I know I’ve been saying it a few times lately, but yes, I’ve been slack with my race rap ups but life has been super hectic lately. Shit has been ramping up at work over the past few months with sales of our cosmetics product (ActivLayr) picking up, and the arrival of the machine I designed to make it over six times faster. This has meant long days at work and pretty much no running as I get it working.
So, I’ll wrap up the end of the Xterra series really quick:
- Hunua (because I forgot about it ages ago):
- Hunua, so so good, so so hard. Without Waharau this year, I’d say Hunua was the event with the most wilderness to it and I loved it. Knowing what to expect this year, Puka Puka Track was less of a shock and more enjoyable. Could pass on the big road section due to National Downhill being closed to protect the kauri though.
- Totara Park:
- Yep, Totara Park. It was there.
- Yep, mud. It was also there.
Overall, as I’ve come to expect from the team at Total Sport, the series was well organized and totally enjoyable. It was awesome to have a new venue added this year, but I just wish it wasn’t in place of Waharau (damn die back). I’ll be back next year for sure.
In the past after the Xterra series was done there wasn’t much to do until the summer season of runs started late November, but Shaun and the team at Lactic Turkey had treat for us. They have magicked up a 4-race series at locations most people didn’t even know existed, let alone run at. Without a second thought I entered the “Expedition” (18-25km) distance of the inaugural Wild Auckland Trail Series. (Though with all the giveaways and discounts on offer I probably should have waited).
First up was Tāpapakanga Regional Park, located way out east a bit south of Waitawa. Jeez, just the drive there was an adventure, throwing the car into the winding roads is such fun. Rocking up to the park I was greeted by a few friends that had camped the night and an absolutely stunning day. It was great to see so many of the usual suspects there making up a pretty small field (61 souls) – I think this first year will be one for the diehard trail runners.
After a race briefing, which it would later emerge no one really took note at (myself included), it was time to start this bad boy. Righto, down the road, over the small hill, up a slightly bigger hill, down the hill and onto the beach. Shit, I’m already struggling and doubting this idea on a base of 4km per week. And Shaun loves hills, so I knew on a Shaun course there would be more hills to come.
At least the beach was flat, but alas it offered no easy running. A beach has sand, right? Wrong, this was a rock and pebble beach, meaning it was like running on marbles with constant care needed to prevent a rolled ankle. I managed to catch up with Jenny Hurst and we chatted away as we followed the shoreline. Jenny made the comment at one point that we were about 3.5km in and that we much be leaving the beach soon as the aid station is at 4km at the top of a hill. I was panicking internally as that would mean getting to the top of the hill in 500m, oh crap that is going to be steep!! 4km passed and we were still on the beach? Now it even steeper!!
But all became clear as we turned a small corner to see the entire field running back at us. For some reason I immediately thought “shit, is there a bear chasing them?” Then someone shouted out we’d gone too far, ah, now that makes more sense than a bear. So back tracking, collecting the last few runners as we went, we found where we were meant to turn off. Dumb thing was I’d looked up at that point and saw a permanent trail marking (a 1.2m painted post) but missed the event marking, as I turned my focus back to the ground and ducking under a tree. Shame, it would have put Jenny and I into 2nd and 3rd (if only for a while), as only one guy made the turn first time.
Back on track it was time for some nice single track before the climb to the now 7.5km aid station. You could hear the aid station long before you saw it, I guesstimated there was 20 people there cheering everyone up the hill. Nope, it was just two of Hamish ‘Hammer’ Johnstone’s daughters making all the noise – with dad wisely posting himself further up the hill at the trig, I guess to save his hearing.
Up to the trig, and the first returning runner steams towards me: “the climb on the other side is more brutal” he yells. Oh, yay! He, wasn’t wrong. We looped down, around the base of the hill, and then back up to the trig. Surprisingly, I was managing to keep in touch with Jenny, she must be having a bad day I kept thinking. But across the farmland she soon broke away, leaving me with a horde of shorter distance runners swarming me. Did I mention the loud aid station? You could still hear them at the other end of the park.
And that was just the first lap, I was so boned. However, there is something about coming through to start your second lap with people cheering you on and the thought of dropping disappears. But only for about 2km, and you’re back on the rocky beach again. And then heading up the hill again, but thankfully no loop this time, just touch the trig. When I started the climb, I couldn’t see anyone behind me, but as I turned back I saw the legend Ronald Chen powering up the hill. As bad as it sounds, I just had to beat at least Ronald. I’d put some distance on Ronald on the downhill and flats, but every up hill he’d power back up on me. The man is unrelenting.
Ultimately, I was pretty chuffed that I victorious and held him off. Until I learnt that he’d run a marathon the day before. Way to pop a guy’s bubble. But it turned out it had been a tough day for a lot of people with 10 out of the 61 dropping at some point.
Next up we’re heading north to Tāwharanui Peninsula. I think there will be a few more people studying the course map this time. I just have to remember this is a spring/summer series, so I need to put on sunscreen this time.