Upcoming total sport training events..
Nestled in the back blocks of Waihi, and sitting between the Karangahake gorge and Kaimai ranges, is a magic little DOC camp known as Dickey Flat. This amazing little spot was the base for the 2011 Xterra Trail challenge. Four run/walk events were available ranging from a gentle 7.3km to a grunty 42.2km marathon.
I have done quite a bit of running (scrambling) in the Kaimai ranges and so have experienced the terrain this playground offered. When I heard a marathon distance was part of the challenge, I was instantly interested. I read the route description from the running wild website and it states 'hard/technical, definitely not a run for novices'. The toughness factor as rated by Xterra was a staggering 9/10, with a total elevation of 1491m, cut off time 8 hours. Wow, what a challenge. Imagine being able to say you had completed a marathon in the Kaimai's! I was hooked. But before I was going to sign up, I needed to be sure I could run the course within the cut off time. I know what you are thinking – is this woman mad? Surely she is not going to run the whole course to see how long it takes. No, I planned to time myself on parts of the course and use this as my pacing guide.
During the final month of training, I ran two loops starting from Dickey Flat, Waihi, and Woodlands Rd, Katikati. During both sections I covered the whole marathon distance, although I had to do some extra miles coming in from Woodlands Rd. I used the description on the run from the 'Running Wild' website which was a great help in preparing me for the course. As it happened, it was raining both days I was in the Kaimais, so I got to train in the worst conditions – it makes you tougher right? Based on the times I did in my training runs, I estimated I would be finishing around 7 hours (a good day) - 8 hours (things turned ugly). This is a lot longer than my other off road marathons, but the level of difficultly was scaled up 4-5 times.
At 7am on the beautiful morning of the 8th October, I lined up with another 45 runners to be part of the first ever Kaimai Killer marathon. During the race briefing, the race director gave an overview of the course, and much to my surprise, the route had been changed. My first reaction was OMG, I don't know the new section of the run, but this was followed by relief as I realised the most technical parts were no longer part of the course. The first 23 km followed the original plan which involved a loop out from Dickey's flat following the Waitawheta River, a steep climb to the Dean track, onto Franklin Rd via farmland, up to the Kauri trees, and back to Dickeys flat via the Daly's Clearing hut. This involved 6 or so river crossings, numerous fallen trees, huge mud holes, exposed tangled tree roots, beautiful fern and nikau palm groves, the magnificent twin kauri's, and the ultra green paddocks on the farm track. I joined two other runners and we spent the next four hours comparing notes on events, discussing training schedules, and generally encouraging each other on (cheers Simon and Katrina). This is what I love about off road runs; the other competitors are so friendly and it is inspiring to hear what others have done. It also makes you realise you are not as crazy as your friends lead you to believe.
All this time I had been carrying extra warm clothing and my survival gear, so on coming into transition for the second part of the run, I dumped all the extra gear hoping that I wouldn't need it after all. I also refilled my bladder and visited one of the many port-a-loos. The transition area was a mass of people, so I am assuming this event was well supported.
The second part of the run followed the 19km long course which also doubled as the national trail running champs. The first part of this section was unreal. After crossing a swing bring, the well defined trail was carved out of the rock alongside the Waitawheta River and through a short tunnel. Going through the tunnel was tricky as it was dark so you couldn't see what was underfoot or how high the ceiling was – running by Braille would be a good description. Luckily many of the 13km competitors were returning and some had torches which made life a bit easier. The returning runners and walkers were really supportive and gave heaps of encouragement which was much appreciated. On exiting the tunnel, the most amazing river scene unfolded and lead me to the second swing bridge and along the historic Crown Tramway track.
Now the hard part was about to begin. My legs were quite frankly stuffed, and my ability to complete this event changed from physical to mental. At this point, the track lead up to the Scotmans Gully track and onto the Number 7 Level track. Then it made its way up Mt Karangahake for a staggering 6km. I had been told this part was quite runable but my legs totally disagreed so I had to settle for a fast walk. Every now and then a break in the bush revealed amazing views of the surrounding countryside and also confirmed that I was still climbing. On reaching the top of the mountain (yay!), the track surface changed from solid base, to slippery mud with deep ruts. Staying upright on the downhill was a new challenge and probably accounted for the black toenails a few days later. Eventually I hit the same section I started the climb on, and started climbing again!! It was about this time, I questioned my sanity - maybe my friends were right, although I would never tell them that.
On reaching a check point for the second time, I inquired how much further there was to go, and was told 'not far'. Great, how far is not far??? Anyway I continued on, and was lead back onto the Crown track, through another magic bush section which was alive with bird life. The flat coke was going down a real treat as I looked at my watch – 7 hours, 10 minutes - ekkk. Was I going to make it within the cut off time? The track passed several caution signs indicating mine tunnel and shafts were in the area. I came out into an open area, and had no idea which way to go. Instinct told me to head right, which luckily was a wise choice, as a little further on, the original swing bridge came into view. I crossed the river and below two fly fishermen were casting into the swift waters. It was less than a kilometre to the finish as I caught up with another marathoner who was definitely feeling worse than me. As I crossed the line, a smidgen under 7 hours 30, I was told I looked as fresh as a daisy – yeah right.
Although the finish area was quite deserted at this time, a handful of the organisers/volunteers and some very weary marathon runners were on hand to cheer the last of the group in. The sausages were still warm on the barbeque and the beer cold. As I soaked in the cool river, the last marathoners came in, so it appeared all had completed the course within the cut off time. I would totally recommend this event. It was really well organised, the courses were well marked (mostly), and the atmosphere and scenery were terrific (although next time, I think I may just settle for the 19km course!).
Lesley Mochan - Off road junkie.