I’m extremely happy, not just to come away with the win at yesterday’s furiously fast Icebug Tussock Traverse, but with my consistent improvements over the past 2 months. For this I really have to thank my coach, Michael Adams, for guiding my training so well and Sportslab for guiding my injury management as I built up to full volume once again.
This concludes 9 weeks of training after a period of total rest. I built up from only easy cycling to a consistent routine with 4 quality runs per week, and reached a climax with an overload week last week. This week has been slightly easier and I was able to recover from the overload just in time to attack the Tussock Traverse course with everything I had gained in this block of training.
Here is a quick look at the course; no steep gradients, no long climbs. The trail surface is firm and fast. Even the section from 2-9km, which was definitely just a marked route with no defined trail, was fast except for a few stony riverbed crossings. I chose to race in Icebug Zeals again; a low shoe with aggressive tread and enough protection and support to keep my feet comfortable for 26km.So on to the race! The uphill start went well, and I pushed off the front with running legend Craig Kirkwood who boasts a 2:13 marathon to his name. Training partners Tommy Hayes and Matt Goodall were close behind as we crested the hill, overlooking the baron volcanic landscape of Tongariro National Park under the majesty of Mt Ruapehu. This is where the real race began for me. I hit the stony downhill with urgency, immediately distancing myself from Craig. Tommy and Matt were also comfortable on the rougher ground and weren’t too far behind me as we went into the best part of the course. I raced very aggressively from here, attacking the short stony descents into the dry river beds, and attacking the climbs out of each gully. I was having an absolute ball already, and then this section was topped off by running down a large dry sandy river bed at 3:30 pace for about 1.5kms. Woohooo!!
The course gradually climbs from 9km, and after feeling so strong up until this point I didn’t expect anyone to get close to me, so there weren’t really any tactics to think about and I settled well into time trial mode. From here on was truly a lonesome struggle, where I simply sat on my suffer-threshold and tried to stay as relaxed as possible. There was nothing technical anymore, just me, the headwind, a gradual incline, and a potential course record.
I could feel my strength decreasing slightly as I pushed over some undulations before the final descent, a testament my optimal pacing. I didn’t need much strength for the long descent, just an aggressive mind set to keep my pace as high as possible. Seeing the Chateau Tongariro nestled in forest was a beautiful slight 3km out from the finish and reminded me how close I was. I wasn’t sure what the course record was, so every second counted.
I finished in a time of 1:59:43 (4:37 mins/km), 2 minutes behind the record of international runner Andrius Ramonas. Matt took 2nd place and Tommy’s 3rd made for and all AOTC podium! Jonty Oram was also not far behind, and Daniel Goodall and Jimmy Hayes performed excellently in their 13km races too! Top results for AOTC! Thank you to Icebug New Zealand for the support this weekend and the best shoes I could ask for!
Next up is a weekend of sprint orienteering in Wellington and The Hillary is now only 4 weeks away.