Experienced Multisporter Alex Hunt has tackled the Freycinet Challenge multiple times, placing 6th overall in 2011, 2nd in 2012, 2013, 2014 and won the Challenge the last two years (2015, 2016).
He has taken a moment to pass on his wise words for anyone stepping up to tackle the Challenge Individually. . . . . . .Enjoy. . . . . .
Things I wish I’d known when starting out as an Individual
When I first raced the Freycinet Challenge as an individual nearly ten years ago I was hopelessly underprepared and suffered through the first day of racing like I’d never done before. I was given plenty of good advice in the lead up to the event but foolishly didn’t take it all on board. If this is your first time hopefully you can get something out of what’s below to help avoid some of the mistakes that I made.
The race is obviously divided into 4 disciplines and before you plan anything else for the race be brutally honest with yourself and identify your weakest leg. Break this leg down into the components that are the cause of this weakness and make a commitment to focus on these specifically. It’s always easiest to train to your strengths, as generally you enjoy it more, but you’ll always see less value in improvement if you continue to focus only on those areas.
The things I wish I’d been told before starting out would’ve been to spend time in the boat, not necessarily paddling hard, but making yourself comfortable in all reasonable conditions. Spend time paddling cross chop either up and down the beach or off a seawall, get to know how your boat moves underneath you. Although sometimes it seems the best way to squeeze out a bit of extra speed on race day is to paddle a quicker boat, don’t. It usually ends in disaster, I tried paddling a new ski in my first solo race and I ended up swimming over ten times on the first day. There are obviously vastly more experienced paddlers out there than myself to seek advice from, and Ben Maynard offers excellent specialist coaching (which I truly found to be the best way to accelerate my improvement).
The trails at Freycinet are generally loose and gravelly, so just like your boat spend time getting comfortable with how your bike handles this terrain. Keep an eye on what tyre pressures feel good, practice eating and drinking on the bike and make sure you pack an extra gel for the last ride on the first day!
If you plan on using a time trial bike or TT bars in the race, start using them now. Give yourself time to make things as comfortable as possible and make sure you can access your fluid and nutrition easily from your aero position.
Running after riding is a very different experience to starting a run fresh. Try and fit in a couple of runs off the bike a week, even if they’re only 15 minutes you’ll notice a huge difference when you jump off the bike on race day.
Practice your transitions! There’s a lot of time to be lost in TA, try not to stop for anything and if you’re lucky enough to have a support crew make sure you’re kind to them!