The blood, sweat and tears behind Christchurch's hardcore endurance athletes

A whale joined him for a stretch of the swim, but it was usually rare to see any sealife, expect jellyfish.
SIMON OLLIVER

A whale joined him for a stretch of the swim, but it was usually rare to see any sealife, expect jellyfish.

Simon Olliver keeps swimming when stinging jellyfish welts are blistering his skin, bone-chilling waters are numbing his muscles and his limbs are throbbing and swollen.

The Christchurch 52-year-old this month spent a gruelling 11 hours and 56 minutes swimming the North Channel crossing, a treacherous stretch of water between Northern Ireland and Scotland, wearing his swim cap, goggles and a pair of speedos.

Olliver is among Christchurch's hardcore athletes, who push their mental and physical boundaries. Broken bones are no reason to rest.

Christchurch athlete Simon Olliver, 52, completed his toughest swim yet across the North Channel  this month.
SIMON OLLIVER

Christchurch athlete Simon Olliver, 52, completed his toughest swim yet across the North Channel this month.

The North Channel, Olliver's toughest swim so far, lived up to its punishing reputation. A whale joined Olliver at the eight-hour mark and swam beside him for an hour. It was the only relief from the choppy waters and sharp temperature drops.

"My shoulders took a pounding initially ... later in the swim the wind picked up for a brief time before dropping off again. I swam into a lion's mane jellyfish that stung."

He plans to join a handful of people who have completed the seven most difficult swims in the world, known as the Oceans Seven. The feat is tantamount to mountaineers chalking up the world's seven highest peaks.

 

Olliver has already ticked off Cook Strait and California's Catalina Channel. He was the oldest Kiwi to swim the English Channel. Next on the list is the Strait of Gibraltar. He hopes to complete Hawaii's Molokai Channel and the Tsugaru Channel in Japan by 2020.

"I enjoy the freedom of being outside and seeing new sights and new locations that are often in remote wild places. [There's] no lifeguard telling you to follow rules."

DARE DEVIL ON SKIS

A snapped achilles hasn't slowed professional waterskier Alex King, who spends his days lakeside perfecting jumps from ...
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A snapped achilles hasn't slowed professional waterskier Alex King, who spends his days lakeside perfecting jumps from two metre ramps at 100 kilometres per hour.

High speed, high stakes waterskier Alex King is a sucker for punishment.

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The former Christchurch Boys' High School student is competing on a sports scholarship in Louisiana, United States, nailing jumps from two metre ramps at up to 100 kilometres per hour. The world record jump is more than 77 metres long, King says.

"I specialise in jumping, which, very basically put, is flying as far as you possibly can with the longest jump winning – no points for style.

Alex King said discipline and hard work was essential to keep improving and get the results he wants.
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Alex King said discipline and hard work was essential to keep improving and get the results he wants.

"The boat speed is set under a GPS speed control and travels constant speed for everyone, 57 kilometres per hour, while the jumper takes a whip like approach through the wakes and generates speed."

Every crash, which was like slamming into a concrete wall, ended in pain, he says.

Surgery on a snapped achilles a few weeks ago added to a lengthy injury list. The "surfer" lifestyle, the adrenaline and the buzz of "nailing a big jump" made it all worth it.

King said half the people he meets are "really interested" in watersking, and the other half think he's "ripping around ...
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King said half the people he meets are "really interested" in watersking, and the other half think he's "ripping around on wooden skis behind a fishing boat".

"The adrenaline rush is something I crave every day . . . being able to hang out at the lake with your friends and ski all day is something I wish everyone had the chance to experience."

King, 22, trains at least twice a day, six days a week. The "rinse and repeat" method helps to build muscle memory, but because of the stress on his body, he jumps no more than 10 times a day.

"Being in a extreme sport, one lazy mistake can end in a serious injury ... I've had a bunch of crashes over the years and overcoming that fear is a real mind battle. Unfortunately with jumping it's not if you'll crash, it's when and how bad."

 

ENDURANCE ENTHUSIAST

Running with a broken toe and dislocated foot is a mere inconvenience for ultra-marathon fanatic Ian Morgan. He sees pain as no barrier to success.

Collapsing during the Queenstown Marathon led him to discovering his genetic heart disease. It is one of his "biggest problems", but has not slowed him down.

Christchurch runner Ian Morgan has become an Instagram star by taking photos of the runs he completes all around the world.
IAN MORGAN

Christchurch runner Ian Morgan has become an Instagram star by taking photos of the runs he completes all around the world.

The fitness guru and father of four rediscovered a passion for running as a stress relief after the Christchurch earthquakes destroyed his home. He threw himself into endurance sport and in three years has knocked off long-distance runs from the back streets of Boston to the peaks of the South American Andes.

Photos of his runs around the world have made him an Instagram star.

After qualifying for the Boston Marathon earlier last year, he celebrated by running a marathon in Taupo "for the sheer joy of it".

"Motivation hasn't really been an issue for me. I love to run and race, so I know that the work needs to be done. It also helps to be a little crazy," he says.

"I'm heading into my late 40s now so my body needs a bit more TLC . . . and a fair amount of coffee keeps me going."

Morgan says he has run into plenty of trees (and a cactus) and suffered "all the usual pains and strains that come with trail running".

"I train almost every day, usually with running and strength work. Some days involve two runs including a speed and tempo session, followed by an easy run."

 - Stuff

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