Sunday, October 14, 2012

Race Report: Xterra Waihi Trail Challenge

Yesterday I raced in the Xterra Waihi Trail Challenge and it was fantastic!  I raced the short course which was 7.8km and still feel on a high a day later.

My parents are staying for the school holidays, and so we left a day early to show them some sights on the way to Waihi.  We drove around the Coromandel Peninsula stopping at a few beaches along the way:

Kuaotumu

Hahei

Hahei

Hahei

Hahei

Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach
I know, it's a tragic place isn't it?  We stayed the night in Whangamata, and drove the 1/2 hour to Waihi in the morning.  The race start was about 15 mins out of town at Dickey Flat, accessed from the Karangahake Gorge, and TotalSport provided excellent how-to-get-there instructions.  We parked in a field and headed over to pick up my race number and transponder about the same time as the Long Course participants set off.

The Trail Challenge has several options - I ran the Short Course, but there is also a Mid Course (13km), Long Course (19km), Marathon, and the Kaimai Killer Ultramarathon (60km) - something for everyone!

Oh yeah - I haven't mentioned that we have had relatively fine weather lately, but a band of rain decided to pass over the Karangahake area yesterday morning timed especially for the race.  Minor details like this don't stop intrepid runners though! It wasn't cold or anything, just on and off rain to add to the atmosphere.

Not sure what I am doing here, but look at that rain!
The starting lineup
That's me turning on my GPS, but I forgot to click start until well into the race
Happy so far!
First we ran up the gravel road a little way, then back down through a paddock to the first swing bridge across the river.  We had to walk across the swing bridge which led to a small queue - if you can make it to the swing bridge first you have an obvious advantage!  After a few minutes running alongside the river on a puddle-filled trail we reached the the second swing bridge.  This one was longer and had a limit of 5 persons, so there was a five-minute wait to cross.  As always the camaraderie amongst runners is fun, and the wait was enjoyable.  And it was at this point that I realised that I hadn't yet pushed the ready button on my GPS, I pushed pause instead as I was just standing in line, but forgot to push the actual start button until about 2 km into the race!

Soon we came to the first tunnel which was a lot of fun!  I spent the next 200m stumbling around in the dark over rocks and puddles in stolen flashes of torchlight from other runners, cursing the fact that I hadn't bought my own torch!  Thankfully I made it safely through to the other end, where the trail continued alongside the river.  Soon I reached familiar ground, as we had visited this area at Christmastime - here are a few shots I took back then which gives you an idea of the terrain - just imagine rain instead of sunshine ;)






More running beside the river until the steep flight of stairs up to the tunnels of the Windows Walk.  This area  is a remnant of the gold-mining days, and you can look out the 'windows' cut out of the cliff face straight down to the gorge below - but no time for that today! This tunnel was a lot less rough, but there is a railway track which will trip you up if you're not careful.  Soon after we descended to the drink station and turnaround point to retrace our route.


I felt pretty good the whole way, and overtook quite a few people.  The trail is narrow, so I ran up behind them and just said excuse me if I wanted to pass, and thank you when they did.  In the last third a girl settled in behind me and kept me on my toes - it was quite good actually as it stopped me from being lazy and walking!  We had the same pace and I am sure she was following my footprints exactly - I could hear the same sounds being repeated behind me as we ran over the wet trail, rocks and puddles - splat, splat, slosh, splat, splat tap, tap, stomp, splat, etc - it kept me amused for a while!  She passed me just before the last tunnel though.

Mmm - the last tunnel.....  I was starting to tire and stumbled around quite a lot in the dark.  There was less torchlight this time, and I held my arms out to feel the walls, trying not to think of what creepy-crawlies existed in the darkness!  Footwork was complete guesswork, and you had to be prepared for potentially stumbling into a rock or plunging into a puddle for every step.  This is quite hard on your back after a while, and good core muscles would have come in handy!

I made it though - but only just!  At the end of the tunnel the roof was slightly lowered, and as I stood up to run out and try and keep up with the woman exiting in front of me, I slammed my head into the rock and nearly knocked myself out.   I stumbled along for a minute wondering if I should stop, the woman ahead of me disappeared into the distance and there was no-one behind me to help.  I came right eventually and carried on, although the swinging of the swing bridge made me a bit dizzy this time!

After coming out of the bush it was a quick scoot across some paddocks, a ditch, and a couple of stiles to the finish.  I noticed DH with the camera at the end of this fenceline, and that gave me a little burst of energy to overtake the woman just behind me!


I'm glad he didn't get one of me crossing the last stile, as someone accidentally stood on my shoe heel and I nearly face planted.  I was running so fast ;) at the end that DH didn't manage to get to the finish line in time for that Very Important Shot.  I'm working on that major issue in our relationship.

Here I am after crossing the line in about 1 hour 23 mins, 19th out of 29 in my age group:

Finished - and still smiling!
That doesn't sound that great, but I don't think time or place counts for much in this race - unless you are first to each swing bridge there is going to be a lot of catching up to do.  For this race it is the experience that counts - and the experience was fantastic.  I loved every minute - except the one where I hit my head, and even then that was only because I thought I'd have to pull out!  I definitely want to run again next year and give the 13km mid-course a go - can't wait!


10 comments:

  1. That looks amazing. Good job!

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  2. Congrats! Looks like you had a ball of a time :-) Rain, shmain ;-P

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  3. Oh, well done! I can't even imagine being able to run for that long!! And the scenery looks so beautiful...

    I'm finding your blog interesting, even though I only run for about 20mins a day, with my little dog.

    You have mentioned heart rate a few times. Just out of interest (being nosey!) I'm wondering what you meant in your last post when you said you managed to run and keep your heart rate low. What is low for you personally, when you are running? My heart rate is always high when I run! But I do have a low resting heart rate (around 47 bpm). If I run really fast and keep going, my hr goes up to over 180 bpm and I have to slow down or vomit! hehe! I would like to keep my heart rate down a bit but don't know how. Does it just mean moderating my speed?

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    1. Hi Alice! I didn't run the whole way - we had to walk in the tunnels and on the swing bridges, which sometimes came as a welcome relief!

      I haven't been measuring my heart rate with a monitor, but it is directly related to your breathing - if you are huffing and puffing your heart rate will be close to max, and if you are running at a conversational pace it will be lower and in the right training zone for endurance. Going slow is good!

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  4. I forgot to mention, I have a good heart recovery rate (over 70 bpm in 2mins, and back down to normal within an hour or two), so it's not something I'm worried about. I'm just interested in knowing if it's poss to keep my hr lower during my run (maybe a silly question?)

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  5. Ah, thanks Sherry! That makes sense; listen to my body and how it feels rather than looking at the monitor! I do know I run quite fast (I mean, for me) when I'm running.

    It may sound silly, but I suppose I always assumed there was walking, jogging, running (sprinting), in that order, and that when people say "running", they mean fast. Totally my misunderstanding!

    Now I realise I don't have to be running fast, in order to be running! And that way I will keep my heart from clapping out, and I will feel better about myself and not think I'm a wimp. And I can still throw the odd sprint in, too!

    Thanks so much, you have really answered my question perfectly.

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  6. Gosh, I just realised what a silly question that seems now! "How do I keep my heart rate down?"!!!

    I suppose I meant, how do I "sprint" and keep my heart rate down, which (as you have confirmed) isn't possible. Silly me!

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    1. Not at all - the only 'silly' questions are the ones that are never asked and answered! As you progress you will be able to run faster while maintaining the same heart rate - we all want that!

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  7. Congratulations on a great race! It was SO scenic!
    Thank goodness you didn't knock yourself out when you hit your head towards the end! And I love the photo of you smiling at the beginning.

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  8. What a great place to run! It would be hard not to be distracted by the beauty!

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Thanks for commenting!

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