Life as an elite athlete is temporary. Success comes and goes, but it will never stay. Never have I been more aware of this than the past two editions of the Speight’s Coast to Coast. For six years in a row I competed. A win in the two day, 3x runner-up and a 3rd (and an 8th) in the one day. The moment I give the race a miss, I am forgotten. It’s about the current group of contenders who toe the start line. Gordon Walker won the race in 2007, 2009 and 2010. An absolute legend, but not really spoken of anymore. It just shows, life as an elite athlete is temporary. Gordon now coaches Olympic gold medal winning kayakers.
I don’t say this to sound sad and sorry. It is a healthy thing to appreciate. I think it helps keep things in perspective. It keeps me focused on trying to be a good person as well as athlete. But it also helps me truly appreciate success when it comes, knowing these moments will one day become distant and faded memories. I like to race and live in the now, really try to do ‘now’ as well as I possibly can. The past has happened and the future is on the way, the present is all that matters in a race. The last kilometre of the marathon on Sunday along Ardmore St still gets the goosebumps popping as I reflect. What a moment. Thank you Wanaka.
The swim. What can I say? A year of swim training. 3-5x swims per week. Where last year I was totally around 10km of swimming a week this year I was up in the 20-25km region. Last year a 1.03 swim split. This year the same. I still cant quite work out why. But I knew as I exited the lake on Sunday that I needed to erase the swim time from my memory right then and there. Dwelling would do me no good and besides, there were 7.5 hours of racing ahead.
The bike. Specifically, the Trek Speed Concept with Enve 6.7 wheelset. I had a plan. I had practiced my plan constantly all summer. I knew how I was capable of riding and I had already confided in Amy that Ussher’s bike record was history this time. I had a Polar V800 watch to tell me what heart rate was sustainable based on Val’s advice. I focused only on this and was virtually unaware of the splits being narrowed to the riders ahead over the first half of the course.
By 80km I had started to realise the gap was really closing fast to the front. I took a split at the Tarras Rd turnaround to Dylan and was a little surprised by the rate I was catching. My own ride was not surprising me, I was simply following my race plan. But I was genuinely amazed at how quickly I was returning to the pointy end of the race. Exciting.
The special needs zone was at the 100km mark. I had a bottle of rocket fuel at the ready, full of liquid carbs and caffeine. Val and I had this planned. I had to keep the body fuelled because in less than 2 hrs I was going to start a marathon. I caught and passed Braden Currie here (doesn’t happen often!) and called my race number in the 100m leading into the special needs zone. A bag was held out. But for Braden. Nothing for me. Dam it! History now, focus on the present.
By the time we came back through town for one more lap out to Hawea I was in 2nd place. I was guilty of letting my mind slip back towards that special needs error. My heart rate had dropped 5-6bpm. I wish I had got that caffeine. Pointless thoughts. Luckily I was brought back to the present with a time split from Val that had me within 3 minutes of Dylan. This was turning into quite a race.
By the time we got off the bikes we were seconds apart. I had no idea how the legs would respond but I knew I had stuck to my plan on the bike. A marathon is a scary thought regardless of what you’ve been up to prior, so I was appropriately apprehensive. I sat next to Dylan in the change tent as we threw on our shoes. He called me a bastard and I let slip that I may not break any run records. An honest but brief discussion.
The run. Ardmore St is a blur. In fact most of the run is a blur. I was running to heart rate and pace. Sticking to a plan. Only problem for me was that Dylan had a slightly faster plan, along with the desire and ability to match it. He slowly pulled away. I knew in those first few kilometres that I would only win now if Dylan blew. But he is classier than that. He knows what he is doing.
The support on course was mind blowing. I had a serious dose of tunnel vision, but I do remember the voices and faces that fed me their energy. Thank you so, so much. One kilometre at a time, it got me through. My marathon time was solid enough, not much in it between the top 5 or so pros. Dylan won his 3rd title with typical humility off the back of a typically courageous performance. I was 3 minutes behind. Evergreen Courtney Ogden from Aussie held on for 3rd less than 10 minutes behind.
There are now some decisions to make. What races to do and which sports to follow. But for now I want to reflect and enjoy the success of my Challenge Wanaka race. I took 12 minutes off the bike course record and I was quarter of an hour faster than last year. Knowing that the day will come when none of this will matter, I want to enjoy it right now. I also want everyone to know that Riverside Park and Torpedo 7 believe in what I do. Without these two great companies, along with my other sponsors (check them out here: https://dougalallan.com/sponsors/) I couldn’t go out and do this sort of thing. People like Mike Mountz, Will and Joy Harvey, Val Burke and my family help me believe that the best is always to come.
Thank you to everyone out on course. One day I reckon I can win this event. I just wish all those cheers could be heard underwater, maybe then I would swim a bit faster.
Wanaka is home. I love saying that.