By Sam Clarke & Steve Jackson.
The Kathmandu Coast 2 Coast One Day race is the World Multisport Championship event and is also referred to as the “Longest Day”. The One Day race sees competitors complete the full 243km course involving running, mountain biking and road cycling legs as well as kayaking from one side of New Zealand’s South Island to the other – in one day. Sam Clark completed a three-peat in 2018 and is likely to be staying at the top of the sport for a while yet. You’ll see why in his answers below:
MSM: How were you introduced to Adventure/Multisport racing?
SC: The town I grew up in, Whakatane, has a thriving multisport and adventure racing community, so growing up and being part of the local Tri and Multiport club, I was exposed to the sport from a pretty young age. I think I took part in my first proper multisport race while at primary school, and was competing in our local race “Monty’s Revenge“, pretty soon after that and started doing 24 hour AR’s and rogaines while in high school. I’m really fortunate to have grown up in a place where the sport was so accessible.
MSM: The Coast 2 Coast is the most revered title in the sport. You’ve won the last three titles, who do you see as the emerging threats to this streak?
SC: There are some really strong competitors who will be toeing the start line in 2019 including Alex Hunt and Dougal Allan. However, at this stage I am planning to sit out the 2019 edition to pursue some other opportunities. Nothing is set in stone just yet though.
MSM: There’s so many variables in Adventure Racing/Multisport including equipment. How much time do you spend on gear checks/maintenance, to minimise the risk of things going wrong on race day?
SC: As a qualified engineering tradesman, I know the value of taking care of my gear and also having the right gear for the job. I am constantly fiddling around with my bikes and kayaks to make sure the hull is trimming properly and the bearings and chain are in good condition. The term “marginal gains “ is thrown around a lot in cycling, but it can be applied to multisports and AR too, a lot of small advantages can add up to big time gains.
MSM: Have you had any major disappointments related to gear, nutrition or elements and how did you handle them?
SC: I like to thoroughly test my equipment and nutrition before using it in a race. That also includes making sure my support crew are 100% sure of what they have to do. I like to keep my transition requirements to an absolute minimum to avoid stuff-ups. One occasion springs to mind though; racing the 2015 Åre Extreme Challenge in Sweden. The run goes up and over a 1000+ meter mountain, which had an unseasonable amount of snow, so most of the competitors used hiking poles. I really struggled to run through the knee deep snow. I learned my lesson and used poles the following year though and won the race.
MSM: You’ve dabbled in the road scene too with triathlon and Ironman. What do you enjoy about that style of racing? Can you see yourself doing more of this?
SC: I like the discipline of Ironman triathlon racing, and although my performances as an elite competitor have never been spectacular, it really taught me a lot about training and preparation and lifted my game for Multisport racing. What I like about triathlon is the abundance of races and the depth of competition. I plan to compete in a few tris over the summer too.
MSM: Your racing calendar is incredibly diverse; how do you handle that in training and preparation. What are your priorities for 2019?
SC: It isn’t possible to make every race an “A race “, so I have to be quite selective on which events to focus on. It means maintaining a high level of base fitness so that it doesn’t take too much to ramp things up towards an important race. My priorities for 2019 are to diversify my skill sets even more to expand the range of events I am able to compete in and to be more valuable as a team member.
MSM: As the sport has progressed, we are seeing athletes with no real weakness; well-rounded like yourself. But what is one area you’re really focused on addressing in the near future?
SC: Running form is something that I have to constantly work on, but I have been capable of putting together some fairly decent marathon times in the past (2:37). Unfortunately though, cycling and kayaking do very little for improving your running speed, so it is a delicate balance.
MSM: With the multi-day stage races, recovery would be incredibly important. What are your strategies in terms of recovery, during and post-race, at this style of race?
SC: In the past I have tried things like recovery boots and fancy vitamins to aid recovery, but the fundamentals to recovery is still getting quality sleep, replenishing energy stores and stretching.
MSM: The adventure scene has a high proportion of individual and team style events; do you have a preference? How do you transition with competing head to head in one event to only team up the following event?
SC: I really enjoy racing as part of a team, working together towards a common goal is very rewarding and you share the highs and lows along the way. The aspect of being rivals one day and teammates the next is just one of the funny things about the sport.
MSM: You get to travel the world as part of your ‘job’ as an athlete. What’s a bucket list location that you haven’t got to yet?
SC: As part of my ‘job’, it seems I keep going back to similar places to compete, and I haven’t actually traveled as extensively as I would like. One of the downsides of travelling for sports like triathlon is that although you get to visit a lot of different places, you must prioritize racing. Before the race, you’re focused on training and preparation and after you’re sometimes too exhausted to look around, so although you can put a lot of stamps in your passport you have to really make an effort to experience local culture. I enjoy travelling for adventure racing a lot more, because the pace is quite different and you have more of a chance to experience a location or culture.
On the top of my list at the moment is to get to South Africa for the Dusi Kayak Marathon. It is however in mid-February, which does conflict somewhat with an aforementioned race in the South Island.
MSM: What’s the remainder of the year look like for you?
SC: There are two more races on the China Mountain Outdoor Sports Series, so I’m heading back there next week and then on to Reunion Island for the World Adventure Racing Championship with the Swedish Armed Forces Adventure Team. There is still a fair bit on my plate, but when I get back from there, I’ll be able to establish a bit more about where I’m heading over summer and the best way to get there.
MSM: Most of us take the opportunity to indulge on food, perhaps even try different food when we travel. As an athlete do you embrace the fare of the various cultures you visit? Do you have a preferred food stop on ‘the tour’?
SC: It can be very tempting to indulge, particularly while travelling. Pre–race I like to play it safe, but after the fact I like to partake in local food and drink, which can yield interesting results,
MSM: Nutrition is such a critical element of your performance. Is this hard to maintain travelling and training/racing?
SC: I try to be diligent about staying hydrated while travelling and do my best to avoid eating rubbish. Often, I’ll take a few freeze-dried meals with me on the plane to avoid having to eat burgers and other foods which can be rather seductive when you’re jetlagged.
MSM: What’s a must in your carry on for a long-haul flight?
SC: Noise cancelling headphones, an eye mask, two drink bottles and some 1Above Electrolyte tabs. I often carry my cycle shoes, pedals and a pair of runners with me as well, just in case my luggage goes missing.
Finish Line Five: (please insert link to video found in Sam Clark images folder)!