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The Speights Coast to Coast
Gavin Bonnett - 01/03/02

Gavin Bonnett tells of the Longest Day event 9th February 2002 - for him a truly long day!

What is the Coast to Coast?
The Coast to Coast traverses the South Island of New Zealand from Kumara Beach on the Tasman Sea to Sumner Beach on the Pacific Ocean. In either two days or the elite one day event competitors cycle 143kms in three stages, cross the Southern Alps in a 26km mountain run and kayak 67kms of the grade two Waimakariri River through the Grand Canyon of New Zealand, the Waimakariri Gorge.

I often get asked why people attempt the Coast to Coast. It's very simple. Why wouldn't you want to do it?

The Coast to Coast 2002
The Coast to Coast one-day this year was great! During training and in the event I have met many people I would never have had the opportunity to meet if I weren't involved in multi sport.

Build up for the event
My build up for the event started 12 months ago with a running base followed by my first marathon. Two weeks after the marathon I was in Europe cycling for a month. On my return home I completed several C grade cycle races followed by the AMP triathlon. From then the long training hours started - an average of 22 hours a week over the Christmas break.

Race Day
On race day it was a 3:00am start, carbo-loading with creamed rice, race registration 5:00am, and the start was 6:00am.

Run section
On the Deception-Mingha
run section

River crossing
River crossing on the
Deception-Mingha section

Paddling the Waimak
Paddling in the Waimakariri Gorge

I had a great start. Robin Judkins had made the mistake of catching my eye with the start horn. I started running, 221 other competitors followed me, and seconds later the horn was blown. The three km run was easy. I managed to slot into the first cycle bunch, 65km stage, with the top competitors. The sunlight flowed through mountains for the run. Normally a remote feeling, this run turned into a carnival of runners being overseen by a helicopter. Little groups of runners formed to talk about the day in front of them and shared experiences. Our route uphill followed the Deception River. Goat Pass is a welcome sight as the rest of the run beside the Mingha River is all down hill and remote, with runners spread out as abilities through tiredness and strength alter running speed. I passed several runners who had blown or had injuries. It is really a fine balance running a 26km two-day tramp in under four hours.

Family and friends welcomed me at the finish of the run. A short 18km cycle to the kayak section gave me time to eat normal food, and the transition to the kayak went well. As Tony pushed the back of the kayak away from the bank the feeling of support was broken, for the river is a frightening place even for the best paddlers. The first section managed to put a hole in the kayak, and the second section in the fast moving gorge proved hard due to the exceptional head wind. Kayaks littered the banks - obviously paddlers from the two day event had given up or were waiting for a jet boat that patrolled the 67km paddle section.

The end of the paddle, with the pain from sitting for four hours together with no blood circulation, puts on a great show for the supporters. I thought I was in good shape, but the video later confirmed why friends were concerned.

Ten minutes later I was on the bike, the last section 70km, I was going well at 40km/h, but slowly the speed went down, as the side wind became a direct head wind of 35km/h. Drinking complex carbohydrates did not live up to their reputation and bring life to my body. My last Powerbar was given, number fourteen, and was enough to see me through the low. The last gusty portion of wind on the Causeway leading into Sumner, made a welcoming finish to the Longest Day.

I had already competed three times in the team event, and then as a solo competitor over two days. This was my first entry in the Longest Day event, undoubtedly the most taxing. I found the experience interesting as a psychological as well as a physiological test. It is necessary to overcome the built in barrier against travelling that distance in one day.

Competitors have to find ways to get under the anaerobic threshold - the point when the body ceases to supply energy and your muscles start producing more lactic acid than they can eliminate. To help to achieve that I followed the example of many of the serious competitors and wore a heart rate monitor on my wrist with a strap around my chest. This meant that I could determine how many heartbeats there were in each minute. The aim is to notice when the body is heading towards shutting down and being unable to sustain the needed energy levels and lactic acid build-up. By slowing down you give the body the chance to take in the fuels necessary for the situation and remove lactic acid. Everyone is different and each person has to understand his/her own body. The race taught me a lot about how much my body could take before crossing the anaerobic threshold.

Results and times from the 222 Competitors in the race are on the Coast to Coast website. Below are the times and placings for comparison between the No.1 Steve Gurney and me.

Name O/all Place Comp # First Run Cycle Mountain Run Cycle Kayak Final Cycle Overall Time
Steve Gurney 1 171 01:57:54 02:59:28 04:41:34 02:14:12 11:53:08
Gavin Bonnett 56 120 02:00:46 04:18:17 05:25:34 02:42:07 14:26:44

Gavin is happy to be contacted by anyone wanting further information. Put your email address in the Backchat and Gavin will reply.

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