4 hours and 19 minutes of pain, second guessing and self discovery! That is the best way I can use to explain the second half of the Wellington Urban Ultra Marathon!
But don’t get me wrong, no matter how painful it was I loved every minute! I woke up that morning at 5am, probably due to the excitement of the fact I was about to finally run at WUU2K. I feel like it was forever ago that I registered as part of team ‘Why not?’ and started training on the hills of Wellington. I looked outside around 7.45am (when the ultra and marathon runners were well underway) I was so happy to see the sun shining and the day perfectly calm. With the inconsistent weather recently it was going to be touch and go on what the day would look like, especially considering Sunday morning treated us to torrential rain, a display of lightning and rolling thunder, but whatever the organizers sacrificed to the Ultra gods on Friday night it certainly worked!
I got to the Brooklyn wind turbine at approximately 10.30am after getting a txt from my teammate to say she was at the 23km mark. This was still a little early so already full of energy and going a little stir crazy at home I decided to head to the start line so I could at least cheer a few people on. Its a strange feeling not having a pre 7am start time on race day! When I got there it was a hive of activity with plenty of supporters cheering runners on as they came past and around 45 minutes later I saw my relay partner appear at the top of the hill and run down towards us.
After a few minutes of me delayering (its the middle of winter here so I can assure you it was cold!) and swapping the ankle monitor over to me it was time to get going so off I jogged towards the Barking Emu trail and started on my half of the race. I started out feeling good, if not a little hot out of the wind. This was pretty much the only trail I hadn’t trained on and only a few kms of the race. It was a single trail and not particularly hard just consistent undulation. It was here where I started passing a few other runners who to be fair had already run 30km!
I made it to the top of tip track in good time and started on towards red rocks, this is one of my favorite circuits to train on, with a clear day you can see for miles across the cook strait and also across the other side of Wellington. Definitely some of the best views of the race. I managed to keep up a good pace while trying to be careful on the uneven ground (I sprained my ankle the Sunday before the race so I was concerned about going over on it again) and made it down to the beach at red rocks where we were treated to a wicked northerly to run into. Never the less I could see the carpark in the distance, then before I knew it I was at the end of the beach and was waved down by a marshal and directed towards the aid station. At this point I checked my vest and still had plenty of tailwind so grabbed a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and started the run towards Owhiro Bay road and, gulp, tip track!
Now for the those who don’t know what Tip Track is, trust me when I say you don’t want to! I am fairly sure they put it on the course just to torture us. That theory was proven by seeing people dressed as devils on the way up and ultimately when you get to the top Death was standing there ready to take us, the only thing is at that point your already in Hell. I got a small moment of relief when I passed my work colleague who was running the marathon so naturally I stopped for a quick chat, wished her a happy birthday (yes this is actually how she spent her birthday) and went on my way again.
After slogging it up Tip Track I gave the marshals my race number, greeted death like an old friend (I wasn’t joking when I said he was at the top) turned around and started my decent. Normally I take the downhill at full speed so struggled a little to hold myself back here but again still had concern for my strapped up ankle! At this point I was over half way through my part of the race and I knew the next half like the back of my hand (except for a small part of Tawatawa reserve), I just knew I could finish. So after gently making my way down tip track (again stopped about half way for a quick chat with a friend who was doing the Ultra) I got to the bottom and the Tawatawa reserve aid station at about 2 hours 20mins which was right when I expected to.
I stopped here to regroup my thoughts and have a moment to down some nutrition and crampfix before continuing, I knew I still had two big hills to go so after a few minutes started making my way up the first big hill at Tawatawa reserve. This bit was pretty uneventful after the first up and down its mostly just an easy undulating run towards Mt Albert, this is the bit I got confused on at training and could never seem to come out at the soccer fields, magically I found it this time thanks to a well marked course. After shuffling across the soccer field I crossed the road with the marshal and started up Mt Albert. I think the only thing that gets me through this part is just knowing I only had around 6ish kms to go and once I make it to the top of here i’m so close, so close to the finish line I could taste it but yet it still feels so far away!
I put my head down and got myself to the top of Mt Albert then found a burst of energy as I started on the downhill towards Wellington Zoo, from there the track goes across Melrose Park, past the zoo fence line (got asked by a passerby if I was doing that crazy mountain run, I said yes and he just shook his head in disbelief) and finally then on the straight along the Southern walkway across Newtown, up the trails past Alexandra road, past the Velodrome and up the zig zag track to Mt Vic. After coming off the zig zag track ( I swear it was longer than usual!) I was reassured by another marshal that I was almost there. I was and I could almost see the top of Mt Victoria behind the trees, I jogged up the hill and I was happy to see a crowd of people and the finish line beyond them all. So with a smile on my face I picked back up to a run and finally cross the finish line in a time of 4:19:45. Got my finishers medal and timing chip removed and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I had done it, I had traveled 31.58km (currently my longest distance and by far the hardest run I’ve done) and ascended 1212m of elevation. So after catching up with a few people at the finish it was time to go home, chill and drink that beer my flatmate had waiting in the fridge!
Well done to everyone who raced this years WUU2K and big ups to the race organizers, your all superstars! Cant wait to get back out on one of the longer courses next year!