Burgers fuel athlete in multisport events

STEVE KILGALLON
Last updated 10:00 17/02/2013
Craig Cook
Fairfax NZ

Craig Cook fuels himself with junk food while still maintaining to compete in multisport events.

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A fast-food loving chip shop owner raced across the South Island in both directions in just five days - then celebrated with curry and McDonald's.

Multisport enthusiast Craig Cook eschews energy drinks and supplements for curry, burgers and cold pizza.

Cook, from Taranaki, reckons he may be the first to complete the double South Island traverse in such a short time, and he's almost certainly the first to run-bike-paddle across both islands in both directions.

His triumph came just days before a University of Otago study was released criticising fast-food sponsorship of sport as a "considerable concern" and said Kiwi children - nearly a third of whom are obese - "deserved to be protected from the pressure to eat junk food".

Cook spent last Tuesday and Wednesday cycling, running and kayaking about 250km from a beach near Blenheim in the east, to Westport in the west - giving himself just a day's recovery before he had to front on the startline of the Coast to Coast race on Kumara Beach last Friday.

He treated himself to a celebratory curry in Westport, a race-eve McDonald's in Greymouth, and his dinner midway through the two-day Coast to Coast was another curry, with cold pizza for breakfast.

Part of his motivation is proving it's not food, but lack of exercise, that causes obesity. "Eat more calories than you burn and you will put on weight - it doesn't matter if you eat French fries or foie gras," says Cook who weights 74kg. "I've worked in the industry in 25 years, and eaten more than my fair share of fast food, and I am not obese, in fact I am very fit and healthy, and have just done something that's never been done before. It comes back to personal responsibility."

Cook knew he had the base fitness to complete the Coast to Coast - he came in 115th overall, and 29th in the veteran men's division of the two-day race - and wanted to set himself an extra challenge.

"I woke up on the Thursday [before Coast to Coast] feeling a little bit stiff, but as the day went on I felt better and better, had a good old McDonald's in Greymouth, and by the time I hit the start line, I was fizzing. After you do a couple of big days the endorphins kick in, so by the start I was buzzing. It was almost an advantage."

The 49-year-old was a late starter in multisport: a teenage bike accident left him with one leg shorter than the other, a weakened calf and damaged ankle. He was told he would never run. But, in 2004, he began training with some mates - and between them cooked up a coast to coast route across the North Island. It took Cook several reconnaissance missions to map the "Sea to Sea" from north Taranaki to Napier.

Eight mates - "a crusty old crew mostly over 50" - held their first trip in 2008, and they've done it three times, including one reverse route.

When Cook crossed the finish line at Sumner, he told Coast to Coast organiser Robin Judkins of his double trip. "He just shook his head."

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- Sunday Star Times

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