It seemed to take for ever to get into the Winter season this year. The first race was today – the 20.5k xterra offroad run at Shakespear reserve in Whangaparaoa, and I had been itching to get out and race.
I took off just behind the leaders from the start. I had a goal of a top 5 place, and trying to preserve my unbeaten record over Ron King (aka Major Kong) at this venue. Ron went past me and I lifted the intensity to keep close as we wound our way uphill. We settled in 5th and 6th place as we ran along the ridgeline at the top, and held these positions down the grassy plummet and through the bush section before popping out on the Northern Beach to begin our coastal section. I knew the start would hurt, and I was correct. Got to the beach in very similar time to last year. The plan was to consolidate on this section. However I managed to just work my way slowly backwards through the front of the field. I could see Ron up ahead, duking it out in a bunch. Then along went Caleb Pearson, and try as I may I couldn’t keep pace. Still, it was great knowing that three MEC runners were in the top 10!
As we rounded the southern tip of the peninsula in our clockwise circumnavigation we had a bit of ‘water interaction’. The sudden cold seemed to wake me up and I managed to take back two positions. Along Te Haruhi beach I could see Ron and Caleb in their group of five battling about 90 seconds ahead. I was pleased to see that I could really lift the intensity on the hard sand, and was making a bit of ground up. A sneaky stitch then made an appearance and I fought in vain to ignore it.
We had a great crew at this race, Todd was running and Brent Kelly (new to MEC) had been convinced by someone at a wedding the night before to come and race.
Off the beach section I still felt a touch flat but made myself work hard regardless. I had a dude in a red shirt (Kent Hale) to try and drop and I pushed the uphills and flew down again to shake him. Finally on the top of the big climb I broke free and pushed on. I couldnt tell where anyone in my race was with all the other events on, but made sure I gave an honest effort all the same. Lo and behold, I came upon Caleb near the top of the final climb. I knew Ron was out of reach, but it felt good to pass and move into 2nd MEC runner for the day. A final dash along the beach with a ninja roll/frontwards fall in the sand-dunes (I’m calling it a ninja roll, OK?) and I finished just under 1 hour 35, with Caleb close behind.
A great day to run with the lads, and although I wasn’t quite on top form I felt I pushed hard despite this, which I am happy with. Great to see Brent score a top-20 finish in his first ever race – and great to have 3 MEC runners in the top 7!
4th Ron King 1:32:22
6th Mike Hale 1:34:57
7th Caleb Pearson 1:35:24
18th Brent Kelly 1:44:19
48th Todd Calkin 1:56:11