Marie O'Connell - My Coast to Coast Journey
Even those at the top of their fitness would think twice about taking on the NZ Coast to Coast challenge, but Focus Health Physiotherapist Marie O'Connell is a firm believer that with dedication, you can achieve anything.
What was the aspect of your training that you found the most challenging?
Endurance was the hardest. A month before the race, I wasn't at the level I had aimed for but I also knew I would finish. One of the biggest hurdles was the holiday season happening so close to the event: when my training should have been the most intense, I was juggling family and social obligations. My New Year's day morning run, for example, will forever be a tough yet cherished memory.
You would have lost quite a bit of weight?
This was not the objective at all and I didn't. When you train for a demanding race like this there’s a change in muscle type and composition. It's important to watch calories spent. For example, two and a half hours of training translates as an extra spend of 1,400 kcal, which must then be added to my normal daily intake.
How did you keep yourself motivated?
Every session skipped is paid for in a lot of added pain next time. On the positive side, it is essential to keep celebrating every victory. One time, I did a tough 90-minute ride uphill, which I hadn't done in ages. I went straight after a two-hour kayak session and yet that time, it felt easy! Such moments give you the measure of your progress. On an everyday basis, I always make sure to be fully in the moment to take in the experience. There is pain, but so much more besides: beautiful sights, smells and sounds. Enjoy it!
You have two young children, who have tagged along on a few of your training sessions. How do you think your training affects them?
“For me, it's really important that they see me exercise. It normalises physical activity to them, so they are more likely to be active themselves as they grow up. I also want them to know that, with hard work and dedication, any dream is within reach.”
You finished the 2019 NZ Coast-to-Coast and achieved a terrific placement. What's next for you, any other crazy undertakings in 2019?
For now I am really enjoying running and cycling for the sheer pleasure of it, with no other objective in mind.*
The kayaking part of the race ended up being a real source of frustration, since the water levels were so low. Many contestants suffered bumps, breaks and leaks. But in the end I look at my result and realise that, back when I started training I would never have believed I could finish in that time. Overall, I'm really happy about the results. It was an amazing experience.
*Note from the editor: since the Coast-to-Coast, Marie participated in the Havelock North's Triple Peak Challenge and more recently, placed 4th with her team in Gisborne's Spirited Women’s Adventure Race. The woman just can't help herself :)