Glenn Hughes Xterra Waihi 19km Report

Saturdays Xterra National Trail Champs in Waihi seen a stacked field toeing the line, with New Zealand Mountain Running rep Glenn Hughes taking line honours in wet and muddy condition’s. Below Glenn takes us through his day and how he won the Xterra Champs.

Check out our Xterra Waihi report HERE

On Saturday I got to race some of New Zealand’s best trail runners at the XTERRA NZ trail champs in Waihi including Vajin Armstrong, Chris Morrissy, James Kuegler, Nick Hirschfield, and recent Lydiard marathon winner Iain MacDonald. The race was 19km though old mining tracks and bush in Karangahaki Gorge by Waihi.

The first 4km of the course is a nice gravel path (old miners track) through bush that has 3 swing bridges and 2 narrow miners tunnels that are spaced quite evenly apart. You then ascend a gradual climb to the top of Karangahaki (520m) before descending down the other side. You then head up Karangahaki again briefly before dropping down through native bush back to the miners track and finish.

The race started fast courtesy of James and Iain, but it was Nick who lead into the first bridge followed by Vajin, Chris, myself, Iain then James. As only 5 were allowed to cross each bridge at anyone time so James had to wait, but so did Iain for some reason. They quickly caught up and then we reached the first tunnel that was dark, lumpy and wet. Due to the frequent neutral zones, the first 4km felt more like a speed session with patches of hard running as we tussled for position, followed by walking and chatter.

Iain, Vajin, and myself opened a gap at the start of the main uphill that was probably the steepest part of the course. After a few minutes we emerged out from bush onto an old access track that was slippery and overgrown, but runnable. By this time, I couldn’t see back to Vajin or Iain. Not knowing the uphill I pushed quite hard, but wanted to leave something left for the downhill where I could potentially get caught.

The uphill to the top of Karangahaki was quite gradual so made for a fast ascend (I got myself doing just over 5mins/km). The thick bush made the track quite dark and you had to pay attention to low hanging branches and bogs. By this time it was raining hard and we were in the clouds.

The following downhill section started out very slippery and it was case of preservation rather than aggression. I had a few close calls, but I held back enough that I didn’t fall over (yet!).

At the end of the downhill we emerged back amongst traffic who are about the start the climb (about 8km further down the track). At this time it was good to see people again after running solo for the last 30min. The hill the second time up didn’t feel hard, but being tired, I lost footing quite a few times.

The final stage of the run through a narrow technical track was probably the most enjoyable part of the course as it reminded me of Otari Bush in Wellington city on a wet day. The soft mud underfoot meant it was low impact and you could really stretch out grabbing onto whatever you could find to get around the corners. The darkness of the overgrowth meant you had to be aware of track direction and tree roots. I seemed to go fine down here, until it emerged back onto the main miners track where I wiped out on the corner smashing my right knee for about the 4th time this year. From there I limped and ran the last 800m to the finish to win by 3mins from Chris and Vajin. It sounded like others also had trouble staying upright including Iain, racing in Lunar Racers, fell over about 15 times.

James Kuegler (4th) race report

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  1. Great reports Glenn and James, always good to hear from the leading runners perspectives. I must say I find the concept of bridge limits and neutral zones’ in the tunnels strange for a ‘national championship’ , losing a championship race purely because you must wait for your opposition to cross first would be tough.

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