A former smoker and boozer now on a burger diet is Queenstown’s sole entrant in one of New Zealand’s toughest multisport races.
Mike Kelly, 32, will spend about 15 hours running, cycling and kayaking during the next two days in the 183km Lake to Lighthouse Challenge in Hawkes Bay.
A veteran of four Longest Day Coast to Coasts, builder Kelly aims for a top-10 finish in the event dubbed “The Longest Weekend”.
Originally from Kilkenny, Ireland, Kelly says he was a confirmed “pisshead” and smoker on arrival in Queenstown six years ago.
He was talked into his first Coast to Coast – the epic 243km race from the West Coast to Christchurch – after a few beers with local engineer Warrick Weber.
“He conned me into doing the Longest Day by saying the two-day event was sold out, which wasn’t true.”
Kelly had never raced before and jumped on a road bike and long kayak for the first time only months beforehand – yet he still achieved a top-50 place.
The multisporter says he still likes a few beers but training now gives him more enjoyment.
He finished sixth in last year’s Longest Day and 10th this year, saying if he can continue posting good results he might fulfil his ambition to compete overseas for a multisport team.
Kelly is grateful to local food joint Fergburger for sponsoring entry fees and race clothing this season to the tune of $3000 – plus free burgers. Burgers, which some people might think are fattening, are good carbo-loading, he says.
While racing, Kelly fuels himself on cold boiled spud injected with salt. This could be due to his Irish heritage, he concedes, but says it’s catching on among multisporters.
He’ll need a lot of spuds for the Lake to Lighthouse Challenge, which last year’s winner – the world-ranked Kiwi Richard Ussher, formally based in Queenstown – calls the toughest individual two-day event he’s ever done.
On Kelly’s first day tomorrow, which involves circumnavigating Lake Waikaremoana, he reckons he’ll spend about 90 minutes mountain biking, the same amount of time kayaking, then five and a half hours running.
Saturday’s course, ending on the coast, should see him mountain biking for 90 minutes, road-biking two hours, kayaking an hour and a half, then running.
A few beers afterwards will taste good, Kelly admits.