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The Goat is the answer.

Chris Morriessy. Photo: Paul Charteris www.taraweraultra.co.nz

Chris Morriessy. Photo: Paul Charteris www.taraweraultra.co.nz

The Goat is the answer. The question : What’s the most fun 600 people can have in the mud with uphill tail winds and horizontal rain? Chris Morriessy’s race report of the 2013 Goat.

Goat SC

Sjors on his way to another impressive win. Photo: Paul Charteris www.taraweraultra.co.nz

After an alternative all uphill course last year because of a bit of heart burn deep in the gut of Mount Ruapehu, the weather was threatening to dictate which course we could race this year. Fortunately for the athletes and the race crew there would be no repeat of the 2012 course. Using the knowledge of local mountain guides, race director Jason Cameron made the call to race the original course with the river levels being safe enough to cross.
At the top of the Bruce Road, bus loads of runners huddled under what ever shelter they could while a short race briefing was given before the start. Traditionally a few of the top seeded runners would be introduced to the crowd but the weather shortened the pre race formalities this year.  With a minute to go before the gun, standing in shorts and a singlet I decided not to be so tough and put on another thermal singlet and gloves hoping I wouldn’t regret  further down he track. On the start line the pre race banter between  Sjors Corporaal, Nick Hirschfeld, Daniel Clendon and myself was short and sweet before we returned to our corners to wait for the bell.
My race plan was to stay as close to Sjors for as long as I could. My average for the Goat was 2:04:20 after 5 races with a PB of 2:02:16. Being a bit of a geek, I’ve worked out that statistically breaking 2 hours is a big ask but it’s the goal I’ve been aiming for each year. I knew Nick was hoping to put pressure on me and hopefully we would both get closer to the mark.
At the gun we eased out the start chute before winding up to full speed down the road. Sitting in about 6th off the mark I made my way through the field as we made our way to the start of the trail. Sitting behind Sjors with about 100m to go before it got rocky Daniel went by. Sitting behind Sjors isn’t really an accurate description of the situation. I was already heating up. Off the road I took a better line and was back on his tail ahead of Daniel. The gap was about 10 metres and the visibility was about 50 metres. As we undulated across the lava field I could see Sjors was making ground over the crest of each rise as he began to stride out. 10 minutes in at the top of the first climb he disappeared into the mist. Watching my footing on the descent I didn’t even try to see where he was as we zig zagged down the hill. Half way down the slope I heard approaching foot steps then Nick asking to pass when he could. I let him go by and began to chase. Trying to keep Nick in my sights was also helpful to indicate where the track was in some of the less distinct areas especially with the poor visibilty. I’ve raced Nick at the Goat a few times now and the pattern is usually I would make up ground up the hills only to have Nick go by on the technical descents. The usually pattern had returned. I was feeling strong and was running more of the up hills than in the past and Nicks lead at the bottom of each hill was getting smaller until he eventually didn’t go past.
On one descent I was approaching a marshal point only to find myself at the top of a 45 degree slope of slick clay about 6 metres long. I don’t remember lifting a foot as I skied to the bottom of the slope still upright to the surprise of the marshal and myself. Just under half way through and the marshal informed me I was 2 minutes down on Sjors. Pretty happy with that I still didn’t manage to spot him up the long climb in the middle of the race.
The weather was quickly deteriorating the further around the mountain I went to the point where I was running the tops of the climb with the aid of the strong tail wind and heading for cover as quick a I could once on the top to avoid the rain pelting the backs of my legs. Funny how the horrible weather can make it more fun.
Approaching Lake Surprize and the Mangaturuturu river the legs were certainly willing to go faster but the slippery board walks made me button off. The marshals at the river crossing told me I was 4 minutes behind Sjors. That was encouraging. Up until that point I had tripped and slid almost out of control nearly a dozen times. I was enjoying the race but definitely not “driving to the conditions”.  Less than 100 metres from he river at the hut I was told that I was 5 minutes behind. Close anyway with 4 km to go. A minute per kilometer is a big ask but I knew that if I was that close I could be close to two hours as well.

I hit the Cascade Falls full of enthusiasm and began passing competitors in the Big Kid race. Part way up the Falls I noticed a young lady in a bit of distress regarding a bit of vertigo. I stopped and tried to give her a few words of encouragement knowing that she had pretty much just done the steepest bit. I soon realized that the guy I had just passed and the guy just in front were kitted up in Whakapapa Ski club wet weather gear and were already on the case trying to encourage the young lady further up the slope. Satisfied that she was in good hands and realizing that I was freezing my butt off by stopping I headed up the falls. I hadn’t stopped for long but the next marshal told me I was 9 minutes behind Sjors. “Really?!!” was the only thing that came out. I dug it in up the final slope to hit the road in ….. No, my watch had somehow stopped at 1:35. Determined to run all of Mumma’s mile to the finish I pulled my cap down, leaned forward and twisted my shoulders a little to try to get some benefit from the increasing side wind.

Coming down the home straight I could see the clock but couldn’t get there in time to improve on my average stopping the clock at 2:04:29 and 7:47 behind 5 times goat winner Sjors Corporaal. Nick came through in 2:09:11 to record another solid performance

Jess Simson on her way to breaking the course record. Photo: Paul Charteris www.taraweraultra.co.nz

Jess Simson on her way to breaking the course record. Photo: Paul Charteris www.taraweraultra.co.nz

In such unfavorable yet fun conditions this was possibly my best performance at The Goat, but the 2 hour bench mark still eludes me. The unfavorable conditions didn’t seem to phase women’s goat winner Jess Simson who broke Ruby Muirs record to finish 8th overall in 2:16:54 on her first attempt. Wow!
It was a great day to be racing on the original course again. Fantastic to see the introduction of the Big Kid race. Hopefully some of the Big Kids will grow up to be goats one day. A big thanks to The Victory events crew for putting on another great race and a huge thanks to all the marshals for standing out in the cold and pointing us in the right direction.


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