An Eye Opening At Waitawa

June 2018 will be one of those months I’ll remember for a wee while, but it won’t be for great race results. I go two great new event locations which were both awesome, and I’m going to say I did some growing as a runner.

After a mildly disappointing and frustrating effort at the Double Rainbow, I was looking forward to the new location in the Xterra series – Waitawa Regional Park. With the lurking spectre of track closures for Kauri Die Back prevention, this year’s Waharau event was replaced with this new location.  Which, it would be a safe bet to say, most people didn’t even know existed. From a spot of online sleuthing, I’d formed an image of a course a lot like Shakespeare; open groomed gravel trails, not too hilly, a pleasant day out. It might very well have been … in summer, but this is a winter series after all.

After arriving nice and early at Ardmore airport in the dark, we boarded our bus out to the park. Jumping out of the bus we were treated to the beginnings of an awesome sunrise, and our first taste of the mud around the event base. Numbers and transponders fitted, safety briefing briefed, extreme stretching show observed, chit chat complete, and it was time to start and to cross my fingers. A couple of days before I’d twisted my knee getting out of the car in a tight park, and there was still a bit of pain there, so I hoped that I’d be able to run through it.

Pretty quickly I realized that the knee wasn’t going to go away quickly and was going to complain loudest on the downhills. But I found me a suffer buddy, Louise, who thanks to a cold/flu was having a hard day at the office too. Chatting away as we jogged/walked we ticked the km’s off, and the pain in my knee subsided. This allowed me to enjoy the nice single track and the views, before the trail turned into a series of slick mud slides.

Thinking we were in for gravel trails I’d opted for the Icebug DTS again, as they are a bit less aggressive than the rest of my shoes. Getting into the mud I thought I’d be poked and spending more time on my arse than feet. But I was pleasantly surprised to find there was plenty of grip and my only problem was going to be keeping my feet getting in the way of each other. About 8km on a muddy downhill, I failed and managed to trip over my own feet and was sent stumbling off the trail and into a cutty grass bush. Instantly I swore as everything went into slow motion and I fell forward into the bush.

From amongst the serrated leaves, a snapped off flower stalk emerged heading directly for my face. And then it was jammed into my right eye. More swearing was warranted as I suddenly couldn’t see from one eye. I’ve since come to appreciate the lack of compressive strength a cutty grass stalk has, as it broke away on impact. Still more swearing as I wiped my eye and saw the blood on my shirt. Holy crap, I’ve done something serious here and I’m going to be blind in one eye!!

Thankfully the lady I’d been following, upon hearing my choice words, stopped to make sure I was ok. She reassured me that my eye was a) still there, and b) not bleeding that much – it was the cuts on my fingers making all the mess. With the initial shock subsiding, I made the decision then that I wouldn’t be heading out on the second loop, but first I had to make it back to base lacking depth perception. Again, the lady in front of me was great as I used her to guide me along, though I don’t think she realized what I was doing. After a while some degree of vision returned, but I still kept stumbling on the tiniest rock or stick. To rub salt (or sweat as the case was) in the wound, I’d even contemplated wearing my sun glasses in the morning.

 

Eventually I made it back to the event base safe, and to the medic tent. With a bit of inspection, I was told that I’d thankfully avoided any major damage, just copping the stick in corner of my eye. So, there was no reason not to go grab a couple of beers and a sausage, and actually see mates finish for a change. It was great to catch up a bit more before it was back on the bus and back to the car.

I, like others were thoroughly impressed with the new location, and all a little surprised at how challenging it had been in places. Maybe this could be the replacement for Woodhill and the series can return to seven events? Please.

So yeah, June was a bit sucky for my events; dropping my distance at double rainbow, and then dropping from this race (though technically I did complete the mid). But the month ended on a high note with me picking up a new sponsor, Infinit Nutrition. I’ll go into more about Infinit soon, but basically, it’s a customizable nutrition system where you can tailor it to your needs/preferences. I’ve been using their products for a while now and it’s been working well for me. I’m so stoked to be part of Team Infinit, even if I’m the odd one out.

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