Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tour de Ridges

Sunday 15th December 2013

21km trail run with a total ascent of 630m (4 main climbs).

The course was mainly foot tracks and fire trails through grassland reserves, not very technical although there were a few rocky places which required care (especially the first two climbs).  A few kilometres went through pine forest, but the majority of the course was open grassland.

A 6:30 am start and an overcast sky meant a good racing temperature. I settled into a comfortable rhythm right from the start, taking time to soak in the views. The first two sharp climbs were over within the first half hour. Somewhat unusually for me, there was one lady who kept passing me on the uphills but whom I would catch on the downhills. Normally it is the other way around! Because I was wearing my CamelBak I passed several people at each drink station as I didn’t need to stop. The middle section of the course was gently undulating and followed a section of the Canberra Centenary Trail. 

The number of runners in sight gradually dwindled, and at the one hour mark we hit the 3rd steep climb up through the pine trees onto Isaacs Ridge.  I spotted a kangaroo bounding away, and apparently the first runners got to see an eagle sitting beside the track. The descent started off gently and gradually got steeper, and the last couple of hundred metres was a steep tarmac path, which wasn’t pleasant to pound down in lightweight trail shoes. Here we were overtaken by a couple of the front runners as this short section had to be done twice. We turned right into the last climb back up onto Isaacs Ridge, which didn’t seem too bad, and we were soon pounding back down the tarmac. This time we turned left and headed for home. This point also served as the turnaround for the 10km course so from here on we were constantly passing other runners. 

The remainder of the run was fairly flat and I ramped up the pace a bit. With 4km to go there was a short rocky downhill and I managed to catch my toe on a rock. I almost managed to regain control but I had too much momentum and took a tumble. However, I practically bounced back up and kept running! A few grazes on my leg but nothing serious, although by the time I finished it looked fairly impressive. After that I placed my feet a bit more carefully while still keeping the pace up. With 1km left I managed to drop one of the guys I had been with for the last hour (the other one had bonked a short time previously) and put everything I had left into the effort.  I finished in 1:57:45, 5th woman and 44th overall (out of 103). Enjoyed the run and was pretty happy with the result, as there were several world-class runners and orienteers.

Thanks to the race organiser, John Harding, for kindly sorting out a lift to the start line for me.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Black Mountain Run Up

The mountain running community here in Canberra is very active, with a wealth of world-class orienteers and runners. In addition to frequent larger events, the Australian Mountain Running Association holds monthly run-ups of Black Mountain and Mount Ainslie. 

The Black Mountain Run Up starts across the road from ANU where I am working and living so I decided to take an extended lunch break and join in. The course is 2.6kms, with the first kilometre relatively flat before getting in the real climb (200m). The track is quite steep with a couple of short, slightly easier ‘respite’ sections. It was pretty warm – 28 degrees – and while there was shade for most of the way, the last couple of hundred metres was in the baking sun!

I topped out in 16:56 and had held absolutely nothing back!

A gentle warm down around the summit loop track (~2km) before descending.

Thanks to event organiser John Harding for the photos

Monday, December 9, 2013

Black Mountain Challenge

Canberra, Sunday 8th December 2013

Black Mountain Challenge is a 5km fun run from Lake Burley-Griffin to the top of Black Mountain, with an ascent of 250m.

An easy 15 minute jog to the start line at the National Museum of Australia served as my warm up. Despite being just a ‘fun run’ there were still some good runners there – including the world stair running champion. My plan was to go as hard as possible while still enjoying it and I knew that a top 3 finish was possible. Of course, I don’t know the calibre of any of the runners here so all I could do was run my own race as best I could.

The first 1km was flat along the lake shore. I held a steady pace, not sprinting to keep up with anyone as I wanted to be fresh for the hill. A further 500m of gradual incline before we turned and headed up Black Mountain. Here I began to pull away from those around me and for the rest of the climb I gradually passed other runners. For the entire climb there were two women about 100m ahead of me, and with less than 1km to go I managed to overtake both of them. As I crested the top of the hill a photographer called out that I was 2nd woman. That put a smile on my face! From there it was only a 300m loop to the finish line.

I finished in 25:11, 2nd woman and 25th overall (out of 144).
Very happy with my run – the hardest part was the 1km of flat at the beginning! Felt strong throughout the whole climb.

Heather (2nd), Louise Sharp (1st), and Kym Chisholm (3rd)



Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ginninderra Parkrun

Lake Ginnenderra
Participated in my first Parkrun on Saturday.

Parkruns are free timed 5km runs held every Saturday in many parks across the world.

Despite there being a parkrun fairly close to home in Auckland, ironically my first time was in Australia. I am in Canberra for two months studying at the Australian National University and discovered a Parkrun in one of the northern suburbs, Belconnen, so decided to have a go.

Ran 22:16 which I was happy with. Stats: 3rd female, 1st 20-24W, 23rd out of 124.

I cycled out early (8km) along the fantastic bike paths and afterwards rode around Lake Ginninderra before heading home. There are so many cycle ways here in Canberra!

Part of the cycleway to Belconnen

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Steelman Ironmaiden

34km Road Cycle, 12km Kayak, 26km MTB, 13km Run

Woke up on Saturday morning feeling a bit under the weather with itchy eyes, congested face, and a headache. Nevertheless there was no way I wasn’t going to race.

As the road cycle got underway I didn’t even attempt to stick with a bunch. Just cruised along the country lanes as I didn’t feel up to racing. Was by myself for the first undulating 20km, but Rudy and Mark (racing as a semi-traverse team) caught me up at the beginning of the plains. I tucked in between them and Rudy dragged us along at 32km/h for the last 10km to transition. This was enjoyable as I usually have to slog sections like this by myself.

A slick transition into the kayak, with all gear changing done while running from the road to the river edge. On the water there was slight headwind and incoming tide but pretty good conditions on the whole with not too much weed. I overtook 3 paddlers in the first 3km before entering “The Windies”, where Rudy & Mark (in a double) caught me up. Their team was just out for fun so they slowed down a little to let me tuck in behind. I stuck with them for quite a while and they kept me amused with their banter and total inability to keep in time. Eventually I dropped off the pace but they remained in sight until the transition. I wasn’t really racing – I just wanted to get to the finish as quickly as possible so I could stop!

Once on the mountain bike things got even worse as we battled through long grass and rough paddocks to reach the forest. The juddering aggravated my headache and I was not looking forward to the next couple of hours. Riding the forest roads wasn’t too bad, albeit hot work. Then the torturous single track began. In one word: Sand. Riding in sand is not my idea of fun at the best of times. My lack of off-road riding showed, and many times it was faster to push my bike than to ride. A passing rider encouraged me to keep going – I wryly pointed out that I had no other choice! There was no way I was going to DNF. The one bonus of the single track was that it was mostly in the shade. Eventually the track spat us back onto the road and I estimated there were 3km remaining to the transition (my calculations were off – it was actually 6km). By now I was in a bad headspace, muttering darkly to myself that I would never do this race again. I was hot, hungry, and had a pounding head.

By the time I reached T3 I was feeling pretty rotten. My water had run out 3km from the end and I had underestimated how much food to take. After sculling some electrolyte drink I slipped on my new Inov-8 Trailroc shoes and heard Dad say quietly, “Now it’s time for your good run”. This was enough to snap me back into a better mood. As I left transition Mum called out that I was 3rd woman, which came as a complete surprise. With running shoes on my feet I immediately perked up and by the top of the first small climb I was feeling the best I had all day.

Down to Karioitahi Beach, along the black sand, then a steep climb to the cliff tops. I took a tumble when my feet got caught while running through knee-high grass, but apart from that I just kept motoring on. Going around Lake Puketi was hot work out of the wind. I spotted Rudy & Warren just cresting the top of the next hill but it wasn’t until we hit the tarseal that I overtook them. I had settled into a good rhythm and steadily reeled people in. As I passed one lady she kindly offered me a jelly snake which I gratefully accepted. Over the last 5km it was encouraging to see the houses of Waiuku gradually getting closer and I pushed the pace as much as I could sustain. Because I hadn’t gone too hard in the first 3 stages my legs were feeling quite fresh.

As I rounded the rugby fields towards the finish line, I heard it announced that I was 2nd woman. A totally unexpected result considering I was feeling pretty grotty.
My run was good and I placed well, but it was by far the worst race I’ve ever had!

A big thanks to Dad for being a fantastic support crew, and to Mum for the encouragement and photos.

Kayak     1:28:03

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tararua Biscuits

My new favourite race food.

Tararua biscuits have long been a tramping staple in my family, but I have only recently started eating them for multisport or running. These biscuits served me well at Coromandel Classic and Big O so I thought I would share the recipe. Some muesli bars and gels lose their appeal after consuming them during several hours of hard racing but I haven't managed to get sick of Tararua biscuits yet!

Energy-dense, easy to chew, and very palatable. The perfect race snack.

  • 250g butter
  • 1 ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tin condensed milk
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 c scotch oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ c coconut
  • ½ c raisins, sultanas, or cranberries

Melt butter, sugar and condensed milk in large pot. Add dry ingredients. Spread onto a greased tray in a roughly 30cm x 30cm square, keeping edges neat and straight.
Cook at 150 C for around 30 – 45 minutes until light to golden brown. Do not overcook – it should still be soft. Cut into 25-30 biscuits, gently loosen and leave on tray to cool and harden.

Can also add chopped nuts, chocolate chips, etc.

Store in ziploc bags and throw into your pack, back pocket, or transition bag.

[Recipe from "The New Zealand Outdoor Cookbook" by Marcelle Pilkinton, 1986]

Friday, October 11, 2013


SuperDune was my very first individual multisport race back in May 2010, and for the past 3 years I have also been involved in organising Waitemata Canoe & Multisport Club's annual event.

In the past the race was held at Bethells Beach but this year the venue was changed to Lake Ototoa at South Head. SuperDune wasn't one of my focus races this year so I was simply racing to train. I was out to enjoy myself, explore a different part of the country, and experiment with a few different things during the race. Dad was doing the timekeeping so it was also my very first race without a support crew.

First leg was 2 laps of the beautiful lake for the 14km paddle. Very little breeze made for fast paddling, but I still soaked in the peacefulness of the morning. Racing conditions were fantastic - overcast and a comfortable temperature. The pack quickly split up with half a dozen paddlers forming a bunch at the front with the rest straggling along behind. Managed to wash hang for about the first kilometre.

Coming off the water in second to last place I had a quick transition onto the mountain bike and managed to gain another place. The 26km ride started off with 2km of 4wd track before hitting the forest roads. Fast riding, with only one real climb. About halfway up I remembered that the course did two laps of this section so we'd be riding up there again. Still, it wasn't much of a hill compared to what I'm used to. By the beginning of lap 2 I slid back into second to last place again, being passed by Anna Barrett (2nd OW).

The 10km run headed back down the same 4wd track into the forest then turned off onto a sandy track which undulated gently uphill for several kilometers before spitting us back out onto the forest road and back up the 4wd track to the finish. The cloud cover was breaking up by this time so it was getting a little warm.

I finished in a time of 3:30:16, 3rd (and last) woman.
A mere sprint compared to my other events recently!

Photos from Sportzhub (facebook required)

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Big O 35km

. . . Which was actually a Big Squiggle 48km.

 The 35km trail run was supposed to head 20km down the eastern side of Lake Okataina before getting shuttled by boat across to the Western Okataina Walkway and 15km back to the event centre. Heavy rain throughout Friday night eased to misty drizzle by race start on Saturday and the air temperature was quite warm but the wind was cool.
Planned 35km course

We lined up inside the indoor equestrian centre and I made sure I was right up the front to avoid getting locked into a slower pace early on. Up through farmland to begin with, before embarking on the first 3km bush-crashing section. Here there was no track – only bits of tape tied to trees to indicate where to head. Lots of fun but not very fast! A tiny bit of 4wd road before another short but incredibly steep bush-crash where I gained the lead on the women’s field. From here we were on DOC tracks which were pretty good but with a bit of windfall. One steep haul over to the Outdoor Education Camp aid station (10km mark). Just past here the 21km course veered off to the right and the long course headed down to Lake Okataina. The Eastern Okataina Walkway was nice interesting running, but not technical enough to slow things down. A few undulations along the lake edge provided enough change of pace.

By my rough estimation I was nearing the aid station at 20km, where we were to get a boat shuttle across to the Western Okataina Walkway, when Chris Morissey suddenly appeared running towards me. He called out that the boat ride had been cancelled because the lake was too rough so they were making us do an out-and-back. It took a couple of minutes to adjust my race strategy as I had counted on having a break to refuel and stock up while waiting for the boat. Quick calculations also told me that we would be running 40km instead of 35km. When Kelvin Meade came past he said the turn around was only a couple of minutes ahead but it was more like 10 minutes. The red checkpoint tent was a welcome sight and I was pleasantly surprised to find I was in 4th place! A brief stop to refill water then I headed off clutching a big handful of salty chips. Those chips worked wonders and I left with a renewed sense of energy despite my legs starting to feel a little tired.
Actual course

Back along the Eastern Okataina Walkway ticking off landmarks as I went. Reaching the 21km split we turned left and immediately began a long, brutal climb. This ascent sucked the remaining spring out of my legs and as this section was not on our intended route so I had no clue what to expect. Undulating up along the ridge I began to pass the tail-enders from the 21km which gave me targets to focus on. We were well and truly up in the cloud, and in the exposed parts it was a bit cool.  I kept looking at my watch to estimate how far it was to the finish line which should have been 10km from the 21km split, but in actual fact it turned out to be roughly 16km. Descending 400m off the ridge through farmland was a little sketchy as it was difficult to spot the white route markers in the thick cloud and a couple of times a came to a complete halt as I scanned for the next marker. Eventually we came to the last hill (which I recognised from our way out) then it was down the other side and through to the finish. I crossed the line ecstatically in 5:53 hours  – 1st woman and 4th overall! Chris greeted me with the news that we had just run 48km; 13km further than planned.
                      Leg time      Elapsed time
10km mark       1:30
20km mark       1:15               2:45
21km split        1:19               4:04
Finish               1:48               5:53
4x Gu chomps
2x Tararua Biscuits
1x Nut bar
1 handful of deliciously salty chips!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Coromandel Classic

After a slow trip out of Auckland on Friday night we arrived in Thames just in time for race briefing. Dad and Mum got all my gear scrutineered while I soaked up as many tidbits of information about the course as I could. Back to our cabin for a short mediocre sleep before the alarm rang at 5:30am. A few last minute instructions to support crew before they headed off to the first transition at the top of Kauaeranga Valley Road ahead of the riders. Ten minutes of riding round in circles served as a warm up before joining the throng of riders on the start line. I was feeling a sense of anticipation mixed with trepidation.

Day 1
The pace was hot right from the start with bunches quickly forming on the flat tarseal road. The 20km mtb ride is a gradual gravel climb up to the end of Kauaeranga Valley Road. For half up to the DOC visitor centre I was tucked into a bunch but eventually dropped off the back. The crisp early morning was enjoyable and I cruised along by myself soaking in as much of the surroundings as I could. There was a hint of frost in sheltered parts of the valley and my feet were numb by the time I came into transition.
A quick change into running shoes then it was through the Kauaeranga and into the 27km run. I found my running legs immediately but it took 20 minutes to regain full feeling in my feet (trail running with little feeling in your feet is an interesting exercise). It wasn’t long before the climb began in earnest and I was bounding past people up the rocky Pinnacles Track. Turning off the main track just before the hut, the run turned into a scramble as we descended into the upper reaches of the Kauaeranga River and back up the other side. Mud, bog, and rocks characterised these few kilometres (sometimes alternately, sometimes all together). Near the end of this technical section I was pleased to catch up to another individual woman. Finally we emerged at the top of a clay road which wound through a very barren area before a long steep descent where several of those whom I had overtaken came racing back past me. Fording the Rangihau Stream marked the end of the trails and the start of 9km of gravel road to the kayak transition at Coroglen. The road dragged on and on, and those 9km seemed to take forever!  A local called out that I was the fourth woman which perked me up for a while. At one stage I reckoned that we must be nearly at the end only to have someone say that we still had 4km to go. I was not really enjoying myself for the last few km and was struggling to keep my mental game focused so didn’t run as well as I could have. I took the opportunity provided by the easy terrain to polish off most of my food (although I didn’t drink as much as I should have).
The Coroglen transition was a welcome sight and I was soon paddling happily down the Waiwawa river. It was a bit of guess work as to which line to pick as the river widened into the Whitianga Harbour and a relied on my memory of the satellite images which I had studied on Friday. No opportunities for wash hanging, but the tide was racing out and made for a quick trip down the harbour. Rounding the headland by the ferry landing was a bit of a washing machine but there was only a very small swell along the coast – all well within my comfort zone. Paddling under the cliffs was spectacular and I relished the open views out to sea. I felt strong throughout the paddle and was half an hour faster than expected thanks to the outgoing tide. Rehydrating was a priority and I drank as much during the 1 ½ hour kayak as I had during the 3 hour run.
Landing at Cooks Beach I was neck and neck with Kim Daubney in 3rd place. A slick transition saw me hit the road first and I hammered it for the first 10 minutes in a futile attempt to retain my place. However cycling is my weakest leg so it wasn’t long before Kim came zooming past. The first 15 km of the road cycle was quite pleasant – fairly flat through to Whenuakite with a few undulations and a tail wind. Then it struck. At first I assumed it was just another undulation but I soon realised that this was more serious. Thankfully the road wasn’t too steep as it wound up the hill and I could grind away in my smallest gear. By now I was feeling pretty tired and my finger-mounted timing chip was digging in to my hand and giving me grief. 200m of climbing later, all that remained was one last descent into Tairua for the finish of Day 1. The long flowing downhill almost (but not quite) made up for the ascent.
We settled into our accommodation and sorted out gear and race plan for the next day. My legs were pretty tired and I snoozed until it was time to head to dinner and briefing. Bed at 8:15pm!
Day 2
No sign of the forecast heavy rain overnight but we woke to strong wind. Dark clouds were building to the west as we gathered for briefing at the Tairua Wharf. The harbour was quite choppy and some kayakers were a little of their comfort zone. It was tricky lining up for the start with the wind roaring up the harbour and a strong incoming tide (a feat made harder by not being able to hear any instructions from the wharf). I missed the start by about 50m but some people were still facing the wrong way! A fast lumpy paddle up the harbour with the odd bit of surfing thrown in. Thankfully there was enough water to cover the sandbanks. The water was nice and calm once we entered the Tairua river. Several of us got onto the wash of a four person traverse team for a few kilometres which made the going easier. The first big drops of rain began to fall and the rain set in. Towards the end of the 15km kayak I could feel my pace slipping. I wasn’t surprised as I had done two long paddles in two days, after doing no more than 14km in training.
Beaching the boat on the riverbank we had to slither up a muddy paddock to the transition before jumping on the road bike over to Whangamata. A steady plod up the first hill (being passed by lots of riders) then a nice cruisy descent. I was being very cautious on the wet corners and didn’t attempt to push the pace. This was my favourite bike section of the race – a bit of everything to keep things interesting but with no nasty climbs or long flats. The rain had eased to a light drizzle but I was thankful for the extra vest which I had donned in transition.
Changing into running shoes on the other side of Whangamata it was off up the Wentworth Valley for the 21km run. The first 5 km is gravel road and I got into a good rhythm (although it felt slow). The weight of all the compulsory gear was quite noticeable. Once we hit the end of the road and began climbing the track up past Wentworth Falls I steadily picked runners off. From the falls to the top of the ridge was nice single track, and the whole climb was nicely runnable (which is not to say that I didn’t walk at all). At the top of the ridge we emerged onto a 4wd track which undulated along the ridge through the cloud. There were many slippery clay sections and the odd thigh-deep mud hole to catch the unwary. By this time I was feeling a little weary and my coordination was starting to deteriorate so I was running carefully. My big toe was also aching – I must have strained or knocked it earlier on. Had some company along this section which was nice. Eventually the track steepened for the final descent to the Maratoto transition.
The final cycle back to Thames started off nicely with a gently rolling downhill which was quite enjoyable. After the first 10km the headwind began to increase as we got closer to the coast and I found myself wishing for aero bars or a wheel to draft off. In addition, it was almost impossible to find a comfortable position on the bike! The support crews cheering from the roadside helped to spur me on, but by Kopu township my speed had dropped below 20km/hr thanks to tired legs and a headwind. A bunch came past just before Thames and I managed to stay with them for a kilometre or two but I didn’t have anything left in my legs to keep up the pace. Turning off towards the Thames Racecourse it was just a couple of minutes before I rode into the grandstand, racked my bike, and crossed the finish line. Coromandel Classic was finished!

The race had been an experiment to see how I would cope with a two day event. The first day went as planned but the second day was definitely much tougher for me and I lacked my usual oomph. Admittedly I hadn’t done many hard back-to-back training days. For the first time ever I treated myself to a massage after the race and it felt absolutely wonderful! My legs definitely felt better afterwards. Next time I’ll have one after the first day to aid recovery for day two. Although my cycling has improved this year I still have a lot of work to do to get up to scratch on the bike legs.
Day 1  6:40:02
Day 2  5:49:41
Total  12:29:43
4th woman, 33rd out of 63 overall (including teams)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Coromandel Classic Photos

Last weekend saw me down in the Coromandel competing in the Coromandel Classic multisport race.

Still working on my race report, but in the meantime here are the photos:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pursuit of Excellence

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."
This principle is one which pervades all areas of my life, not just running. Sometimes this becomes tricky when striving for excellence in many different areas at the same time, and sometimes my athletic aspirations have to take a back seat to studying.

To my delight, I was recently recognised as The Top Undergraduate Student in Mathematics at Massey University (Albany Campus) for 2012!

2012 Mathematics Cup Recipient

Monday, July 15, 2013


When an invitation to a Girls' Trail Running Weekend in Taupo arrived from Kate (of Kori Kita) I jumped at the opportunity to explore new tracks with like-minded people.


I picked Jo up from Devonport, and we headed south just after 1pm. A smooth journey saw us arrive at Acacia Bay at 5pm. Time to settle in and then a wait to see if anyone else was going to turn up. In the end there were only the three of us who ran on Friday night. Kate (and Red) took us along the lake edge a short distance before heading up the hill into the forest. The evening was perfectly still and clear and surprisingly warm. Not a ripple on the lake and myriads of stars twinkling above. Every so often we paused to simply soak in the beauty of our surroundings. A gradual winding ascent through the pines, then a quick drop down Blue Ridge and along a few roads back to Acacia Bay. By this time it was 9pm so we quickly rustled up some chicken & pasta for dinner.
Sunrise at Acacia Bay

Breakfast at 7:30am. Blue sky and no wind – Lake Taupo was still like a mirror. Drove to Kinloch and met Shannon at 9am. The plan was to run down the 20km Great Lake Trail to Kawakawa Bay and over to Kinloch. However, Kate had forgotten her pack so she dropped Jo, Shannon, and me at the trail head then dashed home to collect her gear before running in to meet us from the Kinloch end of the track.
I was eager to get running so went out fairly fast to begin with. Very gradual downhill on pumice tracks, at first through farmland scrub then slowly entering proper bush. Ran by myself for the first 10km down to Kawakawa Bay where I lapped up the wilderness views while I waited for Shannon. For the next few kilometers we ran together and I learnt a lot about training and racing from Shannon. Kate joined us roughly 5km from Kinloch. 
Kinloch, looking towards the Headland
A short stop at Kinloch to refill water and for Shannon change shoes before Shannon and I headed up the W2K Track while Kate ran back along the Kawakawa Bay track to meet Jo. After a 300km training week Shannon wasn’t feeling too sharp, so I forged ahead at my own pace and ran the next 20km by myself. 5km of runnable uphill brought me to the turnoff for the Headland Loop. This track is quite tight & twisty but a bit softer underfoot than the main trails. A few good lookouts along the way. By this time the breeze had got up and clouds were threatening rain. About half way round I realised that I had underestimated how much water I would need and my supply was getting low. Managed to eke it out until about 2km from the end. Jo & Kate were waiting inside the Kinloch store, welcoming me with some much appreciated hot chips.

The tracks were completely different to what I was used to, and much easier than running in the Waitakere Ranges. My lower legs felt the constant pounding on the hard pumice while my quads hardly felt like they had done anything. Normally after a long trail run my legs are smashed, but this time I still felt fresh. The tight, windy mountain bike tracks with no roots or rocks did get a little monotonous at times. The hills were all entirely runnable, but the total ascent was only 670m over 40km.

Jo was exhausted so we dropped her back at the house then Kate took me on a quick jaunt down to the Acacia Bay caves. Headed back and hopped into the spa pool – fantastic recovery session! Relaxed in the tub for an hour and a half before deciding it was time to get dinner. Two of Kate’s running friends, Tilly & Sandy, joined us for dinner. Had a wonderful evening of laughs and camaraderie, and watched a little of “It’s Not That Hard” documentary.

On top of Tauhara

A bit cooler in the morning. Shannon walked the Tauhara Half course, and Kate & I ran up Mt. Tauhara. The track was rooty, narrow and steep – just how I like it! A few views on the way up but the summit was in cloud. Quickly put on gloves & a warm top. Spent a few minutes at the top before heading back to find Kate and accompanying her back to the summit. We didn’t hang around long as the cool breeze and cloud soon sent us scurrying down to shelter. The descent was fun! Light misty rain was starting when I reached the carpark.

It was a quick trip for me: 34 minutes up and 20 minutes down. Under the challenge time of 1 hour! We then drove around to the finish line of the Tauhara Half, but it was raining so we didn’t hang around to watch people finish. Had a lazy afternoon at the house and departed for Auckland just before 3pm.

A very enjoyable and inspiring weekend of running!


Monday, June 3, 2013

Because It's There

This is the account of the first time I ran the Hillary Trail back in January 2012. At the time I was the youngest person to run the trail and since then I have completed the full Hillary Trail twice more, currently holding the record for fastest woman to run from Muriwai to Arataki.
Why. This word is frequently heard by endurance athletes from uninitiated people who struggle to comprehend the motivation behind thrashing your body and pushing your mental toughness for hours on end. It also a word I was asking myself in the days leading up to the Huia Road Bush Runners’ annual Hillary Trail run. Why run 73km of bush trails (with 3,700m of climbing) when ordinary 15km runs are enjoyable? The best reason I came up with was the same that George Mallory gave in 1924 when asked why he was attempting the first ascent of Everest: “Because it’s there!” My longest run to date was just under 30km so attempting the full Hillary Trail was merely doubling that distance and throwing in a bit extra for good measure. Accordingly, at 6am on the first Saturday in 2012, ten of us were assembled at the end of Horseman Road to tackle the challenge.
Stage 1: 14km from Goldie’s bush to Bethells Beach       2:06
With a hint of moisture hanging in the air, we started off through the bush in the half light of dawn. Conditions were perfect for running – overcast with a gentle drizzle and no wind to drive it into your face. We settled into an easy rhythm through Goldie’s Bush but despite eyes straining to make out the track, a hidden root saw me roll an ankle within 20 minutes. It was fully light by the time we reached Constable Road and the many muddy/narrow/overgrown patches on the Te Henga walkway made for interesting running with the moody west coast as a backdrop. Michael Rodliffe, Penny Kirkwood and Jim Davidson powered away, followed not too closely by the peloton of Simon Clendon, Shane Absolum, Tony Bus, Dan Roberts, and myself. Stuart met us with his camera as we loped across the bridge to complete the ‘warmup’ leg.

Stage 2: 14km from Bethells Beach to Piha                          2:11

A quick refuelling stop then it was jogging up beside the stream and over the sand dune to the conveniently placed ‘small room’. Our pack opted to take the longer official route around the northern side of Lake Wainamu despite the footprints of Jim, Michael, and Penny clearly heading towards the more direct track. A steady climb up Houghton caught us up to Max (who ran stages 2 & 4) before emerging onto the infamous Kuataika Track. The clay surface was slightly greasy from the persistent drizzle but the steep climbs seemed less dreadful than I remembered. A 200m descent down Whites track brought us into North Piha and the second support stop. Michael and Penny had hoofed it just before I arrived, with Jim further ahead. Several fresh supporting runners were waiting to tackle the next section to Karekare but Shane, Dan, and I set off first. 28km was the furthest I had ever run before, so every step beyond Piha was a journey of discovery.

Stage 3: 12.5km from Piha to Karekare                                   1:58
As we pounded along the road to Glen Esk Valley I could feel my knees tightening slightly but otherwise felt great. I was relishing the adventure. As we ascended to Kitekite falls the drizzle turned to rain which hung around for the rest of the day. A fast walk allowed me to keep up with Shane’s ceaseless shuffling run up the hill until we emerged onto Piha Road. Not far along the road we were halted by Vicki Woolley shouting to us from behind – something about “Penny” and “AWOL”. Dan turned back to find out what was going on while Shane and I continued onwards. At the end of Log Race Road Shane took the wrong entrance to the Mercer Bay Loop Walk then headed out toward the lookout on the headland. I caught sight of him in time and called him back to the correct track. Coming down Comans was a bit muddy so due caution was exercised to avoid taking a spill. Near the top we passed Jo and were soon at Karekare carpark to rendezvous with the van. A surprised Stuart enquired if we had passed Penny as she ought to have been well ahead of us by this time. Dan ended his run here as he had a wedding to attend. Everyone was surprised that Jim was not stopping at the van to resupply, but his decision to be self sufficient proved wise later on when he was too far in front to be met by the van. By now we were all completely soaked and looked (and felt) like drowned rats. A fresh pair of socks was in order, as the assorted stones and leaves collected in my shoes were starting to get irritating.

Stage 4: 10km from Karekare to Whatipu                             2:10
As we set off up Zion Hill together, Shane and I congratulated each other on achieving our first ever marathon. By this stage the tracks were saturated and seemed to have reverted to winter condition. Knowing that the halfway mark had been passed was a huge relief and I was still feeling reasonably good. It wasn’t until starting the climb up Muir track I began to notice that tiredness was creeping in. Once on Gibbons Shane kept going at a fair clip while my pace slowed due to the mud. For the first time all day I was running alone. This track has a reputation for being muddy and this was no exception. The downhill section was exposed to the cool breeze which, coupled with the fact that I hadn’t been eating as much as I should have due to the slippery technical nature of the track, soon cooled me down and I began to look forward to dry clothes at Whatipu. Cold, wet, tired, hungry, and alone – but enjoying it! The van was a welcome sight and I quickly put on a warm polyprop and refilled my water before heading up Omanawanui.

Stage5: 10km from Whatipu to Huia                                       2:39
Shane had waited for me to arrive at Whatipu and we set off together again, this time accompanied by Jonathan Douglas and his son Jake. The three of them soon disappeared and I was caught up by Tom Frentz who kindly stayed with me for this entire section even though it was mostly walking. By now I was definitely tired and my legs were getting tight. When Mum met us at the top of the Omanawanui track and asked how I was I had only one reply: “Hurting!” A steady plod brought us to the top of Karamatura Track, which is the last steep descent on the Hillary Trail. The abundance of mud and roots demanded concentration and my knees were brought to the edge of mutiny at each big step. At last the seemingly interminable downhill ended and we jogged into the last support stop. My body was telling me in no uncertain terms that it would be nice to stop here, but I was determined to finish even if I walked the last 10km to Arataki. After running 63km I wasn’t about to let a little pain and tiredness stop me now!

Stage 6: 10.5km from Huia to Arataki                                      3:00
This last stage is mostly gravel roads, with only one technical track to go: the dreaded Hamilton Track (otherwise known as where the mud monster lives). Jogging along the dam roads with Jonathan my ‘running’ got slower and slower until it was barely more than walking speed. My legs were so tight that the range of motion in my knees was inhibited, reducing me to an agonising shuffle. Finishing was now 100% certain – there were no more chances to opt out! Once at Hamilton Track, Jono raced ahead to catch up with Shane, Jake, and Richard Cross. For the second time that day I was cold, wet, tired, hungry, and alone – but this time I most decidedly was not enjoying it! The rough, muddy terrain dictated a slow pace and I soon cooled enough to don my raincoat and fantasise about dry clothes. When simply walking was a challenge, wallowing through the mud was an excruciating, energy sapping exercise. A shout from up ahead – Richard had come back looking for me and I was relieved to no longer be alone with the mud monster. This was the lowest point for me as I valiantly fought to keep from breaking down, both physically and mentally. Once back on gravel roads I attempted to jog but it was simply not going to happen. Pipeline was a little slippery, but compared to previous tracks it was a footpath. Like a horse sensing its stable, once on Slip Track my pace picked up slightly and I even managed to run down the last slope to the cheering supporters at Arataki Visitor Centre. Elation at completing the Hillary Trail was superseded by the relief of simply being able to stop after 14 hours and 4 minutes on the go.
Yes, I was stiff and sore the next day and during the run I had points where I wondered at the sanity of our endeavour. The first 50km had been easy but the final 20km required me to dig deep and summon every ounce of mental fortitude. Still, the real question is not “why?”, but WHY NOT?

Jim was the first home in 11 hours 49 minutes – not bad for his longest run in more than a decade. Michael and Shane finished before me (12:38 and 13:22 respectively) with Simon and Tony turning up only 10 minutes after I finished. Penny arrived in 14:27 hours, after her navigational errors resulted in her covering a total of 82km – 10km more than anyone else!