Welcome to my blog!
And what better way to get started by previewing one of the most hardcore mountain races held in New Zealand, The Goat Tongariro Adventure Race!
This coming Saturday I'll be running the race for my second time, having run it last year, and crikey am I excited.
"Why are you excited Andrew?", you may ask - Well, let me list just some of the reasons....
The weekend I will be travelling with two very good mates - one of which I haven't seen for a long time, since he lives down in Wanaka. And the other I will be seeing for the last time for "who knows how long", since he is shipping off to live in Baltimore a couple of days after.
Both of these guys are hardcore mountain men, and I've spent a lot of time running with them over the years, even won some teams races with each of them. So it's going to be great toeing the line with them in such a big race and seeing who can get bragging rights for the weekend.
The Goat Tongariro is a right prick of a course in an amazing setting, and that makes it right up my alley. I'll keep the plot summary short, but be warned, spoilers ahead.
The start is possibly the worst part - it's about a mile long section down the road from Whakapapa car park until the turn off onto the track. Everyone seems to run like they stole something, forgetting that they have a whole side of the mountain to traverse on quads they just successfully pounded into jelly.
The rocks jut out from the track like an English barmaids teeth. Anyone would think you're running on a volcano! All ye with weak ankles, tread carefully and with a healthy dose of strapping tape.
The streams are often seen as the giver of life and sustenance. However when I waded through them in last years race, I found the complete opposite effect had sapped my legs of any of the energy I'd pretended to have in them.
The sandy mud was something I totally didn't expect last year. I'd been told the course was muddy, but in my mind I was thinking Tararuas type bogs - where the mud is made from light fluffy dirt. But the mud on this course is gritty and heavy, and it gets into all of the crevasses (of your footwear).
The waterfall climb is brutally fun. It's 300m vertical of clambering, hopping, grunting and swearing. You want to save plenty in your tank for this bit, trust me.
And finally, Mumma's Mile has a lot said about it and how difficult it is, but it's really nothing on what you've done in the previous 15 odd kilometers. The fact is, it's at the end, you're stuffed, and you're not quite close enough to smell the sausages yet, so it makes you cry a little. But there are lots of people spectating at this point, so I wouldn't recommend that.
Though I've had a lot of time off with injury this year, I'm still feeling as fit and strong as I ever have.
I think having run the Aorangi Undulator a month ago will pay huge dividends on a course like this. I wasn't quite prepared for the length and amount of climb in that race, and my legs let me know about it fairly early. I'm more honed for the vital statistics of this race that is for certain.
The Goat is my first "A-Race" of the summer, and I'm not going to hold back...
Photo: Me coming into Mummas mile in the 2014 race - Credit: Photos4Sale