Kathmandu Coast to Coast 2020 – Racing from West to East of the South Island
Guest blog by Ritchie Bath - Pushbikes Ambassador
The thing I love about adventures is that everyone’s journey to them is completely different.
This year I was lucky enough to be offered a spot in the Kathmandu Coast to Coast, thanks to one of the amazing sponsors Moffatts Flowers. Wow, a lifelong dream suddenly became very real, very fast.
My real challenge was to get ready in a seven-week window. Six weeks of training and a taper week. Not ideal but certainly achievable given I have some experience in this style of racing.
I am not one to do things by halves, but this opportunity was too good to give up, and the challenge of preparing in a short window kind of excited me. I knew I would need to think outside the box in order to have a successful race.
If you’ve ever considered a little more than just riding your bike, want to meet a bunch of humble, supportive and inspiring friends, and challenge yourself to learn a pile of new skills, get yourself signed up for the Coast to Coast, it will not disappoint!
I felt the urge to share what I have learnt from this experience, mainly because it may help those preparing for future races or may help people focus on what I think are the important keys to this race. I find preparation becomes even simpler when the time is condensed, it’s all about quality.
I am not a podium Multisporter at all, definitely not in the elite end of the race, but relatively confident in the disciplines, and the info below is just from my experience. Probably helpful to those racing for the first time rather than anyone else but you never know, as athletes I suppose we always learn from one another.
Here are a few thoughts from my experience and a couple of key points as I go,
Stage One - 3k Run/ 55k Road Cycle
- Don’t go 150% running off the beach, I watched so many people sprint off the line only to run past them 200m into the run, yes run at a solid tempo, but be realistic and breathe.
- Bunches form but they don’t really work. As a cyclist, I couldn’t believe how much energy is wasted on the first bike. People don’t really take turns & most aren’t familiar with bunch riding, it’s either 120% or 40%. Live with it, enjoy the energy, smile and chat and if you’re lucky enough to ride with a good group, share the load.
- Remember there is a long run to follow - triathletes are exceptional at running off the bike, I found I wasn’t and am not, going too hard on Stage One might lead to dead legs on the run.
- In training, I found even 5 minutes running off a bike session helped in preparing for the event. It doesn’t need to belong but it teaches the body to shift between disciplines
Stage 2 - 30km Mountain Run
- This year we ran an alternate course. I was totally unprepared for it but I suppose I learnt that this is an alpine race and rivers can rise fast. As much as we all got ready for the main event, expect that your plan might get thrown out the door the night before.
In saying all of that, Preparing for a 30+ km run in a few weeks, I considered the following
- Learn to cover uneven ground safely, comfortably and quickly. Run off track, jump onto things, off things, get comfortable with varying cadence and learn that running isn’t always like you experienced in your first half marathon.
- Small steps are sometimes faster. I found in training taking a normal road cadence to off road terrain didn’t really help, lots of small and considered steps can help keep the pace up and not burn too much energy over rough terrain.
- Run on riverbeds, yes riverbeds, there is nothing nice about it, no formed track, just the riverbed, get comfortable on it, build some speed and confidence and embrace it
- Recover WELL. I’m experienced enough for the body to usually recover well, but I was super sore after the run. Use recovery shakes, re-hydrate, foam roll etc. I would do whatever you can to jump into your boat fresh, it’s a long time sitting with sore muscles.
Stage 3 - 15km Road Cycle and 70km Paddle
- I played a different game to those in my bunch, ride smooth, enjoy the feeling, calm the paddle nerves and recover the body a little from day one. There were attacks off the bunch, some hot pace etc, but it’s 15kms! I couldn’t see the point, it’s a long road home from here and a big day ahead. Be smart!
- I think it’s ok to be really nervous about the paddle. Some might say not but I think deep down we all are, rivers can be scary, rapids and swims worry us, but it is also a beautiful place that we are lucky enough to see. I challenge everyone to do what you need to in order to embrace this part of the race, not fear it.
- Paddle in wind, paddle in rain, paddle in waves, paddle in rivers. In training it’s too easy to only paddle when it’s calm and warm, but get as familiar as you can in ugly conditions. We paddled the last 14kms in 40k winds, rain and freezing temps. The last session I did on the Avon with a friend 4 days prior was even windier, it paid off HUGELY on the day.
- Upstream sessions are worth their weight in gold, you can play in moving water, learn to move the boat around, learn to feel comfortable and train at the same time. 45 mins upstream and 15 back to your car cooling down is an awesome session to squeeze in.
- Test nutrition and hydration in your kayak. Your arms are busy, you may not be super stable to eat, you may not want a bladder on your back. Try options, test options and nail this part of the race - it’s five odd hours when you’re fatigued, this can make or break really.
- Don’t laugh at safety gear, when the wet and cold southerly hit this year in the final kms, I stopped and put on a new jacket, 2 thermals and thermal pants. What started as a sunny stunning warm day ended up with people removed from the race from the cold.
The Final Stage - 70km ride home to the beach in New Brighton.
- Putting down power after many hours of racing is tough, I got some fuel in as soon as I could on the bike and settled into a rhythm. Don’t run the risk of trying to make it without the right food and fluid, it could end in disaster.
- People are tired, they will sit on, they won’t want to help. I was amazed at how many people’s strategy was to do no work, maybe they were tired or maybe they had been told to find a strong bunch but I rolled through about 5 groups and said hi, and everyone just sat on my wheel for as long as they could.
- Your cycling legs may not feel like cycling legs. Like the bike to run, train run to bike and paddle to bike as often as you can. In my mind I know how hard I can push on the bike, it’s an amazing feeling when the mind and heart feel fine but the legs just feel flat. Train this, learn this and make a plan for this.
- The final ride is a special ride, I found it almost a little emotional, everyone’s race will have its highs and lows and there is nothing better than spinning away on the road bike contemplating what an adventure it’s been, all the while knowing that you’re about to see the crowds, your family and friends and the finish line you have just crossed the entire Island to find. It’s a stress free stage, the tough parts are over. It’s now just a special mind game you get to play to see just how much more you can squeeze out of yourself.
I really hope this helps just someone deciding to race the Coast to Coast. It is one of the most organised and best-run events I’ve ever been a part of, with an amazing atmosphere and so many awesome people to share it with.
- The first ride has the energy you will never be able to explain, you have to feel it
- The mountain run is one of the most beautiful parts of our country to explore
- You can either see the Waimakariri Gorge from a kayak or jet boat, not any other way really and it’s beautiful - this stage is why you need to do the race. Trust me on this one
- The final ride will be played out 100’s of times in your head, just go to the finish line one year and you’ll automatically visualise it, like the first ride it’s special.
- You get to cross the entire South Island West to East under your own steam, there’s a story for the grandchildren one day.
A huge thanks to everyone who helped make the journey for me so much easier, it takes a village to get ready for the Coast to Coast with so little time and I absolutely love my village!
- Pushbikes, Richard, Jamie and Jonny - What a bike! Thank you for everything you do for me and all of those out there who love to ride.
- Giant Bikes NZ - Thanks as always, for everything.
- Kristin - Flow Rockstar Kayak - Perfect!
- TopSport Kayaking - Grade 2 courses, river trips - The best in the game and so much fun to work with.
- Suunto NZ - An amazing training, racing tool, I used the Suunto 9 watch to manage stress/recovery perfectly.
- And to my very generous and special support crew, Tyrone, Mel, Klaus and Dad (Peter) - you made the experience all that it was for me. Thanks!
- To the most understanding and supportive of all, Nikki and Eva. To be able to compete in an event like this whilst working full time and juggling responsibilities as a dad is rather special. Your turn now!!