Second again! I knew the long distance would be my best chance at a New Zealand title this year but I didn’t have the legs to rival Nick Hann who put 3 minutes into me over the extremely demanding course. Duncan Morrison showed once again that he had done the work to deserve his place at the top finishing just 4 seconds behind me round off the podium.
The course was a seemingly short 9kms but with at least 565 meters climb (6.2%), the marches, the cliffs and the rough ground this race was going to feel so much longer. Check out my GPS below.
The terrain was rough from the start and I was always looking ahead to find the best micro route choices around the hill sides. Going straight up and over for number 2 was a feeling got used to very quickly. Straight up another steep slope out of 3, and again out of 6. I was navigating well and had enough time to plan ahead while considering all the route choices. As with the middle distance on the previous day, the rocks were the main technical challenge. The contours were easy to generalise and the streams also simplified navigation greatly.
Controls 1 to 8
The first significant route choice came at the 8th leg with the top 3 placings separated by less than 1 minute at the start of the leg. I was tempted to minimise climb but running around the hill to the right didn’t offer nice enough running to justify the extra distance. The next few legs all had decisions to be made but none of them were critical. It was most important to avoid the risks and hit the chosen route aggressively. There was often a trade-off between distance and climb but just as important was considering the runabilty on steep slopes and near cliffs. 12 was a good example of this, where I got the fastest split by dropping from 11 and following the valley around to 12 and staying below the worst of the cliffs.
Controls 9 to 14
This terrain was truly brutal and I was beginning to slow by control 15 and found I was having to spend and increasing amount of mental effort on maintaining my running speed, leaving less for navigating. I wasn’t planning ahead so well anymore and I took the leg to 17 more slowly to invest some time into making the right decisions on the upcoming route choices. I lost some time to Nick through this section of the course and he almost had his winning margin by 18.
I chose to go mostly straight to 19. From our splits we think the other 3 options as shown below were quite similar, so once again, aggression and the finer points of the route choice where more significant. I made my biggest mistake of the race entering 19. The first patch of forest was quite dense and pushed me to the right. Initially I thought I had gone too far and since I couldn’t see anything through the trees I had to recall what I had passed to decide where I was. This seems pretty rookie but I was really struggling at this stage and I could feel that my energy levels were pretty low.
Long leg to 19
Duncan and I, who were neck and neck from 18, were only 1 second apart at 20. I left this control hastily and didn’t even think to run on the track which is the obvious route choice. Instead I clambered my way along the opposite side of the stream costing me crucial time on Duncan. After coming to my senses at 21 I made sure I stopped running to put more effort into making the best choices possible for the rest of the course. I felt pretty inadequate having to stop so frequently but my navigation was sound for the rest of the race. I moved back into second place on 25 by giving the final 2 climbs everything I had left and going well into the red zone. My physical condition was pretty poor at this stage and I lost a bit of time on 26 and 27 by falling over repetitively on the rough ground and finished with just 4 seconds to spare over Duncan. Nick ran an incredibly strong race right down to the line to take his 2nd NZ title of the weekend.
Earning those 4 second
After feeling so strong after 2 hours of racing during The Goat Goes Bush Kaimai last weekend, I’m a little disappointed that at 1 hour into this race I was staggering around the farmland wondering where my legs had gone. But on the day, Nick proved why he was the favourite, and Duncan proved that he is also a total beast and I’m looking forward to seeing what top performances these guys can pull out in the next few months and in Europe!
Top 3 at prize giving