Wow! wow! wow! Phew … wow … I don’t have the words to describe the experience that is the DUAL. It is 2011. For me the year that will always mark our first running of the DUAL, a character-building experience that will probably be engraved in my mind for a long time. The weather god, Huey, played an evil trick on us to help make sure we will never ever forget this event.
Willie offered us accommodation for the weekend (thanks Willie and Alida!) and so we left on Friday for the long drive to Auckland.
Lots of memorabilia where on sale at the registration exhibits, but being on a bit of a budget, we unfortunately couldn’t make the $59 additional expense for the event T-shirt.
It was raining when we arrived in Auckland and it carried on through the night and the whole day during the run. Unimaginable, but it happened. All participants including all the poor marshals were soaked to the bone.
We caught the ferry at 8:00 and encountered some significant swells on the way to the islands. Rain was coming “down” horizontally because of the wind. We landed at Motutapu and waited a couple of minutes before the race started. Auckland’s mayor, Len Brown, was also present to wish us well. The race saw it’s third running and Totalsport made a jolly good job of the organisation which can only be a mission, since the events (trail runs of 10km, 21.1km and 42.2km and MTB events of 30km and 50km) are held on a nature reserve, and bicycles are only ever allowed on the islands for this event. Tyres and shoes need to be clean, backpacks etc must be checked and closed properly, and care must be taken not to introduce mice, rats or possums, since the Department of Conservation is taking every step to keep the islands rodent, rabbit and stoat free for the sake of protecting the variety of bird species (including kiwi) found on the island.
By 9:30 we were off, starting with a very steep climb on a grassy slope. Up and up we went while the minutes ticked by and the kilometres passed ever so slowly. On the ridge at about the 7km mark we encountered a number of the MTBs who started earlier coming from the front. They seemed to also battle with the muddy bumpy grassy course and were already completely covered in mud.
At around 8kms we crossed over to the second little island, Rangitoto (meaning “bloody sky” in Maori), for a completely different running terrain. Rangitoto was formed by volcanic activity, and the whole island (which is about 5.5km wide) is basically made up of volcanic rock and scoria. The cone rises some 260 metres above sea level. Some vegetation shielded us from the worst wind while we made our way up the crater.
With the rain and mist, we could not see the top of the mountain, which was maybe just as well, and when were reached the viewpoint at the top, we also didn’t have any of the promised beautiful views of Auckland and surrounds. Just gray mist and rain.
Between the 17 and 21km markers the footpath is virtually only rocks, making the going very tough. And it will certainly be very sore if you fall – chances are you will break something.
As time went on, with the difficult terrain, legs didn’t want to work anymore. It became increasingly difficult to lift your feet and the risk of falling also increased. Not long before Gerry graciously proved this theory to be true. He fortunately only collected some minor scratches and bruises.
Crossing back to Motutapu, the terrain turned back to more grasslands, pastures, wet meadows and mud. And the hills were not getting any less (or flatter!) either!
We could still manage bits of running on the flats and downhills, but the hills were mostly to steep for my level of fitness.
At 32kms we passed through the finish area and the temptation almost got the better of me. This is pure torture from the organisers!
Only 10 more kilometres to go. Fortunately we are allowed 7.5 hours to complete the course. We could walk and would still make it in time. More hills to negotiate, which amounted to ample walking. The downhills were also to steep and muddy to run on sore, weak legs. So we ended up walking the biggest part of the last 10kms after all. It felt like ages. Gusts were blowing us off the ridges and all I could think about was the end. I could almost not imagine myself finising the agonising test in endurance and perseverance this particular DUAL posed with it’s most challenging weather. Maybe it could be worse? I’m sure it would have been a completely different experience if the weather played along. But we made it! And the whole time I had the calming tune of Norah Jones’s song “You humble me” in my head. (Kind of applicable, given the hand Mother Nature was dealing us!)
At the finish line (I thought we were last) everybody that was still around (who hadn’t taken an earlier ferry back) was clapping and cheering us on and the Speight’s sponsor was so kind as to put down a beer for each of us just after the timing mats! What a great incentive to keep us going! We completed the course in 6:32. Not without a couple of blisters and very sore legs for me.
Three more people finished behind us, the last one in 7:50. The last two participants received, apart from a beer, a standing ovation in the form of a human tunnel to walk/run through. What a wonderful moment! But you had to be there. These are the things what makes these events so special and memorable.
We briefly spoke to the Buff rep, originally from Jhb, South Africa. Also met Linda from Soweto, SA and I believe there were a couple more South Africans. The field of 42.2km runners numbered only 65, of which 5 did not finish. We saw the one chap bail at about 22km and the guy that was last is presumably also listed as DNF, since the race has a cut-off time limit of 7.5 hours.
Totalsport made every effort to stage a wonderful event and a great day out on the islands. Ample food stalls, a beer tent, coffee etc, especially also for family and friends making a day out of it.
This event (maybe because of the challenging weather that we’re not used to?) can only be described as one gigantic test in perseverance. A great event thought. Nothing ordinary about it. A bit more expensive than the average other marathon, understandably, but a unique experience and certainly worthwhile. And to be fair, it does include your ferry tickets back and forth. We might just be back to try and improve our time :-).