Another Course Record at The Hillary

From Piha to Muriwai up the West Coast

From Piha to Muriwai up the West Coast

My 3rd and final race trail race this summer was The Hillary 34km from Piha to Muriwai up Auckland’s beautifully rugged west coast. These are my home trails and although I don’t run them all that frequently (since there are so many to choose from in the Auckland region!) there is a strong sense of nostalgia coming back to these trails in a race and revisiting the hills I learned to suffer on when I was younger. The finish, especially, delivers overwhelming nostalgia as I practically spent my youth at this beach.

The past month has been good for me, with an overload week at a training camp in Central Otago followed by 2 weeks back in the routine to deliver me to today’s performance. A massage at Sports Lab earlier in the week was also crucial to improving my mechanics as my back and hamstrings had tightened up big-time after my overload week. I’m a big fan of their work and looking forward to my next visit. I was open minded about my chances of tickling Andrius’ course record because I knew my form was good, but with no specific taper I could have just as easily been too tired to deliver on the day.

Lovely spot, but that’s not what I had on my mind at the time. Photo cred: James Kuegler

Lovely spot, but that’s not what I had on my mind at the time. Photo cred: James Kuegler

I chose the light and grippy Icebug Zeals again, my favourite shoes for longer races and firm but technical trail surfaces. I started this race, pre-soaked and with soft flasks for easy refilling at aid stations, determined not to dehydrate like last year. I started conservatively along Piha Beach, as I usually do at the start of a long race, and I kept my intensity dialled back up White Track out of Piha too. It was clear I was going faster than last year already and that no one was going to join me at the front so I knew from pretty early on that I was just going to have to wait until Bethells Beach to know what would become of me in the latter part of the race.

A very varied profile can make pacing a challenge

A very varied profile can make pacing a challenge

The 2nd and 3rd climbs in this race are steep ones on the Kuataika Track and I was sure to listen carefully to my body. I knew I felt good and wanted to push harder, but at the same time the memory of bonking so far from the finish last year was still quite raw, and I found a happy balance. My heart rate was also creeping up a bit higher than I expected and it’s hard to say how much of this was as a result of the heat and how much was from me running faster than expected. I knew I was up on the record and this was hard to not get excited about. I took the time to wet my face and head from streams where it was possible, and took on 1 litre of water at the Bethells Beach aid station on top of what I drank during my half minute there. 4:56 min/km was my pace up to this point

I was still feeling strong on the first hill of the Te Henga Walkway, but any excitement I had about been on a record breaking run was silenced as I struggled to maintain my bounce up the next climb out of O’Neill Bay. I felt like the record would slip from grasp for sure and I watched my average pace drift out with each short pinch, of which there are many on this aggressive section of trail!

The stunning Te Henga Walkway (on a previous run) suits and an aggressive runner, but not one who has started too hard

The stunning Te Henga Walkway (on a previous run) suits and an aggressive runner, but not one who has started too hard

The last climb on the Te Henga Walkway is a very steep set of stairs and I could feel my energy fading, despite taking 4 energy gels during the race. I took on more water at the aid station here, and stopped to stretch a few muscles which were cramping periodically – this is a technique that seems to work for me and I expect it has the effect of reducing the residual activation level of the muscles. This allowed me to use my calves a little more to improve my efficiency along the road towards Muriwai, but being unable to lift my pace faster than 4 mins/km was a little disappointing and I was constantly redoing the maths to predict if I was still below record pace …and I was!

At some stage, after feeling relatively relaxed for the first half of the race, I had really begun to suffer. I wasn’t sure when this started, but along road towards Muriwai I was really hurting. I was going slower than I should have for the effort I was putting in, but it was still enough to get down to the beach and to the finish in 2:44:54. I’m very happy with this time, and putting 3 minutes onto the race record was a confirmation of my recent improvements.

Stop the clock!

Stop the clock!

Once again, Icebug NZ and Sports Lab, stoked I could land the result for you guys! And special thanks for my parents for coming along for the day.

I now have 7 weeks of training with no long races to maximise consistency before my A-goal of Oceania Orienteering Champs.

Local race means Mum and Dad at the finish, and it was very cool to see them at half way too

Local race means Mum and Dad at the finish, and it was very cool to see them at half way too

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