Yesterday was the big day, the long anticipated Wharf to Wharf Marathon 2011 from Port FitzRoy to Tryphena, Great Barrier Island. Two mates and myself decided more or less independently from each other to participate in this year’s race. The Wharf to Wharf Marathon is an annual event and you can complete the 42-somewhat kilometers on the bike, run or walk it. The first half of the course traverses through hilly, rugged forests with a couple of river crossing, plus some awesome single-track along the ridges with astonishing views and the second half is mainly on asphalt but still hilly.
It had rained intensively the week before the race, which made the first half a bit more challenging due to muddy conditions. However, it was in better condition than we expected. We got up early and by 6 in the morning all of us were heading in the car to FitzRoy. We checked in, took a picture, honored the gods and again realized more or less independently from each other what we signed up for. There were about 50-60 competitors starting in Port FitzRoy (doing the full marathon). Some had all the gear, flash bikes (like myself) and looked concentrated before the start, others were joking around, taking it all easy. There were more females than males at the start line and pretty much all age groups were present, too. I noticed a lady on a quite old mountain bike, she could have been anything between 50-70 and I was thinking: ‘Good on her for giving it a go’ More about that later…
The race started at 0730 and a couple of runners and bikers took off immediately. Since we were going uphill I concentrated on steady pedaling and didn’t look back to see where my mates were and began soon to think that I wanted to give it my best. After all, I was sponsored by Barry The Legend Smith! I enjoy such challenges and although practice makes the champion, it is also heaps of fun doing such things without any practice as it means to perform on the day or to fail. As simple as that. The first hour was hard work, runners kept passing me on the uphills and downhills were scarce. At some stage, the previously mentioned lady overtook me on an uphill, smilingly. At that moment I thought she must be at least twice my age and I’ve got to keep up with her. On the longer downhills, I managed to overtake her – this is only because my bike is much better than hers, for instance hydraulic breaks give you the advantage of going at higher speeds, because you know you can stop when you have to – and this kept on going for a while. It was actually the same with some runners, they easily passed me on the uphills. My bike was not in perfect order, the front suspension had seized up, being stiff. After a little jump it made a funny noise and was not stiff anymore. This was worse than before, because the shock had only little air pressure and as a result was way too saggy. Anyway, things could have been much worse, especially in the muddy downhills where breaking became an issue with the saggy front suspension, the front wheel sliding sideways etc. But yeah, it was all good fun although I had to push the bike up some uphills for a while.
After two and a half hours or so I got to the half-way mark in Okupu, the crowd was cheering ‘Go-Go-Go’, some where shouting ‘340, 340, 340’. The second half was mostly on asphalt roads and albeit hilly this was the time to catch up on runners that passed me and catch up on lost time pushing the bike up. Further, I knew this part of the course very well. So yeah, I put my head down and gave it what I had and didn’t have to get off the bike until the finish line. I managed to overtake a car on the last big downhill at around the 30km mark, which was heaps of fun. The driver got all nervous seeing me in the mirror and tried to drive faster until he realized that it would be safer to let me pass.
The atmosphere was great, there were clusters of supporters all over the track cheering and when I arrived at the finish line after 3 hours and 47 minutes. The afore-mentioned lady was already there. The event was organized very well too, and to my surprise there were food packs and cold beers ready for the finishers. Muzz and J1 arrived together 40 odd minutes later. It was a great event and experience, after a cool off period and shower we were back at Tryphena Wharf having a few drinks and celebrating the event and our achievements. The prize-giving was at the Barrier Social Club in the evening and the first prize on the bike went to my neighbor’s son (Benni) at 2 hours 53 minutes. Second was 3 hours and 16 minutes, I believe. The fastest woman on the bike finished the marathon in 3 hours and 9 minutes. The fastest, male runner was just over 3 hours. These are not official results, I could barely hear some of the announcements… I hope the official results and some pictures will be put online soon, and I will update this posting respectively.
I’ve got a feeling that with some preparation I can do it on the bike next year in less than 3 hours. I would like to thank my sponsor Barry The Legend Smith again for supporting me. Next year I will be going for the championship.
Unless you are in the whole ‘running-thing’, I’d say the way to take part in the Wharf to Wharf Marathon 2012 Great Barrier Island is on the mountain bike. Lots of people had fun walking the whole thing, too. There are also various options on doing a half-marathon. The fastest walker did the whole thing in just under 6 hours.