Joseph Sullivan has achieved some amazing feats in rowing and he's the reigning Olympic double scull champion with Nathan Cohen, but completing Saturday's Speights Coast to Coast Longest Day multisport event was right up there with the hardest thing he's ever done.
Sullivan spent 14hr 40min running, cycling and kayaking the 243km from Kumara Beach on the West Coast to the finish line at Sumner Beach in Christchurch.
The Picton rowing legend, who finished a solid 53rd overall, 14 places behind his fellow Olympic rowing gold medallist Mahe Drysdale, said, "That was definitely hard. Right up there with the toughest things I've done. I had a big blowout in the run. I missed a few calls on the rocks (through Goat Pass). Pulled the leg muscles a bit. Downhill, I didn't have the strength to do it.
"The knees were hurting and I think I was a bit naive going into the run underprepared."
The course has no respect for reputations as Sullivan also found out during the 67km kayak leg on the Waimakariri River. He hit a rock down one of the rapids and rolled the boat and he joked, "I felt much better after I went for a swim."
The pain and river mishap aside, Sullivan relished the Coast to Coast experience. "Really cool. The volunteers and the other people doing the race were awesome. Something good to be part of but I will probably train a bit better for it next time."
So exhausted was Sullivan at the finish line that the traditional can of Speights handed over by race director Robin Judkins wasn't as good as he hoped.
"It didn't taste as good as it usually does. I was a bit deprived of food by the time I got to the finish line." There's no time to rest for the six-time world champion. He's off to join his Central Region Performance Centre team-mates at Lake Rotoiti today for a training camp heading into next week's nationals at Lake Ruataniwha.
Meanwhile, Marlborough's Dan Moore raced well to finish seventh overall in the Longest Day section, making up for the disappointment of having to pull out last year with eye problems. A special gel and good sunglasses did the trick this time and the Anakiwa Outward Bound curriculum manager was delighted with his efforts as he crossed the finish line in 12hr 5min.
"Really cool. The day went really well, pretty much to script apart from a missed braid in the kayak and I had to do a portage and I lost about five minutes. The weather was beautiful, the Waimak Gorge really nice and the river had enough water in it."
Moore was in the lead breakaway of 10 riders on the 55km cycle leg early on and the top three place-getters emerged from that group of 10.
He held sixth place most of the way only to be overtaken near the end by Luke Vaughan but he was still a happy man at the finish, especially after having shaved eight minutes off his personal best in the run section. Having previously been fifth and second in the two-day individual, Moore reckons he's ticked the event off, at least for now and probably won't be doing it next year.
The results and experiences of Marlborough's other athletes competing in the Coast to Coast will be published in tomorrow's edition of The Marlborough Express.
- The Marlborough Express