Pat, Rich and I jumped into the truck on Friday at 15:30 with provisions, vaseline, a munitions can and more white powder than Miami in the 80’s.
To translate: our food, anti chaffe, rations container and 2kgs of electrolyte powder.
Steff had already left at midday for his accommodations in Whitianga, so after 2 hours of trying to cross Auckland we were on our way to Thames. The traffic was well past typical Friday thick. My back is getting progressively worse as we sat there. It twinged when I reached down for most of the weekend.
The one up side of all this traffic was that we were able to run through our checklist. Noting we were missing OSM bars and lycra undershorts for Richard.
At around 7pm we pulled into Thames and Richard grabbed some dirt cheap shorts from a quality specialist red running store 🏬 , The Warehouse (our local bargain store) – what could go wrong with changing something on race day?
Having carb loaded with Steff inspired Ultra Running Fuel (McDonalds) we left and headed up the coast. An uneventful hour of driving in the dark with the coast beside us until we barrel up to a cow in the middle of the road about 10 minutes out of coromandel town. Breaking, swearing, then carrying on, we spend 10 minutes trying to find the school and carpark for check-in. We head to our accomodation.
Pre race banter, a beer and bed 🛏️.
4am, we wake and Richard proudly models his new shorts. Quite chuffed with his purchase.
We put our numbers on and start walking with plenty of time to spare to the start.
3/4 of the way there I remember my watch which is still on the charger. 🤦♂️. I run the km back down to the start line just in time for the 5:15 briefing and to get my heart pumping.
Turns out we have two Tail End Charlie’s as it’s too far for one to do, which is where it starts to sound ominous. They explain the extra 3k – ish distance today and it’ll be about 68k, a bonus 3k (at the front, thankfully). Yes!
They turn on all of our emergency locator beacons for the first time and explain the I’m lost button and SOS medical emergency button. Then with an air horn to wake the neighbourhood, we’re off up a hill.
Richard heads off with the first group of 4 or 7 and Pat, Steff and I aren’t too far behind starting off ‘easy’ (still way too fast).
We finished this relatively groomed town section and pop out on the road near Driving Creek. We start up the road to Colville and of course missed the right turn onto the gravel road. We back-track 400m and head up towards old Coville Road.
It’s dawn and Steff spots the first water stop. No food/people but as Steff says right then “Never pass up water”.
About a k later the first technical part starts where we’re climbing over old railway girders and over streams that seem to have washed away the track. Super fresh as the race director had been out 2 days earlier chopping back foliage and cutting the path. Steff kicks ahead slightly, so Pat and I make our way through trying to avoid twisting feet and knees.
We take turns in tribute, tripping first or watching the other trip. We pass 3 and Pat asks if the older looking one is over 50, reassuring he was dominating his class. (The Japanese dude was in minimal flat shoes and the stones were sharp!)
We hit the first aid station and Steff is there munching a banana. We all leave together around 18 to 24th with three others. It’s downhill here with pine needles cushioning and great for Steff and I, Pat’s getting into too even if he says he’s not for downhills. Across a couple of streams and an airstrip, through some farmland before heading back up to 300m in about 3k.
It’s the White Star aid station. We hit the same spot on the way back from the beach loop later.
About here, Steff gets a bee 🐝 sting. Neither of us agree to suck it out. Steff calls us names and jokingly questions our friendship . The girl with us gets nervous and drops back…
As we jumped the barbed wire fence, another crew are coming back up on the wrong side of it, having run 500 metres into the valley. There’s a whole bunch of swearing and they’re on a mission to get down to the beach. So I lock in and charge down behind the hot stepping first place female, her cadence so fast, jumping the holes and roots as I fumble to find my footing.
We cross the short plain and arrive at the halfway aid station, the beautiful Waikawau Beach. I leave first wanting to eat my sandwich and walk a bit. I’m wondering how good Richard is doing.
NOOOOOO, Richard! He pulls in behind us having added a 30/40 minute Hill repeat to his arrival at the beach. My face said what Rich was feeling apparently. %$#&.
Assessing he was still ok, Rich takes a picture with each of us and then runs up the beach as we walk and his 500m lead extends, He disappears into the stream section.
It’s here as we cross the same $%#!$& stream about 6 times, that Pat tries to remove his lower leg from his knee about 5 times, having fallen and twisted it once on the decent to the beach. After some concerned moments Steff and I, in true “Top Gear” form, leave Pat struggling up the hill, and struggle up ourselves not much faster.
I shout back every 10mins and Pat replies. He’s not too far away when we get clear on the ridge-line. I can see the second place female and a guy I ran down to the beach with (photo above). I figure I might catch them at the aid station. I get there and try to be fast, but my bottle had a hole so I switch it and carry on as Steff pulls in. The four of us are 11-14th and expect Pat’s not far away.
Little did we know Pat was trying to loop back to the beach for a k or so, just so he could pass the ‘Japanese flat shoe man’, ‘v boy’ and ‘Bill Oddy’, twice!
I push on and up the clay fire breaks. They go up and down 50 or 100m about 7 times. Some slippery. All of them steep as heck.
It’s hot. I’m out of water and Tailwind at the 4th ascent. I spray cramp stop. I eat Cramp Eaze capsules dry, and get into the second to last aid station 10th. I check and the next three are about 8 minutes in front. The guy at the station says “You’re tall, it’s downhill to the next one. Stride it out, maybe you’ll get them”.
So I do, managing a 5:30min/k and passing two to 8th as I leave the last station. I shouted to the road marshal as I top up with R-line (electrolytes) and he said the next runner was about 5 minutes ahead (Richard, who was actually 10mins ahead). So I down a gel and push up the gravel section thinking it’s the last ‘up’ before the downhill.
It darn well isn’t. Rich is now about 5 mins ahead of me but I can’t see him for the rolling root fest that is the next 20 minutes of hell. Wet, steep, technical stuff with mine shafts either side until the trig.
Little did I know Rich is splayed out on the ground entertaining the female walkers, having cramped as he extended on one of the descents. He’s love/hating it right now. It’s just the stuff he likes and just the cramps he doesn’t need. His new underwear have also rubbed raw what doesn’t need rubbing by now (his attempt to remedy with vaseline on the fire breaks, just rubbed salt in the wounds, literally). 😯.
He picks himself up to high tail it home, pulling up beside 6th who chats then (like he’s only run a half marathon) drops the hammer on him to sprint home.
I’m struggling and Chloe comes past me like a Springbok bounding up and down. Her feet (tiny in comparison) fitting in the footholds as I grab at every Ponga, vine and Manuka tree I can. She is well ahead. We clear the trig and it’s runnable. Yes!
You drop from 550m/1500 feet to almost sea level in 3 kilometers. It’s glorious but so is the pain building in my Quads, back and knees. Double Yes, I see gravel and the road so I give it a last kick to see if I can claw back the minutes Chloe gained on me at the trig. A nice 4:44min/k and as I wade out of the waist deep stream (think I found a hole).
Over the rise I can see her about 100m ahead (with 300 to go) and try to catch her. Too little, too late. I’m 9th, by 23 seconds.
But, a glorious day out. So much fun, So much pain, So much vert. Now where’s that ultra calendar website…
Climb: 2553m/8375 feet
Burn: 7563 calories.
Fuel: Two Gels, Three PB Sandwiches, 5 litres of water and 24 scoops of Tailwind.
Strava link for those keen to explore the map and terrain