Coast to Coast: Local athletes give best shot

Rotorua lab technician Fiona Sandford achieved one goal but narrowly missed another on Saturday as the 25-year-old tackled the gruelling 243km Speights Coast to Coast adventure race in the South Island.

Sandford, who completed the two-day individual event in 2011, had this year signed up for the notoriously difficult Longest Day category, which demands competitors run 3km, cycle 55km, run 33km across the Southern Alps, cycle 15km more, kayak 67km and then cycle another 70km from Kumara Beach on the West Coast to Sumner in Christchurch.

But Sandford missed the cutoff during the kayak on the Waimakariri River by an agonising 10 minutes and was forced to withdraw from the race after spending more than 13 hours competing.

She had to leave the river at Woodstock, about an hour's paddle upstream from the final transition at the end of the Waimakariri River gorge.

Despite being disappointed, Ms Sandford had already achieved another goal though, which was to raise $1500 for LifeLine, and to help dispel the stigma around depression. She reached the fundraising goal last Friday and donations were still coming in at

She said she realised that after a slower-than-hoped start to the race, she would be lucky to complete the kayak leg before the time limit, but she had still given it everything.

"Of course I'm gutted, I would have loved to have finished but I did the best I could, I couldn't have pushed myself any harder or faster and I'm still just really proud that I gave it my best shot."

She said she lost time on the first run, which meant she missed out on being in a fast bike bunch and began the mountain run further back than she hoped and ran into difficulties on the kayak section.

Sandford said her next attempt at the Coast to Coast won't be for a few more years.

Other participants from the wider region had a better day though, with former Ohope resident Sophie Hart winning the women's Longest Day race title and Sam Clark, 22, of Whakatane taking out fourth in the men's race, behind winner Braden Currie, second placegetter and former Coast to Coast champion Richard Ussher, and Dougal Allan. He said after finishing he was "absolutely stuffed".

"My previous best [placing] was fifth and to go one better than that in a field like that, I'm pretty rapt," he said. "These guys are all a bit older than me, but I'll be back."

Steve Birkett, 45, of Whakatane, also competed in the Longest Day but withdrew on the kayak section, while Taupo accountant and former Ironman Mark Sinclair, 42, who competed the individual two-day event, was happy with his overall time of 15 hours 14 minutes.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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