From the start we ran out of the stock pens along a sort of farm track to the start triangle. This track was ankle deep in mud and, as a later starter, I didn't even have the option of running around it so I started the race with heavy, slippery muddy shoes. Once past the start triangle the farmland was surprisingly firm underfoot and the memories of mud were soon lost. I took it fairly easy to the first control, trying to get in touch with the map without a lot of success initially so I ended up too high and had to descend once I saw the control in the middle distance.
The second and third controls were found by sidling along the hillside, enjoying the view of streams, waterfalls and patches of bush. I got my height wrong on the third control as well, coming in too low this time. I wasted a bit of time at the fourth control when I misread the control description as a stream junction instead of a vegetation boundary corner. I nabigated to the circle easily and wasted some time looking at both stream junctions before rechecking my control descriptions and realising my mistake. I glanced up through the bush on the far side of the stream and caught a glimpse of something orange. Up the hillside I went and there was the control. This was a totally avoidable mistake that probably cost me a couple of minutes.
From here we left the farmland behind and plunged into the forest. I sidled around the hillside keeping the stream on my left and then used the track to descend to and across the stream. From here it was a matter of following animal tracks just above the stream and keeping in touch with the map. Ross caught me up and passed me on this section and I was able to speed up and follow in his footprints for a while, allowing his experience to pick the best routes and solid footfalls. Approaching the last ridge before the control, Ross dashed off to the left to his control but by then I was only metres away and I strode confidently over the hill and spiked the control. I was feeling pleased with myself for the speed I had been able to negotiate this control. This feeling lasted about three seconds until Paul turned up. I knew he had started at least six minutes after me so it was a bit discouraging to be caught this early in the race. The discouragement faded as Ross arrived as well, his early dash to the left showing that even our top elites have minor brain fades from time to time. I had already punched and was briefly examining the long leg I now faced; Ross showed me his - it looked about twice as long.
The long leg offered a classic left or right decision. Heading to the left offered a track from the water drop up onto a ridge that could then be followed most of the way to the control while going right and climbing a spur would get me out onto the farmland and the options of cutting back into the forest where the boundary between farm and forest made a right hand turn or continuing on the farm a little further and making use of the track near Control 7. I, along with most people, chose the ridge to the left and this appeared to be the quickest option although Dwayne went right and didn't lose as much time as I would have expected. It was a fairly wet and muddy slog along the ridgeline but it was easy to navigate with a fence or track to follow most of the way. The descent down the reentrant to Control 6 was longer than I was expecting and I lost a bit of time making sure that I didn't overshoot it. I eventually saw it below me and descended down a little further.
The route to Control 7 meant that I then had to reclimb back up to the track I had just left. I made the climb in the company of Brent and Imogene with Brent being the fastest climber and getting about a 100m head start on the track running section. The track was extremely muddy on the descent down towards the farmland and it was a relief to finally abandon it and head down the hillside in search of the control. Brent was still just ahead of me and appeared to be running too far to the right. I veered to the left and found the control in a litlle reentrant as Brent ran on unaware.
I sidled around the hillside, meeting the track where it entered the open and crossed back into the farmland. The pond was an obvious feature and I crossed just below it and headed directly to the control. The water stop here was greatly appreciated. However, if you've studied the control descriptions on the map you'll notice that there was water at both the eighth and ninth controls. I don't know whether this was what confused me but after a short pause to rehydrate well, I set off across the farmland towards the forest and Control 10. It took me a couple of hundred metres to recognise that the ground din't match the map and then to realise that I'd only got to Control 8 not Control 9. I stopped and returned back past Control 8, watching Brent run off ahead of me once more. From the vicinity of the control I struck out for the road and headed up it 50 metres or so before figuring it wasn't worth the drop and subsequent regain of elevation just for the sake of a firmer running surface. I headed back onto the farmland over the large spur and descended into Control 9 just as Dwayne was climbing out of it.
Dwayne followed the stream down to the forest boundary but I chose the more direct route down the spur, frighteniing a flock of turkeys en route by shouting "Christmas is coming" at them, arriving at the fence into the forest slightly before him. This leg then was a repeat of the leg to the fifth control with a succession of animal tracks allowing fairly brisk progress along the side of the stream. Counting the side streams it was then a fairly arduous climb up towards the control with the vegetation getting thicker all the time. I wasn't entirely confident about picking the correct watercourse as I neared the control so I ascended the spur between the two I thought most likely and descended into the stream once I spotted the control. As I headed off towards Control 11 I crossed paths with Dwayne who must have had similar problems with watercourse picking and was one further over again.
I was now virtually on the home stretch but I still had a couple of fairly major hills in front of me. From Control 11 I ran slightly to the left of the direct route intending to try and climb out of the stream on the one spur that was mapped as white rather than green stripe. However, as I neared the stream bed it became obvious that there was no easy route up the opposite hillside so, picking a line that seemed somewhat less impossible than most, I attacked the hill directly and spent quite a bit of time pulling myself up to the ridgeline. Reaching the ridgeline I used the track to gain some more height and the vegetation boundaries to locate myself exactly and then enjoyed the fast running descent of the far hillside. I didn't get my angles quite right and ran too far to the right, missing the control and having to relocate off the dark green overgrown marsh behind it.
The leg to the last control offered a route choice and I ran confidently off on what would turn out to be the wrong choice. The best route in retrospect was to follow the stream counting off the side streams before ascending the obvious spur to the control. Instead I ascended immediately aiming to get above the side streams and sidle across to the control. I ended up crossing a couple of these valleys and they were the steepest and slowest terrain I'd faced in this race - although they didn't seem to bother Marquita who ran past me and quickly disappeared out of sight ahead. Eventually, however, I was out of them and sidling around to the control with the very obvious finish banner providing an obvious reference to my left. A short zip up an elephant track and I was finished. It had been a very enjoyable race through several completely different types of terrain and, while it was physically demanding as you would expect from a Long Distance event, it wasn't so demanding that I ran out of energy and enthusiasm early on.
Links and Results
Auckland Club members who placed in the top three in this event were:
M10A Matthew 1st
M12A Ben 3rd
M16A Tommy 3rd
M20A Kieran 2nd
M21AS Roger 1st
M21B Sam 2nd
M40A Jeff 1st
W10A Rebecca 1st
W12A Lucy 1st, Tessa 3rd
W14A Hayley 1st, Anna P 3rd - well done, Hayley, all three titles this weekend!
W21AS Alina 1st
W40A Vanessa 3rd
W40AS Iryna 2nd
W60A Joanna 2nd