Shaun Collins is known by many names; Mr Hillary, Mr Lactic Turkey, The Running Beast, Arsehole, Demented Arsehole, Mr Demented Arsehole. And if you ever run at one of his events there is a good chance that you will call him all these names at some point during the day. With the inaugural Wild Auckland series, we were given ample chance for this.
I’ve already done a recap of the first event in the series at Tāpapakanga (find it here), so I’m going to leave that one and a do a quick recap of the other three events; Tawharanui, Te Rau Puriri, and Muriwai, as well as my take on the series as a whole.
After heading south east for Tāpapakanga it was time to head north to the open sanctuary that is Tawharanui Regional Park. With my in laws living just 20min away in Matakana this should have been a place I’ve visited a lot, but somehow, we’d had never ended up there. With my hand ‘forced’ I arrived nice and early to what was shaping up to be a stunning day. After the last event I think everyone had studied the map this time, and I’d certainly remembered my sunscreen.
We started off with a short flat section before we hit the first inevitable hill, but at the top we were afforded a stunning view of Kawau island and back down the coast, with Auckland city way in the distance. It’s the kind of start to a day that never gets old, though one could argue that the necessity of the hill. We’d be out for two loops, with the shorter one of the Tour distance first followed by the longer Discovery distance second.
After cutting across the peninsula we dropped onto the beach for the first time, and thankfully this time it was flat white sand. Being a long weekend there were already a few beach goers setting up for a day at the beach, watching us pass with a bemused look. After a k’s on the flat it was inevitable that we had a hill owing, so up we went again. This time the views were to the north and just as good, but not as good as the sweet downhill single track coming.
I’d do every hill twice to run that bit again, which was good because I was going to have to anyway. It was soft under foot, flowing, in the shade, downhill = everything good. It also was the end of loop one, meaning back up the first hill again. Halfway up I staged a lie down protest in response to Allan Ure from Photos4Sale’s request to run.
This time on the longer loop we headed right out to the end of the headland complete with a look out loop at the end. Then it was back down to the beach, which was now packed with people that had the right idea of swimming and not running at the beach. But there was that lovely downhill to look forward to, so I pushed on with it dangling like a carrot. With that done again, so too was the course.
Tawharanui is definitely a place I’m going to head to again. What it lacks in bush it makes up with views, and it has a pretty good beach for a post run dip.
Te Rau Puriri
Shaun had said one of his goals for Wild Auckland was to get people out running in areas where they might have never run before, and Te Rau Puriri ticked that box big time. I don’t think anyone had ever visited before, let alone heard of it.
Located on the South Kaipara Peninsula, it was a bit of a trip but I had the bird stuck between the grill and radiator to keep me company. Yep, along the way I had a couple of birds swoop in front of my car, one wasn’t quick enough and somehow managed to fit through a pretty small hole in the grill to become trapped. With no tools (that I could think of) to remove plastic panels, I was hoping that while out running the bird would get over the shock and extract itself.
Leaving my new friend, it was time for race briefing, which as it was Armistice day featured a quick reading and a minute’s silence. For a change this race also featured a beach section for a start, and off we went splashing through the puddles of low tide. To mix things up there was a hill shortly after, and oh boy was it a doozy of a hill. There was no path, no mown strip, just long grass on the side of a hill and the knowledge we’d be doing it twice.
I fell into step with Kristina, the race motivator for the series (love how Lactic Turkey do this for most events), and we chatting the kms away. Funny thing was after reading her write up, I realized we were both thinking we could have pushed a bit harder. But we ended up having a better quality of run for the sake of 15min or so, and sometimes that’s more important than a clock time.
Before I realized we’d finished and just had the small issue of the bird to contend with. While out running I’d remembered that when I brought my car the dealer gave me a multi tool, which I’d thrown into the spare wheel well and promptly forgotten about. It also turned out there had been a mini recuse mission staged with the event medics and the speedy Amy Weeden. Now armed with a tool, I was able to remove some of the plastic covers making a gap just large enough to allow Amy to reach in and extract the bird. I wasn’t holding my breath the bird was going to be in good shape, I’d hit him at 60km/h and then drove 70km with him in the gap, yet as soon as he was out, he was off to the trees. I’d like to think Te Rau Puriri is an upgrade from Glenfield.
Almost too soon it was time for the final race out west at on the black sands of Muriwai. This was going to be the ‘flattest’ of the series, which I think a lot of us took to also mean easiest. Well that’s what I was hoping given this was the day after Raglan Kaiori, and I’d already dropped to the Discovery distance and wasn’t down for any Shaun’s hill shenanigans. But he had other shenanigans planned.
Pre-race consisted of putting up with all the people who’d run the West Coater the day before wank on about how steep it had been … Oh 1560m over 42km, how cute, talk to me after 1850m in half that. Thankfully they soon left on the Expedition, and I waited for my start. And wouldn’t you know it we hit the beach followed by a hill. But this would be about it for hills, from that point on it would be black sand we would be contending with. Hot black sand. Stupid hot gets in your shoes black sand. I’m still washing it out of my shoes hot black sand.
I ran with Kristina for a bit again getting a bit of an update on her ill-fated Kepler event a few weeks before. With my legs quickly running out of running juice, I just had to walk and was left behind to slog it out in the sand behind the dunes. I kept my trudging going and soon enough I was back onto the beach where at least the sand was harder packed and there was a bit of a breeze. I was able to get a jog going and finished reasonably strong, all things considered.
So, the series? I’d say do it, especially if you like smaller, challenging events with a minimum of hand holding, and a healthy dose of professionalism in jandals. Even if you don’t, do it anyway. Worst case you find some new places to explore, the price is really good, and you’ll get to call Shaun a bunch of names.