Before I realized, it was the day of the second event in the Auckland Xterra series, this time at Shakespear Regional Park and this would be my first attempt at the super long distance. Two years ago Shakespear was the first event in the series and my first ever trail running event, and it damn near killed me at the time.
I really don’t think it would be possible to squeeze any more variety into a single 19km course. I don’t think anyone would really call it a bucket list event, it certainly is a kitchen sink event. Shakespear Regional Park is an anti-predator fenced open sanctuary located at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, with the course taking us over, around and over the park again. All this results in a course map looking like a drunk man (or Liz) got lost in the park.
The race starts with an
enjoyable horrible 1.3km climb up the main road, and a chance to see the mind blowing speed of the front of the pack. Nothing better than to look up the hill and see they are already at the top of the hill, while I’ve got 50m on the Garmin. But as bad as the start is, it fulfils the road component of the day, so we can tick that off.
As they say, what goes up must come down, so too did we. Across our first bit of farmland and quick blat through some bush we were at the coast. Banish any thoughts of flat sandy beaches from your mind, we were in for nearly 9km of rock hopping. The coast is something reserved only for the long and super long distances, so this would be my first time experiencing them. What a joy they were.
I don’t know why but for some reason I’m pretty good on the technical stuff, and I was soon bounding from rock to rock with reckless abandon. With a little too much a few times but a tweak of the ankle or knee would remind me there was still a long way to go. At the risk of sounding like a broken record; I love my Icebugs (Anima4‘s this time), I never really felt like I was going to slip, even on the slimy bits.
We had been warned to expect to get wet, especially us at the back of the field as it was an incoming tide. So it really came as no surprise that we had to jump into waist deep water a couple of times. Thankfully cooling the legs a bit. So on it went, rock hopping, rock climbing, wading and dodging chunks of the cliff top that were no longer at the top. I was too focused where I was placing my feet and not looking where I was heading, that more than once found myself missing the curve of the coast and nearly running right off the end of the rocks into the sea. Which I have to admit would have been hilarious.
Rocky shoreline done, now some sand as I pass the event base on the beach and climb up and over the southern headland, thus completing my circumnavigation of the park. All that’s left is too cross up and over a few more times. At this point I should point out that Shakespear has 430m of gain over it’s 19.5km, but with the coast and other flat sections taken out, it is all condensed into 9km. Meaning some decent climbs, and none more so than the hill behind the event base. Cresting the hill meant I was now at the highest point of the park.
A bit more single track and farmland, jumping photo (nearly didn’t stick the landing), beach, and into the finish 23 seconds over 3 hrs – should have looked at my watch sooner. Day done, tick off my first Xterra super long. Going in I had no real idea of how the day would go and how long it would take me, so I’m pretty happy with the effort.
For those keeping score at home we had: road, farm, bush, rocks, water, rocks, sand, bush, farm, hill, bush, farm, sand, home. Like I said a bit of everything.