When I got up at 4am on Saturday morning to get ready, it seemed logical to question why I was back lining up for another go at the One day Coast to Coast. This time around I had some idea of what to expect, and another couple of years of racing experience, so naturally I was feeling a little less anxious, but the nerves were definitely making it hard for me to get through my toast!
Seeded at number 9, I had some expectations in my own mind about how I wanted the race to go, first and foremost I wanted to improve my time, I wanted to have good run, I wanted to have a solid last bike ride, for my own pride I wanted to beat all the women and lastly I wanted to live up to that ranking while having a good time out there.
It was a quick, but social stop to drop off my bike, and then a quick trip down to the beach before the start. By the time I got to the start line I was feeling relatively calm, I knew what I had to do and all going to plan, it was hopefully going to unfold in front of me. Suddenly we were at the countdown and I think there might just have been a little jump of the gun at the 1-2 second mark! As a result I was caught a little off guard and unusually for me started middle of the pack. I stayed calm and rapidly I was up the front where I wanted to be. As the group approached the turn to the sealed road I was a bit confused as to why they were all swinging so wide when there was a nice clear path on the inside, so I took that, and as we climbed I quickly shot right out the front. The favourites seemed pretty keen to control the pace as it flattened out so I left them to it and sat back in the pack as we cruised into transition.
I was quickly on my bike and down the road, with one of my biggest concerns out of the way, I was underway with the front bunch, right where I wanted to be. In no time things settled down a bit and the real work began. It was a relatively sedate pace, typically no one was really wanting to do much work. For such a big group of riders there was a lot of guys that made them selves scarce for a long time. I guess due to my relative inexperience I foolishly found myself out the front doing what I felt like was quite a bit of work.
About 20km’s out from transition the sun started to break through in spectacular fashion. It was a pretty cool moment to be riding along in a bunch of the top Multisporters in NZ and Australia with sunshine streaming through. As we got closer to transition a few more people appeared that I hadn’t seen for quite some time. The tension began to rise again as we all prepared ourselves for the chaos that is the Aickens transition.
I decided that I was going to do a triatlon stop, leaving my shoes attached to the bike. I had practiced quite a few times and I was pretty confident of getting it right. However when we cut across the gravel, then rounded into the grass paddock, I misplaced my footing as I stepped out of my shoe onto the uneven ground and overbalanced, sending me into a bit of a cartwheel, then hitting the deck with the bike ontop of me! Being an orienteer, tripping up was nothing new to me so before I knew it I was up, racking my bike and down the chute to my support crew.
Shoes on, pack and hat, out the gate and underway. The first section of the run I could already see I was behind the eight ball a bit, but I managed to calm myself down, telling myself there was a long way to go. I struggled for a bit but came right just before the deception footbridge. Onto the rocks I was into my business. For the early part of the run I probably didnt take some of the best lines. The river was as low as I had seen it before which changed the optimum route a bit from at higher flows. Never the less, when in doubt I employed the “straight it great” technique. I eventually lost sight of Brent and two others just in front of me, I never looked back but I was pretty sure most of the way up to the big boulders I was one my own. Then near the top of deception I was suddenly right up with Brent, Alex and Bobby and feeling good.
Unfortunately this did not last long and I had to walk most of the side creek up to Goat pass. I had forgotten about the gear check at the hut and lost a bit of time here fumbling about in my pack. Once at the pass with the others in plain sight I had to back it off a little as I was in a bad place. Eventually after fueling up I started to come right, just in time really as my favourite part of the run was coming up, the stoney river flats. Due to my superior course knowleadge I was able to sneak in front of Bobby just getting out onto the flats, I promptly then took my second tumble of the day right in front of him… once again I dusted myself off and was back on my feet. I eventually right near the end caught another glimpse of Brent, estimating only a 2-3minutes in front. At last I finally was off the rocks and into transition. There was a lot of excitement here, Hilary greeted me and sent me on my bike saying there was 2 guys just infront of me. I didnt comprehend it at the time but I was actually in 4th place without even knowing…. probably just as well in hindsight!
I felt I had a good ride to Mt White bridge (avoiding as many road cones as possible!) but just coming into the very end Bobby came screaming past me again. I had nothing on him and cruised into transition. The run down to the kayak was not quite as fast as I anticipated, I hadnt given much thought to the paddling section, so I was a bit reluctant to get in! Never the less, we had a fast transition and I was underway just in front of Bobby again.
Once in the boat I felt terrible, my arms hurt and my lifejacket was too tight. I struggled through to made sure I made the right calls in the first crucial 20mins through the shallow braids. Eating was the next priority, then the rock gardens. I wasnt feeling great in the boat and took some horrible lines through them but survived them alright. Bob came flying past me midway through, he was motoring, there was no way I could keep up in my boat! A very short time later Andrew Sclater came past too, and now I was starting to doubt my ability to make it into the top ten. I decided that I need to keep him in sight for as long as possible and put some work in gained a gap on Bobby at the same time. Two of the Sam’s came storming through just before the gorge which was a bit soul destroying. I got around two corners before the second Aussie guy came past. He wasn’t looking quite as fast or quite as comfortable as the other guys and I managed to keep in within sight. Sam Manson briefly came back into view at the bottom of an exciting wave train.
There was a very strong headwind in the gorge, which made me pretty happy I had opted for my trusty old Eclipse over the highly wind susceptible Sharp! After battling for about an hour in the wind I still had Jarod within sight, and I was round the corner into Woodstock. It was now that I started to feel like I was missing out with a slower more stable boat! Finally I reached the Gorge bridge and it was finally time to get out!
Tim was very impatient at this transition and was telling me to hurry up the whole way up the hill to my bike. I quick top change and I was off on the bike. I was pretty releived to be on the bike and only 5 had gone past me by this point. I figured I could probably hold my place if I could maintain a good average speed. Unfortuantely it seemed like my brake on either the front or back wheel was rubbing a bit…. there wasnt much I could do other than just keep riding so thats what I did down NZ’s longest straight road (and the most boring). About midway down David Ayre came past me asking me which way to the beach. It was a bit gutting to have him go past so comfortably looking but there wasnt much I could do about it except to keep the peddles ticking over and the speed up as much as I could.
Coming into town I started to have a bit of trouble focusing my eyes which may have been to do with being in the Aero position, but there was nothing much that could stop me now! I had the beach in my sights and a bumpy few kms to ride into the finish. It was such a relief to get to the finish and just to stop having been on the go for so long during the day. I had no idea where I finished up, only that I had successfully made it into town before Elina! Turned out I was 10th overall and 9th in the open men!
I had a great day, enjoyed it a lot, hated lots of it, went to some dark places, went to some amazing places and felt like I achieved a lot. I was pretty happy with the result, you dont get many better days than what I had in racing. Still I can see some areas of improvement, and being a top athlete you can never be quite satisfied until you are convincingly on top of that podium, so I think Ill definitely be back at some point to see if I can convert that 4th place of the run into something more in the final standings!
Thank you to Tim for being a very willing assistant and my go to for training! Thank you to Hilary for being awesome support crew in the build up and of course during the race! Without friends like these I have no idea if Id have ever made it to the start line in the first place, my bike would be in a state of disrepair and I can guarantee you I wouldn’t have eaten or drank enough during the race! And thanks to Bivouac/outdoor for their support, making sure I had the gear I needed to race.