Reefs and Ridges – Xterra 2 at Shakespear

Race two saw our merry group take on the rolling hills and rocky coastline of Shakespear reserve. This has been the setting for some fiercely competitive battles for the MEC (see  2010 report). We had a few regular MEC runners unable to make the event so it was extra good to be joined by Ron’s Glendowie gang.

Mens Superlong report            Michael Hale

With the sun playing peekaboo behind the clouds and a mild to fresh south west wind blowing we took off and straight up a hill. The course was the same as last year, with a lower tide allowing for reasonably good comparison of times. Ron “The” King had promised to start conservatively and stick to my heel for the start of this race. This has not been something that Ron has normally practiced – usually shooting off at the gun and never being seen again. However this time he was able to control the urge and plodded along with me in about 30th position. Lichtwark was up 5 positions or so. Matty Raffills was diligent in sticking to his steady pace, aiming to finish strong. He was absent the company of Jacob Parsons, who had inadvertently surrendered the battle of the West to Raffs, by forgetting his shoes and recording a DNS.

The road winds upward for a km from the start, then turns east onto the farmland where a punchy hill slowed the pace of the pack. A fun drop down through some native bush tracks took the group out to the beach at 3.5km, where we had a drink station and a cheer from Stu and Jenny Hale. The positions of our front group of MEC men were steady at this point. Once on the rocky shore, Hale and King started to catch the racers in front. After a km on the rocks, they caught Lichtwark, and were surprised in seeing him not stick to their group. Last year this group of three duelled it out over the entire 20.5km course.

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.

We swung into Te Haruhi bay, about the half way point, in just under 50 minutes. We pushed into the strong headwind and the last 2km of rocky section. Along this section Camelpak pulled ahead, followed closely by King and Hale. Up onto the beach and the second aid station, I stopped to grab a couple of glasses and was passed again by one of our bunch. I put in a little effort to catch back up to Ron as we ground our way back up the original punchy hill, which was now very muddy from hundreds of footsteps. I caught Ron when he took a cheeky walk (sorry – “power hike”) on this hill. He then, as expected, caught me back on the downhill bomb back to sea level. I don’t know anyone who can beat him down crazy drops. This took us into the muddy flats before we hit the second, and most brutal of the final four climbs.

There were scores of people walking around us. Ron was the first to succumb to the urge, and I pushed on and established a break, and then took a walk myself – a nasty piece of hill for sure. Back up on my toes, I hit it up the rest of the hill, hoping I could drop the wily King and give myself a buffer for his sure-return on the next downhill. I grabbed about 80 metres buy the top and bypassed the drink station to keep the pressure on. We crested the ridge, then dropped down another beautiful bush section. A shoe lace untied – Damn! I thought I would leave it and risk the trip but decided to re-tie it if a good opportunity developed. A park bench on the side of the trail gave me such a moment and I surged back in front of the cheeky ponies who passed me while I was occupied.

By now my calves were really tweaked. I think the leaping over the rocks had taken its toll. My glutes and quads felt strong, but the uphills were punishing me. Down a steep grassy/muddy hill I ploughed – in retrospect I was probably a little less aggressive and less driven than last year, where I was both trying not to be caught by Ron, and trying to catch Mike (the perfect incentives for a runner). At the bottom of this hill I caught a glimpse of Ron, now just 30m back. I grizzled my way up the last hill, thankful that this is exactly what Tawharanui is like. It might hurt, but at least my body has been here recently. I could now see Camelpak only 40m up on me. Again, my drive to catch him was a little poor, knowing that he was in a different race and I was at the point of flaking away. At least I could tell that the gap had increased a touch back to Ron.
I flew down the final hill – again some more singletrack in the bush. I took a bail on a hairpin left hander where the chicken wire had come off the wood – nicely exposing the slimy wet surface for you to slip on, and providing some sharp metal edges to break your fall. Lovely. I picked myself up and after just 10 seconds was able to settle my rage as I heard the poor sod behind me hit the deck and scream out in pain. I have never seen so many bloodied knees at the end of a run.

Onto Te Haruhi bay and the final flat 700m. Camelpak – 30m ahead, King – 40m behind. I dug it in to hold my gap on Ron. At times I would get close to Camelpak, then drift again. The legs were very weary, and once I worked out I was safe from The King, my mind was not in the zone to push through for the next guy. I crossed in 1:32:17, about 2 minutes up on last years time. Ron was twenty seconds back. We were 11th and 12th. A good sign of the increased competition – we would have been 4th and 5th with these times last year. So a good effort, and once again a great duel at Shakespear.

Bring on Waiuku.

MEC / Glendowie Roll of Honour

Female Short

Victoria Travers 1:01:15.06 41st

Male Mid

Francois Guittenit 1:01:12.91 38th

David Milmine 1:05:30.35  51st

Female Long

Tina Lundkvist 1:47:33 11th

Male Long

David Clark 1:28:56 7th (Masters)

Male Superlong

Michael Hale 1:32:17.22 11th

The Ron King 1:32:37.23 12th

Mike Lichtwark 1:36:55.60 14th

Mathew Raffills 2:03:16.09 52nd

Ido Drent 2:12:00.33 60th

Todd Calkin 2:12:01.46 61st

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