On the 4th of January I ran in the Oceania Relay Champs in an amazing setting bellow Mt Barrow on the Benbullen map. This was another opportunity for me to get some high speed navigation. I was only racing for the second New Zealand team but pulled out a good performance to be the first New Zealander home on the first leg behind New Zealand and Australia.
All grades started at the same time making this a massive mass start for any race in the Oceania region. The elite course started with a 3-control split and I stayed relaxed and focused on my own navigation as the field spread out across the hill side. The pace was fast from the start but I felt quite relaxed and held back a bit until my navigation was flowing nicely. I began to push hard from 3 and found myself near the front of the leading pack entering the forest for number 7.
The first half of the course had been easy navigation, but the low visibility of the forest made the second half much more technical. The undergrowth in the forest was also high and hid many of the rocks and control flags. Controls 8 and 9 were very decisive legs with many runners getting stuck behind the green at 8 and even more struggling to find 9 cleanly. I had identified 9 as a risky control and was disciplined on my compass once I left the track and also picked up the vegetation change to lead me close enough to the control to see it in the high bracken. I didn’t realise that Sweden’s Oskar Sjöberg, Australia’s Simon Upphill and I had a significant lead at this stage.
I ran to the road for 10 with Oskar and planned ahead to 13. I think this was beneficial as I ran very smoothly on my own through to 13 where I re-joined Oskar, My first mistake came at 17, where I thought I had seen the hill top on the edge of the control circle but instead I had only seen the rise around the large boulder cluster 50 meter before the hill. I ran back and relocated off 2 small boulders before checking my direction and running further than previously to find the control. I lost 1 minute on this leg. I was very flustered here and took off too fast as Simon and Sweden’s William Lind had passed me during my mistake. I ran passed William on the way to the finish to move back into 3rd and was surprised to learn about how spread out the field had become.
I handed over to Thomas Reynolds and Matthew Jeans to finish the relay in our all NWOC team, while the official New Zealand and Australian teams battled it out for the test match points.
Photos belong to Orienteering Australia.