Multisports: Rogaine latest passion for Auckland multisport addict

By Peter Thornton

Leigh Cockerill has fallen in love with the sport of adventure racing.
Leigh Cockerill has fallen in love with the sport of adventure racing.

Auckland's Leigh Cockerill has enjoyed a wide and varied sporting career.

She was a member of the New Zealand indoor volleyball team from 1982 to 1991 and the captain from 1990-91. She went on to be national beach volleyball champion from 1989-1996.

From 2006 to now she has been a regular at multisport and adventure racing events around the country.

The latest one she has been training for is the Lactic Turkey Rogaine in Riverhead today.

"I love the tactical aspects of route planning and navigation combined with the physical challenge of off-road endurance racing," said the 47-year-old, who works these days as a Fuse creative company director.

Cockerill loves a good sporting challenge in any form - and the sport of rogaining offers her something different.

"Unlike a foot race a rogaine is not just about straight-out speed and fitness.

There's no point being really fast if you're going in the wrong direction," she says. "This levels the playing field and rewards a wider range of skills.

"The impact of increasing fatigue as the event goes on can really compromise decision-making, so there's the added factor of managing that fatigue and maintaining performance throughout the whole event."

She stressed that she not an elite multi-sporter saying: "I consider myself a second or maybe even third-tier 'weekend warrior"'.

Cockerill said that life has changed since her competitive volleyball days and it is much harder to fit in her training.

"As I work full-time and have a young family, it would be fair to say I scrimp on the training. On a good week I can get 15 hours of training in, but more often than not, it's around six to eight hours across three disciplines of running, mountain biking and kayaking."

The former NZ rep said she always wanted to get into other sports after her volleyball days were over.

"After volleyball my knees were pretty used, so on-road events were getting uncomfortable. Some friends introduced me to mountain biking and I did a couple of MTB races run by Lactic Turkey.

"By association I got an insight into their world of off-road navigation events and discovered a whole new world, literally."

She has fallen in love with the sport of adventure racing and rates the ARC event in the Coromandel, Nathan Fa'avae's Spring Challenge and The GodZone event in Queenstown as standout events.

"For me, the key ingredient is the mix of mental and physical challenge. Point to point races over a set course are simply a test of speed - the fastest wins. But adventure racing is so much more than that. Team tactics, route planning and navigation have a massive impact.

"When you consider how much training you need to do to improve your 10km time by five minutes and then consider that even a small navigation error in a race is likely to cost you 15 minutes, it brings a whole new aspect to your race. The other main attraction is the opportunity to explore the most amazing places off the beaten track that you'd otherwise never even know existed - that's really special."

It is all a world away from the volleyball court where she has some special memories to look back on.

"I played in the NZ women's volleyball team at the Asian Games in '84 in China where we placed fourth overall in Asia, playing our semifinal against Japan in a stadium of about 30,000 screaming fans - not ours. That was pretty amazing.

"Towards the end of my indoor volleyball career, beach volleyball was introduced to New Zealand. My partner and I won the very first NZ champs and went on to be the number one NZ team for the next seven years, competing around the beaches of Asia, the US and South America - they were incredible experiences.

"Now, my biggest buzz is getting out in the New Zealand wilderness with my mates and enjoying the paths less travelled."

- NZ Herald

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