Sunday, October 28, 2012


Ran my first trail race yesterday, and LOVED IT!

I started out nice and early, dragging myself out of bed at six.  Porridge and bananas for breakfast, then a bit of a frantic scramble to get all of my gear together (which I had valiantly intended to to organise the night before, but then didn't).

Akatarawa Rd c.1910 - The route I took over the Tararua Ranges
little has changed today except, there are less horse drawn carts
The route Google maps gave me, took me over the Tararua Ranges to the Rimutaka incline, through what looked like a gentle mountain pass.  Gentle mountain pass my ass!  The well groomed highway gave way to a single lane, narrow, twisting imitation of El Camino de la Muerte.  I must mention here that I am relatively new to this driving malarkey, and while I am used to pottering along country roads, well groomed highways and small town streets, driving up what appeared to be the road version of an alpine slalom run was a test of my skills and nerve.  The mountains grew around me, and this narrow track (barely wide enough for my little car) was framed by a plunging valley on one side, and steep bush-clad peaks on the other.  I suppose that the landscape was probably devastatingly picturesque, but my eyes remained glued to the tar-seal (thank goodness it wasn't gravel.)

The bottom-clenching excitement of the drive was accompanied with nervous worry as the minutes till the race ebbed by, and as the kilometers twisted on, with the desperate discomfort of an increasingly full bladder!  After a while, the twisting ascent turned into a twisting descent, and I was faced with the terrifying prospect of an oncoming vehicle.  The strength of my bladder and resolve were tested to the limits as I edged my tyres to the crumbling edge of the road, desperately trying to make enough room for the ginormous four wheel drive monstrosity to scrape past.  Surely any trail run would be a piece of cake in comparison to this harrowing experience!

Other exciting aspects of the journey included real live rocks rolling off the hill onto the road in front of my car, watching at least two dozen stoney-faced cyclists bravely concentrate all of their life force into conquering the hill, and arriving at my Google maps dictated destination (with less time to spare than I would have liked) to find that instead of a speedway car park, I had been directed to a quiet suburban cul-de-sac: BLOODY BUGGER!

Crisis was dually averted, and I make it in the nick of time to the beginning of the race (the bus driver transporting the last stragglers from the car park to the start line, kindly dropped us at the bottom of a hill a couple of kms away, so I even had time for a warm-up dash to the start).

Illuminated Tunnel
The race itself I LOVED!  The first 5 km followed the gently-sloping ex-railway line into the Rimutaka ranges, climbing quite steadily up to the summit (about the 10km mark). I had been quite worried about my ability to cope with the hill work, but I really enjoyed it, the slope wasn't too steep, so it was was the perfect introduction.  After the summit we were plunged into a long rail tunnel, delightfully illuminated with bare light bulbs strung along the wall.  I know that the lighting was for practical purposes, but my tired brain found something quite magical about the prettily glowing tunnel.

Then the glorious down hill.  It was much steeper than the uphill I had previously completed, and I steamed down, enjoying the more technical foot work.  There were a couple of steep deviations up and down rocky tracks and over a couple of streams (I enjoyed these sections the best), before the track gave way to farmland for the last couple of  ks.  Much to my horror and disappointment, I developed abdomen-wrenching stitch a few kms out from the end, which slowed me down quite a lot.  It was so frustrating, because I still had energy, and felt I could have really powered through to the finish.  I will definitely have to find out how to prevent/avoid stitch in the future (I haven't had it for years).   I finished in 2 hours 14 min, and was pleased to find out that the course had been extended by 1km (I didn't notice the distance) and I think that I could cope quite comfortably with a half marathon on the road.

My appetite for trail running has been whetted, and I am looking forward to including more trail work in my training.

Needless to say, I took a less exciting route home after the race.

  • Get gear ready the night before to avoid panicky race morning rush
  • Leave myself even more time to get to the race, to eliminate nervousness of not making it
  • Don't use obscure back country routes dictated by Google Maps
  • Carry something appetizing for post-run food, I don't feel like eating a sausage in bread after running 18kms
  • Get some three quarter, or above the knee compression pants (or similar) as a comfortable alternative to shorts
  • There are a lot of people fitter and faster than me, and it doesn't matter
  • The more training I do, the more I will improve (hopefully)
Today I feel a lot less stiff and sore than I expected I would, although my stair climbing strategy has required some alteration to accommodate slightly weak feeling quads.

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