Saturday, 25 September 2010

More running !! 6th at Abel Tasman Coastal Classic

Abel Tasman Coastal Classic

So this weekend saw my last big trail run before getting into serious tri training again.

It was an absolutely cracking race down in Abel Tasman National Park in the north of the South Island NZ. This race is a NZ trail classic, following 36k through the national park, along the coastal path, previously run by the likes of Scott Molina and Erin Baker it had to be done.

The blurb said to train for a marathon as the 36k off-road with 1000m of ascent is pretty much comparable.  I know I'm not in my best marathon form but I hoped to be around the 2:50.  But with a running buddy in Wellington having a PB for the course of 2:57 I knew sub 3 hrs was going to be a challenge.

Before the race starts there's a 30k boat ride from the finish at Marahau to the start at Awaroa, three different boats and some faff and we made it to the beach at Awaroa around 10am.  With NZ being hit by a weather bomb (pretty impressive wind and rain) the trip up the coast on Saturday morning was pretty damp and grey.  Huddling together in all our warm post race garb was requried.

Once at the start location we had to strip to race wear, then queue on the beach while our comulsory race gear was checked - not the best part of the day. 15mins later we were lined up on the little lodge airstrip at Awaria Lodge and without ceremony we were set off.

With 300 competitors and previous winning times of between 2:25 and 3hrs I didn't have a huge idea of how to take the race.  It retrospect it's probably fair to say I underestimated the course a little.  I took off with the eventual winner Simon Maldon and managed to stay with him for about 500m before he started to creep away on the first climb into the bush.  By 2k I'd settled into a realistic pace and had slipped to 7th with the first 3 moving really fast and the 4-6th not far ahead.

At 7k there is a strech running across the beach at Onetahuti, I could see the leaders spread out ahead and I was back in 8th.  With the legs already crying out (sand doens't suit us heavier fellas) I didn't want to push too much and recalibrated to a 2:54 pace and made a conscious effort to save the legs - it was going to be a long day. If I had anything left at 30k I could go for it then!

The terrain was pretty specatular, but certianly not forgiving, there were some nice long steady decents, but they all had twin siblings taking us up the other side of the valley - be it sharp and slippery or long and dragging there was a lot of up!  Thankfully the weather turned for the good, the sun was out and it was perfect running conditions, cool but dry.

A good proportion of my running in NZ has been off-road and trail, but I still leave a lot to be desired compared to those that have been at this game for years.  The few extra kilo's I'm carrying probably don't help much either.  I spent most of th run hoping for just a bit of flat where I could open my stride up a bit and get some decent pace going.  I was still waiting at 36k!

There was very little company and I ran most of the trail with just one guy either a few paces ahead, or a few behind. That was until around the 2hr mark when he took off like a rocket, passing me like I was standing still.  This put me back into 7th I didn't think I'd be seeing him again and from the feedback I was getting from trampers and the couple of aid stations there was more than 5 mins up to the 4th and 5th guys.  I concentrated on keeping my pace constant. 

At 33k ish, I caught the guy back and passed him straight out, he'd obviously pushed too hard - or perhaps I'd been haivng a bad spell.  I was back in 6th and although tired feeling relatively strong still.  There was one headland to navigate and then we were at the finish bay.  somewhere around this point I stumbled over a root and barely had the stregth to hold my own body weight as I fell forward.  You know you're knackered when you can't stand on one leg!  It never ceases to amaze me how you can keep running, at a decent pace, when you're legs are so ruined.

At 34k I got some further feedback from walkers that the next guys were still 5 mins up and I just kept plugging away, doubtful I was going to close 5mins in 3k!

The GPS was having a bit of a mare, coming in and out of reception, but the pace seemed to be good in the last 5k, even when I went through 36k and still the finish was a way off I knew I was going to get there without any explosions or catastrophes.

I hit the final 500m of board walks to the finish in around 2:55, I could see the finish chute ahead and had Dave's time of 2:57 in my head.  I pushed with all I could but it was a good 500m and my watch finish time was 2:57:55 with the race clock gaving me 2:58 dead.  Either way not good enough to beat Daves previous best of 2:56:53, but good enough to secure 6th. 

All in all a very pleasing run.  Perhaps not up to the standard of my 2:44 marathon before Switzerland IM in 2008, but still a great solid effort.  I was able to finish strong after nearly 3hrs of running, on tough terrain and finish 6th amongst a pretty decent field.  I'll certainly be consdering this event again next year.  I reckon 2:45 is possible.

Home to the UK in 2 weeks I'll be catching up with Dave Parry to plan out the next few months up to IM NZ in March, I've booked a return flight for July 2011, so IM UK is on the agenda, at the very least as a qualifier back up if Taupo doesn't go to plan.
The middle week of my 3 weeks in the UK is a cycle tour from John O'Groats to Lands Ends, 1600k in 7 days should get my cycling legs going again.  fingers corssed by the end of October I should be starting to feel like a (tri)athlete again.

(more pics to follow)

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