The late entry of two time champion and three-time adventure racing world champion Sophie Hart has added some real spice to an already stacked field for next month’s Kathmandu Coast to Coast women’s World Championship Longest Day.
The 34 year old two time winner of the women’s one day event last won in 2013 and her win in 2011 in a time of 12 hours 10 minutes was only one minute outside the women's individual record of set by Christchurch's Andrea Murray in 1997.
The women’s field is looking like the strongest in years led by defending champion and four time winner Elina Ussher, last year’s runner up South African Robyn Owen who was leading the race into the final bike leg before being over hauled by Ussher, Christchurch based German Simone Maier who last raced in the event in in 2015 when she was second and Whakatane’s Corrine O'Donnell, a stronger runner who always makes her presence felt.
“The women’s race looks fantastic and will be a strong super competitive field which is good to see,” Hart said. “It's been very different for me this year compared to previous because my priorities have changed. I really just want to feel that race satisfaction at the finish line so my aim is to firstly enjoy the day and be grateful for being out there. I know that if I can race to my potential and tap into my experience then I will be able to be mix it up at the front end of the field and if I can do that, then who knows.”
Hart made her first return to racing after becoming a mum earlier last year in the women’s Spring Challenge South in Geraldine in September.
“I always thought I had another Coast to Coast race in me, but I found it hard coming off the back of some busy adventure racing seasons to train through the summer, Hart said. “I thought for a long time about entering this year, and then in the end, realised it's not going to get any easier, so if I wanted one more race, it may as well be now. No more procrastinating, no regrets.”
Hart says that after her daughter arrived she found just enough time to do some exercise to keep her mentally healthy, but once she committed to entering the Coast to Coast has increased the training load.
“I am working two days a week in Lyttelton as a GP which is enough at the moment. Luckily for us Willa has been a little cruiser which has made it all possible. I have had the support of some very good friends who have done some babysitting for me so I can get a bit of training in. There's been lots of early starts and juggling of logistics.”
Hart used the Spring Challenge as a benchmark to prove to herself that she could be race fit again and is relying on her experience as well as competing in some smaller local events to get “into the groove” for the Coast to Coast.
Hart is not worried she has not competed in the event since 2013 saying she gained valuable experience and endurance adventure racing with the Seagate team.
“My thoughts will be purely on my race. Getting to the finish line to see Willa and that feeling of satisfaction of crossing the finish line.”