Some things come easy, other stuff takes a bit more effort.
- Learning that your big days leading into an ultra aren’t training so much as a celebration of fitness and opportunity to get some scenic adventure time = easy
- Pacing yourself to get through those big adventures = easy
- Giving your wife/family realistic times to complete new routes = difficult
- Estimating distance and true elevation of new routes from Topo50 (1:50,000) map series = difficult
- Navigating for the directionally challenged = difficult
Looking for a final big trail day before Tarawera, the invites and request for route selection went out. I was looking for something in the 60-70km range, shady trails, mostly runnable, within 1hr of Auckland, and just over 2000m of climbing. Surely not too much to ask of Auckland’s Regional Parks. After some vague references I picked a route in the Hunua’s, cross referenced it from previous (limited) expeditions, the Topo50 map, and the Park Map. Really thought I had it covered, detailed tracing of tracks from topo maps showed the full route as a 65km outing and ~2500m climbing, the large majority of which was to be found in the first half of the course. Perfect. The only downside was the fact that we would be spending much of the day on the ridges in the summer sun.
Got a couple of Westies, by way of Adam Lovel and Nathan Bycroft keen on exploring the Hunua’s and some wise words from the locals. Moreover, the route I had planned had multiple cutback options from the full 65km route dropping 10km and 15km and some final climbs. With an anticipated 0630 start I confidently told Victoria I’d be back at the car at 1430 with an outside time of 1630, figuring we could full manage exit time with the cutbacks.
Woke up in less than optimal running condition following some neighbourly socialising on the Friday night. My super-domestique-TUM-pacer kindly loaned the transportation on the day by way of a rapid transit Volvo, though to little benefit with a rather predictable 20min late start into a glorious summer morning. All was going splendidly for first 1:15hr when we unwittingly cruised past the trail that dropped off the ridge we were on. 30 minutes later backtracking along marked but unmapped trails we retraced the junction with the trail sign hidden well out of sight 20 metres down the bank. What kind of trail builder would spend $$$ on stairs down a stunning 250m bush descent but hide the top junction?
No matter, it was all going swimmingly, pace was even, conditions perfect, though we had a minor detour due to Kauri die-back. A nice water stop, refuel at Mangatangi Reservoir picnic/info area. Those little setbacks were a trivial 50 minutes, we had a mighty two hour reserve and cutback options to meet our spousal [made up word?] commitments. Everything here on in went even better than planned, trails were more runnable as we headed north (as planned!), water was (thankfully) to be found on some ridge campsites and our pace didn’t feel overly slow for what we were covering.
Happy snaps were even there to be had for the planned route…
Bagging the highpoint of the Hunua’s at Kohukohunui (688m) Adam mentioned something absurd, like “Only 10km to go” on the basis of the agreed cutback option (due to the earlier time loss). Looking over to where the road exited way off in the distance this was plainly ridiculous, yet the logged distance did suggest we had a minor trot to meet the Topo50 mapped distance. Clearly something was wrong. A few checks of the map and we plotted our expedited exit along the unexciting forestry roads trading a little extra distance for climbing and slower tracks. Speaking for the others here, I think we were all feeling it by this stage with moving time of 7:30hrs with a now unknown distance to go (estimating it at this point was far too difficult).
Fortunately the company was in good spirits and we were fading at about the same rate (though I suspect I was the weaker link). What I did have to keep Victoria and the Volvo crowd happy was a nifty SPOT satellite messenger/tracker device which was put to good use notifying of changes in plan and delays. While it worked well overall, not sure the device was happy sending updates from the dense Hunua bush. At least we were secure knowing that they wouldn’t call out a SAR crew if we were a couple of hours late.
And late we were, despite using a planned cutback option which both shortened the distance and elevation involved the shortened day was actually longer than the anticipated full route at 66km and between 3100-3200m of climbing. On the flip side, we got some great unplanned extra time on feet, the day was glorious and without serious incident (due to good risk mitigating navigation decisions), explored some beautiful new trails, and Adam nailed his first ultra ‘event’. Following up 2 days post run, I’m feeling fantastic and rather excited about the prospect of Tarawera this year…
Now, can anyone actually give me an actual route in the Auckland region that meets the criteria I was seeking: 60-70km, runnable trail, 2000-2500m climbing?