Wednesday, 12 January 2011

32km 3 Passes and 5500 ft of Ascent

 What a great day out. It started cold but sunny and the day just got better and better. There were only 23 starting the 'race' and I was very, very nervous about being there. The first climb was hard but never too steep, certainly too steep to run though. I managed to keep the lead group in sight for most of the climb.
  I caught quite a few of them on the other side going down the access road. I made the 3rd ferry boat of the day and Sarah informed me I was just a few minutes behind the leader. I could see the next group getting out of their boat just as we got in ours so I knew I wasn't far off the pace. The next climb was steeper and longer. Then came the first real navigational challenge. I spotted the path to Susami (with a little help from a local farmer) but as I looked back down the trail to the road below I saw several others miss the sign back onto the Kumano Kodo and set off running down the road. The trail leading to Susami was steep loose singletrack both up and down and I was actually pleased to hit the tarmac into town.
After negotiating the town I took the trail detour that started with a jog through the cement works before going over some more trail and down to the long(ish) road section. This road went up a beautiful little valley and led towards the trailhead that would take me over the final singletrack section and the last big climb. I considered the trail detour at about 27km but the prospect of an optional 100m climb for 600m of trail and a 100m descent did not appeal at that time, especially when the road was traffic free and the scenery beautiful. I caught and passed a few others on the last trail section - one I think was suffering and another stepped aside to allow me to career down the final descent. We ended up crossing the actual finish line together and to my surprise in joint 5th place just 15 minutes behind the leader.
I had a truly great day, in a truly great place and was pleased to be so close to the front. I do think that several of the people must have taken the unnecessary trail detour and lost a lot of time to those of us who opted against it. I also think that I spent enough time studying the maps and had a clear idea of what to expect. I'm not sure many of the others were used to navigating on the run. I never saw any of the people who took the wrong turn near the top of the second pass again, they had not made the finish when we left with only 30 minutes to go to the cut off.

For those that like numbers and maps you can find the details here

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