Coast to Coast 'tough but enjoyable'
A new star may have been born in the Speight's Coast to Coast with two-day women's race leader Jess Simson producing one of the quickest mountain runs by a female in the race's 31-year history.
Simson scorched home to Klondyke Corner today in 3hr 40min - the second-fastest individual behind men's race leader Seamus Meikle (3min 23min 36sec).
The 23-year-old Wanaka conservation ranger was competing in just the second multisport event of her career after winning the recent Lake Waikaremoana Challenge.
Race media manager and former Coast to Coaster Michael Jacques estimated Simson's time was the second-fastest by a female.
She's in elite company. Only Andrea Murray - the Longest Day record holder - has run faster. She holds the women's run record in 3hr 22min 49sec set in 1997 over the old, shorter course.
Jacques estimated Simson's time today would have been equivalent to 3hr 26min in Murray's day.
But Simson was oblivious to the trainspotting trivia as she burst across the line at Klondyke with a broad smile on her face.
But she is clearly someone to watch in the future after beating defending Coast to Coast women's one-day champion Elina Ussher at Lake Waikaremoana.
Simson "did a few matrix moves'' and had some close calls on the mountain run but managed to avoid a fall.
She was "on the verge of cramping up quite a bit along the way'' but said she would "work on nutrition for next year''.
Simson said her first-day effort "gives me a lot more confidence'' and admitted she was keen to do the Longest Day.
"The more mistakes I can make [now], the better.''
She had a 28min 53sec lead overnight on 31-year-old Hamilton physiotherapist Shanel Cornille.
But Simson said she wouldn't be worrying too much about building up a buffer. "I'm just out there to do my best.''
She hadn't done a lot of bunch riding so stuck with the second group "just to stay safe'', arriving at Aickens in 1hr 50min 35sec - only 9sec ahead of Cornille.
Despite the terrain "tricky underfoot'' and "went the wrong a way a few times'' but she left her challenger in her dust on the mountain run. Remarkable considering she had just one practice on the 55km course.
Mind you, she had an expert guide, Wanaka's Dougal Allan, runner-up in the last three men's Longest Day events.
Simson is originally from Wellington but moved to Central Otago three years ago and said she "loved Wanaka''.
She went there as a ski patroller who was ''hiking for fun'' and "enjoying a few parties''.
But in a can't beat 'em-join 'em move, she followed her husband into mountain biking and loved it so much she "didn't even get a [skiing] season pass'' last winter.
Simson has done the Godzone adventure race with a team that included Allan and has already done ''a few team adventure races in China''.
She said multisport was "a lot of fun and pretty crazy''.
'Tough but enjoyable'
Former National Rugby League player Marty Turner completed one of the toughest runs of his life today - just over a decade after serious injuries in a car crash in Australia.
The 31-year-old Australia-based Cantabrian reckoned he achieved a boyhood dream when he ran across Goat Pass into Klondye corner in the two-day teams race.
''It's tough, I'm probably a bit underdone, but it was enjoyable. I've followed it since I was young fella, watching Steve Gurney, it's something I've always wanted to do.
''But living in Australia the last 10 years, I haven't really had an opportunity with footy and all that.''
But Turner hung up his boots last year, playing in the Gladstone competition in Queensland where the plumber working in the mining industry. He decided now was the time to come home and make his multisport bow.
Turner left Christchurch with older brother Glen in a bid to break into the NRL.
They joined the Melbourne Storm where scrumhalf Marty made his NRL breakthrough in 2002.
He played two first-grade games as a replacement for the injured Matt Orford and made a big impression, even taking over the goal kicking.
But Turner's career suffered a major setback after a major motor accident in Geelong. He and a teammate were travelling home from a surfing trip to Torquay when their car was struck by a big truck and trailer unit.
''It was mainly concussion, I was knocked out for a few days and in an induced coma and had a few internal injuries, but everything's good now.
''I missed the whole year and it took me a bit to get back to speed. I sort of missed the boat, there's always new people coming through.''
He played just one more NRL game in 2003.
Turner did however go on to play many years in the strong Queensland premier competition where he turned out for Brisbane Norths and the Redcliffe Dolphins.
Today was Turner's first time over the Goat Pass track and he said it had been ''hard to train for it in Aussie'' because there was nothing like the rock and boulder-strewn course in Queensland.
But he enjoyed the experience, despite suffering cramp in his groin and calves.
Turner's parents, who still live in Christchurch, were at Klondyke to support him.
He said brother Glen, who played more than 90 games for the Storm and the Raiders and is now a player welfare officer at the Canberra club, would probably like to have a crack at the Coast to Coast too.
''But he's got dodgy ankles."
Turner, competing with Australian renovator Mark Gardner, 29, said it would be ''great running up Sumner Beach'' and he would now target some multisport events in Australia.