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Pomona King of the Mountain- Glen Stricot-Tarboton Race Report

Young mountain runner Glen Stricot-Tarboton gives us a run down on how the Kiwi contingency feared at the recent Pomona King of the Mountain race in Australia.

Pomona’s Bendigo Bank International Mountain Challenge definitely lived up to its reputation as a one of the toughest little mountain races.  Six other kiwis and I travelled to the small town north of Brisbane to represent the Kawerau King of the mountain race as part of the 29th Trans-Tasman challenge team. The Team consisted of Sjors Corporaal (1st Open in Kawerau, 5th race in Pomona), Lance Downie (3rd Open in Kawerau, first time racing in Pomona), Colin Earwalker (1st Masters in Kawerau, 5th trip to Pomona), Kaya Corporaal (1st Prince of the Mountain Kawerau, 1st start in Pomona), Alie Corporaal (2nd start in Pomona), Dennis Jackson (self-appointed team manager, Kawerau Legend) and myself (Glen Stricot-Tarboton, 1st Junior in Kawerau, 2nd trip to Pomona).

Photos provide by Raoul Slater

First kiwi and 2nd place finisher Lance Downie. Photo: Raoul Slater, facebook.com/pomonakingofthemountain

15,000 spectators were expected to the day long festival consisting of school relays, a market and fun runs, everything building up to the main event, the International Mountain Challenge.

Once the 100 runners were individually introduced to the crowd, the gun went and the challenge began with nearly 1.5km of gradual climbing, this spread out the field before we hit Mt Cooroora and the running turns into climbing. A gorilla technique (using hands and feet to climb up) technique is used by some but I prefer to pull myself up using the chain on the side of the track.

Reaching the top of the mountain you are rewarded with spectacular views out to Noosa and the Queensland coastline as well as inland to the forests and small towns, that is if you have time to look out. A quick transition between climbing up the rocks to flying down the hill moments later takes a toll on your legs and this is mainly felt in the days following the race.

Lack of rain in the weeks leading up to this year’s race meant the track was very dry and dusty causing the rocks to be deceivingly slippery. At the bottom of the mountain the track heads back to the start/finish line along the same 1.5kms of trail. The last 500 metres are interesting as ‘Heartbreak Hill’ comes near. This incline would be hardly noticed in any other circumstance but after the grueling run up and down Mt Cooroora, this is where the race can be won, or lost as I discovered in last year’s race. Here the spectators line the course and cheer you on. I imagine it is much the same feeling that the Tour de France riders feel at the top of a climb with spectators both sides. The spectators in Pomona are extremely passionate every year and are provided with race programmes so they are able to match your race number to your name and encourage you by name. This is a very cool but spooky feeling having hundreds of strangers calling out your name as you run past them.

The blue skies, sunshine and warm temperatures made for a beautiful escape from the cold New Zealand winter but it was extremely hot for racing.

Glen and Bryce Hegarty (number 7) just before we reach the base of the mountain. Photo taken by Michael Leadbetter

Glen, right, and Bryce Hegarty (# 7) just before we reach the base of the mountain. Photo taken by Michael Leadbetter

Immediately from the start we started to head up the hill, a front pack of runners consisted of Ben Duffus (2013 Pomona winner and favourite to win again), Sjors, Lance and a few other front runners had formed, with myself and Bryce Hegarty (19 year old Local boy who just beat me last year) just tucked in behind the leaders. My main goal for the race was to beat Bryce and he just wanted to beat me, a healthy Trans-Tasman rivalry. Nearing the top of the mountain I had a gap of about 10 seconds on Bryce but from nowhere a local 13 year old appeared right behind me. Knowing that the other two boys were not far behind I focused on the transition from uphill to downhill. In the days leading up to the race Sjors and I studied this top section and I had a plan of what I thought the fastest line would be. So I went for it down the steep rocky hill to make a gap on the others.

I felt good going down and I lost the others behind me by the time I passed Sjors near the bottom of the mountain. On the final undulating 1.5kms to the finish Sjors strode effortlessly past me. After sticking on his tail I let him go in order to save some energy for the last hardest obstacle of the day, Heartbreak Hill. A quick look back revealed Bryce 200 metres behind me, nervous of having a reply of last year’s race when he passed me on Heartbreak Hill, I pushed up the hill trying not to burn out as everyone cheered me on. Once at the top I was relieved to not hear the crowds continuing to cheer for any runner behind me, I was on the home stretch. A few hundred metres later I crossed the finish line, 20 seconds ahead of Bryce, placing me 6th overall and first junior.

Overall my time was 2 seconds slower than last year, but it was definitely a tougher day this year. 2013 winner Ben Duffus continued his winning form by comfortably winning again. Murupara possum hunter, Lance Downie had a great run passing a few runners on his way down to get into second place and the first Kiwi to cross the line. Sjors Corporaal had been sick a couple weeks ago which affected his training leading up to the race, but still finished in 5th place overall. Colin Earwalker had some troubles slowing him down for the downhill section of the costing him some time, but he finished third in his category. Kaya and Alie Corporaal (son and daughter of Sjors) both had really good runs and left Pomona with intentions of returning to race in Pomona in the future. Overall it was once again a really awesome trip, the race was hard and the weather was fantastic.

A huge thanks goes to the team at Pomona King of the Mountain for putting on an awesome event, Meagan Edhouse and the Kawerau Harriers Club for sending us Kiwis to Pomona, and Barry Stewart (Pomona Race organiser) for taking us into your home for the time we’re there.

 


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