What goes up, must come down, and it is all downhill from here to the finish line, well, kind of.
Have a look at your watch as you come over Ocean Ridge. By time, you are approximately half way.
From Ocean Ridge to Deadmans Track you will have a majestic alpine vista across to the Darran Mountains, and down the Hollyford Valley towards the deserted paradise of Martins Bay. A manicured surface, and undulating terrain make this one of the fastest sections of the event.
There is a good chance you will hear and see Kea during the event. The large mountain parrot is recognisable by its shrill ‘keeeaaa’ call. The clown of of the mountain will likely be hanging around scavenging off anything it can get it's beak onto.
As the gradient flattens from Earland Falls, you be will rewarded with an ancient forest draped in moss and lichen, with an emerging backdrop of Darran Mountains as the sun lights up the western side of the Hollyford Valley. It is worth noting that because you are on the eastern side of the valley you won’t feel the warmth of the sun on your back until you leave Lake MacKenzie. Gloves, arm warmers and beanie might be a smart choice.
For those who are struggling to contain their excitement, there is a conveniently, though bizarrely located toilet a kilometre after Earland Falls.
The picturesque view across Lake MacKenzie and up to Emily Pass, is one you will often see in brochures and magazines. Lake MacKenzie is also the location of the last known sighting of the Moa, as recently as 2003. For competitors, Lake MacKenzie serves as an aid station, and compulsory gear check.
Leaving Lake MacKenzie, above you to the west is the imposing face of Ocean Ridge, which serves as your next climb. The climb can be broken into two halves. The first half in the forest with rough uneven rock cut stairs. The second half a series of heart breaking switch-backs in open alpine daisies, and buttercups.
The Routeburn Classic begins from 500m back towards Te Anau on SH 94. This has the effect of spreading the field before you reach the narrow single track. If you are puffing by the time you enter the single track, you need to slow down. The 3km climb to Key Summit junction has an average gradient of 11%, and the vast majority of the field should be walk-jogging the climb. It is going to be a very long day if you go into the red zone on the first climb.