We got off to a fast start with the cold south west drizzle at our necks. I kept pace at the back of the front bunch and although I often like a gradual start, I felt rather comfortable at that speed. Sadly, this comfort was short lived. With Ron King and I neck and neck in the series, I knew I had to be about my business from the gun in this fourth episode. Around 15 minutes in, Ron had caught back up and took off while I stumbled down the singletrack in hypoxic uncoordination. I couldn’t even keep pace with Old Simon who usually canes the uphill and struggles back down. The next 15 minutes were filled with pain and regret from the swift start. But come the second time down that goat track, I had got into my game and careened after Ron whom I had held to about a 100m gap.
On the steady climb back up the gravel road, I pulled back behind the King, determined to stick close enough to contest the finish. We were sitting just outside the top 10. The pattern of Ron dominating any downhill and me pulling him back in on the climbs continued. I vividly remember having a chuckle when we turned a right hander onto a gravel road and Ron, ever the cyclist, looked both ways as he entered the intersection. Ron’s cycling focus had given me some cause for hope going into this race. His passion for the Tour de France meant he had survived on minimal sleep for three weeks. I thought this just might give me an edge. It turns out watching may have deprived him of sleep but infused him with passion and the determination to hurt.
The first half of the course was quite unlike last year’s course. Instead of one grunty hill, there were three. I have to apologise to the poor souls that I told this was one of the flatter courses. However the last half didn’t have the sustained climbs, but provided plenty of leg-sapping undulations and the sandy whoops that are ubiquitous in Woodhill. Somewhere around halfway Ron, Simon and I pulled into the second to last drink station. The other two were 20m ahead, and when Simon took a short walk to drink, Ron made his move. A great tactic – as he always carries fluid with him, he had no need to slow down to sip. Simon took off after him, and once I had grabbed my drink, I followed.
By now there were plenty of other racers on the course, so lots of feet to follow but also feet to get caught behind. Again, everyone was very obliging to let me through when requested. I caught up to Simon and stayed with him for a bit, before realising that this terrain was not his forte and Ron was pulling away again. I made a move, determined not to let Ron escape my view. And so for the next 4-5 km I slowly reduced the 80m gap. The end of this section was hard, because I could tell we were heading home, but it turned out the carpark was much further away then I had picked. By the time we got back on the gravel road, I had pulled the gap back to 30m, but this blew out again in the ensuing forest section behind the finish area as I faded after my long catchup.
I took a final shot of gel at the last drink station and steeled myself for another effort. The track followed a series of gradual climbs in the de-wooded forest. I could see Ron ahead and worked solidly to reduce the gap. By the top, I had pulled it back to 20m again.
The last part of the race sees the course circumnavigate the finish area. Over the river section of this, I must have dropped slightly because at the top of the final climb I would guess Ron had pulled away to 30-40m lead. I was hurting, I had gone out hard and kept pushing the whole way. The whoops section was a slight reprieve but otherwise I had really been worked on this whole course. But there was 1km to go, and I had to give it a bash. I launched down the final gravel road. I pulled up close to Ron, my HR nearing 95%Max despite going downhill. And then he turned and saw me. Ron gave another effort and surged. I could only half muster a response. On the final straights I sprinted, but at the last corner I could tell he was out of striking distance, and I eased up for the finish. I crossed the line completely spent.
Up front, Martin Debock went one better than Waiuku and secured his first superlong Xterra win, taking it out over Nick Hirschfeld in another sprint finish. Shot Martin!
Big congratulations to Ron, who made it hurt – we now have 2 wins each in our MEC battle. Speaking of MEC battles: In the Corporate Battle, Todd Calkin and Charles Belcher were pacing off each other. Todd nursed his sore knee down the hills and ran a fat burner (no food during or before). He ran it real well to cross the line in 2:02, with Charles 5 minutes back. And in the Battle of the West (superlong) Jacob Parsons pulled one over Mathew Raffills, after running together he took off near the finish and did his best to stay ahead of Mat who had a tough day battling illness as well as the course. In the Battle of the West (Mid) David Milmine had his first victory over Francois Guttenit, with them finishing less than a minute apart.
So where does this leave me?
Well I’m very happy with my uphill performance, Im feeling about my strongest ever.
Downhill performance – slightly unhappy here, something I have dropped a bit. More work needed.
The other area of work is in speed endurance, I want to develop my ground speed when fatigued. I’m plannin’ a couple of sets that should address this. Will be interesting to see how this goes.
Maungakiekie Endurance Club Roll of Honour
Martin DeBock 1:36:26.62
Ron King 1:48:18.07
Michael Hale 1:48:29.07
David Clark 1:58:50.20
Todd Calkin 2:02:06.22
Charles Belcher 2:07:55.43
Jacob Parsons 2:38:14.73
Mathew Raffills 2:41:40.44
David Milmine 1:11:33.18
Francois Guittenit 1:11:58.26
Olivia Maclean 1:27:16.49