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Elina aims for win number 5 in New Zealand’s iconic Coast to Coast race.

Aussie Grit Ambassador Elina Ussher will defend her title in the gruelling 243 kilometre, 13+ hour, Coast to Coast Multisport World Championship race in New Zealand on February 10.

The gruelling event is one of the world’s longest running multisport events, older than the Hawaiian Ironman.

Elina has won the race four times, the first time in 2009 and incredibly she’s been on the podium nine times from 11 starts. A win in 2018 will move Elina into rarefied air as one of only two women to win the race five times.

Elina has said this year’s media interest has been heightened by a super strong women’s field and the fact she’s the reigning champion chasing a record equalling five wins.

Elina was kind enough to write a few words about her approach to New Zealand’s iconic event:

“It’s a massive day. It takes plenty of ‘sisu’, which is the word for grit in Finland.

“The race starts at Kumara Beach which is on the west coast of New Zealand and then races across the South Island to finish at the pier on New Brighton Beach in Christchurch. The length of Coast to Coast makes it gruelling for all competitors. For a woman, depending on conditions it’s anywhere between 12.5 and 13.5 hours racing for the fastest girls. Last year I won the race in 13 hours and 11 minutes.

“But there’s lots of other elements that make this race so hard. One major challenge in the race is the terrain. The mountain running section follows a very rough route with no obvious trail; you just have to practice boulder hopping, river crossings and some technical ground running as part of your training.

“Then there’s the weather. Even if it’s a warm day at race start (6am) we run and ride up to 1,000 metres near Goats Pass, where it’s always quite cold. Sometimes it’s snowed up there, so you must be prepared for all sorts of conditions.

“After the mountain climb we have a short riding section down to the kayaks. The river kayaking is a very challenging section of the race. It’s 70kms down river – a grade 2+ paddle. You need river reading skills as well as paddling skills. I think it’s a fun section, but depending on the water level this part of the race can take up to 5 hours.

“The last section of the race is 70 kilometres of riding, it’s a flat road so we use time trial bikes, but we often get a sea breeze or something a little stronger which makes for tough conditions.”

Elina on mental fortitude

“Aussie Grit Apparel has a value we call mental fortitude. It’s relevant for any off-road sportsperson, as your mental fortitude is your drive to push yourself, test yourself.

“To participate in Coast to Coast, whether you’re racing to win or racing to achieve something you thought you couldn’t, it takes mental fortitude.

“I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with this race because when things get tough, it hurts. Your body is aching. You feel tired. The weather conditions worsen. Your mental determination is fully tested. That’s when I hate it (I say that largely in jest!) because it does hurt. You just want to stop … now! But that’s when the mental side comes in and takes over from the physical pain. It’s when your mind starts saying ‘just go for it, the pain is not going to last forever’ as I said in the video.

“That’s the moment when I really find my grit, ‘sisu’ as we say in Finland, my mental fortitude, and the positive thoughts to keep pushing through the aches and pains … all the way to the finish line.

“That’s what I love doing, pushing through limits that you don’t know are there. And you think the faster you get to the finish line, the sooner the pain is over, and you can relax, enjoy, and feel good about yourself.

“With little time now to race day, I have to really start preparing the mind for the challenge as well. I do it by having a moment each day when I focus on positive thoughts, as so close to the race my feelings and thoughts can go a bit up and down. I have times when I start doubting my fitness and skills and I just feel like running away, escaping.

“But I try and ignore all those negative thoughts and just keep focusing on positive vibes and confidence. I also keep telling myself that I am as strong as my mind. I know that it’s true – ‘your mind can move boulders.’”

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