I knew the skill wouldn’t have left me, but getting back on two planks after a very generous break (I’ve been up to the mountain once in the last 16 years) was always going to be interesting. I’d managed to borrow some skis and boots from a friend Alex, which fit me surprisingly well. Turns out she has midget feet too!
After a week of blah weather on the East Coast to New Zealand, the weekend was looking good, with a nor’ west set to blow a warm 20°C over the Canterbury Plains and a much-appreciated tailwind.
I hosted a Jungle Ultra presentation on Friday night in Ashburton, which went really well. No technology malfunction like the previous week and everyone seemed to laugh when they were supposed to. You could have heard a pin drop after I played the For Rangers video; every time I play it, it makes me proud to be doing what I can. Every little bit helps. Thanks to everyone who came, I appreciate your support.
A full house at Mum and Dad’s consisted of Bids and Grant, Scottie (girl) and Scotty (boy) and myself; a good mix of competitors and support crew!
Due to traffic management up at Mount Hutt, the race started at an extremely leisurely time of 2pm for the boys, 2.10pm for the ladies and 2.20pm for the teams. Scott and I had booked on Mt Hutt shuttles, who for $20 provided a shuttle and pick-up of gear service. An absolute bargain if you ask me, and they were fantastic (all my gear came back no problem!). Highly recommend them if you’re doing this race next year.
Leaving the Blue Pub car park just after 11am (we may have held them up slightly) we headed for the first chain station up the Hutt road for registration, before slowly winding our way up to the top car park. A lot of good banter was exchanged, with no one around us having done this race before, which I decided wasn’t the most reassuring sign!
We had plenty of time to sort the gear, go back to the bus to search for lost sunglasses, and head to the bathroom to ease the pre-race nerves. After a quick race briefing and Scottie had helped me sort out my boots, we were allowed one practice run before the event started. Skiing is like riding a bike – it does come back to you – but nerves were a lot more abundant than they were 16 years ago. The old pizza turns got a hammering!
Before too long, I watched as a girl in cowboy boots and a skirt blasted her shotgun, and the boys were off in a hiss and a roar, running 100 metres in ski-boots over snow and rocks to get to their skis and head down the mountain. No one told me about this run part! And it turns out I am terrible at running in ski boots!!
You know that taste of sick you get when you go too hard. Well, I had that within the first minute! My legs were aching, and I appeared to be standing still as people kept powering passed me. Slowing to a walk and thought ‘Bloody hell, this is going to be a long race!’ Finally arriving at my skis I managed to click in no problem and headed off for the two kilometres down the hill. It wasn’t the best line; there were a few wobbles with one ski in the air, but somehow I managed to get to the bottom with legs now felt like jelly! Scottie told me it would take me one and a half minutes to get to the bottom; I think I laughed out loud at one point. If only she could see me now! It ended up taking me over seven!! Lesson One of the day – 16 years is a long time between skis.
I hauled my skis up to the first transition, and because I racked my bike on the other side of the transponder recorder my transition time was recorded in my bike section. But it makes for a lightning transition! Thanks to Chris who saved me and helped me get out of my ski boots – I think I’d still be there if you hadn’t shown up. All sorted I jumped on my bike, and I was off, with some serious time to make up.
A few weeks ago I bought a new mountain bike (one that fit me), and it has completely changed my mindset to mountain biking. I loved the 18 kilometres of downhill, a few skids on corners but nothing that I couldn’t eventually get under control. I did, however, see a few people who weren’t so lucky, blood-covered faces and the odd flat tyre. Pink raddle on the main stones and potholes helped, and lines on extreme corners gave you plenty of warning on sharp corners coming up.
I knew some of the team competitors would pass me, but was stoked to make it to the last section of the gravel road before the first one overtook me. A fast flat peddle down the tarmac finished off a great trip down memory lane, with my watch clocking a max speed of just over 57 kilometres (only 21 shy of Grant’s top speed of 78 kilometres. Yikes!).
A quick(ish) transition into my run gear, a much-needed drink and a mouthful of banana bread and I was off, over the fence and quickly settling into a good rhythm with only 12 kilometres between myself and the finish line. We headed down a stony riverbed for the first few kilometres before popping out onto farmland and turning down a never-ending road towards Methven. A well-placed drink station half-way down the road was a welcome relief! I realised I am not used to running without a pack with water during a race!
Slowly I was picking off fellow competitors; it felt great to be passing people and not being passed for once (team competitors passed me, but I wasn’t worried about them!). Just over a month ago I went to a run clinic with Richard from Complete Performance. It was only an hour, and to be honest I only took away one thing – to stand up straighter – and I can’t believe how much of difference it has made. Since going to his clinic, combined with Bids’ exercises, I haven’t once felt the niggle in my IT band. Long may it continue.
Turning off the road, we followed the RDR (Rangitata Diversion Race) for a kilometre or so before opting for a dip in the fast-flowing water (you could run an extra 1.6 kilometres and cross a bridge if you didn’t want to swim). A childhood spent swimming in these meant I knew how swift it was. Missing the rope to pull me out wasn’t going to be an option, so I dived in a few more metres up than everyone else. Mum, Dad and Scottie were on the far bank yelling when I came up for air, quickly opting for breaststroke to get me across. I pulled in higher than the rope, with dad helping me out which meant I avoided the bottleneck as others struggled out of the water and up the bank.
The fresh water woke up the tired legs and provided a much-needed energy boost for the final kilometres as we snaked our way through pine trees towards the finish line at Methven’s iconic Blue Pub.
A tradition of the race are obstacles to complete once you have crossed the finish line. This year they were a slippery slide along your tummy, a cold crawl under a cargo net covering a pile of packed down snow, or a climb over a few hay bales. Of course, I was directed over the hay bales, but it was a great ending to another extremely well organised local event. With record numbers, it’s great to see so many people out there supporting these type of races.
Grant and Scott both smashed it, with Scott recording the third-fastest run time of the day after stopping on the bike to help a fellow competitor who had unfortunately got a little too up-close-and-personal with a rocky bank. You’re going to make a fearsome team come Red Bull defiance!
My October-madness month has begun, and while skiing can do with a lot more work, I am stoked with how the rest of the race went. Thanks, Mum, Dad, Bids and Scottie for once again being an epic support crew!