Nick Smith Avalanche Peak Challenge Race Report

The Avalanche Peak Challenge, with a new modified course, took place on the 22 February. While a few were less than impressed with the new course, a strong field still turned up, with the likes of Lara Prince, Chris Forne and 16 year old Nick Smith on the start line- here is Nick’s race report.

We arrived at registration and conditions for the race looked threatening with another storm front due to come through later in the day. Also looking threatening was the arrival of Chris Forne and Matt Scott which, since Nick Hann was also running. I thought I might be able to get anywhere from 2nd down to 4th. The wind was already gusting pretty strong down on the valley floor and Chris Cox (Race director) mentioned that if the old course was being used they would have had to cancel, however they altered the shortened course to make sure everyone could still make it and so that the marshals wouldn’t be so exposed. Instead of going all the way to the top we would now go to low peak and then some tussock running to get to Scott’s track and from there straight back down.

Everyone assembled on the start line, the start hooter went off and we were away. The pace was pretty settled, no one really pushing it off the line. Chris Forne and Jordan Maynard (who was over from Vancouver) set the speed at the front, I tucked in just behind (even doing some sneaky drafting once we turned back into the wind that was coming down the valley!). Nick Hann and Matt Scott also tucked in just behind me.

The run round the village at the start was a bit longer than last year but when we hit the climb all of us were still together at the front of the field. Chris and Jordan managed to keep running for a little bit longer and established a small gap. Nick Hann walked ahead and also got a gap on me while I told myself not to panic!

The gap didn’t get any bigger though which was good and after about maybe 5 or so minutes Jordan dropped off pretty quick (steeper hills than Canada maybe :P ) I also noticed I was slowly clawing my way back up to Nick Hann and eventually caught him and we could see Chris only about 20secs ahead.

Nick leading Chris as they near Avalanche Peaks Low Peak.

Eventually I got tired of constantly looking up at his Nick Hann’s ass and so decided to make a move running past on one of the flatter sections to get a change of scenery!  Unfortunately I did end up just behind Chris so that didn’t exactly go to plan… We then reached the bit where it flattens off just before reaching the bush line so I seized my chance and ran past Chris and popped out into the open- A much better change of scenery! Although it was pretty overcast we still had some great views out to Mt Bealey and back down the Waimak valley, though mainly I was just looking at my shoes as I was walking/hauling myself up. The bit between bush line and low peak was longer than I remember but eventually I made it to the low peak, still at the front which was a bonus! Chris was maybe 20secs back, Nick Hann still not far behind him and Matt Scott back in 4th but he had been gaining on us since the bush line.

We then got directed down to the right. This was the best bit of the race, a downwards sidle across the tussock where you were able to choose your own line between the marshals like the fell running in England. I thought I was going pretty well on this bit until Chris comes straight past me going at least twice as fast! Thinking I’d rather not break my ankle (Which unfortunately happened to one competitor) I kept going at my own pace. We were also exposed to the full brunt of the wind as we were running down the ridge and it had really picked up to the point where it was a struggle to breathe and I had to stop moving when gusts came! It was a relief to reach the bush line but Chris had somehow managed to pull out at least a minute on me just from low peak and was long gone. Giving up my hopes of a win I concentrated on trying to keep ahead of Nick Hann, especially after he proved his downhill running skills at the Mt Oxford Odyssey. I tried to up the pace a bit but the quads were taking a hammering and in some places the track resembled more of a stream. Five or so minutes from the bottom just when I was thinking I might’ve held off Nick Hann he destroys my hopes by turning up right behind me! I let him past and since he was going quite a bit quicker didn’t bother chasing so I got to the bottom in 3rd and held it to the finish, luckily no sprint was required as my legs certainly weren’t up to it after the downhill! Nick Hann hadn’t managed to catch up Chris and Matt Scott came in about a minute behind me for 4th (1st 40-49) and then Jordan finished 5th.

Lara Prince won the women’s (and also Queen of the Mountain) by 6 ½ minutes in front of Megan Martin (Also 1st 40-49) and then Mel Orange in 3rd.

Again the orienteers dominated with first four open men, 1st women, 1st and 2nd  40-49 men (Matt Scott and Al Cory-Wright) and 1st 50+ women (Jean Cory-Wright)

Overall the opinion (At least that of those of us nearer the front) was that the old course was better, although with declining numbers Chris Cox made it clear that the event was struggling and I think that the new course is definitely better than no event at all.

He also talked about tweaking the course in future by sending the runners out over to Lyell Peak. I also think a loop somewhere along the river at the bottom would also be a good idea- at the moment whoever makes it to the bottom first wins and I need some extra time to be able to try and catch back up to Chris and Nick Hann after the descent next year!

Full Results

Chris Cox RaceReport

APC Photos Photos courtesy of James Gibson

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