Prep Time: One year
Time Off Work: One week
When to Go: February
"The Coast to Coast is like the Super Bowl for New Zealand," says Travis Macy, a Colorado-based adventure racer. "The energy surrounding it is unlike anything I've seen with any other race. There are spectators along the entire course, and probably several thousand at the finish line." This four-leg, 151-mile traverse of New Zealand's South Island – involving running, biking, and paddling – happens every February and is a wild test of endurance. It all kicks off at the Tasman Sea on the west coast and, by way of trails, rivers, and roads, and rugged Kiwi fashion, makes its way across the country. The first taste of suffering comes on a 20.5-mile mountain run up and over Goat Pass, complete with river crossings, boulder-hopping, and off-trail maneuvering. The biggest challenge of the day is a 42-mile, grade 2 wildwater paddle down the Waimakariri River, before the finish at the coastal town of Sumner on the Pacific. While it may sound like the exclusive domain of the ultrafit, the Coast to Coast is considered a perfect challenge for those new to the sport: brutal, but supremely satisfying.
Start Today: Vary your training. Develop a solid base of running and road biking. Get your required grade 2 certification through an American Canoe Association–certified program. Do a test run. Sign up for a 12-hour domestic race such as an Adventure Xstream event in Colorado or the Tahoe Big Blue Adventure Race in California. If you can finish a 12-hour race here, completing the two-day race down there is very doable. Find partners. A compatible teammate and savvy support person are key for the team event. If you can't convince a friend, find both through the race's website.
Don't Leave Home Without: Trail-running shoes that are light and agile. They should drain and dry quickly and offer traction on slippery surfaces.
More Info: Fly to Auckland and connect to Christchurch, near the finish line.
MJ Insider: Arrange boat and bike rental in Christchurch well before your trip to avoid lugging your own vehicles overseas. Get there at least a week early to scout the course, especially the paddling sections.