Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Race Report - The Dual Off Road Half Marathon

Last weekend I ran in the Dual - it was an awesome day out running around a couple of islands in the Hauraki Gulf.  I ran the 21km event which took you through tons of differing terrain and it was really challenging!

There wasn't much chance to look at those views!
The morning is so relaxing when races start at 11am - no early alarms and the usual morning routine applies.  I turned up to the ferry terminal around 8:30 for the 9:00 sailing over to Motutapu Island, and it wasn't long until we boarded, landing at Home Bay about half an hour later.

Home Bay is a beautiful setting and it was a short walk from the wharf around to event base.  One of the mountain bike races was about to start and I noticed the toilet queue was short, so I took advantage of this. Shortly afterwards the queue was really long so I'm glad I did!  I hung around the start area and visited the stands - ate some watermelon at Partner's Life, booked a massage at Bodyneed, watched the first triathlete's navigate T2, dropped off my gear bag, then finally watched the triathlon winners come in just before our 21km race briefing.

After the race briefing we headed towards the start line, where I noticed a short toilet queue at the edge of the camping ground so I joined it.  By the time the starting horn went off I was first in the queue and decided it was worth waiting and starting the race a couple of minutes late.  I don't think I will do this again as it is amazing how much this puts you behind!  I caught up to the tail-enders and wound my way up through the field, trying not to overdo it and begin too fast.  The first portion of the race was uphill, and I ran most of it until near the top where it got steeper.

Which bring us to the elevation profile of this course, but first some geography for those not familiar with my city and surrounds:

Hauraki Gulf with Rangitoto Island and Motutapu Island (they are linked by a short causeway)
21km course marked in blue, the start/finish is in Home Bay (top right)

At the first descent I took off in an effort to gain some ground, but the gravel road but soon turned into a paddock that was pitted with potholes.  I tried to go as fast as I could without rolling an ankle - a couple of times it was close but I reached Rangitoto in one piece!  

Rangitoto is actually a volcano formed by an eruption 600 years ago and the island is comprised of lava fields with regenerating forest.  Upon crossing the causeway to Rangitoto it was noticeably hotter as the black rock heats up in the sun.

I struggled here, 5km into the race!  Even though the incline was slight to begin with my heart rate shot up at the slightest exertion.  I ran/walked and managed to keep most of the group in sight.  
Struggle Street

As we ascended and the trail got steeper it became a walk for most of us, which made it easier for me to keep in touch, and I passed a few people who looked like they had started too fast - well, faster than me anyway!

Most of the trail so far was rocky 4WD track, but near the top of the volcano we veered off into a narrow bush trail that I never knew existed.  We were winding, climbing, descending - over tree roots and plush leaf-laden forest floor one minute, then over rocks and open lava fields the next.  It was slow going, and if it weren't for the other runners I would have wondered if I was still on course!

I tripped several times here.  In the contrasty light of the bush it was difficult to see rocks and roots, plus I was probably following too close behind the runner in front of me as I was itching for an opportunity to pass.  The chance never arose, and I didn't push it anyway as I appeared to be stuck behind quite a queue.  After an age of slow running we finally came out into the open where my impatience got the better of me and I hightailed it down to Rangitoto wharf.  I passed several runners on this downhill, but none passed me - net gain!

The easy part!
The next stage was around the Rangitoto coast towards the causeway.  This was one of the rockiest and most technical trails I have run on - and had injury written all over it.  I essentially I ran 10 steps/walked 10 steps the whole way!  I just found it too hard to concentrate on more than that at one time, but even this way I was slowly gaining on people and overtaking them.  I guess I passed 20 runners along this stage, unfortunately two of them were taking it easy because they had turned their ankle :(

The volunteers out on the course were plenty - and were so supportive!  I had to giggle at a couple though - when the girl in front of me stopped and asked how much further it was to go - they replied "about 5 mins more of this knarly track that you're on, and then another 3km to finish".  I looked at my watch which said we were only about 13km into the race, but she had ran ahead and didn't hear me, and the volunteer gave me a sneaky wink!  Moral of the story - never believe a volunteer when it comes to distance!

At Islington Bay the trail became easier and you could actually run - yeeha!  I settled into a groove and tried to make the most of this flat section before the causeway, because after that was a loooong uphill.

The final uphill goes on forever - a gradual 2.5km climb to the trig station and I'm pleased to say I ran some of this!  Of course I chose to run the gentler portions, sometimes this meant run 30 secs/walk 30secs, but it is all progress and I had no-one pass me.  I made sure the walk portions were power-walking and even this allowed me to gain 3 places further up the field.  You can see a definite pattern here - my goal in the later stages of a race is clearly to pass people!

At the trig station the end was in sight, and I tried to make the most of the downhills.  By now we were running on 4WD track in paddocks, and parts of that were a sheep track, or quite rutted, so you still had to be careful with your footing.

Finally the last descent was upon us.  I love final descents!  I don't know where I got my energy from but I passed lots of people and two mountain bikers!  Closer to the finish I caught a glimpse of yellow t-shirt on my rear shoulder and I thought "no way" so I sped up and sprinted to the finish with this guy on my shoulder the last 100m.  I'm not sure where that energy came from either!

Before the race I checked out last year's results, and the middle finisher's time always gives me an indication of how long I'll take - it was about 3 hours.  I was pretty close at 2:58!  Overall I felt quite happy with my performance, but the midfield was slightly ahead of me today as I was 28/52 in my age group, and 92/165 overall women - room for improvement.  Next year - I will be back!


  1. Congrats on the finishing time on a tough course! What a scenic place to run, but you were probably busy mostly watching your footing on this technical course. Great photos!

    1. Thanks Tina! I notice in almost every photo I'm looking at my feet!

  2. I did a stalker-move and checked your finish time the other day - I think you did really well!! Congrats :) Sounds like it was a lot of fun, which is exactly what you want in a race.

    1. Thanks Jody - you must run it next year! It was great fun, lots of varied terrain.

  3. Great race! The footing sounds terrible, but sounds like you made the most of the situation. I agree with you about not listening to race volunteers - I've been given wrong information loads of times at trail races!

    By the way, I've forwarded your blog to my friend Cathryn, who is doing a series on international running. So she may be getting in touch with you soon.

    1. Thanks Jen, I am sure my new lower profile trail shoes saved my ankles a few times!

  4. Hi - I'm Jen's friend mentioned above. I'm starting a series on my (very small) blog about running around the world and I'd love to talk to you about the NZ running scene. I can't see any contact details here so if you'd be interested, pls could you drop me a line at and I can explain better. If you're not interested, please don't worry about it.

    Congrats on a great race - your photos are great!

    1. I'd love to do this Cathryn - will be in touch!

  5. OOps! I lost my first comment.. :/
    Wahoo!! What a race! I can say I never have ran on lava rock. It would not be something I would want to fall on sharp! I love how you were passing so many people. Running later has some advantages, but it gets so warm. You managed a hot race well!
    The photos are wonderful.. Not sure who took them, but very good quality race pics. As always, you leave me wanting to come run NZ!
    congrats on your solid race!!

    1. Thanks Raina! The professional photos are by a local company called Photos4Sale - I don't usually bother buying photos but I'm happy to support these guys as they do a top job! The 'unprofessional' photos however are by me on my phone...

  6. Wow, awesome!! Looks like an amazingly tough but fun race. Will def have to put that on the *one day* list! You are looking great too, very fit and strong :)

    1. It is a fun race so you must squeeze it into your schedule one day Rachel!
      Thank you for the compliment - let's just say I felt fit and strong on the downhills!

  7. Hi there, I was just wondering what your normal half marathon time is? Great work by the way :)


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