On Saturday I will return to the start line of the Avalanche Peak Challenge in Arthur’s Pass Village for the first time since winning this race in 2010. Well, OK, no, that is a lie. I did in fact return to the start line of the APC in 2011. On that day I had a little time to kill in the morning, before getting married to my lovely wife Jane, and so headed out for a look. In 2012 I was racing the HK100, so again wasn’t really worried about missing the APC.
Avalanche Peak holds a pretty special place in running for me. After returning to NZ after an amazing winter in France, racing Ski Mountaineering Races- the greatest sport known to man and competing in the World Championships and Pierra Menta, as well as small races every weekend getting my ass kicked, Jane and I moved to Arthur’s Pass for a few months before starting winter work at Cheeseman Ski Area. Jane made exceptional coffee in the Arthur’s Pass store, while I drank it, as well as washing dishes, cleaning toilets and eating off-cuts of cake… I was inspired after my winter in France and I had big plans (and still do) with what I wanted to achieve on skinny skis and a lycra one piece. There were many stand outs who inspired me, I worked for Pierre Gignoux, who together with Stephan Brosse have the Chamonix-Mt Blanc-Chamonix speed record on skis, and the one and only Jordi Canals (whom I had met 1 year earlier when I won the Asian Ski Mountaineering Champs in Japan) introduced me to a member of his “young ski mountaineering team”. THIS GUY was a freak back then and I looked into his summer “training” for inspiration during the snowless months in Arthur’s Pass and my attention quickly turned to Avalanche Peak (remember, this post is about the APC, not me reliving past ski mountaineering glory….). Winter came and went and I found myself again attached to a brush of some sorts at the Arthur’s Pass store and again paying the Avalanche Peak and Scott tracks a lot of attention. I was thinking I was pretty bad ass, I mean I could get up Avalanche Peak in like 1hr20- I owned that thing…… Then when I finally removed my head from my ass I discovered that there was a race up Avalanche Peak!? And people got to the top of Avalanche Peak in 50mins!! WTF I was shocked, horrified even, but most of all inspired even more.
2009 I turned up to a pretty typical day on the Main Divide the first time I was to race APC- it was raining hard and the course was re routed and I finished 6th and a good 2omins down on Jacob Roberts. I was pretty disappointed, I had been injured and was so far off the pace.
But the next year I got serious. The ski mountaineering lark was behind me and I had decided I wanted to be a mountain runner (for the record, I am still trying to make up my mind about being a good one or not) and trained hard all summer. I was so focused. I was running up Avalanche Peak by head lamp and then serving coffee’s at 9am (yeah I had worked my way up a little). Come race day I was so so ready- 50mins to the summit right on Jacobs heals, before I took the lead along the ridge, just holding on for the win by 11 seconds by the time we got to the Bealey Hotel.
It was a huge turning point for me as a runner and amazingly satisfying to achieve a goal that I set for myself the day I found out about the APC.
So, what of APC 2013 for me…….. I am really excited to be back at the race that made me want to run, race and move fast in the mountains (when they didn’t have snow on them). I know a few things- I am way way fitter that I was in 2010, I have loads more endurance and am certain that I am a quicker. What I am not sure about, and this is pretty important, is if all that will make me faster that I was in 2010. It sounds simple- if I am claiming all these great things then I should clearly be much faster at APC than I was in 2010, but no. The APC course is so full on; so steep in its climb; so steep and loose under foot in its descent; fast, but technical down the Crow and then just hard work finishing along the Waimakariri to the finish. To be truly fast on this course you need to have really put in the time on this kind of terrain and I haven’t. We will see – I can’t wait!