No mud this year though. It was a lovely day as we arrived, registered and contemplated the hill in the distance on the top of which, we were promised, was the start triangle. We had been warned about the 20 minute walk to the start and had arrived in plenty of time. I was sporting a brand new pair of Inov8 shoes, my trusty old IceBugs having finally got old enough and had enough pieces fallen off them to consider replacing them. By the time we reached the start area I was nicely warmed up, completely out of breath and concerned that my new shoes may not be fitting as well as they had when I first tried them on. I tightened the laces and hoped for the best.
Not everyone had arrived as early as us and a few minutes before the scheduled start time a 4WD turned up bursting at the seams with latecomers who had been fooled by the lack of signs at Waimauku and had driven the long long way round via Helensville. It hadn't even occurred to me to look for signs, I knew where Peak Rd was and drove directly there. As if the late arrival wasn't enough, one competitor who shall remain nameless had hurried directly from his car to the 4WD and had forgotten to grab his SportIdent dibber on the way - having to resort to begging for a spare one at the start.
One thing about starting at the top of a hill - no matter what your route choice, it starts with a downhill run. I chose to go to 150 first and was in the middle of a fairly select group of runners as we contoured around the forested hillside. From there it was a bit of a climb back to the track that lead to 134 then 135. I was on my own by the time I entered the forest heading to 158, Paul having accelerated away from me over the last couple of legs. Control 158 caused some problems for a number of people but I found it about where I expected. I then used the fence and the open spur before descending to 157 and then sidled around the hillside to 148. The warnings at the start about an unruly hive of wasps lurking in the vicinity of 147 had convinced me to give this control a miss so I descended down to cross the stream and find 149.
I lost a fair bit of time on this control. The map and control description had it on the edge of a clearing but the forest in that area seemed thicker rather than thinner than most and when I did find it I didn't notice a perceivable clearing anywhere near it. It was uphill to the next couple of controls with the hillside in the vicinity of 159 being particularly steep.
As I left control 136 I was painfully aware that I was blistering up on both heels. A hilly map like this one was probably not the best place to break in a new pair of Inov8s. For the rest of the race I would be in agony on the uphills but only extreme discomfort and hobbling downhill. I was also looking at the map to see how I would shorten my route as I was now certain I couldn't make the entire circuit I had originally planned. In the end, I would only end up a couple of controls short of my original plan.
The next few controls were fairly unremarkable as I got 143, 151, 156, 137 - getting there bang on 45 minutes into the 90 minute race, 144 and 146 before climbing to 138 and having to make the decision as to whether I would go for 145 or miss it out and go straight to 155. I'd been following Tane for the last few controls and was sorely tempted to follow him in the direction of 145 but my feet were telling me that there was a good chance my hobbling would reduce to crawling at some stage so I chose to climb to 155 instead.
Over the ridge I collected 139 and 142 before running around to 152. I descended into the stream bed too early and turned right when I got there, at the same time that Matt was turning left. It took me nearly 30 seconds before it occurred to me that if Matt turned left where I turned right there was a fair chance I should have gone left. I retraced my steps and, a little further up the stream, was faced with the unusual sight of Matt standing still, looking at his map and scratching his head. I felt a lot better about not knowing exactly where the control was. Matt took off up a side stream and I hobbled after him. It was the right choice, of course.
From there it was around the hillside to 141 and across a swamp and down the track to 131. My original plan had been to run up the stream to 133 but my rapidly slowing hobble and the imminent arrival of the 90 minute deadline meant that I continued on to 132 instead. I was in the middle of a rapidly swelling stream of runners at this point as we tackled another swamp and small (but painful) hill climb on our way to 140. This turned out to be the hardest control of the day, eventually being found in the middle of yet another swamp a lot further up the valley than expected. If there had been time then a sidle around to 130 would have been on the cards at this point but with time rapidly running out the finish beckoned.
I was extremely badly blistered on both heels and chose drive home in bare feet rather than put on new shoes. I was also very pleasantly surprised to hear my name being called out as the winner of M40 at the prize-giving. It was all a mistake, of course, as I had known from the moment Paul had run away from me on the way to the fourth control, but it didn't stop me from claiming the VitaSport prize that went with the title.