Start: nr Upper Mangatawhiri Dam (670.5km)
Finish: nr Huntly (738km)
Distance for the day: 67.5km
Cumulative distance: 738km
Today was hard (I might as well leave that opening sentence in every day). The trail well and truly had me on my knees today (well, hands on knees, bent double), mainly because of dehydration, but also a bit of frustration from the underfoot conditions. More on that later.
The important thing is, I have another 67km in the bank and I remain firmly on track.
I set off in good spirits after a very peaceful overnight stay in the heart of the Hununa Ranges. The initial section was tough; another steep forest climb up to a ridge, following the ridge for a good hour – up and down, meandering around - and then a steep descent. Forest running is never fast on the Te Araroa; tree roots and general density of the undergrowth dictates that. The vines were particularly troublesome today, and they really do get in the way, don’t budge and certainly don’t break when you catch one with a foot. Anyway, I remained patient and negotiated that tough initial section within about 3 and a half hours.
The remainder of the day involved running across the plains on the flat where I hoped to catch time and distance up after my slow start, but the running was far from straight forward. On the Te Araroa trail, fields often mean cattle and cattle often mean rutted tracks/ fields; particularly challenging when the ruts are baked hard from the sun and are therefore very unforgiving. My feet certainly weren’t loving the ruts, and I was more than frustrated on several occasions.
|Riverbank running with Mark - down the Waikato River|
I had 30km under the belt by lunchtime (sausage pasta and milkshake), and remained positive about a fast and high mileage afternoon. Errr, no. Mark joined me a few kilometers into the afternoon session, starting from where the route hugs the shoulder of Highway 1 - not the nicest section of running but needs must - but then we were straight into long stretches of chest high grass and rutted tracks. Despite taking on plenty of fluids at lunch, I was feeling parched within an hour or so, our pace was desperately slow and the temperature/ humidity high. There was no access point for the support guys to get to us quickly, so we were forced to grind it out before getting the cold fizzy drink I desperately craved. Through a combination of frustration from the difficult terrain and dehydration, I had some pretty low moments on that stretch, and if Mark hadn’t been alongside, I suspect I would have been very emotional. He certainly witnessed some challenging Te Araroa terrain, and me going through my biggest low spell yet.
|Re-hydrating after my rough spell|
These lows are inevitable with a challenge like this, so the important thing is to control and manage the ‘moments’ as best as possible. Easier said than done when you’re feeling so low. Once we had made it back to the meeting place/ motorhome I was soon back together after some load of sugar-loaded drinks and rehydration powder, and feeling ready to go again for the final section. It was a 7.30pm finish in the end, but I certainly with a positive feeling after negotiating all the challenges the trail threw at me today.
Is it really three days for Christmas….? Well Christmas has now come to the van courtesy of James – I will get him to post some photos tomorrow.
A few people have asked about the kit I’ve been carrying. My approach is obviously fast and light, particularly given that I have a crew to meet me several times a day, but despite that there is a huge amount of remote terrain so basic safety equipment is vital. Below is a quick shot of my daypack and setup with the contents listed:
- TNF pack vest
- Compressport quad and calf guards. Particularly good for leg protection in long grass/ overgrowth/ forests.
- TNF Strormy Trail FL jacket
- Garmin Oregon 450t GPS
- Paper maps and compass
- Petzl emergency head torch
- Waterproof matches
- Steri pen
- Visor and shades
- L/S baselayer
- Garmin Fenix watch
- Drinks powers
- iPhone and SPOT tracking device
- Emergency bivvy bag