Olympians in awe of Coast to Coast rivals
Two Olympic Games gold medallists now have "a massive respect" for committed Coast to Coast athletes after rating the trans-alpine race as the toughest sporting event of their lives.
Five-time world champion and London Olympics single sculls champion Mahe Drysdale and London double sculls victor Joseph Sullivan were shattered but "satisfied" after staggering across the finish-line at Sumner Beach on Saturday night at the end of the Longest Day.
"It was awesome but it was just mental, the whole thing," Sullivan said. "Not so much the instant pain but the constant pain.
"There were just times when you really wanted to stop but you had to keep going and get into that zone. I have a massive respect for the guys who do this every year."
Drysdale bore a big grin in the Sumner Beach finishing chute last night as he received a congratulations kiss from partner Juliette Haigh, an Olympic rowing bronze medallist.
"That was very tough," said Drysdale - one of the biggest men in the Longest Day race at two metres and 108 kilograms - 10kg heavier than his Olympic rowing trim. "This was completely out of my comfort zone . . . to actually complete it is very, very satisfying.
"I didn't know if I was going to get through it. Basically, it's a 14-hour training session, I've never put my body through anything like that before."
The 34-year-old rower rocked up to the Kumara Beach start-line just four minutes before race director Robin Judkins sounded the hooter at 6am.
He was understandably apprehensive about whether he would last the 243km-distance but coped well on the two cycle stages - from Kumara to Aickens on the West Coast and the final 70km across the Canterbury Plains.
The watersports whizz reckoned he struggled in a different kind of craft - a kayak.
He had "a bit of tendinitis" in his forearm but "just had no more gas in the tank" on the Waimakariri River. He had expected to struggle on the 33km mountain run over Goat Pass to Klondyke Corner but reckoned the run went well, particularly on the downhill stretch.
Drysdale is on a six-month rowing sabbatical but will be back in a sculling boat in May to prepare for a world championship trial in July.
However, Sullivan, 26, will be rowing for his Picton club at the national championships tomorrow week.
"They are going to hurt, too," he said. "We've got a training camp [today] but I'm going to take a couple of days off to recover."
He went "a bit hard on the bike" to Aickens and "destroyed myself"on the run. "I was hobbling into the transition, but I've learnt a bit from it."
Both gold medallists plan to tackle the Coast to Coast again but said they would probably have to wait until after the 2016 Rio Olympics.