Run race ((orienteering)) 1:37:48  *** 12.9 km (7:35 / km) +605m 6:08 / km
There were a couple of good omens for this event. The previous time I'd run on the Rydal map (albeit starting at the other end) was the first of my two career National League wins (admittedly in just about the weakest men's field ever to contest a National League race), and the last time September 11 fell on a Sunday I won my first Victorian state championship at senior level. I didn't win my first NSW championships at senior level - NSW and WA remain the only holes in that record - but I did get closer than I thought I was going to, ending up second 4 1/2 minutes behind Shep.
The race didn't get off to a good start when I lost a minute on the first control, a mountain bike track bend (perhaps I should do some training on green courses because my most significant errors both days this weekend were on green-course controls). I won't blame distraction by trying to work out who was the Little Foot who did the time calls on the start robot.
It settled reasonably well after that, but I didn't feel as if I was going all that quickly, an impression reinforced when Lachlan went through me at 4 and I only stayed sort of in touch with him through to 7 because he lost a bit of time on a route choice to 5. (I wasn't sure whether he was on my course - I knew he was entered in M20 but thought he might have changed to M21 and filled the vacant spot two minutes behind me, but in fact it was just a common section of our courses). By then Josh wasn't too far away from me, and through mid-course it was looking as if the only way I was going to finish 4 1/2 minutes behind the winner was if he was the winner (and that even then hanging on within 30 seconds of him was going to be a stretch).
Josh pulled away from me on the long leg to 12 - with hindsight he would have been better off not doing so - but I knew the race was only just starting then, with some serious climbing in the last quarter of the course. I was reasonably happy with my strength in this section, particularly the tough last climb out of 17 where I was trying to tell myself "this is where Cadel makes his move", but was still surprised to get to the finish and see no Josh, and still no Josh for the next few minutes. At first I thought I might have taught the youngsters a thing or two about pacing in long-distance races, but it turned out he'd actually made a massive parallel error in the mountain-goat country at 13 and put himself squarely in "if I were going there I wouldn't be starting from here" territory. Without that mistake he would have won.
It may say something about my racing style that on a day when I came a competitive second in a field with only three real contenders (although Kas, until he punched the wrong last control, and Alex gave decent accounts of themselves), I only won one split of 19. Notwithstanding this, I was reasonably happy with this and will get a bit more confidence leading into the championship season.
An oddity of the M21A field was that only one of them (I think, unless Boadhan is 21?) was between 21 and 35, and that one only just. The limited field was a bit disappointing; obviously I didn't expect many to come from Victoria, but the timing of this race made it an ideal lead-in to the bigger things to come and I thought there would be a much stronger NSW/ACT presence than there actually was. State championships certainly don't carry the significance they once did (although the increasing strength of the NOL has a bit to do with this).