Elina and I travelled up to Rotorua for the 2nd edition of the 3D race last weekend, after a brilliant event in 2011 it promised to be even better, and a lot bigger.
Our first challenge though was to fit 5 kayaks onto the roof on the car as we’d somehow mentioned to some Aussies we could get them boats.
One bonus on this trip was we were collecting a new sponsored Volkswagen Amarok from the Giltrap group, so space on the way home wasn’t going to be an issue – just who got to drive the new car might have been!
The hardest thing about racing in Rotorua is trying to stay off the trails before the race, both my easy rekkie rides threatened to turn in to full blown smash myself missions just due to how much fun it is there, luckily I dragged myself away before too much damage was inflicted on the body or the gear. Luke Haines from Australia wasn’t so lucky when his brand new front wheel folded in half and he ended up with some painful injuries.
Both Elina and I were very wary of the challengers this year, in the Men’ s field there was no Dougal Allen, but Braden Currie, Sam Clark and Trevor Voyce all promised to be tough opposition and I was particularly wary of Braden potential on the final run.
In the Women’s field the likes of Deanna Blegg and Fleur Lattimore are always in the hunt but it was local MTB and former Multi-sporter Nic Leary who potentially posed the biggest threat with her hometown knowledge and excellent descending skills on the bike.
Race day dawned fine and not foggy which had been looking a concern the day before when you couldn’t even see the raft 10m from the side of the lake. It’d also warmed up nicely so with the course dry and fast and good conditions all round it was looking like a fast race.
At the hooter we were off and by the first buoy I was with John Jacoby and Sam Newlands and we gradually got a gap on the chasers. I was a bit surprised not to see Sam Clark in our group but he was stalking us not far behind. I was even more surprised when Sam N dropped off the back leaving John and me.
It sounds like John doesn’t do any training any more but as a friend said to me “ when you’ve been a 4 x Marathon Kayaking World Champ you’re probably never going to be anything other than very fast”. While John looked like he was cruising in the photos I was looking far less composed! It is a pretty cool feeling to be out the front with someone of John’s caliber though and we came into the transition side by side until he showed he’s lost none of his ruthlessness and jumped out his boat and sprinted for the kayak prime.
I had a great transition and had no company as I headed out on the MTB and quickly go it my work on the first hill. After last year when I’d been a bit conservative and Dougal had caught me up I wanted to make sure I stayed out of sight and hopefully out of mind of the other guys.
I knew from some of the local riders that Sam Clark had been almost living on the trails in Rotorua to perfect his skills and course advantage and so there was no chance to really ease up. I kept expecting to hear a bike on the trail just behind. Soon I was lost in the twists and turns of some great trails though and any worries about the riders behind were replaced with the sheer fun of the course. I’d started to hit the back markers from the MTB race but everyone was super courteous about giving room to pass and it was great to see so many parents out racing with their kids.
Coming into transition it was still clear behind me but I had no idea what sort of gap I had.
I’d been working on a few things with the running in the build up to 3D and was keen to see how I would go. I was definitely way fresher onto the run than last year but I also didn’t have someone pushing me to my max as Dougal had on the bike.
Coming round for the second lap I tried to find out what sort of gap I’d had off the bike and too who but after receiving 4 different answers with quite a large time difference between them all I decided to discount them all. What info I did get was that Elina was just starting her first run lap and that she was 90 seconds in front of me. Worryingly she was in second place, with Nic Leary having lead off the bike.
I caught up with Elina at the top of the climb and gave her some encouragement as I passed; I was still concerned enough that my race wasn’t yet won that there was barely a pause in the stride though.
At the bottom of the hill I passed Nic who was looking like she was running pretty well but the gap obviously wasn’t that big. Anyhow I knew I could worry about that all I liked but it was out of my hands.
As I neared the finish I was passed by a flying Daniel Jones from the first team, it’s always a bit of a fright when you think you’ve possibly been caught up by another individual but up the next rise I could see back at least 30 seconds and still no sign of the chasers.
I was able to run the last kilometer nice and relaxed and enjoy the finish. The races like this may be short but they are in many ways harder than the long races as you are simply pushing so hard the whole way.
Nic and Elina passed through on the way to their second laps, the gap down to 40 seconds so if the trend continued it would be a sprint finish.
In the men’s race the battle for second was also heating up and no one knew whom we were going to see next. Braden Currie emerged first and almost immediately Sam Clark followed in, his advantage from the paddle and bike proving just 20 seconds short to hold off Braden’s final run.
Now it was just a matter of waiting to see how the women’s race would end?
After several false alerts it was Elina’s pink clothing that finally gave away the result, she’d managed to catch Nic at the top of the hill where I passed her on the first lap and held on to win by just 90 seconds. Nic came home a hard earnt 2nd and just 20 seconds further back Deanna Blegg had stormed home in the run for 3rd.
All in all it was another great event and it seems set to only grow. This year had over double the entrants and it would hardly be surprising if it doubled again next year.
Up next for Elina and I is a solid training block and some time in Europe. That will mainly be training as well but will head to Xterra Czech and Germany along with some of the MTB races in Finland.
The focus for me for the next 6 months is solely on Xterra Worlds, I usually don’t have the luxury of focusing on just one race and one absolute peak performance but I’m relishing the opportunity and looking forward to seeing what an uncompromised build up will make possible there.
A huge thanks to all our sponsors who really help keep our dreams alive