Builder ready to tackle the Longest Day

Twizel’s Craig Lay enjoys the backdrop of a spectacular sunrise during a recent kayak training...
Twizel’s Craig Lay enjoys the backdrop of a spectacular sunrise during a recent kayak training session on Lake Ruataniwha. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A pact with his support crew has Twizel builder Craig Lay returning to the Coast to Coast course this year to contest the Longest Day alongside some of the world’s elite multisport athletes.

Lay (39), who grew up in Dunedin, has contested the two-day event in the past two years, and thrived on the challenge the 243km multi-discipline event presents.

Lay had his first foray into multisport at the 2018 Coast to Coast when he was recruited as support crew for friend Stu Paterson, who at the time was taking on the course for a ninth time.

Like so many support crew, Lay decided to give the two-day category a crack himself the following year, knocking the 243km journey off in 15hr 26min 43sec.

Keen to return and clock a faster time, Lay returned last year only to endure a run up and over the Otira Viaduct, which replaced the run up Deception Valley and over Goat Pass, because of safety concerns with high water levels.

“It was certainly a bit different going over the viaduct,” he said.

“It was a big climb up to the viaduct. It is a long way up and steep, too. I’d definitely prefer the run over Goat Pass any day,” he said.

Apart from the change to the alpine run, Lay said everything went “pretty straightforward”, as he eclipsed his time from the previous year by a whopping 1hr 41min, finishing 32nd in the open men’s category in 13hr 45min.

Stoked with his time and how his race went, he turned to his support crew and asked if they would be keen to crew for him this year.

One member of his crew Paul (Pie) Jamieson responded by advising him he would only return if he did the course in one day.

Lay took Jamieson up on his offer and entered the one-day event.

Lay has taken his preparation very seriously, a far cry from his first attempt.

“Last year I knew was I was in for and pushed myself to better my time. But this year it’s a whole new game. I’ll be happy to finish before it gets dark.”

Lay is just tapering off three months of intense training over all three disciplines.

He has mixed up at least two disciplines each day while training.

His bike training involved a 160km course between Twizel and Mt Cook, with circuits of the canals. He regularly runs up Ben Ohau with an ascent of 960m. His kayaking training involves 10km circuits of Lake Ruataniwha.

“I go early in morning and get to see the sunrise.

“Watching the sun rise over the lake helps with getting up early.’’

To add to his intense training regime in recent months Lay said he had even given up alcohol, making for a dry festive season.

“I can’t wait to get to the finish and break the drought.”

Lay is fully aware of the challenge that lies ahead, and plans to break the race down into sections.

“It’s a long way if you just look at the whole race and not break it down. I’ll just focus on each stage rather than the whole 243km.”

 - Wayne Parsons

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