Had a great day yesterday at the Flagpole Run Up, a 21km, 800m ascent mountain running race, held just out side of White Cliffs.After my pre race preparation on Friday that included a short 30min jog with some “stride outs”, spending 8-9hrs on my feet working, getting a stomach ache, a weird twinge in my hip, a massage and a hair cut, I was ready to go Saturday morning!
Last year I did 1hr4omins and placed 5th in the Flagpole, a result I was really happy with in what I called my “come back” race, after not doing a running race in about 8yrs. It was also my first mountain/trail running race and the longest race I had run at that time. This time around I knew what to expect and had a bit of confidence after the Crater Rim 2 weeks earlier. I picked up my race number and looked over the start list, picking out of few names that I recognised and was really excited to see that Jacob Roberts, 2009 Routeburn and 2x Avalanche Peak winner would be on the start line! Jacobs 2hr52min Routeburn run earlier this year is bad ass and he was totally dominate at the Avalanche Peak race. Both of these races are ones that I aim for and it’s cool to see some one dominate them the way he did last summer. Jacob is also part of Richard Usshers adventure racing team, so it was gonna be a fast race.
As expected the race started at a fast pace and Jacob went out in 2nd, with last years winner Kerry Faass and I slotting right in behind. 4 of us very quickly went to 3, and then almost immediately it was just Jacob and I. It seemed Jacobs plan was to run hard until he had broken everyone else, as he had no problem taking the lead and hammering this first, long up hill.
4km in we had climbed 500m in 22mins and reached the summit of Flagpole together in 28mins. As I stopped to drink a gap opened between us, which was fine, as I was able to follow Jacobs lead on the steep farm track that was wet and muddy. We reached the Selwyn River together and I slotted right in behind again. We had 12 river crossings and even a short swim when we got a little of course. Neither of us seemed to be able to loss the other- this of course was great news for me and I was hoping a little frustrating for Jacob.
I made a half ass move around 4km out, on a short hill, but had nothing in my legs. I was now clinging on, trying not to get dropped on the final K’s. We rounded a corner into a down hill and got the view of the 19 and 20 km marks. I had been stronger on the down hills all day and used gravity to make a small break. This rolled into a flat and then what felt like a long steep climb to the 20th km. Looking back (a lot!) I could see the gap growing and growing and I threw my tired legs at the final down hill and the final stretch back to the finish line.
As I crossed I heard Chris Cox, the race director, over the loud speaker, he sounded as surprised as I was that I crossed the line first, announcing me as “a surprise winner” and “a dark horse”. My time was 1hr28mins, possibly a course record, but the race has only been going for 4-5 years. Jacob was about 30secs behind and Kerry, about 5 mins, 2 mins slower than his 1hr31min winning time last year.
I chatted a little with fellow racers and Chris, but quickly grabbed a little food, water and a dry top, running back to see how Jane was doing. Last year Jane finished 12th (not bad for her first running race). I reached her with 1 km to go and she was in 3rd place and was looking strong. I jogged with her for a while, but was finding it hard to keep up! Jane finished about 12mins faster than last year!
Post race Chris was nice enough to shout me a massage and then we stuck around fro the prize giving. Some pretty good sponsors at this race and I went home with about $220, made up of vouchers and cash. This was very quickly spent at the Shoe Clinic on some Brooks Cascadia 4’s..
Big thanks to all that made the Flagpole Run Up happen- Chris and the Avalanche Peak team and all the great sponsors