There was a 30km race, as well as the 20km option that I raced in, with some top racers competing in the longer race, like 2008 Kepler winner Martin Lukes and NZ cross country skiing team member Nat Anglem.
After the initial pretenders during the first climb dropped off, the real contenders were left, I found myself in 3rd place going into the steep downhill into Rapaki Valley. By the valley track I was in 2nd, tucked right behind 1st and with a good margin on the chasing group. I was pretty comfortable hanging out in 2nd place and settled in as we crossed the Summit Rd and got onto the Mt Veron track. I sat back and studied my opponent- head bouncing, arms high and pumping already, a slip on a rock "Maybe I should make a move now? no, be patient..." (I talk to myself a lot while running).
A quick glance back and our gap is slightly bigger at best, but we are ticking over nicely and I stay put. We enter the trees and get onto the funnest part of the race, short ups and downs, in and out of the trees, broken by the Summit Rd. It was somewhere in here that my new friends cap went flying past me, he stopped and went back for it and I took my opportunity. It happened just before some large stone steps and I threw myself at these, taking 2 or 3 steps at a time, making a good break. As I approached the Sugar Loaf and had a quick look back and had around 15sec on 2nd now and hammered the next section to the Sugar Loaf parking lot and down Cedric's Track, again taking few steps at a time and passing racers at the back of the 30km race. Running around the back of the Sugar Loaf I started to tire for the first time, but wanted to keep pushing, the goal being that I would be out of sight of 2nd place once we started going in and out of the trees again.
Getting back to the Crater Rim Trail I saw Jane about to go around the Sugar Loaf and started to pass oncoming runners, bumping shoulders as we exchanged encouragement. As I passed over the Summit Rd to Rapaki Track I was told I had 2mins on 2nd, with 5km and 435m descent and 115 steep meters of climbing to go. The downs hurt a lot, especially the last part on the pavement and the climb was a power walk at best.
I stopped my watch at St Martin's Primary School at 1hr29, over 10mins faster than I had guessed I might go.
Jane did really well, finishing 3rd and was really happy with her race.
Big thanks to Port Hills Athletics Club and all those who helped make this great little race happen.