Wild Turkey Off Road Marathon 2013 Review: Part 2

In Part 1 of my Wild Turkey Off Road Marathon review, I looked at the event in general and here in Part 2 look at my own race.

There were 13 of us who started the full marathon about 7:40am on Saturday April 6th 2013. Only 12 finished – one of our group apparently had somewhere else to be and bailed out half way around.

The weather report had been for clear skies in the morning with rain and possibly hail in the later afternoon but as it turned out they got the forecast the wrong way around.

It was raining lightly as we set off alongside the Whatipu campground and headed up Gibbons track. There’s a bit of a climb initially so I was happy enough tucked in behind Stacey Chait, walking and slow running. Once it levelled out a bit I passed her and continued on my way.

wild turkey marathon start
Marathoners at the start – photo courtesy of Hey That’s Me

It was now that I realised I had my car key and remote in one of my Camelbak pockets, and after an incident at Xterra Shakespear last year didn’t want to take any chances with it getting wet in the rain. I’m sure rain would be OK compared with the sea water last time around, but wasn’t prepared to take any chances.

So I offloaded the lollies I had in a plastic bag into the front pouch in my shorts and put the key and remote away nice and safe in the bag 🙂

By the time I got to the top it was raining reasonably heavily. The tracks on the way down were dry from all the good weather recently and the rain made them very slippery; I love running down hill but was worried about slipping over so was taking things a little more carefully than I normally would.

I stopped under the shelter down at Pararaha Campground to change my top: my Icebreaker shirt was soaking wet and I was cold. I changed into my thermal top and put my rain jacket on over the top. I knew I’d be a bit warm but better than being cold and wet!

The next section has some pretty big climbs so it was slow going for a while until a nice downhill section that you can run down pretty fast if you’re so inclined. I sped past Penny Kirkwood at her aid station, shouting out my race number as I went past (it was obscured under the rain jacket) and kept going until I hit the river at the bottom.

More hill climbing, some great views of Manukau Harbour and Manukau Heads, kids out tramping, take off the raincoat (it stopped raining completely after about two hours), more downhill fun, back and forward across a river and then all of a sudden we were half way around. 2:45 elapsed.

Shane Absolum caught up with me while I was stuffing my face with chips and coke. We’d been passing each other on and off through the race so set off together for the second lap. We both struggled a little up the first section of Gibbons but soon I was running on my own again, leaving Shane behind.

wild turkey marathon on gibbons track
Second lap on Gibbons Track – photo courtesy of Hey That’s Me

The second lap was much like the first, with the added benefit of the tracks now being muddy instead of slippery, so I found it a lot easier to run down the hills faster. I covered the first 7kms of the second lap 5 minutes faster than the first time around (55 minutes compared with 60 the first time) but after that it was all a lot slower. Slower climbs. Slower downhills. I also stopped at Penny’s aid station to top up my Camelbak and have a chat.

With about 7kms to go I was starting to get really hungry, almost to the point of feeling sick. I’d eaten all my lollies in the first few kilometres; had a gel at some point; chips, coke and a biscuit half way around; some more lollies at Penny’s aid station. Now it was time to break out some more chips. I knew they’d be hard to get down so I chomped away and drank a fair bit of water to wash them down, and felt a lot better.

The last few kilometers were a lot of fun. There were more people out tramping now and I passed a few of the tail enders in the half marathon so there were lots of people calling out words of encouragement, including a large group of teenage girls with alpine walking sticks gathered in the middle of the track. They parted and I ran through them as they cheered me on. Good stuff!

I tried to pick the pace up for the final few kilometres downhill and along the river. It didn’t feel like I was running any slower than the first lap at this stage but looking at my splits now I was running around 30 to 60 seconds a kilometer slower.

wild turkey marathon finish
Looking tired, and just about finished – photo courtesy of Hey That’s Me

Then all of the sudden there was the finish line and it was all over. My goal had been to run it in under 6 hours and I managed to finish in 5:54 so mission accomplished! The first lap took about 2:45 and the second 3:09, so I was a fair bit slower the second time around, but then so was everyone else…

After the run was a (warm) ginger beer from the car and a couple of sausages in bread, smothered in onions, tomato sauce and mustard. There were just shy of 100 participants in total and so many of us knew each other, so it was like a real family atmosphere as we all relaxed in the sun.

Prize giving started before the final few people finished; there were heaps of prizes so you have a good chance of winning something and I came away with an UltraAspire hand held bottle.

As the final finishers came through the finish line they each got showered with a small bottle of Lindauer. A fitting end for a long day at the office 🙂

Here’s my Strava activity for the race, and some other race reports by Mark Colthart who ran the half marathon, Chris Morrissey who won the marathon, and Matt Bixley who came third.

Wild Turkey Off Road Marathon 2013 Review: Part 1

The Wild Turkey Off Road Half Marathon is an annual running event in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges, starting and finishing at Whatipu, with half marathon-ish and 15km races. The courses were revised in 2009; previously the shorter distance was 16km.

The first race was in 2003 and the last was to be in 2012, to be replaced in 2013 by The Hillary. This ultra marathon would cover the full Hillary Trail from Arataki to Muriwai, along with two shorter distances for slightly saner people 🙂

Unfortunately the consents were not granted for The Hillary by the Auckland Council, despite the rangers giving it their full support, so event director Shaun Collins decided to go ahead with the Wild Turkey again in 2013 because he still had the necessary consents for this race.

wild turkey marathon start
Marathoners at the start – photo courtesy of Hey That’s Me

To give those of us who had wanted to run The Hillary a bit more of a challenge, Shaun added a full marathon to the 2013 Wild Turkey: two laps of the already demanding half marathon course.

Now I’m not going to kid you and tell you this is event is a walk in the park: it’s not. The half marathon course has three long uphill sections, the middle one being particularly tough and in parts only runnable if you’re a mountain goat.

Obviously what goes up must come down, but the descents after the first two are pretty short/fast and then it’s uphill again. The final hill climb isn’t so bad and then it’s a lot more undulating followed by a fantastic series of downhills and a run alongside (and several times across) a river to the finish.

wild turkey half marathon course elevation profile
Elevation profile for the half marathon

The marathoners had to run the course twice, so six hills in total… I think most/all of us ran the second lap somewhat slower than the first!

I haven’t run the 15km course, but judging from the elevation profile, it cuts out the toughest climbs and would be a great course for someone just getting into trail running and wanting a good challenge.

So it’s tough, but it’s a great course. The climb up Gibbons Track at the start gives some fantastic views along the beach and coming around Donald McLean/Puriri Ridge/Kura Tracks you get views of the Manukau Harbour and Manukau Heads. That plus some beautiful single track running and bush cover for most of it makes for a great day out on the trails.

wild turkey off road marathon river crossing
Anna Murphy and Leah Anstis crossing a river – photo courtesy of Hey That’s Me

After the run, it’s typical Shaun Collins / Lactic Turkey style event management: sausages on the BBQ, a family-like atmosphere of people catching up and talking about how their day went, and a light-hearted prize giving with plenty of decent spot prizes so you stand a good chance of getting one.

I had a great day and it was a lot of fun. I highly recommend the Wild Turkey assuming it is run again next year. (I recommend any Lactic Turkey event for that matter – they’re great!) If it’s not, then go run its replacement The Hillary instead; either the full trail if you’re a crazy ultra runner like me, or one of the shorter distances if you’re not ready to join Club Crazy just yet!

This review is followed up here with my own race report, and here are some other race reports by Mark Colthart who ran the half marathon, Chris Morrissey who won the marathon, and Matt Bixley who came third.

wild turkey - Tom Reynolds and James Bradshaw
Tom Reynolds and James Bradshaw running up Gibbons Track
Photo courtesy of Hey That’s Me