I DID IT!!! Despite an injured IT Band and not running for over 5 weeks in the lead up to The Hillary, at 8:48pm on Saturday, I defied all odds and crossed the finish line!
While it was only ever about finishing the race, I finished 61st out of the 102 entrants that started the 80km, with a time of 14hrs 38mins – not too bad, considering! According to my geeky watch, I climbed in excess of 13000ft (4km) vertically (with similar descent) and took over 104,000 steps to get there; I certainly felt every one of them the day after too!!
So, how did it all play out?
Well, after waking up at “0-dark-early” and arriving at Arataki, I would say that I was probably one of the most nervous runners there! Nervous, because I was running in my first ever race and also because of the uncertainty around my knee: would it hold up or give up? After the race briefing and chatting to a couple of the other runners, those thoughts hadn’t subsided, but I knew that I had no choice but to take it easy initially and to give it my best shot.
The race was declared underway at 6:10am. To make sure that I wasn’t going to get caught up in the moment and start too fast, or that I would trip up whilst running with my headlamp, I intentionally ran the first 5-10 km’s with the runner’s near the back of the pack. As I got to the Huia aid station, my knee was feeling ok and I was stoked with my pacing so far. One aid station down! After refilling my vest with food and water, I said goodbye to my support crew and I made my way up the hill.
By this point I had warmed up and settled in to a rhythm, so I decided to increase my pace. I joined up with a group of around 5 runners and together with them; I maintained an awesome pace all the way to Whatipu. By now my knee was feeling a bit tender; however I decided that it was still run-able. I had also developed pain in my other knee – probably from over-compensating. I said to myself that I would do one more stage and if it got any worse then I would withdraw at Karekare.
I ran from Whatipu to Karekare mainly on my lonesome, which worked out well. It meant that I could listen to my body (properly) and assess it to see how it was holding up. To my surprise, my support crew had typed in the wrong waterfall in to the GPS and was there to meet me at Karekare! This was pretty uplifting, as were the volunteers and their costumes (or lack of) at the aid station! I was in good spirits; my legs hadn’t got any worse, so I thought to myself…“one more aye?”
I left Karekare in good company. Two other runners had run most of the race together and didn’t seem to mind this inexperienced rookie “third-wheeling” and picking their brains about all things running as we punched on. My leg was giving me a bit of grief, but before I knew it we were all in Piha, well ahead of the cut-off time.
Psychologically, I knew well before the race even started that if I could get to Piha then there wasn’t going to be much stopping me getting to that finish line. Yes, it was just over the half way point and the worst half was still to come, but knowing that there were really only two legs/ stages to go, was a big driver for me to carry on. And so I did…
I arrived at Bethells in a bit of a state. After a couple of killer uphill’s and downhill’s, my legs had turned to mush! Still, I had made the cut-off with plenty of time to spare. In my mind I knew that even if I had to crawl to Muriwai, then I would! I ran with an Australian gentleman for most of the Te Henga Walkway. We chatted away and he helped keep my pace and spirits high. In all honesty, it would have been a battle without him! Luckily I never had to resort to crawling, but after another 11km and climbing “THE stairs” I was pretty darn close 😉
With only five or so kilometres left, we didn’t bother stopping for supplies at the Constable Road aid station; a quick chat with the volunteers and my support crew and then we were out of there! After another couple of kilometres (and around three to go) I dug deep and got a decent pace on. Just after passing the gannets, the finish line was in sight and so I upped it again: I didn’t want anything left in the tank when I got to the finish line!!
I made my way along the beach, over the sand dunes and then I was there! Crossing the finish line after 80km and seeing everyone there was just magical! I had conquered my Everest and “knocked the bastard off”!!
The following days were pretty challenging. I was stiff, sore and could hardly walk properly, but knowing that I had done it – after everything I went through – was just awesome!
To all of my fellow runners that were out there running on the day; whether you made it or not, I trust that you had an amazing time either way! It was awesome seeing you all pour your heart and soul in to it out on the trails and seeing some of you cross the finish line after some pretty massive setbacks/ challenges was just awe-inspiring!
A huge shout out to my support crew, as well as to the Lactic Turkey Events team and their countless volunteers that were out there on the day making it all happen…I couldn’t have done it without you all! Last but by no means not least, thanks to Tim Farland from Badass Runner for supplying me with some wicked CEP and Icebug gear to train and race in. It made the day (and my post-race recovery, as it turns out) a whole lot easier!
Finally, thank you SO much to those that have donated to my Give-a-little fundraiser over the last few months…together, we have raised just under $4000 for the Key to Life Charitable Trust, which is just mind blowing! You’re all champions! I look forward to entering the race again next year, bring on the 100km!