By Dan Hayman
I have been wanting to do this event for several years, but after being cancelled several times due to the pandemic, was unable to compete. I think this may have been a blessing in disguise, as it allowed me to mature as an athlete, and put in some solid hours of training in the lead-up.
The bulk of my training has been in the last 3 months while working on an orchard picking fruit in central Otago. Long days out in the heat, and carrying heavy weights around all day all contributed to my success at the race.
Having run predominately flat races before, I knew that I needed to put a lot of time and effort into building up a good base of hill fitness. Hard at first, but over the 3 months I built up to a very comfortable level, and was able to sustain a reasonable uphill effort for an extended period of time. Overall, my training was solid, and after a good 10-day taper, I felt ready.
On race day, it had been raining off and on all morning, so the tracks were slippery and slower than anticipated. Luckily the rain had eased in time for the start. Beginning with a Gingerade Stroopwafel 30 minutes before the start and a Tri-Berry gel on the start line, I was ready to push hard.
From the get-go, the pace was hot. All the way up Tobins Track, there were a few of us, constantly switching positions, with the top few places already way off into the distance. Unfortunately, my legs couldn’t hold off the surges, and I was dropped before we reached the top of the track.
It took several kilometres to catch back up to the now splintered pack, and over the next several kilometres we settled into a rhythm.
A route choice error by the competitor in front of me allowed me to run past, and catch up to the next person ahead. Just before the second and final aid station, I made my move and after exchanging a few words, passed him too.
On to the final section of the climb. After nearly 800m of verticle ascent in the legs over just 8 kilometres, I caught and passed the next person, finally feeling strong. Just before the top, I had a Cola-flavoured gel, giving me the final boost needed. Reaching the top filled me with a sense of relief, but knowing the course, I knew that the next kilometre of downhill was slow. With a steep gradient (over 45% in places!), rocks, a narrow single track barely wide enough to fit your feet on, and wet and slippery grass underfoot, it was a relief to turn off this track and onto the final downhill section.
MINERS TRAIL: 15.7km RUN | 927m CLIMB | 1047m HIGHEST POINT
Turning onto the Macetown Road at the bottom, the squeal of mountain bikers breaks echoed through the valley, and soon enough, we began the challenge of the cold river crossings. It was carnage. Mountain bikers all over the place, slippery rocks and again, the squeal of wet brake pads. Overtaking over-confident bikers I ploughed on. I knew by this point that I was sitting in 5th.
The final kilometres were tough, stiff legs after the piercing cold of the rivers urging me to stop. From about 500m out I could hear the finish line. The pumping music and the booming sound of the people on the MC.
Merged with the crowd support and the final meters ahead, I surged on, picking the pace up until I was sprinting down the finish shoot, just below 3:00/km. Crossing the finish line I sunk to my knees, my legs refusing to take me a step further. Jubilated, proud and exhausted. Everything I had to give was left out on the course.
To my surprise, I had managed to put 2 minutes back to 6th and 4 minutes back to 7th! Enough to leave me with 5th place overall and 1st in my age category. A result I am really happy with.
Looking back, the only thing I would change would be to spend even more time training the hills. I now know that there is no such thing as too much, especially when it comes to the steep unforgiving course of the Miner's trail!
A massive thank you to GU, as both my training and the race itself wouldn't have been nearly as successful without the energy provided by the Gels, Stroopwafels and rehydrating in the hot climate of Central Otago with Hydration Tablets!
Dan Hayman is an 18-year-old runner from Dunedin, currently training for several upcoming events such as the 3 Peaks Mountain Race, and later on in the year the Frankfurt Marathon (a fundraiser for the Cancer Society of New Zealand).
Follow Dan on IG: @dan_hayman3
Follow their Frankfurt fundraiser on IG: @frankfurt4cancer