Abel Tasman – the run that didnt go to plan

I’ve been a bit quite for a while after the Abel Tasman Coastal Classic 40km trail run that was held on 28th September. Usually I am quick to update the blog after an event with how it all went. It was also supposed to be one of the key events for me this year. Anyways I was a bit disappointed with myself after this event however now that I’ve had some time to reflect on it I am glad that I was able to be part of the event.

After the Wellington Marathon this was the next big event for me and all the training I put in after July was targeted towards completing Abel Tasman coastal classic. In my mind I wanted to finish this in about 4hrs or 4hr30 mark, based on my training that I’d put in I knew that this was a realistic target. However things didn’t go according to plan and my net time was a rather slow/painful 5hrs 06minutes for the 40km course.

The event is one of the best in New Zealand’s trail running calendar and is run along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track – it’s a stunning track along the sea and bays. The event start is (in this year’s 20th Anniversary event) was from Totaranui ending in Marahau. Event day was fresh and sunny, all participants were transferred via boats to the race start. After everyone arrived at the start compulsory gear checks were done. It was a stunning day with no sign of rain but everyone had to carry water, wind jacket, polyprop and survival blanket as part of the race gear. After the race briefing we were off!

The first 5-8km was pretty good and I got into a good rhythm with a few others. At around 6kms is the first ‘obstacle’ where you have to cross the Awaroa estuary. Basically you get about waist deep in sea to cross the Awaroa inlet to get to the other side. There is no avoiding this so you get a nice soak in pretty cold sea water. Then you carry along the trail. I was doing pretty good and was on good pace upto around 15km when my left knee started bothering me and got considerably worse by each passing Km. From this point onwards it was pretty much a slow run/jog/walk which slowed me down considerably. I contemplated pulling out at the halfway point but decided that I wanted to finish it. Eventually I got used to the pain but due to the awkward style of stepping my ITB was hurting so it was pretty hard going in the last 10km or so. Despite all this I am glad I was part of this great event and finished the 40km run. Here are some photos from the day. There were a few of my friends from Wellington Running Meetup.

highres_290273842highres_290274942highres_290275332600_290278572highres_288921052600_290277732Next year’s event is 27th of September 2014 – go check out the event web site – http://www.nelsonevents.co.nz/content/abel-tasman-coastal-classic

Running Scared

There are times when you just want to give up, you feel empty, desperate because the balance in your life was broken, you are scared. You start running scared – you run and you run and you fall, cut your knee have no idea how you fell but still get up and keep running, blood streaming down your leg. With your lungs and legs burning everything fades to insignificance and your fears, insecurities become obsolete and you feel stronger. (Preferably try without the falling, cutting your knee and blood streaming bit).

Sometimes you run just for the heck of it to see how far you can go. Explore places you’ve never been to before but follow familiar trails to get there with mates who have been there before you. You share stories of struggles and achievements you curse as you push yourself up endless hills just to get to the top and then to come down again. You see herds of cattle along these trails and wonder if they will move out of the way, then you realise you are  wearing a red t-shirt and a red cap you think of Spanish bull fighters and the running of the bulls where people are getting gorged by Bulls. Oh Geez what were you thinking wearing red? better run around these buggers you say and jump into a stream and cross away from the trail and go around the cattle who doesn’t really give a toss (or so it seems), but you are running scared.

Running Scared

Who let these Cattle out on the trails!

You lose sight of your mates around a corner of the trail and over a hill and stare into the fog that’s around you, it’s cold you can’t see the trail.. or was there really a trail you wonder? You scream out only to hear nothing, you start running scared then you see them just ahead up on the hill you run faster to catch up and your lungs and legs are screaming, yet you run. Then you get to the top, the fog lifts, sun streams through and hits your face, it’s all worthwhile, you look around and see the views. You’ve overcome your fears by running scared.

Everything is OK! We made it to the top. Now we have to go down again.

Everything is OK! We made it to the top. Now we have to go down again.


Mt Lowry Extreme Challenge event recap

Today was not my day, today I got owned by the trail, nevertheless it was a great experience. Onwards and upwards!

The Mount Lowry challenge consists of two events, The Bridgedale classic mountain trail run (11km) & the Vasque Extreme challenge (22km) mountain run with about 1000m of height gain on the course, the Extreme challenge was limited to only 50 participants. I entered the Vasque Extreme event & this is how it went. This event is known for it’s hilly terrain & has it’s own legendary status because of champion mountain runners Melissa Moon & James Coubrough.

The event location is about 30mins drive from where I live in a small sea side town called Eastbourne in Wellington, New Zealand. My event was scheduled for 8:30am with registration & race number pickup from 7:30am. I got there around 7:45am to pick up my number & check in. There were a few of my buddies from Wellington Running Meet up group who were doing the event as well. So I had some company to have a bit of pre-race banter.

Buddies from Wellington Running Meetup. - Kathy, Me, Dom and Ash

Buddies from Wellington Running Meetup. – Kathy, Me, Dom and Ash

There is a great community feel to the event because it’s locally operated, they even have special prices for local participants. The event HQ was in a little park so there was plenty of people gathered to cheer the runners.

Start of Mt Lowry Extreme Challenge

Start of Mt Lowry Extreme Challenge

We had a race briefing at 8:15am then we were off at 8:30am sharp. I felt pretty good going ino the race, no sign of any niggles & I’ve been running pretty well for the last three weeks as part of my overall 16 week marathon training plan. This was an event I wanted to use to get some decent hill climbs into my schedule. My goal was to run most of the hills & try to run the 22km under 2hrs 45mins which was achievable in my mind.

The first 3km was pretty flat along the coastal road to the start of the trail head. I eased into a steady pace without pushing it too much around 4:30 per Km. From the start of the trail it climbs steadily for about 200m straight up, I was doing well around 6:00 per Km up to about 2km into the climb & then my legs just felt completely dead, like someone just hung two 100kg dumb bells to them & my calves were hurting like hell! This took me completely by surprise, I’ve run enough hills & never had this effect before! I was reduced to a painful but steady walk & about 4 people passed me, I was a bit mentally drained but just kept power walking up the hill. It was a painful climb but eventually got to the top. Stopped at the top & did some stretches, the pain was still there but since I was at the top, the trail evened out to being flat so I started a slow run. Eventually the heavy feeling on my legs subsided & I was able to run the next bit but much slower than I anticipated. At this point I realised I needed to forget about my time goal of 2hrs 45, ain’t going to happen!

Around the 6km mark is another steady climb, it wasn’t easy but I went on & in a weird way I was getting used to the pain & the heavy felling was getting lesser. The next 3km is along the top of the trig with a narrow trail which is full of tree roots, you had to watch every step but it was runnable. There was a cut off time at the halfway point at 11km where if you didn’t make it within 1hr 45 you get pulled off the event. I made the 11k point in about 1hr 30.

Mt Lowry Trail Map of the course

Mt Lowry Trail Map of the course

From the 11km point you entered into a forest where you had to pay very close attention to the trail as it descended steadily to the turn around point. This 2km stretch was a nightmare! You had to look up to check if you could spot the trail markers on the trees & you had to watch your step below as the trail was so overgrown & uneven with tree roots! Not fun! For a while I thought I was completely lost! And wait you had to do this bit twice as the route doubled back on the same trail to the turn off point. A few of the fast runners were on the way back including a couple of my buddies.

Anyways after this bit you come out of the forest into a well graded trail which descends rapidly. Uh oh – what goes down must come up! Essentially the trail drops from 300m to 50m & then you go back up the way you came again!

Mt Lowry Elevation Profile

Mt Lowry Elevation Profile

The turnaround point was at around 15.5k where they record your number. Then you go back along the same up 300m! Just at around 16km as I was heading back two runners was coming down fast & me being the considerate runner took one side step to give them way & the next minute I was face down on the trail! $&@k & some other choice words followed! I think my ego was more hurt than any of my body parts as I took check of the damage! Arms OK! Knees.. Uh oh left knee was gushing blood but there was no pain! There was a piece of flesh hanging out but surprisingly no pain! I used my sweat band to wipe the blood away & continued on! A bit angry at myself but happy I hadn’t done too much damage, it’s just a wound & it will heal! Right climb up again & negotiate that forest bit then it’s a downhill! Quick look at my watch I knew I was way off my time I’d make 3:15 if I just keep moving! The last descent is just straight down & there was no way I was taking any chances so it was a slow descent to the bottom & into the finish line! Final time 3hrs 17mins.

Mt Lowry Garmin Summary

Mt Lowry Garmin Summary

Usually after a race I haven’t done before I look forward to giving it another try, but this one I’m not so sure. Maybe after a few months I’ll feel differently. 🙂

Mount Lowry isn’t an easy challenge & it’s named the Extreme Challenge for a reason & today it owned me! I am however glad I took part! My knee is all good and wrapped up in dressing so nothing major. Next event is another mountain run – The Porirua Grand Traverse on the 7th of April!

At the Finish - all smiles despite how it all went!

At the Finish – all smiles despite how it all went! Patrick, Nicole, Me, Kathy, Lilla and Ash

Trail Running in Wellington – Part 1 – Polhill Track

One of the great things about being in a place like Wellington is that you are not too far away from a trail and can easily escape from just pounding the pavement. As a runner it’s important to add some variety to your runs and trail running is definitely one of the best options available.

Running on trails is actually highly recommended for all runners because of a number of reasons:

  • It allows different parts of your leg muscles to be activated
  • Slows you down and is easy on the legs (going up anyways)
  • Builds leg power and strength
  • Potentially leads to lower injury risk
  • Gives variety and gets you to explore new places and enjoy your run more!

Read this article from Runners World on why Trail running is good for every runner.

Anyways I’m pretty hooked on trails and about 60% of my runs I try and incorporate a trail run when I can.

So one of my favorite trail loop is the Polhill track. The track starts in Aro Valley and goes up to Brooklyn and is a gradual climb over about 4-5ks from the trail start. The loop I do starts at Ferg’s kayaks on the waterfront and follows the waterfront towards Taranaki street and then cross over to Aro street and run up to the start of the track (There is a big sign on your left going up Aro saying “Polhill Reserve”.

From the start you gradually go up (it’s a gentle incline so don’t think it’s a big hill) towards Ashton Fichett drive in Brooklyn or towards Karepa Street. I usually go towards Highbury Road then continue onto Kelburn and then back down via the Botanic gardens to Fergs. Total distance about 12ks and it takes about 60-70mins to complete the loop depending on your ‘easy’ pace. The total elevation gain is about 262meters.

Halfway through you get this awesome view of Wellington!

Polhill Track View

Polhill Track View over Wellington

Polhill Loop

Polhill Track Loop 12kms

Elevation Profile

Polhill Track Elevation

Polhill Track Elevation

There you have it – I usually run this loop on one of my easy days Wednesday or Thursday – so if anyone wants to come along get in touch via @74running

Happy Trails until the next trail!

Running the Rakiura Track

The Rakiura Track is located on Stewart Island which is an Island on the bottom of South Island of New Zealand. For most of you who live in NZ you can get to Stewart Island via a 20min flight from Invercargill or catching the daily ferry from Bluff which takes about 1hr to cross the Ferneux strait.

The Rakiura Track is about 32km in length and is classed as one of the Great Walks. The official DoC (Department of Conservation) literature outlines the track as a 3 day tramp (walk) with 2 huts available for overnight stay. After looking at the track profile & having a chat with the DoC official in Oban township of Stewart Island I decided that I’ll give it a crack to complete the full circuit in a day by running it.

For this run I decided to carry about 1litre of water in my Camelbak & a bottle of electrolytes, 2 mars bars (prefer these over gels on long runs) and some nuts for the trail.
I set off on Friday 28th December from Oban Township at 8:30am heading to the track starting point. You have to run about 5km on road to get to Lee Bay where the track officially starts. It was a great morning and already it was a bit warm.

From Lee bay you go through an arch (which represents an anchor) and its pretty undulating track for about another 4-5kms until you come to Maori beach (camp site) which you can run along in low tide. Then there is a bit of slight climb (nothing hard) and the track undulates through bush with the beach below. After another 3kms or so you come to the turn off to Port William hut. I continued on since I wasn’t planning on staying overnight.

Rakiura Track

Rakiura Track

The next bit of the track is a bit tricky to run with uneven surface and tree roots and a bit of mud. I could see that if it rained that progress will get slow as it was a bit slippery underfoot even with no rain and the mud sticks to your shoes.

Around the 15km mark there is a steady climb before descending to the North Arm Hut. From the turn off to the North Arm hut the track is quite undulating and crosses a few bridges and creeks. All in all I was feeling very good and have been running/walking about two and a half hours. I surprised a few trampers on their way of course and got the all too familiar “you must be mad” response to me running the track in a day.

The last part of the track is known as the Kaipipi saw mill road which apparently was built for transporting logs to Oban for transporting back to main land.

All in all it was a great run and I managed to get back to Oban in 5hrs 12mins & 36seconds with an average pace of about 9 min per Km including breaks!

Here is my Garmin data for the run.

Rakiura Track Summary

Rakiura Track Summary

Rakiura Track

Rakiura Track Lap Times

Rakiura Track Lap Times

Rakiura Track Elevation Profile

Rakiura Track Elevation Profile

So if you are in Stewart Island I highly recommend the Rakiura Track for a great day of running or walking!