Despite the fact that many people may think that I am always super excited about running and racing, I still have days where I would much rather stay in bed. I left home early Sunday morning not even the slightest bit enthused about racing – it was raining, it was cold and I had to get up at 5:45 to make a 9am race start. By the time I made it to Waiuku I was feeling much better about the idea of racing – the sun had come out and I had coffee running through my veins and I was ready to race! Today’s race was a 23.5km trail run in Waiuku forest at the mouth of the Waikato River.
The start of the Xterra races is always pretty quick and today was no exception – especially as there was no countdown to the start and we all got a bit of fright as the start hooter sounded. The first kilometre and a half was a quick dash down a forestry road before ducking off onto a trail and onto the beach. Once we hit the beach, the field started to spread out a little more – being pretty light on my feet I was able to sail over the top of the soft sand, picking my way past some of the more heavy footed runners who were sinking up to their ankles.
As I was running, I was thinking that to describe the running in Waiuku I would call it a happy combination of Woodhill and Riverhead forests, a largely sandy base like Woodhill but with a bit of mud and some gnarly climbs more commonly seen in Riverhead. These climbs were definitely where I made up some ground on other runners, to climb efficiently finding a good rhythm is key, I tend to shorten my strides and increase my cadence a little, focussing on my breathing and where I am putting my feet more than how much further I have to climb.
Running up one of these long slow climbs along a gravel road there was a closed gate which we had to run around. Either side of the gate was a chest high fence, although there was tape marking where to turn, I turned a little too early and ran full pelt into the fence and I now have some lovely bruises across my leg which nicely mark the fence wires.
At about the half-way point the super long course split away from the long course sending us up towards the very northern edge of the forest. Fortunately I was in a train of about eight runners all doing the super long course meaning that the pace was kept relatively high and I could also tuck in behind them and avoid some of the head wind which would have made running alone pretty demoralising.
As we started heading back towards the event base we slowly re-joined the rest of the course distances. I increased my pace again as I got into the last six kilometres, downing a CLIF shot to give my legs the last boost they needed to get me to the finish. I crossed the line in 2:07:22, 3rd female and 24th overall, a result I’m pretty happy with.
This will be my last race for a while – I’m heading off to Europe, the UK and USA for eight weeks next week and I am beyond excited. It’s going to be an interesting challenge to continue training where I can while travelling – I think it will do me good to have a bit of a break from training through, refresh and recharge and come back inspired to keep improving.