Race Report: Xterra Race Four – Waiuku Forest

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.

Map of the 23.3km Super-Long course

Map of the 23.3km Super-Long course

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.

Not the fast start at Waiuku - this photo comes from Totora Park (photo credit: photos4sale.co.nz)

Not the fast start at Waiuku – this photo comes from Totora Park (photo credit: photos4sale.co.nz)

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.

Spot where the fence wires hit me

Spot where the fence wires hit me

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.

I may not look it but I'm ALWAYS happy to come across the finish line (photo credit: photos4sale.co.nz)

I may not look it but I’m ALWAYS happy to come across the finish line (photo credit: photos4sale.co.nz)

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.

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A Weekend of Racing

My standard 5:30am Monday morning start was definitely a struggle this week after a weekend filled with racing – Saturday I raced the Manawahe six hour Adventure Race and on Sunday I took on the third round of the Total Sport Xterra series at Totora Park in Auckland.

I was a bundle of nerves when I got up on Saturday morning – my older brother Tom (go check out his blog) roped me into the University of Auckland adventure racing team as the woman who usually races in the team was unable to make it. The Manawahe Six Hour was my first adventure race and I was racing it with a team of experienced adventure racers – hence the nerves. The race start was just out of Matata, out on the east coast between Rotorua and Whakatane and it was a stunner of a day for a race. The race was in two parts – starting with a trek and finishing with a mountain bike.

The fast and furious start - you can see how hard I was trying just to keep up!

The fast and furious start – you can see how hard I was trying just to keep up! (photo credit: Bruce Belcher)

For those who are unfamiliar with the world of adventure racing it usually involves multiple stages and multiple disciplines. This six hour race was pretty short given that adventure races can take place over anything from a day to a week of non-stop racing. Stages usually consist of trekking, mountain biking or kayaking. During each stage there are checkpoints which each team must visit – collecting a unique set of letters or numbers as evidence of your having passed through the checkpoint.

The start was pretty fast and furious, it was all I could do to keep up with the boys – we headed along the road picking up three checkpoints before heading up a gravel road and into the bush. I was in the red, it was taking all of my energy just to hold on and that was even with Tom pushing me up the hill. As we reached the checkpoint at the trig we had our noses out in front and careered of the side of the hill, making our first mistake of the day although as mistakes go this was a pretty fun one as it meant we got to scramble down a cliff and down a beautiful wee stream. Through the rest of the 15km trek we were surrounded by other teams, we had an out and back leg up a stream valley and then headed back along the beach to the transition at Matata.

Coming up the beach into transition with Tom

Coming up the beach into transition with Tom (photo credit: Bruce Belcher)

Changing on to the mountain bike was exactly what my legs needed. With a helpful hand pushing me up the hill we made some steady ground on the teams in front as we had finished the trek in about fifth place. My role for the race was essentially to not let myself get left behind – I was pretty amazed by how the boys managed to push me up the hills, carry my bike up hills for me, all while reading maps and collecting checkpoints. Towards the final third of the mountain bike leg we had nosed out in front of the other teams but second were breathing down our neck. The last few checkpoints were along the road and it was a fast, furious and at times frightening descent to the finish. After a little over four hours of racing we came second by a matter of minutes. I loved every second of this race and I’m so keen to enter another one immediately!

Out on the MTB leg with Matt (photo credit: Bruce Belcher)

Out on the MTB leg with Matt (photo credit: Bruce Belcher)

Sunday was another early start as I had opted to stay the night in Rotorua and drive up to Totara Park in Auckland for a 9am race start for a 21km run. Standing on the start line I was feeling so tired and was assuring myself that it was ok to take it easy today, it won’t be a technical and you will probably get owned, just enjoy it! But, me being me the start horn sounded and I was in race mode. The course played more to my strengths than I imagined it would, there were a few nice steady climbs which is where I tend to be pretty happy. I managed to find myself in the middle of a fast moving train through most of the first lap which meant that I didn’t have to focus too hard on pace, just on keeping a nice rhythm.

This pretty much sums up how I felt on the start line - pretty tired..... (photo credit: photos4sale)

This pretty much sums up how I felt on the start line – pretty tired….. (photo credit: photos4sale)

The second lap was much more challenging, not only was I starting to fatigue but we started catching up to the slower mid-course walkers and runners and where the track was narrow it became pretty difficult to pass. There were definitely some sketchy passing manoeuvres going on but if you didn’t take advantage of every single passing opportunity you would quickly get left behind.

A much happier Kat, in the zone, on the trails (photo credit: photos4sale)

A much happier Kat, in the zone, on the trails (photo credit: photos4sale)

I finished in 1:54, not a disgraceful time given what I had already done the day before and I was stoked to discover when I checked the results that I had done enough to place as second woman. I was surprised by this Totara Park event, I didn’t go in with high expectations however I thoroughly enjoyed running the trails which are well maintained and stunning yet so close to Auckland City.

Coming across the finish line - tired and happy (photo credit: photos4sale)

Coming across the finish line – tired and happy (photo credit: photos4sale)

If this weekend has taught me anything it is that I am more than capable of racing two days back to back and that my body seems to have the ability to recover pretty quickly. Next race up is round four of the Xterra series out at Waiuku, I will definitely be going into this one a little more rested!

Race Report: Routeburn Classic

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when the day of the Routeburn Classic broke and it was raining, I was in Fiordland – the wettest place in the country – after all. The 90 minute journey from Te Anau to the start line at the Divide flew by and next thing I knew I was hearing the countdown to start. I was wearing more clothes than I had ever worn in a race before – a short sleeve thermal, a long sleeve thermal, a windproof raincoat, three-quarter length tights, a merino beanie and merino gloves. I would wear all of this to the finish line, speaking volumes about how cold it was.

A map showing the climb on the course - it essentially goes up for 20km and descends for 12km

A map showing the climb on the course – it essentially goes up for 20km and descends for 12km

The race started about 400m down the road from the start of the track and as I had expected it was fast and furious. We had to enter the track in single file although it quickly opened up enough to make passing relatively easy. I knew that I needed to pace myself going up because it was going to be a long 20km to Harris Saddle which marked the end of the climb from a low point of 550m to 1300m over this distance.

Anyone who has tramped the Routeburn before will know how stunning it is – for those of you who haven’t I will try and paint a bit of a picture for you. Each day of the tramp takes you through a different and equally stunning piece of New Zealand scenery. Most of these photos aren’t from race day – I’m not crazy enough to run with a HUGE pack on!

This is the kind of blue sky day I was hoping for - taken in Jan 2015 in The Orchard partway to Lake Mackenzie

This is the kind of blue sky day I was hoping for – taken in Jan 2015 in The Orchard partway to Lake Mackenzie

Day one – race time 90mins – distance 10km – the first section goes from the Divide through to Lake Mackenzie hut. This is a steady climb through beech forest with lots of small waterfalls crossing the trail. The first major landmark we came to was Lake Howden hut, around 3km in – my legs were feeling great at this point and I felt like I had really warmed up, finding a good rhythm. I was also encouraged as the marshal yelled at me that I was first woman through. We continued to climb through the beech forest – which I find never gets boring – until reaching Earland Falls and the first really technical wee section of the course. Earland Falls are quite a sight to behold, at 174m high they are pretty huge and I got absolutely soaked by the water which the wind was flinging around. Once passing Earland Falls the canopy opens up a little more and I was able to get some impression of how high we had already climbed as I was offered glimpses of the Hollyford Valley through occasional breaks in the fog. I arrived at the Mackenzie Hut with a group of six runners and was first out on the next section as I opted not to stop for any additional food or water.

Standing at the base of Earland Falls - it seemed like there was A LOT more water flowing down here on Saturday than what is in this photo

Standing at the base of Earland Falls – it seemed like there was A LOT more water flowing down here on Saturday than what is in this photo

Day two – race time 90 mins – distance 11.3km – this second section is much more exposed with the majority of it being run across the side of the mountains. Coming out of Mackenzie and I was still feeling pretty great however as I started the wickedly steep climb out of the valley I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to run this whole section and I needed to be sensible, save some energy and walk the steeper sections.

Looking down over Lake Mackenzie - to get to this point we had climbed about 300 vertical metres in a little over 2km

Looking down over Lake Mackenzie – to get to this point we had climbed about 300 vertical metres in a little over 2km

It was also very exposed once we climbed out of the river valley, there were times when I felt like the wind gusts were going to pick me up and throw me into the valley below. Now we were in much more open running space I was stealing the occasional glance over my shoulder to see if I could work out how scared I needed to be running from second. It was about half-way to the Routeburn Falls hut that I saw her, a glimpse of pink about two minutes behind me and I knew that if I could see her she could also see me. It wasn’t an ideal time to need to put my foot down but I knew that I wasn’t too far away from the top of the climb and that going down was where I could really pull some ground. The Harris Saddle marks the high point of the run at 1292m and 20km in however the race is by no means over at this point. Because of the volume of rain that was still falling on us the track had basically become a small river and at times it was very hard to determine whether I was planting my foot into an ankle deep or calf deep puddle of water. Running in a small and fragmented group of five or six other runners helped me keep my pace up for fear of being left behind. Coming into Routeburn Falls hut with under 10km to go and my legs – particularly my quads – were begging me to stop.

Descending towards Routeburn Falls hut and it felt like we were running in a river

Descending towards Routeburn Falls hut and it felt like we were running in a river

Day three – race time 45 minutes – distance8.8km – the final section descends through beech forest and has a very different feel to the beech forest on the other side of the Routeburn. This section of trail is definitely the most well-groomed with it being mostly gravel as opposed to rocky underfoot with some beautiful swing bridges along the way. For me, this was mentally the toughest part of the run – from the hut there is a short 2km descent to the turn-off to the Routeburn Flats hut and from there to the finish it is pretty much flat. I was tired and running scared and because the track was so runnable I didn’t really even have to focus my attention on where I was putting my feet so all I had to think about was my screaming legs. Another runner caught and passed me so I jumped on his tail and sat in while he set a relatively good pace, it was quite nice to have a bit of banter with someone to take my mind off my legs. As my watch had dropped out of satellite reception I was taking guesses at how far I had to go and it wasn’t until I could see the final bridge that I actually let myself relax in the knowledge that this race was mine. I crossed the line as first woman in a time of 3 hours 45 minutes and 59 seconds. It was definitely a close run race as Imogene Scott (fellow orienteer and my travel buddy for the weekend) was barely two minutes behind me.

Happy as to be finished - the weather had cleared a little by this point

Happy as to be finished – the weather had cleared a little by this point

I am going to have to go and do the Routeburn at least once more as I still haven’t seen the Darran Mountains or the view from Conical Hill because of poor weather. I also think that I could take a fair chunk out of my time if I was offered sunshine instead of driving rain and wind. I loved everything about this event – it was relatively low key, there were some great characters and the marshals and volunteers out on the course were phenomenal, it definitely makes my list of favourite races!

It certainly didn't take me as long to run as what this sign may imply

It certainly didn’t take me as long to run as what this sign may imply

Routeburn Anticipation + Five Ways to Wellbeing

Racing is as much about being mentally prepared as it is about being physically prepared. Putting in the training miles is only one part of the thousand piece puzzle. If you aren’t ready for the mental challenge of tactical racing or the challenge of hitting and pushing through the wall your performance will certainly be compromised.

On a recent team day with work we did a session based around the five ways to wellbeing. These same five ways were an important part of Mal Law’s High Five-0 challenge (which I participated in back in February) with each day being dedicated to one of the five ways. Reflecting on how important holistic wellbeing is on living a happy, healthy life got me thinking about how important it is for me to consider these five ways to wellbeing as every day and particularly going into a race.

Connect: my family have always been my biggest supporters and can be relied on to lend an ear as I tend to talk about upcoming races a lot partly out of excitement and sometimes out of nervousness. Orienteering, mountain biking and more recently trail running are all places where my family connects, we have taken so many great trips around New Zealand as a family to compete in events. I am also connecting with more trail runners the more I race and it is always nice to line up at the start with people you know and respect. 

A relatively old family photo - these four are so important to me

A relatively old family photo – these four are so important to me

Be Active: This is a pretty obvious one if you think about physical activity – running is such a great way for me to alleviate stress. I usually run alone in the morning and it gives me time to think – people often ask me what I think about when I’m running and I always find that a difficult question to answer because I think about everything – it will vary depending on my mood, what is going on for me that week and even with the weather. Importantly, being active is not only about keeping the body moving but also the brain. I love to learn – my six and a bit years at university definitely makes that clear – I love keeping my brain active by reading widely and listening to podcasts (Stuff You Should Know is one of my favourites). 

This is my favourite kind of way to be active (Photo Cred: photos4sale.co.nz)

This is my favourite kind of way to be active (Photo Cred: photos4sale.co.nz)

Take Notice: I want to be hitting a race in the best possible form and I have learnt how to listen to my body closely to know whether I am doing the right things to set myself up for success. Something as little as knowing when to ease up on training run because my calves are a little tight can mean the difference between my tired calves recovering before race day and thrashing them to the point of injury. One of the beauties of being a trail runner is the stunning places you get to train and race. I do make sure that I take the time to look up once in a while during a race and fully appreciate how lucky I am to be in the position I am. 

While I race I do make sure that I look up occasionally and take in the often stunning surroundings  (Photo credit: photos4sale.co.nz)

While I race I do make sure that I look up occasionally and take in the often stunning surroundings (Photo credit: photos4sale.co.nz)

Give: I love the trail running and orienteering communities – everyone is so friendly and willing to give their time and others so that they can see others succeed. Giving can come in so many forms, whether it is volunteering as a marshal in a race, setting an orienteering course, giving someone a hand up a tricky section of track or even just giving a fellow racer some words of encouragement when they look like they are struggling. 

Some of the North West Orienteering Club at Nationals 2013 - this group are always so willing to give time and encouragement

Some of the North West Orienteering Club at Nationals 2013 – this group are always so willing to give time and encouragement

Keep Learning: I have come such a long way since I started running. I have gone from jogging for 40 minutes at a constant pace with no warm up or warm down and no stretching to now understanding the benefits of intervals and hill training, to knowing that stretching is so important. Learning keeps running and training exciting for me – if I read or hear from another runner that they tried a new shoe or new type of training I am willing to try it and I have learned pretty quickly that something which may work for someone else might be disastrous for me. Constant learning keeps not only running but life exciting!

University is just one place I learn things - I have learnt so many life lessons outside of formal education

University is just one place I learn things – I have learnt so many life lessons outside of formal education

Next week will be a race report from Routeburn – I’m so nervous, mostly because I haven’t run this race before and it is hard to know what to expect. I tramped the trail back in January when there wasn’t any snow on the track which is a HUGE contrast to what the track is like now, a massive dump of snow last week meant that a third of the Routeburn was closed – it should make things interesting!

Me standing up above Routeburn Flats in Jan - I imagine this is a different scene now

Me standing up above Routeburn Flats in Jan – I imagine this is a different scene now

The Goat Kaimai

I wasn’t expecting to be writing this post as the female winner of the Goat Kaimai 2015. With every race I do I am finding more and more that I need to back my abilities as much as my friends and family do. I need to have no doubt that I am a real competitor when it comes to trail racing – positive thinking can definitely influence a positive performance.

Ready to race with Wairere Falls in the background - we raced up and over those hills

Ready to race with Wairere Falls in the background – we raced up and over those hills

The Goat starts are a little different to most trail running races – the race starts in waves of 60ish runners with each wave being separated by five minutes. To take the overall winner, you have to be the first across the line so you want to be in that first wave. I found myself starting in this first wave and boy was it fast. The race began with a three kilometre dash around a farm track before we hit the single track and started the slog up to the top of Wairere Falls. I entered the single track as first woman but was quickly passed by Geniveve Matthews – who went on to take second place. I tried to keep her in sight going up the hill, knowing that it would become so much more difficult to catch her the moment I let her get out of sight. The track to the top is brutal – stairs and rocks and the relentless climbing meant I was gasping to catch my breath and dripping with sweat by the time I reached the top. I had to remind myself that I had a long way to go – about 14km from the top of the falls – and that if I had to slow to a walk up the hill it was ok, I needed to save myself for the second half of the race.

I had walked to the top of the falls before so knew what to expect and beyond that point I was running blind, not knowing what to expect. I knew that it was pretty undulating but I was not expecting the remainder of the course to be as punishing as it was. Underfoot it was so rough, roots and holes everywhere and most of the time these obstacles were obscured by a layer of ferns meaning I couldn’t see where I was putting my feet a lot of the time. I stopping concentrating for a second and found myself kissing the ground – I gave myself a stern talking to and from then on put extra thought into where I was running.

I passed Geniveve as soon as we hit the top of the falls and really put my foot down, trying to put as much distance between myself and her as I could before we hit the next climb – I didn’t know where this climb would be but I knew another climb was inevitable. As I headed across the top of the Kaimais, I was feeling great and quickly found myself catching up to other runners. I settled into the middle of a group of about six runners and this made all the difference for me. Being able to follow someone else’s line and have someone else setting the pace was great because it meant I could put some focus onto eating and hydrating, ensuring that I would make it to the line in one piece.

Coming into the finish

Coming into the finish

The course was extended this year to be three kilometres longer than in previous years. The really cruel thing about this extension is that you pass through the event village before leaving on this last loop. When I came through the finish area for the first time I was running scared, as I came out of the last river crossing, I stole a glance over my shoulder and saw a flash of pink – second place had caught up to me in a serious way and I couldn’t let her take me in the last three kilometres. I put everything I had left into keeping my tempo up through the last loop which started with a 500m blast down a gravel road, the track then climbed slowly and steadily back up towards the event village. Just as I passed the 19km sign signalling one kilometre to go I tripped on a root and went tumbling to the ground smashing my right knee and shin on a root, bringing tears to my eyes. I knew I had to get up and fast if I wanted to win, so I picked myself up, let out a few choice words and kept going, ignoring the ache in my knee. It was a pretty great feeling coming out of the bush and seeing the finish line, knowing that I was safe. I finished in 2 hours 26 minutes, four minutes ahead of second.

Holding my trophy - pretty stoked!

Holding my trophy – pretty stoked!

The Goat Kaimai is such a tough race and difficult to compare to the Goat Tongariro – they are very different races and equally challenging in their own way. Kaimai is relentless, I thought it would be easy once I got to the top of the falls but boy was I wrong, the race has barely begun once you get to the top and it is so important to keep a lot in the tank if you want to finish and finish well. I had a ball and will definitely be back to race The Goat Kaimai again!

The Hillary and Back to Blogging

I have certainly neglected this blog in recent months. The pressure of getting my Masters thesis finished meant that I had time for little other than writing and the occasional (when I say occasional, I mean everyday) training run. However, now that my thesis is finished, I have all the time in the world to work, train and resume having some kind of social life.

I was lucky enough to be selected as one of four people blogging about my lead up to the Hillary trail race. In return for blogging UltrAspire kindly supplied me with a brand new running pack and bag for all my training gear. One unexpected benefit of blogging was that I became so focused on the event that I was excellently prepared for race day and I had one of the performances of my running career. Given the benefits I reaped from regularly blogging for the Hillary, I thought I would aim to write a post a week going forward. Hopefully my regular posting will be beneficial to more runners than just me!

Last weekend was the Hillary trail race which I ran for the second time this year. There are three distances on offer, 80km, 34km and 16km and I was tackling the 34km. I knew what was in store having raced it last year and I knew that it was going to be a tough day. The Waitakere ranges offer some of the best trail running in Auckland and also some of the toughest. The 34km race started at the foot of Lion Rock on Piha beach. Lining up to start and I was eyeing up my competition, there were a few ladies who looked fast but I was confident I was faster than most, if not all, of them.

Looking down over Bethells Beach

Looking down over Bethells Beach

The start horn sounded and the mad dash down the beach began. My plan was to go as hard as I could up the first hill, knowing that I could settle in once we got to the top and on to Anawhata Road about five kilometres in. I kept all of the front running women in my sights, I knew that once they were out of sight, catching them would be harder. Once I hit Anawhata Road, I settled in to a good rhythm finding other runners to sit alongside to maintain my tempo. Coming off Anawhata Road we hit the first of the big downhill stretches and it was at this point that I realised how important these downhills would become to my success. Heading down the hill I let go completely letting gravity help me almost fly down – I was putting some serious time into the runners behind me. While I was absolutely gunning it downhill, I was also trying to maintain speed going up too – in some places I couldn’t maintain a run but kept up a brisk walk, not wanting to lose too much time.

Reaching the turn off to Lake Wainamu at the 12km mark I hit what I possibly my favourite trail I have ever run. It is narrow, technical, rooty, steep and simply amazing and I attacked it hard passing three of the male runners on the way down. At the bottom of this track I was somewhat surprised to see that I caught up to the first female runner, Zara, and the two of us ran side-by-side along the lake but as soon as we reached the dunes section, she took off and I didn’t have the legs or the desire to try and keep up.

Heading along Te Henga with Bethells Beach in the background (Photo credit: photos4sale.co.nz) Photo from 2014 race

Heading along Te Henga with Bethells Beach in the background (Photo credit: photos4sale.co.nz) Photo from 2014 race

From Bethells we ran onto the Te Henga track which I knew would be tough – the first and last sections most of all. The start of Te Henga climbs steeply out of Bethells beach and up on to the cliffs and once you are up there you run along an undulating track overlooking the Tasman Sea for about six kilometres. I was feeling really good running along Te Henga, I had kept drinking constantly as it was a scorcher of a day and I had also really focussed on making sure I was taking in enough food – using the aid stations to fuel my purple jet plane addiction. I settled in to a nice rhythm through this section slowly picking off another three men but Zara was nowhere to be seen. It was the last section of Te Henga which I was dreading most of all and as the wall of stairs materialised in front of me I told myself I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

While not physically challenging the last seven kilometres of this course is mentally very tough running down an undulating sealed road. I knew I just had to put my head down and keep running – last year I had slowed to a walk on some of the hills and I knew I just couldn’t afford to do that for risk of losing too much time. I slogged my way along the road all alone, not another runner in sight. It was strange coming down onto Muriwai Beach which was packed with swimmers, surfers and day trippers although we must have looked very strange to them too.

Making my way through the last section of the Te Henga trail (photo credit: photos4sale.co.nz) Photo from 2014 event

Making my way through the last section of the Te Henga trail (photo credit: photos4sale.co.nz) Photo from 2014 event

I came across the finish line in 3 hours and 40 minutes, taking 28 minutes out of my time from last year. I was placed second in the womens field and sixth overall in a field of over 120. For me this kind of result almost doesn’t seem real – knowing where I have come from to get to this point I think I have to remind myself that I actually am quite good at this trail running thing and it isn’t a fluke that I keep on getting the kind of results which I am.

There are two more events on my calendar at the moment; the Goat Kaimai on March 28th and the Routeburn Classic on ANZAC Day (April 25th for those who are bad with dates). I’m intrigued to see how I will go at both of these races. I am expecting to get sassed at Routeburn Classic because the South Island girls are so fast, it will be an awesome opportunity for me to see how much faster I need to get!

I will aim to have another post up this time next week – it will likely be a race report from Goat Kaimai, so look forward to it!

The Goat and Back-to-Back Marathons

Around a month ago now I ran The Goat Tongariro for the third time in as many years. I thought that this would be the last time I ran this race for a while but as it turns out I still have unfinished business with this beast of a race. The first time I raced this event there was a volcano threatening to erupt so the course was significantly changed to take in far more of the Ohakune – Turoa ski-field road than I would have liked. Year two and I was stoked to line up on the usual start line at the Whakapapa ski-field, what I wasn’t so stoked about was the freezing temperatures and the fog which meant that I couldn’t see more than about two metres in front of me. This year and I was over the moon not only to line up at the Whakapapa start line but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Starting at Whakapapa - the pace was nuts

          Starting at Whakapapa – the pace was nuts

The Goat is run through Tongariro National Park, 19km (give or take) from Whakapapa ski-field round to Turoa ski-field and because of the conservation concern surrounding running in the National Park, the event is limited to 600 entrants. Competitors in waves of 80 runners every 5 minutes and to win you have to be the first across the line, regardless of which wave you started in. I lined up with the first wave of runners and was well aware that it was going to be a crazy fast start. The first 1.5 kilometres of the race is straight down the ski-field road and then quickly drops off the side of the road and onto the round the mountain track. There were ten women starting in the first wave and going into the single track I was tenth woman, which at this point I was totally unfazed by, I knew that I would easily make up ground as the track got more and more technical.

Crossing the waterfall just before hitting the Turoa road (Photo Cred: photos4sale.co.nz)

Crossing the waterfall just before hitting the Turoa road (Photo Cred: photos4sale.co.nz)

Into the first technical descent and I was quickly working my way through the field of women and I found myself in a train of seven runners; four men and three women. Despite the fact that I have done a fair bit of racing now this race certainly taught me that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to technical and competitive running. For most of the race I found myself running as first woman in this train (I was second woman overall, Elina Ussher – one of the best female multi-sport racers in the world – was out in front and there was no way anyone was catching her) for most of the middle section of the race. What I didn’t realise until it was far too late was that the three other women sitting behind me were happy enough to let me set the pace and when I started to flag at about 17km they well and truly took advantage, breezing past me like they hadn’t just run halfway around a mountain. But that is what is so great about experiencing so many running races, I am making sure that I treat every race as a learning curve in tactics, nutrition and pacing myself.

Entering 'Mumma's Mile' (Photo Cred: photos4sale.co.nz)

Entering ‘Mumma’s Mile’ (Photo Cred: photos4sale.co.nz)

Although it was difficult to concentrate on much more than simply where I am going to put my feet, The Goat Tongariro is without a doubt one of the most beautiful races I have ever done. Winding around the side of Mount Ruapehu this race has everything from boardwalks stretching out through native bush, to raging river crossings, to arid desert scapes, to the aptly named Lake Surprise. There was a marshal at the half-way point, just at the top of one of the most killer climbs up a scree slope who was saying to every runner ‘The end is in sight’ as we ran past. One look up and I could see that he was right, although we were only at the half-way mark I looked up to see the Turoa road snaking its way up the mountain in the distance. The final mile of this race is straight up the Turoa road and is affectionately known as ‘Mumma’s Mile’ because you will be crying for your mumma by the time you get to the top. I was certainly among those almost in tears at the top, gasping for every last breath I could to get some speed out of my poor, tired legs. I was fifth woman across the finish line in 2 hours 58 minutes a whopping 30 minutes faster than my time last year. I was over the moon with my time, not so happy with my placing as I wanted nothing more than a podium spot. This is where my unfinished business with this race comes from, I won’t rest until I find a spot on the podium at The Goat, preferably on top.

Made it!

                    Made it! (Photo Cred: photos4sale.co.nz)

In other running related news I am really starting to freak out a little that next month I am going to be running, not racing, two off-road marathons back-to-back. I am running two days as part the support team for Malcolm Law’s High 50 challenge where Mal is challenging himself to run 50 marathons on 50 peaks around New Zealand in 50 days to raise funds and awareness for Mental Health (www.high50.org.nz). I am running two days of this challenge is February and that alone will be a huge mission for me! As part of being a support runner I need to raise as much money as I can to support the cause, so this is where you come in. If you are reading this I would appreciate it hugely if you could visit my fundraising page (www.fundraiseonline.co.nz/KatReynolds/) and donate anything you can to this great cause.

Finally, I am so excited to say that I am on the home stretch with all things Masters, I am most of the way through writing my final two data chapters, just leaving me with a conclusion to write and editing to do. I know that sounds like a lot but it truly isn’t, compared with the mountain of work I had left to do just a month ago this is nothing. I am too excited to be done with this, although I am incredibly passionate about what I’m doing, I am looking forward to losing that constant nagging feeling that I should be writing rather than having fun.