Last Saturday I took some revenge on Shay Williamson and Chris Morrissey at The Goat Goes Bush Kaimai to take my first win in a big trail race. Since finishing third to these 2 at The Goat Tongariro in December, I have been looking forward to this rematch as I believed I could beat them if everything went to plan on race day. Garmin Connect link here.
My training this side of the New Year has been much more consistent, with less dependency on cycling, and has provided much better conditioning for these long races. By reducing my training intensities and still sticking to only for runs a week I have not missed a single session this year.
This was my first time at the Goat Goes Bush Kaimai but I had heard a fair amount from others to understand the course, and its changes from previous years. I felt very relaxed for the first 3 km on the farm land before hitting the trails and heading up the 400m assent to the top of Wairere Falls. Chris took the early lead on the lower slopes and I was happy to let him go and run my own race this far from the finish. With Chris out of sight, Shay also made a move and passed me most of the way up the climb and unfortunately got out of sight. I finished the climb feeling stable with only a small amount of burning in my calves. More worrying, was that I was getting the stitch again, so I took the next kilometre at an easier pace to allow my breathing to slow. This worked well and prevented the pain from escalating at such an early stage.
The forest over the top of the ranges is amazingly soft, green and dense, with very low visibility. I had no idea how far ahead Shay was or who might be close behind me. I settled into a good rhythm paying very high attention to my foot placement over the slippery roots. This track could be run very fast, but if I didn’t pay attention I would be flat on the ground even faster!
At last I glimpsed some movement ahead of me and noticed I was right behind Shay, and Chris wasn’t far off either! After making the catch it was time to be a bit more strategic than simply running my own race as I had done up to now. I was keen to pick up the pace but didn’t want to drag the other 2 along with me. Chris had a small fall and I popped past onto Shay’s heels. I didn’t have to make a decision here, because Shay made it for me with a significant increase in pace. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not but we got out of sight of Chris very quickly.
At 12kms the course takes its first long plunge. Here I gave Shay some space so that I could pick my own lines. Shay was very fast down the technical sections which kept me pushing to not lose sight. After a number of small stream crossings it was evident I was not going to pass him if the course stayed this technical right down to the end. Fortunately the second descent is not so technical and I made my move, taking some bigger risks on the slippery clay. The course does a sharp turn after a river crossing and I heard him pass the marshals below me as ripped into a small climb out of the river. I gauged the gap at about a minute and I think I held this through the spectator run-though and onto the start of the last small climb. I focused on staying relaxed and keeping my cadence high up this last climb and could feel that I was still moving well over top and past the 19km marker. I never believed I had the race wrapped up until the course was heading downhill in the last 400 meters, as I don’t know anyone who can match me for speed on gradual downhill trail like this one. I had some stitch problems again at this stage but I was close enough to the finish that I didn’t mind pushing on.
I crossed the line elated at my performance and the result! I ran my own race at the right times and made good moves at the right times too. I won by 2 minutes after stretching out the lead in the final 2km loop and finishing in 1:52:46. Chris had a strong last loop and almost caught Shay who finished in 1:54:50, with just 14 seconds to spare over Chris.
Also, a huge congratulations to Kat Reynolds for taking out the women’s race in 2:26:38. This victory must have been an amazing reward for someone who has made such an inspirational journey over the past few years.
Moving forward it looks like I won’t be at any trail races until much later in the year, as I have lots of orienteering to attend to including NZ champs in now only 4 days!