Whitney Dagg SMMM Race Report

 After a long injury lay off with injury, Whitney Dagg gives us her race report on her come back race- the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon.

It was a last minute decision to give the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon a crack. Two weeks earlier, I had to pull the pin on the Tarawera 100km, as my post-op knee was still giving me troubles. During my build up for Tarawera, I managed to get out for some long pain free runs in the hills, but it was the flat and fast running that seemed to aggravate it. Therefore, running the SMMM seemed like a pretty good idea, considering there is basically no flat, or fast running involved. As I ran the race two years back, I knew how technical and tough the course was going to be. As this was my first race back after 14 months, excitement levels were somewhat high and I was 100% mentally ready for a tough run ahead.

Moonlight-Mountain-Marathon2332015The journey began on in the riverbed of Skippers Canyon. I was so excited by this point that I had goose bumps as we waited with anticipation to run. I was totally ready to tackle the mountains in the distance. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect; not too hot, not too cold, with a nice cloud cover. I stood next to Malcolm McLeod and decided I would see if I could keep up with him. Back before my knee surgery, we had similar times in various races, so I decided he would be a good pacer. Adrian Bailey began the countdown and we were off. I didn’t really have a race strategy at this point, apart from the fact that I wanted to do a respectable time for my first race back. I ran the first hill hard, which was a definite wake up call for the legs. As I looked up there were roughly 6 men in front of me, which surprised me at first, but then I figured the field was a tad on the slow side. Malcolm stood out nicely in his Torpedo 7 Lycra kit, which was perfect for me to chase. As we headed up the first big climb, I glanced back and couldn’t see any girls in the mix. So from that point on I was racing the boys, which was a little different, but just as fun. The terrain was rough as guts, just as I remembered. Concentration was key to avoid rolling an ankle or falling off the track. I made the wise decision to tape my ankles before the race, as I knew they were bound to go over at some point. The tape proved it’s worth as my left ankle got a hammering. Luckily I didn’t do any serious damage. As I approached the 10km point, the marshals said that I was 8 minutes behind the leading man. That gave me a confidence boost, as I don’t think I have ever been that close to the leading man in any race. Malcolm began to drift away on the hills; therefore I decided to dig harder. To my surprise, I could also see Matt Bixley in the distance. He had explained very clearly at the start line that I was not to beat him. So that made me punch ups the hills harder to try and catch him. I almost caught him as we approached Twin Spurs, which was the highest point of the race. We then descended down a steep tussock rich slope and I managed to catch him for 30 seconds or so. We had a brief chat and he pointed out the massive climbs in the distance that we were about to embark on. He then took off like a mountain goat down the tussocks and before I knew it he had 500m or so on me. Malcolm was now a speckle in the distance, but I wasn’t giving up. We then ran a short section on a gravel road, which gave my brain a break from the technical terrain. After a couple of kilometers we were back in the tussocks, and back climbing. I continued to chase Matt, then all the sudden he was lying in the tussocks. He looked like he was feeling rather sorry for himself. Turns out he pulled his groin muscle and decided to walk out to the lodge for a ride to the finish. I was disappointed because I was having fun chasing him, even though he said he was just cruising. For the next 2 hours or so I was chasing Malcolm, hoping that I would eventually catch him. We battled the undulating terrain, ran through riverbeds, through dense forest and even slid down a scree of rocks. I instantly thought of Kilian Jornet as I let loose on the scree. The problem was that when I got to the bottom, my shoes were full of stones. I continued to run for a few kilometers, but then decided I should take a few minutes to empty my shoes and save my feet.

I finally caught Malcolm on the final big climb. This was well over 4 hours in and my legs were starting to hurt, so it was good to have someone to chat to for the final stage of the race. We walked at a reasonable pace to the top of the hill. Then we had a measly 7km of flat to the finish at Moke Lake. After endless river crossings, we were 2km from the finish and I decided we should turn it up a gear. I told Malcolm I was putting my music in and there would be no talking till the finish. I most definitely reached my max speed for the day in those final 2km. When I could see the finish, I looked back to see if Malcolm was still with me. He had dropped back a tad but was hanging in there. What an awesome feeling it was to finish my first race post surgery! It gave me reassurance that I have the mental and physical strength to get back to where I was pre-injury. Bring on the rest of 2015!

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