The Blackmores Xterra Trail Run/Walk Series at Riverhead is a good old fashioned muddy forest run, which this year was on Sunday June 9th 2013.
The weekend before the event, I ran at Riverhead with some friends on a sort cross between the mid and long courses and it was fairly dry and not very muddy. A good soaking of rain hit overnight before race day which guaranteed a good muddy run with lots of big water puddles, some deceptively deep!
There’s a good mixture of gravel forestry roads, hard packed single track, wide muddy tracks through the pines, some steep mountain bike drops for the super long runners, and a bit of native bush for all at the finish.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable day, starting as I normally do probably two thirds of the way back in the pack. I’d catch up to friends and run with them for five or ten minutes and then continue off at a slightly faster pace.
The first year I managed a fast run in the superlong, finishing in 2:16:09 somewhat slower last year in 2:29:09. My aim for this year was to keep it under 2:30; for some reason I had it in my head I’d run 2:33 or thereabouts last year, so assumed by breaking 2:30 I’d beat my last years time…
I was never really pushing myself too much, but was aware I needed to keep an average pace of around 6:30. With only a few kilometers to go I was nicely on track, but the long and superlong courses are particularly sneaky at the end. You can see the event finish and then turn away, run a long way away from it before winding around and around and around and finally get back to the finish!
I was doing a lot of clock watching, knowing if the course distance was more or less what I expected, I’d make it, but I was getting worried it was going to be longer than expected. It was a quite a relief when we finally joined the trail with the mid and short runners and walkers as it meant the end was fairly close.
While the shorter distance runners would gingerly make their way around the outside of the muddy pools that are frequent towards the end, I’d just plough through them, determined to finish under 2:30.
Finally there was the finish line. I could hear someone trying to sprint past me and that always raises a challenge for me at the end, so I sprinted too, determined not to let him past. And I didn’t!
Finished. 2:29:32. I managed to beat my goal, but as I discovered later on last night, I didn’t quite beat last year’s time. Ah well, next year…
This was the third year I’d run at Xterra Riverhead and is probably the muddiest one I’ve run at, although I’ve heard 2010 was a real bogfest. I’ve run there a number of other times at other events and it’s a great place to run, whatever distance you choose. Highly recommended.
The other races coming up in the series at a Waiuku, which isn’t really muddy, being in a sand quarry forest but has a great big old puddle right near the end; Woodhill, which is in a pine logging forest like Riverhead; Waharau Regional Park which is new for this year; and the Hunua Ranges. I haven’t yet run Hunua and hear it’s a fairly tough event. Waharau replaces the Whitford Forest event, Whitford easily being the muddiest place I’ve run at.