Hillary Hardcore – making a solo splash on New Zealand’s revered 75km

This is a great read from Sally Law. She and her man Mal are mates of mine and two of the awesomest people you could hope to get stuck in a wilderness with. New Zealand’s Hillary Trail has been subject to a growing number of solo runs, fastest known time attempts and even doubles over the years, and a recent effort to launch an official race there was scuttled over environmental concerns regarding impacts on a native plant species. It would be incredible to see that event actually get up, though, as it would attract the same level of interest as Kepler and Routeburn in next to no time.

This is a quick video of what a run on the Hillary looks like.

Anyway, we were reading some posts by Sal on the weekend when she up and ran the HT. I didn’t realize until seeing her writeup on Facebook this morning that she actually swam half of it. So I’ve pinched the story and it’s here until she tells us to take it down. Enjoy!

Sally Law, 75km in the bag and fresh as a daisy 🙂

Hillary Trail Run Report.
75kms of hilly single track.
Start: 05:00 18th August
Finish: 18:03
13hrs03.

It had rained often during the preceding 2 weeks and poured down for several hours the night before. Therefore the sound of water is what I recall most about the first half of the run all the way from Arataki to Karekare: dripping, gurgling and the splashing of my feet on muddy trails that were quite often doubling as waterways.

Down at Whatipu a canal of sorts had formed along the fence line bordering the campground and it was here I took the first of several unscheduled swims, slipping in a pool of indeterminate depth. Just ahead a lake had formed at the foot of the Gibbons Track but luckily I could plainly make out the boardwalk submerged under 10cms of clear water.

At the Pararaha shelter the noise of the stream was so intense I wondered what I would find at the crossing point. Normally it’s knee deep and barely moving but I’ve seen it dampen the bottom of my shorts before so I was preparing myself for something similar. This time the water was flowing impatiently and rose rather unpleasantly to my naval. On the far side of the stream there were obvious signs that a huge amount of water had recently blasted through. Large swathes of grass had been flattened and rounding the bend toward the foot of the Buck Taylor track I found where all the water had settled – Pararaha Valley now had a massive new lake. All of the boardwalks were completely submerged under half a metre of brown water and the only way I could tell where they were was by the white painted posts to the side. I breathed in resignedly as I began wading toward the dunes.

Those familiar with this section will know there’s a big watery hole about half way to the sand but disguised beneath the lake it was no longer possible to know where the thing was. I took my second unplanned plunge into that hole finding myself chest deep in water. I was looking forward to getting out of this aquarium when I reached the last boardwalk close to the dunes. It should be noted that this one does not have the tall marker posts to the side and when I was about 4 paces away from dry land I inadvertently stepped off the side of the boardwalk for my third, and thankfully, final dunking.

The clouds had well and truly cleared by this point however and I felt uplifted by the clear blue sky and warmth of the sun on my soggy clothing. Nothing was going to stop me that day, I was absolutely sure of it. This sense of ‘knowing’ kept me relaxed and I maintained a consistent pace throughout. I deliberately avoided thinking about how far I’d come or how far I still had to go, concentrating instead on the track in front of me and reaching the next check point. Any unpleasant thoughts or niggles were but passing clouds.

I hadn’t been sure I was physically ready for this challenge but mentally I was in 100%. My physical body bought into this commitment. I was in an amazing space – totally in a groove. My legs in particular just kept doing everything I asked of them. Hills? No problem. Run? Yes sure. Run again? Ok. Run some more? Er, uh huh, if you’re sure. Somewhere along the Te Henga I composed a mental thank you note to my legs for their stand out performance.

Before I knew it, I was cruising along the tarmac away from my final check point at Constable Road, reflecting contentedly on my HT day trip. I hammered down the hill to Muriwai through the bush, bounced onto the road and sprinted to the Muriwai park ranger signboard. My remarkable day was over in 13 hours and 3 minutes.

I had prepared meticulously the night before making a stack of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, baking a ginger loaf, putting together jet planes, clif bloks, muesli bars and bananas. I had a veritable mountain of food on hand. Inevitably I hardly ate any of it but the heroes for me on the day were flat Coke (my new best friend), one coconut water, 3-4 pieces of ginger loaf, one sandwich (not 6), 3 or 4 bananas, a couple of jet planes and a handful of chippies. Cast iron stomach all day.

I believe this is the first time a pair of Hokas have done an HT day trip (please correct me if I have that wrong). I’m a Hokas convert and swear by my Stinson Trails/Evos on any terrain. Hillary Trail muddy single track – wet feet all day, no tape, no blisters, no problem.

Grateful thanks to my most excellent support team: Malcolm Law and Vicki Michelle Woolley. You are fabulous.
Special mention to Steve NearySimon Clendon and Leanne Erceg for meeting me along the way – thank you. And to everyone on FB who liked and commented on Mal’s posts….wow, thanks!

Whenever I read something like this, it makes me hanker for a long unsupported run. Anybody else get that feeling?

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