Multisport: Coast to Coast to be birthday bash

Jo and Dave Menzies at their Roslyn home yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brian.
Jo and Dave Menzies at their Roslyn home yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brian.

Jo and Dave Menzies at their Roslyn home yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brian.
Jo and Dave Menzies at their Roslyn home yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brian.
It will be a 50th birthday bash with a difference when Dunedin's Dave Menzies lines up to contest the individual two-day section of the Coast to Coast next month.

One of the pioneers of the great race, Menzies, who turns 50 next weekend, is returning to tackle the 243km journey for a fifth time, his second as an individual in the two-day section, as part of a birthday bash with lifelong friends, who will also turn the corner into their sixth decade in the coming weeks.

While Menzies' work as a pilot has seen him live in many parts of the world, getting together friends from his days at Otago Boys' High School and the University of Otago will not be without its logistical challenges.

However, the thing that brings the group together will be the Coast to Coast and the fact that by the end of March all will have turned half a century.

Menzies, who commutes between Dunedin and Brisbane for his work as a pilot, has a typical can-do approach to multisport competition.

Although he takes gear and safety procedures seriously, he has a laid-back approach to what awaits him on February 12 and 13.

"You're already a winner if you make it to the start line,'' he said.

"For us, it's not a case of results or time but a matter of getting a few of the lads back together and having a bit of a giggle.''

Menzies could think of no better way to mark his half-century milestone than with his old school mates Adam Fairmaid (Wanaka), Tim Hurring (Auckland), John Scobie (Queenstown), Dave Stevens (Perth) and Andrew Gasson (Wellington), all of whom have experienced the event first hand.

Fairmaid was no stranger to the course throughout the 1990s, contesting the event on seven occasions.

However, for Menzies, the experience with the event stretches back to an association with race founder Robin Judkins, who, while Menzies was at high school, organised what was then the Alpine Ironman.

In the early 1980s, Menzies' sporting future looked more likely to be in skiing, a sport in which he was a member of the New Zealand development team along with four-time Olympian Simon Wi Rutene and international coach Nils Coberger.

Menzies stepped into multisport when he contested two Robin Judkins-organised Alpine Challenge races as part of an Otago Boys' High School team.

Just 15 when he contested the first event, held near Wanaka, he returned for a second crack a year later when Judkins' second event was based at Mt Hutt and the bug for multisport took hold.

After missing the first Coast to Coast event in 1983, there was no holding Menzies back from competing in the second one.

By then the event had begun to capture the imagination of the New Zealand sporting public.

The Coast to Coast was run as a two-day event in those early years, so Menzies teamed up with Ian Edmond, the pair completing the 243km journey in 13hr 32min 9sec.

He returned in 1985 for second crack with Alistair Snow, the pair cutting the course out in 13hr 2min 7sec.

With university and Air Force commitments biting into his time, it was not until 1990 that Menzies had a crack at the two-day individual section, clocking 14hr 13min 1sec.

Since that time, Menzies has competed in adventure races such as the Southern Traverse and God Zone, while his work experiences could be compared to the pages of Boys' Own.

The lasting memory of flying an Iroquois helicopter to the Aramoana tragedy, followed by the experience of living in Bosnia, still cut deep.

Since his marriage to Jo in the 1996, the couple have lived in various parts of the world including Abu Dhabi, the United Kingdom, Canada, Brisbane and Indonesia, all intermingled with life in various parts of the North and South Islands.

The experience of training in Abu Dhabi to contest the 2008 team section with Jo was a story in itself.

Menzies said that kayak and bike training was quite demanding in temperatures that averaged between 35degC and 40degC, and some days peaked at about 50degC.

However, training to run the mountain leg proved quite a mission for Jo, now a swimming instructor at Moana Pool, as she had to contend with being shot at by a young boy with a BB gun, being chased by wild dogs, and also facing ridicule from locals who were not used to seeing a woman doing such things as running.

All of which made the couple's trek up to the Mt Everest base camp a year later seem like a walk in the park.

The couple returned to New Zealand five years ago with their two daughters, eventually deciding to setting for the tranquility of Dunedin, its peaceful training areas, and to take up the opportunity of purchasing Menzies' boyhood home.

While the couple have experienced life around the world, both agree that there is no better place than Dunedin to raise a family, live the dream, and train for sporting endeavours such as the Coast Coast.



Coast to Coast
The history

• One of the oldest multisport events in the world was the brain child of Robin Judkins, who in 1982, along with 11 mates set out on a 243km course across the mid-section of the South Island. Due to safety concerns, the course was altered to finish on New Brighton Beach in 2015.

• The first official race was held as a two-day event, on February 26 and 27, 1983, and had a field of 79. It was a far cry from the more than 18,000 that have contested the event in its 33-year history. The look and feel of the race in 1983 was considerably more relaxed than it is today. Safety concerns and traffic management were not a big issue. Bikes in the early years included a Raleigh 20, 10 speeds and one even with a baby seat. There was also a kayak made of canvas.

• In 1984, the field grew to 139 competitors and then a year later entries leapt to 320, and the Coast to Coast had entrenched itself as an iconic sporting event.

• The Longest Day was introduced in 1987, and the 243km one-day challenge continues to provide one of the ultimate challenges for elite and weekend-warrior multisport enthusiasts alike.

• Although Judkins sold the event in May 2013 to Queenstown-based Trojan Holdings, he continues as race ambassador.



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