Maungatautari Mission is a multisport race near Cambridge comprised of a 32km road cycle, 15 km run, 12km road cycle, and 10km paddle. This is one of my favourite multisport courses.
I have to credit Maungatautari Mission for discovering my passion for trail running. Back in 2010 I did the event (my 2nd ever multisport race) and absolutely loved the steep, muddy and rooty run leg. That's when I decided that I was a runner.
This year I trialled a new training scheme: reverse tapering. The idea is simple - take it easy for several weeks (months!) then cram in a few intense training sessions during the week before the event. For added benefit, decide to enter only 2 days beforehand. Better still, decide that you are not doing the race then change your mind at the last minute!
It was fairly mild when we arrived at registration although there was light fog about. The race starts with a fast and flat road cycle with bunches forming fairly quickly. Woe betide those who are left to go it alone. The gun went off but my cold legs refused to sprint to stay with the bunch. Luckily within a few hundred metres I was passed by the DC Ducks traverse team and I managed to hold their wheel for the entire 32km.
The first transition was at the top of Tari Road by the pest-proof fence surrounding Maungatautari Mountain. Apparently this is the world's longest pest-proof fence! A slick transition into running gear and I was off up the trail. Dad reckoned that there were 5 women ahead of me at this stage. As far as I can remember I haven't done any bike/run sessions this year so it took a while for my legs to shake into running properly. Right from the start I was picking people off, and this was to continue all the way to the top. The climb begins fairly gently on a gravelled track but before long we reached the old trail in all its glory. This track is narrow and rooty and before long gets really steep. And I mean steep! In several places you even have climb up roots like a ladder. It eases off a bit on reaching the rocky Pukeatua peak (753m) and the next 2.5 km to the summit (797m) gradually get muddier and muddier. The big mud holes indicate the final few hundred metres. I caught up to a bunch of people here and took the opportunity to pass them by charging straight through the mud. Descending from the summit is even muddier and just as steep and rooty. Part way down we passed a group of trampers coming up, and one of them evidently recognised me from the Double Rainbow last weekend and commented that "You're racing this weekend as well!". We were in the cloud almost the whole way over the mountain and it was fun running through the dripping bush as everything felt so fresh. It was also nice to hear the tuis singing and I even saw a tomtit beside the track. Eventually we were spat out onto the gravel perimeter road, then down a couple of paddocks for the last 3km down Hicks Road. Just as I reached the road I passed another woman whom I correctly guessed to be Rachel Cashin.
I knew I'd had a good run, but when I arrived at the transition Dad told me that he hadn't seen any other women come through and encouraged me to put everything I had into the last couple of stages. Jumping onto the bike for the short ride to Lake Karapiro I had to keep reminding myself to ignore my sore muscles as I didn't have to save my legs for anything else.
The kayak was where I struggled the most. Right from the start I had weed caught around my rudder, and despite stopping to clear it 3 times over the 10km there was simply so much weed floating around that very soon my rudder would be fouled up again. I focused on putting power into each stroke but by halfway I was beginning to fade. At any time I expected to be overtaken by Rachel but I found out later that she had been held up at the run/bike transition with a flat tyre. With less than 2km go to, Rachel finally came zooming past and I watched as she hit the beach and ran up toward the finish. I followed suit and crossed the line in 5:02:19, less than a minute and a half after Rachel. Shanel Cornielle had beaten us by over 20 minutes but I was elated to get 3rd place.
Did my 'reverse tapering' work? Yes.
Would normal training have worked better? Probably.
Did I have fun? Absolutely!
Thanks to Richard Clark from the Boatshed Cafe for organising the race and getting it back on the calendar. Also thanks to Kevin Deane Harcourts for supporting the event.