3 July 2016
After four days on the road travelling to Auckland, back down to Wellington and back to Palmy the night before the Tauhara, I was a little reluctant to get up at 4am to travel to Taupo for this event. It was just all becoming a little too much. But, we were entered, and events usually cheer me up, so despite no running (and a lot of sitting!) for four days, we took to the road once again to see what this event was all about.
On the way, we were treated to some beautiful views of the snow-covered Mt Ruapehu. This might have caused some distraction as not very far down the Desert Road, we were stopped by traffic control in order to clear a crashed vehicle from the road. Skid marks could be spotted every here and there of cars going off the road and I wondered to myself how many accidents are caused by black ice on the Desert Road alone each year.
The delay on the road resulted in us arriving just in time. With registration done, we still had time to drop off our goodie-bags, attached race numbers and timing chips, and head back to the start. As we were weaving through all the parked cars to the start, we could hear the countdown and the horn setting off the field – 5 minutes early! So we dashed to the start, dead last, and started up a paddock on a slight incline following the trail of colourful runners.
If there’s one thing I’ve well and truly realised about myself, then it is that I’m not fond of cross-country. Maybe because I’ve never done it before? There is a lot of benefits to be had, no doubt (stronger muscles, including foot muscles, learning to deal with tough terrain underfoot, etc), but overall I’m not a fan. So every time we enter for a trail run, only to run chunks in paddocks, I get disheartened. Luckily it was only a short stretch at the start and the finish, as the rest of the course is run along forestry roads, an out-and-back stretch of shingle road, and the remainder on what looks like a mountain bike track through the forest.
Despite all the rain of the last month or so, the course was fantastic. Even the muddy bits had layers and layers of pine needle mulch, built up over the years, so not much slipping and sliding. For the most part, the course is quite run-able – that’s if you are fit enough to tackle the hills! This is a fairly hilly course with a few good climbs. And what goes up, must come down, and I have to say that if you’re not a downhill demon you might find some of these stretches quite challenging.
At around the 6km mark, the half marathon course turns off to the left to add the kilometres needed, before rejoining the 10km course to the finish over the final 3 or so kilometres. During this additional loop, there’s also an out-and-back stretch up and down a hill on a good shingles road.
Although this stretch was nice and social (and also one of the few spots where we had a bit of sun) it is a very long uphill of about a kilometre. Luckily the downhill makes up for the long slog up, and we got to see some other participants. While in the forest and in the shade – which was very cold – it sometimes feels as if you are almost alone. Often only seeing another runner up ahead as he/she turns a corner.
The weather was great, sunny and no wind. But bitterly cold. My hands on runs usually warm up quite quickly making gloves a nuisance more than a help, but this time around I really wished I had a pair. Gerry gave me his Buff (you can never have too many Buffs as they are good for absolutely everything!) which I wrapped around my hand and that helped tremendously. Frost was still around in the shady spots and the soil of the digger tracks was frozen stiff. Small bits of ice could be spotted in the grooves of the track and the temperature could not have been more than a few degrees. Although our bodies warmed up, our extremities were very cold and the water at the second water point was almost too cold to drink!
Water points were at about 3.5km, 9km and 18km, stocked with water and Loaded.
Although the course goes up and down all the way, the final long uphill reduces most runners to a walk. It is about 1.5km long, and if that is not enough, an equally steep downhill of only a few hundred metres takes you back to the finish. As is customary of Totalsport events, we were rewarded with a Speights beer and a sausage sizzle at the finish.
This is a great event; in a beautiful setting, tough enough, and very well organised. It is a bit of a drive from Palmy, but well worth the effort.