On Wednesday, 4 May, we received the fourth and final email update from Total Sport concerning the T42 Central Plateau marathon. Things that were covered in the email, included:
- Weather update
- Event contingency date
- Compulsory gear update
- Event course update
- Department of Conservation / Didymo
- Safety on the course
- Event start times & locations
- Course cut-off times
- Aid stations
- Gear drop off at start
- Registration at The Park
- Post event at Owhango
- Prize Money
- Event Photos
- Dinner & post event at The Park
Our training had gone a bit haywire the last couple of weeks. My energy was sapped and I couldn’t get myself motivated to get out the door and go for a run. This was not helping my nerves either as I had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t properly prepared for an event of this magnitude. I had officially managed to run myself unfit! This is what happens if you keep on doing long events without training properly in between. As my friend, Kandas, who got me running in the first place 10 years ago (bless her soul) one day casually mentioned “you can’t just run races on weekends – you need to train a little in the week as well!”. Well, I hadn’t. I knew I should have, but just didn’t have the motivation, willpower, energy …
So, on the Friday, Gerry and I were off to the YHA Backpackers in National Park Village, about a 100 metres from the race headquarters – The Park Travelers’ Lodge, which also offered accommodation.
It had been raining on and off again for the previous two days and the gloomy weather forecast, coupled with my unfit state, almost had me running for my bed covers and not going at all. As we drove the 200km, I kept thinking that my worst fear of running every single marathon in NZ in the rain, was about to come true yet again. We arrived shortly after four in the afternoon, unpacked, and went over to the race headquarters to register and have our gear check. Afterwards we took a walk to the Speights Ale House, right next to the backpackers, for a beer. Fires were lit and the cosy atmosphere helped lift my spirits and I was again happy to be capable and fortunate enough to participate in these kinds of events. We each drank a Speights Traverse and just for good measure also a Speights Summit, while it was getting darker outside and still raining.
Back at the backpackers, we prepared pasta (with tuna, fried onion and cheese) in the communal kitchen, had dinner and went to bed. The rain continued throughout the night and by the morning it was really pouring. The sky was gray and dark with heavy clouds. Reluctantly I got up, had yogurt, a banana and tea for breakfast and went to the race headquarters where we were to catch the bus that would drive us into the park to the start of the race.
Fortunately, it wasn’t freezing (since snow had earlier fallen on Mt Raupehu, I was a bit worried about the cold) and by the time the bus dropped us off, the rain had almost cleared. During the briefing, a few lost drops were still flying about, but by the time we were off, it was a lovely morning with no rain and almost perfect weather. I couldn’t believe my luck! We have broken the spell for wet marathons in NZ – eventually!
Things were running a bit late and after a didymo footbath (courtesy of the DOC) [the MTBs were “dipped” and hosed off at The Park], an approximately 2.2km loop through a private farm had us passing the start again before heading into the park on a lovely undulating track.
The route is a point to point and the going was fairly easy. Another participant still remarked that it would be a breeze with the MTB. Trotting along, I thought to myself – if only I had trained a bit more, this race would be a walk in the park. Not that a marathon distance can ever quite be seen as a walk in the park!
We reached the first water point at 8.5kms after about an hour. I was still feeling okey, but knew that the fatigue would set in at some point, not having done a lot of distance (or any other!) training over the past 6 weeks.
Unfortunately it was still overcast and we didn’t have any great views of the surrounding mountains. The course runs mainly on a historic logging track, and although it might be fair to say that it is not very difficult/technical from a running point of view, it might be a slightly different story on a bike. A number of river crossings with freezing water, kept our feet nice and cold :). Mud baths in between meant that we welcomed the river crossings to clean off the worst mud.
Some sections were quite slippery with a few very steep down and uphills, which I can only imagine can be the greatest fun if you’re a downhill demon and not afraid to go all out!
From about halfway, I could feel my legs getting quite sore. With a number of uphills and some serious “slow poisons” (long, gradual, energy-sapping hills), I was walking the biggest part of the second half, only running on the downhill sections. By now, even the flat bits looked like uphill and I was cursing myself for not having trained more.
At some point, a short shower had us grabbing our rain coats, and from about 7km to go it rained until the finish. So, not an altogether rain free marathon for us, but if I had been faster, we would have made it high and dry. And I’m very grateful for the first 5 hours that were mainly dry. With the rain, the temperature also suddenly dropped considerably and I could understand why the organisers were so adamant about the compulsory gear.
At about 3 or 4km to go, you run a nice little section on single track (about a kilometre) before crossing a paddock, back on a gravel road and ending with a long uphill, with the finish being in the Owhango township domain. Apparently there were all sorts of things happening, e.g food for sale, the prize-giving? etc, but the organisers were busy packing up when we arrived and didn’t look too happy with us latecomers. The course have a 7-hour cut-off, and we finished in 6:09, but only having two more participants behind us, I guess it is fair not to expect a big hullabaloo about our “tail-end Charlies”.
One very friendly chap at the finish handed us each a Speights Traverse beer. Thanks Mr Friendly Chap! We caught the bus back to the race headquarters and couldn’t wait to get into dry clothing as the temperature had dropped considerably and it was freezing by now.
The evenings proceedings were also running late, and although we didn’t plan on staying for dinner and entertainment at The Park, the friendly chap mentioned that the spot-prizes would be handed out there. From the information we received beforehand, my understanding was that spot-prizes would be handed out every 15 minutes during the event?
Back then to the Speights Ale House for a mountain burger and chips, which was HUGE, I might add. The drizzle kept at it and it was much colder than the night before. We ended up leaving only at around eight in the evening, driving back to Palmy.
A lovely event, with 84 participants in the marathon trail run. There were shorter running distances boasting around 215 participants in total. The MTB of 45km event saw some 212 contenders.