As I sit at home with a slightly sore left ankle and very tight legs, I am still trying to process all that happened yesterday.
It started at 7.40am, and in another way it also started 8 months ago when I cooked up this trilogy. But it really started close enough to a year ago (19th November) when I actually became Fat Dad.
So much has changed over that year, and yesterday was the third and final chapter of the trilogy. But it was really just another day… a VERY long day.
Stage 1- Waotu to Waipapa.
It was a misty start at 399 Waotu South Road, where I had my own support crew to see me off.
The course ran briefly along to the end of Waotu South Road, climbing to the highest point and the first vista of the river.
And then went very quickly downhill from there… but the view of the river improved.
The track ran along the lake heading upriver to the Waipapa Dam, a shortish section of around 16km.
The scenery along this section and indeed the whole track is world class, with one of the highlights being the first of two impressive swing bridges.
The next highlight was seeing the dam that marked the end of this stage.
I am lucky enough to have an amazing assortment of crazy friends and family, who have turned out in various combinations, to support me at each of the events, and this time was no different.
My sister-in-law, her hubby and two of my very good mates ably reinforced my chief support crew, with their own style of cheer-leading. For which I am most grateful, and became aware of, at the end of the first stage.
Stage 2- Waipapa to Mangakino.
After a quick restock of liquid, food items and with cries of “keep running!!” ringing in my ears, I headed off again.
Looking back on it now, I enjoyed stage 2 the most, except the actual finish. Stage 1 I was still settling into something like a rhythm (a shuffle), and stage 3 was still to come. But Stage 2, is where I did my best work, and despite the size of the hills, by the time I made it to halfway I was definitely in a good head-space.
A lot of this stage was either climbing up big hills or coming down them, the track did go past the lake a couple of times, and it did have me wondering whether I would’ve been better off going fishing instead.
Throughout the run there was both the official run distance markers and the trail markers, against which you could measure progress. On this stage there was one that I had in my head to look out for as it was where I knew it was all downhill into Mangakino from there. I had run up to this point a few days before. So in my head I knew what I had to look forward to.
Along this section, the old construction site around Lake Maretai has become all overgrown and otherworldly, and served as a nice distraction before the short run down the road to the end of stage 2 and the Beginning of stage 3.
Stage 3 Mangakino to Whakamaru (aka to hell and back).
Only a short section, a mere 12 kilometers…
The course brochure describes it as..
“The next 12km from Mangakino to Whakamaru Dam is a highlight of the day. You will enjoy the rolling gravel track as you hammer it through pockets of bush with farm land and friendly cows to your right and constant views of Lake Maraetai to your left – stunning!”
The view was as described, and the second suspension bridge was definitely a highlight.
But for me this section is best forgotten, the combination of short choppy hills with the warm afternoon breeze made it feel like running into a hair dryer on full while attempting to “hammer it along the rolling gravel track”. By this point I was rolling more like a hammer…
I dragged myself to Whakamaru Dam, and at the aid station threw two cups of water over my head before drinking one. I felt like I was burning up. My support crew cheered me onward, with larger signs and bigger noise makers, and a few jet planes helped too…
50km done only 10km to go.* (definitely not a sentence I ever thought I’d say).
Stage 4 Whakamaru to Hikurangi Island (Dunhams Reserve).
The distance markers changed from every 5k to every 2k and that helped somehow make the distance go faster. 8km with 80mins till the 9.5hr cut off, 6km with 60mins till the cut off, 4km…
Through the last drinks station.
Where the volunteers, absolutely golden, had hung around longer to make sure I had some supplies and to give me an extra cheer, along with my now officially equipped supporters club.
2km still shuffling.
1km out of the bush and a final “burst” across the causeway to the finish..
Ahh the finish….
I have so much to be thankful for, to everyone who has offered me support along this journey, I have always known, I have a wonderful bunch of crazy friends and family. Everything I have experienced on this wee adventure has just confirmed it.