WUU2K Wellington NZ Race Report by Mina Holder
Ambassador Name: Mina Holder
Date of Event: Saturday 21 July 2018
Event Website: http://www.wuu2k.co.nz
Wellington, New Zealand.
62km trail run with 2,500m ascent.
It was race morning and my 4.28am alarm rudely awoke me from my dream. Unexcitedly I was dreaming about plastic packaging in a Chinese take-away.....a sign I am taking plastic free July too far I think!
Michelle and I pottered around the flat in a half-asleep daze getting our kit together and shoveling in breakfast whilst slurping down large cups of tea. James then drove us out to Johnsonville, to the start of the Skyline trail and where the race would begin. A growing gathering of head-lit runners, bobbing up and down to keep warm, formed at the far end of the carpark. We quickly joined the end of the compulsory pre-race portaloo queue!
It wasn't long before we were herded to the start line, a short briefing was given, and then we were off! Almost immediately we took on a courteous single-file line formation as we ascended the steep, narrow path leading up Mt Kaukau. I went from shivering to sweating within just a few minutes! My muscles, however, took a little longer to warm up and stop complaining. They were just being woken up from 12 days of complete rest. This taper had been enforced due to breaking my toe whilst out running a couple of weeks earlier. It was only my 3rd toe though and it had responded well to being taped up and rested so I figured I would see how it felt about an ultra by setting off on one! The immediate climb saw my calves and quads yelp in complaint as they had really been enjoying their recent holiday! On top of that it was flippin' freezing, I had not done any warming up and the climb seemed somewhat relentless for so early in the day!
As we reached the summit the track opened up. The beam from my headtorch created my own personal foggy micro-climate, bouncing off my breath as it hung heavily in the cold, damp air. This made it a little tricky to see one's footing; the ground was muddy and rocky and the initial steep decent immediately claimed a handful of runners! They were easily spotable for the rest of the race by their muddy bottoms! We trotted off along the undulating skyline and passed by a man with a long beard who sported a sparkly pink tutu. "Hi Clive!" chirped Michelle, it turns out she had met him briefly at a race up near Taupo last year! I had a little stumble and kicked a rock which made my toe scream out.....thankfully the pain dulled after 5 minutes or so.
As the first light started to colour the sky the scenery it revealed was pretty magical. I took a photo that (almost) shows you what it felt like to look at. I think that maybe you had to have endured the run up there to really experience the full blown beauty of it! You could begin to make out the ridgeline we were running along and could see it weaving its way into the low-lying clouds up ahead. As the sky continued to brighten the views were absolutely spectacular. To the west you could see the rolling hills of Makara leading down to the glassy ocean. The impressive line of wind turbines along their tops silhouetted against the sky. To the east the cities lights nestled among the hills, hugging tightly along the coastline. I looked back and saw a line of runners headtorches strung out like fairy lights emerging from the morning mist behind me.
We started to descend towards our first check-point and were merrily cheered along by the volunteers. Clive (the man with the long beard and tutu) had caught us up and the three of us jogged along together. It was a short grunt up to Makara Peak, we took a minute here to take in the views. By now we had sunshine and 360 degrees views of beauty. The previous weekends weather had been of biblical proportions; a huge storm had rolled in with incredibly high winds, hammering torrential rain and was fairly foul all round. Today could not have been more opposite if it tried! This was Wellington's winter at its best and I felt super happy that I was going to get to be out in it all day!
The three of us pottered along mountain bike single-tracks and at one point James joined us from behind on his bike! He had been waiting up Makara Peak but we had gone through so quickly (!) he had missed us! Another couple of checkpoints came and went, one even had Christmas cake with festive music blaring out and the volunteers dressed as elves! We made our first cut off. Phew! With only 30 minutes to spare at this point we knew we had to keep ticking along at a steady pace to make the final cut off at Tawatawa reserve.
After the Brooklyn wind turbine checkpoint we joined the Barking Emu mountain-bike track and I was on home-ground! Most of my runs from home are in and around the Te Kopohou Reserve and I enjoyed the familiarity. We weaved our way through the hills and wound our way down to the beach at Red Rocks Reserve. James was waiting as we emerged out from the rocky trail onto the beach and he cycled alongside us as we shuffled along the sand and rocks to Owhiro Bay. This part of the trail was super busy as the weather was so nice it seemed half of Wellington had come out to walk this stretch of coastline! All of whom smiled as they passed us, seeing Clive's tutu, many commenting on how they loved it! I was starting to realise why he might wear such an outfit as I noticed a young lady blow him a kiss!
We had hoped to meet the gorgeous Brooke at the next checkpoint but unfortunately she had been struck down by the lurgy and was unable to come. I noticed a man sat in a chair drinking coke from a large plastic tub! The organisers had a 'no cups' policy to help manage waste and so I guess he had forgotten a cup and was making do with what he could find!
The next section was a few km's of tedious road. Never nice on tired legs and sore feet. It didn't last long and I shouldn't really have complained as the next push was up and back down the infamous 'Tip Track'. This is a 3km hill that rudely climbs 800 metres up! It has featured on lots of my training runs and is a good little challenge on fresh legs, not so much fun when you are over a marathon into a race already! Still, the sun was shining and I was in great company! Finally we dragged our weary bodies up to the top, got ticked off the list, and then headed down. We knew we had to run at a decent pace to make up for a tediously slow ascent – we still had not made the final cut off yet! As we ran as fast as our sore feet/knees/bodies would allow us we picked up another friend! Pete! He was a man of around 6ft 6 and he managed to catch us up and said he wanted to do his best to stick with us. You could tell by his face he was in a world of pain and he announced he felt rather broken. The super steep terrain meant the pace picked up, not necessarily by choice, but rather the breaking muscles were too tired to do much about it. Each step felt like a toe-bashing party was going on in my shoes – my poor poor toes!
It felt joyous to reach the bottom and cross the road to be welcomed to the checkpoint and final cut off by some barking mad ladies wearing animal onesies! I'm not sure a malt biscuit ever tasted so good! We made the cut off! Toot! All that was left was some 15km's. We totally had this! I'm not sure all my friends agreed but we plodded on regardless! So much more ascending came and our pace at best was a slow shuffle!
The organisers had then slipped in a brutally steep ascent of Mt Albert, the kind that you might as well crawl up! One step at a time. One very slow step at a time. We ascended the slope and knew there was just 2km's and one more push up to Mt Victoria's summit and the FINISH LINE! At this point Pete said he didn't have any running left in him, it was only right that we stayed together by this stage and so the four of us marched along in a row. It was at this point I found out that Pete had only managed to do a 10km training run in preparation for this race! What an absolute loon, I have no idea how he had got this far! I put it out there that I was, in fact, a human duke-box. I have to say the requests did not come flooding in. I sensed that maybe the team were a little over the whole thing. I had, however, established a little earlier that Pete and Michelle were also Meatloaf fans (I'm actually almost now needing both hands to count the number I now know) so I quietly sang Bat Out of Hell to myself as we pushed our way on up through the forest. The light started to fade but before we knew it there was James, and just beyond him the finish line! We all linked arms and crossed the line together! Only in ultra's do you start a race with one friend and cross the line with three, having gathered up a giant and a man in a tutu! We all enjoyed a cupcake and a jolly good ginger beer to celebrate before returning home to shower and put our slippers on. A cracking way to spend a day. All 10 hours and 55 minutes of it.
I found all 62km's of the Wuu2K, with a decent whack of climbing thrown in, a fantastically enjoyable challenge. The weather was stellar and the scenery epic. Would I do it again? Yes Ma'am!! Yes I would!
Event Rating: 5/5 *****
Performance Rating: 5/5 *****
- Adam Holder