Moving into multi-sport

Could multi-sport racing be your next challenge?

You possibly come from a running or biking background (or for the minority out there, kayaking), and have been competing in events over the past few years. Sooner or later, with a desire to keep pushing the boundaries and climbing the adventure ladder, you find yourself thinking, "What's next?" Sound familiar?

For many, the transition into multi-sport is an obvious choice, but what does this mean? Hours of training? Goodbye social life and Friday night drinks and hello countless hours running, biking and kayaking? It doesn’t have to be this way at all, but it does pay to be prepared.

While running and biking are both disciplines I’m comfortable with, it was the kayak that scared me the most. Not all multi-sport races require you to have your Grade 2 certificate (although I highly recommend it) or race for five days with no sleep (like GODZone, but maybe this is your thing!), but with a goal to do the 2-Day Coast to Coast, getting my Grade 2 was the first step into the multi-sport world.

There are plenty of smaller races out there that are a perfect way to introduce you to multisport, too. Get some friends together, create a team and give it a try!

Here are a few tips that I’ve learnt along the way to help you take the plunge:

1. Learn to Kayak

If, like me, kayaking isn’t your thing, then I strongly advise you get on the water as soon as possible. I’ve found it’s one of the few sports out there that requires time and patience to see results. Kayaking takes a lot of admin; I find it far easier to pull on the sneakers and go for a run, but taking the time to get on the water as much as I can is well worth it.

I didn’t see results immediately, and at times felt frustrated at the slow progress, but have faith that it will pay off, and when it does, you'll be thankful for the hours you’ve put in. Search for a local kayak club and join a training group – the commitment each week helps with the motivation!

2. Don’t expect miracles

Because you’re training across three different disciplines, don’t expect to be a gun at all of them (but if you are, awesome!). I try and spread my training evenly over the week, while also juggling the day job, family and friends and life too, which doesn't leave a huge amount of time to fit in training.

With limited hours, it’s important to train smart, and if I feel one discipline needs more work, then I’ll focus on that until I feel I have brought it up to speed. If you miss a training day, don’t beat yourself up by trying to make it up. Just take it as a learning curve and show up for the next one.

Mountain or trail running is breathtaking
Mountain or trail running is breathtaking

3. Build endurance

Multi-sport races are about lasting the distance. Yes, being fast helps, but most races sit well over the hour mark, so making sure you train for this is key.

The best way I find is to do back-to-back sessions, generally in the weekend when I have more time, allowing the body to get used to changing between running and biking, or biking and kayaking, etc. It’s also a great way to practice your transitions, and play around with new gear and nutrition.

4. Nutrition is key

You can’t expect the motor to keep running if it's sitting on empty. I find I can get away without too much food for the first few hours, but once I’ve passed this, my body will let me know if I haven’t been fueling it correctly from the start.

It’s not all about the latest gels and bars; in fact, I recommend keeping it as natural as possible. While there are certainly times when a glucose hit is exactly what’s needed, nothing beats a simple ham and cheese sandwich or a piece of bacon and egg pie. Make sure it works for you, and avoid trying new things on race day.

Stream crossings are all part of the fun
Stream crossings are all part of the fun

5. Enjoy it

If you’re a weekend warrior like me, competing in multi-sport races is a passion, born out of a love for sport and adventure, and the desire to test how far you can push yourself. While at times it feels like there’s a tad too much of Type 2 fun, the joy and satisfaction of testing your boundaries and completing something you didn’t think was possible, makes it well and truly worth all the hard work and sacrifices along the way.

Taking on your first multi-sport race can feel like you couldn’t possibly do anything bigger. But if you head into it in the right frame of mind and as prepared as you can be, it can’t be anything but the most rewarding experience. And like me, you’ll return home after the race, after the adrenaline has worn off, and find yourself Googling the next one.

Hollie Woodhouse is a Kiwi girl based in Christchurch. She loves anything to do with adventure, the outdoors and design – and sparks fly when they combine at once. She has raced in her fair share of events from trail running and mountain biking, to multisport and triathlons. The races she is most proud of include the Coast to Coast 2-Day in New Zealand, the Marathon des Sables in Morocco and the Jungle Ultra in Peru.