The first race at Kuku Beach was my poorest performance of the weekend, with around 4 minutes lost through mistakes, but certainly many others made more mistakes than usual in this complex sand dune terrain. I was fast of the start line, spiking the first 3 controls. This gave me a great buzz and I was feeling focused and running aggressively. The first seriously challenging leg was 3 to 4 with the control nestled between some small hills across a flat area. I didn’t understand the hills here and struggled to relocate wasting 80 seconds, and my 2nd place. I got into a good rhythm again but did notice that I was navigating “on the edge” and being a bit risky in favour of running faster. This caused me to make a small parallel error at 8. I was also on the edge coming into 14, where the mapping of the trees was sub-standard and my reliance on them came to be my undoing. Keeping in contact with the contours here would have prevented this error. I finished strong and pulled myself back into 4th place, 4 minutes down on what I would have considered to be a clean race.
The second race on the weekend was a long distance (although slightly short for a long) and featured more complex open dunes, but this time balanced with a large area of fast flat-running forest where straight was great. We all knew the complex open dunes and adjacent low visibility strip would be a great challenge and could end someone’s race in and instant if they were not careful. I ran hard off the start again, taking the early lead and navigating very well through the low visibility strip and out to the open dunes. I made some key simplifications in the open dunes by using the thickets and highest hills to great effect. I came out of this first part of the course with a with significant lead of almost 2 minutes over 2nd place and feeling very fast. I quickly got up to full speed in the flat forest and was prepared to sit on my physical limit for the rest of the rest.
I did push very hard and my speed was good, but a few small mistakes cost me crucial time. The first issue was coming into 12 where I was first confused to pass some unmapped tracks and then found the detail in the control circle hard to work out – I was not the only one to find this confusing. I was generally a bit hasty through for the rest of the race and you can clearly see a number of small mistakes on my GPS throughout this technically easier, but high pace, half of the race. I felt under some pressure to out run everyone else through the flat forest and lost concentration on too many occasions, eventually costing me my 1st place by only 3 seconds to Australian Leon Keely.
The 3rd and final race was in a similar area to the previous day, but included more slower running forest, and less flat fast running. This was another day to be aggressive, but pull back at just the right moments in the low visibility forest. This was my most satisfactory race of the weekend but I still made 2 parallel errors, one early on at 4 and another towards the end at 23. This was also my first race using my Silva Race Zoom magnifier, which was a benefit coming into some of the detailed control sites where I could read the map more precisely without having to stop running or use both hands to hold the map.
The route choice to 11 proved to be crucial and I quickly identified that the beach was going to be faster than the longer track option, and faster than straight through the open dunes, although riskier with no features to read from the beach. I mitigated this by intentionally coming up off the beach early to do a quick relocation and then back to the flat beach to regain the high speed surface. It was here where I took the lead from Nick which I held until the last few controls where my navigation was a little messy. I opted for wide route choices on 8, 12 and 15 also. Nick did very well to win this race as I was running very fast it was another 2 minutes down to the previous days winner, Leon.
So no doubt a challenging weekend, and Nick is clearly still top dog in New Zealand and it’s a shame that he isn’t racing WOC this year. I’ll drop another post in the next few days on my physical training up to this midpoint in my build to WOC.