Monday, June 01, 2009

Pip Goes Trail Running in Arctic Wellington

Epic.  There is only one word that will do it.  Today's run was epic.  

I'm not ashamed to say that I was dragged kicking, screaming and weeping into today's run.  Jo rang at 10am when I was still in bed and I did NOT want to say yes. I wanted to stay in bed.  I wanted to be warm and fed and lazy and snuggled up with husband and cats.  So why did I say yes?  Because I am insane, a masochist, stupid.  You choose!  

So it was that I hauled myself out of bed, ate porridge, cooked and ate some kumara soup, and at 12.20 I shivered as I changed out of my nice, warm house clothes into running gear.  It was 9 degrees in the hallway.  What the heck was I doing?  By 1pm I was in the Karori recreation centre car park debating layers and donning my fuel belt.  To my surprise it wasn't as cold in Karori as I'd expected.  I'd thought the Southerly would be howling through the Western suburb.  I'd planned on wearing gloves and my merino jacket, but ditched the merino for my wind parker and decided the gloves would be excessive.  

Jo arrived and we set out on an adventure.  Today's run could be classed as an adventure because I had no clue where we were running and Jo sortof knew.  She had a (slightly inadequate) map.  That was good enough for me.  We started out aiming for Johnsons Hill.  This was probably the weakest part of the run for me.  It was steep and extremely muddy and I walked more than I would really want to admit.  

It was very windy and cold at the top but we stopped for a few moments to admire the view.  We continued along the skyline track where it only got muddier.  We had to divert from the trail a few times to get around cows reclining on the grass.  The same cows had really eaten up the track, leaving thick mud in their wake.  I wouldn't really count this first part of the run as running.  It was more a case of shuffling forwards trying not to wind up face down in cow effluent.  Surprisingly, despite a few close calls, neither Jo nor I ever hit the dirt.  

I've never run the skyline track before, though I'd heard a lot about it. The views are truly stunning, particularly of the new wind farm - a forest of elegant wind turbines in the distance.  The West wind development has been very controversial, as these things always are.  I sympathise with the Makara residents who feel they are being invaded, but I land firmly in the pro-turbine camp and find them extremely beautiful. Beyond the farm was the Sounds.  We could see that they were bathed in sunshine.  They seemed like a good place to be. 

The trail became increasingly exposed as we headed towards Makara Peak.  The trail continued to be extremely slippery, but thankfully never as muddy as that first stretch.  At times the wind caught me and threatened to send me flying, but I remained upright, which, given my lack of coordination, is a miracle.  

When we reached Makara Rd I have to admit that I looked wistfully in the direction of Karori, knowing how close I was to being back in my warm car.  Jo had other ideas however, and I was, by this point, in enough of a mood for an adventure to keep going.  We set off towards Makara Peak.  Cue another steep stretch of trails and switchbacks. but this time I managed to run nearly all of it.  

The top of Makara Peak was distinctly eerie, with the wind blowing through the transmitters creating a loud sound not unlike the signals being transmitted escaping and becoming audible.  The discordant noise followed us as we once again began to descend and were picked up by the looming power pylons.  In theory we were entering a more sheltered stretch of trail, but this wasn't reflected in my experience of rounding a corner and being thrown into the bank to my right as I got hit by a particularly enthusiastic gust.  

More mud, more down.  A little undulation. We stopped periodically to consult Jo's map and to step aside for the few mountain bikers brave enough to be out.  I was painfully aware of the Vorb message forum discussions in which runners on the Makara Peak trails are referred to in less than favourable terms.  However the cyclists we encountered were all friendly and thanked us for diving off the trail each time we encountered them.  

It became clear at some point that we were heading more for Jo's target of 2.5 hours than mine of 1 hour 45.  Jo was extremely apologetic but I was having too much fun to be worried.  It was only towards the end of the run, when we had about six kilometres to go, that I started to feel a bit over it.  I probably hadn't taken on enough fuel. I'd sipped on perhaps 250 mls of Nuun and had swallowed a couple of lollies, but the strain of running on new trails and the challenging weather conditions meant that I could probably have done with a few more calories.  I downed a gel and that helped me pull myself together for the home stretch.  

Before too long we were out of the trails and running along South Karori Rd.  I knew that we now had a couple of kilometres of uphill to go.  It may have been the gel, but I set upon a good, solid plod and sucked it up and got it done.  We even kicked it for the last 400 metres or so.  I reflected on the fact that I had in fact felt pretty strong for most of the run. The first bit up Johnson Hill had bitten hard, but most of that had been psychological.  

We ended up running for about 2.20, and it was all up a fantastic run.  It was cold, it was windy and it was muddy.  We were running in a very remote and exposed location and I realised belatedly that I'd left my phone behind, which could have meant trouble if either of us had wiped out and injured ourselves.  It was however also insanely beautiful and it made me grateful to be living here in Wellington and that I'm fit enough to be able to even attempt what I got done today.  Jo took me well out of my comfort zone, for which I'm extremely grateful.  I made it home with dried mud up my legs and dived straight into the best warm shower ever.  

I'm now sitting here with a duvet and a cider on the sofa feeling smug and happy, and a little dubious about getting up tomorrow morning for a 6.30am RPM class!


Chris AUld said...

Cool report. You've made me jealous.

My Sat and Sun runs/walks are always up and around Johnstons hill and the like. Instead I'm in Asia for the next fortnight sans bike and sans anywhere nice to run.

I'd give anything for cool weather and the chance to get outside right now.

Sass said...

Argh that sounds JUST like the kind of adventure run I love!! Maybe not in these kind of temps though;p I've also never run that part of the Skyline before so would be keen to do it once the better weather returns;p

Kate said...

Nice work! That's exactly what we failed to do on Sunday!

SUB6 said...

Sounds like a great adventure! :) Well done for not saying NO to the run.

Calyx Meredith said...

Remind me to visit Wellington in December - not June!!! Great job on the run chica. I'm not sure the vistas would be worth it for me, but sounds like you did a bang up job.

Pip said...

Actually Calyx, you probably want to wait until around February. The temperatures might have stabilised by then and hopefully the winds will have died down. The weather here is a fickle mistress! Today we had spectacular blue cloudless skies and almost no wind, but boy was it COLD!

cath said...

sounds like such a good's all about getting out of the front door aye..oh and the merino layers etc....i find a neck warmer does wonders too...