What better way to spend a Monday off work than running in the central plateau. Tom Ericksen and I hit the road early to make the most of a sunny Monday. We parked up on the Bruce Road at 8.30am – a bluebird day. Our plan was to sample the start of the Goat Tongariro course. For me this would be a memory refresher in preparation for the race in 2 weeks time. For Tom, a chance to explore some new trails and get some km’s back in the legs after the Tongariro Trail 50km.
We took in the first half of the trail, or at least as far as I recall the halfway sign from earlier years. In running the track I remembered a few important lessons from prior years and also could notice some changes to the track.
- The first km off the Bruce Road is ROUGH. This is through the rocky “moonscape” terrain. The rocks are small, pretty closely spaced, and in many cases freely moveable. This is not the terrain to warm up on, and it will separate the field just as much as the blast downhill on the road from Iwikau Village.
- There are some very slippery, silty mud sections. These are places where the overlying topsoil is exposed. The fine, dusty nature of this layers means even a sniff of moisture can add some serious slip. There a a fair few of these to climb or descend in the first half of the course. I am going to be thinking grip in my shoe choice for race day.
- Race day will be a busy day for the eyes. Not only is foot placement important, but there are numerous small micro route choices through some of the scrubby sections. Chosen well, they can yield good firm surfaces for running, and straight lines to minimise distance. Done poorly and you can end up trapped by slippery mud (see point 2). Come race day I will be trying to look far ahead to choose a good route between poles and also to try and make the best micro-route choices. The eyes up approach also means a chance to grab some of the views.
- Despite being a traverse there is some solid climbing. I clocked nearly 1000m to halfway and back. Bear that in mind when running 3 minute/km pace down the road at the start!
While the weather can change things dramatically between now and race day, things did seem pretty wet up on the mountain despite the sun. Streams had plenty of water, and the boggy quality of some of the heathery sections was really noticeable. Another reason I am making my shoe choice based on grip.
If race day is clear and warm, less weight via less fluids is not the way to a faster time. That extra 100mls will be barely noticeable on your back, but might just save the day up Mama’s Mile.
While she is not racing this year, my sister Kat took on The Goat Tongariro last year, grabbing 5th. Her account includes a bit more detail on some sections of the track on her experiences race day ( https://katareynolds.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/the-goat-and-back-to-back-marathons/ )