Fun and exciting racing in the iconic Mackenzie country is what the Meridian Twizel Hard Labour weekend is all about.
I entered as a wide-eyed and enthusiastic Hard Labourer last year - competing in the kayak, mountain bike, and run events. It was my first multisport event and I had no idea what to expect. Was I fit or fast enough? Could I even survive a 20 kilometre kayak? What about the half marathon, how big is the "big hill"? Who's idea was this anyway? You can read the full story here.
There is a STACKLOAD of spot prizes on offer at prizegiving. Unless your luck is like a bald guy who just won a comb, you will almost definitely come away with some goodies from local businesses and sponsors.
So you don't have to go in as blind and batty as me, I'm sharing a few pointers based on what I discovered last year. For full details and all the other important stuff be sure to check out the Hard Labour event website.
The first thing, be sure to recover well - eat, drink, and put your feet up - especially if you're competing in more than one event.
Steve Skinner Canal Kayak
It's a long, flat paddle. The 20 kilometre distance will take most people about 2 hours or more. Take plenty of fluid and snacks to get you through, and put them somewhere that's easy to access while you're paddling.
Pacing is important - 2 hours is quite a long time to paddle on flat water and sometimes it feels a bit like you're not making much forward progress. Jump on the wash of other kayaks when you get the chance, and focus on good technique when (or if!) you get tired.
There are two portages around the dams on the canal. If "portage" isn't a term you've come across yet, it means "the carrying of a boat or its cargo between two navigable waters". In this case the two navigable waters are the sections of the canal, and the boat and its cargo is your kayak, yourself and your compulsory gear. Just carrying my kayak from the car roof to the water's edge is an impossible dance of human versus kayak, challenging the limits of my spatial awareness, where a rogue gust of wind has the potential to send me into a less-than-graceful spiral towards destruction. If this sounds familiar to you then we've both got some work to do. The first portage involves a fence crossing and a descent of a grassy and rocky slope. The second portage is much longer, following the road around from the top to the bottom of the dam. Solid kayak carrying technique is highly recommended! I did notice some interesting methods last year ... simply grabbing the handle on the nose of the kayak and dragging it along behind, or sending the kayak rolling down the hill and leaving it to its own devices. I'm quite fond of my kayak and do my best to look after it so neither of these is an attractive option for me.
Take a moment to appreciate the scenery - fingers crossed for another crystal clear day this year!
Dusky Trail Mountain Bike 40km
The mountain bike race is mostly off-road on 4WD tracks and some single track. If you're a fit bunny and enjoy attacking the uphills then all of it is rideable, if not there's a couple of places where you might need to get off and push. There are a few steep sections, but they're short and sweet. You are rewarded with a breezy downhill after each climb - this is handy intel to keep in the back of your mind when the climbing legs are burning.
Don't be fooled into going out too hard too early! The pace off the start line is frantic. Just head off at a pace that you're comfortable with and don't worry about what craziness everyone else is up to - some advice I will be taking myself this year! There's a long false flat climb in the second half of the course so you want to save some gas for that.
Pyramid Half Marathon Run
The climb up to the Pyramid Saddle is a leg and lung burner - and it's definitely OK to walk. Fast hiking the steep section means you've got juice left in the legs to bomb it down the other side. There's an aid station at the top, and while there's still a way to go from there it's basically all downhill to the finish line.
There are 4 aid stations on the course, but I like to carry my own food and water and use the aid stations for extras if I need it.
Prepare to get your feet wet! There are two stream crossings - not deep or wide, but refreshing!
If you don't feel up to attempting a half marathon run but are still keen to get out there, there is also a half marathon walk option!