With GODZone on the horizon,
I thought it was time to do a few warm-up runs. Looking through my work rota, my only weekend off in January luckily coincided with the Jumbo-Holdsworth trail race, a 24 km run in the Tararuas. When I arrived in Wellington a few people informed me that if I wanted proper mountains I should have moved to South Island, they obviously haven’t left the city much; the Tararuas are a bunch of steep sided mountains an hour or so from welly [sic] that max out at 1570 m and apart from the peaks above 1000 m are covered in super-dense scrubby-bush-forest.
A few weeks before the race I had been on a little Tararuan adventure which saw me run about 30 km with 2000 m climb, leaving me pretty spent, dehydrated and needing to trespass through a few farms and cross a substantial river to get back to the station in time for the last train back to welly (fortunately Wayne and Tina, a nice couple with a penchant for singing country music, gave me a lift to a different station, preventing me drowning/being shot). My other Tararuan experience was flying over them the following day in the retrieval chopper to pick a patient up from one of the smaller hospitals in the region, where on recounting my previous day’s escapade I was berated by the pilot for not having a “beacon” and told about the two bodies they had picked up from the Tararuas within the last week. It would seem that one does not simply ‘run’ in the Tararuas.
Back to the race:
To make the race more fun and more GODZone-like, I was working two fourteen hour long days the thursday and friday beforehand, which once I had walked home realistically gave me five hours sleep the night before. For some extra GODZone prep*, I slept on the floor of my bathroom with the shower on cold while dreaming of mud…
After waking up multiple times to check the shower was really on it’s coldest setting, at 0445h my alarm finally went off and I prepped a road-coffee I was on my way out of welly, desperately trying to remember how to drive and not crash my friend’s car. Once I had got the classic “Oh wait maybe I should have removed the handbrake 5 k ago” moment out of the way, it was plain sailing up to a drizzly, dank Mt Holdsworth camping ground.
The race proper got underway at a surprisingly high pace with the front of the pack sprinting to get to the first bridge crossing 500 metres in. While most runners (including myself) politely queued to cross using the bridge, a couple of loose cannons (not your average clergy) seemingly not happy with running half the race with wet feet, chose to ‘route-one it’ though the river. Much to the delight of the bridge snobs, the age-old idiom: ‘route-one is never fun’ held true.
The course map (from TrailRacesNZ) with some added annotations
Having briefly looked at the course map before the start, I knew I had about 7 km of flattish but potentially stealthily-undulating running up the river valley before the savage climb up to Jumbo hut. My suspicions were correct and the first 7 k were not as flat as I had hoped and unexpectedly left me feeling a little seasick after bouncing across four or five swing bridges! The river trail was your standard, well trodden, motorway path, a stark contrast to what greeted us as soon as we turned left to start the climb to Jumbo: more slippery rocks than you could shake a stick at with added root cobwebs sprawled over the steep face, poised ready to ensnare poor unsuspecting fell runners.
Jumbo hut came and went after what felt like an eternity on the treadmill of slippy roots with the occasional distraction of trying to quaff my banana without covering it in mud. The climbing however continued further up to Jumbo Peak, now in tussocky alpine terrain with visibility similar to that experienced when swimming with goggles full of water.
Having been climbing to Jumbo in a small group of four, by the time I reached the peak the other three had slowed slightly leaving me on my own to play ‘I spy the next maker post’ in the mist while attempting not to slip off the rather exposed ridgeline. The run along the ridge from Jumbo peak to Mount Holdsworth and then to Powell hut was definitely the most enjoyable section of the race even accounting for falling in a child sized pit at one point. The mist was clearing to provide spectacular glimpses of the deep valleys either side of the ridge and a few technical downhill sections allowed me to catch and pass some presumably road runners. By the time I reached Powell hut 15 km in, with the help of the earlier banana and a smack-pit of jelly-snakes** my legs still hadn’t disintegrated (come at me sports nutrition), so I pushed on downhill towards the finish.
After a couple of kilometres of running down a flight of steps every ten metres, my legs were ready to stop; unfortunately they still had 6 km to run. Trying my best not to fall off the track or shoulder charge an unsuspecting family out for a saturday tramp, I ploughed on downhill. One of the dudes I had overtaken on the ridgeline briefly caught me up on the steps but somehow I managed to stave him off until the finish. The last 5 k was a blur and profoundly type II fun. What seemed like a hundred metre run along the river on the way out felt like an eternity, with every corner bringing disappointment that the last bridge I had asked Santa for wasn’t there. Ten false alarms later, the last bridge did appear and with it the finish and a hug from the race organiser Rob (i’m not special, everyone gets one!).
My watch told me I was a shade (10 seconds) over 3 hours, a not-too-shabby 15th person over the line.
Barring a tiny bit of sunburn while sitting waiting for everyone to finish and almost running out of petrol on the drive back over the Rimutakas, I made it home in one piece after a top day out at an amazing little race. Thanks to all the great people that gave up there time to make the event happen!
*This may or may not have actually occurred.
**The collective noun for jelly-snakes is unclear: smack and pit are the collective nouns for jellyfish and snakes respectively, which combined make smack-pit. Rather catchy.
My Kit (other bloggers seem to post about their kit, so here’s mine):
Salomon Speedcross 4 in super-fast orange
A free race t-shirt
Some shorts and socks
3 litre camelbak inner (half full with water)
A Tesco (read Warehouse in NZ) camelbak-like bag with the mandatory kit in (waterproofs/survival blanket/map etc.)
A Welsh flag buff in headband mode
A solitary banana
Half a pack of jelly-snakes (with some emergency snakes left over for the drive home)
Event Website: http://jumbo-holdsworth.co.nz/