Published: February 16th 2012February 14th 2012
making my way down for kayak practice
So here’s the story of how things went down in New Zealand.
On the second Friday and Saturday of February every year the world’s elite Multisport Racers and the weekend warriors gather in Kumara (a small village) on the west coast of the south island of New Zealand to attempt to cross the country as individuals or paired teams.
Everyone gathers at the town hall for a pre race banquet and race briefing on the Thursday evening and this is preceded with registration at the local racecourse where 95% of competitors camp out awaiting their event.
The 2 day individuals and teams start their event on the Friday morning at 6am when the support crews leave the competitors and head to the first transition area at a place called Aiken’s corner and the competitors cycle 5km to leave their bikes at Kumara Junction then walking down 3km to the beach to await the starting horn at 7am.
The 2 day event is a fantastic event as most people with basic training can participate as the route is broken into 2 days with the first day comprising of a 3km run, a 55km cycle and polish that off
getting set to head down the river
with a 33km mountain run (I use that term very loosely for good reason, read on).
So as the competitors set off their support crews await at the first transition with the mountain running equipment to hand. The time differential between the first cyclists in and the final weekend warriors making the transition can be as big as 2hours.
Niamh and I woke early on the Friday to follow a competitor (Rebecca Wilson) from Australia. We had met up with her and her parents and friend Jason earlier in the week and we tagged along to assist (or possibly hinder) them getting Rebecca sorted. We parked up in a country field along with 500 plus cars, campervans, 4*4’s and headed to the bull ring that the cyclists enter to find their support. Everyone is held 50mtrs back from the bull ring perimeter until radio communication that the first cyclist are 2km away is received. Queue pandemonium as crews vie for the best spot to get their competitor away from.
The first 2 cyclists entered the bull ring to huge applause, they were team members who were handing the race bibs over to their mountain running teammates who
sprung out of the traps once they had the bib and electronic transponder transferred. The specialist cyclists burst themselves knowing their days work was finished once they reached the changeover. A few minutes later all hell breaks loose with cyclists running around the bullring like headless chickens (bike in hand) calling out for their crews, the more professional outfits had a crew member lead their competitor over to change footwear and put the packs on or they had a pre arranged spot to meet, Niamh and I decided this was the preferred option for us the following day seeing as she was going to be attempting to do the work of a full crew (3) while I transitioned.
The teams range from 16 year old school children to professional athletes hoping to go to the Olympics this summer to 71 year old men to a visually impaired competitor with her 2 race guides. The individual 2 dayers do both legs on the Friday and range from 18 year olds to 69 year olds.
The 2 day race is not only a race but also a social outing with people along for the ride, they can take up to
14 hours each day to complete the event and the beauty is that there is no cut off time, as long as you want to continue on you can. Some will stop have a picnic at the transition and then head out for a stroll across the Southern Alps literally walking the complete route.
Rebecca came in good shape had a bite to eat changed her kit and hit the road, when she left her dad lifted the saddle of the bike for the back wheel to fall out, it turns out that a competitor fell in front of her, she moved to avoid a collision but the cyclist coming through clipped and undid the quick release retaining skewer on the back wheel and she cycled the remainder of the stage seated to keep pressure on the wheel to hold it in.
Once your competitor hits the trail you can leave the temporary auto village on for a massive convoy of vehicles to hit the Highway 73 to cross the divide at Arthur’s pass to set up an overnight base camp at Klondyke Corner. The organizers, sponsors tents repair crews and first aiders get the party going and
Counting the kit time and time again and testing it all intraining runs to ensure it worked after traveling down
having made camp the session kicks off at the Speight’s mobile beer house gives out copious amounts of their beers and ciders to keep the support crews cooled off in the midday sun.
As the specialist mountain runners come in the tension builds as crews anxiously await sign of their competitors from up the valley.
Niamh and I headed early as we were doing a second recci on the river transition and then back to see Rebecca finish her run. All she said was that it was horrendous and the worst thing she has ever done in her life so on that happy note we headed for the race course to set up camp for the night and to get final preparations set.
We got all the gear together into the relevant transition bundles checked off all the compulsory equipment to be carried on the different stages, double checked and then had dinner.
Only then when talking to the other competitors did my total lack of experience of the race come to the fore. The vast majority of competitors had competed in the 2 day team events before stepping up to the 2 day individual for
the race went over multiple train lines so broken wheels and acidents as competitors didn't obey the road signs
a couple attempts and then what they said was the massive step up to the world championship. I reckon they secretly thought I was mad to go straight for the longest day but hey I thought I might only get one chance at this race so here it was. One hell of a day lay ahead of me so off to bed as I was to rise at 4 for breakfast.
There are more photos below