Eve's Port Hills Ultra Race Report
Port Hills Ultra
Technically a DNF
Running around in the Port Hills for an ultra was something that terrified me and excited me all at the same time. Having never run there before I had no idea what to expect, although the vert on this race was hefty so I knew it was going to be a slog.
Kick off was quite late at 10am but the conditions were great for running, not too hot, dry and a gentle breeze. The 50km runners gathered ready to head off, it was a small field 23 of runners (3 women), yikes we were going to end up very spread out!
Off we went out of Victoria Park and started a lovely climb, awesome to warm up the legs. I dropped to the back, happy to let all the group settle into their pace and it was going to be a long day so no need to rush off.
The first 10km was a lot of fun, I felt great! There were some ups and downs and the views were awesome. There was a bit of a climb but nothing too crazy and then I popped out at the first aid station at 10.8km. My race plan was to stay on top of my fluids and nutrition as I knew it was going to get hotter as the day went on. I topped up my water and tailwind and then headed off for the next section.
A sweet downhill bush trail, now that’s more like it! I love this sort of running and it provided some shade….but what goes down must come back up again (the theme for this event). There was a trudge back up out of the bush and then onto more open trail. I got a bit confused as to where to go here, but I guy I had caught up to had the GPX file on his phone and confirmed we were on course so I carried on ahead to the next aid station at 18.4km. More water and tailwind topping up and then into the first real leg test section.
This section had an intense downhill gully to run down, a real quad killer and you guessed it once we finally got to the bottom it was a steep climb back up, it was pretty crazy but finally it popped me back up to the aid station at the top, 25.2km done.
The next section was where my race started to come undone. On the other side of Mt Vernon I crossed the road and the trail split into a couple of options. No arrow to indicate which way and both were downhill so getting it right was important. I got out the course description and figured out it was the Farm Track I needed to head down. This was a long downhill, quite hard to run on tired legs and I really hoped halfway down it was the right way as it would be an awful climb back up. There were some walkers coming the other way and I asked if they had seen other runners with race numbers and any arrow markers, thankfully they said yes.
At the bottom things got a little murky, there were a few intersections with no markings and I had to go with my gut as to the direction I thought we should be heading. When I did find a marker I was so happy I felt like hugging it! The trail snaked back out along the valley and although I was pretty sure I was heading the right way I hadn’t seen an arrow for several km’s so I again asked some walkers coming the other way if they had seen runners and arrows, thankfully that was also a yes.
Next up was farmland with no trail, there were just arrows every now and then up a very steep hill. I nearly sat down on the hill just to give my legs a rest as it was really tough going and as there was no track to follow it took a lot of concentration to stay on course. I had a wee freak out towards the end of this section because I kept having to read the course description as I was really unsure where to go and I developed a knot just below my ribs which hurt when I ran. I worked hard to get my breathing back under control and focused on shortening my running stride. I was also almost out of fluids with about 4km till the aid station, it was warm out now too which always makes you want to drink more. At this point I thought I don’t want to do this anymore and I seriously thought I am out at the next aid station. My body was holding up ok but I was really wound up and anxious.
Finally, I saw the final aid station and I started randomly crying as I ran down into it. The crew were awesome and helped me with my bottles and I sat for about 5min and ate half a banana, I wasn’t actually hungry I just thought it would give me something to focus on for a few minutes other than which direction I should be going. I decided to push on, 38.1km done, come on Eve you can do this.
The last section was pretty good for running, the trail sort of hugged the edge of the hill and I got a nice rhythm going. I popped up on to the main road and enjoyed a bit of easy road downhill, no navigating required! There was a last little climb and then we headed down towards the finish. I got lost twice more in the last 3km. The first time I swore so loud, I was sure they could hear me at the finish line and the final time I called my crew waiting for me at the end like some crazy person rambling off a high pitched ffs I am lost again and I have just run down a big hill that I need to come back up. They came looking for me, which turned out to be pointless as in my confusion to find the right trail I popped out at the finish line. Completely off course but I just couldn’t turn around and try and navigate another way to the finish line. I was done. I was off course but I was done. Technically a DNF.
The positives were the amazing scenery, the awesome aid stations and marshals and it was an epic physical challenge where I was proud I still had legs to run at the end. I am claiming The Port Hills Ultra as ultra number 6, my distance was over a marathon, even if I didn’t quite hit the 50km. I also came in second woman and 11th out of the 21 finishers, I am proud of that too.