A quick glance at the start list yesterday morning and I knew that I was in for a good race at the Avalanche Peak Challenge (APC). Looking the list over I figured I could finish anywhere from 1st-5th, depending on what kind of day we were all having. The woman’s race started 1st, so it was nice to see Jane start and cheer her on before they ducked onto the Avalanche Peak track. Jane’s race would be similar, with a pretty strong field, including Lara Prince, who has won title after title at the APC.
Our race started off surprisingly slow, as everyone seemed to hold back a little, before Jacob Roberts not surprisingly took the lead. By the time we hit the steep single track I slotted right in behind him, with Tane Cambridge close behind. By the time we got to the tree line gear check, Jacob and I were out of sight of the case pack and moving at a good pace. I was feeling really good at this point and it was probably the easiest I have moved up Avalanche Peak. We ran the flat sections, but power walked any inclines. I guess we were both feeling pretty relaxed too, as we chatted a little on the climb about a few different things. I always enjoy running with other people and was having fun hammering the climb together. I got a few looks back and spotted Tane way out by himself, still in 3rd. There was $100 up for the King of the Mountain- the first person to the summit of Avalanche and as we reached the final ridge Jacob sped up, I was able to stay with him, but I didn’t bother challenging him, after all he had really done all the work leading the climb, while I just hang off the back. I clocked our split from the start of the track to the summit at about 50min30sec! We then got directed on a slightly different route off the summit, that involved Jacob and I climbing over an older lady that had stopped in the middle of a 2m down climb. We hit the downhill and I was offered the lead, which I gladly took, hammering the section down to the ridge (where I had to back track for a dropped Gu). It was decision time in the race for me as I knew hanging around with Jacob until the river bed would be no good, as that is my weakness and a strength of Jacob’s. I ran conservatively until the scree and then put the hammer down, opening up a descent gap. It would have been at least 1min by the bottom of the scree slope and about 2mins when I passed Jane (who was in 2nd place!!) deep in the Crow Valley. The single track down the Crow is so fun to run and I know it pretty well now, so I pretty much gave it all down this. I was told after the race by Sia Svendsen that I looked crazy when I went past her and I am not surprised, I felt it. I knew I was being hunted by the winner of the last 3 APC’s and the Waimak river bed running section was fast approaching. My goal was to be as far away from Jacob as possible by the time I hit the river. I looked back across the grass flats and saw a tiny speck coming out of the trees, at least a couple of minutes back, which I felt wasn’t far enough. I was able to take a good line as I followed Lara who now had a HUGE lead over the rest of the women’s field. I past Lara and explained that she could probably walk it in and still win at this stage.
I started to fade a little at this point. I had now past Lara, a guy biking (??) up the river and a lady walking up, so it was hard to tell which dot was which when I looked back. Around the Klondyke road end I looked back and it was pretty clear that there was a dot gaining fast. I wasn’t sure who, as I said earlier there were a few fast guys in the field, but I knew it was going to be close. Just as I got to the Bealey Bridge I tripped, falling pretty hard, hitting my knee on a big flat stone. This was of course in front of a small crowd that was watching. I laughed a little as I got up, the knee sore, but still working. Whoever it was behind me was really gaining now and only when I got off the river bed and onto the last steep climb to the finish was I sure I had the win. I was reduced to a walk, looking back every few meters, before jogging in the last 20 or so meters. I then lay in a heap before jumping up to congratulate Jacob who finished just 12secs back. I ran 2hrs28min58sec, a time that is almost hard for me to believe I did. Apparently the course record is 2hr27 something, held by Keith Murry (who also holds the C2C longest day record), so we managed to run a pretty honest time. Looking over the results listed on the APC website, it is the fastest time since at least 2003, which is how far back they have results listed.
About 10mins later Matt Scott, Lara’s partner, came in for 3rd place. Jane was the 3rd woman, just getting past at the Bealey Bridge by Sia Svendsen. Good mates Tim and Rich, who also work in the same office, had a good battle, with Tim coming out on top in his 1st running race, placing 11th over all. Hat’s off to Rich who had a great little puking session post race (yeah, sounds familiar!)
Overall it was a great day, with awesome weather, a good, strong turnout and it was great to run the full course. A big thanks to Chris and his team for a great event, as well as the race sponsors.
Next race up is the 9km at Lyford. I am opting for the shorter race to give the body a little rest before the NZ Mt running champs in mid April. Before that is a day or 2 of easy running and beer drinking, then it will be time for some more steep and sweet single track running around the Craigieburns and APNP.