In 2010 I improved my time from 2:15 to 2:06... but still finished 2nd in class - out of 4 this time. I finished 5th that year... although only out of 63 finishers. I think the event clashed as entries were way down.
I was upset to miss 2011 as I was entered in the full winter Xterra Series in Auckland and didn't want to miss any.... so I was quick to get my entry in for this year to see where I had come in my running speed and fitness.
|Steve Neary |
I was totally gutted then to learn a couple of weeks before the event that the course had undergone an enforced change. A local landowner had dug his toes in and refused access to the farm the race runs through at the Okareka end. Shaun from Lactic Turkey worked his butt off to try to change his mind, but no go.
So the new race map was released... the Big O became a Big X with several out and back components for the 35km runners. The Little O became the Big Lollipop... a loop with a big out and back in the middle.
Out and backs meant runners going both ways on at times very narrow trails - this didn't bring me on at all and I seriosly contemplated pulling out. But my mates Keith Crook and Steve Neary (left) were coming to stay to run the event and it would have been rude not to run as well!
Raceday dawned nice and cool, not the outright freezing we had earlier in the week... just a pleasant 'running cool'.
|Chris Morrissey on his way to winning the 35km event|
The 35km runners headed off to climb to the trig... trigs tend to be rather high and this one certainly is... about a 10km out and back, the first runners were going through as we received our race briefing less than an hour later.
We got off with a quick loop of the Education Centre grounds and then onto the course proper. Absolutely stunning trails greeted us. After about 400m we headed onto the Tarawhai Track which looped us around through mainly level and fast flowing trails and emerged about 200m up the side road to the Education Centre. A quick scamper down that road, over Okataina Rd and onto Ngahopua Track which again was great running.
We passed 2 crater lakes Rotongata and Rotoatua, which evidently were formed about 3,500 years ago. I didn't stop to look (the photos I cheated on at a different time).... we had a steady climb through the early part of this trail and consequently a steady downhill on the second part. I ran most of this loop on my own, having lost those behind me on the uphill and those in front at the same time.
After plenty of winding through the bush and a couple of glades we burst out onto Okataina Rd again and over the road to another wide open fast trail... about 500m down this trail we veered left into some more familiar trail to me. This section was part of the Tarawera Ultra and I knew it pretty well having run a few practice runs in the past. I also knew it lead to the big downhill with multiple switchbacks.
I couldn't see anyone in front, but could hear them at this stage and - as I tend to - I flew down the hill making 200-300 metres up on the guys in front to catch and pass a couple of them as we reached Okataina Road for the 3rd time.
|(photo by Shaun Collins)|
The only race incident I had was caused by me.. I went to move left to let a fast moving lead runner past, my left hip hit a tree root on the bank and propelled me back right again... bumping into the speeding runner.... I turned to see him frantically trying to keep his balance and speed on the edge of the trail... which fortunately he did.
I had an interesting battle with a lovely young lady in pink who bounded by me before the turnaround, I passed her on one of the uphills coming back. She cruised by me on one of the last long downhills on the Eastern O Trail and started to get away from me.
After leaving the E O T we had to head back up the switchback climb. The first year I ran this event I cramped up quite badly climbing this. The second year I didn't, but had to walk the whole way. This year I ran nearly a half of it ... so I must be doing something right.
My motivation for the last km was not to let her pass me again... so I gave it everything... I had also hoped to break 2 hours, but alas that wasn't to be.
In the end I finished 3rd in the Super-Vets with 2 hours and 1 minute (out of 18), one place down from my first 2 efforts although there were quite a few extra S-V's this year and I finished 17th out of 158 starters. Probably more importantly it 'felt' like a really good run. I had something left for a final push and nothing left at the line... just how it should be!
The Mens 35km event was mastered by Chris Morrissey and Johanna Ottosson had a comfortable win in the Ladies 35km.
|Keith Crook imbibing!|
Great family atmosphere as always at the end of the Big O, barbeque with Jason & Peta cooking sausages. Excellent coffee from the cart and a peanut slab to boot. Prizegiving was fun with each straggler who crossed the line during the ceremony cheered and clapped (and they nearly all won spot prizes - funny that).
I am glad the problem is Shaun's not mine. The new course is fantastic... if Shaun ran an event over that course next year called the Big X.. I would enter in an instant.
Should it replace the old course? No... not in my opinion, the original Big O course is unique (as is the Little O). The deer farm trails are great to run, the bush bash is awesome and the trails from there are great. So I guess for the meantime it will be wait and see... but overall a fantastic day and a great event!