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Mt Difficulty Ascent

When a race is called Mt Difficulty Ascent, you’d be stupid to think this would be one to go for the PB. Also the fact that it was part of the Australia and New Zealand Skyrunning series. In fact, I would class this as physically the hardest half marathon I have ever done. And because of that, by far the best. Can I use the word ‘awesome’ again? Just for you Sambo! I love a race that challenges me sets the boys from the men. If you are scared of heights and rock climbing isn’t your thing, then it’s best advised to pick one where the race elevation doesn’t resemble waves on a Seismograph after a 6.2 earthquake.

Yes, straight up, straight down. And I only did the half. The night before at the race briefing Jacqs and I were gutted we hadn’t signed up for the whole thing. The talk of snow, sleet, howling south-westerlies and temperatures down to -15, for some reason, sounded like something we wanted to be a part of. But as I flew down (stumbled, jumped, skidded) the last descent I was pretty happy with my choice to turn right for home and not left for another 22km.

Listening to Terry talk at the race briefing the night before put a smile on my face. I’d heard Highland Events were always a good day out, they were precisely what events should be. The race briefing was hugely entertaining, and I left excited about what lay ahead the following day. Time to get back on the horse.

Fully covered in merino from head to toe, I had also donned the gaiters from the desert for another outing, although we got more than one sideways glance at these weird things attached to our feet. Arriving with only enough time to go to the loo, we were ushered out to the start line on the road, and bang, we were off. The pace was fast; there was no way I was going to survive the next 22km at this rate.

Pulling back I slowed down and settled into a steady rhythm. Nipple hill was first up, a ‘gentle’ gradient to ease us into it. We were told if we go to the top of this and thought this was a challenge, and then it was probably a wise decision to turn around and head for home. I’m not going to lie, turning around seemed like a pretty good idea! But a cruise down the other side regained some air to the lungs and dropped the heart rate back to a more manageable beat.

For the next 15 or so kilometres we rock climbed, scrambled, hung on to ropes around ledges and ran through some of Central Otago’s most stunning landscapes. The best part about doing these types of races is going to place you wouldn’t usually be able to access. Situated on mostly private land just south of Cromwell, we were amongst the clouds with the Kawarau River weaving its way below. The storm that was forecast was nowhere to be seen, and instead, the sun shone through creating some spectacular views. Too good not to stop and photograph! I had to tell myself at one stage to put the camera away, this was a race! Ok, just one more…

Climbing the fences was one of the biggest challenges for me; at one stage I was totally airborne, straddled either side. I have the bruises on my legs to prove it! Not made for the more vertically challenged. Rabbit fencing meant the normal through the wires was not an option. I was overtaken on the flat coming into the last part of the race, but I couldn’t actually go any faster, puffing like an old West Coast coal train it was about enjoying it rather than killing myself.

I finished the race with a grin a mile wide, crossing the line in a time of 3hr 42min. Congratulations Jacqs who nailed it and took out the win. Awesome effort. We tucked into the post-race food of pizza and chips, but passed on the beer and cider! Just another reason this race is one to add to the ‘must do’ list. See you next year.

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