On Friday evening, three days after returning from Samoa, S. picked me up and we started our approximately 3 hour journey up to Paihia, in the Bay of Islands. We stay at a lovely hotel, thanks to S. finding an amazing deal on a website a month or two ago. We were so excited about having a little roadtrip and a weekend away just for ourselves, I had hardly thought about the real reason we were driving up. Until a few hours before when it really hit me that OMG we were going to be doing it all over again: 21.1km of pain and excitement and sore muscles and content all mashed together.
After getting to the hotel later that evening, we laid out our running gear, prepared our running snacks (jelly beans and a mix of nuts, that I didn’t even end up eating) and got in bed after setting the alarm for 6:03 (to give us time to snooze for five minutes until 6:07 – don’t ask!).
We jumped out of bed on Saturday morning, got ready and took the (roughly) 2km walk to the Paihia ferry building where the bus to the start line was waiting for us. We got to see the sunrise as we were walking down the hill and along the waterfront and it was around then that I started getting super excited about the day.
I was pretty optimistic about this run, mainly because the website said it was a mostly downhill course. I may have gotten overly excited about the word downhill and it wasn’t exactly as I expected. Right at the start, there were two quite big uphills that, along with the sun aiming for the invisible bullseye on the top of our heads, made for a pretty uncomfortable first couple of kilometres. But it did get better.
The first 6km were spent trying to get comfortable and from then on, I managed to get in the zone and just enjoy the course. We were running through backcountry roads with lovely green farms around us and the sun was shining (at times a little too strongly) so life was pretty good. I wore my hydration pack (nerdiest accessory ever?) which was handy because it meant I could run past all the water stations. It did clog up a couple of times, which was weird, and it leaked for a while, leaving a big wet patch on my lower back (so sexy, I know!).
At the 15km mark, I felt myself starting to get a little tired. The “maybe I could walk just for a few seconds” thoughts started to appear and I really didn’t want to walk. I had the jelly beans and nuts mix in the hydration pack but had put a Gu in the pocket of my running pants. It was the first time I ever tried Gu (after a last minute decision to rush out and buy a couple the day before). I’m not sure it did anything for me, to be honest. The vanilla bean taste wasn’t as bad as I’d read it would be and I did stop thinking about walking but it’s not like I ran any faster or anything. I think it had the same effect a couple of jelly beans would have had and it was way messier to eat than those so not sure I’ll be having it again.
The second half of the course was considerably better than the first and it did include a few downhill bits as promised. There were also a lot more people cheering us on during the second half, as we got closer and closer to Kerikeri, which really helped (to the little boy that was giving all the runners high fives, you made my next few hundred metres a lot easier!).
Around the 17km mark, I finished off the Gu and, for some stupid reason, also lost the ability to get any water out of my hydration pack (there may have been a couple of swearwords involved, as I tried to get the damn thing to work). In the end, I just gave up on water completely.
The highlight of the run was seeing another km marker in the distance and thinking “oh, good, that must be the 19km mark” and then getting closer and realising that I was wrong and it was actually the 20km mark! That never ever happens (the opposite, unfortunately, happens to me quite often). I think there may have been an out loud “YES!” at the sight of that marker.
The run finished inside Kerikeri domain. I’m not a fan of running on grass and those final 100m are always the hardest but I was super happy to see the finish line and realise that I had done it again.
We celebrated with hot chips and a couple of beers, sitting in the sun waiting for prize giving to start. The bus then took us back to Paihia where we spent the rest of the day lounging around the pool, eating yummy food and napping, before having one of the earliest nights ever (in bed by 8:55pm, I got a glimpse into what life as an elderly lady will be like).
On sunday morning, I woke up to a whole lot of muscle pain. I spent the day looking like a 70 year-old who had been in a coma and was now re-learning to walk. The weather was amazing, though, and after treating ourselves to some good food, we made our way back to Auckland, stopping over at one of the best beaches I’ve ever found in New Zealand, where we took time to stretch some more.
All in all, this was a great half-marathon. I am pretty keen to return to Kerikeri and run the same course again. I managed to beat my time from my first half-marathon in Taupo (albeit in much different conditions this time) and I know I can do even better than I did this time. We are now in the process of choosing a half-marathon to run sometime within the first three months of 2012 (one of the four we’re planning to run next year!) and I know it will be better. Unlike this time, we’ll actually train and be prepared for it. I was definitely not fit enough to do this half-marathon this time (and my body is now reminding me of it with every movement). We didn’t follow a training plan (despite having good intentions), most of our runs were about 5km or 6km only and we ran a grand total of approximately 10km in the two weeks leading to the half. Not ideal.
I feel like it my lack of training could have easily turned this into a nightmare and put me off running for a good while but, luckily, that wasn’t the case at all. I’m super pumped about the idea of picking another half-marathon, drawing up a training plan and do a few long runs leading up to race day. Roll on 2012!