To run like a kid over the rocks and the reef, what a feeling! My love for running these coastal events stems very much from memories of my childhood – scampering around headlands, jumping rock to rock, trying to avoid the tide from splashing my feet. This began for me at Brick Bay, just one bay North of Snells Beach. So the race from Snells – Sandspit – Campbells – Tawharanui – Omaha was really taking me back to the beginning. Would my feet remember?
James Sievers and I took part in the 30k “Full Monty” with Dave and Evan Atkinson opting for the 23k, which began at Campbells Bay. It was a low key start at Snells, with a rather small field lining up. Dave Franks, the RD said that approximately half the field had dropped out due to the postponement from May 9 (due to risk of storm swells).
The day was perfect though, a bit overcast, with a breeze and some gasps of late Autumn sun making it through. I stuck with my plan of starting conservatively and was very happy to see this still kept me in the top 5 as we made our way past Brick Bay and towards Sandspit. At the point we were picked up by inflatable boats and sped across the opening of the river and around the corner to Buckletons Bay (I think). Although I was disappointed not to get a good proper swim in unlike the North Shore edition, RD Dave explained that as well as being a highly trafficked section of waterway, the river mouth also leads to about 3k of mangrove bashing around the coast. Missing that was a good reason to have a ride!
The course: lots of trees and branches in the water. These were very slippery. The rocks were generally not too slippery (unlike the green slime section of NSCC). The technicality of the rocks peaked in the middle third of the race. However, the rocks are more aesthetically enjoyable than running round the headland at Shakespeare. So all in all: tough and technical but good underfoot and enjoyable.
I noticed that I was pulling away from the pack on the beach sections, and still holding my own on the rocks without having to get all breathless and force it. This boded well. I was sitting in 5th position (2 team runners included ahead) when we had a short little swim across an estuary into Baddeley’s Beach. I emerged first from this and ran the beach and short reef section into T1 at Cambells Bay. A quick refuel and another estuary to swim as we left. I again emerged first, having caught another full in the swim. We got into a nice flat rock section and the pace was flowing well. I looked back to see that I had made a decent gap back to second place. That was the last time the racing was tight, and it was only 45 minutes in.
I kept the steady pace along the rocky sections as I made my way toward Christian Bay. As mentioned, these rocks were pretty challenging to negotiate with any speed. Since I had no company and was aiming to protect my calf, I didn’t push it. I kept my steady rhythm and enjoyed the experience – running without pain and in a glorious location. What a blast!
After the long-awaited aid station at Tawharanui (17k), we had a final bash along the Kowhai coast. I was getting weary – mainly mentally weary of picking my way through the mass of loose rocks and kelp, so it was welcome relief to finally climb the stairs unto the Takatu peninsula after 20k of technical coastal running. Running some of my favourite trails around the headland, with views to Little Barrier and the sun shining, I was definitely in my happy place.
Still no sign of any competition so I thought I should finish strong but not flog myself, and save a bit for next weekend. I noted how much further the reef around to Omaha Bay was than what I predicted. I pick up the pace for a final tempo along the beach and made my way up to the surf club to finish – first place in the inaugural event! A great feeling.