Sunday, June 15, 2014

Double Rainbow

The Double Rainbow 46km is a double figure of 8, with a bit extra at each end. The middle part of the 8 is at the summit of Rainbow Mountain (743m) meaning a total of 4 ascents!

Thanks to the Emerald Spa Motor Inn and photos4sale, my parents and I spent Friday night at a swish motel in Rotorua where we were welcomed by a handful of small earthquakes around 8pm. Saturday morning was crisp and clear, but not quite frosty at the Lake Okaro event base as we watched dawn breaking gently on one side and the full moon setting on the other.

A small, eager bunch gathered at the start line for the 46km run. The first 5km over farmland was a bit chilly to begin with as it was exposed to the gentle southerly breeze, but we soon dropped out of the wind and quickly warmed up. Right from the start I was feeling great and knew that this was going to be a fantastic day out running. A short bush section around the southern end of Lake Okaro then back onto paddocks and farm roads. Parts of the road were and inch or two deep in mud and cow muck! Through the underpass beneath State Highway 38 (Waikaremoana Road) and a bit more farmland before hitting the forestry road at the base of Rainbow Mountain.

A short blast along the gravel road and onto the twisting bike trail around to the western side of the mountain. Richard the timekeeper greeted us at the start of the ascent, and we knew that from here it was a stiff climb to the summit. Mirjam van den Boom had been sitting within sight behind me right from the start, and a couple of minutes into the climb she came zooming past. I briefly toyed with the idea of keeping up but realised the attempt would be futile. The gradient wasn't too bad (apart from a couple of short pinches) and was all runnable although I did walk quite a bit. It was neat running through the geothermal areas on the side of the mountain, with steam rising from the vents (one or two right beside the track) and the occasional whiff of sulphur. My nutrition plan was to eat a muesli bar and a couple of Gu chomps on each ascent, and this seemed to work well.

At the summit with Mt Tauhara in the distance

I didn't stop at the summit aid station (15.5km) but immediately turned around and headed down the nice flowing mountain bike track. You could clearly see Mt Tauhara and the steam rising from the geothermal fields between there and Rainbow Mountain. Apparently Ruapehu was also visible, but I didn't stop to look long enough to make it out. Frost was on the ground when we reached the Kerosene Creek valley on the southern side of Rainbow Mountain. It was a strange experience to be running through the frost and cold air and suddenly hit a pocket of warm air from a nearby geothermal vent. It took me just on an hour to run the 7km loop back to the summit aid station (22.5km).

This time instead of taking the track down we ran down the steep gravel road, now with views to Mt Tarawera and the myriad lakes, and around to where we first had popped onto the forestry road from the paddocks. One lap done. The 17km mid-pack runners were exiting the farm as I arrived, and from here to the summit I was passing people from the shorter courses. Part way up my third ascent I was overtaken first by Chris Morrissey who was leading the 46km and a few minutes later by Matt Parsonage as they tackled the mountain for the 4th and final time. That means they were 7km ahead of me!

At the summit this time (32.5km) I paused to fill up with water before hitting the downhill mtb track again. This hill shattered what was left of my legs and it was a struggle to run the flat section through the Kerosene Creek valley. Whenever I came to anything which was ever so slightly inclined upwards my legs would try to convince me to walk; "It's uphill - you can walk now. Come on, give us a break". Mostly I managed to resist giving in but I did yield on a few occasions.

Final climb

I was glad to see Richard for the last time (not that I have anything against him personally) and begin the final climb to the top of Rainbow Mountain. Each ascent felt slower than the last but by now I knew the knew the landmarks of the track and could tick them off as I passed by. After checking in at the summit (39.6km) it was all downhill to home (well, at least mostly downhill) so I didn't need to save my legs anymore. I smiled as I passed another runner who was very aptly wearing brightly coloured rainbow socks. The final 4km back along the farmland seemed to drag on for a long time before we hit the walkway around the top of Lake Okaro to the finish. I reached the pot of gold at the end of the Double Rainbow in 5:36:11, placing 3rd woman. The course was fantastic and had a great mix of farmland, gravel roads and single track, being  interesting but not overly technical. I felt strong the whole way and had one of my best runs since The Hillary.

Race director Shaun Collins, Kovo Kowalewski (1st), and me (3rd)

Start of the 46km

Thanks to Lactic Turkey for another fantastic event, and to photos4sale and the Emerald Spa motor inn for a fun weekend away.

Event website

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