Tuesday, 21 June 2016

A Knarly Bit of Taranaki....

(Click pictures for better view)

After my previous run at Lake Rotokare I did an inner city run in New Plymouth that I had done before. It starts right at the ocean and follows the Te Henui Walkway for just over 5km upstream and of course then you turn and head back. Pleasant running for the city and well worth it.

But this is about my Thursday night run where I decided to head for the hills! The big hill really, Mt Taranaki (that was Mount Egmont when I grew up). I had run a couple of trails on the South side around Dawson Falls, but this was my first visit to the Main area.

One of the things I recommend you always take advantage of is an information centre - if the area you are in has one, then use it. This was a perfect example. I popped in to check my planned route and talked to the lady on duty. My plan was to run up the Summit Track then turn off and head down to Maketawa Hut. She quickly pointed out that the loop would work much better the other way and she was so right!

After the great advice I also donned my Inov8 X-Talons to give me maximum grip on the way down and up!

The trail starts on the low side of the carpark outside the info centre and winds down for pretty much exactly 1km... that doesn't mean it will be speedy! That first downhill km took me over 10 minutes.... it is great, highly technical, lots of tree roots, mud and ups and downs including a couple of ladders.

Then the climb starts, quite a slog too... 37 minutes to do 2.7km. To be fair I was snapping pics along the way and stopped at the Hut just over halfway up. Worth finding an excuse to do a much longer run here just to stay in the hut... what an amazing outlook it has... would be incredible to wake and watch the sun rise in the distance!

Just past the hut I hit the first snow, not a lot, but enough to say I had run through my first white stuff for the year.

It wasn't too far past that when I hit the main Summit Trail heading back down the hill... more of a road than a trail... I was more thankful than ever that I had taken the advice.

Yes, that is the Trail!
So I cruised down the road thinking this was going to be a pleasant if short run when about three quarters of the way down I spotted the sign for the Ngatoro Loop which also lead back to the Carpark... much better option than road and a very enjoyable last kilometre.

Look for ubiquitous Orange Triangle
So not a long circuit at 6.6km.... but 517 vertical metres says that it was well earned. There are several more route options that you could use to extend if you wanted a longer effort... or you could just carry on up the hill until you ran out of steam!

Then back to my Motel for the most important part of the day... my travelling Craft Beer... there may be another craft beer brewed in New Plymouth, but I haven't looked too hard as Mike's Brewery - New Zealand's oldest craft only brewery - produce so many fabulous beers. I had purchased two... not my favourite VCP - but more on that in the next post, but a very nice Taranaki India Pale Ale and my second favourite dark beer the Chocolate Milk Stout which was my after the Mount brew this day...

It is a creamy and very dark stout with a nice taste of chocolate that lingers in the mouth after swallowing. Not too bubbly, like the best stouts and porters it has a nice subtle bubble. Very very smooth and a perfect end to a memorable run!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Back again....

After blogging and running my way through 52 in 52 I found that I slipped out of the habit of writing my blogs. However now I am in a different job, a job that takes me around the country and gives me the opportunity to run some of New Zealand's fabulous trails.

I have had a great following for the pictures I post from these runs and decided that this blog would be a great opportunity to share a bit about the runs, what was good and what was bad (if there is anything bad in trail-running).

So without further ado.... this last week saw me travel from Rotorua and spend my Monday night in Hawera. With a bit of study I decided that Lake Rotokare looked a likely candidate. The online site said that it was 2 hours walking... so I figured 6 - 10km and that would be ok for a Monday after a big weekend.

So after about a 30 minute drive from Hawera I passed through the automatic double Pest-Proof gate and set out for my run in a lovely quiet and serene setting. The trail, as many of these parks do, started out a bit like a park footpath, gravel and very flat... but soon slipped into lovely semi-technical trail with tree roots, mud and puddles and a few boardwalks.

The ups and downs were very sedate and before I knew it I had completed the lap... at a mere 4km (exactly).... oh dear, what next... I could do it again or check out the 'Ridge Trail' that I had noticed on my lap. So, stopping at the car to get my headlight, as it was getting later, I headed up the trail.

And I mean up... 200 vertical metres in about 700 metres ... up steps, although for once I was glad of the steps as the short patches without them were quite slippery and muddy. The whole way up was right next to the pest proof fence... which I noted had been installed by the company Tim Day used to work for.

Of course the further up I went the better the views and they were great, unfortunately the sky was pretty clear everywhere except around Mount Taranaki which was shrouded in cloud (see pic below left).

Once up on top of the ridge it was a steady up and down for about 3km before the sign pointed back down to the bottom trail. It was on with the headlight, as it was dark enough that (in the trees) it was needed. Made a mistake here, that I shouldn't have, throwing my light on with my cap on. The danger with this is that it throws a nice beam forward, but more than ever in the dark, the peak of your cap cuts out any upward peripheral view - as I found out when a low hanging branch caught me solidly - sitting me on my arse in the dark. Thinking the impact had probably wiped out my light, I was stoked to find that it turned straight on again.

So with a lump and a very sore head, I wound my way back to the car, for what turned out to be a 10km run and one that I would recommend... especially with the Ridge Trail.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

52 in 52... #15..... Half Killed Me Going Up... Finished Me Off Coming Back Down...

For the first time in a few years Total Sport decided to change one of their Xterra venues. Whitford had nowhere near enough parking and they were in danger of some shorter runners disappearing into the mud, never to be seen again!

Their choice.. Waharau Regional Park. Steve Neary and Keith Crook were both telling everyone what a neat run it would be, while  
Total Sport very quietly slipped a 9.9 out of 10 difficulty rating on the Super-Long course!

Raceday was supposed to be pretty miserable... and as usual the forecast was wrong. Total Sport had obviously been very nice to the Weather Gods and it was a magic day.

Kate was with me to do the Short Course and we got there nice and early as usual, the regulars know that it pays to get in early for a good park, with Mal Law and the LTH arriving at the same time as us and Steve & Keith about a minute later. Keith still in a Moonboot for a few weeks with a foot fracture was just there for moral support.

It was still a bit of a hike from the carpark to the start area, to check in and get the pre-race stuff sorted. Most of the usual suspects including Michael Dall were there again.. he should be doing 52 in 52 as he is at nearly every event I am at!

Not much chance to catch up with Susan and Richard at the Inov-8 tent as they were flat out selling. The way their shoes behave on tough runs I am not surprised. I had 3 runners ask me how I was staying upright when they were sliding down hills on their butts!  
The X-Talons are magic and almost an unfair advantage!

So after a stirring race briefing from Dave, where he proceeded to try to scare all of the Super-Long Runners into taking the shorter 'Long' Course, we lined up for the start on time as usual!

A nice cruisy gentle and steady uphill and a small downhill right in the first kilometre felt alright... then we turned off the road onto the trail... and started to climb!

There was all sorts, there were steps, boardwalks, tree-roots, grass, flax and lots and lots of mud! It was wonderful trail and I know I would have enjoyed it so much more if it was runnable. But for this big fella there is no way that I can run up a hill that big. Which meant walking... lots! I was one of those Dave was saying should have run the Long course... and I am sure that I will in the future. But for 52 in 52 I need to do 21.1km or longer and the Super Long was the only course on the menu!

Over the next 3km we climbed 330m vertical, then a nice wee 65m downhill for a km. Then another 400+ metres vertical in the next 5km or so got us to the trig.

That should be good, shouldn't it? Downhill now... well, not quite... The first downhills through the trees at the top were very rooty and verry muddy... definitely broken ankle territory if not treated with respect (and that is not what I need now)... I did enjoy this section more though as I could at least run most of it.

We battled our way down the hill, with me being passed much more often that I am used to these days... I didn't feel I had gone out too fast - maybe they just went out too slow! We did get some cracker views on the way down... I had actually run some of this trail before when 3 or 4 of us went of course at the End of the World Run last year.

Down with about 5km to go I came upon Allan Ure from Photos4Sale at the second to last Aid Station... Allan, like me, was having a shit of a day, but we both managed to smile about it!! Allan gets better and better at catching world class photos at these events and Total Sports are on a winner with him!

The last 5km really hurt 400+ metres vertical drop, all on road just hammered the body into submission. I love downhills, but you can only push 90kg onto your knees and hips so many times before every step starts to hurt.

Photo by Allan Ure, Photos4Sale
But I got there, down the last straight to see Kate waiting for me, the lovely Christine Crook on the camera (Allan should hire her, she takes great pics) and over the finish line for a beer and a sausage! I had taken 3 Hours and 26 minutes to complete the run... almost exactly twice the time it took to run the Taupo Half one week before... Hard? You bet!!!

In Waharau Total Sport have just about got the ultimate 21km test and it is a great addition to their stable of runs. I am not ashamed to say that it is too tough for me and I don't see me doing the Super-Long again (but I never say never). I can see me attempting the Long Course and may give it a go next year... plus I will take my togs and hit the Miranda Hot Pools as well!

52 in 52 #14.... Concrete & Cobbles

The Fat Man Run marked the completion of the first quarter of the 52 in 52 Challenge... next step - get the next 25% done!

Next on the list was the Taupo Half Marathon, another special one for me as this was my second ever half back in 2006 and the first one I was prepared for (Huntly was an 'off-the'cuff decision).

The original forecast was for an overcast rainy day, this changed the day before to occasional showers... none of which we ever saw!

Lainy and I picked up Lance Hunniford in Rotorua, Lance was taking part in just his second road half... although these days a half marathon is a bit of a short sprint for him with his ultra training.

Got to the venue nice and early as is my habit, registration all went well, they had a bit of a problem with the shirts being too small, mine was a bit snug, but still fine for me. Caught up with lots of friends, Rog and Beaker from Hamilton, Rebecca and Mike from the big smoke, Lyndsey and Damien from Te Kuiti... even caught up with Kori Kita Queen, Kate Townsley who wasn't running but came down to say hello!

Also bumped into Michael Dall, Len and Bronnie Pemberton... and more...  
with well over 2000 entrants there were people everywhere.

The start was done in waves from the end of the marina, we then zoomed around the marina and out onto the lakefront. Right from the start I had trouble settling on a pace, too fast, then too slow... nothing felt quite right.

About 2km in the good old lactic in the hammy flared up again. This proves to me it is the harder road and constant tempo of road running that is causing it, as I had no problems on the trails of Fat Man. However it wasn't as bad as it has been in the past and I just eased a touch in pace and kept just below the 'too painful' threshold!

While, like Wellington, the Taupo Half threads its way along the water, the difference I guess is that Taupo feels open and exposed and I guess, because I lived there for a few years, not that special to run. Whereas Wellington felt intimate and special with the hills and cliffs one side and the water the other... but I digress.

We worked our way out to Mahuta Road where there is an 'out and back' section of about 700m each way... I spotted the every exuberant Michael Dall already well ahead of me and, after I turned, Rog Morris not that far behind... Rog (left) did me a huge favour by becoming the motivator to push harder and stay in front of him. Little did I know that catching me was part of the motivation that dragged him through to a PB!

Instead of retracing our outward run exactly, the return run takes a left and heads initially down to the brand new walkway along the lakefront... solid concrete footpath walkway (above), really hard on this old body but with no grass to run on it was the only option.

Off the 'footpath' and onto... cobbles (left), the fire and frying pan adage comes to mind. At least with some portions of the cobbles there was short grass or off track options quite often.

The Cobbles get most of the way back to town, then we were re-united with the road, back down and around the Marina and up that lovely little hill - the first time I ran this, the hill nearly killed me at the end, now, after several years of dedicated trail running it was just a bump and not so tough!

In the end a very respectable 1:44:40, just over 5 minutes faster than the first time in 2006 and good enough for 12th in my Division and 236th overall out of about 2300. 

After the event a group of us met up for lunch then back for the prizegiving - didn't win a thing - then back home with #13 in the books.

Not my favourite run, but extremely well organized and fantastic to meet up with so many familiar faces. Many find this their favourite Half and it is definitely one to try for yourself.