-- Reece Billington
There are some people in this World that go places, that really excel. They constantly push the boundaries, shifting them to where we once thought wasn’t possible. And then there are others that would rather not. They’d rather sit on the sidelines and watch others instead. They would rather not take any risks, or exert any effort, to put themselves in a position to progress themselves. I’m certainly not going to say that those ‘comfortable’ people are inferior, but I will say that it’s the ‘progressives’ that really make tracks. They are the ones that climbed Everest, invented electricity, and built cities. There’s risk involved in pushing boundaries, but with risk comes reward, and that’s the motivation behind Emma McCosh and her Team Kauri team mates who are currently tackling the ten day Patagonian Adventure Race in Chile. Since my last piece, A journey into the unknown in Patagonia, they’ve fine tuned their practice, pushed some seriously physical and mental boundaries, and undoubtedly experienced things many of us have not. To further understand the workings of an adventure racing team, I recently sat down with Emma McCosh, the lone female member of Team Kauri.
The Patagonian Adventure Race is by no means an easy feat, so to try and put it into perspective, here is Emma’s training schedule for her largest training weekend prior to the event, starting at 9pm Friday night:
- 8 hour hike
- 8/10 hour kayak
- 2/3 hour mountain bike
- 8/10 hour hike
That’s roughly 30 hours of exercise in the space of a weekend. To astound you even more, Emma only slept for two hours, and a significant portion of the training was through the night. In fact, she got so tired during the training that she fell asleep twice while kayaking and woke up to the sound of her paddle hitting the kayak, just before she fell in. To me, and probably you too, that sort of training schedule sounds crazy. But given the event is ten days and competitors are expected to only sleep for 2 hours each night, it starts to make sense. Sleep deprivation is a huge consideration, and although you can’t train yourself to operate on little sleep, Emma believes you can prepare for it. She believes that she’s been able to recognise the signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation, which has given her confidence that she’ll still be able to operate once it sets in during the event.
It’s also incredibly difficult to plan this sort of a training schedule to fit with three other team mates, particularly when one of them lives in the South Island, and another lives in the Czech Republic. According to Emma, the training and preparation has had to be fairly individual, and although they communicate regularly, they’ve simply got to trust that their team mates have sufficient training under their belts. For example, Emma and team mate Wayne had slightly differing viewpoints for the final weekend of significant training. Emma wanted to climax with the biggest weekend ever, while Wayne wanted to minimise the risk of injury so close to the event, so pulled back on the throttle a little. Although Wayne and Emma are part of the same team, competing under the same objective, they’ve still got their own individual strengths and weaknesses which have to be met.
Obviously this level of exercise would be very demanding, so nutrition plays a large part in both the training and event. While training, and probably when racing too, Emma’s diet includes, but is not limited to:
- Backcountry meals
- One Square Meals
- Meal mates
- Snack Logs
- Potato chips
- Protein powder
- Perpetuem by Hammer Nutrition
Emma says there were two main considerations when it came to selecting food:
1) Given the number of hours spent training, and during the 10 day event, the stomach (and taste buds) will more than appreciate a diverse range of foods.
2) There is no artificial substitute for real, everyday type food.
Those two considerations certainly make sense, but I still wondered how she could enjoy eating well and truly crushed meal mates. Her response “after 24 hours on your feet, with nightfall setting in, and temperatures in the low single digits, you really don’t care what your food looks like!”
Another huge thing to consider was gear selection. Although Emma is an experienced multisport athlete, there was still a large amount of gear that she didn’t yet have. In fact, she said that she still had to buy about 40% of the gear that she was planning on taking to the event. Due to the demanding climate that she’ll be racing in, and given the difficulty of the terrain, the gear needed to be good quality too. Here’s a snapshot of the gear that has been used in training, and will be used at the event:
inov-8 shoes most shoes get very heavy when water logged, but inov-8 shoes are unbelievable at draining quickly and keeping the weight down. We are also going to be walking in a lot of water so we don’t want to have soaking wet feet the whole time. These shoes will help keep our feet dry, super comfortable, and free from blisters, while keeping us upright too!
JR gear bags and dry bags We need to have dry gear at each transition so we didn’t want to take any risks. The JR bags come in a variety of sizes and we are confident that our warm gear will still be dry even in the Patagonian rain!
Aarn 33 litre marathon magic backpack. It’s a great pack designed by an NZ engineer so it’s very comfortable and has great adjustability so it fits perfectly with everyone. It doesn’t jiggle around, has small packs on the front to encourage a more upright posture which saves a lot of energy, and has convenient pockets which enable us to get at food or equipment while on the go.
Injinji socks I was a bit sceptical about having the toes in individual compartments at first but I find the socks really comfortable. I got no skin irritation or rubbing and liked the full calf length socks as they offer compression so reduce swollen legs after days on your feet.
Icebreaker – Merino bike pants are amazing. They are so comfortable and warm. I have also worn them on quite a hot day and they were still really comfortable and breathable. I chose the capri style so my knees are covered – good for cooler weather.
Back country meals Not everyone can survive on muesli bars and gels. Having these high quality meals will certainly boost our energy and warm us up. They are so easy to cook-just add hot water. We will be boiling ours and we have a super-fast gas burner which will boil water well before we put up or down out tent. There are a variety of flavours and actually taste good.
Big Agnes super lightweight 4person tent.
Mountainhardwear ultralamina sleepingbags. Recommended from Gear Junkie – these are small, lightweight but warm synthetic sleeping bags. Even if wet, we will still be warm-unlike down.
Freeloader –bike carrier for full suspension bikes. It is great to get some of the weight out of your pack when sitting on a bike for hours. These NZ designed carriers are light and easy to fit. We tie a dry bag onto them and stuff all the heavy gear into them.
Tubeless tires Lighter and less risk of punctures.
Home-made tow ropes For keeping the team together if someone is sick or feeling exhausted. It just takes a bit of load off for the person getting towed. It is great (speaking from experience – I was very sick on our first team training weekend).
Keep an eye out for updates on Team Kauri at www.inov-8.co.nz. For more information on the Patagonian Expedition Race, please visit http://www.patagonianexpeditionrace.com/.