MARCH 25, 2012

I took part in my first organized trail event last weekend. Auckland’s “The Dual.”
Great event, too. Only into its 4th year but is run like a well oiled machine. No mean feat given the numerous events on offer- 10km and 21km runs, 30km and 50km mountain bike rides.
The event is called The Dual because it covers both Rangitoto and Motutapu. The imposing dormant volcano in the Hauraki gulf.

I decided this would be a perfect training run for the Routeburn Classic so I ran the 4km from home to catch the ferry. I figured the 4km warm up, 21km trail race and 4km warm down would provide me with a nice tidy 29km training run.
Boy, if I knew the course would be so bloody difficult I would have taken a taxi to the ferry terminal and started the run with a fresh pair of legs. I learned the 11th commandment, the one that was chopped from the bible, because at the time of going to print the publishers didn’t think trail running was a big enough sport to deserve its own commandment- thou shalt respect thy course.
The run started in perfect conditions. If anything, it was probably a bit hotter than desirable. The half marathon field of 400 took off and I started up near the front. The first couple of k’s was a gradual up hill on a gravel farm path. After a few k’s I was in a pretty good place. I don’t know exactly how many we’re in front of me but probably 15 or so. Never before have I been so close to the leaders in a foot race. “This trail running thing is my cuppa tea” I prematurely told myself.
After about 8km the run turned from gravel path into a single lane bush track.
This was fun! Hard yakka. But I enjoyed the concentration required. The k’s just seemed to fly by. I was too busy looking down looking for places to jump and land to pay any attention to the distance I had covered. I had a few near trips which are a good wake up call! These became more and more frequent as fatigue kicked in.
I did suffer one fall which was embarrassing. It happened when I took a tight corner on a loose gravel path. At the time there were two other runners alongside me and a manned drink station 50 meters up ahead. Shame!! Grazed hands and a knee were e only damage….apart from the humiliation.
After 17km of what felt like pretty much all uphill running the course turned onto farm paddocks for the final 4ks to the finish line. And this is where I hit the wall. Mentally and physically I was, as the medical experts put it, totally rooted.
My body started to cramp up and I was reduced to a mixture of brisk walking and jogging to get to the finish line.
I should have been mad at myself for going out too fast and not respecting the course (being a marathon runner, I had expected this to be a comfortable wee training outing) but I was too exhausted to even care. Any hope of a good time slipped away and other runners passed me. There was nothing I could do about it. I was broken and beaten. I have not felt this crap at the end of a run in many years.
I limped home in 2 hours and 9 minutes but still managed to finish in the respectable enough 31st place.
But the lesson I learned was invaluable and will serve me well on the Routeburn-
Start slow.
Respect the climbs.
Conserve energy.
Constantly remind myself this is very different to road running.

I still have a few weeks to tweak and get prepared for the Classic. I plan to hit the hills as often as possible in that time. I thought my preparation was right on track. Now, I realise I am not so sure