Be The Goat
As a virgin off-road runner it goes without saying that you will be required to have a reasonable level of fitness to complete the challenge but after a sneak peak at the course yesterday afternoon I can also advise that anyone out there who happens to be half goat will have a distinct advantage!
Upon a strong recommendation I took the chance to skip out to Bethells and check out the Te Henga walkway which is where the 16km event starts. I’m not sure which is worse – knowing what to expect and dealing with the pain when you find out on the day or knowing what to expect and that it will be a challenge. I didn’t go too far in, running about 4km to Raetahinga Point giving me about an 8km return run.
The course doesn’t mess about kicking straight into a steep little number almost immediately. While there are plenty of hills the saving grace is that they aren’t actually all that long, they’re just incredible brutal. On a personal note, I couldn’t keep running up them the whole way and truth be told the ground was too uneven in parts that you couldn’t anyway. The sections I did run undulated a fair bit making time for recovery on the down and flat sections.
The surface changed reasonably frequently with a mixture of sand, grass and hard clay. If it’s wet before the event, sections of the track will be incredibly slippery. Some parts of the track are really overgrown where some extra care will be advantageous. While in some places the track is nicely formed in others it is marginal, so narrow in places that it will be single file only or so uneven that you almost feel like you were rock hopping a little.
For a large portion the track is incredibly exposed with little protection from the elements. The prevailing westerly blasts from out of nowhere as the track weaves and changes direction around the headland – you won’t be climbing down for your hat if it comes off and the bush is predominantly low level vegetation offering very little protection from the sun or the rain.
I’ve done an incredible amount of tramping in my past and although the nature of the track was nothing that I haven’t seen before, I hadn’t until the weekend mentally connected what a trail run was actually going to feel like or how much of a challenge it is. I’ve been trying to make sure I incorporate some trail running into my training but well maintained public tracks are not quite the same.
So the million dollar question…. Am I looking forward to the race? More than ever!!! When I reached Raetahinga Point on Sunday I sat down.I looked left and right at steep terrain covered in vegetation. Out to sea there was no sign of civilisation, not even a container ship. Below you could see the surf and hear the steady thunder of the waves beating the shore. Although I stopped a few times when I was trying to get up the hills I didn’t mind because I got to take all this in for a moment (while desperately trying to catch my breath). For a brief moment I was by myself and I was amongst it. Was it tough? Yeah, it was, but that’s half the fun isn’t it? Truthfully I couldn’t think of a better way to have spent a couple of hours yesterday and I’m glad I only did a little bit of the track. It’s the perfect balance between knowing what to expect but still leaving enough that I’m sure there will be a few surprises next weekend.