Xterra Waharau 2016

The 2016 Xterra Waharau was held on the final day of the track competition at the Rio Olympics, so I took out the iPad and we were able to both compete and take in Nick Willis second Olympic medal in the 1500m and Mo Farah’s repeat 5000m gold.
A magic day, clear and dry: there hadn’t been much rain in the lead up either so there wasn’t much mud except at the top ridge. The start and finish had moved back towards the road this year, which added a good 1k to the total distance.
This was to be my only Xterra race of the 2016 season – my other planned option at Xterra Waihi not being possible this year due to my roster. So I wanted to have a good hard race, and felt confident that I was in even better shape than last year, so had every chance of delivering.

Warming up on Puriri Grove Track

We took off fast into the climb and I pushed a little harder this year. Still, these climbs are like none on the city cones that we train on. Waharau hills are steeper and much much longer. So I found myself sitting in around 10th place, despite the extra effort.

Again, I found the downhills easy and would catch up without effort on the two patches of drop in the 9k stretch to the top of Auckland at Kohukohunui. But the last stretch of the climb – the most rugged and steep, saw me lose some time and a couple of guys caught me and I was sure I could hear more voices coming up behind. So it was a welcome relief to get back into the downhill, and I made an effort to run strong on the regular ups that punctuated the fall. I caught the two chaps again, plus a couple of others who had let me on the climbs.

You rejoin the other races on the Waharau Ridge Track. It was here that I saw another SL runner tying his shoes. Turns out he was Felix Geller, a speedster on both trail and road. All I knew was that there was now another target and so I shadowed him down the trail. We let rip down the big drops, notching some low 3:20 min/kms. I wasn’t fast enough to pass, but could maintain contact and we hooned it all the way down to the river, where we also caught and other SL runner. I charged through the river and blasted back up the hill trying to get a break from them both. Heart rate through the roof, my right hip flexors started to cramp up too. I had reached the limit, and backed off as Felix speed by. He was off, and not to be caught by me, so it was damage control on the last mile to the finish on Puriri Grove Track. I pushed as much as I could, and was grateful that the other chap was not in view behind. I finished exhausted in 2:16, 10th place.

2016 vs 2015?

Bit quicker up the hill (45 sec faster to the top, if you take out the extra bit at the start)

Equivalent on the first downhill

Faster on the Waharau Ridge Track downhill

Slower on the last km

Seconds faster overall, but further back the field.

Both years run at my limit and well executed.
MEC Results

Mid course:

Lucy Horne 1:20:33

Super Long Course:

Michael Hale 2:16:04

Sean Falconer 2:20:16

Connor Aldridge 2:39:35

Luke Strom 3:06:24


A Winter 3 in 1 Report

A tasty triumvirate of race reports here – covering the local MEC action for the last 6 weeks.

MEC Maunga ManMaunga Goat down

The inaugural Maunga Man was held on a true winter’s day on July 4th at Mt Mangere Domain. A hardy crew took on the challenging course amidst torrents of rain and swirling low cloud. The format was simple: complete as many loops of the course in 60 minutes. At 60 minutes, the horn blew and you finished the lap you were on. Most laps wins.

Ron King (we use his real name in the results on this site) was crowned the first Maunga Man, with a complete display of climbing strength, solid pace judgement and technical descending skills.

Its great course for spectator viewing (when its not pouring with rain) and makes for a solid hill session. Lots of positive feedback from the attendees, and its right on our doorstep, so an event to be repeated methinks!

Millwater 10k

A fortnight later was the fast road 10k around the Orewa basin. Another wet and windy day greeted Team Green for this one too. The Atkinson Bros were targeting a sub 45. Evan hit the early splits no problem but it wasn’t feeling right and he came unstuck into the headwind on the north side of the Estuary. Just as he was struggling, his brother Dave struck him a further blow, catching him and pulling ahead. They came in 16th and 18th with Dave getting 44:21 and Evan 45:01.

I was involved in a three-way (haven’t written that sentence before) battle with Ron and Brent. We stuck together from the start, pacing it out in a conservative manner for the first 3k, before Ron snuck ahead and I made break to catch him. I had closed the gap by 5k and Brent was back a further 30 metres, but Ron held his pace into the headwind as I faded. The challenge was now to try to keep ahead of Brent. Fortunately we had a couple of other guys ahead who were tiring more than us which made for some good targets. The gap grew to Ron ahead until he was over a 100m ahead, however Brent would never get further than 50 metres behind, and I was very wary of the local speedster taking me out on his home turf. The promised lap around the sports field at the end was never delivered, and we finished what we all felt was a slightly short course. Ron was second in 36:22, I was 5th in 36:58 and Brent 6th in 37:12.

Xterra Waharau

The closest I got to the KingI had been wanting to race this one for the last couple of years and finally got it together for 2015. The super long course has probably the longest single climb of any event in Auckland. You start at 20m above sea level, and climb through forest roads into lovely single track all the way to Kohokohunui, the highest point in Auckland at 688m. This is done in 9km, with a 1km break at the halfway point where you lose a good 150m of elevation. So a truly juicy climb.

I was feeling good, but didn’t feel comfortable to stay with Ron and started to drift back slowly after 1500m or so. I was in about 10th spot and wanted to find a rhythm and be sensible, knowing I had an hour of running uphill before I would get to the top. I felt good on the downhill break and caught a couple of guys who had passed me. This gave me hope for the second half of the course – what goes up must come down! I summited a few seconds after 70 minutes elapsed and relished the delightful single track on the ridge top there, quickly catching 3 guys ahead.

I saw one other fellow just ahead and worked alongside him. He then took off like a stung pig and I merrily followed behind. He was quite the descender, but I always managed to hold close. The downhill leg started off slippery and technical, punctuated with short climbs. It then became longer steep-but-runnable 4WD tracks, not too rutted but with low traction. I careened along behind this chap for a good 5k before making a move on a climb and dropping him.

I had no idea how far ahead anyone else was, but I still had about 5k to go and pushed along. Although I sped down the big Puriri Track downhill, the only people I was able to catch were from other events. Still, it was a good second half for me and I was happy with my 2:12:01 for 20k with 1000m climb and 6th place overall. A great course and one I look forward to having another crack at!

Kudos to Ron for his 2:09:43 5th place and Luke Strom who was top 10 in the long course with a super well paced 1:49:59 17k with 1000m climb.

Xterra Shakespear 2015

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.

"Team Green" at the start. (Photo stolen from Steve Neary's Strava :))
“Team Green” at the start. (Photo stolen from Steve Neary’s Strava :))

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!

M.E.C results:

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

Letting it go at Xterra Trail Champs 2014

Sean’s report:

I loved this event! Was super fun.
For me I’d arrived from Titirangi, Auckland with enough time to collect my race pack and get ready, but I’d put this down to my history in Motorsport, more than my organization skills..
At the start line I wasn’t sure if Brent, Mike, or Ron had even made the race.
Before I could find a familiar face in the crowd the race had started, within seconds  a pack of 20 or so took off with a pace that was more suited to a 10km race than a 20km with hills!
I first knew for sure that I was in the correct race when I spotted a sheepish looking Mike at the beginning of a long dark tunnel…
I soon realized he just needed a familiar face to break his brief claustrophobic moment! After the tunnel Mike blasted past looking to make up ground.
The hills came and went, the downhills I found were a strength for me as I pasted 5-6 runners on the downs and before I knew it I had crossed the finish line with a time of 1.49 still with a spring in my step.
Looking back I should have started out much harder, but with the burnout I had in the Onehunga half I was trying to pace myself…. Maybe next race I will get it right???



Mike’s Short version: Beautiful day, arrived late. Started fast. Got scared. Stopped. Started again, less fast. Built up speed, caught plenty. Amazing trails. Finished happy.

Mike’s Long version: We got to the race HQ with less than 15 minutes until race start. Not ideal. Scrub plan A, with its nice warmup and course familiarisation. We were into ‘get registered and get to the start line asap’ mode. The inevitable slips happened – Brent’s gels were swiped by Ron into a gear bag (thinking he was tidying up). Somehow we made it to the front of the group just 10 seconds before the gun.

The start was very quick, just as expected. I planned on going harder than usual to keep up with the front runners. I sped along just outside of the top five, the adrenaline of the frenzied arrival carrying me. I knew I was going quick because Ron was behind me. Through the farm land and over the swing bridges, we were quickly alongside the Waitewheta river, convoying along on a sweet snaking trail.

I was congratulating myself on rescuing the late arrival with such a good start when we ran into the cave. I knew a cave was coming, as we had been alerted in the briefing and online notes. I will confess here to being somewhat claustrophobic. It’s not usually a problem, I psych myself up for the tunnels and then am glad when they’re done. Usually. Unfortunately, I thought the tunnel we would run through was more like the one in the Karangahake Gorge, that is, spacious and with each end in plain view all the way along. So when I had refused the kind offer of a spare torch from Ron earlier it was because I thought it wasn’t really necessary.

Gollum’s cave was wet and dark. It wasn’t high enough for you to stand up, it had loose, uneven footing and the other end was obscured very quickly upon entering. For most people this isn’t a big deal but the unanticipated sensory challenge mixed with the adrenaline to freak me good and proper. In short, I choked. I turned and walked back out to the entrance. My non-rational mind just wanted me out of the cave. I obliged and then kept the non-rational thinking up, wondering if I could bush-bash over the top to meet the other side – desperately looking for another way that wasn’t back inside. I stood beside the entrance as streams of runners whom I had got ahead of made their way past me. In running, if your head ain’t your friend, your legs are no good to you. I started to calm down and saw Sean come by. The nearby marshal also told me someone had a torch just ahead. I made the decision to stick with Sean and try and stay near the light. Back inside.

Plan successful, we negotiated the rough rocky floor of the cave and stumbled out onto the trails again. I was ready to speed off and catch up, but since the online briefing had mentioned two caves. I thought it a better idea to stick with the guy in front who had the torch and avoid another meltdown. We made good time anyhow, and caught a few along the winding river trail.

The track crossed the river and we were sent up Scotsman Gully Track, without another tunnel traverse (whew!). As I wound up the hill into the smooth Country Road and twisty Number 7 Level Track, I focussed on getting into a good pace and rhythm and trying to catch the runners who appeared around each corner. It’s more than a 6k climb up from the river, but its all runnable and it was fun pushing myself along. I banished the thoughts of failure that would try to derail the rest of my event. I had lost the plot then regained it and now the rest of the race was still there to be run, to be raced and enjoyed.

I caught a glimpse of Brent sneaking a walk on a hill (still recovering from an achilles injury, this was always part of his plan). But it took me a couple of ks to catch him. We then ran in tandem, and kept pulling others in. Comradery on the trails (reminiscent of Mt Karioi 2013).

I ran strong to the summit, eventually leaving Brent and getting to within 20 metres of Ruby Muir. But gravity got in the way. We turned downhill and she plummeted away from me, never to be seen again. Fortunately, I’m not too bad at descent and caught some more dudes on the way down.  The legs were a little smashed from letting it out on the way down, but as we climbed again I managed to run the Number 7 Level Track at near the same split as first time through (9:10 then 9:11).

The last technical down (and uphill) was fun, but the steep hike out of the river crossing told me I was ready for the end to come. The trail spat us back out beside Waitawheta river. I made my way back over the swing bridge and chased down one last guy on the finishing chute. A great day –  super fun trails, good mates, and 90% proper execution. I’ll work on the last 10% for next year (arriving in time, bringing a torch, keepin’ it together… that stuff).


Waihi 2014 Ron’s Edit

Ron “King King” King:

A gorgeous day, superb setting, great company, family participation, fantastic event, and an unknown course. What could be better? Also a super simple race plan – mark Mike, and hunt down anyone suspected to be in the masters division.

I’ve already established the pre-race antics (others are free to elaborate here), and for whatever reason, the start, which we knew was going to be fast, near killed me. Luckily I just managed to latch onto Brent who was taking an early off-road option.

Mike was already amongst the front few, though it seemed there was a risk of losing touch already within the first few minutes!!? With the enforced swing bridge walk we lost sight of him. Then the tunnel, in our earlier haste I’d put my race belt on upside down and what felt like forever in the dark with Brent in conga-line formation I extracted my light moments after passing someone going the other direction.

Out of the tunnel Mike was no longer in sight but Ruby Muir, a youngster, and some grey haired fellows were. I slowly reeled them in as Brent faded valiantly. Still no sign of Mike though as we hit the never-ending but oh-so-runnable climb.

I suspected Mike would be a in form here as the terrain seemed just his kind of event and I know what he can pull out on race day (even though MEC training seemed to put us on par). So I actually started to feel a bit low despite knowing I was running a solid effort but never even catching a glimpse of him. After all, the MEC rivalry is stronger than any age group stuff and I was anticipating some 1:1 racing action.

Climb done and a punishing descent completed, I took the second climb section marginally quicker than the first (9m22s vs 9m34s). I was blown downhill though, and I was taken in style by Ruby and the young fellow on a technical downhill in truly crushing style.

Pulling up (probably needlessly) to let them by gave a glimpse of a fluid and effortless downhill style I can only dream of. As it levelled out and then gave way to uphill they slowed, spent, and I actually passed them. This repeated a second time with Ruby alone as she gracefully glided by on the downhill only to yield on the flat finish (in her excuse she was coming back from injury and I’ll never beat her again).

Rocking up to the finish looking for Mike to congratulate for yet another outstanding race performance, only he wasn’t there (see his race report). So I actually won the Masters category, beat a returning to form Ruby, and an AWOL MEC comrade (though thanks to my timing chip pocketing issue both Ruby and Matthew the U20 winner came in ahead of me on paper). Daughter Violet (10yo) also had a cracker run finishing in a PB time coming 8th in the female U20 short course category, though she was unjustly denied the finish line dance-off prize.


Brent “Brontosaurus” Kelly’s race report:

Getting to the registration tent not 5 minutes before race start is not generally considered the ideal ‘best race practice’. 1.5hrs from Onehunga apparently isn’t enough – at least not with an overflowing Paeroa public toilet. Thankfully Ron had taken care of rego (somehow I knew my chances of being ‘Brent Kelly’ in this race were slim) and my mad dash from the parked car had served as a somewhat unideal warmup. Victoria obviously has Ron very well house trained, as somehow in the mad rush he still made time to ‘tidy up’ the gear tent table & place my race gels securely in his now-locked-away bag.

We knew it would be a fast start – 1-2km to a walking bridge where we expected queues saw to that – and it didn’t fail to deliver. I chose the bushes on the side of the road rather than the crowds in the middle & pushed far harder than I usually would, managing to sneak up the side into the top 15, ideally positioned for the queues.

… which were a non-event. However, the hoped for walk eventuated with a pitch black tunnel & holding on to the back of Ron’s shirt. Coming out the other side I intentionally dialled back the pace a bit to seed myself a bit further back and watched Ron disappear ahead. People we keen to keep pushing the speed & I wasn’t too sure how to pace this one to be honest. Having been out of the game since Shakespear back in June, I wasn’t too sure how the fitness would hold up at the top end so allowed myself to slip back to somewhere I figured was top 25.

Coming out of the beautiful winding gorge I decided to take the lead of a couple of people in front of me & walk a couple of the slightly steeper initial hills. Don’t burn out was the hope & I knew I had 6km of uphill to go. After cruising for a while I got a seriously confusing surprise to see Mike appear in the distance behind me. Trying to decipher his magic trick (having clearly been ahead of me last I set eyes on the man) kept me occupied for the next while as I wanted for him to inevitably haul me in.

When he finally did I decided to see if I could hold his pace for a while & surprised myself by hanging in there for a good chuck of the rest of the hill, passing a number of people on the way. He lost me near the top when I dialed it back again to try not to burn out muscles not quite used to the intensity.

I let it all go on the downhills, seeing a couple of mid-2’s on the pace meter (not all that ideal to look at your watch going that speed down steep straight slippery clay but hey – had to know!). I clipped past a couple of people & came out into climb 2.0. Knowing it was only a couple of km this time helped things along a bit, although the quads were feeling the pinch of the breakneck downhill.

The last big downhill was probably my favourite part of the race. Super rutty & rooty & a steep windy downhill – seriously fun, at least until the climb out of the river crushed what was left in my tired muscles, with my calves eventually giving out to major cramp on both sides. Super frustrated, knowing that the finish line was a mere couple of flat km away, I stretched out & tried to get them to ease up, losing a place in the process. I couldn’t believe I didn’t lose more – the last technical downhill must have made me some good gains as I was with a couple at the top.

I eventually gave up stretching & tried running straight legged through the pain of the cramp (I seem to have a bit of a habit of looking like a gumby approaching the finish!) until they eased up. A few stretches later, I finally trotted in in 21st place to find Mike & Ron waiting at the finish & Sean close behind.

Absolutely beautiful course, a great time hanging with the guys, and overall pretty satisfied with how it all went for my first race back. And the biggest success of all … no Achilles pain!

2014 Waihi Xterra (Trail Running Nationals)

So before any of the other MEC entrants (Brent, Mike, Sean) post their Waihi Xterra Long Course report lets get some things straight. Three of us (Brent, Mike, and Ron) carpooled down in an exquisite demonstration of ‘just in time’ production practices while Sean took a more resilient ‘time to spare’ approach.

From what I know, the essentials for an enjoyable and successful Waihi race:

  1. Insect repellant – the sandflies at Dickies Flat are notorious
  2. Extra travel time – it’s a wee bit further the Hunua and parking is at a premium
  3. Lights – the first tunnel is long and dark
  4. A fast start – with enforced walk swing bridges and tunnel in the first 2km you don’t want to be at the back of the queue if you are racing
  5. A warm up – see points 2 and 4 especially if you are getting on in age a bit.

Mike first called my timing into question on Friday with a suggested departure time not being sufficient for travel, parking, registrations, and ablutions. He was right, and we were both wrong, our rescheduled departure still wasn’t early enough.

The scene in Paeroa, 30 minutes and 15km before race start: One blocked toilet, one functional toilet, 3 runners and two unfortunate members of the public. The Ron style MEC race briefing took place soon after in the car race to the event center, recommending as I recall, lights, and a fast start (having forgotten the insect repellant and never done the long course this was all I had to offer).

A dire carparking situation less than 10min before race start and not yet actually having even entered the event I suggested I bail and enter us all given I was ready to go while Brent had just finished disrobing behind the wheel. Mike followed leaving Brent to negotiate parking.

With the family’s (soon to arrive for the short course event) and Brent’s entry in hand I blanked, Brontosaurus Kelly and King King would have to do. Fortunately for Mike he managed to shove his own entry under the official’s nose with my Visa number on it. Hurdle number 3, entry, surmounted (ablutions and parking being first two).

Race bags, numbers, and timing chips allotted I had just enough time to pin my number, pocket my timing chip and dump Brents race gels in my race bag (and go for a pee). By the time Brent and I returned from the bushes slash warm-up run there was no time for Mike’s second chance torch option, Brent’s gels, or fixing the chip to my shoe. Mike led the charge to bustle as close to the start line as we could just as the countdown started. Sean was there somewhere (I think).

From here I’ll let the MEC entrants report the actual race for themselves…

Xterra Dome Valley 2014

RevRun report (short and no pics today sorry):

A drizzly South East wind blew and it was rather cold at the start of the first Xterra trail run in the Dome Valley Forest.

Earlier in the week, the race had been shortened and race headquarters moved. Then at race briefing we heard that the ‘super long’ had dropped distance again. So we moved from 25 to 21 to 16k in the passage of a few days.

Like many an Xterra run, it started by sending us up a forestry road to spread the field. A good 15-20 guys shot up ahead as I tried to approach the hill with both intensity and discretion. The gravel forestry road actually continued to be our trail for the next 5 or so km, with a significant downhill and another grunty uphill in there. I might have caught a couple of bods on the downhills, but wasn’t faring so good on the climbs.

After aid station 1 we left the gravel and hit the mud. Long descents with very slippery clay made for a treacherous drop down. I did catch a couple more guys down here, but it was super sketchy as you ran 3:30min ks and had both feet sliding. Loadsoffun!

At the bottom we followed along the Hoteo river which was well flooded. This gave some waist deep puddle wading and more near miss slips. We then turned back up an even greasier clay hill. Lots of hiking ensued in the climb, and I only lost one place over the 200m climb back to the gravel. It was nice to be able to run again. We passed the aid station (11km) and headed back toward home. I figured it wasn’t long to go and put a bit of a surge in to regain my position and attempt to catch a couple of guys only 100m ahead. I had made up half of the ground by the 14.5k mark, and happened upon Dave Atkinson and Richard Drake who were doing the long course. I commented that it was only 2k to go and took off after the pair ahead.

However, there was a final course distance surprise waiting – the organisers had found a couple of km of muddy trail to throw in instead of the downhill gravel bomb to the finish. Realising that the course might go a lot longer than the projected 16k left me reeling for a minute or two. But I regrouped after Dave just about caught me up, and I then ran all the uphills that weren’t like climbing a slip n slide.

I crossed in 1:35:13 for an 18k with around 800m of climb. Looked like a couple of fast road runners were up ahead, along with Sam Manson, so no shame (and a lot of fun) out on the trail today.

Great to share the experience with Rich and Dave. Its good to be back.