Coast to Coast 2016 – A Support Crew P.O.V
White knuckles. Pacing. Waiting, waiting, waiting and then… full noise; a few crazed minutes of absolute madness. Collect the discarded gear (mostly), and just like that it’s back to waiting. I finally understand why mum has sleepless nights leading up to my events. This support crew business is stressful stuff, but such a great way to be a part of a fantastic event. And I thought kayaking the Waimak was the hardest part! I also believe it should be compulsory for anyone who competes and relies on support crew to return the favour and gain an understanding of what it’s like being on the other side.
The weekend before the Coast to Coast (no longer Speights) I was at Mum and Dad’s with Scott, who was tackling the 2-day Individual race. We were going through his gear and transitions to make sure we both had an understanding of how it would work and what order items were to come on and off. I was also going through the final edits of Volume Four of Say Yes to Adventure magazine (yes, I hear ya, it’s that time again!) so it was a big Waitangi weekend as the brain was once again frazzled with spotting the difference between you’re and your! Not wanting to go completely mad, I suggested a quick boost up Mt Peel to watch the sunrise as the best way to fit in some exercise, without taking up too much of my precious proofing time. Mt Peel is my absolute favourite place in the entire world, but I had never cracked it for sunrise. So after an early start we reached the trig just after 6am and were rewarded with epic 360-degree views while we watched the sun appear over the bubbly clouds below. Food for the soul. It was a brief stop at the top to take the obligatory pics with the selfie stick before heading back down, arriving home just after 8am for bacon and eggs and in the perfect frame of mind for nailing Volume Four!
(Click on the images to make them full-size)
Warning: This is probably the most un-physical blog post I have written to date. But I guess that is what happens when you’re on the other side!
Roll on Thursday morning; I hit the send button and Volume Four began its journey through the airwaves to the Spectrum Print. Scott arrived to pick me up just after 10am and take me across to Kumara on the West Coast, while the other support crew members, Jacqs and Caeley, picked up Ernie (Mum and Dad’s new camper) from home, with our paths to cross in Springfield. It was a cracker day, as it almost always is for Coast, and thankfully no nor’west could be seen on the three-day forecast. In fact, the Waimak river level was sitting at a record low for the race. I was glad that wasn’t my kayak on the roof!
We met the up with the other two and Team Hundy were back together again (Caeley has proved her worth and was invited to join our exclusive club). Whenever I go on a mission with Jacqs, I don’t expect it to be a quiet affair. So I wasn’t at all surprised when she pulled out a list with Support Crew Challenges. Anybody with any respect for themselves definitely wasn’t going to win this one. Singing, dancing, talking to strangers (with three single ladies this was only allowed to be of the opposite sex) and, of course, nudity. It was all set for a great weekend.
We pulled into Kumara Racecourse and went through all the usual pre-race rituals with Scott; event registration, compulsory gear check, compulsory Moa Beer taste, and more importantly, making sure the sunglasses were on for a sneaky look around. It was noted that flat caps have somehow become a prerequisite of being a multisport competitor. Jury is still out on this one, but I have been told that Say Yes to Adventure should fill this market. Watch this space.
We set up camp at the Racecourse and helped Scott sort his gear for the following day. A race briefing was held at 5pm, which was short and sharp, exactly as it should be, unlike previous years! We then headed back to Ernie and set up the table for the first of Mum’s home cooked meals, accompanied by the first of too many red wines. Once again Mum was incredible, providing us with almost all the food we needed for our time away. You can just imagine the barrage Scott received when he suggested Mum had more input into the weekend than we did. Although he probably hit the nail on the head.
With time to spare after dinner we headed for the beach so Scott could check out where he would be starting from the following morning. Jacqs and I did our best to share knowledge and advice from our own experiences two years earlier, such as the best place to go for a pee on the walk down and the ideal line to take from the beach to get up and over the sand dunes. There’s something about being on the sand that makes you want to do handstands and cartwheels, and taking it a notch further, some acro yoga. It was here that Caeley earned her nickname of the ‘Human Swastika’. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Our acro yoga definitely needs some work too!
With the food all sorted, sandwiches in the correct pockets on the pack, Bento Box full with goodies on the bike and electrolytes topped up in the bottles we hit the hay just after 9pm. We lay there chatting, going over last-minute instructions and swatting hardy sandflies that hadn’t quite died from Jacqs’ spraying onslaught. I wouldn’t have been surprised if one of us slipped into a flyspray coma.
The alarm sounded at 5am with Scott leaping out of bed straight away. It took us girls an extra half-an-hour to rise, however we had plenty of time for coffee and breakfast once we reached Aitkins Corner. They close the road from the beach to Jacksons’ pub, meaning everyone had to be on the road before 6am. All packed up in Scott’s Coon, I turned left and dropped him off with his bike just before 6am, before turning back and driving the 55 kilometres to the first transition. While I was slightly jealous saying goodbye and watching other competitors make their way to the start line, there was also relief that I didn’t have the pressure of racing. I love Coast, it’s such a great event, but I think team racing is more my thing these days. They just need a team one-day event…
We were some of the first to arrive at the transition area with Scott’s gear, meaning we nabbed prime position on the edge of the chute. With a coffee in hand we headed back to the camper to have breakfast and cook Scott’s request – bacon and egg (well cooked) sandwich. So when we couldn’t get the gas to work, and realised the fridge wasn’t even working, a mild panic ensued. After a few failed attempts with the gas bottle (turn the switch left, turn the switch right) we did manage to get the fridge going but still couldn’t suss out the stove. Plan B: Buy the sandwich. We thought this was a boomer of an idea, until Scott told us later he could tell straight away that it wasn’t his bacon! You can’t bullshit a bullshitter.
Rounding out Scott’s support team was Nathan, who arrived from Timaru that morning a little later than anticipated, thanks to an unscheduled detour to Lake Coleridge. He found us just in time, as less than five minutes later Scott arrived. He flew into transition off the bike in the first bunch, with only two others ahead of them who had made a break-away. Caeley was up near the bike racks in her ‘Awesome Girl’ outfit (thanks Complete Performance) while Jacqs and I stood near his gear further down. He came in buzzing “That was so fast.” I smiled, remembering that is exactly what I had said when I did it too! He had a great fast transition, and in a flash he was off with his sandwich and Red Bull in hand. It’s such an adrenaline buzz, especially when things go to plan and your competitor is loving it too. There were smiles and high fives, that was until we were almost at the vehicles before we realised we had left the bike behind. And it wasn’t until we got to Klondyke corner that we spotted his helmet in the lost property section. So yeah… this support crew had plenty of room for improvement.
We boosted out of there as soon as we could, wanting to squeeze in some exercise of our own before Scott came in off the run. He’d told us he would be five to five and half hours, but I knew this was ridiculous, considering he had just come off the bike almost an hour quicker than he said he would. From my calculations we had to be at the finish area within four hours of him leaving, I just couldn’t bear the thought of missing him finish! That gave us safely two hours for a mission, so after a quick look in Jacqs’ tramping book, a walk up Avalanche Peak was decided upon. It was stunning; steep with definitely no running, but a great challenge. It was the most beautiful day too; I can’t believe I didn’t take my camera! But we didn’t quite make the top in an hour, so next time I’ll go back and be a bit more prepared. I don’t think Nathan knew what he was in for really; three girls for two hours with some very interesting chat! Not what you’d expect from females, but maybe what you’d expect from us. We talked guns, hunting, shee-pees and even the consequences of jumping off a bridge with your legs apart! Yikes. We better be still invited to your birthday too!
We arrived at Klondyke corner in what turned out to be perfect timing. Parking the vehicles, we headed over to the finish line where we waited for about 20 minutes before Scott came in. You could spot those longs legs from a mile away, and he looked buggered. He’d got severe cramp on the run (by the sounds of it so did many) and had used his entire bottle of Cramp Stop. But he was in great spirits, and very relieved to have ended Day One. He’d had a smashing first day and was sitting in an incredible third position going in to Day Two. The Say Yes to Adventure support crew were well stoked and took full credit.
We cruised around for the afternoon, heading to the river for a wash and for Scott an icebath for his muscles, before cracking open more wine as we sat outside having dinner while the sun went down. It doesn’t pay to leave three girls drinking alone with Nathan for too long does it Scott… let’s just say he will be thinking twice about not telling the gang what he gets up to!
Day Two was an early one, leaving the campsite before 5am in the Coon, while Scott stayed in Ernie until he departed on his bike at 7.30am. We had to take his kayak and all his gear to the Mount White bridge for scrutineering. So while Jacqs and Caeley relived their Uni days and slept in the car, Nathan and I stood with a million other people as we slowly made our way to the water’s edge. After getting all his gear checked off (a few stressful moments as we didn’t actually know if he had everything) we pulled up our pants and crossed the freezing river to reach the far side where the main flow was. Luckily we weren’t like the lady in front of us and managed to stay upright!
All set to go, we still had an hour or so to kill so we sat in the edge of the river swatting sand flies, drinking coffee and people watching. Excitement was starting to build and before too long the first competitors could be spotted crossing the bridge and heading for the water. We knew he would be one of the first to arrive as they were let off in waves of ten, one minute apart, depending on their placing from the previous day. Looking super relaxed he cruised in smiling, even beating us across the river (long legs!). It was another smooth transition into the kayak and just like that he was off, with five plus hours of the Waimak ahead of him. He did however inform us we had forgotten his lunch, although I am not too sure where the line is drawn between sorting out your own gear and the role of support crew! While I wasn’t at all jealous of people cruising away from us, Jacqs and I did help out where we could, jumping into the river and holding boats and paddles when people’s support crew only consisted of one or two and an extra hand was needed.
Because there is only one road in and out, we had to wait until all the competitors had been through before getting in the car and heading back to the camper. After a few questionable take-offs in the coon (it’s time for an upgrade my friend) we had breakfast and a quick tidy up, making sure all items were securely away (you can never be too sure with Jacqs’ driving) before heading for the Sheffield Pie Shop. Scott’s request at the next transition was a mince and cheese pie and we also met Lucy, Nathan’s wife here as she was joining us for the rest of the journey.
These next few hours at the Gorge Bridge I swear have taken years off my life. Stressful doesn’t even begin to cut it. Scott’s number was missed as he went through Woodstock, roughly an hour from the kayak exit. We watched as people’s numbers were written up who we knew were definitely behind him, with the worst thoughts going through our minds. Had he fallen out? Was he OK? Was he floating down without his boat?? Nathan and I were stationed at the river’s edge with the other two up at the transition. And then sure enough, his number was called out. I went from pacing like a coiled spring to still looking like I was on edge but with slightly more control! I’m not going to sugar-coat it; Scott wasn’t looking flash at all. He couldn’t pee in his kayak, which meant he had stomach cramps. So it was a stop half-way up the hill while he relieved himself before carrying on to his bike. The kayak leg catches you out if you don’t get your nutrition right. This was Scott’s longest transition, but definitely worth it as he stuffed the warm pie and more food down his throat! One leg to go; we all had our fingers and toes crossed that he would manage to ride with a good bunch.
We decided Ernie at the New Brighton finish line wasn’t the wisest idea so we dropped it off at home in town before heading out. Jacq’s calculations had Scott finishing between 3.30pm and 4.30pm, so you can imagine the yelling when he crossed the line just before 3.30! We all gave each a quick look thinking, “Shit that was close!” Imagine not watching him finish. We headed to the water to touch the Pacific Sea (from Coast to Coast) before giving the Moa beer a good nudge. Now to the best part of the weekend (from my point of view anyway). One of our challenges was to get a stranger to play ‘Shoot, Shag or Marry’ with us three girls. For those who don’t know this brilliant game, it’s as simple as it sounds. Face value, you choose to shoot one, shag one and marry the other. Earlier when we had been talking about this Jacqs had said to me “Don’t worry Hollie, you won’t be shot every time!!” So you can imagine my pure delight when it was Jacqs who was shot!! And then to rub salt into the wound, I beat her in a rock off too (that never happens), which meant she was the sober driver!! Don’t worry, she made up for it later in the evening!
Well done Scott, we are so proud! A killer 70 kilometre final ride into town had him cross the line in 6th place overall from a field of 45, in an overall time of 13.50.20. An amazing effort for his first Coast to Coast. He was a little disappointed with his kayaking, but as I said “Now you’ve got something to work on.” Look out One Day! Also great effort to others competing – Team Hot Rod (James and Angus Rodwell), Lucy Murray, Isla Smith who came in 2nd on the Women’s 2-day and Tane Cambridge, who finished in 8th position on the 1-Day! Well done guys.
If there was one word to sum up the weekend, it would be ‘laughter’. And a lot of it. From the moment we met at Springfield, to when we all said goodbye on Sunday morning, it was non-stop. Mostly at, but occasionally with, each other. My abs have only just recovered. We know each other so well now that there is no limit to the conversation, I swear these three know more about me than I do myself. This was my third Coast to Coast in a row; first year I competed, last year I was part of the media and this year as a supporter, and all have been so much fun to be a part of. So what’s it going to be next year…??
Side Note: Thanks to all of you who have taken such an interest in my love life, but no, Scott is not my better half. The only saliva we share is via a drink bottle. He does set the bench-mark very high however, so if you can tow me up a hill for 20+ kilometres or shoot a rabbit from more than 1,000 metres, then by all means say hello.
“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt