This is possibly the nicest leg of the run (maybe behind the MTB park). I’m waved over the road by a cow, and head up the hill towards Salvation (track). A mountain-biker shouts encouragement. He seems a bit confused to see me walking up the hill, but I’m still saving energy. I overtake a couple of people on Salvation, but I’m mostly power-walking up. It’s a nice easy climb, winding it’s way across the hill for a couple of km. Nice and flat underfoot too. On Wright’s Hill I finally pass the irritating runner from before, and cruise along the (Bird Sanctuary) Fenceline track. This is sometimes rutted and rocky, but at least is flat or downhill – I take the downhill at a good pace, faster than usual even, which is good as I usually struggle here. The other side is a part of the course that I always walk, even on a short run – it’s a tough climb on uneven terrain. I pass one guy bent over, after confirming that he’s OK and it’s just nausea. Nausea is the secret enemy of the distance runner – you have to eat, but it’s often hard to keep food down (vomiting seems to be very common on the longer ultras).
It’s getting hot now. I’ve been wearing a thermal top, leggings, gloves and a hat, but all of that goes except for the leggings (too much effort to take off, and they don’t seem to be heating me up too much). Taking off the top would later prove to be a mistake..
This is a nice and importantly mostly downhill section of the course.It runs along very exposed hills across the backbone of Wellington – Brooklyn, Newtown and Island Bay to the left, mostly empty hills to the right – at various points you can see Karori, and you run under the Hawkins Hill radar dome, but there’s not a lot to look at out here – just steep tracks on hills. Again, we are absurdly lucky with the weather. Last time I ran here I was genuinely in fear, the wind was so strong I was getting blown sideways on the track – and there are bits near the coast where it is narrow, with sharp falls. I cruise through the 9 or 10km to the coast without really seeing anybody, other than the marshall at the top of the Tip Track, sending the marathon crew down, and the rest of us towards Red Rocks. I make pretty good time, the only thing slowing me is that, again, I’m not very good at running downhill (especially towards the end, where the track is stony like a dry riverbed. It may actually be a dry riverbed). I’m so alone I occasionally wonder if I’m actually still in the race or have wandered off course somehow. But it’s good – I get to run my own pace. At one point I thought I saw other runners below me, but it turned out to be hikers coming the other way.
Down towards the coast, and a very careful crossing of the stream (it’s only a couple of steps over rocks, but 40km into the race I’m not exactly in the best shape). Again, the weather on the beach is great – on the windy run a few weeks ago, I was almost reduced to running backwards, the sand being blown into my face was so bad. This time, the only obstacle is a biker who won’t move out of my way why can’t he see that I have to get through here I’m racing why is he in my way I am raging inside. Clearly, I have hit The Wall and burned through all the glycerin in my brain, because my emotional control is way down (this is standard; I’m not great company at this point in a race). I make great time along the beach, getting close to 5:30 minutes/km (this is basically my marathon pace, so to be able to run it at this point is incredible). Lots of people around, even a few runners (again, I pass people and then they speed up and overtake me again?). This takes me into Red Rocks aid station, where I’m expecting to see Rhonda and her aunt and uncle.
The aid station is stocked with enthusiastic workers cheering me in, and I’m pleased to hear them calling my name…. wait, I’m not wearing my race number – how do they know me? I look over and am shocked to see one of the most welcome sights I’ve seen in a long time: Paul, with Leigh next to him. And next to them is Kim, and two of the boys…and there comes Paul! I am shocked and humbled. I had hoped Leigh and Paul would turn up after we’d discussed it, but I hadn’t really even expected the Quirkes (with three kids) to be able to. Maybe thought they’d consider going somewhere closer to home like Wright’s Hill. It’s hard to express how great it feels having people turn up like this – even now I’m tearing up a bit thinking about the run. and this moment especially.
No sign of Rhonda, I try calling her but no answer. Kim says she’ll contact James, who I’m hoping to see later. This is great, and sets me out with a spring in my step.