Hot and hilly pretty much sums up today’s race, but happy with my performance even if I still have lots to work on.
Woke up at my usual time before 5am, but managed to get back to sleep and wake up just before my alarm at 7am. Legs are feeling a little sore from yesterday’s bike ride, but I’m hoping they will loosen up once I get going. Breakfast of oats, banana and coffee then time to get ready and lather on the SweetCheeks Butt butter and heaps of sun lotion. I’m also opting for my Inov8 trail shoes and my Ultimate Direction Hydration vest, as its a very hot day and the majority of the course is in the forest, hopefully in the shade.
We packed up and checked out of our little log cabin at 8am. Ryan headed off to the forest to do some shuttle laps on his bike, while Mum and Dave dropped me off at the start area ready for 9am. I wasn’t that nervous last night, but this morning the nerves are creeping in. Have I got enough fuel? Do I need more water? Should I have one last wee? What’s my pacing strategy? When should I have my gel? Will I cope with the heat? Did I drink enough yesterday? All these questions whirling around in my head, while I’m trying to look out for people I might know and give last minute advice to Mum and Dave for their 5k fun run later.
Eventually we pile into the finish chute and are off. The initial start was a bit slow and twisty, as everyone narrowed to wind around the cones before heading out along Fenton Street. I managed to avoid tripping over the big poo, not actual poo but someone dressed as a poo emoji, and settled into a decent pace while we had some faster road to run on. The initial road section wasn’t as long as I expected and at 3km we had reached the first aid station and were heading into the Redwoods forest. I saw a guy wearing a FrontRunner New Plymouth shirt and we chatted for a bit, as we tried to negotiate our way through the road works, were the cones for our course or the construction site? We made a B line for the marshal who was waving us through, so I guess we are going the right way.
Then it was up and over Nursery Road hill. I rode up here with Ryan several times yesterday and running it isn’t any easier. Running against the flow of mountain bikers, we got to the main Waipa carpark and I really fancied stopping to soak my feet in the hot pools, but we were barely half way round yet, so onwards we go. The course headed out along the ‘Very Safe Trial’ before turing left to the 10km aid station and another long climb. I asked the boys at the aid station to just throw the water at me and it was SO cool and refreshing before the climb up Nursery Road. At least this hill was a bit more shaded, but it wasn’t long before we were back out in the blazing sun and traffic of mountain bikers and other runners.
Just before we headed out of the forest, the course ducked back in amongst the Redwoods and wound through the forest walking tracks. I was hoping for a bit more walking track and less gravel road through the forest, as I find running through the nature quite motivating and I picked up the pace, soaking in the energy from the trees. Then we were at the last aid station, meeting 10km runners heading in to the forest. It was a bit congested and I was glad I could skip through with my own hydration sorted thanks to my Ultimate Direction vest. I had been eating Clif Bloks along the way, trying to spread them out evenly and ate my 4th one here. Really I should have eaten more or had my gel, as I was definitely going to need it later.
Out of the forest and along the lake trail and across the sulphur flats. More runner/pedestrian congestion at the underpass, but once through I was able to pick up the pace and start over taking people on my way to the finish. There was a couple behind me who were also aiming for the 2hr mark and by his calculations, my 5:15/km pace should get us there on time. I held on for as long as I could, weaving out little trio around the other runners as we now had half marathoners, 10k and 5k and Ultra Marathoners all hearing along the same walking trail, but they soon dropped me with only 3.5km to go. My face slowed and my legs got heavier. My sub 2hr goal was slipping away and it took everything in my not to stop and walk, or stop for a wee or just stop moving all together. I thought of my friends and MX Endurace teammates around the world racing their Ironman triathlons. If they can do that, then surely I can do this. My 5:15/km pace had dropped to nearly 7:00/km and I was beginning to stumble. People were passing me and offering encouragement. Each time I got passed I tried to follow them. The heat and gases from the sulphur flats made some sections almost unbearable, but it didn’t last for long as I could hear the finish line getting closer.
“I just need to beat Mum and Dave” I kept telling myself and willed my legs to go faster. I eventually crossed the finish line, stumbled over to receive my medal and promptly collapsed to the ground and cried. I’m not sure why I cried, maybe I was just glad it was over, but I checked my watch and I still had a few more meters to go before it officially ticked over to 21.1km according to Garmin. So I got up and ran over to the toilet block, stopping my watch as soon as I’d done the distance. Yes, I was one of those people! But it meant that I had recorded my fastest Garmin half marathon and my second fastest half marathon race time. It may not have been the goal time of 1hr 59, but 2hr 03 is pretty close and I’m proud to say I did my best effort and gave it my all.
I’d just about had time to recover and get some energy back into the legs, when I saw Mum running in. I grabbed the camera ready to snap those finish line pics and medal moments. I am SO proud of her for her first ever 5k running event. As someone who doesn’t run and only really tired it for today, she crossed the line in 44mins!! Less than 5 minutes later Dave was swiftly making his way to the finish. Everyone was reunited under the shade of a big tree, exchanging sweaty hugs and race recaps.