Racing up Mt Oxford and back down again. That sounded like going out to the back yard and running around a few times and it didn’t jump out as a race I was excited about doing like in a really spectacular area, right up in the mountains or something like that. Although to be honest though I didn’t need too much convincing to end up on the start line. After not doing any running races for almost 2 months I needed to test myself and it fitted right in well with my training. I was a little unsure as to my form with lots of cross training taking up lots of time I used to fill with running, so this was going to be an experiment in cross training as Vajin succinctly put it right before the start.
I was fairly nervous on the start line, just like Avalanche Peak last year, there was an air of expectation and a little bit of pressure and even after the start hooter appeared to go off 5 seconds early there was a good amount of nervous energy bubbling away. I took it easy to start with but along with Vajin, we sat at the front and controlled the race. Vajin got a little jump on me up the first slight hill as I settled into a rhythm, but I wasn’t too worried as I knew there was a lot of downhill to come in the second half of the race. And infact there was a little downhill section before the uphill started, and I had to cut the inside corner of a bend and pass to allow myself to run down at a pace I could feel comfortable at. From there on in the track got steeper and the going was tougher. Vajin and the others slowly dropped behind.
As it got steeper and harder I tried to maintain some running, but there was large sections where I was forced to walk. I knew that if I had to walk those behind me also were struggling and to get past me then they would have to work twice as hard, so I just kept moving at a pace I could maintain, and as we climbed into the mist the top got closer. I felt that this climb was in some ways tougher than Avalanche Peak, with a similar elevation gain over a slightly longer distance one could run a little bit more and put ones self further into the back corner of the hurt box. But as the sign stuck to the tree said “its just a mountain, get over it!”
Eventually through the mist the summit emerged, almost to my surprise in the end too! Once on the ridge I knew it was time to recover, eat some food and prepare myself for the downhill. As I traveled along the ridge the mist lifted and closed in again giving some pretty cool views every now and then.
Nick Hann a NZ Junior Orienteering rep was in the chasing pack and I was pretty sure I needed to have a good descent to stay in the lead at the bottom. Still awaiting the arrival of my next pair of race shoes I was onto the B pair with not quite the ideal grip for the downhill across the damp tree roots. From memory the descent on that track was all descent but turns out that there was a couple of punchy little climbs in there. At the top I was approximately 4-5mins ahead of the chasers, Nick monster-ed the downhill and brought this gap back to around 2mins. Luckily for me the last section was through the trees and along the relative flat and I was able to extend this back out 6-7mins to finish feeling fairly strong in just over 2hours. I passed the last sign on the track telling me to hurry up cause the children were waiting, so I did. I was a little unsure of how exactly to get down to the river and how far along the river to go before reaching the finish line and I didn’t get a chance to look at my watch and see that I was close to slipping under that 2hour mark! I guess I will have to come back next year now! Nick finished strongly in second place, around 8mins behind me, followed by Vajin in 3rd another 2mins back. Dana Paton took out the Womens race in 2hr 45 followed not far back by Leah Hircshfeld and Jess Nugteren.
So how wrong I was, I really enjoyed the technical challenge of the race and the physical nature of the course, every bit as challenging as Avalanche Peak but much more accessible and achievable for many people looking for a well organised, well run event in a cool location.
Thanks Kerry and Emily for organising a great event, Ultimate Direction for supporting a great event and to Bivouac/Outdoor for helping me out!