I got my first taste of this challenging Waitakere run this last weekend. It was the 10th and final edition of the race – next year the organisers will replace it with a Hillary Trail Ultramarathon!
I had been feeling pretty unwell since the Wednesday two weeks before. I tried to run the sickness off back then with the MEC and ended up having three days plus a weekend convalesencing. That will teach me (no it won’t!). So I arrived at the start with just a few easy runs in the last fortnight, and the good sense to adjust my expectations and strategy accordingly. I was aiming to run a good strong tempo, but not all-out race effort. Judging by previous times, I thought somewhere around 2:20 was about right (Race record is 1:45 by Sjors Corporaal).
The race starts and finishes in Whatipu, at the southern end of the Auckland West coast. We were sent off and around the campsite to split the field up (good idea) before we headed up the steep Gibbons Trail. The course is a clockwise loop, North toward Karekare, then inland and then back out to Whatipu. How to describe it? In a word – gnarly.
It’s a course made for Ron King. It has heaps of hard climb in it, I measured 1050m net elevation gain. This makes it the most climb for a half marathon that I have seen. Even more than Hunua or Whitford xterras. Assuming half the course is uphill, my maths says that makes for an average of 100m climb per kilometre (10% gradient). To say that I utilised the power-walk would be an understatement. I actually had to run a few of the final hills because my hiking muscles were so fatigued it became easier to run!
Added to the hills are some pretty technical surfaces. I was hoping for a long wide descent to cash in on all the climb we had done. On both of the large descents (the first from 300m, the second from around 400m up), we had steep rooty goat tracks instead.
How did I go? I tried to follow my own advice but probably put a little bit too much effort in at times. The competitive urge is evidenced by the lack of any good photos as I couldn’t bear to stop to capture the vistas! I paced myself OK though and although I was pretty tired by the end, I was able to stride out to make sure I wasn’t chicked on the finish line : ) I came home in 2:22 and 11th place.
So a great pre-season workout on a very, very tough (but scenic) course. Another well run Lactic Turkey event under the belt. Time for a few good weeks of training to get me upto speed and strength.