After losing her daughter and two friends in a car crash, Dr Lucy Hone has a new outlook on life – doing one thing each year that challenges her. This year she’s taking on the Coast to Coast race, calling on her expertise in resilience to help her.
As Dr Lucy Hone navigates the demanding Goat Pass during the Coast to Coast, she’ll be carrying her friend Sally with her. And the memory of their daughters will be close by.
The iconic South Island multisport race is a new adventure for the 53-year-old, but she’s taking it in her stride.
“I believe that every year we’re alive, it is precious,” says Hone.
In 2014, Hone lost her 12-year-old daughter Abi – as well as close friend Sally Summerfield and her daughter Ella – in a car crash; the trio were on their way to Lake Ōhau for Queen’s Birthday weekend.
“Sally was a really great friend of mine, and I often think that I like to do good shit for Sally,” Hone says. “She loved being backcountry, she was an outdoors girl, she loved running. So I’ll be carrying her across Goat Pass with me and I’ll be thinking of her, and all of them.”
They’re part of the reason Hone likes to do one thing every year that challenges her, and this year’s challenge is close to home for the Christchurch local.
“More than anything, losing them taught me that life is so precious and you have only got the one life. I just don’t want to find myself languishing,” she says.
The idea of competing in the Coast to Coast event had always been in the back of Hone’s mind, having run half marathons with her husband in the past. But she had a few reservations that stopped her.
“I’ve always wanted to do it, not in a burning ambition kind of way, but I’ve always had this slightly simmering thought that maybe I’d do it one day,” she says. “I had imagined I couldn’t do it because I was scared of going over Goat Pass.”
Goat Pass is a notoriously difficult area, trekking up riverbeds, crossing rivers and navigating rocky terrain. Hone laughs when describing herself as “like an old nana on the rocks”, not overly keen to run the whole track.
A gamechanger for Hone was when their coach from Team CP, Richard Greer, told them the pass is walkable in nine hours.
The ability to interchange between running and walking, and still complete the course within the 11 hour cut-off time, suddenly made the idea possible for Hone.
“The other thing that made it possible for me was when I discovered the tandem category,” says Hone.
On February 11, Hone will line up on Kumara beach alongside husband, Trevor, to compete in the two-day tandem event.
There are 67 tandem teams competing this year, required to run and bike within 50m of each other at all times and paddle a double kayak.
The Hones have been training together, completing their compulsory kayaking course, riding their bikes and running up the hill in their backyard during lockdown.
“Even though we argue all the time, we’ve got each other’s backs,” says Hone. “We’ve been married 28 years and, for me, I just knew that with him, I could do it.”
She admits there have been a few miserable early mornings when their alarm goes off at 5.30am for training, but says having the empathy of your partner is “amazing”.
“While it is challenging and I don’t underestimate it, we’re both in it together. We go out for a three-hour run and we come home and we’re asleep, both of us on the couch within half an hour, which wouldn’t be great if your partner wasn’t doing it,” Hone laughs.
The couple is staying local over summer, taking some time off to spend with their two sons, Ed and Paddy, but also keeping up training on the river.
The difference in their approach to training makes Hone laugh.
“One day, Trevor was running along fantasising about beating Richie McCaw and he said to me ‘What are you thinking about?’. And I said ‘I’m thinking about not being here with you, being with girlfriends and running slower’.”
One part of the training process Hone is familiar with is mental endurance. The co-founder of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience earned her PhD from AUT in 2015, with her thesis on understanding and measuring wellbeing.
“People don’t understand what resilience is,” says Hone. “Resilience psychology is about working out how you get through whatever you’re facing, examining and being aware of your thinking patterns and whether they are helping you or harming you towards your goal.
“It’s massively advantageous for me to understand my thinking, which is what I do. What I’m trained to do is to understand the way I’m thinking and how that is interacting with my training.”
A surprise for Hone was how demanding the kayaking section would be. With compulsory training beforehand to navigate the Waimakariri River, the “uncontrollables” on the day are where Hone’s understanding of resilience comes in.
“That’s what resilience psychology is about – being able to do that mental agility to focus your attention on the things you can change and accept the stuff you can’t,” she says.
On the day of the race, the river will be packed with boats, and as the weather and river get drier, more obstacles emerge. Hone is calling the kayak section “the great unknown”, but that’s part of the challenge.
“I’ve been telling myself it’s okay to do hard things, to not be comfortable, either physically or mentally,” she says. “I have to keep showing up at the river, and it’s pretty scary but it is okay and getting better all the time. Every time you go, you get that little bit better and that’s really rewarding.”
Around 30 percent of competitors in the Coast to Coast are women, but Hone wants to encourage women to take on their own challenges.
“I really encourage women to believe in themselves physically and not let other people’s opinions or what they’ve done as they’ve grown up, their family norm, establish what is right for them,” says Hone.
“And to take on a challenge that intrigues them because the growth you get from doing those hard things is fantastic and massive and we can do hard things – even though it’s sometimes not fun and involves tears.”
Even though the starting line is still just under a month away, Hone already feels the sense of accomplishment.
“That sense of mastery is a fantastic drug, so I always encourage people to believe in themselves because I didn’t think I could do Goat Pass. And now I know I can.”