Preparing to feel the burn

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Working hard . . . Oamaru multisport athlete Mike Sandri is set to swap  the joinery shop for the Grand Canyon in September.
Working hard . . . Oamaru multisport athlete Mike Sandri is set to swap the joinery shop for the Grand Canyon in September.

When Oamaru multisport athlete Mike Sandri heads to the Grand Canyon in the United States in September, he will experience it in a completely different way to most.
He will compete in the Canyon to Canyon Ultra event, a self-supported foot race which covers about 280km over six gruelling days in testing conditions.
For Mr Sandri, it was a case of experiencing the best of both worlds when it came to entering the event, for which he had to apply and be accepted.
“I have always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon so I thought I could kill two birds with one stone, because I’ve always wanted to do an ultra distance run, too.”He will run 43km on each of the first two days, 85km the next, then two further days of 47km. The final day is relatively short, at 12km.
He has began an intense training regime for the event, which involves him running for anywhere between 40 minutes and an hour and a-half a day.
Some people may find the idea of 4am starts daunting, particularly in the weekend, but for Mr Sandri it is all part of the preparation.
He has enlisted the help of Wanaka-based endurance athlete Dougal Allan to plan his training schedule, which was paying off.
Mr Sandri said one of the more unusual aspects of his training would come later in the year, when he built a small shed in his garage, turned on a heater and ran on a treadmill to help acclimatise to the 30degC-35degC temperatures at the event.
He would also take part in several long-distance events in the lower South Island to prepare.
Asked what he felt the biggest challenge would be, his response was possibly unexpected.
“I guess the food. It’s probably the biggest challenge. We’ve got to carry our own food for the week, so we’re self-supported. They’ll put up a tent for each finish line, but you have to carry your own sleeping bag and mat. They supply the water and the tent, and that’s it.”Mr Sandri has secured sponsorship from Back Country Cuisine which will supply his food, dehydrated meals, for the week, which he will prepare himself.
However, he will be advised by a nutritionist.
“We’re going to mostly use that, and the nutritionist is going to work with me. The minimum amount of calories you are allowed to have a day is 2000, so that’s one of the biggest challenges for me, and going into an environment I don’t know with people I don’t know. There is no cellphone coverage. We have no support people; they are not allowed to go.
“I’ve done Godzone; that was really hard physically, but you are with people you know there. When you’re all on your own … it becomes a bit daunting.”In total, he estimated he would carry about 14kg of gear.
He was under no illusions as to just how tough the event would be.
“I have seen photos of it and they are crawling up sand dunes. You have got to bandage yourself for things like blisters and broken toenails. That’s what you have to deal with.”Canyon to Canyon takes place between September 25 and October 1.