Work has brought me to Wellington for three months and while that means that I miss out on Auckland's Autumn Night Street Series is does give me the opportunity to take part in Wellington's After Work Rogaines. Which take place once a month. And the next one just happened to be the day after Shank's Pony. So, telling myself that I didn't need to go out for the whole three hours and that I could walk all the way, I caught a bus from Lambton Quay to Stokes Valley after work and arrived at the event centre just a couple of minutes before the gathered crowd raced off into the night.
Tonight I was wearing my New Balance 1080s and had my blisters well protected. I felt the blisters for about the first ten seconds and then never again. Maybe I should ditch the Inov8s and run in New Balance all the time. I started a good ten minutes after everyone else but this didn't concern me as I had no intentions of staying out more than a couple fo hours at most.
I started off with a gentle jog to control 31 and easily identified the stone lions that were the subject of the clue. The After Work Rogaine's save organisational effort by not putting out controls as such but rather getting you to identify some obvious feature (as was the case for this control) or by using a small orange ribbon tied onto a tree. From 31 I headed to 43 and then on to 91 which would be my first experience of a ribbon control. My intention at this point was to get 91 then drop back to 22, 23 before commencing a loop up through the hills, 65, 101 etc. This was a good plan but I never actually found 91. The clue for this control said "RC - 10m upstream from track. At the northern of two streams 100m apart?" I navigated to what I was sure was the correct stream and hauled my way up the stream bed looking for the ribbon. I spent a fair bit of time in the stream but found nothing. I then ran on until I came to another stream and repeated the exercise. Still nothing. I continued further along, even though it was obvious that I had been at the correct stream in the first place until I came to a track washout from where control 54 should have been located "RC - 10m upstream from track washout". I had a bit of a hunt around and was able to find a scrap of ribbon with the word "GIANT" on it. At least I knew what I was looking for now.
I'd come a lot further up the track than I had planned and taken a lot longer over it than I would have liked. As a result I changed my plan and continued up, heading for 45 next. The track to this control was a wide open 4WD track and again I was able to identify the control location ("RC - 1.2m up the bank inside corner at high point of 4WD track") but not find the ribbon control. I ran further down the track, clarified that I was in the right place and ran back. Five minutes intensive hunting (it must be here somewhere) and I finally found the ribbon - "YETI" this time, hidden in a bush and not at all obvious. I had taken a long time over hunting ribbon controls and not much time running so resolved that from here on in I would navigate to the circle but not waste time if I couldn't find the ribbon control immediately.
I returned back up the track and reached 56 on a power pylon with a great view over the Hutt Valley. I had now been out for an hour and it was time to reassess my route again. I was not suffering from my blisters and, despite all the time I had wasted hunting out ribbon controls, I was enjoying my time in the hills so I came up with a route that would see me visiting most of the controls at the top of the hill before dropping back down the track with 101 and 65 on it.
A very steep climb up to 82 ensued. A hill top just before this control provided yet more panoramic views of the lights of Hutt with Wellington in the background. A fast run down to 46 where, despite my best intentions, I wasted another 10 minutes looking for a ribbon control that never eventuated. I followed this up with 36, 24 and 37 before dropping steeply down to the vicinity of 66, another ribbon that, you guessed it, was hidden far too well. By now I was running out of time so ran back up the hill and over to the track that would lead down to 101.
A sign at the top of this track warned that it was for serious trampers only. One glance at the contours will tell you why. It dropped almost vertically. I stopped near the top of the descent and stuck my map in my back pack. It was obvious that I was going to need both hands unobstructed for this descent. Then followed some seriously fun and probably highly dangerous running and clambering as I lost a lot of height extremely quickly, holding on and transferring my hands from tree to tree as I went. Once the main hill was left behind - after probably 15 minutes of descent including a brief stop at the bench that was control 101 - a fast but narrow track contoured around a cliff edge with a rock face to my right and a void with a distant sound of running water to my left. I was running late as I collected 65 and headed off down the valley.
Once I emerged from the forest I was faced with a couple of kilometres of road running to get back to the event centre and not much time before the official finish time of 9pm. It was a gentle downhill and I enjoyed a fast run, reaching 3 min / km pace at one stage - unheard of for me at the best of times, let alone after three hours of running through the hills. I reached the event centre with slightly over a minute to spare.
The pizza provided by the organisers afterwards was much appreciated as was the ride back to Wellington with Rob.