Richie McCaw doesn't really miss playing rugby, but he does miss the "nerves".

Whether it's the butterflies before lining up in a big test for the All Blacks, or the anxious wait at the start line before competing in a race across the South Island, the 38-year-old is driven by that feeling of excitement and nervousness.

Since retiring from rugby in 2015, McCaw has developed a passion for multisport and adventure racing. The Coast to Coast, in particular, was always a challenge he wanted to take on.

"Since I was a bit younger, people around where I grew up used to talk about doing the Coast to Coast," McCaw told the Herald. "I guess it's one of the iconic events in multisport in New Zealand and so it's always one of those ones I was keen to do."

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As he gears up for his second attempt at the event, McCaw says his newfound passion for the sport stems from a similar reason he loved playing rugby.

"I think standing on the start line before a race especially a longish sort of race like the Coast to Coast, wondering how you're going to get on and [getting] those sorts of nerves, is I guess I liken it to what it was like to the start of a rugby match.

"You know you've done some good prep but actually what's going to happen and how you're going to get through [it], that leaves you with a few nerves and I think that's sort of what you get out of it.

"And then there's that sense of satisfaction when you've managed to get it done and it's a bit like what it's like after a rugby game.

"It's just a fun thing to do. But it's a challenge I think, as much mental as physical and that's the sort of stuff I quite enjoy."

Richie McCaw competes in the mountain run. Photo / Martin Hunter, www.photosport.nz
Richie McCaw competes in the mountain run. Photo / Martin Hunter, www.photosport.nz

Those feelings are the things he misses about playing rugby at the highest level.

But he's happy these days to sit back and watch the All Blacks "with interest".

"The things I've sort of mentioned, you know being part of a team and those butterflies you have before a race, they're the bits you probably miss if anything.

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"[But] you start a new chapter and sort of be grateful for the opportunities you had but look forward to what you get to do now."

Two years ago, McCaw along with his wife, former Black Stick Gemma McCaw, completed the Coast to Coast mountain run. McCaw finished 11th in the men's category without "getting a lot of training".

This time he's taking on the two-day tandem event — which unlike his first time, involves running, kayaking and cycling — with long-time friend and previous adventure racing teammate Rob Nichol.

"Doing the tandem with Rob Nichol, who I've done a few races with, I think we're pretty keen to see how we get on," says McCaw. "The tandem where you do it together - it actually makes it a bit of fun. We're going to give it a good nudge."

Something else that has changed for McCaw since his first time at the event was the birth of his daughter Charlotte. He says being a dad has been "pretty cool" but it provides a different challenge, especially while training for a taxing event such as the Coast to Coast.

"I guess it's a different challenge but it's been pretty straightforward, really. I've been a bit lucky to have Gemma understanding and the baby's been pretty good to allow me to do that so it's been good."

The Coast to Coast begins today, with both the men's and women's elite events finishing tomorrow.