Wednesday, March 31, 2010

OY1 - Huriwai

So yeah, the day after the Dual was the first OY (orienteer of the year) of the season and Huriwai was going to be good practice for the nationals as the terrain is probably the closest we've got to what I'll find down in central Otago - steep and rocky with big lines of cliffs and rock faces to navigate around. I wasn't going to miss it just because I'd done a big race the day before!

Looking up at some of the terrain from the event centre

I ended up doing course 2 which probably wasn't the best of ideas as it was steep and quite long but I'm a sucker for punishment. Technically it wasn't too hard but it was really hot and I was tired so it took me forever and I made some really stupid mistakes. Also I've got to get better at ignoring people 'cause I was behind Pip coming out of #8 and she did some wacky thing to the next control which completely threw me and I ended up following her before finally deciding that was a stupid move. Good thing too as met her on my way to #10 while she was still looking for #9.

Well, at least I still vaguely remember how to orienteer...let's hope it goes a little better at the nationals!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The DUAL Half Marathon

You have 4 options with The DUAL - you can do the 50km or 30km mountain bike races, the marathon or the half marathon and, obviously, I chose to do the half marathon. Again. You see, I did this race last year as well (although it had a slightly different start last time).

Just for an overview, here's the course profile with a total of 553 metres climb. Yep, pretty much as soon as you start you're heading straight up. There's no easing you into it!

Below is the course map for the race (click on the map to see it larger). Most of the sections on Rangitoto were on those narrow rocky tracks (scoria) so it's pretty lethal and you have to keep your wits about you at all times. The worst section starts around about the 12km mark and goes until you reach the causeway between the two islands. It's brutal.

I was still feeling a bit sick and really wasn't feeling like doing this race to be honest. Last year I'd had a terrible race and I really wanted to redo it to what I knew I was capable of. So I set a goal of a time to beat and entered again. But then I got asked to be in a team for the ARC race the weekend before and all training got focused into that so the last time I'd done a long run was nearly 6 weeks beforehand so I'd given up on my goal and decided just finishing it would be nice (get it over and done with!).

Sitting on the ferry to get to the event I was feeling pretty relaxed and prepared to chill out and walk and enjoy the scenery if I began to feel too sick (I was still feeling pretty gluggy in the throat when I ran). By this stage I couldn't care less! But from what I learnt last year, don't place yourself too far back in the field especially when the course starts with a hill 'cause passing people is frustrating. So I stood about 2 or 3 rows from the back (next to the eventual female winner as it turns out) which felt about right. No one set off that fast to be honest and I had to pass a few people as we reached the hill but I was taking it pretty easy and picked a girl just ahead of me to keep pace with. She was going a little slower than my natural speed but I wasn't in any hurry. I dropped her on the way down Motutapu anyway.

I picked up another guy at the base of Rangitoto amongst a pack of about 15 of us and kept with him until he slowed down about halfway up so I dropped him. People were starting to walk around me and I ended up in the front of this pack (it's funny watching people come tearing past you and then they slow right down not long after and you just plod on past). I remembered it was quite important to get in front of people before the rocky downhill section began so I didn't get trapped (as offroad is my strength). It was also going to be important to remember the worst section was still to come and to take it easy. I passed a few people on the way down hill and a couple of fast guys passed me (which was the last time anyone passed me apart from 2 guys sprinting on the way down to the finish which I passed on the way up the hill anyway).

Once nearly reaching the bottom I cracked open my chocolate powerbar gel and made myself have half of it (all whilst still running - I tucked the other half in my back pocket and washed it down with heaps of my electrolyte drink in my camelbak. This was all in preparation of the killer section. It wasn't long before I could feel it kicking in...they are awesome (as far as gels go).

The next section (it's around about 6km along the edge of Rangitoto on rough volcanic rock. No hills, just undulation and a hell of a lot of rock hopping) was where everything went wrong last year. I just died totally which was so frustrating because rock should have been my strength over the other runners. This year though I was wearing my awesome Inov-8 Flyroc 310s (mine are the old school version though with the hideous fluoro green inside) and I knew this section was the toughest so I was prepared. So prepared in fact that I passed over 20 people in this section (including the last female I ever saw out there at around the 14km mark). I just kept myself running, knowing that if I stopped there was not much chance of getting started again. If I tripped then I slowed down a little and drunk some more. The shoes were great and I never felt in danger of my ankles going under plus they grip to the rocks with ease which gives you a lot of confidence in your footing!

Once I'd got off the rock I forced down the last half of the powerbar gel in preparation for the final killer hill. Going back up Motutapu is definitely the hardest of the climbs. Rangitoto might be nearly twice as high but this hill keeps lulling you into thinking you've reached the top...but then there'll be another small uphill, and another, and another...until you wonder if you'll ever get there. By now there were definitely people walking and I could see them ahead of me. I was determined to keep running, no matter how slow. This ended up letting me pass at least another 5 or 6 guys which was cool.

Looking pretty cheerful and fresh for the 19km mark!

Once you do actually reach the top of the final incline though, the view is amazing and in that moment I wished I'd had my camera. I also felt a little teary 'cause I'd actually found myself totally enjoying the race (that smile in the photo above is all genuine believe it or not).

The hill down to the finish at Home Bay.

Then you're on your way down and feeling the pain in your feet (boy does the rock section hurt your feet) and it's all about staying upright. That hill goes on and on and you hit the final flat sprint section (maybe 200 metres?) at quite a speed. I was impressed with my sprint finish (and so was the guy just behind me who congratulated me once we'd both crossed the line)!

Look at the determination as I cross the line!

I finished in a time of 2 hours 22 minutes and 43 seconds which was just over 20 minutes faster than last year! I'm kind of interested in what kind of time I could have achieved had I not still felt sick, had a good night's sleep instead of staying up way too late and getting about 4 hours and, well, actually tried to get a good time. That's not to say I wasn't knackered at the end of the race but I definitely wasn't pushing it at any stage so I was thrilled with my time.

I don't think I want to do this race again in a hurry as twice is really enough (I can always head over to the island to run it again by myself anyway) but it's made me think a lot more about some of the other offroad races I've been wanting to do and how I am more than capable of doing quite well. I think so much of it comes down to the attitude I set out with. I definitely perform better when I'm more relaxed about it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ARC Operation Blue Moon

Every adventure race is a little bit different which is part of the attraction but they all have the same basic elements - navigation involving trekking, mountain biking and some kind of water activity (normally kayaking but I haven't got that far yet). Then there are normally some kind of twists or mystery activities which will help you get more points. The thing to remember is there is no set course with markers and people telling you where to go...that's half the fun 'cause it's up to you to work out the best way round each section.

After surviving the 15 hours of Calamity and Cambridge together earlier in the year, Owen and I thought we'd have a go at tacking the ARC (Adventure Racing Coromandel) 8-hour (we'd do longer but, as I said before, I'm only starting out on the time for sure!) Operation Blue Moon adventure race based out of Whitianga. Unfortunately I'd developed a cold during the week so wasn't exactly feeling crash hot or very fit. Oh well, I'm not one to give up.

The night before the race we had a briefing in the local town hall where they went over the basics and gave us a quick rundown on the activities involved in each section. As an 8-hour team, we were also given 4 long planks of wood, 2 inner tubes, 10 metres of rope and 2 paddles to build a raft by the start the following morning. No maps at this stage. We were informed that you would only receive the maps for each leg once you'd finished the one before. So we stayed up late putting together our rafts and sorting out our gear for our transition boxes.

Start time was 8am. Leg 1 - paddle your raft up the estuary, under the bridge and out into the sea round the marker and back in again. Sounds easy right? Well first we had no idea if our raft was even going to work and secondly, paddling those rafts was a hell of a lot harder than anyone anticipated. I don't think I got my heart rate up anywhere near where it went during this leg! It wasn't long but oh man was it tough!

The was a little crazy with the 24 hour guys setting off in their kayaks and us setting off in our rafts all at the same time.

Leg 2 - mountain bike UP then portage through the jungle then bike DOWN then attempt Operation Blue Moon then bike to the rifle range and fire a few rounds then bike to the transition area for the first dive. I was actually quite relieved to be on my bike after the rafts and the route looked fairly easy (but steep). We biked up through the farmland and bush tracks for quite some distance before finally making it to the forestry road at the top (or at least we thought this was the end of the climb). Coming down the gravel road was a little hair-raising and we nearly missed the narrow track leading into the bush where we had to push our bikes up and up and up and up. At this point I got a bit feverish but there was nothing I could do but keep pressing onwards so it didn't seem much point to stress about it. I was so thankful to get out of that section and the breeze on the way down the hill revitalised me a bit.

So then we came to Operation Blue Moon...paint ball! You had to get your team through the course in 7 minutes without getting hit by a snipper (you got bonus points for taking out a sniper on the way through). Definitely didn't help being a team of 2 and we both got trapped in some of the trenches and eventually taken out by the snipers. Damn, those paintballs leave some wicked bruises!

Operation Blue Moon - Paint ball...we got inilated!

The rifle shooting on the other hand, well I was a natural! Never fired a gun in my life but I was totally buzzing after that (and hitting all my targets bang on). When we finally got to the transition area I was still buzzing! At transition there was a river dive to retrieve a coin inside a basket. Only one of us had to do this and since I was sick Owen offered up his services. Easy as he said. Afterwards we found out there were eels down there and it seemed most people encountered them but Owen said he never saw anything!

Mystery Activity 1 - the eel dive...but Owen didn't encounter any eels when he went down.

At transition we changed shoes, refilled camelbaks, downed some food (we'd been eating something every hour as well) and set off on foot for the next leg.

Leg 3 - trekking, river bashing and a waterfall dive. We set out jogging but it didn't last too long once we got into the first river and then up into the bush in search of an old mine where we had to pull out our headlamps to find the checkpoint. The mine was cool - like a narrow, rocky tunnel under the ground! Then it was back down and up the river on the other side which was a lot wider. It was a pretty long trek up through the river and at one point Owen ended up chest deep. I managed to miss the hole he'd ended up in so only got waist deep. Let's just say the water was very cold. Once we finally found the waterfall Owen dived again (made sense since he was way wetter than me already) but didn't find anything. So after much debate he tried the other pool much higher up (getting up that wet rock was interesting). Still nothing. At this point we were with a couple of other teams and they hadn't found anything either. I'd packed some goggles so Owen gave it another go and finally, success! It was a bit of a drag back down the river to the transition area and I was quite glad to be on dry land again.

River bashing.

Leg 4 - mountain bike to the channel where you swim your bike across the water then bike back to the event centre. So yeah, we had to get back onto our bikes (changing into bike shoes and dry socks as well as packing our rope) and make our way to the channel. Roping the bike (plus my pack and shoes) to the inner tube provided wasn't too hard but actually getting the bike down the ramp into the water was a little trickier! There was quite a current in the channel which made it interesting but it was actually easier than I anticipated. Of course, getting out on the other side was a different story. By then you were cold and there was a bit of a breeze. Once back on the bike it felt like my legs were too frozen to pedal.

The portage across the channel.

We made good time back to the event centre (picking up a few checkpoints along the way). It was almost tempting to finish about now but there was still one more leg to go.

Leg 5 - bike over to the next bay then make your way round the coast (coasteering) and up into the hills then back down. Jump back on the bike and make your way to the finish. The hill over to the next bay wasn't really that bad considering what we'd already encountered but when you're feeling tired you feel every bit of incline there is. Tearing down the other side though is good fun! We had to keep our helmets on for the trekking section as we scrambled round the rock (there was some serious rock climbing and parts where we had to jump into the sea and swim, trying not to let the swell smash you back into the rocks). We couldn't find the first checkpoint but it turned out it had been washed away by the surf. Once off the coast it was up into the hills where Owen and I picked up some speed and got ahead of the teams that had been with us. It felt so good to be running despite the fact I was feeling sick.

Once back on the bikes we just powered our way to the finish as fast as we could...which wasn't very fast! It was a pretty cool feeling to finish and Rob and Marquita were there to cheer us on which was cool. 9 hours. Yay!

Owen and I at the finish...and it's still daylight!

On reflection it was probably the best adventure race I've done so far...heaps of fun with cool activities and none of the legs were too long so you got heaps of variation. Plus the coasteering and rifle shooting were awesome. But we both agreed that the navigation was too easy (we are orienteers after all) and we wanted it to be longer which means I have to get cracking on learning to kayak so we can enter the longer races. We'll be back.