The first leg took us straight into the slow running (green stripe) section of the map where the trees had been pruned and thinned with the debris left lying on the forest floor. It was more like a fast walk than a slow run. Immediately I made a mistake. I successfully navigated to the chain of hills and knolls which contained the control but turned right when I should have turned left. It took me some time to realise my error as I was convinced I was about to come across the control any moment. Eventually it was obvious even to me that I had gone too far so I retraced my steps and found the control less than 20m beyond the point I had gone wrong. I found controls 2 and 3 easily enough.
I was then faced with a dilemma. The going was so slow that the quickest way to controls 4 and 5 appeared to be along the track at the top of the map. But there had been a sign at registration that said something about "out of bounds" and Irena on the start had got me to read another copy of it before she would let me start. And now it was important - did the sign say the track was out of bounds or just the area beyond it? I couldn't remember despite having read it twice less than quarter of an hour earlier. In the end I compromised. I ran up to the track and then followed parallel to it about a metre away, getting the advantage of the easier running (except for the odd smallish cutty grass bush) while not actually using the track itself. The sign had mentioned that off roaders would be using the track; I didn't see any tyre tracks but there were no shortage of footprints! Later Dwayne, as Controller, confirmed that a late change had seen the track intended to be out of bounds but he didn't seem too bothered by people using it.
By the time I reached control 6 I was with a small pack of runners including Greg and Mark. This was useful as I took a more southerly route choice to 7 and was able to correct late on the leg as Greg crossed in front of me heading away from the control. I got to control 8, after punching a nearby control first, in 34 minutes, well down on the 60 minutes Allan had reported. WinSplits would later show that he only took 50 not 60 minutes but I didn't know that at the time. I let the group I was with run on ahead of me as I made a leisurely stop at the water drop, knowing this would be my last chance to hydrate on the course.
It was easy to follow the features on the ground into control 9 but I then made a meal of 10. Somehow I managed to head off too far inland and followed a track that I was convinced was marked on my map (it wasn't, of course). I then compounded that error by mistaking a track junction for the one near control 10 and made three attempts to relocate off it before realising it was the wrong junction. I then ran to the correct junction but had to relocate four or five times before I found the control. I had been close a couple of times but had stopped when I got to the vegetation boundary with the green. In reality, the control was just inside the green and only desperation caused me to look there. WinSplits tells me I lost 17 or 18 minutes on this one control.
On the way from 10 to 11 I was passed by Pete who was travelling at his usual express pace. Now, I can look back on it and be thankful that I was spared the ignominy of only finding the control because Pete came along and I could follow him into it but at the time I think I would have been greatly relieved and appreciative if he had turned up five to ten minutes earlier.
Control 12 was back out in the sand dunes. This time I mistinterpreted the twists and turns of the track just before the dunes and headed out of the forest in completely the wrong place. Once I got up high enough to see my surroundings I had a fairly good idea of where I was and I was able to sidle along the ridge top until I got a view of the control below me. The terrain was not conducive to running or even walking at any sort of pace so I lost another few minutes here. I crossed paths with Jonty on my way to 13 - he was heading to 16 - and it was obvious he had about 15 minutes on me at that stage. Control 13 was in an area that had been felled but not cleared of debris and I had an awkward moment descending into the control as I slipped on a log but luckily managed to avoid doing anything worse than collecting a few more cuts and grazes.
As we passed, Jonty had warned me that 15 was difficult to find and, sure enough, another sand dune control, another trip for me to the top of the closest big sand dune to regain my bearings. I find this technique works well but it does cost a lot of time. Another three or four minutes were lost here.
The leg to control 16 was a long one; Jonty and I took the same route up to somewhere in the vicinity of control 11 whereupon he chose to head up to the track to the right of the straight line route while I continued in the forest to the left of it. It looks as if my route choice was superior here. At 16 I caught up with Mark whom I had last seen heading off ahead of me as I stopped for a drinks break after 8. He had had a horrendous time with this leg taking nearly half an hour and giving up the quarter hour lead he had over me at the start of it. We ran together down to 17 where I only made on small error, following an erroneous elephant track into the wrong reentrant. I'm obviously getting better at these sand dune controls.
From 20 to 21 I opted to run up the beach. The tide was fairly high and as a result there was no area of wet, compact sand as is often found on Muriwai Beach and so it was more of a slog than a run with my feet breaking the surface just about every stride. This still turned out to be faster than the route choice option inland through the forest. From 21 to the finish we had the privilege, not often accorded to Red Long runners, of following the string course for some distance. I obviously followed it too far and ended up on the road about 100m to the right of where I wanted to be.
I ended up taking 2 hours 20 minutes and running 13.1km versus the advertised 9.4km. Jonty had beaten me by 18 minutes. We were in good company, with tales of woe all around from those who attempted the long course. The terrain had been tough, particularly in the thinnings at the start of the course, but most of our mistakes were self inflicted.