Motatapu Mulisport race recap.
Wow, what a race day.
It started with a 160 kph rally car race up the loose gravel road of the Matukituki River valley to make it to the race start and ended with a late night visit to the ER, where I got a few stitches from a Scottish Mountaineer and doctor who thought Saturday night on-call duty was more fun when he got to stitch up multisporters, rather than bar room-fighting farmers.
In between, I had a great 5 hour race with blood, sweat and adrenaline.
So where to start?
Race check-in in the picture-perfect mountain town of Wanaka. In the parking lot Steve Gurney ran into Braden Currie, who was doing an interview about his Coast to Coast victory this year. Braden handed the trophy to Steve and said, “hey, you’ve carried this thing around a few times before, right?” Steve then dumped it over his head
The young and the old of the coast to coast..
I slept well and thought I had a good race strategy: stay in the top 5 in the paddle, make a huge effort on the bike and try to transition to the run near the lead. Ah, but the best laid plans …
So about that rally car race … It turns out that my driver Steve Gurney and his vehicle rarely show up on time. Steve was too late the day before for us to get our bikes checked so we had to wait until 40 minutes before the race start for a bike mechanic to show up. He gave us a quick approval and then we set off to drop our bikes and hustle to the start to unload our kayaks. Hence the 160 kph racing speed, with corner braking down to 80 kph and then acceleration again. My god … we really got to test Steve’s Subaru …
The race start went well, thanks to a great “push off” from my support crew Ailse Rollinson at the start (I’m second from right, on the downriver side)
The paddle went well. I was in third just behind Gavin Mason (the local who knew this shallow braided river well) and Steve Gurney (who was smart enough to know that the local knew best). Following along I watched and learned where to place the boat to maximize speed in the current from the two experts.
I came out in 3rd place and passed Gurney on the bike. I saw the first place Gavin on the hill about 2 minutes ahead. Everybody had warned me that he was a very strong biker.
About 15 minutes later I took a risk on a steep descent. I braked hard, but it was too late. I flipped over the handle bars and my forehead met a rock in front before I could react with my arms. I was stunned, but not knocked out. Next thing I remember was a rush of water coming down my face — oh crap, did I break my camelpak hose ?!
But my sportsdrink isn’t dark red …uh oh.
I remember thinking immediately that my race was over. I wondered how far I would have to walk my bike to get help and abandon the race.
But then a miraculous thing happened. The human body took over. My adrenaline caused my blood to clot and suddenly I stopped bleeding. My jersey and bike frame were soaked red, but the source of the drip was plugged. I got on my bike and cautiously started pedaling.
The trail got easier so I pedaled a bit faster. Soon I saw three volunteers at a road junction ahead of me — they would be my rescue …
But then my body reacted without my mind being on-board. I accelerated right toward them, crossed the road and pedaled as fast as I could to get away from them. They were trying to wave me down and stop me from racing (I was clearly injuried!). If anybody was going to make that decision it was going to be me, not them.
When I accelerated up the road my body responded. I felt fine. No more blood drips. I decided I would continue.
I ate and drank and kept a steady pace. I had to drink carefully from my camelpak hose — if I sucked too hard, it would cause my forehead muscles to flex and the blood would start dripping again. So I drank on the downhills when I could relax.
Finally, around one of the corners, I saw Gavin. It took another 45 minutes, but I finally caught him at one of the aid stations. As I was about to make a move, something felt wrong. I had a flat tire.
It took me over 5 minutes to fix it. I was clumsy and frustrated. But I had help from some marathon runners who took pity on the bloody guy with the flat tire. Without them it might have taken even longer.
I got back on and was charged with energy. But how much further up to Gavin ?
Then I heard an explosion. Another flat. Oh my god … I put in my second (and last!) tube, but it didn’t hold air. I had a bad tube.
OK, Plan B: use the patch kit. I go to my saddle bag and find that the zipper had opened during the ride and everything had fallen out.
That left Plan C: give up and walk out with a broken bike …
But just then Richard Ussher comes flying by. Richard was chasing Braden in the Triathlon event (we shared the same course, but we were in different races). He gives me a “oh jesus, what happened to you” look. I ask if he’s got a tube and he slams on his brakes, pulls out a tube and chucks it at me and continues on down the trail. What a nice guy ! Not only did this hurt his chances of catching Braden, but it also risked putting him in third place. A classy move by a classy competitor.
I put in the tube and 10 minutes after hearing the initial explosion, I’m back on the trail again with a long downhill ahead. I push hard, but have to be conservative. Another crash would really end the race.
I came into the transition to the final run and met a lot of shocked faces. By now the blood had dried and lots of dust had stuck to my face. I was quite a sight to see.
They told me I was in 4th when I started the run. I had nothing to lose. My legs responded and I was running fast. Perhaps the “forced rest” during the bike repair was good for me. I even ran a long uphill that I thought was too steep to run. I got a gel with caffeine at the top of the climb and ran downhill to the finish with everything I had. I ended up with the 2nd fastest run time and finished the race 3rd place overall.
As I ran through the finishing gates, the crowd roared. I think the word might have gotten out about the bloody runner. Honestly, that was an amazing high to get that support from 1,000+ total strangers. I enjoyed that high all afternoon and all evening.
Here is where I could say something corny like “don’t ever give up” or “stick with it all the way” but the truth is I kept going because my body allowed me to. I just listened and responded. I’m glad I was able to continue because this was a beautiful course and reminded me of why I love multisport.
Thanks to the race directors for a great event, with smooth logistics, and lots of positive energy from the combination of several endurance events in the same place. Thanks to Agnus Watson (the winner) and his family for taking me to the ER late on Saturday night. Thanks also to my support crew Ailse Rollinson and Simone Maier — great to have experienced multisporters on your support crew !
Full results here – http://www.timeit.net.nz/Results/resultsmulti.php?CompNum=67
(Select “multisport” under event drop down menu)