Sunday, August 31, 2014

Xterra #6 - Riverhead

The rain drumming on the roof on Saturday night boded a miserable race day, but by dawn the rain had eased to light drizzle. This made for a perfect running climate but also meant that Riverhead was resplendent in its full muddy glory.

The crowd at the start line seemed smaller than usual and as we set off there seemed to be less congestion than the first race at Riverhead three months ago. The course began with a short section of gravel before heading into single track. At Riverhead single track pretty much means clay, and clay plus rain equals lots and lots of mud. Slippery mud, sticky mud, thick mud, sloppy mud, puddles of mud - the works. The downhills proved quite entertaining as grownups slithered around like toddlers on an ice rink. There were plenty of spectacular tumbles! Chris Hope claimed that he found the descents easy because it was simply "controlled falling". Personally, I tend more toward 'controlled' rather than 'falling' but there were plenty who appeared well acquainted with the latter.

The 4wd roads had numerous large vehicle-size mud puddles which I diligently avoided as there was no telling how deep they were. The gravel roads were simply a necessary evil and as usual lots of people passed me on these sections. Thankfully these road stints were shorter than I had been expecting from the map. Malcolm Law caught up just before halfway and we had a bit of a chat before embarking on a game of leapfrog which continued all the way to the finish. One thing which I have enjoyed about the Xterra Series is the feeling of camaraderie which develops from running with some of the same people at each race, most of whom I don't even know by name.

The course was mostly runnable (apart from a few slippery uphills) and I really enjoyed it. Definitely seemed to be a nicer course than the first Xterra race at Riverhead. I ran at a comfortable long distance pace, picking up the intensity a little over the last 7km. 2:12 for a muddy 21km was a morning well spent.

Photos thanks to Photos4sale

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Waihi Reconnaissance

Spent a glorious day in the bush near Waihi today running 40km of fantastic bush tracks as reconnaissance for the XTerra Waihi 60km in October.

Emma, Heather, and Claire

The first of many river crossings

Nearing Franklin Road

At the edge of Ananui Falls.

160m straight down!
Ananui Falls

Looking out towards Matakana Island.
(Mt Maunganui on the far right)

Daly's Clearing Hut

Click here for a map of our route

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Xterra #5 - Waharau

I had been looking forward to this race in the Hunua Ranges as it was touted as the most technical of the Xterra series, with lots of climbing and proper bush single track. It did not disappoint!

 The event base was set up at a superb location with grassy flats, native bush, a small stream, and sheep grazing peacefully nearby. Idyllic. A short race briefing at the start line as usual, but Dave forgot to mention the two closed gates within the first few hundred meters. Agility was a bonus here as I simply climbed over the gates rather than queuing up for the stile. I had been warned that the single track started fairly soon so I pushed a little harder than I normally would from the start so as not to be caught up in any traffic jams. A kilometer or so of gently uphill gravel before we turned right and headed steeply up the Upper Link track and then onto the Waharau Ridge to the first aid station at 4.5km. It was a bit of a game of cat-and-mouse as people jostled for position but I encountered no real issues with congestion. I reached the aid station in 35 minutes and headed right onto the Super long course while the Longies turned left. Ahead of us lay a glorious 10km loop of rugged single track over the highest point in the Hunua Ranges (and the Auckland region) at 688m.

The wide downhill track to a stream was nice to stretch the legs after the relentless climb, then it was a few kilometers up the Mangatangi Ridge towards Kohukohunui Trig (688m). I was relishing the bush and technical trails and felt completely at home, despite never having run in the Hunuas before. The field was very spread out which meant I was free to run at my own pace. I reached the trig in 1:25 hours and was almost tempted to climb the lookout tower but instead carried on down the nice long section of undulating muddy downhill. This was so much fun and I wanted this track to just keep on going! Many of the knobs on Kohukohunui Track were grassy, providing excellent views towards the Firth of Thames and the Coromandel Peninsula, as well as occasionally back towards the Hauraki Gulf.

I flew through the aid station at 15km and began the long, long descent back towards the event base. I'm sure the descent was longer than the ascent at the beginning! I was still feeling great and in some ways I wished we could do another loop. After a glorious run I finished strongly in 2:46 hours. This course definitely suited my strengths and is the best race of the Xterra series!

Once again a huge thankyou to Photos4sale for their support of my racing this year.

Photos by Photos4sale