This race report comes to us courtesy of Alan Leenaerts, one of our members, who recently travelled to New Zealand to participate in the Kathmandu Coast to Coast. Read on to hear about this exciting event!
2023 New Zealand Coast to Coast race report
After 3 years of pandemic delays, 4 INCC members crossed the ditch to participate in the 2023 C2C.
2023 was the 40th edition of the 240km C2C. The race is a classic beach to beach multisport event: Cycling covers the transits from/to the beaches, to the formidable run-paddle section in the middle, crossing the Southern Alps. The distances are run 2km/ride 55km/run 34km/ride 15km/run 1km/paddle 67km/ride 70km. Winners arrive in about 12 hours, and the rest of the field has 18 hours, but there are many time critical cut offs at each stage.
The main run is about 50% off track, on braided river bed, with 25+ river crossings, a climb to 900m over the pass and out along another rocky river bed.
The paddle starts out on a braided section of the Waimakariri river, it is then pinched by the gorge into 20km of big volume grade 2 rapids, and then opens into a final 20km of braided river.
The cycle sections are easy scenic trips amongst the mountains and across the Canterbury plains.
After collecting my beach stone from Kumara for symbolic transfer to the Pacific, I had good run to the first bike transition. This allowed me to get in a fast peloton for transfer to the first run. Unfortunately, at the 42km mark someone went down and took out the back rider, including me… Undeterred by an impromptu cartwheel on the tarmac, I arrived at run transition only losing 3 minutes to the peloton. 2 hours in.
My run went well – the first river crossing is at 4km, 24 to go! The run is in 4 parts: 14 km braided river and river crossings, 5 km of un runnable rock scramble to the pass at 900m, then 5km of steep up/down mountain trail, and finally 10km more braided river and boulder hopping. I had some slight cramping in a quad (from the bike crash) but managed to better my previous time by nearly 30 min, arriving at transition in 4:50 and 4th in my age group. 8 hours in.
After an easy 15km bike transit (and solid feed) I was ready to paddle.
The boats used are interesting mix of TK1 and down river racer; 6.4 metres long, 40-50cm wide with a trailing rudder (for the shallows and rocks) I had FLOW kayaks ‘Rush’ which is considered an elite boat, given I had 6 years white water experience when living in NZ. It was the right choice –I did not feel unstable, did not swim and enjoyed all the rapids. The river was low (and therefore slow) and there were compulsory portages. Low means ~50 m3/sec (high is 1500m3/sec) – this meant there were less 1m standing waves and less powerful recirculating eddy lines. NOTE: the Yarra in recent spring flood was about 50m3/sec.
Unfortunately they had given me a small neoprene spray skirt… which was so tight it limited my ability to twist/leg drive etc…which turned a pleasant 4 ½ hour paddle turned into a 6 hour epic. I only just beat the final cutoff at Woodstock by 20minutes…and now very much at the back end of the field. Oh well, only a flat ride to go, and lots of paddle learnings for next time! 13 hours in.
During the final ride it gets dark. The route is signposted, and normally lined with cheering locals. I had an uneventful trip across the plains. Arriving in Christchurch I did not see a critical left turn at the hospital…You may recall Christchurch had an earthquake 10 yrs ago, well this area has NOT been reconstructed as it remains unstable (known locally as the ‘red zone’). It is empty of houses, lights, signs, people, etc. This where I spent the final hour of my race trying to find the way to New Brighton beach.
Eventually I was chaperoned in by a local in the sad time of 17hr13min, 2 hours slower than last time, and officially the last person in! NOTE due to the slow river 25% of athletes did not make the cut offs, and did not complete the course, so I was happy to go home with a finishers medal…and will have to try again next year. In all, a magnificent kayaking race through the mountains, highly recommended.
PS entry is by ballot, the 2024 ballot had 3500 entries for 1000 positions…I am on the wait list.