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XTERRA Auckland Trail Run Series – Riverhead Forest

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The true sign of a good time is putting a load of laundry in the machine and having to set it to “very dirty” (which, thankfully, is an actual setting on my machine) and cross fingers your clothes will go back to their real colour.

That’s what happened today, after running the XTERRA event in Riverhead (event 2/6 of the series, after Shakespear Park).

Riverhead, in case you don’t know, is a forest in Auckland where all the mud in the world is kept and it was the stage for the second event of the XTERRA series.

This morning, the weather was miserable, my legs were heavy and my head hurt a bit from not drinking enough water. I didn’t feel like I should be running.

But I should know better than to doubt the ability that the trails have to make everything better.

It all started looking upwards when I met up with some friendly faces before the run even started (including people who knew me as SGG before they even met me as Vera and still wanted to hang out with me anyway). I was also worried that, without proper trail running shoes and all that talk about how clay is just the most slippery thing ever, I was going to end up with two broken legs.

Once the run started, all the climbing and sliding down muddy trails felt far too fun for my crankiness to survive and I ended up having a blast (without breaking legs in the process). I wasn’t much of a fan of the slippery climbs, with my old road running shoes, but thankfully trail runners are the nicest people you can find and with a push here and a hand there, everyone made it to the top (even me).

The weather cleared up just enough for us to get our running done before the rain returned and the views from the top of our steepest climbs were nothing short of amazing (made slightly less amazing by the fact that I had to quickly hold onto something as I was climbing my way to the top of one of the hills and accidentally grabbed a bunch of gorse).

I was slow and took a while to get my mind in the right place but caught myself smiling like an idiot as my feet dug through mud pits and mud splashed everywhere. If there is one secret to enjoying muddy trails, it’s really to just not give a shit. Once you stop caring about where mud is going, then you can just go for it.

My hands were so caked with mud I didn't dare take my phone out for any photos so I made you a really realistic representation of what I'm pretty sure I looked like from behind.

My hands were so caked with mud I didn’t dare take my phone out for any photos so I made you a really realistic representation of what I’m pretty sure I looked like from behind.

And here's another super artistic illustration of how it actually felt to get through that mud.

And here’s another super artistic illustration of how it actually felt to get through that mud.

Ski lessons came in handy dealing with the slippery downhills and I manage to only fall on my ass once, an absolute victory in my books.

I can’t say I loved every second of the run today (definitely didn’t feel any love for the holding-onto-a-gorse-bush bit) but, once I got into it, the time I spent enjoying it far outweighed the time I spent in the beginning wishing I was back in bed. After crossing the finish line, I got to my favourite part of these events – the cold cider + sausage + friends combo.

I’m counting this run as training for the Tarawera Ultra. Some bad news for volunteers at that event next year, though: my run today was only just over 1/6th of the length of Tarawera (since I’m entering the 60km) and, judging by how long it took me, I suggest you take sleeping bags.

But for now, I’m going into the new week after a fantastic event that brightened up an otherwise pretty dull Sunday. Roll on Waiuku!

Now I’m off to get the mud off my shoes, which is a whole other workout in itself.

Speaking of shoes, I’m going to pour yet some more money into this running thing by buying a pair of proper trail running shoes, to avoid having to deal with any more of these one-step-up-three-steps-down hills. I looked at the Inov8 tent at the event and told the lady I’d go back after the run but was far too muddy to try anything on. Do you have Inov8 shoes? Love them? Any other brand I should be looking at? Spill the details!

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16 thoughts on “XTERRA Auckland Trail Run Series – Riverhead Forest

  1. I have inov-8s and was wearing them today – I’m not the fastest person out there by any stretch, but I easily stepped past lots of people going up that first mud slide and then aced all those muddy downhills, not even a single bum slide, but I am putting that down to learning roller derby a couple of years ago… I also have a pair of Sauconys which are pretty cool too, but I think the inov-8s are definitely better in the mud

  2. I was out there when the rain was intense, around 8.30 this morning. Can only imagine what Riverhead was like!!

  3. Sounds like fun (yes, I mean that!)
    Someone told me at Shakespear that Riverhead was muddy – they weren’t wrong!

  4. I rate my new balance 860s and saw some meaty buggers by salomon (I think) at bivouac queen st. Looked purfect for mud!

  5. Pingback: Love the Rain! | Alan Parry

  6. Way to let go and get messy. One of my favorite parts of trail running is the chance to play like a kid in the outdoors! Today I did some MAJOR puddle jumping! :)

    On such days (although there’s not really a ton of mud in Singapore, due to copious gravel deposition), I march myself directly into the shower for a pre-washing-machine rinse. Seriously. When I lived in the US, I’d do whatever I had to so that I could get into the bathroom without dirtying the floors, and hop in fully clothed. Good motivation to clean the shower, too, afterward. ;-)

    I really like Salomon shoes, myself. The XA Comps are my favorite all purpose trail shoes, and the Speedcross are awesome for gnarly trails (although take a bit of getting used to, due to the unusual tread). Must admit I’ve never run in Inov-8s.

    • That’s so true, I do feel like a big kid when I’m out there puddle jumping! Right… Salomons seem to be pretty popular. I’ll have to do some more investigative work here (which is fine because I love reading about this stuff!). Thanks Holly!

  7. Loved the write up and good to read something about NZ trails and mud when i’m in concrete LA – made me instantly homesick!!

    I run in Inov8s – the 200s – best shoes I’ve run trails in – they are built like a tractor underneath but zero drop so nice and flexible. Most importantly they can handle clay and mud pretty well too. Get some good shoes before I get back – you’ll need them for the Waitaks training – even with them I still got a couple of good falls last time I was there.

    Off to Yosemite on Thursday once work is done so expect major blog updates this weekend :)!

    • I’d love to say I’m sorry for you but I’d trade the cold weather for some sun in LA right now!

      I have a feeling Inov-8 is going to get some of my money this week so I’ll be ready for our Waitaks training!

      Can’t wait to see photos of trail running in Yosemite. Boy am I going to be jealous then!

  8. Hahaha, I love your artistic renditions of what you looked like running.

  9. Omg I want to do the Tarawera ultra! For some reason 60km through bush sounds so much more appealing than a 10km road race. Strange? I can’t even imagine how friggin long that would take me, but I am so keen. I think I will start training in the trails here during summer and, fingers crossed, be back in NZ in time for that race. How do you recommend training? Starting out with 1 hour runs through bush?

    • Do it Christina! I remember when I ran near there and you told me how special that place was for you and your family. I have no idea how I’m going to train for this, other than just hitting the trails as often and for as long as I can. If I come up with a more defined strategy, I’ll let you know. 1h runs are an awesome start! :D

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