I thought it was about time that I gave the NZ Mountain running champs a crack, so Friday afternoon I jumped on a plane and took the short trip up to Wellington for the 2013 edition. It was the same course as two years prior, a up and down champs with three main climbs and descents.
On Saturday morning Bryn and Piret took me out to Wainuiomata for the race. It was perfect conditions for running, with not too much wind, occasional light showers and cool temperatures. I was a little apprehensive before the start, not really sure what I had myself in for, but also for a change I felt quite calm for me going into a running race. Right from the start the pace was on, everyone was scrambling for a good position to get up the first slippery slope. I ended up in about 4th at the both of it, then sort of got pushed away from the ideal line Bryn and I scouted before the race. I wasn’t feeling in the mood to wait in line so I just went straight and somehow I managed some traction while the others slipped and slide all over the place. Beginning of the gradual climb somehow I was out in front…it didn’t last too long as the front runners came through me after they had re-gathered themselves after the first scramble. I held onto 4th place for most of the climb to the pylon which thinking back doesn’t seem all that long, but it felt like it at the time!
Off the single track and onto the 4wd track the gradient leveled out a bit. Glenn Hughes who was just behind me showed his superior running speed and squeezed past me, then gradually extended the gap. I was working hard yet conscious of conserving some energy for the hill climbs to come. Eventually the track headed down the fire break and where I thought I might gain some distance back over the rough ground. However this was not the case… I started to loose ground and the footsteps behind me started to get louder and louder. Luckily for me when it came to the transition to uphill I ground back some dignity. The stitch came and bothered me for a while at this point too, but somehow I managed to ignore it and it just went away…
After a nice little up and down, the next firebreak was sitting there waiting. It was a pretty steep decent down the firebreak, and it kept going and going and going. I felt quite reluctant to keep going down as I knew for every step down I was going to have to climb straight back to where I came from. Near the end I spotted Dougan coming back up the climb, he was a good few hundred meters in front now. As I hit the turn around though I could see the three in front of me and at one point spotting some walking going on! By the time I got to the same point I was also doing a bit of walking…possibly a little bit more than them as this was the last I saw of them all. Right at the top my calf started to make some cramp like grumpy noises, which I chose to ignore. On to the 4wd down I had my ears pegged back trying to catch some distance back. Into the single track down the hill I was semi in control and flew down in what I thought was a pretty quick time… however it turned out I didn’t make any time up and the gap stayed about the same all the way to the finish. I ended up in 5th place, 4th NZler, not counting the Aussie guy who finished in second. I was pretty happy with that, I think given my injury trouble since December last year I did as well as I could have expected.
I had a short little warm down before I jumped on Piret’s mountain bike and rode home with Bryn across the tops. There was some nice single track to begin with, and it wasn’t all that cold but what we thought was going to be a short little trip turned into a mission ride with over 1000m climb and took two hours. Coupled with that it was pretty wet and cold along the tops….and super muddy. All the same it was a fun ride and hopefully a good warm down!