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Racing The Taniwha, Tussock Traverse & Huka X-Stream Swim
The Taniwha was the first race since the Mount Tauhura Half Marathon over winter, which put me out of action for six weeks due to a bad case of bronchitis which resulted in two fractured ribs. After recovering and slowly getting back into my rafting and running training I thought a 14km race will be a great way to get back into the swing of racing.
By Rafting New Zealand athlete Adrien Butler
This was the first time the Taniwha event had been held. There was mountain biking and trail running ranging from 7 to 58km distances. After an early morning and cool start to get to Mangakino where the event was being held the 200 participants were bused to the starting point. The run was fairly straight forward just a cruisy 14km of rolling track to the finish line. However the day got extremely hot and I felt myself tiring and really thirsty at the 10km mark, the drink stations felt few and far between.
I finished in an hour and 30 minutes and went straight to find some shade and water (shortly followed by a complimentary Speights - event sponsor). The finish line was wicked... as you ran through the last part of the course a commentator cheered you onto the finish line with your name and where you had come from for the race, spot prizes were being handed out as participants crossed the line and there was a crowd of support crews and race entrants.
My next event was going to be the Tussock Traverse in February and I had a couple of months to train. However over the 3 months between races Rafting New Zealand was opening the new shop in Taupo, Whitewater World, and what a hectic time of year this was. A found myself quite busy and training for the 28km mountain run was always going to start “tomorrow”. Well needless to say the race turned up faster than “tomorrow” and with only a few big runs under my belt in the last couple of months I heading out to the Tongariro National Park on the big day with a “lets just give it a go” attitude.
The Tussock Traverse is 28km run over a pass between Mount Ruapehu and Mount Tongariro, the total elevation of the race was over 500m. Because of my lack of training I knew I would not be breaking any records or achieving any personal bests however I did set myself a goal of running the whole distance, I knew this was something I could achieve in that distance. However I totally underestimated the terrain of the track and I had to break my own goal of not walking in the first km of the race.
The start was a crazy shist, gravel uphill run for 3km’s with over 200 runners stumbling over rocks and kicking up dust and trying to break past other runners on the narrow path, I gave into my screaming calves and pulled over to the walkers side to let other runners pass. I thought I would run harder in the “flatter” parts of the course to make up time. Oh how mistaken I was...the track never flattened out!
Once I was up the climb though, I set into a good pace passing over dry river beds and valleys. The first 15km were the most brutal, there was no shade or even a slight breeze to cool down and the dust that was kicked up by the lead pack was inhaled by the rest of us. However the view was breathtaking with Mt Ruapehu on your left and Tongariro on your right it felt like you were in the middle of nowhere.
This race was so remote that there were no drink station so each participant needed to carry all their own fluids and foods. The first 18 km’s passed quickly and I felt I was making good time however at the 20 km mark my body broke down and my lack of training really hit home. My calves began to cramp up and I had to slow my pace down to a very slow jog, then to a walk...
With only 8 kms to go I was lying on the side of the track with a complete stranger holding my leg up trying to stretching out a cramp that had my calf muscle contracting all the way up to the back of my knee. It was extremely painful to say the least and I took every cramp remedy I was offered by other racers. After about 3 km of walking off the cramp I began to jog out of the Tama Lakes and through the Taranaki Falls. This felt like the longest 3km’s I had ever run and I saw I was not the only one suffering as many of the races were limping and stretching on the side of the track.
Finally I reached the finish line at Tongariro Chateau and sat down while a race volunteer removed my race tracker from my shoe. I didn’t realise until that point that I was holding back tears but
I was glad that they waited until I had finished the race to come. I think the tears were a mixture of pain, emotion and exhaustion but i felt better afterwards.
I didn’t get very far after the race, I grabbed a couple of drinks from the drink station and moved 3 metres to a table which I crawled underneath (it was the only shade available) and didn’t move for 30 minutes.
This race was the toughest run I had done yet and I left thinking I would never do it again but after a few days the pain had gone and I was out training for the next one. Lesson learnt though, preparation is ESSENTIAL!
Huka X-Stream Swim
Since Whitewater World has opened in Taupo we had the pleasure of sponsoring a great variety of local events. One of these was the Huka XStream Swim. The swim consists of over 100 swimmers from all over the North Island racing 3.5km down the Waikato River above Huka Falls. Whitewater world donated a bunch of free virtual and real rafting experiences for spot prizes and in return Pete from Huka XStream Swim offered me a free entry into the race. Although I hadn’t competed in a swimming event since my teenage years I knew how rivers worked and thought it would be a fun event.
The river was at the lowest flow it had been in years, 90 cumecs which meant the race would be slower and harder to navigate through to the fast flow and not get caught in the upstream eddies. The start of the race was chaotic with the fast swimmers pushing to the front and arms, legs and rocks everywhere. As everyone found their place in the line of swimmers it was easier to get into a rhythm. The great thing about swimming in the rivers is you had to be constantly switched on and you could feel when you were in the fastest flow and when you were fighting upstream flow, the race was very dynamic.
I was surprised when I reached the finish line, I felt like I could keep swimming! I finished in 32nd with a time of 41 minutes. All the racers were great bunch of people and the end atmosphere was really encouraging.
I now close to my next race which will be the T42, a 26 km race on the famous 42 Traverse track. I’m hoping to be well prepared for this race and have been training in preparation. Lets hope it shows in my time.