Peak 20: Mt Isobel

So Peak 20! How time flies… and up to Hanmer Springs once again (the alpine village holds numerous sporting events in the area throughout the year).

Hanmer Springs
Jollies Pass Road

The Mt Isobel Challenge was on today’s menu, a mountain/trail duathlon.  The route is great and my third time at the event since I moved to New Zealand.
You start in the village domain (380m), run up 8km to Mt Isobel‘s peak (1319m), back down 3km to Jacks Pass saddle (870m) where you transition onto your MTB for the 23km ride.  Then hoon down to the Clarance River (790m), back up and over Jollies Pass (864m) into Hanmer Forest (390m) then back up to Clarence Valley Road (525m) before the final descent into the domain again.  The leader usually completes the course in just under 2 hours.

This year we had a bit of an epic mission to start the day off.  On the drive there (140km north of Chch) we managed to blow a tyre from the heat of the rear exhaust on the car (the bike was on the rack, but wheel was lower down that usual… lesson learnt!) so had a mad dash when we got there to find either a tyre, rim, wheel and inner tube to fix it before the start.  Thankfully Renee managed to find a new tyre and tape up her rim before the start and Caralyn got the bike up to Jack’s Pass in time.  Whew, problem averted!

The start was pretty quick, but not as speedy as the Half Marathon a few weeks ago.  It played out like I expected, but there were definitely distinct packs forming within the first 2km of the climb.  The leading two included Hanmer local Steve Halligan; ahead of the chasing pack which included myself, JJ, Elisha and a few other usual names in the pack.  I drifted into a rhythm and dozed for a few seconds… totally missing a small surge around 1km in… meaning I was on the back foot.

At the junction of singletrack I was around 50m behind the group and never really made up much ground after that.

The contouring and climb up to the waterfall track was smooth going – just grunt away the large boulder steps and keep going on the easier terrain, caught a few guys up here, so was going well. The steep climb to the summit was where I lost time on the leaders; not yet knowing of the gale force winds on the summit (!!)  JJ’s trekking pole would have been a great choice on the steep slog, but I struggled on clawing my way up what felt like near vertical slope… So reaching the ridge-line, the summit was now in sight – and then the wind hit – huge gusts blowing runners all over the ridge; forwards, back and sides – surprised that no one collided with each other as on the way down you had to pass those still on the uphill section of the ridge.  Slow running here but muscled it to the top in around 53mins I think.

Back down to transition was fast, partially with the wind this time (but this is NZ so the wind comes at you from every direction).  Having got down to Jack’s Pass I came upon a problem… I couldn’t find my bike… not useful! After a minute of faffing I found it and got on with the ride towards the Clarence River.

Looking Up Jollies Pass
Looking Up Jollies Pass

Not being as used to MTB as I should be I got passed by groups of riders in bunches, me on my own fighting against the wind, seemingly much slower than everyone else.  But then again – I had beaten them up the mountain!

Note to self: train more and try harder.

Back up and over Jollies Pass [pictured], the going was good – although passed by more riders (…those with more balls than me on the downhills).  Back into the domain in 2hrs 17. An OK time considering my lack of MTB skills, but did enjoy the run and bike this year and I wasn’t too tired after either.  Note to self: train more and try harder.

Also this time I didn’t take my GoPro along, so had to cobble together some footage from previous times near Mt Isobel… but still there is a mini video for you at the top!

A big thanks go out to Hanmer Events, Graham, Bivouac and the team.  It was a stunning event, the weather was primo and this year they had great numbers of competitors show up!

What’s up next weekend? …a suprise!

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