The Hillary 34km has been a race that I have been looking forward to for some time now. Racing in my own local training ground against the best local and some international trail runners has always been a very cool idea to me. Today’s 34km race definitely didn’t go to plan, which was initially disappointing, but these emotions and energy can be used to generate fire and determination for the next race.
I sussed the course in long runs over the past few weeks, and so knew what times I had to do on different sections of the course. From training in the Waitakere Ranges most weekends for years I knew what paces I was capable of both at a relaxed pace and at race pace from my sub-threshold training. So I was feeling pretty comfortable going into the race. I chose to race in my Icebug Zeals, light but just enough support to protect my feet on the gravel and downhill sections, and of course traction was never going to be a problem with these bad boys!
I felt fine at the start, setting a good pace along the beach and onto the trails for the first hill, a solid climb out of Piha Valley. I chose to hold back slightly here and left Aussie Daniel Green to create a small gap back to Andrius Ramonas and myself. I came over the top of the climb feeling as expected and in control. Andrius looked in control and slowly edged away from me on the steep hills of Kuataika Track, where again I chose to pace myself a little slower on the up hills, intending to catch him on the technical descent down to Lake Wainamu. This is where I began to falter slightly as I realised I didn’t have any kick on the flat patches, but I was still moving at a good speed, just not great. I was relieved to have the flat section around the lake, but I could feel my usual strength was not there on the climbs.
The Te Henga Walkway from Bethells to Muriwai was an absolute killer for me. I was weak on the first hill and here I re-accessed the strategy. A change to from race mode to survival mode was in order. I last had to bust out survival mode on a 42km trail run in Rotorua where we ran out of food and water half way. I never expected I would be struggling so much today! I gradually got slower and slower, resulting in a lot of walking and Aussie Majell Baukhausen came past me with 5km to go. I averaged 6min/km for the last 5km which was all downhill and should have been blazingly fast, but not this time.
I can’t explain how relieved I was to finish! I was absolutely rekt! Which in a crazy way makes it all the more powerful thinking back on it. I survived! A quick comparison on Strava shows that I ran Te Henga Walkway at a very comfortable intensity last weekend 7 minutes faster than I could manage today. What the heck happened?!
Huge congrats to Andrius for taking the win and setting a record that will be hard to beat. He caught Daniel and put 9 minutes into him in the last section of the race – really impressive. I definitely have unfinished business with this race, and will be ready to get my vengeance on this course next year!