For some reason the Relays never seem to attract as good a turnout as other events but a fairly sizable crowd turned out despite the whether. We (Auckland Club) hadn't won the trophy since 1995 but with 10 teams in Mixed Long it looked like we would have our best chance for years. The random draw put me as third leg runner in a team with Toby Scott (first leg) and Roger Woodruffe (second).
Toby had a good run as everyone expected - everyone except Roger that is. As Toby came powering into the finish in second place (from the wrong direction for some reason), Roger was still doing Club President type stuff in the Campomatic and had to be called away in a hurry. He tagged Toby, hurried back to clear and check and was finally on his way. Allan Janes thought the whole thing was so funny he forgot to look to see which way Roger was running and, after his first leg runner arrived a couple of minutes later, he took off at 180 degrees to his mapped route, two hundred metres across the open field before finally realising his mistake and making an ignoble retreat, much to the hilarity of the gathered crowd. The last laugh was with Allan though, as he eventually passed all the runners ahead of him and sent his third leg runner off in first place.
Roger also had a good run and handed over to me in fourth place. I found the course to be fast with just enough navigation to ensure that you kept an eye on the map at all times. The loops in the bomb depot (from control 4 to 13) were in an area of very long grass. Having experienced this area at the OY earlier in the year I knew that the ground underfoot could be treacherous and boggy. I followed elephant tracks the whole way to minimise this; the original creators of the tracks seemed to delight in investigating every hint of a change in terrain and were particularly disdainful of running more than a couple of metres in a straight line but the tracks were still much, much quicker than running across the virgin grassland. The legs in this area also made good use of small gaps in the gorse and the many tunnels from the exterior track to buildings in the interior.
From control 13 onwards it was a case of running flat out as fast as you could for as long as you could. Somewhere over the next three or four controls I must have overtaken Bruce Peat because he was breathing down my neck as we ran into contol 17. I spent the next four controls trying desperately to keep 50m in front of him but a bad mistake at 21 where I ran down the east of the vegetation instead of the west (and only caught my mistake when I saw Bruce running off from an unexpected quarter) saw me chasing him 100m behind. This state of affairs lasted into the last control (where I was stabbed in the chest by a passing bamboo stick in the gap in the green) and onwards over the final 460m to the finish. I angled left and picked up a vehicle track that I hoped would be faster than running across the longish grass but it wasn't enough and when Bruce reached the finish ahead of me I walked the last 50m (after a quick check over my shoulder to make sure no one else was approaching).
Bruce had run his Counties team into second place and I had anchored the first Auckland team home in third place but neither of us would prevail in the end - sadly, North West won the Relay trophy once again.
Still, there is always next year - and of course the Katoa Po all night relays in March where Auckland are defending champs.
Results by leg can be found here.
As is often the case, Dwayne Smith took some great photos which can be seen at his Picasa site here. Many of Dwayne's photos were taken inside the bomb depot and give a good idea of the difficulty of running through the long grass.