The Mud and Sun at Race One

Riverhead Xterra Offroad Run Report – Michael Hale

22 May 2011

A wise piece of advice from Todd before I started – ‘take it slow to start and finish strong’. Good words with which to dispel my concern. You see, I have been looking forward to this series for a couple of months now, my training has been strong and focussed and I’m in great shape. Then the day finally arrives – a gorgeous sunlit and still morning. And so my biggest battle is now with my expectations. On such a day of promise, how can I live up to all that I have imagined? The answer – hold back, don’t run for ego, and let the joy take me.

So that’s what I tried to do. My usual conservative start seemed amplified today – instead of 20-30 peeps taking off up ahead, there were 50-60. But I stuck at my game as we slugged our way up 3kms of Barlow Rd.

I started to hit my straps after 10 minutes, and soon found myself catching up on the runners ahead. Ron had not lived up to his “I will take the start easy” pre race mission statement, and had already moved up about 50 metres on me (OK that is slower than usual for Ron). But now I held the gap with him, and we progressed through the field in unison.

Ron had recorded his name as “The King” on his entry this year. On the downhills he was emphatic in declaring his rulership – flying past any and all. On the uphill, there were other challengers to the throne. We caught a lean veteran going down some muddy fire trail and pulled away, only to have him come past again on the next uphill. But through the technical singletrack ‘old man uphill’ couldn’t pick the lines or hack the pace and I raced ahead with a cackle, with Ron moving swiftly past him too.

This characterised the first third of the course. Having given many people a head start, I was now working my merry way through, running solidly, and having a blast. The trails were a joy. There was mud, as you would expect from Riverhead, but a few dry days this week meant there wasn’t much of a bog (except at the finish). The course was undulating, with several steep and very steep hills, but none of these lasted too long (100m was the biggest climb). The twisty single track was a joy, and the organisers had avoided too much forestry metal road, which was appreciated.

Just before half way, I pulled away from Ron a bit and caught some fulla with a camelbak. I got on his shoulder and proceeded to follow him around the course. Right to the finish in fact. He was tough – I couldn’t find a type of terrain on which I was superior than him so I just made it my mission to hang on. There were times when climbing some very steep clay trails that I thought I would drop, as my legs were starting to feel those sections particularly. But then a nice downhill would give me enough recovery to catch back up.

After our super-long extension, we re-connected with the long course at an aid station, and were told that we were in 7th and 8th and the finish was 3k away. I took these words as good loose indicators, but as I have previously been burnt by placing too much faith in well-intentioned-but-completely-and-utterly-inaccurate updates,  I braced myself for a tough finish. I thought it would come down to a sprint, as he couldn’t shake me, but I didn’t think I could break him with a surge either. So we powered along – his pace obviously lifted following the drink stop. The course began to get a lot more slippy – we were now travelling behind the long and short course racers, who were very decent about letting us run through as we duelled along the mudded path.

I could now see and hear the finish area and knew that we would be taken on an out and back loop before coming to the end. If wished I only knew where the finish line was exactly to help time my move. We were now really lifting the pace despite having little traction and many puddles to crash through. I just needed to stay on his shoulder so I could unleash once I saw the finish. Around yet another muddy corner and then we saw a competitor in our super long race – the only one we had seen for about 45 minutes. Tama Christenson, a young triathlete of some note, was moving rather slow to the finish, with a group of 4-5 short course athletes just ahead of him. Maybe we could catch him? As we bounced over the final bridge and into a little muddy gully, I could at last see the finish line up ahead – 100m away. The camelpak brother took the inside line to get past the slower runners, I went just outside of him, pushing hard. Then a slip, stumble, stumble. Arms-outstretched, I fell toward the ground as my foot ploughed into an unseen mudhole. I was mad at this incident robbing me of precious momentum and deflating my sails as I prepared to bring the kick. But I had managed to not bail completely and I let rip a full noise,  ugly-faced, 100% effort and sprinted for the line. I drew even with Camelpak and we headed toward the line together. He was fast too, and I couldn’t sail past. We hit the line in a deadheat and crashed full-speed into Christenson. I still don’t know who won the duel.

In other news, The King outdid all early season expectations and came in 3 minutes behind. Our defending MEC Xterra Champ – watch out for him.

I’m not sure of how everyone did yet and would love to hear your stories too – so send them to me or Chuck to post on the website.

What I do know is that I ran an excellent race. Well paced, feeling the joy and giving it my all. Not to mention being part of a super team of great people to share the day with. Exactly how I would have hoped my season would start.

Maungakiekie Roll of Honour:

Male Mid Course Francois Guittenit  1:16:56

Male Mid Course David Milmine 1:17:10

Female Mid Course Liv McLean 1:39:20

Female Super Long Gael Spence 2:37:57

Male Super Long Michael Hale 1:48:38

Male Super Long Ron King 1:51:51

Male Super Long Todd Calkin 2:07:18

Male Super Long Charles Belcher 2:07:18

Male Super Long Mathew Raffills 2:34:41

Male Super Long Jacob Parsons 2:43:08

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5 thoughts on “The Mud and Sun at Race One

  1. Should add that the guy Mike was sprinting into the chute with was Sam Manson, a junior (under 20) so an Open placing wasn’t up for grabs.

    Thanks for thje report Mike – though would rephrase the sentence “Just before half way, I pulled away from Ron a bit”, to “Just before half way, I launched a blistering attack clearing everyone off my heels”.

    Personally I gotta go with your MEC Leadville motto for my Sunday result – have no idea where that run came from. Paying the price today, am walking with great difficulty.

    Still, think I am slowly picking up some running strategy from MEC. Was my most restrained start ever, and started walking up hills to manage efforts very early on. Only really managed to pick others off on the downhill and filthy/technical sections.

    Thankfully had enough in the tank to really cut loose and fang it round the last 2km of fantastic mud. Love that Riverhead finishing loop.

  2. Thanks Ron. You pulled one out of the bag yesterday for the amount of running you’ve been upto (or are you just sharking us all?). I knew you would be loving the mud – I was perky as a pig in the proverbial myself. So Camelbak was a junior? Probably best that I didn’t know, might of taken it a bit easier and that just wouldnt be as good. The ol’ calves are really feeling it today. Hope they will be functional enough to make the Tuesday night run.

    • Yeah, Tuesday night might better be described as recovery hobble if today is anything to go by.

      You can see a full and honest account of all my training/active transport on Endomondo! Only explanation for run is that fixie riding is reasonable cross training.

      Hope to see a few more MEC members signing up to it so we can get a couple of routes and leaderboards up.

  3. […] But if Lichtwark was an easy pass, there would be no easy shaking off of The King. He held pace with me across the rocks, which he is known to not enjoy. A surge or two were not sufficient to shake him, for he held tight as a sun-baked sheep dag. In fact, he took the front and began setting the pace for a while, as we dropped NZ Mountain Running rep Ruby Muir and were joined by 3 other runners – including Sam “Camelpak” from race 1. […]

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