Going Crazy In The Capital
On December 6th endurance junkies from all ends of the country will be going Crazy for the 30th time as they line up for Wellington’s longest running multisport event.
More than 300 participants are expected to toe the line for the annual Fine Signs Crazyman. Established in 1991, the kayaking, mountain biking and running events takes a 56k scenic tour around the iconic outdoor elements of Wellington’s Hutt Valley. But it was a long time coming.
The event industry has been one of the hardest hit during Covid-19. But the Fine Signs Crazyman was hit before this, when the worst December storm on record forced the cancellation of the 2019 event, which was to have been the 30th. A year later the celebration of those three decades is finally here.
“It’s been a weird 12 months,” says event manager Michael Jacques. “We had the 2019 cancellation with the storm and since then Covid-19 has forced the cancellation or postponement of three other events we organise. So, it has been a tad frantic and because events by definition are large gatherings, we are the first and last to feel the pinch.”
“But at a personal level, we organise events because people want to do them,” says Jacques, who has been racing, organising and coaching endurance sports for 40 years. “As long as people still want to challenge themselves, then we’ll keep organising challenging events.”
It’s that commitment to the sport that has seen the Fine Signs Crazyman rack up three decades as the Wellington region’s premier multisport event.
“We think the Crazyman is the second longest running multisport race in New Zealand,” says Jacques. “Only the Coast to Coast is older and over the years the Crazyman has been won by most of the sport’s greats too, so it has a very real stature on the national scene.”
Indeed, past winners read like a who’s-who of multisport history: world champions such as Steve Gurney, Gordon Walker, Emily Miazga, Elina Ussher, Kristina Anglem, Alex Stewart, Jess Simson, Richard and Elina Ussher, Dougal Allen and Wellington’s own Jill Westenra have all won the annual Lower Hutt event.
This year’s race, however, is very much a wide-open affair. Christchurch’s Hamish Elliot, who has been a top-five placegetter at the Coast to Coast, is the favourite but he’ll be chased by locals Blair Simpson and Dean Forde, who have both finished among the top-10 at Coast to Coast. The locals will be especially motivated too because they have both been second and third at Crazyman but never won it.
The women’s race is even more wide open, with several women having the opportunity of winning their first major multisport race. capable of taking out their first multisport race. Wellington’s Ruth Cornelius and Amanda Rowe will have local knowledge on their side. Cornelius is a very strong kayaker and mountain biker who has placed top-10 at the Coast to Coast, while Rowe is a very good runner but new to multisport. So, the race for line honours may come down to the last few kilometres. But they’ll need to watch out for Hawke’s Bay policewoman, Amy Renall, who is a former police masters triathlon champion.
Jacques points out, however, that multisport is really a “people’s sport” aimed at getting anyone of any age and ability into New Zealand’s great outdoors. People like local stalwart, Les Morris, the only person to have raced every Crazyman to date, personify this and he is entered again in 2020 at age 60.
Morris, however, is not the eldest participant. Sixty-two-year-old Maura Skilton from Whanganui will be the eldest ever woman to take on the full 54k multisport event by herself. At the other end of the scale, 19-year Ryan Tait from Porirua is the youngest.
“I call this stuff ‘everyone’s’ Everest,’ says Jacques. “In the scheme of things, not many people can achieve challenges like Mt Everest. But with a bit of inspiration and motivation they can achieve something like racing around their region or across their country. That’s what events like the Crazyman are about.”
And the Fine Signs Crazyman is something worth achieving. On a course that is as spectacular as it is challenging, it kicks off with a 13k kayak from Days Bay in Eastbourne and heads along Wellington Harbour’s eastern coastline to Petone. Paddlers take in the historic Petone Wharf and finish in the lower reaches of the Hutt River at Sladden Park.
At Petone they swap kayaks for mountain bikes for a 28k ride up the Hutt River trail and over Belmont Regional Park. The route takes in a hidden tunnel and creek crossings, then peaks out for 360-degree views from the volcanic rock-strewn Boulder Hill, before passing historic WWII ammunition bunkers and Wellington’s oldest farm tracks to finish on dedicated mountain bike trails at the historic Stratton Street Woolshed.
Bikes are then swapped for running shoes for the 13k trail run over the edge of Belmont Hill and down the bush clad Korokoro Stream. Following a trail that was first used by Maori in pre-European times, this run is as historic as it is spectacular and eventually finishes where European settlers first landed, on Petone Foreshore.
With harbour swells, 700m of vertical ascent and sometimes challenging weather, the Fine Signs Crazyman has earned the title, the “race from hell.”
“I prefer to say, ‘it’s a hell of race’,” laughs Jacques. “But it is challenging. That’s the attraction of endurance sports; taking on something worth achieving and realising it’s not that Crazy after all.”
The 30th Fine Signs Crazyman starts at 8:00am on Sunday 6th December. For further details visit www.crazyman.kiwi.