NZ Mt Running Champs

I said in a post earlier this week that I wasn’t gonna take a “back seat” at the 2010 Athletics New Zealand (ANZ) Mountain Running Champs and I guess in the end I didn’t. Rather than taking the back seat in this race I had the piss kicked out of me and was thrown in the back boot………

I’m not sure where I went wrong and just how I came so unstuck on Motueka’s Mt Campbell on Saturday, but I sure did. I think a small underestamtion of the field and a big overestimation of my own fitness and ablity was certainly a factor. A mountain/trail running race such as the Avalanche Peak or Mt Lyford are very, very different beasts to a “mountain running” championship, both in the course and field. Having never done such a race it was very hard to gauge how I would do and what to expect. My olny gauge was oddly at the Mt Lyford 9km race 3 weeks earlier where I beat James Couborough’s course record by over 4mins. James was 4th in last years champs and went on to be NZ’s top finisher at the 2009 World Mt running Champs. I knew my time at Lyford counted for nothing this past Saturday, but that result still gave me a lot of confidence going into the race, maybe too much?

The first 7km of the Mt Campbell course is relativity flat, with a few steep little climbs and I knew the pace here would be quick. In hindsight I went out too hard here, but I wanted to stay in touch with the lead group, which consisted of a group of about 8 of us. This was a good feeling and I was happy with where I was, this feeling didn’t last……. After 10-15 mins I fell off the back as this group split up, as James Couborough lead out Jonathan Wyatt. It was cool to see someone take on the world’s best and have a go. Meanwhile I was falling further and further behind. By the time I reached the steep second half of the course where I felt I would excel, I was pretty far back and mentally out of the race. On the final km’s I was passed and passed again. How and why this was happening  I am unsure. Physically I didn’t feel that bad and mentally I was just confused (more than normal). I crossed the line knowing I had a crap race, but not sure why? I think the whole event got to me, I had hyped it up for sure and then I think got a little overwhelmed pre race and in the early km’s. Hard to admit, but I think I then just checked out of the race. I think I was about 9mins back from Jono and 10th in my grade (open men), out of 10. Then there were a few masters/vets and some unattached guys that all handed it to me.

Writing that down certainly helps, as I have to get my head right back into the game- Routeburn in less than a week! I got 6th last year in this race running 3hr12min. I did a training run over it in January in 3hr04mins and fell like I can squeeze a little more time out of it yet.

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One thought on “NZ Mt Running Champs

  1. Don’t feel too bad, since – as you rightfully stated – a championship race like this can be a completely different animal from a trail race.
    Before I stopped competing more than 10 years ago, I used to be a fairly competent middle to long distance runner. I ran a lot in the hills, but the track and (relatively flat) cross-country courses were my territory. One year, I was a 19-year old junior then, my coach suggested that I participate in the National Mountain Running champs in Germany. You have to know, in Germany, the race ends at the top, you don’t have to run down again! This suggestion was made on the grounds of the course that year being incredibly flat for a mountain race (from memory about 500m gain on 10k). It had plenty of flat bits with a few steeper sections and a killer steep section during the last few hundred metres.
    I knew I could do fairly well on the course, because the flatness was my strength. I could run 3:05 to 3:10 per km and still not push it. I also knew I had no chance on the steep bits against true mountain runners. But in the end, I didn’t lose too much time on these sections and could run very quick flat sections without suffering. It turned out that the competition had to work so hard on these flat sections to keep up, that they grew weaker and weaker on the steep sections as well. I ended up winning the the Junior class and finishing something like 7th overall. On the last 50m, I passed 3guys walking(!), something that’s just unheard of in the world of track running (you’ll always sprint, no matter how dead you are).

    The morale of this: would I have stood any chance in a ‘proper’ mountain race? No way! But having the speed to run the flatter parts efficiently greatly outperforms pure climbing ability in a race like this.

    So, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you want to perform well in a race like this, nothing beats training on the track (50-200m repeats). But then, next year’s course might just be your thing…

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