Simson targets Longest Day glory
She's conquered the Coast to Coast two-day individual race in record time, now Jess Simson has the one-day title in her sights.
The Wanaka-based athlete competed in the 243km multisport event for the first time last year and created quite an impression.
Simson, 29, shattered the women's two-day record, winning in a time of 12hr.48mi.11sec, taking more than 11min off the previous record set by Anne Woodley on a shorter course in 1997.
Her efforts drew plaudits from long-time race director Robin Judkins, who described her as a star in the making. It was a remarkable performance, considering it was just her second multisport event. Simson was unaware she had even broken a record until alerted afterwards.
The challenge of pushing herself to the limits in the Longest Day one-day race held appeal for Simson and she expected next Saturday's race to be a battle of attrition.
"Last year, I did it to get my head around the logistics and it opened my eyes to how hard out the race is. This year, I'm trying to see if I can do it all in one.
"It's going to be a much more significant challenge. It's a lot of hours, keeping up the intensity."
She felt far more prepared second time around and said it was a major advantage to know the terrain and where the transition points were.
Simson admitted she went in somewhat blind last year, running out of food at one point in the kayak and finding it difficult physically going straight from the bike and onto the run.
"I learned heaps last year. I'm pretty happy I didn't have to do the one day ... I'm prepared for it to be brutal."
Last year, Simson's support crew was made up of just her husband, Hazen, but she will have a five-strong team helping her out next Saturday.
With two-time champion and last year's winner Sophie Hart of Nelson not returning, a new winner will be crowned in the women's one-day title. Two-time victor Elina Ussher looms as a major contender, but Simson was more focused on running her own race.
Since completing last year's event, Simson has resigned from her job as a Department of Conservation ranger to train fulltime and compete in adventure races overseas.
She finished third in the two-day team's event of the Wenzhou Adventure Challenge in China with Stu Lynch, and has also participated in races in the United States, Canada and Brazil. In November, she also took out the women's Augusta Adventure Race in Perth, which consisted of an ocean swim, kayak, mountain bike and run.
Simson is heading back to the Wenzhou Adventure Challenge in a four-man team again in April and said the Coast to Coast would serve as a valuable lead-in for her.
If she could capture the one-day individual title, it would be a special feeling for someone, who has taken multisport seriously only in recent times.
"In the last two years, I've started training properly, compared to just doing whatever.
"It's a real good test if you put your mind to something that it does happen. It would be cool to say they weren't lying when they told you say that saying."