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!