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October Madness

Updated: Sep 28, 2018

It’s November. Yikes! Triple yikes. Less than two months until Christmas. Just over three months until the Kathmandu Coast to Coast. And then another week on top of that until Challenge Wanaka. Which reminds me, must start swimming…

The last five weekends have gone by in a blur of skiing (extremely poorly), biking, running, swimming (not really, let’s call it doggy paddle, see the first paragraph) and kayaking. It started with the Peak to Pub, an event I have always wanted to do, but while competing I was quickly reminded why I hadn’t done it before. It’s been a tad too long between skis. If I am to do it again (if), I plan on heading up the mountain at least once before the race. Oh, and practice running over rocks in ski boots. Yeah, that was a real killer.

The following weekend saw me head south and compete in the South Canterbury 12-hour Rogaine in a team with Jacqs and Caeley. It was a long day, but we had a blast managing to come away with the win in the female category. We had mostly clear skies and mint views, managing to avoid the snow dumps both before and after the event.

In the middle of the madness, I headed north to compete in the Clarence Bridge 2 Bridge event, opting to swap the sneakers for my mountain bike. It was a 40-kilometre course which took us up the south side of the Clarence River, before turning around, crossing a bridge and making our way home on the north side. It was raining as we took off, which made for very slippery conditions and lots of mud. The perfect ingredients for good fun. I bought a shiny new Giant Liv Intrigue mountain bike a month or so ago, one that fits me (no, it’s not a child’s bike but it is as small as they come) and I can’t believe the difference. I am loving my biking now and can ride far more than I used to. Telling myself I am not allowed to get off until I fall also helps; it’s surprising what I manage to ride if I just keep the legs turning.

It was a challenging course, with some good steep uphills followed by some very rewarding descents! I had to stop once to put my chain back on and again when I took a wrong turn! As I headed up a hill, I watched everyone behind me sail on by along the correct flat road below! Damn. It was just the motivation/frustration I needed to take back the lead and consequently, the win (female category). It was a great community event, raising funds for the Kaikoura Hospital. I highly recommend giving it a go next year!

The following day was spent enjoying Bluff Station!

Labour weekend took me south again (my adventures do take me to beautiful parts of the country) to compete in the Meridian Twizel Hard Labour multisport event. This event is entirely different from the rest of events I compete in. Instead of it being one race, you enter each individually, and if you compete in all three (kayak, mountain bike and run) you qualify for the Hard Labour category.

Scott and I headed south on Friday night, loaded up with bikes and boats on his not-so-trusty Coon. The first event starting at 8am on Saturday was the Steve Skinner Canal Kayak. It covered 20 kilometres over Lake Ruataniwha and down the Benmore Canal and ended at Ohau Sea, which included two portages around the power stations. Once a year Meridian allows boats on the canal, this race being that one time, so a unique experience. It was a picture-perfect day with a good frost to kick it off; the fingers took a good half hour to unfreeze. But once we reached the top of the lake and turned around, heading down the south side, it was well worth it. I’m not going to say I loved it, but it was good to get out in the kayak for a decent amount of time (that wasn’t on the Avon). Those portages, though! I had been warned, but there’s nothing quite like experiencing it for yourself. At the first power station, I managed to get out, up the bank, over the fence, down the steep bank, across the paddock, over the next fence (wtf) and into the water without too many problems. It was the second portage that was not so much fun!

Out of the kayak, up the bank, a solid (at least) 600-metre walk/run down the road, all while carrying the kayak on my shoulder, before getting to the bottom, across the grass, down the bank and back on the water. About half-way down the road two people in front of me had a bloody good idea and were dragging their boats along the grass. My dead arms, bruised hips and shoulders and general ‘I’m over this’ attitude thought this was a great option, so I did the same. It wasn’t until we got home that Scott noticed my rudder didn’t work! But the final leg of the kayak was short and I managed to cross the line in 2 hours 20. We were off to a good start.

A quick turnaround was required with less than 45 minutes to have some lunch, unload the boats and load the mountain bikes before we needed to be at the race briefing for the Dusky Trail 40-kilometre mountain bike. Nathan had joined us for the bike section, so the three of us headed off for the start and race briefing.

It was a good course, just a matter of keeping the legs going. The first section was on the road beside the canal before turning off and winding our way over a very rough farmland track to the base of the foothills. It was a gradual climb, so I was not fast, but I managed to tuck in behind a guy and stick on his tail (much to his dislike as he kept trying to drop me by continuously changing wheel tracks!). It was worth the effort to stay in his draft, though!

I was so proud when I managed to ride a steep section that everyone else got off for (around me anyway), passing plenty on the way up. Admittedly I was just about dead once I reached the top, but I was not going to let it beat me!

Finally, I crossed the river at the top, turning in the opposite direction and heading for home. I managed to swallow a flying creature too (clearly a sign of sucking too hard for air) and spent the next couple of minutes coughing and spluttering in an attempt to dislodge it from the back of my throat. One person passed me at this time and commented later that he thought I was about to hoick on him. Good motivation for him to pass I suppose!

I crossed the finish line two hours and 20 minutes after I started (not a typo – turns out I mountain bike exactly twice as fast as I kayak!), very happy with how the day had gone but equally as glad that it was over! It was time for food and rest before the final event the following morning, the Pyramid Run half marathon.

Waking up with a tired body. I downed two coffees and some chocolate while making my way to the start line. It was another great day weather-wise, slightly cooler than the day before but still offering incredible views of the surrounding mountains. It had been a while since I had run a half marathon – even though technically they are finished quicker, the pace is faster, and I find them mentally harder than tackling longer distances.

The run course was the last part of the bike course, just in the opposite direction. So, unfortunately, I knew how long the hill was, but I also knew the second half was mostly downhill. Wahooo. I managed to tuck in behind a guy (again) and stick to his pace the entire way. I doubt I would have gone that fast if I was on my own, but I hung on right until the end when I managed to pass him over the last kilometre. Yes, I hate people like me, but it’s so great when it happens this way around.

I finished the run in a time of one hour and 48 minutes, with a total time of 6:33:03 across the three events. I was glad when it was over, and we still had a day up our sleeve before heading back to Christchurch and work (magazine work doesn’t count here). It was nice to have time to be a tourist in my own country.

The final event in October Madness was the Enduranz Events Mission Mount Somersmarathon, which Say Yes to Adventure magazine also sponsors. I had done this last year in its inaugural event, so knew what I was in for. In all my time racing, I don’t think I have done a race where two years are so completely different. Obviously, the course is still the same (slight change this year actually to avoid a swollen river crossing), but the weather was the polar opposite. Last year it was nor’west; warm, windy and completely dry under foot. This year – snowing, freezing and the tracks were a continuously flowing river. We did have sections of a brilliant blue sky as well, though!

This is as true as you can get to a mountain marathon, while still being in proximity to civilisation. Starting at the Stavely Store, we headed up to the Sharpland Falls carpark before heading on up and crossing the front face of Mount Somers. Here the views were magnificent; it would have been rude not to stop and take photos! I wasn’t in to win it, instead just get to the finish line and enjoy it, so I didn’t mind taking my time and capturing the views (or lack of!). I managed to make my way to the Woolshed Creek car park bang on the three-hour mark, and just under halfway distance-wise through the race.

Feeling good I managed to run most of the way to the hut before the long slog began up to the saddle. Once I reached the top it was snowing heavily (top effort to the Search and Rescue volunteers), making the downhill very slow and slippery. I seemed to take forever as I tried to reduce the number of slides, and consequently, falls. Thankfully no lasting injuries and it’s always a relief to get to Dudley’s Knob knowing there is only one more downhill to the road.

That last five kilometres of flat to the finish is such a killer, and just as horrible as I remembered to be. I was doing my best impersonation of a penguin trying to sprint when the heavens opened and hailed pelted down, turning the ground around me white in seconds. At least with hail you don’t get soaked quickly, they were all just bouncing off! I crossed the line just a fraction under seven and a half hours, half an hour more than the previous year

It will go down as one of the most memorable races in New Zealand to date due to the weather. But that’s not a bad thing and exactly what you get when you sign up for a marathon in the mountains combined with the unpredictability of spring weather. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year!

On a side note – I am officially the unluckiest person when it comes to spot prizes. (Who doesn’t love a spot prize!) Over the five weeks of racing, I was eligible for eight different events (Hard Labour counted as four) and DID NOT WIN ONE spot prize. Scott the tinny bugger won one at every event he was entered in, and two at Hard Labour! Typical. I couldn’t even win a shit bag, and let’s be honest, if anyone needed to win a shit bag it was me!!!! (True story – Scott won two at Hard labour).

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