Following last year’s fourth place finish in his first attempt and the Speight’s Coast to Coast One Day world championship, James Coubrough was tipped as one of the men most likely to tumble five time winner Richard Ussher. But a training mishap on the legendary course has highlighted why the Speight’s Coast to Coast is New Zealand’s toughest multisport event.
The 31 year old Wellingtonian had been training full time in Christchurch during December. On a two day boot-camp on the Goat Pass mountain run route between Christmas and New Year he broke his ankle on a river crossing.
“I’d run the section from Big Boulders to Goat Pass three times and was really happy with my route finding and fitness and coordination,” explained Coubrough.
“I was actually thinking about doing it once more, but on a river crossing near Goat Pass I jumped from one boulder to another and as I was in the air I was thinking ‘Oh, this is a big jump and that’s a slippery boulder’.
“I actually made it ok, but when I landed I heard a big crack and thought, ‘That didn’t sound good’.
Coubrough managed to catch himself on a rock as he fell and dragged himself out of the river.
“I tried standing and it wasn’t terrible, so I figured it must be a bad sprain,” he said. “So I decided to try & walk out because the weather forecast wasn’t good.”
Coubrough had been staying in Goat Pass hut, so he hobbled up the Pass, packed his gear and continued down into the Mingha Valley where he stopped to soak his ankle in the cold mountain water.
As the shock wore off he found standing harder and harder. Luckily fellow Wellingtonian Liam Drew ran past and said he’d alert the D.O.C. office at Arthur’s Pass.
Four hours later the rain had started and help hadn’t arrived, so Coubrough set of his locater beacon. A rescue helicopter eventually picked him up on the Mingha river flats and whisked him away to Christchurch Hospital where x-rays revealed a cracked ankle bone that surgeons screwed back together and set in plaster.
“I’m pretty gutted,” said Coubrough. The doctors told me to expect a three to six month recovery before returning to training. “So I guess all I can do is start thinking about next year.”
Coubrough was one of a group of young up and comers – along with Wanaka’s Dougal Allan and Braden Currie, Whakatane’s Sam Clark and Christchurch’s Luke Vaughn – scrapping for Richard Ussher’s spot on top of the multisport world.
The former national mountain running champion and representative was the only athlete to truly challenge Ussher last year before inexperience and bad luck saw him slip from second to fourth in the final hour of the 11 hour, 243k race across the South Island.
The Wellington builder, however, isn’t the only favourite struggling for form. Richard Ussher himself has been unsure of his status after a busy year of international racing had left him with extreme fatigue. Dougal Allan, the Speight’s Coast to Coast runner up for the past three years, has been battling a wrist injury, and Luke Vaughn recently slashed his shin to the bone and is unlikely to start.
With so many of the favourites either scratched or struggling for form, the 2013 Speight’s Coast to Coast is shaping up as a wide open race of attrition.