The Coast to Coast race in New Zealand is one of the longest, oldest, most EPIC and iconic adventure/multi-sport races in the world. Starting on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island, competitors run and cycle to the foot of the Southern Alps, before starting a 30.5km mountain run over rocky riverbeds, hills, and crossing rivers. After another cycle, they woosh down (kayaking) 70km of the stunning Waimakariri River, before the final 70km cycle into the finish at Christchurch. Some (tough-as-nails, very experienced) adventure racers complete the whole thing in one hog, taking as little as 11 hours! Others opt for the Two Day race, individually or in pairs. It's big, wild and beautiful, and at the same time, a race for everyone - from elite athletes to corporate teams.
Anna McNuff, AKA 'the happiest person in adventure', is a legendary British adventurer who has ran the length of New Zealand (solo, unsupported - and then wrote best selling book Pants of Perspective), and cycled the 50 US states, to name only two of her hugely awesome adventures. She was named by the Guardian as one of the top female adventurers of our time, is a UK ambassador for Girl Guiding, and co-founder of the 'Adventure Queens' community - go check 'em out. She and teammate Hollie will be taking on the two-day tandem race, starting on 8th Feb! We caught up with her on how preparation has gone...
What attracted you to this race?
I actually read about it years ago when it first started and I was doing another adventure race in Sweden at the time. I remember thinking 'New Zealand is this far off mystical land and this race looks AWESOME!'. I put it to the back of my mind, but I heard about it again in 2015 when I did a long run along a trail in New Zealand - Coast to Coast is like a kiwi institution. Anyone into endurance sport and the outdoors will do it at some point. Then I started doing some work with the brand Kathmandu, who sponsor the event and they offered me a spot in the race as a sponsored athlete. A dream come true!
Why the tandem team?
People very rarely attempt to do the whole race course by themselves in a single day on their first go - it's pretty hardcore! And doing it over two days on your own is a second option, but I wanted it to be even less pressure and even more fun, so I signed up as part of a Tandem Team.
It's a much easier way in for first time racers because you are in a kayak with a more experienced paddler (my teammate Hollie), so they can choose the lines down the river and improve your chances of staying upright! It's also easier logistically because I don't have to have so many kayaking qualifications (only a river safety certificate) because I'm in a boat with an experienced paddler. As for the run and bike though - we do that separately, but have to stay within 50 metres of one another.
Can you give us a lowdown of what training you've done, and how it’s gone?
We've had such a blast training as a duo - and trying to do it from opposite sides of the world as well. There have been a lot of skypes. I didn't really start training until 6 months out and my endurance was okay, it was more about getting used to running uphill for a long time (the run is a 34km mountain run) and also running on loose rocks / uneven ground. So I just did that wherever I could in the UK. Before Christmas I flew out to train with Hollie - I didn't have to, but I really wanted to kayak in warm water (not the British winter!) and my work is portable so I could. It was a FAB decision because I got to go over the run section a few times and my kayaking went from zero to much better very quickly. I am still feeling in a bit over my head, but I'm as ready as I'm going to be!
What are you most excited for?
Two days of beasting myself in the outdoors with Hollies family and my parents (who happen to be on holiday here at the same time) cheering me on too!! Doing a run where you cross rivers, and whooshing down them through a gorge in the kayak - there really is nothing that makes you feel more alive. You're so connected to nature out here, it pure magic!
My biggest hope is that we have the most awesome, fun couple of days out in wild and amazing New Zealand landscape and that we do ourselves proud come the finish line.
What are you most nervous about?
Falling in during the kayak stage and keeping up with Hollie on the mountain run (she is a pocket rocket!)
My biggest fear is a show stopper of some kind - falling out in the kayak or rolling an ankle in the run. But I can't control that, so I'm just focussed on having the time of my life!
What are you going to eat?!
Lots of bananas! And I am in love with these raspberry liquorice things they have in NZ, which have chocolate in the middle. They are my power source. Mmmmm... And I will also be taking some good old cheese sarnies for when I need a savoury hit.
Best of luck Anna and Hollie - enjoy the beautiful, wild, muscle-burning adventures in the New Zealand summer (jealous...)! Find Anna's website here, and follow her Instagram here for endless adventure enthusiasm.