I’m very happy with my 3rd in the sprint race at NZ Champs this Easter weekend. I had a good race with only a few hesitations and but didn’t have the legs to climb any higher on the podium. The big relief for me is starting the weekend with confidence in my navigation and now I’m going into the middle distance tomorrow feeling very good!
Huge congratulations to Duncan “Dark Horse” Morrison for taking his first New Zealand title after a few years away from the top. It’s always great to see hard work pay off!
Nick Hann 2nd, Duncan Morrison 1st, Gene Beveridge 2nd
I was highly impressed by the middle distance at Nationals this year. The course demanded high concentration and flawless technique to allow you to finish unscathed. The terrain was refreshingly different to the typical flatter Woodhill maps I am used to but would still require mainly the same techniques. As well as navigating cleanly the winner would have to be aggressive on the hills and also open up on the longer legs. I was also grateful that the course planners made the middle a good length (Toby won with 37:44) as I am sick of pathetically short races.
The course was unrelenting from the start and required map contact to be maintained as most hand rails were small. Control 1 was in an extremely tight re-entrant and I treated it with respect as I dropped off the track. The 2 depressions near control 2 were obvious and a good bearing ensured I ran confidently to spike the control. I was not strong enough on the compass on 3 and veered to far right costing me 20 seconds. I did a similar mistake again at 8 and 10 and lost a little time running extra distance but still maintained smooth navigation through the controls.
Start of NZ Champs middle distance + features I should have used to get to 3
I found I didn’t need to do anything super tricky to spike the controls. The map was very accurate and the uniquely shaped hills and re-entrants were equally as obvious on the ground as on the map. Well done mappers! It was possible to avoid some climb but the extra distance travelled did not justify a choice to not run straight. Better routes than the ones I took are shown above in green.
My biggest mistake was on 15 and cost me 25 seconds – a punishment for complacency. I correctly identified 15 as being relatively easy due to the god visibility, flatter features, and obvious back stop. I did however forget to check my compass after I crossed the road and veered left. I wasn’t sure whether I was too far left or right until I saw the form line (circled in green). Perfect mapping! I should have used the depression in the northern most green circle to guide me after crossing the road and was punished fairly for not doing so.
Time to stride out if you have the legs!
The 850 metres between 15 and 16 required some small decisions to be made but was mainly a test of our speed. On this occasion I did not have the legs to make the most of such an opportunity. I look forward to getting some form back, after being injured for so long, and being able to push hard when given the chance.
Pivot on second map
After the map change (map flip in this case) we were tested by a pivot section designed to split up runners and apply additional pressure as you see competitors more frequently. Given the 4 minute start times this was little use since the field was already spread over a large time period and contact with other elite runners was rare. I got through this second half of the course almost perfectly with only a small mistake on 19 were I didn’t run straight enough. I finished in a time of 41:54 in 3rd place but eventually slipped to 7th. I’m happy with my performance and was stoked to see that winsplits thinks I didn’t make any significant mistakes!
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.
Waioneke - NZ Champs 2012 Long Distance
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.
Technical challenges early on in the long race
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!
Important choices to be made between 7 and 8
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.