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Sunday, 23 October 2011

From Trails to Champions

Labour Weekend came at just the right time. Rugby World Cup finals weekend, and also the end of a second semester of Engineering. Perfect chance to get out of the big smoke, and no better way to celebrate that than with a smorgasbord of trail running in the off-road mecca that is Rotovegas! I drove down with hilarious Australian side-kick Matt Meckenstock, but only after playing cat & mouse to find him on K road amongst a sea of Welsh & Australian fans - Matt was more worried about putting the Welsh in their place and making them wish they were in yellow!

The gang: Ruby, Matt, Bryan, Me, Malcolm, Kristian, Paul, Kerry, Jo, Sarah
 Photo: RunningWildNZ
Saturday began with a 13km jaunt through the Whakarewarewa forest with Kristian Day, Ruby Muir, Matt Meckenstock, Timothy Burrell, and the efficiently late-arriving Kerry Suter. A stirling line-up to say the least. As we emerged from the Redwoods, Green Lake appeared in true Rotorua turquoise blue with the rich accompanying aromas that we all know and love. At the end of the plush lake-side trail we met with Paul Charteris' band of old-hands to the trail game. 

Sublime running alongside Okataina
We were here to celebrate Paul's birthday, from here we would guide us on an exclusive tour of the new trail section for the future Tarawera Ultramarathon 100-miler. The Tarawera race is Paul's brainchild, and is rapidly becoming one of the must-do 100km runs in New Zealand. As if 100km wasn't enough, a new 100miler event will start at Tarawera outlet at dusk, and take the trail warriors over the mighty Mount Tarawera through the night to the Redwoods where they continue the centurion onwards to Kawerau! Sign me up, did you say?
Downhill carves its way down the gulley
The new trail was excellent. There's nothing much better than running virgin trail - untouched, untamed, and all the while unknown - what is around the next corner? Time to find out. We blissfully ignored the "DO NOT PROCEED - TRACK IN CONSTRUCTION"... signs, to later find that at one point the cliff-side was completely washed out. We realised why we'd brought the resourceful Kerry Suter - from his bulging pack he unravelled a length of rope, quite useful for an abseil...
Kerry makes the abseil look easy. Photo: RunningWildNZ
A little yonder we discovered a cool spring, gushing straight from the earth. Purest water in NZ in my opinion, bar Nelson. Nelson has the best water in NZ.

Relaxing at the springs. Photo: RunningWildNZ
After a goat-worthy uphill grunt and screaming downhill with Kerry chasing at my heels, Hot Water beach arrived in view. Here Kerry is checking the map. Something doesn't seem quite right. I, meanwhile, plunged in  without hesitation...

"Hmmm the trail seems to have ended. Better check the map"
At the end of the 31km we indulged in some post-run whiskey and mallow-puffs at Hot Water Beach. To equalise our core temperatures we stood in the rain while scolding our feet in the squalls of boiling water floating in with the tide. Kristian was so knocked out from the festivities that he decided he wasn't up for the return journey, and instead we opted for the boat cruise home...
Proud to be a Kiwi on a weekend like no other

Paul breaks out his Poi Poi skills
We spent the afternoon at Paul's sipping on cool beverages, and eating junk food like every good trail runner should do. Mexican was the menu for the evening, and with that the beefiest-bean-burritos in town! When the sun gave the Northern hemisphere a chance to hit the trails, Paul and Kate Townsley exhibited their glowing Poi-Poi and Fire ball skills for a spectacular display.

Sunday dawned a new day, and we took advantage with another trail run based from Lake Rotoiti. We ventured along more virgin trail up a meaty uphill, shaking loose the bonds from the previous night, and sending us whooping down the most sensational down-hill sections of the weekend. The photo below is a close representation of the adrenaline-flowing, eye-watering action as we approached terminal cadence. 
Blitzing through plush trail
Once we'd recovered from that buzz, we found ourselves in a clearing - a forest ampitheatre - where our calls of TAAA- RAAA- WERAAA echoed for miles around. 

Gazing out over Lake Okataina
From Okataina we were treated to more glorious lake-side running towards Humphries Bay. At one stage our enthusiasm was too much for a young family out tramping, as we flew past on one tight corner. "Sorry!"
Kristian and Ruby pacing along to Humphries Bay
Running with All Blacks flag flapping proudly
Returning around the western side of Lake Okataina was a tough ordeal. The legs were now feeling the toll of two long runs back to back, and an insatiable was too much even for Al's Powerbars, the energy-packed bars fell helplessly into a pit of endless hunger. Matt Meckenstock was feeling it too. Kristian Day and Ruby Muir meanwhile were flying ahead on their Leppin & Plum lined stomachs. Millar Road did eventually materialise, and with it a bunch of grapes - swallowed whole.
Lake Okataina
After the almighty effort, we didn't waste time driving back to Auckland just in time to witness the All Blacks become World Champions against the threatening Fran├žais... From Trails - to Champions.
Champions of the WORLD
photo: http://www.ruggaworld.com/

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