There's something a little masochistic about trail running and the more I get into it the more I'm equal parts fascinated and disgusted at how much I enjoy it. At the start of the month work was sponsoring the Motatapu down in Arrowtown and I was lucky enough to get to both help with the behind the scenes stuff as well as compete in the 15km Miner's Trail. This was the first time I had done any real training for an off-road event and the stunning scenery and awesome track design made for a really fun morning out. I almost didn't notice the massive soul-destroying hills or the wicked bout of stitch I got about halfway through since I was having such a good time. While I still feel thoroughly intimidated by the compression tight, GPS watch, short short wearing ultra hard core running crowd I decided to suck it up and give the whole "trail running" thing a real go this year.
Naturally my first step was to rush out and purchase a copy of Kiwi Trail Runner and study up on everything I would need to know. As it turns out, trail running is basically just like tramping when you're trying to cut the DOC time in half; without a huge heavy pack, or heavy boots, or having to navigate, with giant numbers plastered across your belly. To be fair, it sounded like an easier way of doing what I do most weekends but with a finish line and prizes and stuff. I'm pretty sure more people would be out tramping and exploring our amazing wilderness areas if we gave them the chance to win free stuff for just turning up. But I digress, it was also in the magazine (which was actually a bloody good read) that I came across the Arrowsmith Thee Races.
Lake Heron and the Hakatere Conservation Area in general is a majestic place on a clear day. You get these vast sweeping views all the way up to the Southern Alps and the stunning Arrowsmith Range towering far above the sparkling waters of the Lake. Saturday was not a clear day and as I drove through from Mt Somers the rain and dense cloud from the plains was also there obscuring all but the really slow SUV I was stuck behind on the narrow shingle road. When I made it to the Lake, some time later, I parked up next to the wool shed and headed in for registration. The organisers had covered all of the most important aspects of event village set up with a coffee van on site and two portaloos just covering the pre-race demands of around 260 competitors. I checked in, collected the requisite four safety pins and perused the racks of snazzy looking ultra lightweight jackets and packs from furtherfaster while I waited for briefing to roll around.
The Arrowsmith started out some ten years ago as a mountain bike race but has since added an off road marathon, 17km Lake Face race, a duathlon and an 11km fun run/walk. I was competing in the Lake Face run which started, would you believe, along the lake before climbing to almost 1200m above the station and looping back around and down to the start line. I'm going to honest, it was a busy week leading up to the race and I had spent about 30 seconds studying the map and elevation graph for the course before I turned up that morning. I'm not sure if this turned out to be a good thing or a bad thing as it meant I had no idea how much of a climb we were going to have in the first 9km so I stupidly assumed I was almost at the top for about half an hour. The track became rougher and started disappearing slowly into thick cloud the higher we got which added a fun kind of Stephen King quality to the run.
Thankfully it was at about the halfway mark that I met an awesome 11 year girl that I had been running slightly behind until then. After I got over the fact that I was clearly being out classed by someone less than half my age we got chatting and found we made a pretty good team running together. The cloud and smaller field meant we ended up on our own trying to follow the sometimes sparsely placed markers down the more rugged descent. The company was great (see the Stephen King reference above) and having someone to talk to made the last few kms fly by. Cleo also had one of those fancy hard core watches that told us how far we had gone - I've realised now how much I need this in my life.
She stayed with me right until the last 20m where we had a pretty legitimate sprint off that she won a little too easily (I think she was holding herself back those last two kms because she didn't want to hurt my feelings!). I really enjoyed the rougher ground compared to road running and felt pretty good with my pace although I'm still not sure what my time was as I write this as I always forget to pay attention when I finish. Probably something to do with feeling utterly relieved I've actually crossed the finish line or you know just being totally above such antiquated measures of ones performance as overall time or position. The cooler weather was actually perfect to run in but I didn't hang around too long afterwards as my support crew of zero meant a long and lonely drive back to Christchurch on my own. Don't feel too sorry for me though, a twin pack of snickers bars had me feeling like I could run the whole thing all over again... in about a week.
If you haven't been out to that neck of the woods it's well worth a day trip to either Lake Heron or Mt Sunday if you can pick out some sunshine. For more information on Thee Races visit their website here. A big thanks to Multisports events for putting on such a fun race, I'll definitely be back next year to have a crack at the full (I've published that now so I have to do it right?).
Rachael and Jeremy