As I had done the NZ mountain running champs last year I was keen to go and give it another crack…. small problem though, only a few weeks after GODZone and on the back of Coast to Coast… not to mention the concussion, leg cut, broken rib and the sprained wrist I had picked from all this ridiculous activity.
It was only a last minute decision to enter before the entries closed as I felt like I was finally coming right after everything I had put myself through. Friday night I headed up to Lake Rotoiti, camped the night and watched the start of Loop the Lake before heading up to Mt Campbell. I secretly was wishing that I was running Loop the Lake as it sounded much more fun than 14km and 1300m climb against the best in the country. None the less despite the course not being the most interesting in the world its always good to test yourself up against the best. Sadly Tim Robertson was unable to make it because of his flight being cancelled from Wellington so Nick Hann was pretty happy to see someone he knew turn up.
Nick and I did a short warm up, up the road where we were about to race. Having rained all week the sun was shining through and it was up into the 20s right before the start. This time on the start line there was no nervousness from me, I seem to be getting more and more comfortable standing on the start line, and before we knew it it was all on. I quickly slipped out the front with the lead group of 5 of us and we stuck pretty close together for the first 1km.
I was feeling good, I was even holding back a little there for a while, but it didn’t last long. As the race settled into a rhythm I suddenly felt myself slip off the back of the pack unable to maintain the same speed as those guys all of a sudden. Dallas was also just of the back and I thought I could possibly just stick with him for a bit, but gradually he opened the gap on me too. From about 3kms in he disappeared out of sight and I was left to grind my way up the hill by myself.
Internally I battled with the thought of pulling out this early on in the race, but eventually I won out and kept going. I really struggled to justify stopping but the determined side of me keep pushing me along. About 5 or 6kms in I started to believe I could do it again and I stole a glance behind me. Soon enough 6th place came from behind and went on straight past me, dropping me back into 6th. I thought I had maybe gained a bit back on the flat section but the second steep section soon put any hopes of getting close again to 5th place on hold. I pretty much just looked at the ground, focused on putting one foot in front of the other and put my body into suffer mode. Strangely enough my legs felt fine and it was just my cardiovascular system that seemed to be struggling this time around.
Eventually the steepness leveled out, it felt like I was getting close to the end, and I was. There was one more final challenge to get to the finish and I could see it there in front of me but first of all we had to kill of a tiny bit of hard gained altitude. More suffering ensued but I forced myself not to walk and run the entire way. I spotted a chaser behind me and it looked like he was gaining on a switchback, which brought the race mindset back for me. I worked hard and even started to feel a little bit better and finally I caught sight of the finish. One final push to get there and once across the finish line was a nice little spot to take a quick little lie down!
Having given my build up over the last few months I was pretty happy just to make it to the start and even happier to make it across the finish line. I went in to do my best, knowing that I was still recovering, and I think I did by finishing 6th place. nick was not too far behind and took 9th place which as a first year Senior was pretty awesome, and the great thing about Nick is he is really keen to do better to be faster not only in Orienteering but whatever kind of race he is running in. Watch out, cause give him a few years and I’m sure he will be challenging the best in Running circles as well as in Orienteering.