Chris Morrissey, twice the brides maid at the Waihi Xterra Trail Champs, ran away with the win this past Saturday, cranking out a new course record on the relentless trails that wined around the Karangahake Gorge. Below is Chris race report, which was his first as a member of the newly formed Team KARHU Running NZ.
On Thursday evening I was icing my knee after whacking it on a scaffold pole at work, Friday night I was icing my elbow after hitting my funny bone on framing while 4 of us were struggling to carry a 180kg bath up a long flight of stairs at work and to top it off I could only find radio stations with slow music on the way to the Xterra trail running champs at Waihi. So I had my excuses all sorted. By the time I was waiting at the registration table listening to the sounds booming out over the Totalsport PA system my feet were wanting to boogie. I suck at dancing and my feet know that so I took it as a good sign they were ready to race.
On the start line those to watch in my mind were Vajin Armstrong who was a close third just behind me last year when he wasn’t 100% and Nick Hirschfeld who is recovering from a knee op but always one to watch with a down hill in sight. The start wasn’t one of my best being boxed in about 5 rows from the front. It soon thinned out once we got out on the gravel road. The initial pace was being set by Matthew Battley who I didn’t know at the time and didn’t really give him enough credit by thinking he was “some young fella who would soon drop off once the going got tough”. I eventually decided I’d better stick with him before sneaking ahead before the tunnel. Once out of the tunnel I couldn’t hear anyone behind me, but within 1k Matthew was hot on my heels again. Through the first two drink stations and one gel down he finally started to drop off. Ten minutes into the climb and I heard a marshal give encouragement about 10 seconds behind me so I knew someone was still there so I pushed a little harder. Further up the track and I began to feel a knot forming in my back. “That bloody bath!” I thought. About the same time I heard someone behind me on a tight hairpin. Thankfully the track levelled out for a short section before a nice flowing downhill. The knot eased and I conserved a bit of energy for the sharp undulations to the top still to come. Without looking I was pretty sure it was Matthew behind me. I pushed on every pinch to the summit, created a small gap but Matthew responded every time and was only a few metres behind at the start of the descent. This pattern continued all the way to the bottom.
On a flat spot on the descent a downed another gel knowing there was a drink station a few minutes down the track. From the drink station the course kicks up again and repeats a 10 minute section of the original ascent. I slowed to let Matthew pull up beside me. I glanced across and he puffed loudly. I took this as my cue to go. I pushed as hard as I dared, focusing on passing short course runners who were on the same section of track. With only a technical descent and a flat section to go I snuck my first look behind. I was clear.” Hopefully” I thought. Loving the technical down hill I pushed hard but was having fun at the same time. On the longer straights heading toward the finish I had a few more glances behind. Still clear. The instruction at the swing bridge with 800m to go “Walking only” to which I replied “Gladly” before I displayed what can only described as Olympic class walking. I enjoyed the last few hundred metres and felt great crossing the line under no pressure. The pressure throughout the race had push me to set a new PB by over 2 minutes and course record. I have no idea where that came from.
19 year old Matthew Battley crossed the line 1min 34 behind for a solid second. I was going to say he’s one to watch, but I think I’m already watching.
Vajin repeated his 3rd placing from last year as he builds up to defend his Kauri and Kepler titles.
A big thank you to the Totalsport team for putting on another great race and a huge thanks to the marshals who all had a long day so we can go and play for the day.
In the woman’s race, Ruby Muir won her 2nd Xterra National Trail Running Title with a convincing performance, as she also builds towards defending Kauri and Kepler titles.
Big thanks to Vicki Wooley for photos!