The immigration officer gave small hint as to what was to come. After being told that the weird looking guy in front of him was there to do the Coast to Coast, he immediately broke into a broad smile that was a cross between ‘Wow, he came all the here to do the race’ and ‘This guy must be mental or something’. He then went on to inform me that the weather’s been pretty warm and wished me luck with the race. As I picked up my passport to go, he remarked, ‘Hey it’s nice and warm to us but might not be so for you guys from the tropics eh?’ The parting shot hit me like a gust of strong wind when I stepped out the door of the airport. If this is warm, I thought, I’d hate to see what cold is. After all, it was supposed to be summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
Cold notwithstanding, we arrived Christchurch in one piece, got our car and proceeded to load it with everything but the kitchen sink in preparation for the race. The only reason why the kitchen sink was not included in our packing list was that the kayak took up too much space and my support crew (bless them) decided at the last minute that bringing me along was marginally better than the sink. I bet they regretted that at the end of day 1.
Support car, fully laden. Race ready. Competitor on the other hand, wasn’t.
Put a couple of sleep-deprived, recently stressed educators together, mix in a logistics plan rivalling the Normandy landings and you’ll get a recipe for, not disaster, but utter and complete mayhem. It took all four of us almost a day to pack, repack and stuff the poor station wagon with enough gear and food to feed a small army. Of four. Allow me to explain that number too. While I was on the course, I needed a team of highly efficient, specialised individuals to get my gear and other race essentials from one point of the course to another. These three (Jean, Lishan and Michael) were essential to my completion of the race and words cannot express my gratitude for their help. Or perhaps they can. Thanks guys!
But then one does need to put things into perspective – most of it was necessary and we were glad to have had the extra clothes (cold!), good sleeping bags (cold!) and sleeping pads (cold!) when camping out on the two nights before and during the race. All the gear was necessary too as I had to run-cycle-run-cycle-paddle-cycle my way from the East coast of the South Island to the West (more on the race route here). That justified my large gear bag and five pieces of footwear that earned me the name of ‘princess’ from Lishan, one of my overly kind support crew. In her words, who else but a princess would travel with so many pairs of shoes? Sigh, such are the slings and arrows of outrageous support crews that the hapless adventure racer has to deal with.
And so after 2 days of harried errand running, shopping and gear pickups, we were ready to roll 240 kilometres towards Kumara, the town nearest the start of the race. And roll we did in the driving rain to reach a slightly soggy campsite that was mercifully sans rain when we arrived. Things were looking up as we prepped for the race and tried to sleep.
We were a camping. Note silly smile of person who doesn’t realise what’s to come…