I journeyed with my son James to Zadar to join Daria and Kathryn in the Peak Adventure Ninjas team for ARC. The final decision on the team came pretty late so not a lot of time to prepare but my body was ready. Last day at home included purchasing some needed gear and lights to last the distance. After arriving in Zadar, James and I rode into town to shop . On organizing our food it was soon apparent there was not enough and James needed a bigger pack. Plan was go back to town next day but Daria and Kathryn arrived ,to our rescue, at the apartment near race HQ in Petrcane. The organization required for such a race is daunting ,requiring the right gear right food in the right box ( bike or gear ).
We sort of have our roles planned , but there are going to be many highs and lows for all.
Race night rolls around and after delivering our gear to HQ we go into lockdown , all electronics , gps, internet banned and are given the maps , all 22 of them . I assist Kathryn marking up our course. ,James and Daria copy to the second set. Much to our delight the leg 3 trek goes up Mali Paklenica gorge and over Sveto Brdo ,a route the girls ,who arrived 2 weeks before us ,have already hiked down .
Soon all the teams board buses for the start in the old town at Nin. The atmosphere pre start is great ,we are interviewed by a news crew ,we seem to be popular with the media being from far away ,3 expedition race virgins and team member with roots in the local area.
Start time 8pm and we follow a motorcycle out of the old town for 4k run to the kayaks picking up the control cards at 2 checkpoints along the way. We have chosen to run in our life jackets with drink bladders with our packs in the gear boxes ready for leg 3. Arriving at the fat duo kayaks ,boys in one girls in the other . We know the bearing to follow round through the headlands to Paski Most. The kayaks are hard to steer but our experienced females kayakers are spinning circles behind us ; at this rate it is going to be a long 30km. We stop on the first headland and change crews with a boy in the back of each kayak and girl in front and are soon making proper headway. We arrive at Paski Most and Daria and James get out and collect the checkpoint and go to the bridge . Kathryn and I paddle the kayaks to under the bridge and coolect Daria and James as they abseil down off the bridge! We head on into the Velebit channel ,collect a checkpoit on an island then proceed onto the transition past the Starigrad.
We’re not last ,we’re in one piece ,we’ve made a 22 minute transition, we’re starting a 34 km trek at 2.30 am. The first part is a gentle climb on roads and out of the town and we are soon in the gorge hiking and at times scrambling up the rocks . The red and white track markers are relatively easy to see with our lights and James and I are mainly up front finding the route. We pick up a checkpoint in a cave and soon turn off the watercourse and are going through a wooded area. My light that was meant to last 24 hours expires just before dawn. At dawn we are treated to spectacular views of the Velebit. We continue our descent through the woods to the mountain hut checkpoint. Now the girls have been here before and Daria organises a Turkish style coffee for all . I try to deal with what feels like some impending blisters.
We start on a steep track behind the hut and come across a couple of donkeys with Bells round their necks. We keep ascending through the woods eventually to a checkpoint in another cave ( sort of ). We then have to ascend by rock scrambling up to an exposed rocky ridge . I take the front with girls following and James assisting from behind where necessary. We are then on an exposed ridge for a while and James is struggling a little in the 30 degree heat. After going over Sveto Brdo we descend through bush to another mountain hut. Till now our navigation has been pretty good even seeing us pass teams that seem to have made wrong/extra turns . On the last descent of the leg I am slowed to a virtual halt by the blisters ,having been reduced from trekking strongly into a blithering mess , and Daria is having trouble on the downhill also, but now being off track is not helping . Indecision and error costs us dearly and 4 teams go past us . We’re now going to start our ride in the dark.
The ride start is on fire road with steep slopes and loose stones . We don’t have good start. Daria crashes and I repair her lacerated finger . I crash because I couldn’t release a cleat and James fixes my cleats . Daria and I are really struggling on the downhills. My lack of night riding is telling . The air is getting cooler and the wind stronger. My riding is getting worse and worse it’s like I’ve forgotten how to ride a bike.. We get to checkpoint 10 where we’re meant to hike up Tulove Grede. I am sitting on the stone wall uttering insanities to my son . We decide on a rest though it’s not a great place . I think my problems are simply sleep deprivation . We put on all our mandatory gear bg efore we rest . When we return the Tulove Grede climb is closed due to the conditions. (James and I climbed it 2days after the race ,am glad we were stopped going up in those conditions ). I leave all my mandatory gear on and am able to ride. Clearly I was suffering from early hypothermia ,one can’t be one’s own doctor !! We continue our ride and at a mountain hut that is hard to find we end up meeting 3 other teams at least one coming from behind – didn’t realize there was anyone behind! We are forced into resting again by the boys failing lights (stupid we should have rested and recharged ouselves at the hut .. doh) The ride continues over rugged terrain until we reach the plains where there are farms with sheep and goats and we meet yet another hazard – the Croatian sheepdog. Eventually we are met by Igor at a newly created transition . We are ‘short coursed’ and instead of leg 7,8 we do our own MTB leg to the TA at start of leg 9. I am clearly having no issues with endurance as we ride the hilly route to Krupa.
The next leg treks along the Krupa river and is initially flat but with rocky rises. I am slow due to blisters again and I am forced to swallow my pride as team members demand to take some of the weight from my pack . We get to a check point on an island in the river then need to cross it . On the other side we realise we need to go up . It seems to be a near vertical climb up to the Krupa ridge. From there it is a walk down to the river kayak section start. A decision is made for a powernap once our gear is organised. I am woken from my dreams and we then have strong shots of coffee that the girls have acquired .
The kayaks are duo inflatable types suitable for the rapids in the Zrmanja. We are doing this at night with a clear sky and near full moon. The river flow is gentle in between the rapids which are often short drops . We continue till the waterfall section where there is people to help us. All gear is removed from the kayak and it is dropped over the falls . One kayak drops over the second drop and James collects it . The other sits in an eddy I retrieve it and paddle it down then realise I am going over a 3-4 m drop which the kayak handles with ease. We load up and get uner way ,looking for a branch of river coming in where we have to do a short trek. We spot a fire and someone on the bank . He informs us we have already passed that point and he is there to give us instructions on how to handle the next 3 rapids and the upcoming waterfall. After going down some rapids we again drop an emptied kayak over a fall . A little while after this we are at the transition . This was certainly the most fun leg during the race.
Being short coursed we are given a slightly different route for the mtb to the next transition.
From there we have a simple 4km trek circuit ! It starts up an old dried watercourse. The ground is hard and uneven . I find it tough with my blisters and Daria is finding it tougher . After finding one checkpoint the next one is in a cave. We climb up an old waterfall . We can’t find the route. We scale up a steep screed slope and can’t find the way forward and going out the way we came is too dangerous. We find a sheltered spot to rest till first light .
At first light we find the path to the cave . The first part is high and open and there are bats everywhere . We walk to the end of the cave stooped over and there is small opening at the end which we have to scramble into to get the checkpoint which requires a photo of all of us. After leaving the cave the way out of the canyon is somewhat easier to find in the daylight.
The final MTB leg is through the surrounding villages and farms . The roads are rough and rocky but not steep like the rest of the time .Navigation is tricky as we are banned from using main roads till after the last checkpoint. Two punctures impede our progress ,the second one a little more significantly. Just before the descent into Zadar I again have a problem with getting out of a cleat but manage to get the handlebar to the ground ahead of my body. The cleat has been knocked way out of position despite the earlier adjustment and James fixes itagain. .
After the transition in Zadar it is a short old city rogaine which ends at the sea organ.
From there we collect the kayaks and it is a simple downind paddle 11km to the finish on the beach at Petrcane . We cross the line together . We are interviewed again by the TV crew.
We finished a tough race together and had some fun along the way . We did a shorter course but still 60 km of trekking in rough mountainous terain ,150 km mtb and 50km kayaking all crammed into 71 hours .
Lessons for me ,get your feet and shoes right !! Have good lights and backups.
Do some night riding including on rought technical terrain .
Thanks Adventure Race Croatia and thanks PA Ninjas.
Circa December 2000 while in New Zealand on a tennis tour with my son I bought a book by John Acland on endurance training. The principles in the book helped me train for longer triathlons,which before I had never contemplated, and in it were inspiring photos of the Coast2Coast. In 2011 I bought a kayak and struggled through a multisport race from Marysville to Melbourne and the Coast2Coast again entered my brain but I put it on the backburner.
In 2016 my son James moved to Christchurch. Early 2017 , Wayne who knew I was doing multisport events, mentioned possibly doing the Coast2Coast . Lily and I visited Christchurch on the day the the 2017 event finished. The scene was set , Wayne would enter also , a 12 month journey began.
Firstly you have to get a grade 2 certificate in white water kayaking; I hadn’t seen a rapid for 40 years and they were tiny ones on the Yarra river. For me the only good option was with experienced NZ guides so I went back to NZ and completed that with Topsport kayaking . I also had the opportunity to reccie the run course with 2nd place athlete in the race Sam Manson. Next a support crew ; I got a commitment from Lily and James and signed up for the 2018 2 day event.
Training continued ad hoc , and my on call commitments meant I never got to any whitewater in Australia and had little time in the alps. November saw us back in New Zealand and I did a trip down the Waimakariri gorge with Topsport. The river was flowing at 150 cumics and was scary . I swam twice and got spun into eddies and wondered how I would get down the river without a guide. I took another opportunity to go over goat’s pass with Sam.
A week out from the race we were back in New Zealand and I again went down the Gorge with Topsport. The flow was high again. I got past the rock gardens without issue but again swam twice. The second capsize was particularly enlightening. While upside down I couldn’t find the tag to realease the sprayskirt. The water was so clear and everything looked so pretty but I came to a realization that I ought to get out if wanted to breathe again. I pushed my knee up through the sprayskirt and it came off. I was now floating rapidly down the Gorge and if not for Chris Stagg directing me to swim into an eddy behind a large rock I suspect I would have continued in the water for a lot longer. After Chris had helped prevent my impending hypothermia and fixing my pedal position in the kayak I got the rest of the way without incident .
The next few days I got my compulsory run gear and bike checks done , had to leave my bike overnight , WTF due to a recent upgrade it was brand new! We picked up an Apollo motorhome and drove to Kumara racecourse in time for registration and briefing ; James drove on his own and joined us later that night.
Race Day 1
The task ,start on the beach, run 2.2 k ,ride 55km (uphill,undulating ),run hike wade scramble 33 km over a mountain pass.
Support crew drop me and bike T1a drive to T1b assist with run gear , pick up bike drive to Day 1 finish and overnight camp at Klondyke Corner(easy cf day2 ! )
After getting dropped at transition and racking the bike I walked down to the start with the throng chatting to various people. I met Wayne on the beach and went down and touched the water. I met up with various training buddies I’d met including Jaci Sarah and Mark and wished them luck . Byron must have been near the front where he would be for the entire race. My intention was to run 4:40-45 pace to get in the right bunch which was essentially what I did despite being bunched in after the scramble up the rocks. For the first 30k of the ride I was in bunches from 6 to 30 and never did a turn – who wants an old man at the front anyway. After that I was swapping turns in a group of 6 though I noted there were 10 more hangers on when we entered the transiton at Aickens.
Transition is different to triathlon. You run past the crowd of assistants and your support crew have to spot you. The crew were well organized and transition was quick. I ran past the entrants for the Mountain Run and under the timing arch that signals the run start in 1:59 – (2.2 +55 +2 transitons under 2 hours gotta be happy ). The first 3 km of the run is relatively flat then you run past the Deception footbridge and cross through the river the first of around 30 water crossings and get the first taste of running on the rocks . Soon I discover I can’t tolerate the Clif bars I’ve brought and find I am slowing sometimes to a walk. I trip and fall onto the rocks hitting my knee and am helped up by some guys amongst whom is Wayne who checks I’m ok before he continues on. The terrain continues with a mixture of rocks, water and steep single track and I go back past Wayne while he is shedding a layer due to the heat. Soon we are into the boulders and it’s single file traffic . Scramble over boulders walk through water scramble over boulders walk through water…..
The sight of goat hut is a relief . I get out my ham and cheese sandwich as I get my gear checked . The view from the top and down the Mingha Valley is spectacular. I am able to start running again on the more forgiving terrain. After a while when you think you’re nearly down the other side there is what looks like a vertical rock wall in front of you that they call Dudley’s knob. Then it is downhill to the Bealey river. After crossing the river the terrain is flat but impossibly rocky and I take another fall and the tall guy behind me hauls me to my feet. Just after you hear familiar voices you climb up to the grassed area and down to the Day 1 finish. I meet with Lily and James and Wayne’s family and we wait for Wayne to come through. Then it is an early night as the support crew have a really early start the next day.
Task ride 15k run 1k paddle 70k ride 70k
Support Crew , now this is tough.
Drive to Mt White bridge, leaving before 5 am, get kayak off Topsport prepare kayak take kayak and all compulsory gear to scrutineers put kayak and gear at startline. When competitor arrives assist with gear assist into kayak check rudder etc is working. Pick up bike drive to Gorge bridge transition put bike on rack have change of gear and nutrition ready. When competitor arrives assist where allowed . After competitor leaves pick up bike and gear and drive to New Brighton find a park and you might get to the finish before your competitor. Phew!
The first ride started in groups of 10 according to the previous days finish time. I was off at 0751. Simple enough ride ,15 k with 480m of climbing and 610m descending . I rolled with the front 3 or 4 all the way pulling them uphills and drafting on the big guys downhill.
At Mt White James met me across the bridge I racked the bike and James led me to the kayak. Finally getting in and making sure the pedal position was right and rudder worked I was underway. Passed a lot of people in the braided section and was paddling well. Got through the rock gardens without issue. The second serious bluff corner I cut too narrow and the eddy threatened to capsize me , I braced , stayed upright but the force tore the paddle from my hands. The paddle span temptingly vertical for a while in a boil as I tried to paddle to it with my hands . The jetboat graciously offered to retrieve the paddle for me but they had wait for a lot of traffic to pass before they could get to it . Now I’m going back past people I’d passed before. The gorge was great and I generally handled it OK then at about 45 k I had relaxed too much and went in on a boil. While on the bank emptying my boat I waved to Wayne as he went past. Underway again I chatted with the people again as I went past and had an encounter with a rockwall and a willow tree. I arrived at the Gorge bridge and the volunteers had to haul me out of the kayak . James met me at the water’s edge and guided me up the hill to transition, though I could barely walk.
Once on the bike the legs seemed to spin Ok. There was a small hill to climb and then it was into the headwind to Christchurch. Thought is was going to be a long day when a small group came past moving along at 38kph. After the turn right some guy organised the bunch into a rolling group which got larger and larger as we passed more riders . At the turn into Christchurch a group of 5 of us was away from the bunch and swapped turns the rest of the way . Just then had to run up the sandy steps to the finish . Had a beer or two in the recovery are and waited just a short while for Wayne to finish. Then sat in the crowd with James and Lil and watched Sam Clark finish in the one day event.
My support crew did a sterling job.
Next year , maybe the tandem event with James.
After a couple of days recuperating at Hanmer Springs we drove toward Nelson and to our accommodation in Ruby Bay at Azalea cottage. We went for an evening stroll along the ‘ beach ‘ which was rocky .
Following morning we drove to Marahau and booked a trip in the Abel Tasman NP. They took us by boat and dropped us at Bark Bay and from there we walked back to Anchorage where they picked us up. It was a well marked track with a few ups and downs and with some side trips , including one to Cleopatra pool, took around 3 hours for 13.5 k .
Driving back we stopped at Motueka at Talleys and picked fresh Gurnard ,Snapper , Chilli mussels and Salmon pate . Tonight was entree mussels followed bt Gurnard stir fry and BRBPilsner Lager .
Following morning we drove to Matai River and dam and walked to the Matai cave . Part of the route is on the Dun Mountain trail , a shared walking and MTB trail . The first part is mixture of wide single track and 4wd along the south branch of the Matai River. You then off and cross Solander creek and are then on atypical enclosed NZ walking trail with rocks tree roots and mud . The salmon pate was perfect for lunch at the cave . The round trip was about 2 1/2 hours or 10.5k.
On the way back we walked through the park in cwntral Nelson and had coffee in the mall. Much to my chagrin there was an out of tune piano outside and after some arm twisting my rather rusty fingers and brain thumpex out interruptwd versions of king of the road and piano man.
Dinner tonight wasthe snapper and more beer.