Multisport: New track for Wellington's tough multisport race

By Peter Thornton

James Coubrough competes in the Crazyman in Wellington.
James Coubrough competes in the Crazyman in Wellington.

It's been a fixture in the Capital for more than 20 years and attracted some of New Zealand's best multi-sport athletes. But tomorrow Hutt City's Crazyman will begin a new era.

The event will debut on a new course because of some growing landowner issues and increasing costs of compliance for things such as traffic management. The organisers redesigned the course to make it more sustainable long-term.

"The new course is just as spectacular," said event organiser Michael Jacques.

"It has some cool elements such as tunnels and hidden tracks that only the participants will discover, but the challenge is a bit different. The terrain isn't as tough as the old course but it's probably more scenic and still very challenging. Having the run after the mountain bike will make it tougher for the individual entrants."

Jacques is well qualified to comment. The 45-year-old has been involved in endurance sports since he was 7 years old.

He ran his first marathon when he was only 14, biked the South Island at 15 and did the Coast to Coast at age 16.

"I took to multisport and got a couple of top-10s at the Coast to Coast and top three finishes in other multisport races."

Jacques has been organising events since he was 17 and a professional event organiser since 2000. He regards the Crazyman as the premier central New Zealand multisport event.

Established in 1991, the Crazyman is one of New Zealand's longest running multisport events and attracts around 500 entrants every year.

Participants enter as individuals or teams in either the full multisport format (kayak, mountain bike/run) or as duathletes (mountain bike/run).

Starting in Eastbourne, the challenge begins with a 13km kayak across Wellington Harbour, a 30km mountain bike on the Hutt River Trail and Belmont Regional Park, and a 13k trail run over Belmont Trig and Korokoro Stream to finish at Petone Wharf.

Past winners have included Coast to Coast legends Steve Gurney, Jill Westenra, Kristina Anglem, Emily Miazga and legendary husband and wife duo Richard and Elina Ussher.

Favourites this year include Lower Hutt's James Coubrough, who was fourth at the Speight's Coast to Coast and is keen to win his region's premier event.

He is worried about Picton's well-performed Dan Moore and fellow athlete Martin Leighton.

"I'm not going great at the moment, so it could be tough with Dan and Martin there. But I need more experience with multisport racing and, if nothing else, it'll be good training."

One athlete who has won the Crazyman, and everything else in multisport, is Lower Hutt's own Jill Westenra, who is making a comeback at age 47.

Westenra has represented New Zealand in triathlon, duathlon, running and multisport and won four Coast to Coast titles, but last won the Crazyman way back in 1998.

But The Crazyman prides itself on being a community event that embraces all ages, abilities and backgrounds. One of the great aspects is the chance for the not-so-elite to run shoulders with the elite.

"That's the beauty of multisport," says Jacques. "Everyone is doing the same thing at the same time and are treated as equals. The elite athletes are amazing, and the best people always turn out for the Crazyman. But the average person off the street is arguably more amazing because they are going through the same challenges and same pain for longer. Guys like Ussher or Coubrough will cut out the Crazyman in under four hours, but most people are out there between five and seven hours, so the average multisporters really earn their stripes."

It is described as a "hell of an event" and that mantle may depend on how much training you have done.

"Being a hell of an event could mean it was awesome, or could mean it was the event from hell. The event purposefully revolves around Wellington's iconic outdoor elements, being hills and harbour and Hutt River. So it is quite tough and the May weather often makes it tougher. But Wellington is an awesome outdoor playground, so it's a spectacular challenge with a huge variety of surroundings and vistas. "

- NZ Herald

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