Over the past few years there has been a bit of a decline of small time multisport races around the place, but the lions Club in Rakaia decided to buck this trend and arranged the Salmon run this year. The race involved a bunch bike ride, a short run to the kayaks, a river paddle on the Rakaia and then finished with a run around the river bank, finishing back where we started in Rakaia. To quote yet another Christchurch sporting hero, this time Steve Gurney, you only get one chance to race the Inaugural race… and since I hadn’t really been up to much racing this year I thought it was a good chance to blow some cobwebs out!
Thursday night I did something that I don’t really do for such a short race and planned out the race in quite some detail! This proved to be pretty valuable in hind sight, it calmed me down a bit (I was getting a bit nervous!) and those that maybe were not quite as organised suffered a bit in transition. Also instrumental was picking a good support crew, I’ve done quite a bit of racing with Hilary the last few years but due to a back injury she needed a hand and called in Emma.
We timed the set up pretty perfectly, getting the boat down to the water and back to the briefing right on time. However the briefing took a little bit longer than I had time for so the last few minutes were a bit of a rush, but I made it there just in time anyway! I was a bit to the back of the bunch to start with but I quickly made my way into the front group. Right from the outset one guy rode off the front and stayed there about 300m in front of us most of the way. The group started off quite well, everyone doing their bit and rotating well. Quickly we made it to the first turn and there was a bit of confusion from us and the marshals. Unfortunately for one guy, he was not paying quite enough attention, there was a little bit of loose gravel and he made contact with Steve Gurney, he went down just in front of me while Steve went careering off into the grass at the side of the road. Luckily I stayed out of trouble and continued riding along upright. The pace of the bunch from this point on was a bit erratic and things turned into a bit of a mess. We went from being in two really organised lines rotating clockwise and then anticlockwise and then single file for a while. I managed to ride off the front of the bunch two or three times as no one seemed to be behind me to take over once I took to the front….each time I was tempted to keep going but reason crept into my thinking and logic prevailed. I stayed with the bunch right unto to transition.
I was quickly off my bike and changed into my running shoes so quickly that I was surprised no one else was already running down to the kayaks, which caused me to pause for 1/2 a second. Soon enough I was away running trying to get as much ground on the chasers as I could so hopefully I could hold them off for a bit of the paddle at least. Thanks to my support crew I was quickly into my boat with my shoes on, second onto the river.
I planned to paddle with my shoes on as it made two less shoe transitions but I hadnt really tested this out in my boat before the race. As a result the first 15-20mins of the paddle I was feeling a little unstable and had one or two close calls. Sam Goodall was the first to go flying past early on, Tim Pearson came next, then Steve Gurney. It was a good 20mins by the time Ian Huntsman and Jordan Person passed me. I managed to keep Jordan within reach right until the end. My aim with the paddle was to not loose too much ground on the top paddlers. Obviously having only paddled for a couple of years and new to my boat, kayaking is not particularly my strong point but by the end of the paddle I still had those top 4-5 kayakers in sight.
The end of the paddle I was quickly out of my boat, up and running quite quickly, I had Jordan right in front as a good carrot to pick off which set the tempo early on. It almost felt like I was cheating a bit by pulling out my trump card on the final leg. Ian and Steve were quickly left in the dust, then third place was picked off across the rough ground of the riverbed. By the time I got close to Tim I was starting to get myself into a good running rhythm. Up the hill and I had 1st place in sight quite a long way off. A quick look at my watch and I could see I was only a 3rd of the way through so a little encouraging that I could at least get closer by the end.
The lead stayed at a good 300m for quite a long time, all the way until we were back on the riverstones, my favourite kind of terrain. The lead came down quickly then, but I still bided my time gradually reeling Sam in. Then slowly but surely it was all a matter of time, I ended up on the back of his heels, initially I thought if he was going to put up a fight Id have to put in extra effort, so I tested it for a few seconds but quickly realised that Id have to slow down a bit and by this point i was into a good rhythm so I just went for it. Once the gap was there, the door opened wide and I had the last few minutes to myself. There wasn’t actually too much runway left as the distance to the finish turned out to be about 2 km shorter than they had advertised so I was glad I had made my move when I had. As always I finished strongly, sprinting across the line (as every second counts!) to take 1st place, just a minute or two over Sam in 2nd place.
For me it was a great race, I put it together well, had a great support crew and had everything fall into place as planned, which resulted in an individual win for me, something I haven’t managed this year up until this point. Thanks heaps to Emma and Hilary for making sure I was eating and drinking properly, strapped up properly, geared up properly as well as their support crewing!! It made my day much more enjoyable and much more rewarding knowing I could count on them at transition!