Multisport: Harris back for more

The Coast to Coast is approaching again, and Otago athletes are busy with their preparations. In the first in a series of profiles, Wayne Parsons talks to a rising multisporter keen to make amends.

 Josh Harris gets in some river run training at Frasers Gully. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Josh Harris gets in some river run training at Frasers Gully. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Dazed and confused is how Josh Harris would describe his baptism in the Coast to Coast in 2011.

Harris (24) became hooked in 2010, as member of the support crew for JJ Wilson, who finished third in the rain-affected event that year.

''I just knew I had to come back and give it a crack myself,'' Harris said.

But while the weather gods were smiling on the 2011 Coast to Coast, track and river conditions were deceptive.

It was the year contenders for two-day titles Sia Svendsen (Christchurch) and Shannon Edgar (Dunedin) were airlifted from Goat Pass after falls on the run up Deception Valley. Harris was among others to fall on the mountain run.

''I knocked myself out and was lucky enough that when I fell into the water, the current was strong enough to push me on to the bank,'' he said.

''I came to in a bit of a bad way.''

Harris, who had shared the lead at one stage with Gavin Mason, went from third to finishing the stage at Klondyke Corner in 45th.

''It was probably the toughest moment in my racing to watch people as they flew past me as I was only able to walk until I reached the Deception hut.''

Despite still suffering from blurred vision, Harris was able to make the most of more open country over Goat Pass and down to Klondyke.

He had the night to recover before the kayaking and bike stages through to Sumner Beach, where he finished 20th overall.

''That experience has giving me the biggest drive to go back and conquer that race. I will go into the race a lot more humble this time round and aim to focus on sticking with my plan on how I believe I can win.''

Because of ironman commitments, Harris was unable to lay the ghosts of 2011 to rest in 2012, but the delay has only added to his resolve for 2013.

Harris left Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake to train and live in Dunedin. It proved a successful move when he placed fifth overall and third New Zealander at Ironman New Zealand.

''Training in Dunedin has to be some of the best terrain in New Zealand for multisporters. It has fantastic hills and the harbour being so close is awesome for paddling.

''The only issue is ... you need to know the run like the back of your hand and the paddle needs to be done many times before you know how to do it perfectly. It is hard for Dunedin athletes to get the time on moving water, which is a huge aspect of the race.''

Harris has worked in recent times with some of Otago's top multisport athletes such as Mason, three-time Coast to Coast runner-up Dougal Allan, top paddler Ian Huntsman and coach Matty Graham.

''My training this time has been based around trying to be stronger for each section. Such is the nature of the race, often a strong powerful athlete will beat the small light-footed guy.

''It is no secret that the bike is my strength, but this year I have done a lot of work in the kayak and now believe I can use this to my advantage.''

Harris believes he has the fastest kayak available, made by Advanced Fibre Glass. R & R Sport has also been backing Harris and Allan, who will be back to contest the Longest Day.

While it will be Harris' second attempt in the two-day section of the Speight's-sponsored event, he makes no secret of eyeing up the main race.

''The Longest Day for me will always be the goal. But first I need to promote myself better in the two-day and get a good result before stepping up.''