A successful marriage requires plenty of legwork – and Sam and Georgie Sturgess certainly put a lot in last weekend.
A week after tying the knot, the North Otago newlyweds ran, biked and kayaked 243km across the South Island, competing in the tandem division of the Coast to Coast.
The couple, whose team was aptly named The First Dance, was made to work in the two-day race, encountering several challenges between Kumara Beach on the West Coast and Christchurch’s New Brighton Beach.
But they crossed the finish line, in a time of 18hr 22min 17sec, and enjoyed themselves – and that was the goal they had set, Sam said.
About 20 minutes after setting off from Kumara Beach on Friday morning, Georgie took a tumble off her bike.
“With the front wheel at 90deg to the rest of the frame, we looked at it, straightened it and carried on,” Sam said.
“Georgie was a bit bruised and scraped, but she’s pretty tough.”
They battled through the mountain run stage and finished day one “really happy”, sneaking ahead of Oamaru training partners Hamish McKenzie and Nick Webster about 300m before the finish line.
Day two got off to a good start, and the pair had a smooth transition from the bike to the kayak, thanks to their “outstanding” support crew.
But when their kayak rudder snapped in half about 400m into the paddle, they thought their Coast to Coast journey was over.
“Effectively, we were going to be out of the race wouldn’t even consider going down the [Waimakariri] Gorge without a rudder,” Sam said.
When Georgie was running back to alert the support crew, she bumped into some “awesome” Coast to Coast officials who found another kayak for them to use.
By that stage, they had lost about 30min and were the last team to leave the transition.
and paddled as hard as we could and we just passed people the whole way through and had a really good paddle,” he said.
Competing as a tandem team helped keep morale up.
“We talked the whole way. I think we were the loudest on the course each other a bit of motivation, or cheek.”
The final cycle leg into Christchurch went well, despite a head wind and, as Sam would later find out, a damaged bike.
Over a beer after the race, Sam and Georgie’s support crew disclosed there had been an accident with the bikes while they were out on the kayak.
“They’d actually jack-knifed the trailer with the bikes on it and had bent the swing arm on my bike and buckled the wheel.
“While we were on the kayak, they’d had to take the wheels off and take it to the bike shop to be fixed.
“They put it all back together and they didn’t tell me – all they said when I was leaving the kayak was ‘ride carefully’, but they didn’t tell me why.
“It was hard cycling into the wind whether my wheel was straight or not, I think. They did a pretty good job of repairing it, to be fair.”
All things considered, the couple were “absolutely rapt” with their efforts.
“If you take the crash out of it, and the broken rudder, our time wasn’t too bad,” Sam said.
“Our goal was just to finish it – and I really enjoyed it.”
It was Sam’s second time competing in the Coast to Coast. After taking on the tandem division in 2019 with his brother Glen, he swore he would never do the race again.
This time, he was not so non-committal.
“I don’t have any drive to do it as an individual – I just love the fact that I did it with Glen last time and I did it with Georgie this time.
“I haven’t got any plans to do it again, but who knows.”
A more relaxing honeymoon was not in the pipeline just yet, but they hoped to get away for a few days soon.
“But with the changing world of Covid, who would know,” he said.
“We’re just lucky we got our wedding done.”