Usshers hope for Coast to Coast double repeat

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2014
Elina and Richard Ussher
FAMILY AFFAIR: Elina and Richard Ussher are hoping to repeat their husband-and-wife double of 2012 in this year's Coast to Coast on Saturday.

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Five-time Coast to Coast champion Richard Ussher reckons he will know one hour into the mountain run how his body has pulled up from last month's Challenge Wanaka ironman.

Just four weeks ago, Ussher competed in the gruelling 226km event where he finished second, 11 minutes behind Christchurch's Dylan McNeice.

With such a short turnaround before the Coast to Coast, Ussher said he was not sure how his body would respond. He had managed an effective 10-day training block, before tapering off this week. His kayaking times were likely to be slightly slower on previous years because he had been concentrating on his swimming ahead of Challenge Wanaka.

Ussher remained confidentof regaining the Longest Day title he lost to Wanaka-based Braden Currie last year and said it would be interesting to see how his body backed up.

"I'll have to see what the legs have got. It's a bit of an unknown after Wanaka. I won't know until an hour into the run exactly what the legs have got or whether there's any residual fatigue from Wanaka down there," he said.

"I've got myself as good as I can get at the moment, so we'll see what happens on Saturday."

The Nelsonian, 37, is in better health compared to last year, where he nearly did not make it to the start line. Ussher became ill in October 2012, which was exacerbated by a virus he picked up from a trip to China and was forced to have a break for two months. He only resumed training four weeks before last year's Coast to Coast and considering his disrupted build-up was content to take second place.

"It's been a long road back. It's just good to be feeling healthy again and feel like I can push hard. We'll see how far back I've got."

Currie's strategy last year was to attack on the 34km mountain run over Goat Pass to Klondyke Corner and look to build as big a lead as possible over the rest of the field. Ussher said not much would change this year and conceded it was about limiting the damage in the first half of the race.

"I wouldn't expect to be in the lead heading into the river [for the 67km kayak], but hopefully I'll be in striking distance and we'll see what we've got from there to the finish.

"I'd like to think I can keep the gap with Braden down to quite a bit more than what it was last year without too much sort of stress."

Ussher's Coast to Coast experience and dogged resilience are his biggest strengths and he wanted to make a statement after heading into the race underdone last year.

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Winning a sixth Longest Day title would put him three victories behind the most successful man in the event's history, Steve Gurney.

"Whenever you start to win a little bit less everyone tends to suggest you might be over the hill. It would be good to prove them wrong," he said.

"I'm pretty relaxed about it. I'm just focusing on having the best race I can. If that's good enough to win, that would be the icing on the cake."

The week before the Coast to Coast is always a stressful one in the Ussher household, with wife, Elina, also featuring in the women's Longest Day race, where she is one of the favourites.

Ussher said it was a hectic time, where they made sure all their gear was organised and ticked off the checklist. The Usshers became the first married couple to win Longest Day titles in the same year in 2012, something they would love to repeat on Saturday.

"We'll both have each other in our thoughts during the day, but you've got to focus on yourself. Once I get to the finish line, I can worry about how Elina is doing and hopefully cheer her across the line."

- The Press

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