Oh my, oh my, the 11th of November is only a few weeks away, and that means toeing the line for 50kms of fun. This meant that labour weekend was to be my peak/hell week with back to back to back long runs planned, with the filling of the long run sandwich being the Total Sport Waihi event. But as with any well laid plan, it all went to hell in a hand bag.
I was tracking along nicely with my training, even managing to get in some nice 30+km runs. That was till a few weeks ago when, while fartleking around my local trails, I came down hard on my left heel causing some form of injury. From what we can tell, and hope, is that I’ve managed to give myself a good stone bruise on my heel. Four weeks out from the big show this is the last thing that I wanted, and my training has had to be scaled back. But on the plus side this has given me the chance to get my new wetsuit wet and get in some swim training.
In order to give my foot a chance to heal, I decided that it would be best to ditch the Friday run and focus on Waihi, so if my foot was to give out at least it would be somewhere with a medical team on hand. With me entered in the 20km long distance and George entered in the 8km short, we ditched the kids and headed down to Waihi bright and early on Saturday with a bit rain following along.
I think the Xterra Trail Challenge Waihi event can be best described as the appendix to the winter series. It’s where all the bits that didn’t fit into the series are compiled into one place. You have the ‘easy running’ trails of Shakespear and Totara Parks, the solid climbs of Waiuku and Waharua, the technical trails of Hunau, and none of crappy mud of Riverhead.
Due to weeks of rain rendering the car park useless, we got an interesting ride in Waihi’s finest buses to the event base in the Karangahake gorge. While cold, the rain had abated leaving us with a cool but dry day to head off onto the trails in waves to meter us onto the swing bridges and tunnels that make up the first few kilometres.
The Karangahake gorge is an amazing juxtaposition of the natural features, and the man made paths and tunnels cut into the stone by the hands of those seeking their fortune in gold. I’m sure the numinous tourists along the Windows Walk where more than a little bemused by the odd people running towards them.
As I was getting close to hitting the first aid station at 4km my foot was not really playing ball and the thought of dropping was running through my mind. Was the day worth risking the end goal of Tarawera? After crossing the bridge into the aid station, I had a quick chat to a waiting Vicki and decided that I’d push on and off for a lap of Mt Karangahake. The first 2/3rds of this lap was your classic 7km of uphill climbing with 500m of gain. This I found to be quite runnable, I think in part to my new hill legs from my Waitaks training. It was eerie at the top to be in the cloud clinging to the mountain.
From the high point it was time to put my down hill legs to use, and I started to pick off other runners with a style on the edge of control. Once at the bottom and starting the next short climb, as I promised when passing downhill, a few of them caught me back up again. But the last 3km was certainly playing my tune, down hill – check, technical – check, near the finish – check.
I had a small moment of frustration turn to showing off as I looked to pass a group of svelte young ladies on a technical and rooty downhill section. After announcing “on your right please”, I was shot a look that said something like “you? you want to pass us?” Luckily the path widened so I could get past and I put the hammer down (as much as I could muster anyway), with more leaping than running in places I bounded away. I was living up to the Twinkle Toes moniker people seem to oddly give me time to time I. Once sure I was well out of sight, I was a huffing puffing mess sucking in the big ones. But hey, sometimes we need to do these things.
The nice technical trail turned back on to the main flat track back to the finish, with a couple of stiles to climb over cruelly thrown in. Much to the frustration of Ben and Graham, I picked up another spot prize as I crossed the line – a lovely new Marmot hat and Cliff Bars.
It was awesome to hang at the finish and catch the finish of a number of mates who had been taking on the challenging marathon distance. Thanks to their earlier start, each one was a surprise as everyone had been pretty quiet on if they were attending.
With tired legs I headed out the next day with a 21km urban reserve hopping run in mind. The heel was not too happy and conspired with my right hip to leave me with a funny limping gait for the first 10km till everything loosened up. Nearing the end I took a wrong turn and ended up in Little Shoal bay, rather than Highbury. Getting close to dinner time now and with something like five extra uphill km’s to add to the four I had left, I called in a pick up from George ending it at 19km. But the upside was somehow the run had massaged my heel sufficiently to remove a lot of the pain.
I’m pretty confidant that now starting my taper a bit earlier, my heel should be fine and getting a bit more swimming in I should keep the fitness up. It’s also been cool to catch up with Liz, who thanks to her own foot injuries has been off the trails and in the sea instead.
I’d also like to humble brag a bit over a couple bits of recognition I got about a month ago. One of the first things I did when I first started trail running was to find all I could on You Tube. While doing that I stumbled across The Ginger Runner, who makes some amazing videos and hosts a podcast/You Tube show. A regular feature is ‘viewer mail’. Inspired by previous stories, I decided to send in my story and was lucky enough to one of the few featured in their show.
The same day as the video was screened, it was the Xterra prize giving. Here I was massively honoured and taken aback to be awarded the spirit award in honour of the great Steve Neary. I unfortunately missed the exact name due the noisy bar, but I’ve been calling it the Steve spirit award. In fact as I wasn’t expecting to win anything, I didn’t even register it was my name that Vicki had called out my name and I sat dumbly clapping whoever had won. In a field chock-a-block of awesome and equally deserving people, to be single out is pretty humbling and truly an honour.
Now it is onto the big show and my first Ultra.