Prep & Gear Six Months Out Learn to kayak: Master the prerequisite skills for Class II whitewater — breaking in and out of swift current, ferry-gliding, self-rescue. Start budgeting: Back-of-the-envelope, all-in estimate: $7,625 per person, including the $656 (U.S.) entry fee. Four Months Out Buy your ride: No niche racing bike required, just a versatile, fast [...]
Prep & Gear
Six Months Out
Learn to kayak: Master the prerequisite skills for Class II whitewater — breaking in and out of swift current, ferry-gliding, self-rescue.
Start budgeting: Back-of-the-envelope, all-in estimate: $7,625 per person, including the $656 (U.S.) entry fee.
Four Months Out
Buy your ride: No niche racing bike required, just a versatile, fast road bike. Because of my height (6-foot-7), I bought a custom Seven Axiom S for $5,300. It’s built on a straight-gauge titanium frame that I plan to be riding 20 years from now.
Go long: Add weekly bike rides of up to two hours, and to build running mileage without injury, incorporate one-minute walk breaks every mile or so, as advised by marathon guru Jeff Galloway.
Three Months Out
Pick up essential gear: With winter arriving here in the States, you’ll need a warmer set of layers for your training sessions than you will for the race itself. Dress as if it’s 10 degrees warmer on runs and 10 degrees colder on bike rides. Pick up a dry top (the Kokatat Rogue; $400 is a worthy investment) for frigid whitewater sessions — on the river it’s always easier to cool down than to warm up. Buy a hydration pack just big enough (25 liters) to fit the mandatory first-aid gear and extra clothing layers for the mountain run. Go even smaller by ditching the hydration bladder and drinking from streams as locals do.
Get on the water: Log time in a sea kayak or, ideally, a “long boat” such as the Sisson Evolution, the kind you’ll want to rent/race in New Zealand.
Get used to cycling in a pack: Drop by your local bike shop and ask, “So, when’s ‘the ride’?”
Two Months Out
Dig deeper: It’s time to transition from fitness to performance. First, make your workouts more precise and efficient. Buy a bike computer to track mileage, cadence, distance, speed, etc., and a heart-rate monitor. Next, add CrossFit training for core strength and conditioning. At Crossfitendurance.com, a virtual trainer can supervise your progess with simple calendar software.
Book travel: Fly Air New Zealand, which offers 13-hour nonstops (a must) from SFO and LAX to Auckland, then book an 80-minute connection to Christchurch. Leave yourself two hours between flights to clear customs.
Reserve your kayak and other race gear: The folks at TopSport in Christchurch aren’t cheap, but they’ll hustle to get you exactly what you need (topsport.co.nz).
Three Weeks Out
Recruit a support crew: Post a request for help on the Coast to Coast website, or ask for referrals from your innkeepers.
Do the race distances at least once: Pick a Saturday and prove to yourself that you can run 20 miles and kayak 40.
Make a fueling plan: In The Paleo Diet for Athletes, the authors provide excellent formulas for carbo-loading (while being vehemently opposed to the traditional pre-race plate of pasta).
Experiment with energy gels: Disgusting but essential for a huge physical challenge like this. Also sample electrolyte mixes and recovery powders well before race day to find the ones that agree with you.
One Week Out
Practice reassembling your bike: Keep a record of key measurements, such as effective seat height (center of the bottom bracket to the top of your saddle).
Choose race day attire: You need at least one lightweight shell for sudden squalls. Icebreaker’s LS Velocity is the ideal base layer.
Recon the route: Once in-country, study the stages of the race up close, but don’t hire a private guide; keep costs down by joining a group tour.
For more gear picks, go to mensjournal.com/nzgear.
This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Men’s Journal.