Shakespear is always a favorite race of mine, and I was stoked to manage to make it again this year for the 3rd year running. My lead up had been reasonably good – I’ve been relatively injury free this year, although fitting regular training in around a very busy work & family schedule has been a challenge.
This year the course had been modified with the 2nd coastal section being replaced with a hill climb & farm downhill as well as a bush section on the ‘tiri tiri track’ being added near the end. My race plan this year was to try & stay near the front, but not at the expense of pushing too hard through the initial hill climb & bush section down to Army Bay. The technical stuff over the rocks has always been a strength of mine so that’s where I wanted to make some serious gains, while trying to avoid running out of gas for some of the hills in the 2nd half like I did last year.
It was great to see the boys with a strong M.E.C turnout with Dave, Evan, Ron, Todd and myself all lining up to run the super long.
The race started fast as it tends to, with the usual bolters out front. I seeded myself near the front & kept pace with Ron as we climbed the first hills. I felt the cardio workout kicking in near the top of the hills so backed things off a little, letting Ron & a half dozen others break away.
After a fast descent down into the bush, I held back a bit through the Kauri forest, trying to ensure I wasn’t feeling gassed by the time we came out at Army Bay. The tide was high this year which I knew would work to my advantage, forcing us up onto the loose rocky surface near the shoreline instead of being able to pace it along the comparatively smooth rock face further out.
I broke out onto the coastline probably around 15th and I dialed it up a little each time we hit a technical section, while forcing myself to cruise a bit on the flatter sections to keep the cardio under control. I settled in behind Ben Firth who historically I’ve found quick around the rocky section & worked my way up the field with him. This strategy worked well, generally gaining at least one or two places each time things got technical.
Ron gradually eased back into view and I caught & passed him & Ben about 2/3’s through the rocks, eventually working my way temporarily into what turned out to be a brief duel with Kelvin Meade for 3rd behind the air force boys who were nowhere to be seen.
Coming out onto the beach behind Kelvin I eased off the gas a little knowing there was some good hill climbs coming up & Ron hauled me in & passed. I decided to set my pace off him & see if I could keep somewhat in reach. I fell behind a little as we descended through the new section down to Te Haruhi bay (courtesy having to stop to do up a lace – argh!), but started the hill climbs feeling pretty good and managed to slowly pull Ron back in, getting to within 5-10 meters on some of the climbs but with him pulling away again on the downhills & flats.
As we crested the big hill & started to increase the pace along the top, my arch nemesis “cramp” started to bite in my left calf. I backed off & stopped to scull back some powerade at the last aid station at the top of the hill in an effort to ease it up. Suddenly the trail veered off to the right from where we would usually go – something I hadn’t noticed before the race. We dropped steep down into tiritiri trail and through a beautiful bush segment and back up the other side, reconnecting with the usual course on the farm races.
With only a few km and a couple of hills to go, the cramp really started to kick in. Any hope of trying to push Ron along disappeared as he powered along strongly and started pulling away as I was forced to back off on the climbs to prevent a full blown lockdown – very frustrating as I felt I had paced well and had plenty in the cardio tank for a strong finish. While I hadn’t held any hope of overhauling Ron, I did have it in the back of my mind that I may be able to turn the heat up on him a bit & force him into a bit of a duel by bombing down the last downhill & along the beach.
Instead as I crested the last hill the full lockdown cramp kicked in. I had been keeping an eye since we started the hills on the next guy behind us. He was a long way back so I banked on stopping to stretch & see if it would let go. Unfortunately he saw me do this, smelt blood and set about hauling me in.
I set off again but the cramp kicked back in instantly. Aside from Ron I hadn’t shed a single place since coming off the beach & I was bloody determined not to do so in the home stretch, so I bit down hard & started to run as best as I could with the cramp locked on.
I made my way down the last steep hill & managed to hold around 3:50-4:20’s along the beach with a crazy straight legged hobble run. My messed up running style was burning my cardio reserves at an alarming rate, and if it wasn’t for Mr Blue Shirt behind me making startling gains I would have dribbled along a lot slower. Determined not to surrender a spot so close to the end I gave it everything & managed to hold him off – climbing up off the beach, embarrassingly dry retching all the way down the home chute to collapse over the finish line. Talk about style.
I finished behind Ron – coming in 5th at 1:32:46, a bit over a minute slower than last year – although hard to know what impact the changes to the course meant.
Overall, the last 2km aside, I am pretty stoked with the race. My best position in a race so far & I felt I paced well, executed my race plan and finished in front of a bunch of guys who bet me last year. Probably need to start hitting some longer, high intensity hill reps to try & sort out the cramp issues. Cheers Ron for egging me on along the way 🙂 and congrats to all the boys for strong runs!
Ron King – 4th – 1:31:11
Brent Kelly – 5th – 1:32:46
Evan Atkinson – 44th – 1:49:52
Dave Atkinson – ?? – for some reason missing from the current published results.
Todd Calkin – 75th – 1:58:40
Strava Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/305946238/overview