The Wild Waiuku And New Records

Waking at quarter to 6am on Sunday morning, like most I’m sure, there was an internal debate as whether to get out of bed for the trip down to Waiuku to battle the weather. Well, I’m glad I (eventually) decided to leave my warm bed and pile into the car with the rest of the guys from Team Icebug, as it was one of those great days that really sells the trail running experience.

But before I get to that I have to have a wee gloat, I broke my distance record.Yay me.

The weekend before Waiuku, the Trail Adventures group from the BBCM (Browns Bay Critcal Mass) were putting on a run around the Kaipatiki suburbs linking the parks and reserves along the coast. 20++km was the estimated distance given; more than I thought I was up for (what does “++” even mean?), so worst case I just bail out since I do live in the area. Oh and I should mention it was starting and finishing at a local pub.

My biggest concern about running with a group, especially one I’ve never met before as was the case here, is that I don’t want to be that guy who ruins the run by holding the others up with my slower speed. When I do a race I’m not so worried as it is pretty much everybody for themselves, but in a good way. Well, thankfully as it would turn out I appeared to be on pace most of the time (or at least they made me feel like I was). Plus the many photo stops along the way gave me enough time to catch my breath, and with Kunal along they were some pretty great photos too (see below for his work, which I hope he doesn’t mind me using).

I soon realized that although this was a group that may (appear to) set a slow pace, they are no joke distance freaks with a whole bunch of ultras under their feet and only me on less than the superlong Xterra races. Ah crap, I thought, so that’s what the “++” meant. At 16km, my then longest run to date, we passed the turn off to my house. I needed to make a decision; listen to my body saying “hey mate this is were we normally stop” or push on – I was hurting but it was only 4++km to go and I already knew which beer I wanted. Needless to say being an idiot, and liking a good craft beer, I continued and I can tell you that the beer was worth the last 4 or 5km.

I’d like to thank  Adrian for connecting the dots and Jenny, Liz, Duncan, Kunal and Jane for the motivation to smash my PB distance  and complete 20 or 21km (depending on who’s gps you look at). Screw it, lets say 21, so I can claim it was a trail half.

So feeling pretty proud with myself, I’d spent the week looking forward to Waiuku, but driving down the skies certainly looked ominous. And they delivered with a couple of bouts of hail, rain, lightning and thunder. One such hail dumping happening to coincide with the pre-race briefing for the long and superlong, which I’m told was fun for all involved. Happily for the mid start it held off.

Once into the trees, the weather faded from thought as we headed up the banks of the Waikato River before turning in and hitting the fire roads for a bit. I don’t know if Lee had a bit extra fire in his belly this race after I revealed my rivalry with him, but it wasn’t till this point that I managed to pull away from him a bit (by just 3min in the end).

The race ends with a nice long downhill, but before we could go downhill, we of course need to go uphill. This involved braving the most exposed section on the mid course and the wind was coming in strong and cold. While not a big climb, it is a grinder and with the wind swirling and switching directions it was taxing.

Though as sucky as it sounds, I enjoyed it. It is a section of road that is run out and back and is shared with the other distances, so you get a real feel of comradery as people trade high fives and words of encouragement as they pass. You’re going up pretty clean, they’re coming down with mud up to the waist, or in some cases forehead, so you know there is something “fun” waiting at the top. At the bush “traffic island” turnaround I discovered the source of the mud coatings – a lovely deep 10m long mud puddle pond.

Finishing the race feeling happy with myself, the first stop was a Loaded, then a beer and then a freezing wash off in the mouth of the Waikato. Once I’d sync my watch with Strava I found another reason to be happy, as again I’d get another PB for 10km.Now if that was where the day ended I would have classed it as a very good day, but I said that it was a great day.

With 5 grown men without their wives and kids, a good supply of drinks and long trip home the good times were sure to keep rolling. Well after we had some surprisingly great burgers from old Fitzys Fast Food that is. It was the perfect way to finish of the day which a drive full of laughs and stories.

Going into my running adventure I would have told you that running was an individual pursuit, how wrong was I. Sure, there are times that you’re on your own and that’s great for de-stressing and having a break, but what I’ve come to realize is trail runners are one great welcoming community. Be it people on the Facebook pages answering any and all questions, or a group of complete strangers pushing me to go further than I thought I could, or a bunch of mates (a couple that I’d meet through trail running) having a beer and shooting the shit after a race.

Of course the next race is the one that is spoken about with a hint of dread in the voice. Sure it is just under 10km but with around 500m of up hill in the first half, Waharau is sure to deliver a real test.

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