Monday, April 22, 2013

Xterra Wellington Trail Series - Mad Makara

What is it about Wellington and great trail running events?  Splendid scenery, wild weather, terrific terrain and challenging courses seem to come standard with most Wellington Events, and Mad Makara was no exception.  This was another event with a fabulously well marked course, excellent organisation, and smiling, friendly, encouraging marshalls to brighten the trails.  There are still three races left in the series, and heaps of event options for different levels of experience, so go and enter right now, if the first race is anything to go by, don't miss out - this is insanely fun.

Pouring rain, and grey skies didn't deter heaps of runners for all three courses.  I was doing the long course option, and my plan was to take it pretty easy, the last thing that I want to do in the final week before the Routeburn, is put myself out of action.  Runners set off in three waves to spread out the field before hitting the narrow trail.  I was happy to hang out near the back, and soon found myself running through bush, and climbing gently into the mountains.  The bush periodically gave way to views of folding hills in every direction.

Shortly after the long course runners departed, the medium course leaders came charging through.  I found it a bit hard to be always checking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn't holding anyone up, while simultaneously keeping an eye on the tree roots and stones that were begging for an unwary ankle to twist.   I wished that there was more of a gap between the two courses, but as the fast and fit men and women tore past, I enjoyed running briefly in their wake, pretending that I was part of the elite and supremely fit front runners, before they dissapeared ahead of me out of site.

The climb got really steep about 7km in, but the steep section was only short, and then the long course branched off and descended into a valley.  This was where the mud began.  Dozens of feet pounding over wet soil had turned the first down hill section into a bit of a hazard, and I slowed right down, more intent on keeping my balance than maintaining any sort of speed.  Little did I know what was to come.  The course followed the valley floor, crossing a stream that was a just a little to wide for me to leap over, so I splashed through (first trail run"river" crossing successfully negotiated).  The climb begain again, and the mud increased, I would place my foot down to take a step upward and it would slide right back to where I had started.  My trail running repitoir was expaning to include dancing along the treeline, feet hugging sparse patches of ground that still contained grass, and clinging onto the shubbery for balance.  Some of those bushes were really prickly.

The climb up to the summit was glorious, the incline was shallow enough to run comfortably, and there were was plenty of cross-backs so the expanding vista could be appreciated from many angles.  Reaching the summit and plunging down the other side, the trail became increasingly muddy and tretcherous.  Long scrapes in the mud indicated where previous runners had madly scrabbled for purchase, and failed miserably. The ground was so slick in places that I practically skied down on the mud, bouncing off trees, the tread of my shoes, and infact my entire feet caked in so much mud that I couldn't see them.  About half way down this descent my ipod died (probably forever as it turns out), but I am getting more used to running without music, so I wasn't too worried (I did consider banging the ipod against the trees as I ran past just incase some violence would coax it back to life, but I think that it's spirit has left it forever).  I am now in the market for a new MP3 player before next weekend, eek!

The climb straight back up the mountain was steeper and even more muddy than the descent.  I actually fell over going uphill a few times and revelled in both the softness of the mud-cushioned landing, and the resultant coating of mud I recieved.  There is something fabulous about ending up so filthy during a run.  The slippery ascent was challenging and long, I managed to run everything that I didn't have to scale on my hand and knees, and am loving being fit enough to run slowly up steep slopes.  I could hear expletives filtering down from the track above, as other runners negotiated slippery and well trodden, expanses of track.  I wished I had crampons on more than one occasion, but by god it was fun!

Once reaching the summit (for the second time), the trail followed the ridgeline before heading back down hill towards the finish.  The rain was turning the trail into a small stream, and I had long since given up avoiding puddles, rivulets and waterfalls, happily splashing right through the middle.  A long puddle lay ahead and I plunged into it with gusto, only to find that it was nearly knee deep, maybe a little more caution to avoid hidden sources of injury should be employed!

The final kilometers zigzagged along well groomed bush covered tracks, and I was able to speed up a lot as the quality of the trail improved.  It was lovely to finish the race with such gusto, but even better to feel that I had so much energy in my tank after nearly 20km, this bodes well for Saturday!

Thanks to Xterra Wellington for such an enjoyable event, I am definetly looking forward to the rest of the series!

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