I’m a big fan of long distance races because of the way the human brain gets dumber as the body gets tired. This is a tough one to overcome and determination cannot make up for insufficient training during the months prior.
This year’s New Zealand orienteering champs long distance was a 17.4km epic through flat sand dune pine forest. There were plenty of opportunities to make mistakes and not running at max speed proved to lose just as much time.
I started off relatively cautious knowing that I could not win it in the first half but I could certainly lose it. Controls 5 to 9 were in an area with lower visibility and I had a lot of trouble staying straight using my compass. I lost about 6 minutes through these controls which was extremely disappointing and affected my head space quite negatively. Tim Robertson started 3 minutes after me and had caught me up by this stage which gave me a chance to get my head back in the game because he was navigating very well.
After a few good controls I got my confidence and aggression back and found myself leading Tim through most of the controls through to 22. We were using each other a lot especially to maintain a high speed and we were both navigating ok except for mistakes at 22, 23, and 27.
At this stage I was keen to keep pushing hard with Tim all the way to the finish line and hopefully get a second place as I felt that we had been running faster than anyone else would have been. As I got closer to 28 I noticed that Tim was not navigating despite looking down most of the time. Turns out he was just looking at the ground, not the map. I was hesitant going into 28 and it was pretty clear that Tim was really depending on me to find the control. This had happened pretty rapidly, but his blank expression told me that he was totally stuffed from our ruthless race over the last 90 minutes. I pushed extra hard leaving 28 and quickly opened up a huge gap by the first road and I was totally out of sight half way to 29. My efforts were also becoming a problem for me as my calves were cramping whenever I tried to run aggressively but I knew if I could get 3 minutes on Tim I would have a chance of winning my first NZ title. I gritted my teeth for the last 1km and managed to put 3 and a half minutes in to Tim. I finished in the lead but unfortunately Chris Forne overtook me to narrowly take the title by a single minute over the 106 minute race.
For me, this race was another great example of why you should never give up. I never expected Tim to break like he did but I had worked hard to be in a position to capitalise on this when it did happen. I’m very happy to take 2nd place this year and I will definitely be after that New Zealand title next year!
How many times did I veer right is this race? Out of 34 controls is a pretty poor statistic!