Writing these blogs in the lead up to The Hillary event definitely had a really positive influence on my performance this year. The things I was writing about, which hopefully helped some of you in training or preparing for the race, ultimately also helped me because it meant that I was really thinking about how I was training and preparing for the race. I went into race day with a clear plan of how I would race and a very clear idea of what I wanted to achieve and I think that made all the difference.
It may sound strange but when I got up on race day I was a little gutted to hear that it was a beautiful sunny day – I was really hoping for cloud and even a spot of rain wouldn’t have hurt. Standing on the start line on Piha beach I was so nervous, looking around at my competition I could see there were some strong women lined up which did nothing to help my nerves. The horn sounded and we were off at a furious pace down Piha beach. My plan was to go all out from the start and try and use the first big hill up to Anawhata Road to gain a bit of ground.
Being in the first group off Piha beach was definitely a good thing because it meant that it was a very quick process getting through the first tri-gene foot bath – I can imagine that those towards the back of the pack may have lost a fair bit of time waiting to go through in single file. Running in a small train of about ten runners up to Anawhata Road was great because it meant that I kept my tempo up and kept the other women in my sights. I used Anawhata Road as a bit of a recovery stretch, finding a nice comfortable tempo to get me onto the farm. The next 8km or so through to Lake Wainamu at Bethells is pretty undulating with some killer hills and I made sure that I used the downhills to recover as much as I could and ensuring that I was conserving energy going uphill – 34km is a long way.
My absolute favourite part of the whole run is the section after turning off from the Kuataika track, heading down towards Lake Wainamu. This section of about two kilometres is the most awesome technical downhill and was a point where I made up a lot of ground – passing a few men and catching up to Zara who was the first woman. I ran with Zara around the lake and she took off into the distance once we reached the aid station at Bethells – I just didn’t have the legs to keep up. Looking at my watch at this half way point I knew I was on track to smash my time from last year, although I knew I couldn’t get complacent because so much can happen in 17km.
I knew that the effects of the heat were only going to get worse as we raced onto the Te Henga walkway. Compared with the first half of the course there is little tree cover and ensuring that I was taking on enough fluid became even more important. I started on Te Henga by myself and spent most of it all alone. This is where I really realised how well my race plan was working, I was feeling pretty good – especially compared with last year where I walked a large portion of Te Henga – I found a nice tempo and really tried to enjoy this beautiful track as much as I could. I knew that although the last major hill lay at the end of Te Henga, there was a lengthy road section which would present its own challenges as soon as I exited the walkway. Coming along the road towards Muriwai I was fighting the urge to walk up the hills telling myself that the second I started walking, there was little chance that I would keep running so I shortened my stride and upped my tempo and just kept on pushing.
As I came down the last section of track towards Muriwai I kept on looking at my watch, I was smashing my previous time and I thought I was quite close to the previous record. I was also sneaking glances over my shoulder, I had no idea how far behind me third was and I didn’t want to relax too much for fear of being caught. Coming up past the surf tower and having the surf life savers cheer me on was just what I needed to get me up the last little sandy rise towards the finish. Coming across the finish line I felt amazing. I had achieved everything I had wanted to and more. I focused on nutrition and food intake through the whole race and it definitely paid off. I took 28 minutes out of my time from last year and finished as second woman. I was also pretty chuffed to finish as sixth runner overall in the 34km event.
I am still trying to decide whether I will race the 34km for the third time next year or if it is time for me to step up and take on the 80km. The thought of 80km, particularly such a challenging 80km scares me but I’m pretty sure I said myself that the best goals are the ones which scare you just a little bit.
Finally there are a heap of thank yous I need to make. Shaun Collins, thank you for once again putting on an amazing event, The Hillary is definitely going to have a firm spot on my event calendar for the foreseeable future. Thank you also for selecting me as an UltrAspire Aspirer, I have really enjoyed blogging in the lead up to the event. Dylan and UltrAspire, thank you for supporting me in the build up to this event, I love my new pack and will certainly get a lot of use out of it both in training and in races – I have already converted my mum to using an Astral, that is how much I have been raving about my own pack. To all the volunteers and supporters who were out on the day thank you all for giving up your time to make sure the competitors made it through safely, well entertained, well watered and well fed. Thank you also to the volunteers who spent time cleaning up and clearing the track in the weeks before the race, it definitely made a difference to the speed at which the course could be run.