THIS year’s showpiece event in the World Multisport calendar, New Zealand’s 243-km Coast to Coast race, is being billed ‘the clash of champions’, with CurraNZ athlete, Dougal Allan, returning to defend his World Championship crown.
Our ambassador faces three-time winner, Sam Clark, who he hasn't met in this race since 2013.
According to Dougal, this year he’s had to take his game to another level for the showdown, and heads there quietly confident.
The 34-year-old says: “After reflecting on my win last year, my motivation to do another wasn’t about claiming a second or third win. I made the commitment to come back in the shape of my life. And I’ve done that – I’m going there the fittest and best prepared I’ve ever been.”
In the two-and-a-half years since starting with CurraNZ, the accomplished Kiwi Ironman has also risen to the summit of Multisport – and refers to it as his ‘game changing’ supplement.
The 34-year-old says: “I’ve seen big differences from year to year using CurraNZ. I train my body through the full spectrum - slow energy training, tempo work, threshold stuff, VO2max – and I personally feel I’m more efficient at every level of output.
“Everything this year has moved on a notch. My running threshold on the track has improved – even my coach was taken aback. In my last 8x1km track session I was 5 seconds per kilometre faster and my maximum heart rate was seven beats lower.
"That reading was compared to exactly the same phase of training last year - exactly the same date - two weeks before last year’s race.
“That’s significant, particularly in the Coast to Coast – that adds up to a lot of improvement and at a lower cost too.
“While it’s probably part of the evolution as an athlete, I’ll happily attribute some of that to CurraNZ’s vasodilatory action. In terms of your heart being a pump, blackcurrant creates less resistance and helps your body deliver more blood and oxygen, so it all stacks up, doesn’t it?”
As a successful endurance coach in his own right, with an honours degree in Physical Education, Dougal has been quick to latch onto the researched benefits of CurraNZ since it came to his attention in 2017.
There’s no disputing CurraNZ has been part of his winning formula that saw him enjoy his best year in professional sport in 2019.
But a recent oversight saw the Wanaka man run out of capsules before his biggest week in his Coast to Coast training, which provided an unwelcome reminder of life without ‘the berries’.
“It was the worst time to run out. I was up in Arthur’s Pass, where I had to do two days of ‘the Double’ – the full three-hour run of the Coast 2 Coast course and the full four-hour paddle. I thought I was feeling all right before tackling it for the second time, but I wasn’t and it got ugly. I did what I needed to do but I was absolutely toast.
“My recovery after that wasn’t great, to be honest. I got home that weekend and resumed things, but on the Sunday, after doing a 70km bike ride, I couldn’t face completing the day’s program with a run and a paddle.
“It was the first time this season I skipped some training, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it and threw in the towel.
“The last day I’d had off training was December 14 – so it can’t be a coincidence that this blip came after running out of CurraNZ.
“Then the CurraNZ turned up Monday and I had to resist chugging them back in one hit!”
It’s been seven years since Sam and Dougal, rated the best in the world in Multisport, eyeballed each other in NZ’s iconic 243km race. (Pictured above, after their string of success with CurraNZ in China last September)
The three-time Coast to Coast winner is Dougal’s biggest rival this year.
While Dougal had the upper hand in those early 2008-13 encounters, the outcome is not so clearcut this time.
Dougal says: “Sam is probably the only one in the field who can foot it with me the full distance. He has no weakness in this race.
“For someone like me, in the peak of my career, I want the best athletes on the start line. I would rather have a hectic battle across country with Sam and be tested to my absolute limits because that’s where I’m at in my career. I don’t want to be left wondering if I had the mettle to beat someone who has won the race three times.”