Firstly, I am stoked to be running again after having 8 weeks off due to my ITB related injuries. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to get my body ready for nationals. I managed 3 runs in 6 days leading up to nationals but I knew it would take about 2 weeks to develop some race-ready form. My goal at the start of this year was to win the long distance at Nationals but I realistically lost sight of that goal month ago when my injuries turned nasty. My goal approaching this weekend was navigate cleanly and I knew I would have little control over how I performed physically.
The second race at NZ champs this year was the long distance held on Waioneke, a map last used 7 years ago for Oceania. I remember it being extremely hard and have been looking forward to the challenge since the race’s location was announced.
I wasn’t up to the physical level to be competitive in such ruthless terrain but I still loved the challenge of being shattered half way through the race and still having to hold it together mentally. I could spend all day talking about the race but here are some interesting parts and a quick evaluation of what I did well and not so well.
2 – 3 presented route choice opportunities as shown by the 3 colours. My choice is in red, another choice is in blue – I think Tom Reynolds chose something similar to this, and Matt Ogden’s choice is in green. The main decision to be made is “how long should I stay on the track for?” Leaving the track as early as I did meant that I ran a shorter distance but I had 2 ridges to cross and these slowed me down too much. Matt’s choice to stay on the track to the last possible moment was best and he was about 1 minute quicker than me on this leg. Tom mentioned his pre-race plan was to use tracks as much as possible and his choice utilise the track as he did was good, but he was not quite as quick as Matt.
4 – 5 is a leg I did very well and I was happy to find that I posted the fastest split time to control 5. I simplified the map well by identifying the line of positive detail (hills as opposed to depressions) that made a very straight line between the controls. I kept the line of detail close on my left hand side and used the good visibility to identify the highest point in the line of detail, which my control was immediately after. The red line shows the exact path I ran along the flat ground avoiding the sand dune detail and gaining no height at any stage during the leg. Perfect!
Leg 8, 1500m long, was a challenging route choice leg and I have shown my route in red. I aimed for a straight approach to run less distance and to reduce climb. I was not physically aggressive enough to justify my decision and runners who chose track options were rewarded. Matt Ogden ran a route similar to the green line and had the fastest split time between 7 and 8. This was a very challenging leg and deserved more thought than I gave it during the race. There are many possible routes on this leg as shown by the different coloured lines above.
My body broke after I had been racing for about an hour and I my hip flexors and hamstrings began cramping up the hill from 18 to 19. Tom caught me in time for the final 8 controls and I had to dig deep to hold onto him. I was impressed that I ran with him for as long as I did as I was lacking aggression through the physical terrain on my own but having Tom’s heels to chase made it much easier to get up to speed. I eventually lost him 2 controls from the finish and had to drag my body across the line by myself in a time of 1:39:25.