The last time I went to a vineyard I ended up texting the person stood next to me telling them I was in a vineyard. You can imagine how sober I was!
This time was slightly different.
Living by a lake where the mountains shoot straight up like skyscrapers, encapsulating Queenstown in the middle, made the drive out to Alexandra even more spectacular. The landscape slowly opened up during the meandering drive through impressive valleys and gorges. As the road drifts down into Clyde, the nearest town to the race, large expanses of open land, fields and vineyards appear before us. One of these vineyards is our destination.
McArthur Ridge vineyard was the location of the inaugural 'Run the Vines' half marathon. Being a new, very small event we didn't need to arrive too early, thankfully, as we were late leaving the house and my third coffee still hadn't created any movement! We had just enough time to warm up, collect our numbers, visit the portaloo (very important!) and get our laces tied up. We, being me and Taff, my boyfriend, who was running the 10km race.
At about 9:00 we were all beckoned to the start line. The half marathon runners were ushered to the front, ahead of the 10km runners and then 5km. The safety briefing was followed by a prayer and that was it. It was time. Just as my body had decided it needed one final run to the toilet, we were off! At least that took the stress away of debating whether I should or shouldn't go. There was no choice.
From the very beginning there was a great vibe and positive energy within all of the competitors. People were chatting and every face displayed a huge, beaming smile. I'm not sure if that was down to the relaxed atmosphere of the race or the weather being absolutely perfect for running.
From the start we followed the only straight section of the race along a gravel path. From there on it was like running round a giant maze. If you spun me around at any point I'd have no chance of telling you which way North was. As I was still recovering from injury, my plan was to keep my pace nice a steady for at least the first half. To help with this I focused on taking in my surroundings and enjoying the views. This wasn't difficult as I could literally see for miles and miles, enough vineyards to keep me drunk for at least a year!
Running between the grapevines was like something out of a fairy tale. At some points I did half expect to see a rabbit with a pocket-watch bounce past, or a crazed man with hats and tea-cups!
This race could by no means be described as flat but definitely not hilly either. It has just the right amount of undulations to keep your legs working, combined with plenty of smooth, rolling downhills. Having all the twists and turns between the vines means you never had long drawn out periods to make you feel like giving up. You never knew what was coming next.
As the route is so winding you can't really ever tell where in the pack you are. As I re-entered the race briefing area I knew there was 3km remaining and I caught up with a young lad in front of me. We had a nice chat as we tried to push the pace together for the last stint. I was shocked to hear from him that there were only two gents ahead of us.
This spurred me on, and with less than 2km to the finish I picked up the pace to get third place.
I would never have thought that just a year and a half after deciding to overcome my anxiety before races, that I would complete a race with a huge smile on my face, having enjoyed the whole entire event!
This is one of those lessons in life where you think, if only I'd started to learn one word of French per day a few years ago, I'd be fluent by now. Today is the day, get started! (Does not have to be applied only to learning French!)
With the race being at a vineyard it'll be no surprise that most of the prizes were a little boozy! For completing the race and being first female, I came away with a selection of craft beers, a lovely bottle of wine, a t-shirt and a cash prize (which I'm very pleased to say was the same for males and females!). But most importantly, I came away with a big smile and a new found love of racing!
Everyone knows that runners love beer and the organisers of this race must have been on to this too. The race is cleverly placed on the same weekend as the Central Otago Beer festival (Alexandra) which, of course, would have been rude not to have visited! And tasted all the beers!
Well done to all of the organisers and volunteers who made this a great event. If this year, their first year, is anything to go by, then next year will be a smashing event!
This blog would not be half as pretty if it wasn't for the stunning photos
taken on race day by Alyssa Drake. Thank you.
January is basically over and life has been so hectic, it's taken me until now to get back to blogging. 2017 was an incredible year but at the same time incredibly busy. I feel like I haven't stopped for five minutes since returning from riding the Elliptigo across Australia.
Reflection is really important to me. Looking back over things that went well and things that could have gone better helps to move forward. Thinking about what makes you feel satisfied and what gives you a sense of purpose is a great indicator of what direction your life should go in. The easy option is not alway the one you should go with!
For me, I love to be outdoors having an adventure but something that I've added to that over recent years is sharing my journeys with the world. I really enjoyed sharing my video diaries as I crossed Australia (Sorry, only on my Facebook page). Putting the footage together at the end of a long day on the road was possibly harder than the ride itself but most definitely worth it to share my story and inspire others.
What came from this was a sense of purpose for me. Everyday people were anticipating the next instalment of the journey. I received messages from people saying that they wanted to have their own adventures and that following mine was the kick up the bum they needed. This sense of purpose gave me the drive to push through the hard days.
But anyway, this isn't a blog about ElliptigOz (that will hopefully come later). This is a blog about how awesome 2017 was. I had some opportunities to do things and go places that were completely unexpected.
In chronological order, my year looked a little like this:
Check out the slideshow below for my fave pics of the year!
As always a massive THANK YOU has to go to all the people who helped me and supported me through all of this. To my old friends, and new friends I've met along the way, your encouragement is superb. I'm sending you all a huge virtual hug right now. Hope it's not too sweaty for you as it's boiling hot over here in New Zealand!!
Having more than a handful of adventures under my belt now this is becoming an all too familiar occurrence. I have this vision well in advance of an upcoming challenge. I envision being super fit. Super ready. Super organised. Sponsors bursting out of my ears etc etc.
It's NEVER that way. I alway manage to get injured. I always get sick. I'm always skint. And I've never had sponsors. The list goes on.
This time is no different. As I sit in bed next to a pile of snotty tissues, with frozen peas on my leg, I look through the 'to-do' list in my diary which is as long as my arm and growing. There's five days left before I fly out. I consider which list items can be taken off the list. Really, they all need to happen but it's time to be ruthless. I overcome this problem by convincing myself that I will still have time in Australia to sort out last bits.
There's something about packing where I just cant do it until the last minute. I sit and stare at piles of items that need to go in the bag but there's some kind of mysterious force that keeps them from going in until a few hours of leaving the house. I wonder if this is similar to writers block?
Anyway, what I have learned from the experience this time is to have patience and positivity. Watching runners pass the house from the bedroom window I feel jealous. I watch and remember how it feels to have the air pass my face and the rythm of my feet on the ground. The good thing is that I know this injury and illness will go and I can return to this. A sence of gratitude comes over me and I focus on the things I can do. I use my time to organise school talks and do fundraising. Life is amazing and I try to make the most of every moment.
ElliptigOz is so close I can practically taste it!
I can't believe it's less than a month until I'll be gliding away from Denham and riding down the west coast of Australia. It feels like only recently that I was dreaming up the idea. It wasn't. This adventure has been over a year in the making and this alone is something that's new to me. Most of my adventures are of a 'random, book at ticket, pluck out an idea, grab some cash and go type' affair.
This had to be different. It had to be different as I want to make an impact, not only in the country I am travelling through but also for girls in Africa. As I want to raise lots of money for charity, I've had to do more forward thinking than usaul. Yes, my brain has hurt!
I feel I still have so much to organise which is a tad un-nerving as I leave the UK in two and a half weeks. But, the best thing to do in this situation is to look at what I've achieved so far.
BUT... there is still a huge jobs list to be completed. I'm not going to bore you with all the details but here's the main ones.
And I bet you thought this adventure shenanigan was all about running around, skipping and having fun!! Two more weeks of sitting at the computer then the fun begins. Please keep following the adventure and get involved any way that you can. :)
To donate to One Girl go here.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I'm guessing a video is a lot more.
So before telling you about the electrocutions, mud, suffocating ice-pool etc etc. Here is the video of my Tough Mudder experience...
Having always wanted to complete a Tough Mudder, I was over the moon when I had an invite to be on a team put together by Trek bar. It possibly wasn't the best timing as I was recovering from an ankle injury but I think submerging myself in ice perhaps assisted the healing!
As I met the team and we all put our thoughts forward about the obstacle that was scaring us the most, I seemed to be alone in worrying about the ARCTIC ENEMA. Everyone else was far more terrified of the electric shocks. Maybe I had more to worry about than I first thought. Being a hot weather lover, nothing scares me more than dunking myself deep into ice water!
We were very lucky that the weather was warm. It had been pretty freezing leading up to this particular weekend. By the time we got around to 'ice hell' at about 3km in, we had warmed up through the running and rolling around in mud. Thankfully there was no queue leading up to hell. I was able to climb straight up to the slide and get it over with. I slid down the complete darkness into the pool of ice which was conveniently filled up to my nipples. As I landed in the pool the ground was slippy and I struggled to get to my feet. When I finally popped my head out, I couldn't speak. Apparently I had to duck down again to go under a beam of wood that crossed the pool. I couldn't breathe. The man at the side of the pool was telling me to go but I couldn't take a breathe to go under. It seemed like I was stuck there forever. Nobody else could go down the slides till I moved. How much pressure did I feel! I eventually mustered an apology to this man and managed to grab a small breathe. Under I went again, and I also lost my footing again. In a mad panic I managed to push my head out of the icy water. I had about two meters to wade through more ice before my escape. Once I got out of hell and finally managed a full breath, I screamed. I'm not sure how other people react to this but it was all I could do. I can guarantee you now, I would have to be paid a lot of money to do that again!!!
After that experience, nothing could ever be as bad. I think we had about three or four more water obstacle interspersed with mud-based obstacles. We ran a whole 11 miles but it really never felt like it as we spent so much time laughing and covering ourselves in mud.
The most feared, it would appear, was left time last. The electric shocks! Imagine walking through a room full of cobwebs from top to bottom, but they are electrically charged cobwebs. Well, thats how the Tough Mudder finished. As I began to walk through I had my Go Pro in my hand but as the first shock got me, it was flung out of my grasp and swung from my wrist. I think I was pretty lucky that I only got one major shock and a few little ones. Some people were thrown to the floor.
The best bit came as we passed the finish line... the final obstacle... drink a bottle of cider!!
Thank you Team Trek!!!
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Well, WOOF WOOF, this trail runner has mastered a new trick!! Riding the giant grasshopper!
I've learned that balance is not one of my strengths. And, getting to grips with riding the Elliptigo was not immediately easy as is it has been for other people that had a go. My mum managed to turn a tight corner within seconds of getting on and my brother looked like he WAS the grasshopper. I'm a bit slower, but if I can do it, anyone can!
My first few sessions out on Simon (the Elliptigo) were all about taking my time and getting the feel of standing up while moving on wheels. You definitely feel more exposed compared to being on a bicycle. And there is no time to completely relax as you always need to be balancing and holding in your core muscles.
At my first road junction I discovered a problem. I couldn't balance and hold on with one hand to indicate. Eeeeeks! As I train more on the 'Go' my core is getting stronger and I can actually show people where I'm moving in the road.
Gliding down hills and feeling the breeze against your whole body is an awesome feeling of exhilaration. But the best thing about riding on the Elliptigo is watching the reactions on other peoples faces as I pass them. People are gobsmacked and then break out into a huge smile.
My first ride was about 5km on day one, and after a week of increasing the distance and adding in the trailer occasionally, I managed to do a full day with all my kit by the end of the week. From zero, to a 75km adventure in one week, is a pretty cool achievement. And, I LOVE IT! It's so much fun.
Make sure you follow me on Facebook for more video updates!
Driving the last few kilometres before arriving at the race start, the nausea began.
The last race I went to, my boyfriend drove and I was passenger. I get travel sick, and blamed the winding, country roads for my nausea. On Saturday April 1st, I was designated driver on the way to Mavora Lakes for 'Lap the Lake'.
Clearly this is not related to driving!
As with all the races I've recently taken part in, which is not many, the setting was spectacular . The first half of each lap followed a gravel road meandering down the centre of a wide, sweeping valley between lush, green mountains. After about 5km it turned right onto a foot path, passed a 'halfway' checkpoint and crossed the first swing bridge to the other side of the lake. From there, the trail became thin, undulating and pretty technical. The majority of the second half is inside the forest and pops out a couple of times into fields of waist-high grass. At the very end of the lap you cross another swing bridge before entering the main check point/start/finish area ready to go again!
One of many to come fundraising events in a school dress!!!
19th of February, a date for your diary everyone!!! Not really, just my family and friends ;)
Are you looking for a fun idea to celebrate your birthday??? So was I, so I hatched a plan.
I never really do anything for my birthday but this year I fancied doing something slightly wacky. I do enjoy partying and having a few drinks but time and time again, it becomes a bit repetitive.
I fancied a challenge, but nothing so exhausting it would take the fun out of the day.
Big Easy????? What the #@%&!!!!!!!!!
Big, yes. Easy, no!!
If you are looking for a real adventure marathon in New Zealand, then this is the race for you to enter. It has everything... punishing uphills, even more punishing downhills (20kms!), beautiful views as far as the eye can see, fantastic marshals, a gorgeous river run to finish, tonnes of brilliant spot prizes, and best of all, free beer as soon as you finish!
I really enjoyed this marathon. There was about a 13km section where there was no enjoyment, but for the rest of it, and definitely after, it was nothing less than amazing.
Sometimes I find it hard to describe in words how incredible something is. There are only so many words to describe something beautiful, and I'm not good with words at the best of times. So, I have put together this small video which I think sums up the whole event pretty well. I hope you enjoy it and feel free to ask any questions or write any comments below.
For more information about the marathon, check out their website.
And if 42.2km is not enough for you, well, they do a 100km race too!!!