To say I went into this race under done on the training is a pretty big understatement. My longest training run was 22k and I’d only done a couple of other decent runs. I had been struggling to sort knee pain issues which popped up after 6 Foot. So instead of turning up to “race” we turned up to run (and or hobble) our way through 50ks of pure beauty.
For those who don’t want to read the full race report then check out the awesome video Andrea took of us on the run! Carrying his GoPro for 50k without complaint he captured the ups and downs and butt slides in all its glory!
The race starts at Te Puia – a natural geothermal park in Rotorua. Check this out – can you think of a more epic start line?! Actually it was heaps more epic as before we started there was a traditional Maori welcome (mean Haka!) and a dedication to a local trail runner, Steve Neary, who passed away in car accident the week prior. It was a very special start to what became a very special race (I mean run, no racing Jen your knee is crap!).
New Zealand weather was at it’s finest with torrential rain throughout the night before the race but easing into light drizzle for the start line. At 14 degrees it was pretty brisk for us Sydney siders but luckily we had a) Jules & Craig to be coatroom attendants for us and b) we were in a geothermal park with lovely warm steam surrounding us! 24 degrees of warmth according to my Suunto.
The count down was on and then we were off. The atmosphere at the start line was awesome. Cheers of “Go Squaddie” already coming fast and thick from the supporters made us feel very special. As with all runs of 600+ runners there was a bit of congestion as we made our way out of the geothermal park but soon we were running back through the car park and onto the trails. I’d ran this initial section in a training run on a holiday a couple of months ago so felt some comfort in knowing what was ahead.
Shit loads of fun is what was ahead!! Single trail delights as we wound our way through the Whakarewarewa Forest. High fives from the Coach came just before my first favourite part of the run (they all kept getting out-shone by other parts…) winding our way through the large redwood trees. I was having too much fun to take photos so here’s one from my training runs – me and the Mrs always hit these trails when we’re in Rotovegas. The heavy rain the night before had made the trail super bouncy woohoo fun.
The first sketchy off-trail section was soon upon us as we cut our way up towards the first aid station, it was pretty tough climbing in the very soft ground. But I love a good off-course adventure – pretty used to them by now with the number of navigational issues we’ve had in our adventure racing!
We flew through the first aid station not in need of anything to eat or drink this early on. The food looked pretty amazing though.
Then the first real climb came, up and up we went. Whilst some sections were runnable I reminded myself (and Andrea) that we had 43k more to go! So slow down nelly. At the top was a aid station that we were about to blow through when we say Polly, a fellow Squaddie who we met at rego and who funnily enough went to school with Jules! Quick selfie then we got on our way again.
Soon we were at Green Lake (14k in) where some friends of Jules were waiting to cheer us on – my first cheer squad, it was AWESOME (thanks Bunny)! Then my next favourite section, the offcourse adventure – thanks race director Tim. Woohoo bum sliding here we come. The rain from the night before and also all of the feet that had trampled before us made it impossible to stay up right. One by one we went down. Each trying a different technique, all failing miserable. When I went down a second time I couldn’t get up again so decided to admit defeat and slide my way down on my bum! Heaps of fun.
We headed off up to Woodstock on the 50k deviation, cutting through wooded farmlands (and over lots of fences!) you suddenly climb this section to be welcomed by the greenest of green fields and a stunning view of rolling hills and lakes. Despite the crappy weather (now raining quite consistently and a far cry from the 24 degrees of the hot steamy start line) we were both taken aback by the beauty of it. Selfies, photos, videos.
Returning back to the Green Lake aid station we refilled and refuelled, got another cheer from Bunny, then were off. Now at this point we were about 28k in and my legs were starting to feel the efforts, having long surpassed my longest training run! And soon I started to hit my not so happy place. My knee was starting to ache and my run was becoming more of a limpy hobble. By the time we hit the 2k road section from Green/Blue Lake lookout to the Buried Village I was not in a happy place:
This was my lowest of low moments, I was in the doubting myself, my ability to get to Buried Village never mind getting through the final 15k! I was in such a tough place mentally.
But a bit of reverse psychology from Andrea (the “if you stop, I stop” crap), a change of socks, shoes, shirts (into the Squadrun super shirt) and a supportive hug from the Mrs (thank you!!!) saw me come good. Oh and yeah I switched to caffeinated tailwind and released the demon inside of me! I don’t drink caffeine, bar the occasional green tea or coke with my bourbon (hmmm bourbon…) so when I get caffeine in me all hell breaks loose. Poor Andrea. Half way through a ramble I did stop to tell him that!
With my new caffeine enfused high I was flying – and dragging Andrea along for the ride. We had such a great last 15k, keeping very good pace and just getting the job done.
As we entered Lake Tarawera’s surrounds we were again taken aback by the beauty of the surroundings. Stunning single trails winding up and down and round the lake. It was awesome and with the crowds well thinned out by now we had a great time going at our pace, which was still surprisingly nifty.
We hit 4ks to go with the surprise Zombie aid station (the one before had Dominos Pizza which had been boated in!). Definitely the caffeine but I was just feeling so amazing, see the beaming photo and was super keen to get the job done!
Now whilst I said to myself there was no racing to be done, when we realised we were on track for a 7 hour finish time (a solid 45mins quicker than we thought we’d do) we started to get a little competitive with ourselves. Unfortuntely this was when we hit the last monster hill! But what goes up must come down (unless you went down before coming up!) And the last downhill section was amazing, though my knee was bugging me again with the consistent downhill bashing but I love a good speedy downhill so I had some more concrete and hardened up and got it done.
We could hear the finish line before we could see it. Cheers and cow bells galore. We hit the shoreline of the lake and it wasn’t soon before we could see everyone who had made the 20 min boat journey to cheer us on (yeah just us, who cares about the hundreds of other runners!!) Jules had come out with some of the in-laws including our nephews, so cute to get high fives from them as they cheered on Aunty Jen. I was so rapped to see the guys I didn’t even notice the final photographer – but I was still able to give the exact same shitty arm waving pose!! Really need to up my race photo game.
Before we knew it we were crossing the finish line and super happy to have ticked off our first 50k run race - check out that look of pure delight on Andrea's face hey!
Coach hugs and high fives, free beer and more hugs and high fives from family followed before we headed off on our boat to a more private part of the lake to soak in the natural waters.
Seriously a fantastic race that I’d highly recommend for its fun and friendly atmosphere, well organised start and finish line, kick-ass aid stations and breathtaking atmosphere.
Check out some more photos below... Thanks for reading (or skimming or just looking at the photos!)
Woohoo the return of my favourite run in Australia – only in its second year in 2016 but it had that big an impact on me in 2015 I’m back and I’m psyched! Not your average trail run this baby is part of the Australia & NZ Sky Running series. That means it’s hilly as fuck – well technically it’s mostly stairs but stairy as fuck doesn’t quite work.
The first thing to note is that this year they changed the course and the hub centre and made things 100 times more awesome. The epic centre of awesomeness was Allview Escape, a 20 acre resort in the bushlands of BlackHeath, Blue Mountains. The race starts and ends here and comes and goes a few times more for those that are doing the 68k ultra which took out number 1 in the 5 toughest ultras in Australia rated by Ultra168 (they know their shit)
The change of event centre made this a much more communal event. Which was fitting as this was my first run that I’d really started with a group of mates. Claire, Wayne and Korajoined me and Claire’s kids and mum were our cheer squad. It was great to share the race energy and excitement with some mates. When we went to pick up our race packs on Saturdaynight we hung out and cheered on a number of the amazing and crazy people doing the ultra. It was inspirational to see legends and friends of friends compete in what must be an insanely tough course as it does the 20k loop twice and throws in an extra 28k to boot. OUCH! We watched the top male and female runners come through and cheered on the back of the pack who were coming in for the last 20k turnaround when it was getting dark and a blanket of freezing fog spread across the estate and beyond. The sheer determination and resolution of those that were able to turn around at this point and go back out again for another 20k of brutal torture are absolute legends. As many a top ultra-runner has said, much respect is due to those that go out and endure the elements for twice as long as the elites. Amazing stuff!
But back to the sanity of the 20k race. Last year it was 21k this year it was closer to 19k but a much more enjoyable course this year. The removal of an out and back section meant little bottle necking – though it’s trail so there was of course a little bit of traffic once we left the initial fire trail and hit the awesomely technical single trail that takes you to the canyon rim. The views are spectacular at this point as the sun breaks over the ridge. You can see nothing but trees that are as small as Lego trees as you look down into the canyon, the faint slithers of water break the walls as waterfalls cascade down into the abyss.
There’s some up and down action from the get go as we negotiate the single trail. I’m trying to remind myself that I’m still struggling with injury and this is my first proper test of my knee ahead of Tarawera 50k (my first 50k) and that’s only 6 weeks away. “This is not a race” I chant in my head but alas I’m rubbish at self-restraint when it comes to single trail and away I fly, smashing the downhill stairs with giddy child-like glee. (Oh boy did I pay for this later!)
Before we start our descent into the canyon we pass over the top of a waterfall, I recall with trepidation my race last year when I was absolutely b#ggered on the climb out when I reached the bottom of this waterfall and realised with sheer terror that I still had to climb to the top of it to get out! Ouch that was not a fond memory. Oh what to do, fake a snake bite, pretend to faint from exhaustion, cry woes of a stomach bug rendering me incapable of continuing…. Of course not! Strap yourself in for the ride Mrs the only way is down and then up, up and up!
Going down into the Canyon is one of the most scenic parts of the Blue Mountains. Very few people wander down this far and so we get the beauty of endless single trail, river crossings, cliff overhangs and endless other delights without a tourist in sight. Massive kudos to the photographer that clambers down here. Awesome work! I’m loving on this section and the body is feeling good but I know that the hard bit is yet to come and am conscious to save some in the tank for the climbing.
The climb sneaks up on you, all of a sudden you realise you’re on a steady incline, then come the stairs, the kind that really need inverted commas around them! They’re uneven and precarious and tough. So tough. But as you climb and start to pass waterfalls and watch the vegetation transform before your eyes the pain dulls ever so slightly and you remind yourself that you are bloody lucky to be here and able to see such amazing beauty. (Thank you Achilles for teaching me to live in the moment and always appreciate the beauty surrounding me and embrace my body’s ability to do this crazy sh!t)
And then the appreciation wavers as the body is slammed by the NEVER ENDING STAIRS!!!
It pretty much goes… Ooh look waterfall. Argh quads on fire. Oooh pretty birdie. OMG my hip flexors are trying to detach from my body. Awww wow look at those cool ferns. Sob sob, it all burns… And then it repeats for another hour or so because that climb is never ending! But I did find myself coming to the bottom of the waterfall in a much better state, mentally and physically than last year. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t allowed to stop, so that forced me to keep a more consistent pace and stop me from burning out rather than last year when I’d go hard until my lungs felt like bursting then I’d stop and catch breath. The plan to just keep keeping on worked as my time for the 16k canyon loop was 30mins quicker than last year. Pretty chuffed with myself for that one. Just goes to show what some real training can do for you! Thank you Squadrun.
The best part of the stairs is the final section where you’re up against the cliff wall on the left with the expansive view of the canyon to the right and as you look down you literally realise how far you’ve come. The waterfall flows down disappearing into the forest below and you feel relief mixed with pity for the poor buggers still down there. You can do it guys! Water flows off of the wall to the left allowing for regular fresh showers and visor cooling. .
This time it’s needed as when you finally reach the top you’re no longer rewarded with the cheers of the finish line. You have another 2k to go as you retrace your steps back to Allview Escape. It feels like this section went on for a lot longer than it did. The legs were feeling pretty heavy by now and I was tiring as I pushed myself to continue to run as much as possible, only allowing myself to walk during the steepest of sections. But then you hear those magical cow bells – best invention EVER! – and you’re flying (still only just cracking 6.5min/ks so the flying is all in spirit). The finish line was a brutal grassy uphill that winds around the estate making it even harder is the number of spectators which for me means attempting to run – damn you pride! But I walk a touch so that I’m not in immediate danger of vomiting when I cross the finish line. Leaving myself with just enough energy I negotiate the last few steps of the course (you sneaky race directors putting a set of stairs entering the finish chute!) and Ben Duffus (winner of last year’s race) puts my well-earned medal round my neck.
I was really pleased with my results coming in at 3:20:09 having knocked 30 mins off my time from last year (well technically knocking 48mins off my time but with it being a shorter course we can’t count them all) and placing 17th out of 79 females and 70th out of 199 entrants
This race is by far my favourite in Australia. Despite not being able to walk properly for almost a week following (calves on fire due to those down stairs) it remains top of my race calendar for 2017.
Fan girl alert – I have to mention that as we were queuing to use the loos at the start of the race a lady ushered us into a cabin and said we could use the extra loos inside. We’re their all nervous and excited and who wanders out the bedroom but Lucy Bartholomew, a young legend in the ultra-community and a massive inspiration to me and other female runners. She has had an amazing 2016 but the day before during the ultra she had a very bad day in the office. Battling with stomach issues and not able to keep down any fuel she struggled through every last kilometre of the 68k course and still came in as third female. She asked us how we were feeling and wished us luck then hobbled down to the start line to cheer us on. How awesome is that! Most of us would hide in bed and not surface until our bodies felt vaguely human again but there she was with a beaming smile and heaps of encouragement. At the award presentation later on Sunday Lucy gave a lovely speech giving thanks to the volunteers and other participants that helped get her through the day. Legend!
I returned to the Glow Worm Trail Marathon weekend in 2016 with two very special companions, Deb and Andrew from Achilles. It was at this event in 2015 that I met Andrew and Achilles and started my journey with them. So it was a lovely touch to return again this year and guide Andrew in the event. I say guide but really Andrew is such a competent runner that he didn’t need much assistance and was the only one out of the three of us not to arse up on the course!!
I’ve already written a review of this event so I won’t go into much detail on the course itself but more the atmosphere on the day and to include lots of photos as my running photo game has gotten a lot stronger in the last 12 months! This year there were two half marathons, one on the Saturday and one on the Sunday, the latter coinciding with the full marathon which does a more technical first half before doing the same second half as us. This meant that on our return section of the out and back part of the course we saw some of the elites smashing out the marathon. Legends!
Andrew was familiar with the course and whilst has a vision impairment is able to make out obstacles when he’s looking for them and hence just needs some narration on what’s on the ground. On the road this is easy, kerb, cats-eye, pothole all very easy to describe on the trail it’s branch, stick, bigger branch, head-height branch, impaling branch at stomach height, hole, bigger hole, really big hole and with the Glow Worm track being an old railway track there were steel rails, sewer pipes and all sorts of weird things. So quite quickly it became step up, step down, duck, stay left, stay right (to avoid the sizeable cliff drops in points). But with an obstacle every other step this was quite the task. It was the first time I really realised the importance of being fitter than the person you’re guiding as you’re talking ALL of the time! Try it next time you’re on the trail, it is a lot harder than it seems.
Mostly though we laughed and chatted and enjoyed the atmosphere of the day. We stopped in the tunnel for quite a while to try and find some glow worms bright enough for Andrew to see but unfortunately they were just too small. So off we went to the return section of the course. It was great to get lots of “Go Achilles” cheers out on the course and we were met by guides Claire and Wayne along the finish line and they ran with us for the final section. It was awesome.
A big thank you to everyone who cheered us along and to the volunteers and organisers that always make this an event not to be missed!
So I did it! I’m am now officially a marathoner (well technically an ultra-marathoner, but kinda depends on who you speak to) having completed the 2016 Six Foot Track Marathon in the Blue Mountains. Woohoo! I’m proud to add myself to the growing list of runners who have tackled and survived the race within the reasonably tough 7hr time limit. I managed to sneak in under my 6hr target in an official time of 5:47:33! But it wasn’t easy…
The race starts at the Explorer’s Tree in Katoomba – entrants and their keen supporters are bussed (or walk) to the start line from the High School in central Katoomba. It was pretty smooth sailing for the start line logistics. Being in the last wave (more on this later), I made my way along for 6:05am for a 7:35am race wave start. There were no queues and I was straight on a waiting bus that quickly filled up and off we went. At 6am this time of year it’s still pretty dark out there but I was able to spot a few runners walking to the start line as we made our way there. Once there it was quite overwhelming to see the number of runners! The traditional red Six Foot Track Marathon banner hung across a stretch of fire trail where everyone was gathering in excitement and trepidation. It was fantastic to see so many of the runners I’d met during training and exchange warm hugs and encouragement.
I made it through the toilet queue just in time for the official start and watched wave 1 tear down the initial downward sloping fire trail and soon they were out of sight. Shortly after (5mins) wave 2 were tearing off. I watched wave 3 head off, 10 mins later, and tried to snap some pics of my running friend, Andrea, as he made a good start midway in the pack. Then it was wave 4 where a number of runners I know were bouncing with excitement to get going, including Enrique, Julia, Claire and Lisa from Achilles. I snapped some pics then as soon as they were off I got myself in position at the start line. Being more comfortable with technical downhill and knowing what was coming up at the start, I made sure I was second line from the front of the pack. I was in wave 5 as only had my Coastal Classic time to qualify on, having never done a marathon before. Whilst I thought my 4hr Coastal Classic time was good, it wasn’t good enough to secure me a better placing for the start of the race. Based on my Coastal Classic time the estimator said I’d do Six Foot in 6hr36 hence the last wave allocation.
This brings me to my most important observation about Six Foot Track! Race prep for this starts at least a year in advance! If you want to get a good start wave (which is key to reduce bottle-necking prevalent in the latter waves) then you need to get a good qualifier. The Six Foot website has a tool to calculate this – it’s buried in the race entry criteria tab under Additional Notes. There are various qualifying races, if you’re a road marathoner a time of under 3h20 will get you in wave 2, under 3h45 will get you in wave 3, under 4hr for wave 4 and 4hr-4:20 for wave 5. For Coastal Classic I would have needed a sub 3h20 for wave 3 or sub 3h45 for wave 4. Working back from my official Six Foot time (5h47) it wasthe equivalent of a 3h55 marathon time or a 3h30 coastal classic time. Both of which would have seen me in Wave 4. To be honest between wave 4 and 5 I doubt there’s much difference. There was serious bottle necking in Nellies Glen – on the steps for my friends in Wave 4 and for me (at the front of Wave 5) we caught the slow wave 4’s at the single track in Nellies. So unless you’re able to get into Wave 3 I’d expect some decent bottle necking at the race start as the less confident runners make their way through the technical sections.
For me positioning at the front of wave 5 was good, I avoided the less confident wave 5 runners come Nellies steps – with only 10 or so runners ahead of me and all moving with ease down the steps. This meant I got the race nerves under control and settled in a little. Note that it did take a decent pace on the initial downhill before the steps to achieve this but being in wave 5 I didn’t have to venture out my comfort zone to achieve that lead. We bottled at the single track section of Nellies which is a shame as I love that stuff! That’s the best bits to run in my opinion but as with all trail runs you just need to suck it up! There was a guy getting agro at some folk behind me and one of the guys rightly pointed out “if you wanted to avoid the bottle necks you should have qualified stronger!” and that is spot on! As I said earlier this race starts well before race day. If you’re in wave 4 or 5 mentally prepare for this, you will get bottle-necked. That’s trail racing!
Once out of the Nellies Glen the track opens up to a gentle downward sloping fire trail.
After the bottle-necking it’s tempting to floor it here and I was probably running a touch too fast in this section conscious of the single trail at Cox’s River. Another great but technical downhill that I love to run. Crossing over Megalong Valley Road there are port-a-loos and a nice wee crowd of supporters to cheer you on. At this point we were still in a blanket of fog which was lovely and cooling but did mean that hitting the prettiest part of the course we saw nothing but a vague hint of fluro running gear in the distance. On a sunny day, Megalong valley is a bounty of endless green valley, enticing vineyards, wild flowers and is also spattered with cows (and their poop!) and the odd horse watching in interest as we bound by. It’s such a shame that we had the fog as two photographers are set up in this area hoping to capture with the beautiful valley backdrop. You can see from the pics that we had nothing to admire but the bleak, grey fog. But as much as I missed the beauty I knew the fog would burn off soon enough and I’d be begging for it come back. And at this point, 15kms in I was feeling nice and fresh so didn’t need the surroundings to lift me up.
To my surprise the field was really sparse heading down toCox’s. I was largely along on the single track passing only a couple of others. I even managed to sneak a bush wee in without any interruption. I was glad I did as Cox’s didn’t appear to have port-a-loos which I thought it would, only the usual long-drop toilet which is rank on a normal day so with 700 runners ahead of me I figured it would be busy and even more unpleasant than normal. But to memory there was no queue. The river was pretty low around knee height at worst – despite the mother of all thunderstorms dumping a huge amount of rain the night before. So I made it through with ease and with only 2 other runners in the water with me. But then as soon as I’d crossed the river and made it through the aid station there was suddenly another 20-30 runners around! I think a number of people stop at Cox’s and ring out their socks / empty their shoes refresh at the sizeable aid station. I decided not to as I wanted to keep my momentum up in preparation for the impending doom that was about to be unleashed (Mini-mini and the Pluviometer!). There was a bit of gravel in my shoe but largely my Dirty Gal Gaiters had protected me so I soldiered on, knowing there was a lot of walking rather than running ahead of me.
The fog had started to clear as I made my way down to Cox’s and by the time I hit the hills, where you’re fully exposed, it was beating down and the temperature swiftly rising. The combination of well worn-in runners, wet socks from Cox’s and the heat of the day meant that hiking up the hill behind a bevy of sweaty runners was not pleasant – toe jams for days as my wife would say! At least it was motivation to pass more and get a wider berth!! Still this beats my mate Andrea who had a guy fart in his face on the uphill – yep us trail runners are a pleasant bunch… So this is where the heat really started to play a part in the success or failure of race day. Now yes it’s Australia, it’s hot! But this heat was 8 degrees hotter than the previous year and with the humidity at 80%+ the Six Foot organisers felt it prudent to put out a pre-race warning; even offering extended refund terms for those adverse to hot conditions! Now that’s a warning sign if ever I heard one!
Following the heat warning I was glad I’d already decided to run with my Salomon vest. Whilst there are aid stations every 3-4kms in Six Foot (one of the most manned events in the world with 1 volunteer to every 3 runners!!) I know how dangerous the heat and dehydration can be having struggled on a couple of training runs and previous adventure races where water wasn’t supplied. There was no way I was going to tackle the hardest run of my life without having at least enough fuel to get me most of the way there. And I’m glad I did, the extra heat led to extra consumption of Tailwind and left some of the later runners without any at the aid stations. Something I’m sure the race directors will look at for next year. But hey, maybe it’s my trust issues, but as non-elite runner I think you always need to take some responsibility for yourself. Back up salt tablets, electrolytes or gels are just common sense in a race like this if you ask me, especially if you know you’re going to be out there for more than 6 hours! Even with 4-5kms between aid stations, if you’re dehydrated and under fuelled that can take a hell of a long time to cover when there’s no shade and it’s all up hill. Even with my hydration and nutrition pretty much spot on I still succumbed to the effects of the heat and exertion and was very nauseous for the second half of the race. The only time I’ve ever contemplated stopping to be sick in a race! And that was with a pack on me. At no time did I pass through an aid station with less than 500ml of Tailwind and 500ml of clean water. I took 2 litres of my own tailwind (1.5l bladder and a 500ml flask with just the TW powder that I added water to at the top of Pluvi – I had caffeinated Tailwind in the flask to help perk me up later in the race).
Climbing Mini-mini and Pluvi was a battle. I moved slower than I normally would, mostly I guess due to the heat but also I think I struggled to get into the focussed hiking mindset that is needed to keep your pace up. In training runs I had broken the monotony with running sprees – just 100 steps of running. But on race day I just couldn’t. I think the heat had a big impact on my mental state at this point. Everything felt so tough and since everyone else around was walking I just walked too. There were small parts where the route flattens and whenever it did I had to remind myself this was a run and not a hike and to pick up the pace. Finally the top of Pluvi was in sight – I’m glad I trained on the course in advance as there are a number of false summits that make you think the pain is over but it isn’t! And in fact even when you get to the top of Pluvi it’s not over. The Black Range is your new hell. I swear I could actually see the door to the hurt locker as I entered it at the 26km mark of the 45km race. A mere 19kms to go you say – how delightful! Oh and it’s mostly uphill for the next 10k – oh you spoil me! *sob*
The Black Range in an interesting place. The trees blackened by fire and a wide undulating trail it would normally be nice (particularly in the opposite direction) but after the pain of Mini-Mini and Pluvi it’s a S.O.B of a trail section. They say that this is where runners pick up the most places and I can see why. There were a lot of walkers at the stage. I managed to run most of the flats and hike the hills. Of the biggest motivation were the two guys from Wave 4 who were loudly noting how women kept passing them on the flats but smugly stating how they’d catch them back up on the hills. Which to be fair was happening but when I passed them for the last time on the flat and they again loudly noted “see you’re right and it’s all women” I felt like reminding them that the last two women (myself included) had not just passed them on the flat to be caught again on the hills but had actually progressed form the wave 10 minutes behind them to catch them on the flats! It really grates me to hear people make assumptions and pass judgements on other runners.
Like the guy who once told me he saw a blind runner pass him and had to catch him as he “couldn’t be beaten by a blind guy”! Yes that happened! Yes that guy’s a d*ck….! I’m sure these guys were just talking nonsense as you do in a race like this at the 30km mark but it just really annoyed me (again probably because I was at the 30km mark and well and truly in the hurt locker!). On more reflection I was definitely not in a great place because I’d forgotten that I actually had my emergency headphones and pump up playlist!! Whilst I hardly ever run to music (both in training and races) I think that something to zone me out would have been ideal at this stage.
I didn’t get another distraction until Deviation. The final split point in the race and where the best group of people were gathered. NRG runners lined a section of track with cow bells and signs and smiley faces and big cheers and it was AMAZING! Almost as amazing as their sign “There’s beer at the finish” which with 10kms to go seemed so close. But in trail land a lot can happen in 10kms! The pick me up was much needed as I entered the only section of the trail I hadn’t experienced in advance. Luckily I’d been warned the night before of a couple of other big hills to come. One in particular that’s called the Insult and boy was it an insult. It was a mother-f*cker of a hill. Luckily you’re under decent tree cover at this point so it’s not as exposed as Pluvi and Mini-mini but just seeing such a beast of a hill so far into a race was mentally and physically tough. I was really grateful to bump into Paul at this stage who I’d done a few training runs with through the Striders. He was gearing up for the UTA 100km and was carrying a slight niggle going into 6FT so decided to pull out and support people instead. He’d been chatting with a mate for a bit and was on his way back to the NRG fun camp when we crossed paths. He jogged / walked with me for a bit as I pushed towards the big hill and started my climb. He let me know I probably still had an hour to go which shocked me as in my mind I thought I was going to be a lot closer to my 5.30 dream time. But the reality was a grateful slap in the face. It made me put my big girl pants on and tell myself to get it done! Which is what I tried my best to do when I was back to running solo. I managed to run to the next hill which wasn’t nearly as nasty so I got up it at a decent enough walking pace and then I was across Caves Road and ready for the grand finale.
Now at this point I was convinced it was time to hit the notorious downhill section. But alas, no! There were more wonderful undulating hills to get through first. This is when I couldn’t resist shouting “F%#$ YOU SIX FOOT!” to the trail. But quickly shook that attitude and got back to my internal monologue of “Get it done! Get it done!” which I’d be chanting in my head since passing through Deviation. They even throw in some stairs just to check you can still work that part of your brain! Fun times 6FT you little devil you.
But then the downhill finally did appear. It’s rough and dangerous (especially on tired legs) but for me it was invigorating and the faint ring of cow bells and cheers from the crowd confirmed it was not a hill mirage and was in fact the end. And there I was, like a new woman, flying down the hills – or so I thought until I checked my pace and realised I was only doing 7:45 minute k’s. Hahaha. The slowness of my previous pace obviously skewed my awareness of how I was travelling. But who cares, I was having fun – despite a near depilating side stitch that caused searing pain (and uncontrollable groans and grunts – but helped scare other runners out of my path)
I ramped it up and by the time I hit the concrete downhill that winds into Caves House I was in my element again. I crossed the finish line to a roar of supporters, some I knew, most I didn’t. And my name was called out as I ducked my head to receive my medal. What a feeling!
Now where’s the quiet corner for me to crawl into and cry with exhaustion, pride and elation.
In the middle of my training for 6FT we were going to be on holiday in NZ so it was a good excuse to try and get some awesome training in. As well as a number of ace training runs in Rotorua I jumped onto https://www.runningcalendar.co.nz/ and found out about the Tussocks Traverse a 26k run between two active volcanos in the middle of the North Island.
And somehow I managed to persuade my wife to join me for this one. Given she still claims not to be a runner and her longest run when she signed up was only 15k I was super excited for her to test herself on a longer race!
The race started eventfully with a bus journey to the start line (it’s a one way race) where the bus got bogged down and we had to get off and walk 3k to the start line… Uphill… Thankfully another bus was able to pick us up and we jumped on board and saved ourselves the extra ks.
At the start line there was a traditional blessing from the traditional Maori of the land and soon we were on our way trudging up our first hill of the day. I warned Jules to take it easy knowing what energy we could save now would help her later on.
The first few ks are on more of a dirt road than trail but it’s great to not get any bottle necking and get a chance for the field to spread out a little. But soon you’re on some amazing easy trails winding through some spectacular landscapes with snow-capped mountains and the shadow of Mount Doom looming over you. It’s one of the prettiest places that I have ever ran. I’ve not got much of a race report for this one as I’ll let the photos to the talking.
The race is a pretty runnable course but also offers a walking course. There was an older guy walking who we kept overtaking on the flats but he would catch us on the hills. He was a legend!
Soon we were over the halfway mark and I was really pleased to see how well Jules was running. Shortly we’d be passing the longest she’d ever ran but still with quite a few extra ks to get through…
The trail passes through some bushwhacking sections and across some small streams all the while being surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. It was a delight to run.
The last few ks were pretty tough for Jules as the reality of the 26ks took hold but with a few gentle pushes up the hills the finish line was soon in sight. With a final push we were able to cross the finish line with a quick sprint finish and one of the best finish line photos ever! Check out that synchronisation!!!
A great race that I would highly recommend to all levels of runners. I’d love to return and race this one solo as I think it is a great runnable course but it was absolutely awesome to do it with the Mrs and enjoy the scenery.
And for her first long distance race we did pretty good coming in at 3:29:25 and 36 and 37 females (and she even pipped me to the post the cheeky cow 😂)