wanted to be traveling at a steady pace but my lack of stability was hindering any sort of flow on the technical terrain. I looked over to see another individual female, Isla Smith from Christchurch, trotting comfortably past with a pack of three other guys on another track. Soon they were out of site and after a combination of taking wrong lines and having legs that weren’t cooperating I went into an extremely dark place. I have been in this darkness before and I would pay good money to never go back there, but this time around I was more experienced and open to dealing with it. So I concentrated on what I could do to improve my situation.
After Doreens Creek with the bigger boulders and steeper elevation my legs came alive. It was almost like they had woken up, realised we were on an mountain in the South Island and wanted to tear it to shreds. I quickly passed Isla and a few guys on the way up to the hut and then proceeded onto my favourite downhill section just after the boardwalk. I had a huge one on the downhill so told myself off and then ran sensibly all the way to the finish line.
First woman and an incredible sixth individual overall!
The situation I was in leading into the second day was a difficult one for the mind. I had come off the mountain the day before with a seven minute lead from the second female. She was starting in the wave after me, only one minute behind. If she was to catch me then I would be down to six minutes but she would then need to pass me. I was confident in my ability to paddle the Waimak well and was prepared to put myself in the box if she was travelling faster. If it did then come down to the last 70km road ride, six minutes is a lot of time over that distance and racing someone to the line on a bike is something I would relish in.
The start of the second day is a 15km road ride with a couple of climbs in it. They started us off in waves of ten, one minute apart. The wave you were in was determined by the order you came in off the mountain the day before.
I was in the second wave and was going to the legs ripped off me by the fresh team riders standing next to me. Sure enough on the first climb my legs hadn’t warmed up and I was left with just two guys. Looking back to see when the next wave was I managed to jump on to their break away for the rest of the ride, legs now warmed up 🙂
Into the paddle and something was wrong, my traps which is a muscle on the top of the shoulder, felt so tight and painful as though someone was scrunching it into two solid balls. I assumed they would warm up and release after thirty minutes into the paddle but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I got to Gooseberry Stream about an hour into it, battling away and paddling blind not knowing how the girls were travelling behind me. Kate from Top Sport came up beside me with news that I was going at a great pace and had put minutes into Isla. Just the news I needed to hear, all I needed to to was keep the same pace and not do anything stupid. I took to the rapids like I was on a diving exam, nailing pretty much all my lines, not getting too confident and staying upright.
My traps never let off, and still haven’t as I’m writing this!
Out of the kayak and on my way up the hill to the bike I asked mum for a split to see what I was dealing with going into the last 70km ride. She had no time splits as the river splits weren’t coming up correctly. Not ideal but onto the bike and I needed to keep eyes in the back of my head to see any riders coming from behind. One team rider came past at a hot pace and I wasn’t on my game to jump on, what if that was the only ride I could have got? Then I seen another team rider coming up fast, so ‘Thursday night racing style’ I jumped in behind Mitch Munro. The problem we had though was that we were going at such a pace that no other riders or groups came from behind us to give us a rest so it was Mitch all the way until about 15km from the finish. I still had my thermal on from the kayak stage and the temperature as we got closer to Christchurch was rising and so was my body temperature. Cooked, I could no longer hang onto Mitch. I then proceeded to miss a turn (thanks ute for telling me to turn around) and drag myself to the finish area, telling the guys I would fall off my bike in advance and then running up the finish shoot, stairs two at a time because I was ecstatic!
Coast to Coast two day individual women’s champion! To have my name engraved on a cup forever along side my heros and legends is an unreal feeling in itself. To top it off with dominating all legs, especially with a tough field makes the win all the more sweeter. I am most proud with coming off the mountain run first and sixth overall and also extremely pumped with my paddle time. 4:58 same as Elina Ussher!
None of this would have been possible without help.
My support crew nailed it, mum and dad thank you very much, it’s not an easy couple of days.
Rob Dallimore from Foot Traffic coaching who was the master mind behind my training.
Caleb from Foundation Clinic who keeps me injury free and has played a huge role in improving my paddling strength.
Tailwind Nutrition for getting me there, fueling me over the days and in training.
Bobby and Chris for helping with the organisational nightmare that is travelling down for the race.
Finally all the crew from Tauranga that I train with, you know who you are. The messages and support over the last few days has been phenomenal!