This was going to be my first trail race since starting running seriously. Without elites like Tane and Vajin racing I knew I had a chance to place well and hopefully achieve my goal of a top 10 finish.
The pace was hot from the gun with Nick settling into the early lead. After only a few hundred metres on the gravel road the gradient went steeply upwards as we hit the main climb. As soon as we left the road some of the stronger adults came past and I began to slip backwards in the pack. I ended up forming a group with two of them. I dropped from 3rd at the bottom down into 7th when we reached the summit as my calves simply could not handle the ascent.
On the way up I lost all feeling in my feet which was unusual, but at least they didn’t hurt. As soon as we started to descend they were fine again. A large chase pack of 5 formed when some of the older guys ahead got confused as to the route down and stopped. Our group of 3 caught them and we continued down together. I established a small 10-20sec lead on the rough descent but that was closed quickly once we hit the flat again. A brief chat determined that our group covered 5th to 9th which meant I was in good company to achieve my top 10 goal.
We ran together for about 10 minutes before one guy decided to attack just after the aid station. He was joined by a masters guy and together they established a gap of around 1 min on the rest of us through the forest loop. Coming back to the aid station at the end of the loop the gap was still about a minute but the masters guy was clearly fading as he was dropped by the other guy and spent much longer at the aid station. From here it was a descent out to the gravel road and then a long slog to the finish. Another guy came past on the descent putting me back into 8th and I decided to let him go since he was running much faster than me. He made a gap of about 50m but over the next kilometer I reeled him back in. Together we pushed the pace hard down the road and caught the masters guy who was staggering along travelling at about 6min/km. I decided that 5th place was too far ahead and so settled back for the sprint finish. With 200m to go I kicked past and went for it, he had nothing left so I finished in 6th, 30 seconds behind 5th and 20 seconds ahead of 7th.
Really happy with my race, felt absolutely shattered at the end and couldn’t walk for the next day. Physio visit confirmed torn muscle fibres in my calf so no hard running for a few weeks. Kudos to Nick for finishing in a tight second place after having a bad fall earlier in the race. Bring on Longbeach next week!