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That time I started a race after everyone else and found a new favourite trail

Photo by Allan Ure - photos4sale.co.nz

Photo by Allan Ure – photos4sale.co.nz

XTERRA Waharau last Sunday had all the ingredients to be the perfect shitstorm. Instead, it was one of my favourite trails ever.

Let’s recap and maybe it’ll make sense (although, I’m telling you right now, it’s unlikely).

Due to being on a really tight schedule of not giving a crap about anything that week, I failed to read the organisers’ emails with instructions for the event day and didn’t even check the course map. As a result, I didn’t know the exact length I was supposed to run, not even while I was running it. For someone who’s been entering an average of an event a month (often more) for the last two and a half years, you think I’d have my shit together by now. Nope.

I also failed to check how long to get to Waharau from home until I got in the car in the morning to drive to Waharau. It was 45 minutes to race time (because I’m super talented when it comes to stuff like ignoring my alarm) and the GPS told me the event base was over an hour away. Also, the car told me it had 60km worth of petrol in the tank, which would most definitely not take me to the event base. The 45min I had to do a trip of over an hour had to include a stop at the petrol station where the man behind the counter tried to sell me all sorts of add-ons instead of just taking my card and charging me for the petrol. I may or may not have asked him to “please just hurry up”. And no, I do not want those two chocolate bars for only $2 even though that does sound like a pretty good deal, thank you.

You know where this is headed now, right? Yep, shitsville, that’s where. No matter how hard I tried to make up some time on the road (safer communities together and stuff), of course the race had started by the time I arrived. For the first time in my life (after a very close call at the Auckland Quarter Marathon two years ago), I pinned my bib on my shirt, put the timing chip on my shoe and started a race completely on my own (one of the organisers was nice enough to allow me to start rather than making me wait and do the short course instead, which would start about half an hour later).

I started running seven minutes behind everyone else, which was pretty freaking depressing if you ask me (and I know you didn’t but now you know). But I got over that pretty quickly and found a whole new thing to be depressed about: the brutal hill ahead.

You don’t even want to know the quality of the words that came through my mind as I was faced with that hill right at the start. But they were far nicer words than the ones my mind came up with when I found a whole new hill on top of that one. And then another one. The higher I climbed, the lower my mind sank. The “what am I even doing here? I hate running!” thoughts appeared around about then, probably the result of combining an incredibly hilly trail with running on an empty stomach.

But you know what’s on top of a hill? The start of a downhill. In Waharau, after some rain in the days before, it was the start of a steep technical and very muddy downhill that went on for about 5km to the finish line. And I loved every second of it. The further down I got, the higher my runners’ high reached. In a few minutes, I went from “how am I going to tell everyone that I actually hate running?” to “OMFGWTFBBQ RUNNING IS AWESOME!” again. It wasn’t the easiest downhill course ever but my faithful companions behaved impeccably and there wasn’t a single butt-landing to describe on this post (sorry, not sorry). By the time I spotted the finish line, I didn’t even want the run to end, a giant shift from how I felt about it closer to the start.

After the finish, I got to catch up with a bunch of lovely familiar faces and say goodbye to this year’s famous XTERRA sausages + beer combo, which ended up being breakfast for me that morning (as per usual, seriously hoping you didn’t come here for healthy living advice). The runners’ high lasted a few hours after that and I have now found my new favourite trail in Auckland – one I cannot wait to go back and explore.

See you next year for some more muddy fun, XTERRA. You make my Winter days a whole lot happier.

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