Andrew Town’s wrap up of the 2016 Chia Abel Tasman Coastal Classic held over the weekend-
The 2015 Chia Abel Tasman Coastal Classic was run in perfect conditions on Saturday in a welcome contrast I’m sure to last year’s terrible weather that everyone experienced.
This was my first run in this premier South Island event and it feels good to have ticked this race off the list of ”trail run events you simply must do at least once in a lifetime”
Nelson Events duo of Graeme and Avril West with the support of their daughter Amanda , son in law Greg and team operate a slick operation.
Every aspect of the 36k race is carried out with a military like precision and this provides competitors with a fantastic overall experience.
The day begins early with a finely tuned registration process at the event marque in Marahau and then loading a capacity field of 300 competitors onto well appointed launches for the cruise to the start line at Awaroa.
On the way there is plenty of time for a photo opportunity at Split Apple Rock and a short diversion to observe the Seals basking on the rocks of a nearby island out crop.
At Awaroa we disembark onto the beautiful sandy white beach there and group together before embarking on a short stroll through the native flaura and fauna to the start line.
On the start line we meet Avril again and she runs through the briefing with us all and then suddenly before you can blink the horn is blown for a mass start and we’re off on our way heading the 36k journey back to Marahau.
The pace accelerates as we all jostle for position and within a few minutes the trail narrows to single track and passing becomes a little more tricky.
Soon I find myself comfortably in 10th place overall and I feel quite relaxed and settle into a good pace.
The top three guys have fired the afterburner very early on and soon they are clear of the rest of us and their race continues to become literally a race of three.
Among them are the pre race favorite, Nelsons Simon Mardon a seasoned campaigner and now running in the veterans category, in his company are both Chris Dunell of Christchurch and Sarwan Chand of Greymouth.
It is Dunell who eventually makes a break away from the other two at the half way point and continues to race ‘solo’ for the remainder of the race completing the distance in a very respectable 2 hours and 33 min, Mardon is 2nd to finish in a time of 2 hours and 39 min with Chand 3rd in a time of 2 hours and 46 min.
Meanwhile I find myself rubbing shoulders with the early leading women and there are three young ladies running gazelle- like, pumping out a blistering pace and easily in the top 10 overall.
Leading the women’s charge is Nelsons own Lizzie Wesley-smith, she has really put the hammer down and is delivering a clear and firm message to the other girls, with a “catch me if you can pace”.
Lizzie eventually goes on to win the women’s race in a staggering time of 2 hours and 57 minutes for 4th place overall!. Equally as impressive it is Tania McWilliams of Christchurch who shines with a 2nd placing in the women’s field and 5th place overall! Fiona Hayvice rounds off the top three women with a time of 3 hours flat and 7th overall.
I’m now jostling with Fiona Hayvice, who is running strongly in her trade mark shoes, we keep trading the lead role for a good 23k before she catches a second wind and drops me leaving me to complete the rest of the race on my own.
At the 24k mark and with 12k still to run I am seriously thinking I may have underestimated the task at hand and I am regretting the lack of recent running under my belt.
Unfortunately the 7k training runs around the Jacks Point loop in Queenstown do not equate to keeping up this pace for too much longer and this lack of preparation is now becoming clear as I slow and lose the lead in my category to the hard man from Christchurch, Garry Jones, who comes smoking past me and then Dr Roland Meyer from Queenstown reels me in too, bugger.
However there is enough interest on the trail itself to negate the pain and the twinges of disappointment at losing this lead.
Stunning and inspiring technical trail underfoot with plenty of glimpses out to the turquoise waters, white sands and secluded bays of this coastal trail make for some of the best trail I’ve experienced and ever will I imagine, all in all these distractions are truly spell binding.
Eventually the finish shute finally looms ahead and I cross the finish line more than happy with my effort and very pleased to complete this epic journey in a time of 3 hours and 7 minutes for a 3rd place in my division and 13th overall.
I am immediately handed a very welcoming bottle of Chia drink and I help myself to the fresh pineapple and orange quarters on offer.
Now I can relax and lay in the sun waiting for my friends and then look forward to the complimentary lunch provided, a hot shower and then the all included delicious buffet dinner followed by rewards ceremony, all of which exceed my expectations.
Huge ups to all the Nelson Events team and their crew of “helping hands”.
Thanks to my good buddy and Great Wall Marathon travelling companion Genessa Tabak for encouraging me to do this event and for hosting my stay at Kaiteri with Aaron.
Also a special mention to my personal sponsor Inov8, to Air New Zealand and of course my partner Toni Bird who help make these events happen for me.
Huge congratulations to all the competitors who completed this spectacular run, you are all very much enriched by the personal achievements you have experienced I’m sure and we are all very piveledged to have have been a part of such an exciting experience, running one of New Zealands most unique and treasured tracks.
Now you may wish to contact Graeme and the team to find out about another epic trail they are planning very soon on the renowned Heaphy Track? I believe this trail is also very stunning.
Hope to see some of you at the Pyramid Run in Twizel next month, part of Labour Weekends Hard Labour events.