As we approached our 25th anniversary, Mrs Notthat made me promise to take her to Hawaii. Events transpired that made that not happen, so when our 30th anniversary came around, I was determined to make up for it. In the meantime, we had started doing a LOT of trail races. A bit oddly, Hawaii does not have many trail races though (other than the famous HURT race, and, well, neither of us are up to taunting death like that quite yet.
Then my thoughts turned to New Zealand. We had never been there, it was their summer time, and there were several trail races that we could do.
But would Mrs Notthat trade Hawaii and its sun-infested beaches for New Zealand and its mysteries?
Yes. No problem. "I can be packed by lunch" she said.
Our first race was along the gorgeous Clutha River; the Kathmandu Clutha River Track Race. A 13 km point-to-point course with unknown elevation, but since it followed the river, how much climbing could there be? (Not a huge amount, but a bit more than expected as it turned out.)
It was a fairly small race, there were 54 finishers, and everyone looked WAY fitter than us. (One thing we had noticed was that the various tracks we had run across list a return time and almost always say something like "easy track with great views." We have found that what they describe as an "easy" track is something that would kill 60% of middle-aged Americans, and the return times are for someone not in mall-strolling mode.)
We arrived early since I didn't manage to get lost, as had been expected.
Mrs Notthat was thrilled to be able to enjoy a cup of coffee before the race started.
Diane and some locals having a laugh at either my hat or chances of winning. Must have been the hat.
"So, ummmm, you don't look like you are from around here." This is a reporter for the local newspaper. She took our picture and said that if the editor wasn't too frightened, it might make the local newspaper. Her daughter was also running the race - her first trail race. She was a bit nervous. (Spoiler alert - she had no reason to be nervous. At all.)
We headed out of the registration area to the start line, which was about 0.5 km away. The idea was to get people spread out a bit before the track narrowed.
I think the reporter person was horrified that I stopped to take the picture, and maybe by the fact that I really thoguht this was funny - Mrs Notthat tripped on a huge hole and fell nearly 20 feet into the race.
Mrs Notthat recovered quickly and we passed through the registration area and onto the rest of the course.
New Zealand has a fascination with swinging suspension foot bridges. I hate them (and anything that's not solid). I loved that this stream crossing had a solid proper bridge. (Granted, it would have been even better if we had been allowed to just cross through the stream - this wasn't the Mighty Clutha yet.)
The trail largely looked like this - not really single-track, but close enough to be really fun. And Mrs Notthat is still in my sight.
We had one aid station at the 5K point - these volunteers were a blast!
For a lot of the course we were a bit elevated from the river, but for several stretches we were down at river level and it was amazing. This tree is so made for laying under on a nice warm day.
The river was flowing pretty fast at points.
Seriously, how could you not love dashing through this? (One odd thing - there were several places along this course that made me think of how prime this was for snakes. But they have no snakes over here. There is actually nothing in the wild to be afraid of - no mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, bears, or bobcats. The worst thing you might face is an irritated stoat.)
There were no course markings as we are used to, but there really didn't need to be - it was almost impossible to get off the trail (short of deciding to go for a swim). Each intersection had a volunteer at it to make sure you didn't wander off course. (It was shortly after passing this point that took my fall - I tripped over a rock that must have been sticking up two inches maximum. I only had minor scrapes and wasn't slowed much at all. International trail rash!)
This volunteer asked if I wanted my picture taken (everyone seemed to get a kick out of me whipping my camera out and stopping to grab pictures). I normally don't bother with pictures of myself, but with this backdrop I went for it.
And it came out amazing!
The river is large and fast and beautiful. Such a fun thing to run along.
Finally, the first turn off the main trail, and only a short distance from the finish line. But why is that volunteer on the right so tall?
Oh - that's why! I guess as a kid I might have been brave enough to stand on a post like that, but if I tried that today I suspect an ambulance would be required in short order.
The final bit of "trail" was a mad dash across this sheep field, following along the orange cones.
A kind volunteer was there to open the gate for us (and presumably tackle any sheep that tried to run us down).
And all of the sudden, there was the finish line. Eight miles of fantastic trails in the books.
This is the reporter's daughter (Eelyak, not her real name, but it would be a great name if it was) - 6th female in the open division! Nicely done!
The woman with the cup, Nagem (not her real name), was the only person I beat, and I think that was because she was showing me pity (I think she saw my fall). The volunteer on the bike was one of the sweepers.
And finally here comes the second sweeper.
Because this was a point-to-point run, our car was not waiting here for us. We caught a ride back with one of the race people. I thought about begging to ride back in one of those port-potties, but figured that by the end of the race, they were likely not all that pleasant anymore.
The race was a blast! Everything went very well - they even drew race bibs at the end to hand out random prizes.
Next up is the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Half Marathon on Saturday. I can't wait to see what it's trails look like - if they are half as good as these were, it's going to be great.
And maybe a beer truck instead of a coffee truck.
That's it - move along…
PS: You can see more of my pictures here.