This was obvious from the moment that my run started and I veered off the track into what was optimistically mapped as white forest. This just meant that the cutty grass tussocks were less than head high. It was a reasonably slow run to the vicinity of the control. I was confident that I was in roughly the right place when I spotted a couple of meerkats aka orienteers surveying the surrounding forest from the upper slopes of the hill that should contain the control. I navigated carefully to what I believed was the centre of the circle and looked around. I saw lots of cutty grass and, five metres away, Cara doing exactly the same thing as me, but no control. I gazed at the map a bit harder as experience has shown me that, although this doesn't usually work, it does make me feel a lot better. I remained convinced that I was in the right place. I took a couple of paces up the hill aiming to join the meerkats and immediately the control came into view on the other side of the cutty grass tussock I had been standing beside. I had been less than two metres away and hadn't seen it. This was to set the tone for the rest of the race.
I was more confident of finding the second control as I had the Waikato River as a mighty big catching feature ahead and I knew the control was half way down a reentrant off a small ridge. I ran along the ridge peering into each reentrant as I passed it and eventually acknowledged that I must have passed it. Back along the bottom of the hillside this time and, sure enough, there was the control. I suspect that this control was hidden more by my poor observational skills than any cutty grass conspiracy.
From here it was a nice fast run along the coastal track (yes, I did run the track despite what Quick Route would have you believe) to Control 3 and then I faced my first excursion into the green stripe. The mapper appeared to be using this symbol to indicate a somewhat taller, denser and more frustrating patch of cutty grass infested forest. I walked on a compass bearing and reached the edge of the small plateau not far from the control, finding it surprisingly easily. From here I set a rough compass bearing and ran as fast as I could in the direction of Control 5 knowing that I would hit the track at some point. After much zigging and zagging I was fortunate (or skillful!) enough to find the small clearing and the old indistinct track leading out of it which made for faster straighter running. After crossing the track I veered left, climbing the hill on what appeared to be the easiest vector. Easy it may have been but it also took me well off course and I would have been better to stick to a straighter route. When I reached the crest of the hill I realised I needed to get back on track, over compensated and overshot the control. Again, I realised I had done this quite quickly so dashed back and found it one reentrant further back.
This led me onto the long leg. In past years we have had a similar leg but it has usually been in the opposite direction, downhill. This time we would be running uphill and there were about 22 contours or 80m of climb. Most people took a fairly straightish route and circled around to the right of the out of bounds area. I'd been burnt too many times in the native bush clad valley just to the right of the out of bounds and chose to follow a series of tracks around to the left. This turned out to be quite a a good idea with a number of horror stories emerging later about the difficulty of following the fence through the native. I ran down the track until I was near the fence corner near the control and then took a careful bearing.
It was a relief to be out of searching mode and back running. I wasn't able to make a lot of sense of the ground features on my way to Control 8 and chose to veer right knowing that the track was there as a catching feature. As soon as I spotted it I was able to pinpoint my location again and run along the top of the ridge in the general direction of the control. This slope was particularly over populated by cutty grass, other vegetation and cuttings and the going was slow. The direct route from above was mush quicker as was proved by Anna who approached from my left, punched the control and disappeared off to my right as I struggled along.
I grabbed a bit of sustenance as I dropped down the slope from the control and aimed for the two big water tanks on the track. Once across the track I was into the cleanest, fastest running slope in the whole forest. If all the forest was like this it would be a pleasure to run in and the courses would probably have to be twice as long as they actually are. I had the advantage of having a good view of Anna's back 100m or so ahead of me and found Control 9 easily. From here Anna ran more to the left, taking further advantage of the open running conditions while I went slightly right and used the track / vegetation boundary junctions to keep myself located. We ended up at Control 10 about the same distance apart as we had started the leg.
An uphill leg followed to keep us on our toes and then the leg to Control 12 echoed memories from last year where a similar leg had also provided the left vs right option around the same hill. Like last year I chose to go left to take advantage of the track network and, like last year, Jonty went right and had a much cleaner run. I remembered the dead cow from last year but, perhaps fortunately, this year I wasn't running anywhere near it. Control 12 was mapped as being on a knoll that was sitting by itself in the middle of the forest; in fact, there was no sign of this knoll but once I reached the centre of the circle I could clearly see a control accompanying one of the string of knolls near the track and I was unsurprised when this turned out to be mine.
I used the track to run to the vicinity of Control 13, planning my routes for the rest of the race as I ran. The forest was fairly open here but it was an uphill grunt to the control and I wasn't running as fast as I would have three quarters of an hour earlier. I didn't quite nail the control but the features were obvious so it wasn't difficult to find. The leg to Control 14 involved sidling around the hillside until it opened up into a broad basin and then running to the obvious reentrant in the western corner. The cutty grass was back with a vengeance but the climb out of the control could only be done at a plod anyway so it didn't slow things down too much.
The leg to Control 15 was a relief after the uphill legs that had preceded it as I ran firstly down the wide gravel track and then along the open cutty grass free hillside towards the control. Quick Route makes it appear that I ran back through Control 9 but I think I went slightly below it, I certainly didn't spot it as I ran past. It would have saved me a bit of time if I had as I ended up overshooting Control 15 - the hillside was so delightful to run on that I didn't stop when I should have - and relocating and returning back to the control took more time than I would have liked.
A quick drop down the hillside and a traverse of the clearing which had presumably had cattle grazing in it recently as there was no way it deserved the green stripe it had been inflicted with on the map and then over the last small hillock into the last control. I could see the finish from here and powered along the road ending up with a top three finish split, a fete almost unparalleled in my orienteering history.