Coast to Coast
Story by: Richard Ussher - Photo by: Sportshub.com
Coast to Coast 2012 Multisport World Championship
It is always a rather nervous time heading into Coast to Coast, reports abound in the media of just how great everyone else is going and often about how much better other peoples chances of winning should be.
For Elina and I this year we’d had the luxury of no race in Abu Dhabi before hand so a few extra weeks in which to refresh and start a proper build up
The start of the race is always chaos starting in the dark on Kumara beach and right from the gun the pace was on. Braden Currie pushed the pace and instead of the usual line of competitors for the first time we actually ended up with a small break on the run.
After a hurried transition onto the bike we set off at top speed. We had a small group of 6 athletes formed already and Dougal Allen was especially keen to push on as James Coubrough was missing from the 6 despite being one of the first to the bikes. He’d also made it clear he wanted to try and take the sting out of the quicker runners legs and despite some of those runners forming part of our pack everyone was happy enough to roll through at a good tempo.
About half way through the ride our 6 became 4 and the pace backed off a little with less legs to help at the front.
Still given the light headwind blowing we had still made excellent time by the first transition and the first defining leg of the race began.
Braden Currie was quickly into his stride and started putting some time into us immediately but I was relieved to see the gap was opening relatively slowly. I had company in the chasers spot with Jeremy McKenzie and Dougal Allan seemingly glued to my heels, so much so that when I tripped and fell one time they literally tripped over me.
We could still see Braden whenever we had a good line of sight and at Big Boulders it was still less than 3 minutes. James Coubrough had now joined our chase group and was looking super fresh despite having caught up nearly 4 minutes in the first hour. I was feeling really comfortable and with Braden’s gap now seeming to stabilize I was happy to keep the same pace and let the other dictate if they wanted to go faster.
Just before the top of Goat Pass I suddenly noticed that James and I had gapped the other two and shortly after I let James go up the steeper section towards the hut.
It was nice to be finally running by myself, and the rhythm seemed to come a bit easier, I could see James as we headed down around 30-40 seconds ahead and I was also still catching glimpses of Braden so I felt like things were reasonably under control. Prior to the race I’d had expectations that I could be giving up as much as 10 minutes on the run and that was looking unlikely with less than an hour to go.
I actually caught up to James again on the downhill from Dudley’s knob and we ran together for a while before I decided he was going just a half step faster than I wanted to and let him gradually pull away again.
It is always nice to finish the run and get on the bike, or maybe it’s just the extra food you can stock up on in transition. My support crew bundled me through and onto the bike where I set off after the front two.
I was feeling good and moved back past James halfway through. There was still a chilly headwind blowing but at least it was warmer than the top of the run. It was already becoming clear that we would be battling the wind for the entire paddle.
Running down to the kayak I saw Braden paddle off as I was crossing the bridge and a couple of minutes later I was off in pursuit. For some reason my drink system wasn’t working, the result of a leak or poor connection maybe but to get any drink I had to suck as hard as possible and take in a few drops as I was mainly just sucking air. I also managed to take the worst line possible at one split and when the river came back together 5 minutes later I had James right back on my tail.
I had almost lost sight of Braden as well and a small amount of nervousness set in while I tried to keep James behind and catch back up to Braden. They were both going well and it wasn’t until the Gorge that I finally caught up to Braden and almost simultaneously started to put more of a gap on James. I had a quick chat with Braden and then set off to try and eke out some time on them both by the end of the paddle.
By the time I reached Woodstock I couldn’t see anyone behind on the longer straights and I was ready to start winding it up over the last hour. There were a few two-day competitors in some strange places on the river but they all seemed in good spirits as they closed in on Gorge Bridge.
It is always a great reception for the athletes as you finish the kayak section. My crew hauled me out of the kayak and I tried to do my best running on the spot impression as we made our way up the hill to the waiting bike and the last section of the race. It sounded cold in Christchurch so a few extra layers went on as well as a bit more food before it was off for the final 70km.
We still had a headwind, not super strong but enough to make sure it always felt like riding up a false flat. I eased into the ride and focused on staying smooth and keeping the cadence up, plus a little in the tank incase I ended up with company from behind. The kilometers were ticking over though and averaging 40kph I felt it would be hard fro the chasers to put any serious time into me.
By the outskirts of Christchurch there were a lot of people out supporting the race and the numbers only grew as we headed through the city – I think it was possibly the most I’ve seen out cheering the race on ever and was a huge lift every time I passed by a group.
I still had no idea what was going on behind me and so had to keep the pace high and hope that I was still making some time. It is definitely a cool feeling whizzing through Christchurch with a little police escort but I always feel a few nerves inside the last 20 kilometers when I’m always hoping I won’t suffer a flat tire or any sort of mechanical.
By the causeway the road was deteriorating somewhat and I had to be extra vigilant to not hit any slumps in the road or obstacles, definitely not the most comfortable ride on a TT bike but I also knew I could ride on the rim if I needed from 3km out so the realization a 5th win was close was starting to sink in. I was able to relax and enjoy the final couple of kilometers and it was just as magic a feeling running up the sand to cross the line as the previous 4.
Behind me there had been some big changes on the final ride with Dougal storming through from 4th to 2nd with his customary huge final ride with Braden grabbing 3rd from James.
It was great to see the young guys really have a crack this year, it definitely made for an interesting race and one that I’ll remember for being one of the more tactical that I have done.
Apparently as I was finishing Elina was just finishing the kayak and learnt that I’d got the win, she was having her own stellar day and had opened up a lead approaching 25 min by the end of the kayak.
It was till quite a nervous wait on the beach for me as we heard occasional time splits but nothing concrete.
Just under 2 hours after I finished I saw one very happy Elina come running down the finish chute and claim her first title on the original course and shed 5 years of frustration in the process.
I’ve always maintained if she got the chance to have a normal build up without a major race in December, which we had typically had, then she would be able to show what she was really capable of, and this year she did just that winning by 38 minutes.
It had been talked about often enough, the chance to be the first husband and wife to win in the same year, and to have it finally happen meant a happy household all round!
Behind her it sounds like Fleur Pawsey had a rough day with stomach cramps but she fought like a true champion all day to claim second ahead of a fast finishing Rachel Cashin and AR World Champ team member Mimi (Myriam Guillot)
Will we be back next year ?– we certainly wouldn’t discount it despite what the media said – I think it is hard to be enthusiastic about returning when asked 30 seconds after finishing and every muscle in your body hurts – it already doesn’t seem like it was so bad and I know the young guys are itching for another shot at knocking me off the top spot.
I also wanted to do something for the next generation of Multisporters in Christchurch after all the community has been through in the last 18 months and I’m after suggestions.
Along with Andrew Martin and our new company Flow Kayaks we are going to auction off my race boat within the next couple of months and will donate all the proceeds to a cause that we think is most deserving, and that will provide the greatest benefit, so if you have any thoughts please let us know. We’ll put all the ideas together and once decided on will list the kayak on Trademe
The boat is pretty unique in that it has been paddled to 3 victories in the Coast (2008, 2011, 2012) along with lots of other race victories around the country. At the moment the boat is going to be kept in original condition as it was at the end of the race last weekend but we can also tidy it up if the auction winner would like - the choice will be theirs.
So finally a huge thanks to our support crew who were amazing, all the people who cheered us on and to our sponsors who make it possible for us to prepare and race at our best.