Sunday, July 27, 2014

Race Report: Blackmores Xterra Dome Valley

"Oh, it's only 9 km"  I thought, as I looked at the new revised distance for this race, which had had a few last minute changes.   Famous last words.  I should know by now never to regard any trail race distance as easy, as the course usually ends up being 9 vertical kilometres or something to that effect!

Xterra Dome Valley was a good example.  It was the fourth event in the Blackmores Xterra series.  I haven't signed up for the full seven race series, instead choosing to participate in each event separately as I can fit them into my life.  I was out with injury for the first two, but managed to run the last event out at Woodhill Forest.

We awoke to a cold wet and windy morning, and I wasn't sure what to wear so took a couple of options.  In the end I wore my Icebreaker Rush Capris (warm when wet), and an Adidas t-shirt with an Icebreaker bodyfit top underneath, which is so old it is starting to fall apart - it was either that or the one with paint on it...!  Everything worked well as I was never cold, and never hot either - perfect!  I also wore my Lululemon earwarmers for a while, they've been quite a good investment this winter.  Luckily the wind wasn't a problem in the forest, and the rain eased off for our race.

The first stage of the race was uphill, as usual!  Up the gravel forestry road we ran, and straight away my legs felt like lead.  My breathing went through the roof and it wasn't long before I was walking.  I mostly walked, jogged a bit as I felt able, and eventually we got to the top where there was a very welcome downhill. Now that's my type of terrain!

After a few more sneaky seconds walking to recover from the climb, I noticed a course photographer let loose on the downhill  - yeeha!  This downhill stretch went on forever and I was starting to wonder if my legs would hold up towards the bottom.  I tried to concentrate on landing lightly and good form, whatever that is.  Splash, splash, splash through the ford at the bottom and then on to another uphill to the 4.5km turnaround point.

You get the idea - this race was up and down all the way!  This next long climb had quite a few runners coming down in the other direction by now.  I first saw Jody who was running a longer course and looking strong.  Then I saw Steven who was running the same distance as me and about 5 minutes ahead already! I reached the turnaround, but knew that only meant another long climb back the way we had come.  I was starting to think this rearranged course wasn't much fun as it was all on fairly boring gravel forestry road - but I didn't know what was yet to come!

Eventually around 6km we diverted into the forest and immediately hit mud, and the woman in front of me slid over in spectacular fashion.  Not that I needed any warning - the trail literally became a sea of mud scarred with the skidmarks of previous runners!  At this stage there was a definite advantage to those who had good trail shoes, and those who didn't quickly fell off the pace.  In my Inov8 Roclite 268 's I gained more confidence with every footstrike and soon was running along quite happily with a group of similar paced runners.

At one stage a woman in front of us slipped and slid halfway down a slope on her bum - backwards!  So funny and she was laughing the whole way.  We passed a waterfall, well I heard it but didn't see it as my focus was continually on the ground.  Once I stood in a deep patch of thick mud where I was relieved to see my shoe was still on when I pulled my foot out!

Then came The Climb.  About a kilometre long in total and much of it steep, like 45 degrees steep, and extremely muddy.  Part way up there was a rope to help you up, but it was so slippery from all the runners prior, that I opted for the other side where you could occasionally find some pine needles or sticks to stand on, and some tree branches to grab.  My hands were put to good use in the mud too!

Next up was - guess what, more mud running, and soon we popped out of the forest onto the gravel track again.  I recognised that this was close to the finish, so ran as fast as I could, overtaking whoever and whatever, until I realised we had to turn into forest again for one final mud fest before the finish:

Phew - so glad to be done!

I met Jody at the finish line, and you can read her report here.  Steven had a hot coffee waiting for me, having finished about 15 minutes ahead, but thought his shoes were a problem in the mud.  The group he was running with got ahead of him and he never saw them again!  Guess who's getting some trail shoes soon...

I didn't feel great about my performance on the day, so was surprised to read that I came in 5th in my age group.  But better still, I WAS ONLY FOUR AG PLACES BEHIND SAM WARRINER!!!  Now for the real facts: I was 20 minutes behind her and the race was less than 10km, but because that is probably the only time in my life I get to say such things I will do so in Full Caps hehe :)

The official numbers:
5/21 Masters Female (24%)
40/111 Overall Female (36%)
147/243 Overall Male/Female (60%)
0 Falls (thanks Inov8)
1 Nearly fell

OK, that's officially the muddiest run I've ever done!  Have you ever raced in mud and lived to tell the tale?  What shoes did you wear and how did they perform in the mud?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Race Report: Xterra Woodhill 14km Trail Run

Last weekend I ran in the third race of the Blackmores Xterra Trail Series, which was held in Woodhill Forest just west of Auckland.  I missed the first two races due to my niggling ITB, and even then I was a bit nervous about running this race which happened to be about twice as far as I've run recently. But my physiotherapist thought I would be fine, and sure enough I was.  Woodhill is a pine forest right out on the west coast so the ground is mainly sandy soil coated with pine needles - a nice low impact surface that suited me perfectly!

As you can see from the above picture there was also a few muddy patches - it's winter here and there was quite a lot of rain during the week.  My Inov8 Roclite's were brilliant - I could plough straight through the mud and puddles with no fear of slipping.  Being a Southland farm girl helps of course! 

 And you can tell by my dirty knees in this shot that I came a gutser at some stage.  You know the scenario - "what's he doing sitting down..." thud. faceplant.  All in one nanosecond.  I just know TotalSport design their courses to have a hidden-but-exposed tree root somewhere that manages to trip every second runner as they go past!

The course was beautiful in its own way, and the atmosphere inside the forest is like being in another world.  We ran on a mix of forestry roads and single track winding around and around, up and down - a course designed to disorientate!  Although the elevation profile showed a climb around the 5km mark, it was not steep, and it was over before I knew it.  There were lots of ups and downs, and even when it was flat there were ups and downs - like moguls - rather fun to run!

At the 5km drink station I looked down to see a dog on a leash with a race number on his back!  Hehe I haven't seen that before!  (Couldn't find anything in the results either...!)

A few weeks ago I bought some arm sleeves.  They have been a great investment for this time of year when you have that long sleeve/short sleeve dilemma.  This morning was ideal - I needed them for a 9:30 start in the shady forest, but took them off about halfway into the race and stuffed them in my front bungee pocket. Perfect.  How did I ever survive before arm sleeves?

This photo is toward the end where you wind your way around a creek to the finish.  I was walking a bit by this stage, and remember coming around the corner, seeing the photographer and telling myself to keep running for the camera!  Vanity running pure and simple.  The fact that I managed to keep running under photographic duress means I'm obviously lazy to consider walking in the first place, doesn't it?  Must try harder.

Talking of trying harder - if I had finished a mere 3 mins earlier I would have placed in the middle of my age group instead of well down the rankings.  Another reason not to walk!

The numbers:
14.4km forestry trail
Time: 1:38:39
30/43 in age group
255/333 overall
PS - never mind me - my superstar other half was 5th in his age group!

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