Mountain 2 Mountain 2006

This is an email I wrote back in September 2006 describing my participation in the Mountain 2 Mountain multisport race in Wanaka, New Zealand.

Hello everyone,

Sorry to neglect you all for so long!  I did write a long update in July, but it got wiped halfway through writing it and I didn’t have the heart to start it again.

Anyway, I’ll have to tell you what happened before my birthday some other time…

I’ve been pretty active in the last few months competing in all sorts of races – 10 km, 21 km and 28 km cross-country skiing, winter triathlons – all culminating in the monster Mountain 2 Mountain multi-sport race last weekend!

Mountain 2 Mountain

1.5 km downhill ski

16 km mountain bike (8km downhill + 8 km flat)

16 km kayak

9 km run

35 km road bike

14 km mountain bike (uphill)

The event was basically a multi-sport race from the mountain where I downhill ski, through Wanaka to the Snow Farm where I cross-country ski.

You could compete as an individual or as a team, but as I have no friends, I decided to enter on my own, with the result that I came last, by an hour!

But I did manage to get in the paper… �

Ski

The ski started with a 200m uphill run (in my case walk) to where we could put on our skis.  Fortunately for me, there was a virtual white-out on the mountain, so people who were unfamiliar with the course were losing skis left, right and centre.  This was easily my best leg and I probably finished in the top twenty, but I took forever getting onto my bike, so I probably lost about another 20 places during transition.

MTB I

Having come off my bike 2 days before the race, I took the downhill quite easily: there was no point killing myself for the sake of 5 minutes advantage at the bottom.  One chap managed to fly off the edge of the access road, but I think he was all right…

Kayak

By the time I got to the kayak transition I was probably coming about 5th from last – this was where things started to get interesting…

I haven’t kayaked in a proper boat for about 10 years, and 2 minutes into the leg I remembered why – I’m crap at it!  We went to look at the course the day before and I managed to psyche myself out about the first corner – it was some faster water round a bend where a couple of willows were hanging into the river.  Surprise, surprise, I panicked, and fell in!

The water was so cold I couldn’t breathe for about 10 seconds…  I managed to swim to the bank where Phil, my flatmate and one half of my support crew, came to my rescue.  We managed to get the water out of the kayak, re-float it, and I was on my way again – now in last place behind a comfortably built woman, in an open kayak, who kept on going round in circles!  (Later, I found out she wrote the article above.)

For a while, I was ok and I had the company of the course kayaker bringing up the rear.  I soon picked off Marjorie and I was on my own again.  Then I remembered the other reason why I haven’t kayaked for so long – my legs go completely to sleep in the boat.  I was in so much “numb pain” that I had to stop a few times during the leg to stretch my legs.  The first time I tried, I couldn’t stand, and fell over onto the kayak, almost crushing it!

I made my way down river really slowly, getting colder and colder, teeth chattering most of the time.  The safety jet boat occasionally came to see how I was doing and I eventually informed them “I fucking hate kayaking”.  But I made it down without falling in again and I was greeted warmly by my flatmates/support crew.

Wet, cold and miserable after the kayak

Run

I slowly warmed up on the run.  Having sat still for about 2 hours, it took a little while for the legs to get going again.  I was overtaken in transition by Marjorie’s team, so was now firmly in last place.  Everyone was still so encouraging though, with Wendy offering me one of her husband’s sandwiches as she drove past me.

The run was beautiful – it climbed up high above Lake Wanaka with stunning views.  In some ways it was good to be on my own by this stage, I could run at my own pace and just enjoy it.

My mood improved considerably by the time I got to Glendhu Bay (the end of the run) and got changed into my “Hulk Hogan” style cycling outfit in front of everyone.  Again, everyone was very encouraging, except one woman who helpfully suggested that should carry a head torch!

Lake Wanaka
Glendhu Bay transition

Road Bike

The road bike (completed on my mountain bike), was fairly tedious and uneventful.  The 8 km ride into Wanaka was over lovely rolling hills with great views of Mount Aspiring.  However, the ride out of Wanaka up to the Snow Farm turn-off was long, straight, uphill and into a headwind.  But I stuck at it and eventually got there.  Every other car would wave at me or honk their horn!

Coming into transition after the 35km road bike

MTB II

They always save the best until last in these races…

The final leg was a 1,000-metre climb up to Snow Farm stretched over 14 km.  I had practised the climb a couple of days before the race, so I knew what I was in for.  I was still feeling pretty good at the start of the climb; in fact I was on huge sugar rush from all the gels and re-hydration drinks I’d been on all day.

The climb is on a gravel road that winds its way up the side of the mountain.  It’s only really steep in a few places, but I did most of it in my lowest gear.  By the time I started the leg I think everyone else had finished the race!

Again, I got loads of support and encouragement from cars that passed me on the way down the mountain before leaving me with a trail of dust to choke my way through.

Choking through the dust on the way up to Snow Farm

For the last couple of kilometres a car full of Snow Farm girls chased me up to the finish line.  I actually managed to pick up the pace a little at the end thanks to their chanting and singing!

And eventually I got there, 7 hours, 36 minutes and 36 seconds after I started.  Some random bloke came up to me on the finish line and gave me a warm bottle of Speight’s beer and everyone wanted to shake my hand!  It was an incredible feeling, nothing like the London Marathon, where you’re so anonymous.  Maybe next time I’ll actually train for it!

Getting to the finish just before dark