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McCaw fell ill the night before the start of the two-day tandem competition last year and battled through, fuelling himself on baby food and jellybeans because that was all that would stay down.
“Pretty much as soon as we crossed the finish line, I knew we could do better, that I’d want to come back and have another go at it,” the former All Black captain said.
“If I was on my own, I would have really struggled.
‘‘I don’t know what the outcome might have been, but as part of a team [with Rob] you just don’t want to let your team-mate down, so I just put my head down and kept going last year.”
Nichol, who is head of the New Zealand Rugby Players Association, had some pretty bad cramps on day one. He spoke of McCaw’s mental toughness at the time and is pleased to be back.
“It was quite a mentally challenging day for both of us, to be honest, but I think he was probably worse than he even thought he was. The tricky thing was before we really knew it, it felt too far to turn back, so we just kept going,” Nichol said.
“I guess that’s one of the reasons we both like these sorts of challenges.
“You can’t replicate or manufacture the sort of situations events like the Coast to Coast throw at you, and it’s pretty cool to cross the finish line with a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that you either did really well, or feel like you’d like to go back and do something better next time. And that next time is in a couple of weeks.”
They have raced together several times since McCaw retired from rugby, including the non-stop adventure race GodZone on two occasions.
“One thing you learn during these types of events is inevitably you’ll have some bad patches, but if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, those patches fade and you end up achieving something really cool and having some great times with your mates,” McCaw said.
This year preparations have also been a juggle as wife Gemma has returned to international hockey with the Black Sticks, meaning McCaw has been fitting in child care, training and work commitments.
“I’m pretty lucky that Gemma understands the need and want to go training. She’s involved in a team sport, so I’ve been working around her but, like most people, it’s all been about planning and fitting sessions around each other.”