(Posted - 31 Aug 2008)
Predictably, Team Epic Kayaks (Dane Sloss, Steve Burns, Nathan Mcovery & Nick Cuthbert - swimmer) opened a generous lead in the ZOOT swim leg with individuals Ben Allen, Guy Andrews and Boyd Conrick exiting a couple of minutes behind. The clock then started for Jarad Kohlar to see how much time he would lose and whether he could maintain a reasonable margin in which to peg them back. Seven minutes later he appeared from the swirling seas at about the same time as the lead women, Deanna Blegg and Wendy Wilson. Christie Sym, in a similar predicament to Kohlar also allowed the other girls a couple of minutes head start. Sym went into today’s race desperate to avoid the equipment malfunctions she had on day 1 but with extra confidence that her body would cope after heart surgery on her ventricular tachycardia only a month ago having pulled up fine from Saturday.
In the next leg, the 17km KEEN trail run Kohlar had scary determination already making up minutes on a waning Guy Andrews who he managed to pass at the 14km mark. Andrews could be forgiven for looking fatigued and confirmed he was a mere mortal with the sand dunes proving taxing, as it was also for the 150 runners behind him. Heading into his weakest leg, Allen with Conrick in tow still looked relatively comfortable with a few minutes lead. Clayton Smith and John Kent were both having a good day and were still in contention. While rain fell, an enthusiastic crowd formed at transition supporting the competitors, particularly first female, Blegg who still held a healthy lead over Sym, with Wilson falling behind.
Meanwhile, the mountain bike tracks were becoming very muddy from the rain were increasing in difficulty. Along with the rocky trails, riders were challenged by the mud flicking up in their eyes, appearing at the end of a 29km ride through Wallingat National Park virtually unrecognisable under all the dirt. Kohlar continued his forward progress to take the lead while Sym closed in on Blegg.
Exhausted both physically and emotionally from the concentration required in a technical mountain bike leg competitors then paddled 13km across the Wallis Lake towards their final Great Lakes Tourism 3km run leg to the finish. Team Epic Kayaks were extremely impressive with a half hour win over all other individuals and teams, with each of their individual splits the fastest in the field. Kohlar didn’t look back and crossed the line in first place again, making it two out of two for the weekend and giving him the overall round 2 win. Pleased with his race tactics after learning the hard way last year, he aimed to work hard to get in front of Andrews and then just conserve energy for the last paddle where he blew up in 2007. His race plan was almost ruined when he got a flat tyre in the bike leg and forfeited a couple of minutes repairing it. Acknowledging that you have to expect things like that in adventure racing he pressed on to the finish, victorious. A race was on behind him with Andrews finding his form and gradually passing everyone to come in second again today and taking the silver overall. Smith finished strongly in third place but because of his seventh yesterday was relegated to fourth overall with Ben Allen making the podium in third place.
Superwoman Sym passed Blegg in the paddle but to Blegg’s credit she hung on producing her best paddle split ever to remain in close contention for the overall cumulative weekend win. An emotional Sym threw her hands up at the finish as she ran through the Anaconda finish arch and then the tears of relief started streaming. The clock was closely watched as Blegg made her way up the beach. As it ticked over a minute after her finish, Sym relaxed and celebrated her overall victory acknowledging that she, “put her heart and soul into her racing today" and perhaps, “raced way too hard yesterday", not leaving too much in the tank for today. Always cheery Blegg was pleased with her race and the improvements in her paddling.
Despite the bad weather for day 2, the event was a huge success and enjoyed by all competitors. Today Tonight host, Anna Coren, competing as part of a team doing a swim and a run leg claimed to have great fun and was planning the trip with her team to the Victorian round on December 7. The Forster locals were the perfect hosts and demonstrated why athletes love returning to their town for races.