The Tui award for the day goes to, drum roll – everyone of you who were doing the half marathon on Sunday, except for Harry; the rest of you all said – I will take it easy today because I want to save myself for tomorrow. What a load of rot! Harry was the only honest one, he said, we have a score to settle, let’s whip the others! Perhaps I blinked, but I didn’t see anybody taking it easy out there; everybody performed extremely well, giving it your best effort.

An interesting fact from the relay – we had about 90% of Club members either walking or helping out on the day. That is commitment – I would doubt any other club could come close to that support. As a walker in the relay, I think we had the easy part. The helpers were out there for 6 hours or more – well done to Tom, Mary, Ivor, Arthur, Brian, Dave, Sue, Trevor, Denise, Frances, Denise C, Colin and Graeme – without your work these events cannot happen.

What amazing Countryside for a relay; the sun shone; the mountain came out to play (maybe a month since we had seen it!) and the lambs bounced around the vivid green paddocks. On top of that we had some lovely gentle rolling hills to walk up or down. What better way to spend your Saturday. Relief all round the weather from Thursday had long gone.

I need to get one issue aired fairly early on in this write up. Sorry Michelle, but men do not read Instruction manuals. The first rule is, if all else fails then read it. Well nothing had failed and I didn’t have the manual with me! The marshals had done sterling work and I had got used to being told where to go. I don’t blame Frances; she was the victim of a desperate team who would do anything to beat us. I was in all innocence coming towards a T Junction; Sandra, Michelle, Marlene and other accomplices had hatched a plot – they diverted Frances’ attention and I turned right instead of left! Luckily Frances worked out their devious plan and called me back! There is no proof of their dastardly deed – but be warned fellow relay walkers – if you come across a group of women in the middle of a Country road (especially at a cross road or T junction), be afraid, be very afraid! No I didn’t read the rule book and no I didn’t see any pink arrows.

Team A, personally I can’t write a lot about them. The gun went, Eric was gone and every other walker was left wondering what happened. So glad you were resting up for the half Eric, or else you would have passed half the Junior running teams, as it is you finished that leg at the same time as only some of the Junior runners. On a couple of occasions I saw Robyn Macarthur from Scottish looking around hoping you had been caught short and were going to come behind her because she couldn’t see you ahead of her! I guess you had a 7 or 8 minute lead at the change over and it was all over. Dave Wackrow was away next and soon found that the leg was “undulating”, the hills were far worse than the leg description – in fact with the second hill, someone was having a laugh somewhere – quell surprise or some other foreign sounding words were muttered by all who did this leg. The way Dave walked the half the next day though, he actually did hold back on this leg. He certainly had enough energy for a 2 handed change over to Rachel. This obviously spurred Rachel into action as she shot through this leg in 5.5 minutes per K; even though the hills were too steep downhill to give much advantage because she found herself putting the breaks on to stay legal. One of the most enthusiastic changeovers was Rachel to Mike; this once again was a perfect Ivor Special. Looking at the photos not sure if Rachel is showing the strain from the walk or the changeover!

Next away was Mike who was really looking forward to this leg because he is firmly in the “hills are our friends” camp. Well I think he was a bit disappointed because there was only 1 hill as such (was quite long I guess), but hey he lived to tell the tale and shot through the leg in a tad over 6 minutes per K, which is not too shabby. I know he handed over to Peter, but have no photos, so don’t know if they shook hands like gentlemen or what. Peter once again did around 5.5 minutes per K. Harry had the last leg, normally the “glory leg”, but today it was hard work. I guess 5K of it was a gradual climb and when you had been sick during the week as Harry had, then it was hard work. He was disappointed with his 6 minutes per K uphill time trial, not sure why? This leg was a grind and once he hit Inglewood he certainly flew home and finished off a very satisfying win for the team, 20 minutes ahead of second place. Excellent effort.

Now to the “battle”. What excellent racing by Teams B and C. Tony couldn’t have seeded them any better, it wasn’t just a case of even teams it was the fact that the lead kept changing. Sandra started out in front, but that was short lived. Tony overtook and got maybe a 50 metre plus gap by 2K into the leg. On the downhill sections Sandra closed in. So the battle of this leg went on. Neither would give way to the other. At the finish 1 second separated them. Tony handed over to me and Sandra to Anne. I tried to convince Anne before the leg started that she really needed to save herself for the half marathon the next day, but she didn’t listen to me! We started together and had a friendly chat for the first half K or so. I knew I had to work into this leg with a nasty climb which went from the first K marker to the second. I probably gained about a 20 metre gap on the first hill, but knew that wasn’t enough. When the second hill hit at around 3K then I knew I had to really hurt to get a better lead; which was probably about 50 metres. Now trust our very own David Bailey – Tony snapshot Burrell – he always has to take a photo at the top of a hill – he didn’t disappoint – there he was at the top of the second hill to get the full face of agony! Anne certainly put in a lot of effort on the hill for someone who was taking it easy. She made me work all the way through the leg and to her credit I only took a minute and a half out of her. Other than for Frances saving the day of course it could have been a very different story! I handed over to Neil, he seemed to very carefully position himself side on so I could only do the conventional handover. Has he not heard of brotherly love? Anne shook hands with Marlene and so the battle commenced once again.

What spectacular scenery we went through for this leg. I was told to keep my eyes on the road as I drove, but crikey the hills and valleys were something else. Neil seemed to open the gap on Marlene initially, but not once they started down the steep inclines – this is Marlene White territory (her family originates from around Ratapiko way, or so I am informed); so no way was Neil going to get away from her. Neil tried to pretend he was an Ostrich with his head buried under his shoulders in the hope she wasn’t behind him. Neil still at least had one uphill section to try to get away and we offered Marlene lots of encouragement and advice by letting her know about the hill that was ahead of her. Did she listen, of course not; she just carried on using up all her energy that she should have reserved for Sunday. Don’t blame us for being so tired on Sunday! The last section of the course was rolling downhill and Marlene finally went past Neil, but the chase had tired her and eventually they finished together.

The battle continued into the next leg. This time it was Katie versus Tanya. The description of this leg didn’t leave much to the imagination, it was hard and then got harder – a nasty climb by the sound of it. Katie threw caution to the wind and shot into an early lead, whereas Tanya started more slowly preparing for what was coming later. By the hill Tanya had passed Katie and looked like she would be first to the changeover, but no! Tanya had to stop on the hill as she got chest pains. Katie walked the hill very strongly and by the time of the changeover had a 40 second gap. Tanya gathered her strength and to her credit finished the leg in obvious discomfort. The battle continues! Katie handed over to Michelle and Tanya to Kathleen.

Michelle started very quickly on this leg and was starting to show her walking skills were starting to return. Kathleen meanwhile looked laboured in contrast as she showed obvious discomfort from the half the week before. Nurse Gladys opened the lead a bit more perhaps to a minute. We gave her all the encouragement we could of course. Suggestions to enjoy the scenery and maybe make a stop at Stony Oaks seemed to fall on deaf ears; typical just wouldn’t listen to good advice from the men. At about 4K though Michelle seemed to slow a bit, perhaps all that ear bashing she was getting wasn’t helping. Kathleen seemed to free up and gradually closed the gap in the final K. This was down to a few seconds by the change-over. Kathleen hardly had time to draw breath and was away, she had to go and help with registrations for the half. Many thanks for taking the effort Kathleen and for the scones.

The last act now got under way. Michael took over from Michelle and Vanessa from Kathleen. Michael started very strongly and before we knew it there was a 50 metre gap. At this point Vanessa and Michael settled down and realised what a grind the leg was going to be, with a  5K gradual climb into Inglewood. This part of the leg though is Michael’s strength as he went through at a steady pace for K after K. Vanessa effectively sat there with a 50 metre gap the whole way. As they came into Inglewood the course flattened and that seemed to spur Vanessa as she closed the gap and they walked stride by stride until the Stadium. The entrance to the Stadium seemed to spur Vanessa as she decided to perform for the audience. Off she shot and powered through to the finish. There was perhaps 40 metres gap at the end.

Well done to these 2 teams, it made for a very exciting day to have such close racing the whole way through.

Everybody who did the half the next day seemed to do pretty well and not unduly tired from Saturday’s exertion. Thank you for a really great day everybody. 1st, 3rd and 4th is a very worthwhile result. Thanks to Teresa for the after match bash.

Results: Click here
National Road Relay Champs 2010
Taranaki Race Walking Club
Taranaki, New Zealand