Wuu2k 62km Ultramarathon: 17th July 2016

62km, 2978m elevation, 9 hours 20mins

https://www.strava.com/activities/643405397

Wow! Wuu2k, what a race! A “60km” run around all my favourite trails and hills in Wellington? How could I resist! Training for it was loads of fun and I was so pumped for the event weeks before the actual day.

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The race began at 6.30am in the middle of winter, so the atmosphere at the start was awesome. The only light came from our head torches and the air was cold and crisp. After a countdown from 10 we were off at 6.30am on the dot. The race started by running up Mt Kaukau (400m elevation) so I was determined to stay near the back and take my time to settle in to the day. There was a short jog up the trail path until we hit the steps and everyone started walking. This was at quite a nice pace, I didn’t feel stuck behind and could overtake as I wanted, but also didn’t feel like I had to storm my way up the hill.

The top actually came quicker than I was expecting as in training I’d only been up there on exhausted legs and it always seemed to take forever – oh the benefits of a proper taper! At the top of Mt Kaukau, the path opens up on to the hillside, so all I could see was a trail of head torches going off in to the distance. I tried to take a picture but instead fell in a little hole. After saying hello to Sharon who was marshalling and shouting encouragement, I stormed off downhill along the skyline. I was feeling good but my calfs and soles of my feet were a little bit sore after struggling to warm up on the climb. I stopped for a stretch and luckily at this point Amy and her friend Spice came up from behind (somehow I’d overtaken them early on the skyline?!) so I was happy to fall in behind them and try to keep up for the rest of the run.

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The skyline track is mostly undulating with great views to the South Island on one side and down to the city below on the other. It was really fun running as we were excited for the day ahead, and cool to meet people from out of town who’d made the trip just for the race. We arrived to the end of the skyline to Max (who I wasn’t expecting to see so early on) and Amy’s parents who were there to take our head torches, as we were hoping we wouldn’t need them at the end. We refilled our water bottles at the aid station and headed off up to Makara Peak.

Makara peak is the high point of Makara Mountain Bike Park which also has some really run single track running. We started up the hill slowly, conveniently using the excuse of eating to walk up the steeper parts. It wasn’t long though until the three of us (Amy, Spice and I) got in to a good rhythm, reaching the top without too much bother then heading off down the hill.

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The downhill “Lazy Fern” section is really fun. The uphill “Possum Bateline” is not. It’s annoying, as it  doesn’t feel like it should be super hard but I felt like crap going up. I lost Spice and Amy for a while and held up some competitors behind me. They said the usual “no, no, you’re going at a really nice pace” when I offered to let them past, but they soon over took when the path got wider. My knee had been a little bit sore the day before the race when I was helping to mark the course so I had strapped it up. Unfortunately I did it up too tight around my hamstring and this started to drive me crazy, so I was battling hard. We were only 15kms in, 45km to go. Shit, basically just starting my longest training run.

I was very happy to see Kathy when we reached the top and was pointed downhill. I was able to catch up with Amy and Spice and we kept up a great pace and chatted and dreamed about the upcoming toilet where I planned to rip off this flaming tape.

What the hell is that mooing sound?! Oh it’s just Alan, Charlotte, Grethe and team dressed as cows at the Makara aid station! They met us with great support, helped me take off my tape and amazingly had bought 72 (?!) bananas after hearing none would be supplied by the race at the aid stations. Thanks guys!

Off we headed with a little skip in our step, but I had been dreading the next section from the first time I’d ran it on a training run. Salvation is evil. I told Amy and Spice they should shout at me until I cried to keep me going. It’s not a hard track, it’s not technical and it’s not steep, it just goes on and on forever and I’ve only ever ran it when I’ve been exhausted. So I didn’t have too much fun along here. I lost Amy and Spice again, but they were amazing and were waiting for me at the top along with marshals Elspeth and Sandi. I exclaimed that I am never running that track again (and I still mean it) and we headed off for the next section leading to the halfway point.

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I was a little bit dark for a wee minute or two, as I was starting to wonder how I was going to manage the whole course, but I just did my best to keep up with Amy and Spice . We reached the start of the fenceline and could see the wind turbine in the distance which marked 30km and our halfway point. This track is called “the rollercoaster” and it’s no wonder why, as there are some frigging steep sections. On one of these particular hills, I tried to run and got instant cramp in my calfs. This was really disconcerting as had never happened before and it continued every time I tried to run up a hill with any significant steepness, forcing me to walk. Downhill was fine so I managed to keep playing catch up with Amy and Spice.

As we rounded one corner and got close to the turbine we were greeted by my lovely friend Jacky who I wasn’t expecting to see. She ran with us for a km or so (but was also forced to walk the hills thanks to my cramp) and as we got even closer we were greeted by a crazy looking Chewbaca running down the hill with a megaphone shouting “Go Lorry, Go Amy!” It was amazing.

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Cam had planned a star wars themed aid station, including a brass band!! He gave me my half time banana which had “You are awesome” on one side and “Hardcore Lorry” on the other. Max was also here (Again! Amazing!) and helped refill my water. I was soo happy here having all this support and had a new surge of energy for the next section.

The next 12kms are along one of my favourite tracks to run in Wellington. From the windturbine there is an undulating track towards the south coast. It’s really nice single track running with views over to the city and south island. Amy and Spice got a little bit ahead and were chatting away but I was having to concentrate to keep going. My friend Brent had given me the advice before starting that if it began to get hard, just take a moment to look around and appreciate where you are. So I definitely did that along here.

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We reached the top of the tip track where Gillian and Michael were waiting, and then carried on along the hills on a gradual overall descent with some small undulations. I was starting to feel quite nauseous, Amy’s hands were swelling up to a ridiculous size and Spice’s knee was very sore on the downhill. So we were all going a little bit crazy. Spice gave me a salt capsule for my cramp and sick feeling and we just kept chugging along.

The zig zag section down on to red rocks was painful on the muscles and the mind. The fronts of my ankles were incredibly sore and spice was battling with his knee. We reached the bottom and realised that I’d done my worst bit (Salvation), Spice his (downhill zig zags) and were at the start of Amy’s (3km along a rocky beach).

We had promised to save some good conversation for this section as it is notoriously soul destroying, so Spice entertained us with stories of his upcoming Eastern European holiday and we enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. We reached the end of the beach and realised that the marathon was done, only a half marathon to go. We were met by Youngy who was joining us for the last 20km, and Max who amazingly was here as well. I was really struggling, and couldn’t believe the run was only 2/3 done. But we were making great time, 6 hours for the first 42 and we hoped to be done the next section in a further 3.

We stopped here for about 10 mins, Max advised me to eat as much as I could (bacon and egg pie and crisps) and had prepared some snap lock bags for me with some salty snacks to try to overcome the cramp that had set in bad. Amy, Spice, Victor, Youngy and I then set off as a little team in search of the infamous Tip Track. We all knew this track well and all hated Gareth (race director) for adding it in to make up the distance.

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Some good friends were at the bottom waiting to encourage us up. Max (again, amazing), Dom, Rhys and Ganesh. Rhys started us up the hill but got bored as we were all walking, but Ganesh joined us the whole way up. As we genuinely were just going up this hill to come back down it again, we intercepted Matt and Pete who were on their way down and looking amazingly fresh, it was awesome.

Youngy very usefully kept reminding me to take small steps and drink lots of water while going up, and Ganesh and Victor sang the “get up the tip track” song. About half way up, the track flattens out so we tried to run, but I got instant cramp in my calfs and quads. I tried to stretch out my quad but while doing that got cramp in my hamstring and calf, not ideal.

It was an amazing feeling to see Michael and Gillian again when we reached the top, but we didn’t stop long and turned around to make our way back down again. It was a tricky downhill but felt so much better than going up. We quickly caught up with Spice who was struggling with knee pain. I offered to strap up his knee but instantly got cramp as I crouched down beside him and collapsed in a spasm on the floor. This was just as Mike and Mark came up the hill which was unfortunate timing to say the least.

 

I headed off down the hill with Youngy and Amy, and we knew Spice would have no trouble catching us up on the uphill. We headed up Tawatawa reserve and started to feel very slow and exhausted, we kept loosing Spice on the downhill then he’d catch us on the up. We kept plodding, made our way up “heartbreak hill” and were greeted at Mt Albert by Brent’s awesome aid station (last one of the race!) which starred some delicious looking cupcakes. Unfortunately I couldn’t stomach them but Youngy had a couple and said they were delicious.

We knew the last section well, especially as I’d helped mark it the day before. As we came towards over Mt Albert we could see the pylons on top of Mt Kaukau and Mt Vic marking the start and the finish of the race, it was awesome. I kept up with Amy until the bottom of Mt Vic when I told her she was free, and could race off to the finish. Which she did haha. I felt like I’d lost the ability to run up any inclines, but Youngy kept telling me just to think about the next 10 steps. We reached the saddle and I knew we had 3 hills to go, all of which I’d ran a million times before. I was forced (by exhaustion) to walk the uphills then would run the flat and downhill.

We were greeted again by the cows who sung mooove it mooove it until I picked up the pace and ran again. My good friend Elspeth was here, gave me a hug, told me it was OK to cry, and ran the last hill with me. It was awesome and I don’t know if I could have done it without her and Youngy beside me. Although it did help that everyone was cheering my name at the finish line on the top of the hill.

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It was an incredible feeling to reach the top and cross the finish line, Amy getting there about a minute before me. My flatmates and friends were there to greet me and Max was there with a gin and tonic. It was one of the highest moments of my life and I’ll never forget it.

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