Every year in New Zealand, there are tons of fantastic outdoor events held throughout the country. From trail running, to mountain biking, orienteering to kayaking, sometimes all of the above, and all in spectacular settings, these events are challenging and can be life-changing. Have you ever thought ‘Oh, I’d LOVE to do that…but I couldn’t’ ?
Well this article is for you! YOU CAN. Germaine’s story is proof that it can be done. So be prepared to be inspired!
The Coast to Coast is an iconic kiwi race across the South Island, starting at Kumara on the West Coast and ending up on the beach in Christchurch. Yup, you have to get yourself over the Southern Alps!
Meet Germaine. She’s an Emergency Medical Assistant at St John, mum to one, and a determined outdoorsy mama! With little experience but a big dream, this is her story.
Outdoorsy NZ: Why did you want to do the race? I’m not sure exactly when or why I first set my sights on it, I know it was about 10 years ago. I suppose it just always seemed like this huge, amazing, crazy feat and it’s just such an iconic race, it has always had this kind of pull. I’ve loved our backcountry and tramping since my teens, and I’ve since developed a perverse taste for physically thrashing myself during long days on the hills. I love a good physical challenge, and the Coast to Coast is a massive challenge.
Outdoorsy NZ: How did you organise the logistics of training around work and family life? I have worked a 4 on, 4 off (2 days, 2 nights) roster since October last year, so I would try to do my gym program on my work days, and my cardio sessions on my days off. Sometimes I’d squeeze in a trail run or cycle on my in-between day too. I ended up training 12-14 hours a week. Prior to that I worked casually for LIC, so it was just fitting in what I could, where I could. It could be a challenge, as my workload would change at the drop of a hat, week by week. When I got the job with St John, it allowed me to be a lot more consistent with my training. My partner was also instrumental, we would organize that if I had a big training day and finishing late, he would pick our son up from daycare and do tea etc so I didn’t have to think about it. I would also combine exercises so I could do more in a day eg cycle to the gym (Hinds to Ashburton) then cycle 70km on the way home, or kayak and run etc.
Outdoorsy NZ: How did you motivate yourself to keep going when things got tough – both training and in the race? Once we got started and money started pouring into it, there was no going back! Between myself, my partner and my parents, we’ve poured somewhere in the vicinity of $10-15,000 into the race. I couldn’t let them-or myself-down, and so I couldn’t just chuck it in because it was hard. I also told a bunch of people what I was doing right from the get-go. As it turns out, not wanting to explain why I was no longer doing the race is a pretty good motivator. And I had an image in my mind of what the finish would look like, who would be there and how I would feel on crossing that line, just thinking about it fired me up. It has also been something of overcoming a hurdle for me, personally. I have a bad habit of starting things and not seeing them through, so to actually decide to dedicate a year of my life to this-to get fit, to do the courses I needed to do, to learn new skills-and see it through was very important to me. So basically, unless I badly injured myself, nothing was going to stop me.
Outdoorsy NZ: What were the key factors that actually got you to race day?My partner, for sure. He was so incredibly supportive. He never hesitated when I first told him I was seriously considering it, I think he knew as much as I did how this thing had haunted me over the years. He was always encouraging me, he paid for the majority of cost, he had to pick up a huge amount of slack with regards to just every day stuff around the house, as some days I would just be wrecked and too tired/sore to do much. He would push me to get out and do stuff on the days that I just didn’t feel like it. He helped me keep it together when my new car broke down just 3 weeks out from the race, and I didn’t get a vehicle I could actually use to cart my gear around until a few days before the race. My good friend, Natasha. She was always offering to take our son Connor so I could squeeze in extra training or sleep, she helped keep me sane!! My trainer in Australia. I broke my femur in 2009, and went to live in Aussie in 2012, where I met Keith. Despite 18 months of physio, I was still majorly messed up and compensating for my bad leg, Keith was instrumental in getting me right again. I had 2 surgeons tell me running was out of the question after my injury, Keith basically said bullshit, that I could do anything, as long as I did it properly. It was a long road of strength, mobility and conditioning exercises. So when I made the decision to do the race, he was the first person I thought to contact. He knew my history, and I knew he would hold me accountable and get me through. In truth, everyone who took an interest in my journey played a part in getting me to race day-I have co-workers who have personally been involved and/or knew people who had competed, friends who were always asking, my family too, of course. Mum and dad supplied me with my kayak, one big purchase we weren’t sure how we were going to afford!!
Outdoorsy NZ: Any tips or words of advice to other mums doubtfully thinking ‘if only I could do it?’ Just make a decision, and then start making incremental steps towards that goal. That is literally all I did. We didn’t know how the hell we were going to afford it, we scrimped and saved and had some help. When I started running, 5km seemed like a bloody long way. I hadn’t run 10km in years, since before breaking my leg, so the first time I did that was huge to me. 15km seemed mental. Then 18km, then half marathons. Started with 26km on the bike, by the time the race rolled around I was regularly cycling 70km-80km. Kayaking 70km seemed absolutely mental…but you just do it. Make that decision, give yourself time, start making steps, involve others in your journey and honestly, it just flows from there. But it all starts with 2 key things-that decision, and a bit of action.
Outdoorsy NZ: Describe your race day experience. Race day was just surreal. Travelling over was mental, even. There were campers and cars everywhere with kayaks and bikes on them and you knew where they were going, and it was just like holy shit, I’m going there too. I couldn’t quite believe I’d actually made it. On the Friday (day one) I wasn’t nervous per say, just apprehensive. I knew it was going to be a long day, it was going to be hard, it was going to hurt. Standing on the beach at Kumara watching the Tasman Sea was quite cathartic, and settled me right before the start. It was nice to take a moment to reflect on the journey, and to just let it sink in that I was actually here, actually doing this. There were a few people I bumped into at the start that I’d met through training and the Grade 2, it was awesome to have a quick catch up and wish everyone luck. The run to the first transition is brief, 2.2km. The first cycle is an undulating 55km. I got into a good bunch, but they lost me on the hills (more hill training needed!! It’s very flat where I live). I felt good coming into the cycle to run transition. We took our time, I stuffed food in my face and got underway. Took a couple of k’s for my legs to register that we were running, not cycling, so they felt pretty wooden initially. Got into a nice ploggy (plod/jog) rhythm, and just chipped away. My hip flexors started playing up about about 8km in, but I’ve got pretty good at ignoring moderate pain. I tacked onto a tandem team who were keeping a nice pace, turns out it was the sister of one of my St John co-workers and her teammate, I’d met them both the night before as Vicki (fellow EMA) was at the race as one of their assistants. We travelled together most of the way to the top of Goat Pass, but once we hit the downhill I left them behind. Running downhill is something I really enjoy, and I’m reasonably good at it. The last 7km was an absolute slog, by this point my hip flexors were so sore, but I just fixated on the finishing point at Klondyke Corner and pushed through. My family (support crew and assistants) were on the riverbed waiting for me near the finish, and running down the finish chute to be met by Steve Gurney was awesome! My sister gave me a massage that night-it is handy having a qualified sports massage therapist in the family when you’re doing this sort of thing. Day 2 was probably the day I was most nervous about, because of the kayak. I hadn’t had the most ideal lead up in terms of the kayak, so this leg was really just about getting through it, I wasn’t concerned with the time, as long as I beat the cut offs. The first 15km cycle went really well, but at the kayak transition one of the rudder peddles had come loose, and it took Shane (my partner) 10 minutes to sort it out. It was so frustrating watching all these other competitors come and go while I was stuck on the riverbed! We also forgot to get my long sleeved thermal on, so I had to stop half an hour into the kayak to put my paddle jacket on, as the PFD was chafing my arms. I managed the paddle with one swim. I would have liked no swims, but I was ok with that-people were coming out everywhere, especially in the tandem kayaks. My shoulders were pretty knackered by the end, however. On the last transition, I left the gorge bridge at the same time as Dougall Alan, who won the Longest Day. Those guys are just phenomenal. 15 minutes in, Sam Manson, the second place getter, passed me. I did a couple of nights of kayak training with Sam as he works for Top Sport Kayak, who I did my Grade 2 through. There were a few other longest day competitors who passed me on the final cycle. I was on my own for the majority of it, fighting a headwind that came in about 20km into the ride-so frustrating. 15km from the finish I tacked onto a little group and drafted off of them to the end, then had a wee running race up the finish chute with Philip, who had cycled at the front of the group. I’d never met this guy before, but we still shared a hug at the finish line. I guess there’s an understanding between competitors of the amount of work that goes into getting to that point. Natasha had arranged for a group of my friends to be there, my partners parents were there, along with my family/support crew…I bawled my eyes out as I hugged everyone. It was difficult to comprehend, at that point, that I’d finished. To stand on the beach at New Brighton, to watch the Pacific, mirroring my actions from the morning before…it had finally come full circle. It was an incredible, awe inspiring thing to have been a part of.
Outdoorsy NZ: Are you going to do it again?! Absolutely! I’ve already entered next years 2 day individual. Next year the aim is to do it substantially faster!
Are there any events YOU have dreamed of doing? Please let us know in the comments! I’d love to do the Macpac Motatapu offroad marathon…
Calling all outdoorsy mamas!
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