It's always hard to know if, or when, you are ready. But now seems to be as good a time as any to pop my Coast to Coast Longest Day cherry. There's a lot to learn so I've consulted with some of the best in the business.
A HUGE thanks to the following athletes who helped get me started in the right direction, and who were incredibly generous with their time and advice.
Friendly Aussie, Olympian triathlete, multisport dabbler and snuck into the top 10 at Longest Day 2017.
Hawke's Bay man and now a Canterbury local, multisport extraordinaire, kayaking guru, and 3rd male in Longest Day 2017.
Inspirational superwoman, kickass multisporter and triathlete, 3rd female in Longest Day 2017.
Hannah Wells - Athlete
They've all been there, done that and sure have some valuable insights for this Longest Day virgin. And because it's never as much fun on your own, I'm sharing the wisdom with you all.
It's 4 months until race day! What should we be thinking about in terms of preparation, training, and gear?
Base fitness - work on conditioning your body to be moving for a long time. Take the time to recover properly too. Hannah Wells warned, "If you train too hard too early you risk burning out, or injury."
Find a kayak that is suitable to your weight and ability. Learn the basic skills and build strength on flat water. Get some technique coaching from your local kayak club or a professional coach. Then get as much time on moving water as possible.
Get your Grade 2 Certificate and book a guided gorge trip.
Test out different gear early - everyone has a different opinion about what you should use. So take on board all advice, do your own research, then make up your own mind. Here is what Sam Manson said about gear:
"Ensure you find those shoes grippy enough, that kayak stable enough and your seat is comfortable. Same with the bike too, is it the right size? Are you fitted to it properly to prevent aches and pains, and maximise efficiency? All this boosts confidence when training and when the race turns up. Don’t be afraid to buy equipment new. Quality new gear makes a worthwhile difference."
Ask around and do some Google searches for events that are coming up - kayaking, road cycling, and trail running races. Competing in smaller events helps you get in the race day groove, something that is hard to simulate in training. If it's only a one discipline race you can tack on your own kayak/bike/run before or after the race.
Arthur's Pass adventures - testing out different gear and nutrition in the lead up to the tandem team event.
The Key to Success - Use a Coach
Some days I think "yep I reckon I could figure this training program thing out on my own". But then inevitably something happens to bring me back to reality. Working with a coach removes any internal chatter in my brain about what I might do for training each week. It's there in plain black and white (sometimes red and yellow if it's important!), meaning I don't get distracted by other things in life, and I trust my coach is always looking at the big picture.
Karen Muller at Fit for Life has been with me since the day I caught the endurance racing bug. She coached me to my first (and so far only!) marathon, my first mountain bike race, my first XTERRA triathlon, and to the XTERRA World Champs in Hawaii. And she's back again, setting the game plan to help this ambitious athlete get in Longest Day shape!
Mountain bike adventures with coach Karen! Photo credit: Jack King
The advice from the pros:
"Coaches are much better at making rational decisions and have far more previous experience than yourself." - Sam Manson
"Seeking proven expertise saves a lot of time especially when out of your depth in one of the disciplines or first timer". - Courtney Atkinson
"For a race like this there is a lot to learn so just having a coach there to worry about what training you should be doing when, can take a big load off your mind...Preferably find a coach who knows a bit about C2C as well." - Hannah Wells
Great reassurance that I'm on the right track!
Extra for Experts ... From the Experts
If you want to know something, just ask! Hannah Wells sought out people who had done the race to answer anything she was unsure about. "The sport is full of amazing people who are willing to help." And personally I totally agree - I've been overwhelmed by the generosity of people in the multisport community offering to take me through Goat Pass, tips for kayaking technique, race day strategies, and general training advice.
Sam Manson recommends keeping a diary of what you eat in the week leading up to a race, and what nutrition you use during racing. This way you have a record of what worked and what didn't, so you can be sure to get it right on race day when it counts the most. Another note I can add to this is to prepare and cook all your own food leading up to a race, especially if it's an important one! I found this out the hard way this year racing the tandem team event at Coast to Coast...a relaxing meal out on the Sunday evening before the race led to several days curled in the foetal position calling Jesus on the porcelain telephone with a bout of food poisoning. Consequently I had a torrid time hauling myself from Kumara beach over the hill to Klondyke on Friday.
The Attraction of the Coast to Coast Longest Day
I also asked these stellar athletes what they love about racing Coast to Coast Longest Day. I'm looking forward to finding out for myself too!