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Coast to Coast competitor lucky to be alive

Coast to Coast competitor lucky to be alive

20 January 2015

Wellington man Menno van der Laan knows he lucky to be here, let alone be on the start line of next month’s Speight’s Coast to Coast one day event.

In recent years the 51 year old from Petone near Wellington has suffered seven heart attacks, ‘a million angiograms,’ has had a number of stents placed in his arteries to help with blood flow and has had heart bypass surgery.

“In 2009 a friend suggested we do the Coast to Coast in February 2010 together as he couldn’t paddle, so we gave it a crack and finished with a smile and I enjoyed the experience so much I wanted to give it a go on my own,” Menno says.

But after almost a year of training and just as he was in good shape and looking forward to tackling the two day individual event disaster struck when Menno had his first heart attack.

Obviously the event was off for that year, but Menno says the doctors said his heart attack ‘wasn’t too bad’ and after inserting a couple of stents he was cleared to gradually get back into exercise and training.

Unfortunately he ended up in a cycle of six weeks of recovery, getting cleared to get back into training, gradually regaining some fitness, and then he’d have another attack.

This went on every four to six months for over two years and since that first heart attack in December 2010 Meeno has had seven heart attacks, more angiograms - an imaging test that uses x-rays to view your body's blood vessels – than he can count, two more stents placed in his arteries and bypass surgery.

“My last heart attack was in September 2013 after which I was seen by a different cardiologist who put me on some different meds and I’ve been good to go since then,” he says. “I’m a fair bit slower, but no hassles and that’s the main thing.”

Menna entered the Coast to Coast again last year and managed fourth place in the Two Day Classic Men’s section, even after being caught in crash on the first bike leg where he ended up borrowing a bike far too small for him.

“I was pretty stoked to finish last year. But I can’t leave it there; it’s still unfinished business, so I’ve entered the Longest Day this year - the Real Deal - and expect to finish with a smile. I know I’m lucky to be here and to even be able to enter the event so I’m going to make the most of it.”

“It’s such a great event and an awesome challenge - stunning country and brilliant like minded people. Why wouldn’t you want to do it.”?

Menno says he’s conscious he’s not the only one with physical and health challenges that does the event, and ‘just being part of it is pretty amazing’ stressing the importance of support from those close to him as being vital to success.

“The patience and tolerance of those around you goes hand in hand with their support,” he says. “It’s so important as training and the racing can put a strain on the family but my wife’s a legend; it’s really important to recognise the support and encouragement from people around you.”

Born in Holland and raised in rural Australia Menno moved back to Europe with his family when he was 17 meeting his wife in London. The couple have lived in Petone with their twin sons for over 25 years.

“I’m more than ready to tick this thing off, hopefully in less than 15 hours – you can bet I’ll be smiling at the finish line not matter what happens on the day.”


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