Category Archives: Exploits on the side
Adventures or missions worth mentioning
(See prelude to this post: the-most-important-team-race-for-2016)
You win some, lose some. We usually have the answer as to why our performance was what it was each time. Undertrained, Overtrained, Not enough sleep, or Too much beer.
Yet when we spend many weeks preparing carefully and precisely we can still not know until race day how it will exactly play out, China racing is a gamble. Variables such as sickness, bad course marking, punctures, bad teamwork will affect the result.
As per last post, this series in September was the most important of 2016 team racing. But again we were hit by the bad luck stick, right when we were fired up, in the lead, on Day 2 of the Wulong Mountain Quest (Stage Adventure Racing World Champs) and nearing the finish of the stage, an incident occurred. It happened in an incredibly short space of time but brought implications that would last indefinitely longer.
I can still visualise clearly, we were on the mountain bike section, only 2kms into it but we had been in the lead that day for nearly 4.5 hours, and therefore pumping with focused adrenaline. It was a gloomy day with light rain, all surrounding environment glistened in its wetness. We had approached a long downhill stretch of 4wd road that was layered with chunky sharp rocks the size of hockey balls. Hamish was in the front because he loves to go fast down the hills, and he rightly has the skills to do so. What made me remember the high speed the most though was that Simone followed Hamish and was pinning it at an equal speed, this inspired me as normally she is more conservative and obviously was in the right headspace to match the lead pace. We were spread out to create space for safety, wind ripping and whipping through our race bibs, switching from side to side of the road to avoid potholes, ruts and other obstacles, every second counts, using the brakes is wasted energy. We were going fast and I was feeling happy and proud of how our team was doing altogether.
But then Hamish was suddenly on the ground, Simone yelled out something and all I saw was him lying on the ground on his back, middle of the road with his bike nearby.
He wasn’t saying anything and was somewhat motionless except for his chest rising and falling fast, along with a twisted expression on his face.
DRSABC was my first thought, and tried to get him to talk to me, get some response and find out what bits he’d damaged. ‘Talk to me mate!’ ‘Can you hear me?’ ‘Say something!’ ‘What hurts?!’. It turned out he was super winded and couldn’t catch his breath.
We didn’t know why he’d crashed but we saw a clean snap in his handle bars. There was blood oozing everywhere and he wanted to get moving again which we uneasily supported, until Marcel spotted the thick piece of skin hanging off his right forearm which had taken the majority of the impact. Duct tape. He hopped onto Marcels bike and coasted the downhill, Simone supervised while Marcel and I looked for options on fixing the handle bars. I spent a few minutes in the bushes while he rode it downhill. No luck. 200m later I searched again. No luck. We discussed more ideas and then I chased down Hamish to get some cable ties off Marcel’s bike. Then I found the perfect sized stick. Leant it against my pedal spindle, snapped it in half, jammed the stick into the hollow opening of the broken bars and jammed the other broken piece over the stick. It was an stable interference fit. Every single bump that shook though Hamish looked to be extremely painful and I think his body was in shock for a long time.
Read the rest of the day and details from Hamish’s perspective here: www.hamishfleming.com.
Basically it was bad, real bad. Despite optimistically preparing all the boxes and gear for the next day of racing, at approx 2mins until the bus was scheduled to leave for the start line of day 3 we pulled the pin and withdrew from the main event and switch our racing minds off. We were all pretty gutted, we were going so well, Hamish was incredibly strong and we knew the team would had produced an excellent result. But now it was time to care for our team mate who was in the most difficult situation of all. We wanted him to get better, to stop feeling the pain, and get him the best healthcare possible. The team bond was a strong as ever and we dealt with the situation really well.
We spent the last 5 days in one of China’s largest cities, Chongqing, so we had access to the best hospital treatment before the next event. Here’s some photo’s from Chongqing hospitals and city life:
Right now we are 600km south of Wulong in Weng’An. The last race of the series and after some intensive rehab we plan to have Hamish racing with us! He is healing well!
Dates 19th-21st of September. Distances below:
Fly fox 20m
Climb rope 10m
Happy Chinese Mid-Autumn Mooncake festival!
It’s difficult to type as the ferry sways every direction while it scoots across the Cook Strait. For the fourth year in a row the Vanette joins me in this trip to the mainland, this time it is loaded with everything I own. And there is no return trip booked. Of course I am participating in the Coast to Coast multisport race once again hence the annual trip but the primary purpose of this trip is change. Change of job, change of home, change of routine. After nearly Six years I have left my job with the RNZAF.
Here’s a few paragraphs on the time between now and the successful September of China racing:
I obviously returned home on a high. It felt pretty good and whilst I rested from proper training I remained very active still by heading out on the same disciplines for the pure pleasure and recreational side of it. Not long after, I returned briefly to my home town of Wairoa to spend some time with family over Labour weekend. Squeezing in trout fishing with Dad and a challenging 30km run in the Urewera’s including a climb over Manuoha. Check the GIF and Video below.
On return to Auckland I developed a flu/chest infection. That next weekend was the South Head Challenge. I wanted to race and support my local club. But I never should have started. I took off on the third and final stage, a 10km run, in the lead, within 600m I stopped and walked back. I knew I’d over done it. I was suffocating, like breathing through a blocked straw whilst sand paper grated my throat and lungs. From then until the week before Xmas I canned most events and was sick in constant bouts. Still training when I could but that might have prolonged it! But it meant I didn’t lose too much fitness.
Xmas arrived and I was finally cured! Running Goat pass on Boxing Day with the Uncle.
Competing in the 55km Clutha Classic kayak race on the 28th and then drinking with my Airforce mates in Queenstown for the next 6 days to celebrate the New Year. On 3rd Jan, five mates and I ran the Routeburn track. They found it humorous that I suffered while dripping with alcohol sweats.
10th Jan I competed in the Rangitikei River kayak race (52km) coming 2nd to Sam Clark. 20th Jan I had my last day in uniform. The very next day I was on the plane to Wanaka for the Redbull defiance race.
Redbull defiance, I teamed up with Hamish Fleming. You should know this guy already, he’s pretty famous these days, if not read previous posts. We even found ourselves in the Otago Daily Times before the race even started.
Everyone raced in two person teams, and we were in the Elite male category. I was in the middle of a heavy training load for Coast to Coast 2016 and Hamo who is not doing C2C this time round was simply training as he felt suitable (although that guy is pretty quick most of the time regardless).
We still were confident for a good race. My confidence was blown a bit not long after the start gun. First up was a 45km Mountain bike down the west side on Lake Wanaka. Full of steep climbs and decents over spurs, river crossing, hike-a-biking and a strong tail/cross wind. 1km into the start the front group of riders crawled further away while Hamish looked at me with a question mark on his face. I also noticed my main source of water had bounced out of its holder. My legs had very little to give. It was frustrating but as hard I pushed I couldn’t go faster. He pushed me up some of the steeper climbs but by the time we reached the transition area we were 8mins behind the leaders. Now a 12km run over and around rocky mountain by Glendu Bay. I was happy on the flats but the team mate still towed me up the steeper climbs. I knew I was pushing hard because I even struggled on the descents with no sense of co-ordination, not normal for me. At the big abseil we checked in and were allowed a max of 5 neutral minutes to get harness and safety gear on. We sucked it dry and I knocked back food, water and a bit of rest. It was supposed to finish with a 17km kayak to the water front of town but strong winds had it cancelled. We paddled a token 4km across Glendu Bay while two teams rode our wash and I fiercely cramped up in both legs.
To finish the day we now had a 15km run along a lakeside track to town. Soo much running. Once I found a way to exit the boat and get my shoes on while cramping in my arms now too (I don’t usually have this problem!) We took off chasing 2nd place who were only 50meters ahead at this stage. However after towing me all morning Hamish was now cramping in his hamstrings. I was keen to chip along at my pace, my rhythm, But Hamish couldn’t quite keep up and I had no energy to tow. We fought with 2nd place all the way finishing behind them. However due to our clever rest at the abseil our time meant we were still 2nd! Buuuuuuut 28mins behind 1st!
This is a two day event and the local boys at 2bar8 cooked a magnificent chicken pie that night in prep for the next day. First up on day 2: a 20km kayak across the lake and down the Clutha River. We led for a bit but soon realised that sitting behind another boat required little or no effort. We exited in the front group of six teams for a 2km run down the river bank to the Clay bird shoot activity. Leading the field until the last 200m where Dan Jones and Alex Hunt (Leaders of Day 1) passed us. Hamish hit the clay on first shot while I quickly knocked back a red bull drink. Now a 26km Mountain bike with over 1000meters of climb over Mt Criffel. We were back in the lead but soon passed on the first climb by the same boys. Speeding across a paddock the guys in front told us it was the wrong way so we spun around and went back to the last marking to investigate, some 400m away. I decided to ride over an irrigation hose and promptly was thrown to the ground heavily smashing my knee and twisting the jockey wheel guide on my rear derailleur. Gears now clunky but still working… except the lowest gear which would have been nice for the big ascent ahead. Within the hour of constant uphill we were in cloud and the buzzing choppers that had been following us all weekend could now only be heard.
The massive descent which was tricky for me. I had little confidence in this wet terrain, struggling to hold onto the handle bars tight enough and avoid hitting rocks. Olly Shaw and Sam Shaw caught us near the bottom who are both very talented riders (and full suspension bikes!). The Shaw boys were the team we were battling for 2nd place. We exited the transition in Cadrona Valley on our feet heading out for a very steep 30km run. The Shaws got out ahead of us and so did top mixed team, Simone Maier and Marcel Hagener. Hamish advised often to slow down and pace ourselves better, we had a big run ahead. Naturally you want to pass those in front so I had to resist the urge. Near the top of the first mountain (Mt Alpha) we sneaked past the Shaws finally but they dug deep too and stayed with us while we traversed the ridgeline. Mt Alpha was only 10kms into the run, over 1600m high and had taken us 1.5hours to get there. We had a long way to go still. Soon over Mt Roy at 16km in and the descent began. The Shaws decided to smash the downhill (over 6kms!) but we held back and decided to pace better. The never-ending downhill came to an end and now all that remained was 6.5km of flatish track to finish. I felt very comfortable on the flat and happily took off after 2nd place ready to give it all. Within a kilometre we passed them and didn’t look back. Eventually crossing the line, claiming 2nd place. Huge credit to the top mixed team, who I mentioned earlier, Marcel and Simone. They beat us overall too and actually had 2nd place OVERALL but obviously out of our category and a convincing win in theirs. And of course to Dan and Alex who made it clear who were the better team on the weekend with their huge lead of 50mins to us.
Now in the week after I’ve spent it packing bags, driving, massages, cold showers and eating well. A solid mix of attempted recovery in time for C2C and travelling to the South Island. Annnnnnd…. I’ve picked up the chest infection again. More rest required..
One more post on nutrition prior to Coast to Coast to follow soon.
Playing catch up since the last blog. Check it out to see how flat-out things have been. Some exciting news but not revealed until end.
The race in Aussie – Augusta Adventure fest has been and gone long ago. I came 5th place in a huge field and struggled to raise the heart rate all day. LOVED the race but a shame I couldn’t give my best result when challenging Aussie rivals. Especially since I was given THE number 1 bib! and it was specially marked with a kiwi silver fern to reflect my NZ representation – what an honour! The world best multisport athletes – NZer’s Braden Currie and Dougal Allan took 1st and 2nd place so NZ was still made proud. Olly Shaw – World class triathlete/Xterra athlete from Rotorua was also there to represent NZ, however like myself he also was suffering from a disobedient body – placing a still admirable 8th place. Pretty good consider he doesn’t paddle at all normally.
After the race Olly and I congratulated Braden Currie and Dougal Allan on their top placing, at the same time both were thinking about our own results: bugger this – time for a blow out. We drank beers till late that night, I dropped Olly at the international Airport two days later then I had a week in Perth clubbing at the bars till dawn and chilling at the local parks/beaches with my long lost cousins.
After getting to bed one morning at 6am I ended up borrowing a boat and entering a surf ski race 13km in the open sea that afternoon. I came nearly dead last but loved it. I could live in Perth – what a life!
As soon as I got home, one week of work then I ended up travelling to Queenstown the following weekend to compete in the Southern Lakes 24hr Adventure Race. Didn’t go quite to plan but we finished. I spent most of it half asleep ( from lack of sleep obviously) but the real issue was the part where we got very wet and cold… more than once.
Anyway.. one more week at work then again I was away that following weekend to Christchurch. This time to take my uncle on a guided trip over Goat pass (you know- the run section the Coast to Coast). Still lacking in sleep. Strong NW annnnd rain galore up in Arthurs Pass= rivers way to high.
We ran Avalanche peak instead (don’t get out of a planned run session that easily). Planned kayak trip down the Waimak the following day also cancelled due to high levels so I had a lovely paddle in a sea kayak around Godley Heads and Lyttleton harbour for 3 Hours…
ONE MORE week at work, orientated around it was squeezing in beers with the boys, early morning training and late night packing away gear to move out of my flat… That’s right I’ve moved out.
A person who wants a super serious crack at C2C needs to have good quality training right?.
I have taken some serious time off work, unpaid of course to train full time until race day.
Exciting and scary, but damn exciting still. What is my body capable of? Will I over-train? Will I make the most of the time available to me now?
One the way down to Hawke’s Bay I detoured to Whangamata to compete in one the coolest mini Multisport races around – The Whangamata Multisport Challenge. 8km kayak, 9km Run, 25km Mountain bike. It was going well until I missed a few markers on the on the run section… bugger, tried to make up for it and then did the SAME on the bloody Mountain bike!! ended up 3rd place to JJ Wilson from Christchurch and old mate Luke Osborne(aka 2nd Dad) from Hawke’s Bay. Amazing local seafood feed at the prize giving after too!
Now I am in Hawke’s Bay for my December training block. Staying in Wairoa in the house I grew up in, absolute paradise here. Amazing being with the family, must resist the temptation to keep drinking all the beers in the fridge and Hokey Pokey ice cream in the freezer!! Arrr!
Day after New Years I’ll be straight down to CHCH to live there until race day – live and breathe the Southern Alps and the Canterbury plains.
Cheers for reading team, for watching me move around (backwards, sideways and sometimes forwards) and standing by me.
Please remember that the purpose of this blog is to capture the rise (and sometimes fall) of someone from a rather ordinary life to world class athlete in a shortish amount of time (four years so far!) through simply commitment and self-belief.
To prove that anyone can achieve anything so long as they want it enough. Who knows how I will cope with this 3.5 months off work full time training. Though may as well give it crack!
Don’t get too lost in the silly season. Stick to your goals. Stay inspired. Watch this space, big things are happening.
I’m writing this in Nanjing Airport at 5am. Arrived here at Midnight and cannot sleep. Too awkward and painful in the plastic chairs, floor too filthy to lay on, and so many bits hurt. At least 6 blisters on each hand and foot + a back covered in seeping chafe. Wounds from long kayaks against a back rest and rubbing running pack, all shirtless from protection.
Too hot to wear a shirt. Way too hot.
Muscles arn’t too sore so good news there.
It was only yesterday that we finished the race at 12:20am. 18 and bit hours on the go. Suqian is a new adventure race event in China, they called it a Quadrathlon but there were about six sports: 2.5km lake swim, 20km kayak, 20km inline skate, 55km mountain bike, 2km run/abseil, 35km kayak, 60km mountain bike, 40km road run.
Our team mate Ailsa had been sick and resting in bed for the last week and still suffering from the symptoms. Yet she still dragged herself to the start line. It looked to be a long day ahead, she has always been a tough chick, which is why she is a great multisporter and team mate, we would do anything to help her finish with us.
Sorry not much photos of during race yet. Will upload when they come through. Video to come too.
6am start on the beach, goggles were fogged up, smog across the entire lake, visibilty was low. My swim training paid off (ranged from two sessions per week to zero) surprisingly. Tangled amongst weeds and other racers, we made it in 50mins.
The kayak was an out and back with only a GPS coordinate to follow. The Lake was abundance with fishing net farms that rose up to a meter from the water, fencing off just about the entire lake in sections the size of small paddocks. Mixed with thick smog and low visibility meant a less than direct route. Seeing other teams heading back gave plenty of motivation to crank up the intensity and catch a few of them before the end of the stage.
On with dry socks and the 20km inline skate began. Hamish towed Luke, Ailsa cruised behind and I gave out max effort and pain to hang in further behind. My technique was not efficient. Eventually we came up with a setup that worked well keeping us up over 20kmph till the end of the skate.
55km mountain bike, like the entire of the province we were in, was entirely flat. Mixed between fast sealed/paved road and muddy/rocky stock banks amongst hundreds of poplar trees that almost reminded me of home. Keeping an eye on fluid intake was important as it really was hot, at least 28 degrees with a very high humidity. My tire came off its rim going sharply around a corner letting out air and leaving pressure very low for last 5km.
Back at the TA (transition area) we then ran 1km to our Hotel, up the stairs 29 floors to the top and abseiled off. Ailsa was really feeling the impact of her sickness by the end of this and we settled down for a long transition. No one enjoys watching or making someone suffer and I felt so bad. But onwards we went! Ailsa was silent and clearly uncomfortable, China racing is reknown for situations like this, it was a case of keep going until someone makes it absolutely clear. A difficult situation for everyone. Amongst the pain, we knew she wanted to finish so we continued on.
35km paddle, all GPS points again amonst the thick smog. Horrifically hot, with compulsory spray decks on. We were out on the water for 4 hours paddling hard. Apart from the end of the last stage it was one of the hardest parts of the day for me, it was just too hot. By the time we were 5km from end the wind picked up and blew the smog well enough for us to see the ferris wheel where the end TA was, we cut the corner, ploughing through fishing nets. Hands were a soggy blistered mess by the end.
Back onto the bikes I quickly pumped up my tire from the air lost on the first ride. Removing the pump uncrewed the valve core, the tired broke its bead. A hand pump cannot fix this, so an inner tube went in. Lights were attached by this stage and an hour in it was night time. 60km ride. Ailsa was weary and had a few crashes, from there we stopped towing her on anything technical and took it pretty easy letting her set the pace. A river crossing up to our shoulders was refreshing for the bodies just past halfway.
We came into the final TA for the 40km run to finish. It was easily the least desirable stage. We started off at a walk but Ailsa kicked it off by running first. Hamish did the navigation with the map (which was a google satellite picture on a large scale) and Luke and I shared Ailsa on the tow. A very very tough run. Nav was so good we covered only 32km. The last 5km was painful for everyone, Ailsa’s body must have must have been in an unimaginable stage. The boys of team are so proud of her efforts and mental strength amongst so much discomfort for so long. There were plenty of times where I wondered if we’d make it as a team.
The finishline was extremely relieving. Satisfied and happy are probably not the words to describe it though. So much pain. It was more like: get me out of here, I’ve had enough.We were so tired. It hurt to sit down, it hurt to stand up, it hurt to lie down. Forced myself to have a shower before laying heavily on the hotel bed staining it with blood, seeping blisters and chafe. Not my favourite type of race.
A few days off to repair myself and my bike before Taining Outdoor challenge. 3 day stage race in a two person team. Very high speeds expected. Bring it on.
November 15th 21012 to December 2nd 2012 called for two weeks down in the South Island of NZ. The purpose being to train with the adventure racing team I’m in – Konica Minolta. To see if we can actually work together and get some XP points while at it.
Flying direct from Auckland to Dunedin, I stayed at team mates Josh Harris’s Flat before roadying it to Cromwell the next day for the Southern Lakes 24h Adventure Race (See previous post). The team of four met together for the first time: Rob Lord, Me, Naomi Whitehead and Josh Harris. Unfortunately Naomi had to sideline this race because of a injury.
Afterwards Josh and I were back to Dunedin where I did some outdoors activities while Josh worked before heading up to Christchurch. Also got to meet John Hyde the great man who got Konica Minolta behind our team. That Saturday, the team joined properly this time to do Le Petite Brevet – a 300km Mountain bike up, down and around just about everywhere on Banks Peninsular. Check out Alastair Mcdowell’s blog write up on it on it HERE. He did a great story. Our team could probably write a short book about each other after this event. We learnt a lot about each other and ourselves that will be super valuable for Godzone (The race we are preparing for).
Here’s a video that Rob did of us during the Brevet. We are up on the Summit road above Akaroa. :Click Here
Unfortunately we did not complete the entire course due to a team decision, but that didn’t matter. We still achieved the objective of testing each others mental strengths in all directions and how as a team we coped with working together at the right times. Each person in the team has strengths in quite diverse areas, together we seem to be a very capable group of people. I look forward to the challenges that Godzone will bring.
Afterwards I took advantage of being in the south and used the opportunity to train on some of the Speight’s Coast to Coast stages. I paddled the kayak section with Rachel Cashin – 70kms of paddling down the Waimakariri River. Need to make a soft seat I think – way to long to be sitting in a kayak! Then two days after, Josh and I completed the run stage over goats pass:
From then I was left on my own in Arthur’s Pass with the aim to get to Nelson because that was where my flight left, Josh headed back to CHCH for work. The next day I stuck my thumb out at midday and got to Nelson by 10pm that night, not bad I thought – a lot of awkward waiting though, probably won’t do it again for a while. I couldn’t help but feel a little bit rude for trying to get free travel.
In Nelson I stayed with team mate Naomi and her Husband, Ash. That morning I explored a bit of Nelson township then never short of keeping active I mountain biked the local Coppermine track. 50kms long with fast riding and great views.
Later that afternoon Ash and I went out into the sea on Surf Ski’s, I’d never paddled one before and surfing waves with them took a bit of getting used to. Yes I fell off, but only once!
The following day we drove to Blenheim to do the Wakamarina Track on mountain bikes. It covers about 35kms from Onamalutu reserve to Canvastown. We found a good sort to do shuttle for us.
Heaps of steep climbing over rugged roots and rocks with a wee bit of bike carrying on impassable sections. However the downhills were awesome! Steep and fast with frequent drop off’s and switch backs to skid around on the beech leaves floor. Technical but great for the adrenaline.
After a swim and “wash” in the Wakamarina stream afterwards we drove to Renwick to celebrate a friend of Naomi and Ash’s Birthday. The following day we returned to Nelson and Ash took me for a run up a hill on a trail just a few meters from there house. Nelson really is the perfect place if you are into outdoor adventures.
However that evening my holiday came to a close, I left sunny, hot Nelson and I flew back to Auckland – which of course was cold and raining.
The first edition of the new magazine: NZ Trail Runner has just come out this month and there is a nice page sized picture of me in it! 😛 . Surrounded by fellow runners, it is an article about getting the fastest times on the Hillary trail. Check it out at a local book shop or see it online HERE for free. Overall, with or without me in it, it is great reading with some sweet articles.
Note: Have just returned to Auckland after two weeks on leave from work to explore/ race / train in the wicked NZ South Island. Keep a eye on the blog for pics and stories… so much to tell!
Back in August I ran the Hillary Trail in the wild bush just West of Auckland City. It gained a bit of attention because of the time I managed to complete it in. I’m not gunna to lie – I enjoyed the wee moment of popularity . Click on Back Country Runner to see the post. A really tough but scenic challenge. The Hillary Trail Honours Board website has a record of finishers and a really detailed trail guide for anyone that plans to run it (Thanks to Shaun Collins). Click on GPS to see a map of where I went if you’re interested.
There have been plans for this in the back of my mind for a while now, ever since the idea was planted into my head (inspired by none other than the rumours that some crazy people had run it). I have been trying to find a good time and justifiable excuse to do it where it wouldn’t affect my training or racing too much. A run this far isn’t too relevant to Multisport – which is what my mind and body is focused to at the moment. The great Hillary trail however, succumbed any structure I had to my training schedule and I locked it in a date 2 weeks out because… well just because it would be low tide on a Saturday morning.
I spent the 2 weeks studying over Shaun Collins excellent write up of the track. The only trails I had done prior in the Waitak’s is the Karamatura track to the top and ones way over by Cascade park – so I had little experience with the connecting tracks for the HT.
I carboloaded up a bit prior and early Saturday morning – August 4th, I woke up my keen flat mate to drop me off. A quick stretch of the body in the pitch black and heavy fog, a couple of photos and I was off at 6am.
I started out running as fast as I could navigate with the head light I had, I don’t tend to train in darkness so it would take a bit of getting used to. I then proceed to over-shoot a corner and end up down the bank. Only being a couple of minutes into the whole adventure it was an eye-opener to how little I knew of the trails here and had really no clue what to expect around any coming bends. (Apart from Shaun’s descriptions of course!).
Continuing, slipping and sliding on my feet down Slip track, I spent more time worried I was going to miss the junctions than focusing what I was running on.
I was excited to arrive at Hamilton track, greatly anticipating it since all you hear is how muddy and gnarly it is. 5minutes in I was disappointed, ‘you call this mud?!’ was what I actually said out loud. Sure enough the next corner I was knee deep in the so called monster. It does make for a poor quality tramping track but what an awesome obstacle to add to the day, this track will always be more desirable than running on a road camber around smelly cars. The more technical the better! Not long after Hamilton there was enough sun on the horizon to discard the head light.
With only 3 more stops to check the map and determine my uncertainty for direction at junctions, I made it to the top of Karamatura. Wiping the first lot of decent sweat from the forehead, that track is a climb I just knew I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) run entirely, too many km’s ahead to savour for. I sped pretty quickly down from here slowing only to observe signs at junctions. Down, down, down and onto Kura track. Whoops. No. Map out, correction and back-track my steps.
Omanawanui trail has spectacular views of the distant land and ocean and including an island that I never knew of, the ManukauHarbour is so deep this ‘island’ really was just the Southern headland!
Down into Whatipu I searched and found the tap. While on my knees fumbled with my empty wrappers and filling up the pack bladder, I could feel the conditions of my legs and they felt about right for the distance I’d done. Sure, they were burning – I tend to compare the amount of muscle burn to previous runs to estimate whether or not I’ve been too hard or too easy on them.15mins of mucking around in Whatipu and up Gibbons I go.
I imagine I’m one of many that craves downhill and once on Muir Track I was blitzing it at top speed again. A lazy step, and my toe catches a rock causing the rest of my body to get shredded skin and bent thumb nails upon the rocky trail. Carrying on, I eased out my small limp I’d caused by the time I arrived at the boardwalk. It was flooded with water but running through this cool fluid was so refreshing for my calves.
A little lost following the orange markers in the sand pit but I made it to Karekare. I asked surfers for directions to the Pohutakawa glade walk but they were all clueless so out came the map and instructions again and then again to get onto Comans track.
I reached a bit of a mental low running up MercerBay loop and onto Piha road, I’m not sure why at 35kms in. The sun had suddenly decided to come join me and it instantly became unbearably hot. A fantastic downhill through Kitekite falls and happy Sam was back. Stopping at the track end carpark to top up water, food and text my flatmate that all was good and I was ahead of time.
Jogging along the beach at Piha I could see no sign of a surf lifesavers tower and zig-zaged from the beach to road. I wanted to stay on the beach as much as possible ensuring I didn’t stray from the official Hillary trail. I asked the trusty surfers again but like Karekare they had no clue where anything important was. Map comes out and I make my way out of Piha. I scrubbed my shoes at Kuataika start line while thinking about how it is described as a ‘dreaded’ section before carrying the thoughts into the run. Yes, there was a lot of pushing on the knees but the cool streams splashed on my face and added downhills made it flow well enough and I enjoyed it. The run around LakeWainamu however was not enjoyable, I was now out of the shaded bush in the searing sun light. The lake and stream water was a cruel tease, sooo tempted to jump in and bath in it. I sipped my water stores dry 100m before the Bethells tap. Nothing more demoralising than carrying litres of water you never use so I was happy I’d carried the perfect amount on that section (a little risky though).
Last Pit stop and I was well aware of it. According to my watch I had 1.5hours to do 15km and I’d break the 9hour mark. Easy! So I sped out of Bethells beach on high moral. The steep hill that takes you to the first top on farmland was really hard but I refused to let myself walk. The legs and body overall were showing strong signs that they’d had enough. Steady on, I kept looking at my watch. A slight left through bush and I ended up on the edge of a cliff down to the sea, moving forward I could not find where the track continued, I went back 50 meters, no, there is definitely a distinct track leading here. I spent just under 10mins rummaging through bush before going back down the track 100m to find it diverts a different direction and I was merely at a lookout point. Sh*t I was frustrated with myself… Race pace was on! This boost of energy only lasted about 15mins and the wearing body soon made itself known again. The final hill up to Constable Road damn near killed me, I was on my hands and knees, sweating, panting, wheezing and drooling. Gels had become the most revolting thing on the planet by this stage. Time check at the top. I now had 18mins to do the final 5km. Entirely possible I said to myself, it can be done! I plodded along the road with shorts bursts of speed increase, however it became very apparent that Sam’s entire body was toasted.
I somehow sprinted the final 100m and instantly surrendered my fight against gravity by laying my poor body in the grass.
The day started out early with expectations to be out for a really long time, I planned for between 10 and 12 hours. When my mind became obsessed at the possibility of doing it in under 9hours and I didn’t achieve it I finished the run a little upset and annoyed with myself. But the real aim was to just head home at the end of the day and say I’d done the Hillary trail. Upon short reflection I should obviously be and am proud of my run and time and overall adventure in the Waitakere’s
Eating my first pie in months on the way home, I felt assured that this Saturday was spent productively. May the trail bring many more painfully satisfying memories!