I don’t think anyone was quite prepared for what Shaun had planned at Atiu Creek Farm and dubbed The Gazuntite.
After months of wondering will it or won’t it be on, Shaun and Lactic Turkey made the call and
cancelled postponed the 2017 Hillary event out of respect for the Kauri die back rahui on the Waitakere ranges. But before we knew it we had an email announcing it’s alternative (I’m loathed to say replacement), a new event at a pretty much new regional park.
Being a sucker for a new event and Shaun’s work, I took the entry transfer option and signed up for the 34km distance, along with the free camping on offer. I thought to myself; “this might be a nice break from the brutality of the Hillary” Ahhh, yeah, nah.
Atiu Creek Farm is one of Auckland’s newer regional parks and is located about 30min west of Wellsford. As the name suggests, it’s basically a working farm, but one with native and pine forest sections, all over looking the Kaipara Harbour. Oh and it’s got some steep bits.
Something that I thought was really cool was the ability to camp right at the start finish line. As far as I can tell there are only one or two other event’s in NZ with this, so of course I got me a tent and headed up on Friday afternoon.
Now let this be a lesson to you kids, if you buy a tent from the Warehouse the day before you need it, check it’s all there. In the process of putting mine up, I discovered that I was a pole short of a full set. But the trail running spirit kicked in and Paul Altena kindly loaned me a pole from his spare tent. A second tragedy was also avoided thanks to Liz delivering more ice on Saturday for my chilly bin of post race beers.
The little tent city came alive at early o’clock Saturday as most of the campers were about to subject themselves to 80km of “fun”, kicking off at 6am. By the glow of head lamps a small crowd cheered them off. Then it was back to bed for a few hours before the handful of 80km speedsters took off, and that meant it was time for breakfast.
Suddenly the event base exploded to life as the bulk of the days runners arrived, and was our turn to get out there and explore the park. This was going to be Liz’s big test on her foot after injuring it last year, and before hand she was downplaying her chances of finish ahead of me. Well, 4km in she was long gone into the distance powering up the early climbs. Meanwhile my right hip was starting to give me shit, but then there is always some part of me that complains at the start of a run.
But my hip wouldn’t quit the shit, and this threw everything out of whack. Running down the long hill to the swamp caused some back pain, and the climb out of the swamp up Mt Doom caused all sorts of pain – but it did that to everyone I think, because it was S-T-E-E-P!!! Thankfully I’d brought my poles (for Liz, but it’s not like she needed them), so at least I was able to take some load from my hips. But now just walking at 6km, it was going to be a long day.
But my body wasn’t done with me just yet. I normally have a pretty cast iron stomach but today it had jumped on the bandwagon and was playing up. Without getting too vulgar, I’ll just say it was good there were so few behind me, and that there toilets at the top aid station, and that we passed through there twice.
Heading into the 24km aid station (that was the earlier 9km station) I have to say I was about read to drop at the 25km aid station, which was located at the event base and marked the end of the first loop. I was reasoning with myself that I might be able to convince them to give me a 16km finishers magnet. But thanks to the encouragement from the team there, I steeled my resolve to push on and finish the next 9km loop. Though when I got to the 25km mark I was told Liz was fuming mad. Being the one who suggested the event, I wondered if in the interest self preservation I should cut and run before she got back from her 9k loop.
But I continued and once again it was down to the swamp and back up Mt Doom. How the 80k’er did it three times astounds me. Now knowing the trail and what lay along it’s path, I kept hoping for the point that I’d be directed onto the trail that would take me back to the
9km 24km 33km aid station. Before too long I was at the finish line, in the middle of prize giving. After nearly 7.5 hours moving, I was too focused on getting off my feet I nearly forgot my 34km magnet, the thought of which had kept me going for more kilometres than it should have. I’d finished last male, which wasn’t really the plan, but when I compared the entry and finish lists I found there were 12% on males that DNF’ed (or DNS). So I might have been last over the finish line but it was over the finish line.
Sitting back with a beer afterwards, I was glad I was staying to camp another night. After a “shower” sitting on the ground under the tap on a fence post, it was nice to sit, and cheer the bulk of the 80k’ers in along with some of the shorter distance runners who also had a tough day. There was a good vibe in camp, and I think could become a real hallmark of this event. Only issue is that everyone is in bed by 9, like we were all tired for some reason.
Brass tacks time: if you were after a challenging event equal to the Hillary, the Gazuntite more than delivered. It’s not just the 1400m gain (in the 34km) that will push you; the open farmland offers no respite from the heat of the sun, and the rutted uneven ground livestock create will test the ankles and put real pressure on the feet. But when weighed against the camping and atmosphere, plus factoring in the short notice Lactic Turkey had to create something, I would give this a solid pass mark with a big lets see what they can do with a year to plan it.
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