Coastal Challenge 10 (2012)

For a race without any hills, the Coastal sure takes it out of you. I guess it’s the constant strength-sapping lunges you make from rock to rock or the wading through thigh deep water. In any case, it feels a lot longer than its 33k.

But I knew that, this being my eighth attack on the course, and so I paced myself accordingly. I took it easy from the start, and by the first rocky corner was in about 40th place. The rocks at high tide force a single-file snake of guys running the slippery trail, and this effectively sealed me in my position for the next 2o minutes. This gave me cause for concern as I could see the front runners already over a minute ahead after just five minutes of running. On the flipside, being sandwiched in made it easier to ensure I took it easy on these rocks. You can ramp your effort right up, but it only serves to increase your pace marginally on these slippery surfaces – better to hold it in the tank for when you can really unleash.

I made the most of the two swims – choosing a good line and pulling away from several others across the Wade River. Then on the Okura Estuary, I lined up the other side, 500-600 meters away and went for it. It was quite a trip. The tide had turned and with a strong SW wind as well, there was a constant chop to contend with. It’s easy to feel a bit insecure on these swims – your legs heavy with shoes, often with no one else around you. So the chop made it feel all the more hairy.

But that suited me and again I pulled through the field. Not quite as much as our man Chris Blake who overtook about 30 guys on this section. He was having a great day on his first ever coastal run. I got out of the water just behind James Kuegler, who had been part of the front bunch, so that was encouraging. I set off on the run around the point to Long Bay and found a rhythm over the rugged terrain. James took off ahead, but he took a spill and I caught him shortly after that. I ran into Long Bay, the first third done in 1:18 – around four minutes slower than last year and in about 9th position. With a 3.2m tide about 40 minutes after the start, this was about bang on schedule.

It was real pleasant to run through Long Bay and not have to shimmy through the throngs of runners and walkers starting there. I was running comfortably with Chris Wharam, and we see-sawed back and forth, sharing the lead. This second third is super fun – less people, but just as much carnage. There were some decent waves crashing in as we rounded the points into Torbay and Browns Bay and I couldn’t help but hoot with delight as I got thrown around in the waves. I was feeling good, and keeping my pace constant on the beach sections, while allowing a bit of a break over the rocks. I moved ahead of Chris and some other guy and pulled into Milford with a split of 1:15 or so – a couple mins faster than last year.

The hordes were released at Milford – just before I got there! I arrived to chase down these 11k runners. This was easy on the beaches but I had to walk a bit on the rocky paths around the points. I wrote these off as ‘enforced rests’ and took off when the opportunity arose. The tide was much lower by then and I knew that this last third was very runable. It’s also where the wheels can really come off as people succumb to the cumulative effects of 3 hours at pace over gnarly terrain.

I was still hauling along, although the right knee was aching and I was a bit tired. At this stage in the game, I felt that I was better than average. Around one of the last points a guy asked if I was in the 22 or 33k. He told me I was coming 6th. Excellent. “How far ahead is the next guy?” “Just over there”.  I looked up and saw ‘Big’ Ed Hyde only 50m away, working his way toward Cheltenham Beach. I yelled “It’s on then!” and took off in pursuit.

Cheltenham beach is the last section of beach before a 1 mile road run to the finish. I noticed that Ed was running with another familiar character, speedy Sam Manson – and Sam wasn’t looking good. I drew even with Sam on the sand, he made an effort to stick but couldn’t hold it. Then I lined up Ed and caught him as we made our way over the soft dry sand to the road. This was thrilling – a three way battle at the finish of a three hour race! I was pumped and attacked the short climb out of Cheltenham, hoping to put some distance on Ed. As I dropped back down to the Devonport side, I could see that Ed was 50m back, but another figure was just 10-20m behind me. I just kept the pace as sharp as I could, as I hung on toward the finish. A few desperate checks revealed that the dude was not in the 33 race, so I let him draft behind me as we ploughed straight into the headwind. He unleashed the inevitable sprint to the finish, but I was glad to just be sure that Sam and Ed were well back.

I crossed in 3:25:20, in fourth place.

It was a great run. I’m really happy with how I paced myself. It’s hard to hold back in the field when you think you will be top 10, but the patient approach paid off.  I would say this race was probably my best ever at the Coastal. I have been higher up (2nd, 3rd) but this field (like 2011) was much stronger than those early events. So, a very successful late entry – making the most out of the endurance I am carrying as I head toward Tarawera 100.

And I’ve got to mention the prowess of the MEC:

Chris Blake, in his first Coastal, his longest run ever, lays it down with a 3:51 and comes 12th! Amazing effort.

Alan Lichtwark returns to the event and shows us how it’s done. His 3:54 placed him 15th overall, and a clear first in the Legend (>60yrs) division. No one over 40 was able to beat him either. Wow.

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