The Whanganui 3-bridges event was only the third event we’d done in NZ (in 2010) and I still have fond memories of the day. We only did the 10km back then, but having done the Mountain to Surf marathon in 2008 during a visit and tour of the country, and the Kahuterawa Classic 7km also in 2010, we were starting to get a feel for NZ events.
This year the event day was Gerry’s final day with the 10-week short course photography students in Whanganui, so I decided to do the Property Brokers Whanganui 3-Bridges half marathon to kill the time. NZ is in the midst of a very dry spell – we haven’t really had rain for more than a month and our water tanks are dangerously close to empty with no sign of rain in our region any time soon. On top of that, we’ve had an exceptionally warm summer so far, with temperatures in the high twenties, and scorching sun every day. Blue skies! Yay!
Not surprising then that most participants battled with the conditions, which might have impacted on some runners’/walkers’ times.
Like an idiot I didn’t bother to read the race information on their website, and just assumed that I would be able to enter on the morning. As it turned out, the organisers also made a FB post on their site (I’m not following it) stating that there will be no on-the-day entries. Thankfully, the organisers where flexible and decided to take my money in exchange for a bib. 🙂 Entry sorted. Phew.
After race briefing we all lined up in the road (Somme Parade). I decided to use my phone Strava app to track my run. So with a phone in one hand, a bag of jelly sweets and hanky in the other, we were off. I can confirm this – I’ve run with bags of jelly sweets plenty times, but a phone is just a pain in the butt. It’s a clumsy stupid thing to hold onto, while making sure not to accidentally press a button to turn it off, or to call someone mid-run. I was particularly concerned I might stumble or lose my grip while on the bridges and see it flying into the river!
My one other concern was that I was about to have a really huge running week, being part of the 200km-in-twelve-days Big Christmas Feast, Greatest Virtual Run challenge, and I was already sitting on 85km for the week. This event would push me over the 100km mark which we only do when we enter for long ultras. Which, coincidentally we’ve done. Grrr. So, this challenge is a good way to kick us into action as our next 100km event (Gone Nuts in Tasmania) is already on 3 March 2018 – a little more than two months away. While I’m cussing at Jason right now, I also have to thank him for creating this challenge as it is a timely reminder that we really need to do higher mileage in the weeks to come.
What I thought would be a really slow trot around the course, turned into a nice, comfortable run/jog. I started off faster than anticipated, but just kept to a pace I knew I could maintain throughout the course. Not flat-out, but not dilly-dallying either. I was feeling good and running at a fairly decent pace of about 6min/km, despite all the kilometres on the legs. Yet I was still among the last ten or so participants at the turn-around in Kowhai Park on the first lap. NZ events really need more participants!
It was very hot and muggy, but it didn’t bother me too much. Being used to much warmer temperatures, I was really enjoying not having watery eyes and a runny nose because of the cold air. The day started off overcast and remained that way for the most part, but every now and then the sun would make an appearance making things even worse of you are not good at handling the heat.
Since the flood in 2015, the river path hasn’t been fixed. But in the past week, the council got going on the footpath and managed to create a temporary path to be used so that runners and walkers didn’t have to cross the road twice. Unfortunately, three cheeky little ditches had to be negotiated with every lap. As one marathon runner pointed out on my first lap going up one of these ditches: “this is going to be interesting on 35km!”. I felt sorry for anyone thinking of posting a PB. If the tight corners passing over and under the bridges, combined with the heat on the day didn’t get to you, these very steep down-and-ups certainly would.
There were three water points on the course, stocked with water and electrolyte to keep participants hydrated. Not sure if it would be enough, as it seemed that a lot of runners/walkers where struggling with the heat. I am aware of at least one person (a fellow Manawatu Strider) who was hospitalised later that evening with heat stroke.
By the time I started on the second lap, and keeping to a fairly consistent pace, I started catching a lot of runners. Apart from passing someone every now and again, I was on my own for the most part. Hard to believe that the field can get so spread out on a 10km lap that you run all by yourself for very long stretches. Although I had an enjoyable run, it would have been much more fun if Gerry could be there too.
Prize-giving kicked off at 13:30. The event certainly have grown over the years, and it is run more professionally every year. It was great to see so many fellow Manawatu Striders club mates.
With 107km under the belt for the week so far (with Sunday still to add more), I caught up with Gerry after his class, and we made our way home with a thermos of coffee and some homemade Christmas cake.