I said I would show it the respect it deserved and train more for it, be better prepared for it, I’d be ready for it this time. In an act that only other trail runners would understand, I’d entered arguably one of New Zealand’s hardest events again; The Raglan Karioi Trail event, and it’s definitely a trail that demands some respect.
I don’t know what was worse, being underprepared and not know what was to come or being underprepared and knowing what was coming. Well, now that my body has had time to recover, I guess its time for this year’s instalment of “What the hell was that, and what was I thinking?” In a nut shell Raglan Karioi is billed as New Zealand’s steepest race: 12km is made up of climbing for 1800m total and the other 12km is coming back down.
Rocking up to the start line, I think word has gotten out that this is a must do event (maybe it was a stunning race recap from someone last year?), as there was a noticeable increase in poor sods at the start line this year (just worked out it was up 20%). I’d even convinced a couple of friends to enter, so understandably I was nervous – because, being faster, they would be waiting for me at the finish line, and I didn’t know if it would be with a beer or a bat. And given my attempts at reassuring some of them that the rope and crazy rock-climbing sections weren’t that bad had fallen flat the night before, I was thinking it might have been a dash to the car for a quick escape.
It wasn’t looking good for me getting a favourable review from the indomitable Liz Palmer, with the race starting without her. Turns out they had been sent to the other end of the trail by their GPS and they arrived 5-10 minutes after the start. But to the credit of the race director, Francois, he let Liz and ‘Pixie’ start and they soon caught me on the first ascent of the day, albeit a little grumpy. Showing their hill legs, they quickly passed me but I was happy with how I was travelling and had a feeling I’d get them on the downhill.
I’d gotten a bit of a groove on and before I realized it, I was climbing the ladder to the helipad, to find Liz and Pixie roping a random tourist into taking a photo of them. Moving on from there is one of the diciest sections of the day, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to seeing the lady’s reaction to it. It was everything I’d hoped for; (paraphrasing here) “what the fuck is this?”, “how the fuck are we meant to get across this?”, and “Hayley is going to fucking hate this”. It also became apparent that this year there had been a bit more rain in the preceding weeks, with things quite muddy underfoot.
Pixie soon legged it, leaving Liz and I to continue our descent to the road and first aid station. “This is a top ten must do event” Liz declared, “but only once”. I was getting the feeling she wasn’t enjoying the downhill as much as I was. I even went as far at to bust out the aeroplane arms for the nice open grass section. But once we were on the road, it was time to bid Liz adieu as she gapped it.
I managed to make good time on the road this year and was sitting a good hour up on my 2017 effort heading into the next aid station. I’d managed my nutrition/hydration a lot better this time and was just sucking down the last of my first 2 litres of Infinit mix at this point. I’d thrown a couple of single serve bags into my pack and had some Napalm powder in soft flasks ready for the water here. Topped back up with fuel it was time to make the last climb.
The return climb is certainly the tougher one and my lead over last year slowly ebbed away. For a while it was pretty lonely by myself, but at least I knew I wasn’t last this time. Well, it turned out I was. While scrambling along, I was caught by a lady (sorry I forgot your name) who informed me that she and a few others had been cut back at the first aid station, so I was the tail. But again, as a testament to the ethos of the event, they had been driven to second aid station and given the option to finish, albeit officially DNF’d. We stuck together for the remainder of the climb before parting way at the summit water station.
Oh, and a big thank you to the lady who was volunteering for giving me the last of her own water as all the rest was gone. While it was no ukulele this year, the water was just as welcome.
The uphill had taken a chunk of time from my lead and I was down to about 20min, but from the helipad I knew it was downhill and I should be able to claw back some time. With that in mind I downed some mega caffeine with big swigs of Napalm (such the best and right name), and pushed off with almost no control over my legs, I was just steering (and grunting). At this point I’d like to take some time and remember the punga trees that gave their lives in futile attempts to brake my forward motion. Thank you, but you simply lacked the structural rigidity to be effective.
The insanity worked and I busted out of the forest closer to the 30min mark and just the “easy” farm road to go. I also saw Hayley and Philippa a 100m ahead, who responded to my query: “Are we having fun?” with “we hate you!!”. So of course I took that as a yes. And a few minutes later it was all over and I’d knocked a smidge under 30min off my previous time, and I declared that doing the event two times is two times too many.
With a Pilot Brewery beer in one hand and a Dizzy Blocks ice block in the other, it was time to share a few stories of our day, and learn that Liz had changed her tune and was definitely returning the next year. It’s funny how quickly the runner’s amnesia can kick in, I’m even starting to feel it creeping in, it would be nice to be back for prizing giving at least once. But next time I will show it the respect it deserved and train more for it, be better prepared for it, I’d be ready for its next time.