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Fast . . . Paul Gow has his game face on during the bike leg. PHOTO: MARATHONPHOTOS.LIVE

Paul Gow knows to expect the unexpected at Coast to Coast.

After competing in his seventh Coast to Coast last weekend, placing an impressive 12th in the elite male category, the Enfield dairy farmer said there was always a new challenge every year.

Covid-19 nearly threatened to cancel the entire event this year — the two-day category was called off — but Gow was lucky to get through in the elite longest day category, which went ahead. Athletes were split into pods for social distancing.

The day before the event, the course was altered, removing the upper section of the kayak leg on the Waimakariri River due to the weather. It was replaced by an increased second cycle leg — from 17km to 112km — followed by a 30km kayak on the lower reaches of the river.

The river was ‘‘big, brown, and full’’, and as Gow felt he was better on the bike, the change was initially a welcome move.

‘‘But then during the race, sitting in my kayak going down the river would have been quite nice rather than going over some steep hills between Arthur’s Pass and Porters Pass.’’

Gow finished in 11hr 25min 20sec.

It was a ‘‘hard day at the office’’, but Coast to Coast was always tough — ‘‘if you do it easy you’re not pushing hard enough’’, Gow said.

‘‘Everyone had the same issues. There was a lot of cramp amongst the athletes,’’ he said.

‘‘I thought I was under-performing, but then the result was pretty close to where I thought I would be with the guys I was racing against, so I was pretty happy.’’

He had two support crew members by his side, and his wife, Sonia Mckerchar, cheering him on.

‘‘It was really good to have her over there this year.’’

Leading into the race, Gow trained under the guidance of coach Dougal Allan, who was second in the elite category.

Gow tried to lift his training this year, but found it difficult to do more than 15 hours a week on top of his farm work.

‘‘I generally get too fatigued because it’s not fitting in the training, it’s getting time to recover,’’ he said.

He had extra races leading into this year’s Coast to Coast — South Canterbury Cycling, the Five Passes Tour, and the Motu Challenge, in Opotiki.

He felt for the athletes who were affected by the two-day event cancellation, and encouraged everyone to consider competing in the Coast to Coast in future years.

‘‘If anyone’s thinking about having a go, definitely try and get into some of the small local events and build their way up.

‘‘It’s a great race and you get to see parts of New Zealand that . . . [Coast to Coast is] really only way to see them.’’

Kurow’s Daniel Bishop was sixth in the veteran male event, and former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil Hamish Elliott was part of the winning mixed team. Elliott was also the fastest man on the mountain run, finishing the 30.5km stage in 2hr 57min.