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The Wild Moa multisport event 2009 was held in Rotorua on January 10th. The day dawned fine and the course looked perfect, with Lakes Okataina and Tarawera smooth and windless, and Whakarewarewa forest dry and relatively cool. This was very encouraging after I had spent time over New Years familiarising myself with the course in largely wet and humid weather. I had paddled both lakes in considerable ‘chop’ and ridden/run the Whakarewarewa tracks in slippery, muddy conditions. So I was reassured by the thought that all going to plan, my times through each stage should only be faster in the race and such favourable conditions.
I expected to have to limit my losses to defending champ Stu Lynch in the first paddle and mountain bike and run like crazy to challenge for the win on the last stage. I did the first 4km run at a risk-taking clip and was determined to enter my kayak early and get an idea of the pace based on how long it took for other competitors, especially Stu, to pass me. As it turned out, I had the paddle of my life and was the first individual through. I even broke the record for the fastest 1km bush portage between the lakes. The portage from Lake Okataina to Lake Tarawera is not to be underestimated and it makes the Wild Moa a unique New Zealand multisport race. Coming out of the kayak with a lead was unexpected but gave me confidence to keep the intensity through the mountain bike stage. My fantastic support crew was my Uncle Eric and best friend Alan ‘Weasel’ West, and they did an amazing job getting me through transition and onto my bike very smartly.
While many New Zealand multisport races offer a mountain bike stage, few make them technically challenging. The Wild Moa is an exception, requiring cyclists not just to be fit, but also skilful enough to stay upright while biking through purpose-built single tracks with steep drops and sharp cornering in places. I really enjoyed this stage and it was wonderful to be in the shade under the giant Redwoods of the Whakarewarewa forest, the mountain bike capital of New Zealand.
Coming off the mountain bike stage still in the lead I got through transition quickly and was soon finding my running legs as I started the first of many climbs over the next 15km. I took only a small amount of water on my fuel belt and this turned out to be a mistake. I was still feeling good at the start of the run but was soon rationing my water supplies as the day grew warmer and more humid. The last half of the run was the longest 30 minutes of the race by a long shot. I could feel myself getting progressively dehydrated and the finish line could not come soon enough. Thankfully when the finish line did come I was still in first place and I crossed the line in 4 hours 17 minutes, a new course record.
The nature of multisport is such that when leading a race you never really know what is happening behind you. I had no idea how far behind the chasers were the whole race and couldn’t relax until I wobbled across the finish line and headed straight for the much needed drink station. If I had known my lead was about 20 minutes by the end perhaps I would have eased up the pace. But thankfully (in hind sight!), I didn’t and I surprised myself by setting a new record for the last run and mountain bike stages.
Shortly after prize giving I was on the road and driving four hours back to my hometown of Foxton. I arrived home just after 10pm only to be up again at 6am and driving up to Okutu, near Taihape, for the 45km kayak race down the grade 1-2 waters of the Rangitikei River to Vinegar Hill. A paddle of 3h24m saw me finish with 7th fastest time of the day and it completed a very solid weekend in my build up towards February.
The big goal is to go top 10 at this year’s Longest Day Coast to Coast on February 14th. It was a risk to sacrifice training hours in the taper and recovery periods involved with racing the Wild Moa, but I certainly enjoyed the race and I’m pleased with my current fitness with a month to go until the big one. If I can build on my performance in Rotorua I am confident that having a good day on February 14th will see my goal actualised. I guess we’ll wait and see...
Thanks to my sponsors for all your support:
R & R Sport