Tasha’s Coast to Coast Adventure

I really don’t know where to begin and where this will go, so here’s your warning, I have a feeling this is going be a super long post.
If you want the short version…….
Wow, What a journey! I did it and Thank you.
If you want to read on remember you have been warned about the length. Good luck.

There’s something sacred about sailing through the Sounds that gives you a sense of peace, which has allowed me the opportunity to finally reflect on the last 13 months, and more importantly the weekend just past.

It certainly has been a crazy year; completing my final year of study for my degree, managing a couple of businesses, coaching, being a mum (to more than just my son), working on personal relationships and then chucking a whole lot of training and new adventures on top of that, totally INSANE. But you and I know, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Over a year ago the conversation happened with Robyn about taking on Coast to Coast 2018.  We put it out on social media as an accountability to ourselves and 13 months later we did it, maybe not in the way we originally planned as a tandem team, but I am so humbled and so very grateful that we were able to still do it together as a team, her in the car as support crew and me on foot, cycle and kayak.

The adventures throughout the year have been epic. I ran, biked and kayaked more kilometers in a year than I’ve done in my life.  Whether it was rain, hail or shine, it happened. I stepped out of my comfort zone and took on things that I only ever dreamed of, some of which were not ever a thought before.

I entered cycle races, river races, trail run races, climbed ranges and ran walking tracks. I travelled the country and what an amazing country we have. I travelled roads I had never been on, seeing sights that only a few get to enjoy.

I joined clubs and jumped on Facebook group pages. I met so many amazing positive people throughout the year that have all been only too willing to help, offering guidance and advice and I even got a coach.

I spent way more money than I had, cut refined sugars and “junk” food out and in the last 6 months I lost 20kgs (now I have to spend more money to get clothes to fit, lol).

There were late nights, early mornings and long weekends training. There was stress, moments of fear and a few tears and a number of injuries along the way.

The last few months have been consumed with the thought of Coast to Coast, training, nutrition, recovery, gear checking, double checking and triple checking over and over making sure I had everything I needed, as well as everything my crew needed. I’m sure the boys at home got sick of seeing gear all over the lounge floor or me walking in with bags in hand after being shopping again!

And then it was the week of, a year gone just like that….
Gear all over the floor, boxes all labeled, gear lists being checked and “to do” lists getting crossed off then Robyn arrived and I cried. This was all happening.  Shit just got really real.

Everyone around me seemed so excited for me, yet I wasn’t. I wasn’t excited.  I wasn’t nervous.  I wasn’t scared. I know I had an inner turmoil of which I cannot describe.  My head just kept spinning, round and round.  I had switched to I’m on a mission mode, things to be done, check, double check and triple check again, it was time to get on the road.

Pink taking over the sound waves on the roadie, the ferry ride uneventful with no dolphins, a quick overnight stop in Picton, with so many laughs over the number of cows at the cowshed (AirBnB). A quick drive down the road stop and meeting with my coach for a final pep talk. Then we were off on the most amazing scenic trip down the West Coast, windows down, music on, bees stinging me, we finally reached Kumara.

1000s of cars, caravans and utes all laden with bikes and kayaks.  There were tents for kilometers being set up for the night. We were here and as much as I was taking it all in I was numb. We registered. I was numb. Race briefing happened and even though I heard every word, I heard nothing,

Then it was time to take some time out. I needed and wanted to be alone. Not something easily achieved with over 2000 people around. But I needed to be alone in my thoughts, to maybe cry, to work through what had now become fear, self-doubt, thoughts of inability, not being fit enough. This was huge.  This was bigger than me, and what if I got lost?  What about all the expectation of my friends and families?  What if I let them down, what if I couldn’t finish?

The total bonus of wanting to be by yourself and your best friend knowing you shouldn’t be by yourself, lending some very reassuring words, grounding me and reminding me of where I had come from and where I would be in a couple of days times. I had done the work. I was stronger than my thoughts and it was time.

5am, and there’s a buzz of activity happening, tents are being packed up, cars are being loaded, final checks are being done and I was being dropped off 2km from the start line.

Hugs all round.  Wishes of good-luck and again the only way to describe it all was numbing, almost robotic.

I racked my bike and followed the lines of people walking down to the beach, with not a lot going through my head except, I must touch the water.

People everywhere.  I walk to the water, a moment of silence, a moment to breath, last thoughts “you are one crazy lady among a thousand others, and you got this”, I touch the water, the very edge of the West Coast. Turn around to a crowd of nerves.  Time going so slow…. Countdown begins, 10mins, I move to the back of the crowd, 5mins to go, 3mins, 2mins, 1min, 3, 2,1 the cannon blasts, and just like that I was taking the first step towards the East Coast.

Nice slow run cause unless you were sprinting at the front of the group there was no other way to do it, across sand, dirt road, up a hill on to the main road into transition and just like that the first stage was done. On the bike into Stage 2, passing cyclists, cyclist passing me, everyone saying hi, then hill after hill, I find myself alone, missing the bunches and facing a head wind. My Garmin watch messing with my head, trying to figure out why on earth it’s taken me so long to do 15km when I’m going faster in speed than I had in training.  It took me 18 miles to figure out it was exactly that, in miles!! Trying to do maths in the head, ok not happening very well oh well, just keep riding you’ll come across transition when 65km is up.

Transition and there on the sideline are my support crew, Stew Chambers and Robyn O’Dwyer cheering me on.  Bike dropped off, and I run through the chute and keep running, looking for Stew and Robyn to find out I passed them by about 25m back and had to run back, not an easy task in cleats.

Quick strip off.  Now normally I’m a modest person, but I certainly learnt there’s only so much modesty one can have in the middle of a paddock with a blanket, lol. Into my run gear, sunblock on and I was off.  My legs didn’t want to go they were feeling heavy, the ground an uneven field of grass and rocks, hoping the others in front of me knew where they were going cause I sure didn’t have a clue.

I’m still trying to work out why they call it a mountain run, cause there definitely was not a lot of running.  The track was so technical and I don’t think any amount of running I had done could have prepared me for what lay ahead.

First river crossing, OMG did ice water feel so good on the legs.  It was definitely a wakey wakey moment, then onto the riverbed, onto more uneven track with rocks and tree roots in amongst sand, more river crossings, more rocks, more sand track with more obstacles and a lot of rock/boulder and mountain climbing, up water falls and down drop offs. Fatigue setting in hard, but mentally was still feeling really good. No negative thoughts, a decision I made with the mantra of one foot in front of the other. I ran where I could and walked what I needed too.  This was happening and I was doing it and it was achievable.

“Not long to go now”, so every race official told us 12km out from the finish line. My definition of “not long to go now” is very different to theirs!!
One last river crossing, one last river bed, and you can hear the finish line,

#2238, Tasha coming up now. One last hill climb, one last hit of motivation and burst of energy, one last straight run with the MC telling me over the mic to hurry up, that my support crew “Team Tash” have been waiting 3 days for me, lol.  Man they’ve been waiting all year for this!!!

OMG Day One is actually complete and for the first time along this journey I was excited, a sense of accomplishment and a new found love and appreciation for what I was actually doing. Food, rehydrate, stretch, shower, more food, recheck gear for Day Two, refocus, I’m only half way there, sleep.

Day 2 4am, wakey wakey – the same buzz I had heard the day before is now throughout the camp site again. 4:30am last hugs being given all around and the support crews are off to sort kayak scrutineering and set up for transition, leaving me in the dark to walk to the start line with a 8am start. Yeap, we get ditched and left. if only I was a little faster I would have started at an earlier time, but all good, it is what it is.

There’s a different feeling among the competitors this morning, more laughter and lots of conversations reflecting on Day One.  It was so good knowing that the feelings of “mountain run” were mutual.

15km ride, no sweat, not!! Almost 15km of incline with only a few downhills.  They were goodies though. Same process as yesterday.  Got passed, passed others, hit a head wind and found myself all alone again. First part of the transition, change of shoes, run time for a bit, carrying the bike, downhill on rocky dirt road over the bridge, rack the bike and down to the river across the river bed, another no modesty moment as I get changed on the riverbed. In the kayak and on the water just like that.  This seems to be the part everyone worries about.  This was what I was looking forward to.  If it was anything like the Rangitikei scenery I as in for a treat.

It was time to pop the brain on focus mode, but still a feeling of roboticness, one stroke after the next, choosing lines and keeping balance.
And then it happens, I lost my focus and hit the eddy, overturned and in the water I go! Don’t let go of the paddle, don’t let go of the paddle.  Holy hell this is fresh.  Don’t let go of the paddle.  Hold the boat…… um……. That’s a mighty big rock in front of me. I’m going too fast and have a funny feeling I’m going to break my ankle on this one.

Then from up above is an officials voice, “just bounce off the rock and it’ll take you round and you can park up”. Easy, damn, people are passing me now. Emptied boat and off we go again.  The wind is picking up.  Feeling a little chilly.  Going to have to work a little bit harder now to warm up and catch up.

I can see ahead of me kayakers almost doing a U-turn, looking at where they are heading away from, I see some mighty big rapids, sweet, I start turning, but too late, I get caught in the flow, big rapids here I come.  Oh well, I was here for an adventure anyway.

That was amazeballs, I got through them, then as I hit the corner a huge rapid off the rocks, up I go and over, nothing I can do but hold onto my paddle and get my boat and paddle to the side.  Um, where’s my boat???

Are you kidding me, its about 10m ahead of me and moving faster than me!! 4-500m later I catch it.  Now is the task of getting it to the side. Eventually I make it to the side. I’m cold and frustrated watching competitors pass me. Breath, empty boat, jacket on, eat, drink jump back in, calm the nerves that had started to take a hold, it’s not long to go now.

Again I find myself alone. I have so much time to make up now, and it was time to work hard, and that is exactly what I did.  It took me about 45minutes, but I caught up with others and passed others and found another group to stick with. But it certainly wasn’t as bad as the poor guy on the side of the river with just his paddle and no boat to be seen.

Turning the final corner seeing the officials waving you in, as much as I loved being out on the river I was hurting, shoulders, back, neck. My legs are feeling good, or so I thought. 5+hours of sitting in a boat does strange things to your body. I climb out of my boat, standing easy, try to step, ok just a minute, need to get some feeling back in them, feel like I’m learning to walk.

Stew takes my boat. I run through the transition chute. Robyn’s there ready to lead me to the bike and there it was, a bloody dirt hill. Are you kidding me.  Why would you put a hill here!! (that’s putting it politely). Robyn holds my back and continues to push me, I mean guide me up, another non modest attempt at getting changed from wet clothes to cycling gear, no easy feat!!

Food, pasta, tuna, feta, egg and tomatoes, OMG I have never tasted anything so good, mouthful after mouthful, not realising how hungry I actually was. I’m not sure I did too much chewing. A whole boiled egg popped into my mouth, more pasta, all I want to do is sit. Robyn rushing me along in what she thought was subtle hinting, lol. Final hug from the team and those very emotional words ”see you at the finish line”.

The body is feeling the fatigue, the mind’s going crazy.  I’m actually that close to finishing, yet I’m still so far away.

A bike passes me, towing another cyclist not doing any pedalling.  Oh hell no, I am not being passed by someone doing that. I gotta work harder, so I do.
70kms of thoughts and emotions that I really cannot explain.  Thoughts of family and friends and at times fighting back tears, for what I have no idea. Accomplishment, a sense of pride, disbelief, excitement, a year of so much finally coming to an end?.

1hr 25 minutes into the ride, the lead vehicle passes me. Are you kidding me? The one day competitors are coming!! 1hr 28mins 23 secs, and there it is, whoosh, the sound of the leader passing me at possibly 40km/hr, oh well at least it wasn’t in the kayak, thinking that I would have been devastated if that happened.

A whole group comes past.  There is no way I can keep up, all good, I just have to keep going. 20km to go, wow, I’m actually almost there.  Please do not get a puncture. 15km there’s some cyclist, right now or never, I’m feeling a little competitive. 10km I pass another and see in front the group that passed me earlier……whoop whoop a little happy dance in my head, I got them, now just to hold this pace till the end, no ones gonna pass me!

5km, 2km, 1km, rack the bike, and run. I’m numb, all emotion suppressed, I know I’m smiling, but my head is thinking what the hell, a sand ramp, are you totally shitting me.  Who does that?

I see Robyn and I want to cry, but there are no tears, just a smile and a high five, I see Stew and a phone, lol, wave, cause I think he is recording this, don’t arse over now, this is it, one last climb and you are done, finish it with a bang, drive those legs

And just like that, it was over.

All emotion is distracted wiith a bit of chat about “#mylifemyway” with Steve Gurney. I leave the finish line and find Robyn and Stew, hugs and smiles.
But there was still one last thing to do, a little bit of a run to touch the water, my last step step to very edge of the East Coast.

Finally the built up emotion from the year runs from my eyes, but not to the extent I thought it would. I’m not sure what I’m meant to say or how I’m meant to feel, that sense of numbness again.

A quick video call with Regan and my mum, with tears slowly rolling down my face, but still not knowing what to say,

One of Robyn’s friends was at the finish line too and I recognised her from the final cycle ride.  She was waving and cheering for me by name.  That’s weird I had no clue to who she was, the pieces falling into place. And then Kerrie Lawrence, who I have always admired, a mentor, a friend showed up to the finish line. She had been following the journey from the beginning and wanted to be there at the end and as she put it, she was in Christchurch so why wouldn’t she want to be there. So very humbling.

We leave, I think I’m buzzing yet I don’t think I’ve realised what I have done.

I finally give myself a chance to read all your well wishes and comments from Facebook.  Wow mind blowing, I can’t believe there are so many people that are a part of this.

An eye opening experience, I was at the end of an epic adventure.  An adventure that had involved so many more people than I realised.

I can only but say thank you to you all for your ongoing support, encouragement and accountability throughout the year and the weekend, and for taking time out of your day to follow and be apart of this journey, I wish I could name you all, but you know who you are and I hope you know I much I totally appreciate you.

But there are a few people that I do need to acknowledge,
Brett Garrett, I cannot thank you enough for answering the humpty million questions I fired at you, for sharing your knowledge and passion, finding me a boat and pointing me in the right direction at every turn. But we still do have to go for that paddle though.

Ray Boardman, well what can I say, we did it, we said we would and we did. Thank you for your constant support, the telling offs and keeping me on track to the end goal. What was originally just a call about a running programme become a 6 month journey of many ups and downs where I muttered many a bad word about the programme, but at all times you held me accountable to the process and the consistency required in training. Keeping it real at all times. Thank you for giving me the opportunity of being part of an amazing team (Coach Ray / Qwik Kiwi Coaching).

A week on (yeap, it’s taken that long to write this [and I’ve taken another couple of weeks to publish this – Coach Ray]), I can truly say I still don’t think the reality of completing this has sunk in, that I did it, that I travelled 243km from the west to the east coast by foot, cycle and kayak, again seeing parts of the country that only a few get to see, There have been many emotions, but I still don’t know how I’m actually meant to feel. A lot of reflection has been done, times and data have been checked. I have reminisced over parts of the event, telling the story, I have asked lots of questions, I have answered some.
I know it was incredible.  The whole journey has been insanely crazy, but in such an amazeballs way. I’m pretty sure I have fallen in love and caught the bug of multi sport. It has been nerve racking, adrenaline fuelled, fear driven, exciting, adventurous and humbling. I have learnt more about who I am, who I want to be and what I am actually capable of, physically and mentally, it has changed me.

I have been told I am an inspiration, that I’m now of legendary status, but I am just me. Just a person who had a goal, a person who made a decision and took on the challenge, placing one foot in front of other. When it got hard, I kept stepping, and I kept stepping all the way until I had finished what I had set out to achieve. If that’s what inspires others, then I’ll take that, but I’ll take it one step further for you and I challenge you! Take the inspiration and find something, set a goal, big or small, chase it and never quit because I know, that if you want it bad enough and are prepared to work hard for it then anything is possible, there are no excuses, you have to dream it, believe it and you will achieve it just by putting one foot in front of the other.
It’s #yourlifeyourway

This isn’t the end, My journey is just beginning…..watch this space.

This article was originally published on Challenge Coast to Coast Facebook page and republished here with permission. Follow Tasha and Robyn there to see what is next as the journey continues.

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