When I first went through Goat’s Pass, I felt a 50/50 split of terrified and excited. What did this magical part of the world have to offer? There was quite a team of us; a mixture of complete newbies and seasoned vets. It was the middle of spring, and we had had intentions of heading through sooner, but the weather gods had other ideas. Even on that day, we were pushing the limits. The sun was shining, but the rivers were high from the recent nor’west which is far too present during spring.

I had no idea what to expect but had heard many stories about the river crossings, big boulders, the hidden tracks, the hut at the top of the pass followed by the open expanse down the other side. Following a ‘goat track’ can be quite different for two people’s imaginations; it’s not until you experience it for yourself that you understand what it is like to run through the pass. About the third river crossing I somehow tripped, and in an instant, I was submerged. Thank goodness Rob was beside me to grab my pack and pull me to the side. Lesson #1: Never underestimate the power of mother nature.

Since then I have gone through several times, each trip a little different from the last, but always just as breathtaking. I was so grateful to Rob and Matt for giving up their time and taking me through on my first trip, and now I feel I have enough experience to pay the favour forward. In May, I took two friends through for their first time, and have two more groups of friends lined up to take through in Spring.

Below are a few tips that I have learnt along the way that will help you on your first time through the Pass.

Direction/Transport: As simple as it sounds to people who have done it before, the Coast to Coast course goes from West to East, so this is the direction I have always run it. If you have two cars, park one at Greyney’s Campsite and drive to the start of the run at Morrison’s footbridge, located five kilometres west of the Otira township on SH73. If you only have one car, I’d suggest parking at Greyney’s Shelter campsite and hitchhiking to the start, or if you’re really keen you could bike from Greyney’s to the start! (Great training for Coast)

Course: Starting from SH73 where Morrison’s footbridge crosses the Otira River, you follow a well-marked route (thanks to the Te Araroa trail) through river flats up Deception Valley, crossing the river numerous times, primarily in the river bed, although there are some tracks if you know where to look. About 11 kilometres in, Dorreen Creek joins the Deception River on the true left. Carrying on you come across the Upper Deception Hut (hidden in the bush) which also signals the start of Big Boulders. From here the route involves scrambling and boulder-hopping up the riverbed and through the adjacent bush for about an hour, before a final crossing of the Deception River. At this point, you scramble up a steep side stream for about 500 metres to reach Goat Pass Hut and the highest point of the run (1,070 metres).

From the hut, the track opens and passes over sub alpine scrub while crossing over Goat Pass before descending to the headwaters of the Mingha River. Following the track all the way, you pass the Mingha Bivvy then for the next three kilometres the track undulates through the bush before a short steep section to reach Dudley Knob (known as the last climb on the Coast to Coast run). The track passes through bush for another kilometre or so, sidling high above the Mingha Gorge before emerging onto the expansive flats of the lower Mingha River. Continue heading downstream, aiming for the power poles and the Bealey River in the distance. Once you’ve crossed the Bealey River, take care crossing the railway tracks to reach SH73. Greyneys Shelter campsite is a further 500 metres south.

Note: The Coast to Coast course involves an extra three kilometres at the start across farmland from Aickens Corner, and another two-and-a-half kilometres at the end across dry riverbed to Klondyke Corner, making it a grand total of 31 kilometres.

Fitness: Expect to take between 5-8 hours with a reasonable fitness level for your first time. If it comes to it, you can walk the whole thing in a day; as long as you have a good base fitness you will be fine. Keith Murray holds the record for the run course in a blistering time of 2:22:34, set in 1994. Insane. My fastest time is double that, 4.42, set on my 2-Day Coast run.

Weather: Aghh the weather, the most unpredictable part of running through Goat’s Pass. The weather itself is fine; it’s the quickly rising river level that will catch you out. If you struggle to get to the other side of the first three or so river crossings, then I would highly recommend you backtrack and attempt it again on a different day. But as quickly as the rivers rise, they also drop, so you can usually get back up there quickly (not ideal with life commitments though!). I’m not too sure if it’s 100% correct, but there is a rumour going around that if you get caught out and have to be rescued and you have entered the race, then your race entry becomes void. A good rule if you ask me. If in doubt, call the Arthur’s Pass Information Centre; they are great.

Terrain: The Deception Valley is a mixture of single track, river bed running, river crossing and boulder climbing – pretty much an off-road runners dream. There are tracks you can find along the way which makes it runnable, but unless you are a goat or a freak (insert top athletes here), then there will be a fair amount of walking done in the top section. Expect a few sore upper-body muscles for your first trip (more so if you’re a short ass like me). The only steep section is right before the hut, maybe the last 15 minutes or so, but nothing that you won’t be able to handle. From the Hut at the top to the finish, the Mingha Valley is almost entirely runnable, a nice stretch for the legs on your way down. There are many river crossings, especially on the way up. Being able to read the river to cross in the best spot is key so take your time. Linking arms (with the weaker person down river) is something I always do; someone even helped me cross a few times during the race. I never say no to someone helping me!

Nutrition: As with any long-distance run, food and hydration are really important. Everyone is different, so figure out what works best for you (ideally before race day!). Personally, I take a collapsible cup with me (the Ultra Aspire Cup is perfect) and use this to drink from the rivers and I have electrolytes (I use Pure Nutrition) in my bladder too. Food wise, I am not a fan of gels as they wreak havoc on my stomach. I take a scroggin mix (including nuts for salt), Bliss Balls (survive well to the odd river dunking), bananas and muesli bars of some sort – both Ems Power Bars and OSM Bars are great. And when I am going through on a training run (not racing) I take a salami wrap for lunch at the hut. I have had cramp twice in my life – once while doing the run section of 2-day Coast and once doing the run section of Red Bull Defiance. Both times I was carrying Cramp Stop and I highly recommend this. I always take it with me on my adventures. Even if you’ve never had it before during exercise (alcohol-induced cramp doesn’t count!), cramp is a killer, and a few squirts of this stops it almost instantly. (Hint: You spray it on your tongue, not on the affected area as I have seen done before!)

Footwear: It’s often thought that the more grip on your shoe the better the traction. Wrong. Shoes like the Salomon Speedcross are awesome for muddy terrain but lethal on wet rocks (super slippery). I’d suggest a shoe like the Salomon Sense Marin or the North Face Endurance, which has less grip but are amazing over the slippery rocks. Unless you’re carrying a heavy pack, I wouldn’t suggest tramping boots. Just your sneakers will be fine. If you are training for Coast, find a pair of sneakers you like and use them to train with, then grab a new pair (yes, I’m sorry, more $$) and wear them a couple of times before race day. (You need two different pairs of sneakers come race day anyway!)

Equipment/clothing: Compulsory items are there for a reason. The Southern Alps are extremely unpredictable, and the last thing you want to do is be caught out by poor planning. Along with the Coast to Coast compulsory items, I also carry a dry bag which has a collection of goodies that come with me on every adventure I go on (anytime I take my running or mountain bike pack!). Inside is a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), head torch, spare batteries, lighter, Gurney Goo and an Em’s Power Bar. I know this might sound extreme to some people, but if you were to be caught out due to weather or an injury, you need to be able to make yourself slightly comfortable! I also carry plenty of merino (top, leggings, gloves, socks and hat) in a different dry bag. The last thing you want is to be cold and have to put on wet gear. Just use your common sense. I’d rather carry it and not use it, than not take it and look like an idiot.

If in doubt, stick to these five key points from the Outdoor Safety Code to reduce the risk while in the outdoors.

  1. Plan your trip
  2. Tell someone your plans
  3. Be aware of the weather
  4. Know your limits
  5. Take sufficient supplies

If you have any questions, please get in touch, I am only too happy to answer them or point you in the right direction to find out. I will be rolling out more blog posts over the next few months offering advice to people who are doing the Coast for their first time. Here’s to a spring with minimal nor’westers!

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How did I get here?

This weekend I am jumping aboard the Say Yes to Adventure wagon (literally) and heading south to Wanaka. Why? Apart from the fact that Wanaka is a pretty impressive spot, the main reason is to check out the premiere screening of ‘Waters of the Greenstone’ at the Mountain Film Festival. Commissioned by Kathmandu and produced by the amazing crew from Resonate Productions, the documentary follows two women’s journey (myself and Robyn Dewson) as we attempt one of New Zealand’s most iconic sporting events, the Kathmandu Coast to Coast.

So how the heck did I get to be one of the main characters in this film? It’s a question I have asked myself over and over since I found out about it in August last year, not that I had any idea what I was signing up for. I don’t see myself as a top-level athlete, let alone someone who is worthy of being filmed as they run, bike and kayak from one side of the country to the other. But maybe that’s why they chose me. I am no different from you; I have dreams, I have goals, and I have a desire to do things that scare the bejesus out of me. So occasionally my adventures can be bigger than most, but I truly believe that anyone can do what I do, it’s just whether that’s what you want to do.

To be honest, I’m as nervous as hell! Watching myself (and hearing my voice) can be so cringe – all I can see are my insecurities. Double chin, cankles, whiney voice, stupid comments (did I really say that??) … plus there’s also that voice in your head telling you that your cover is going to be busted and you’re not actually any good at what you do! We are our own harshest critics. Or is this just me??

I was approached by Kathmandu mid-last year to be an ambassador for them and ultimately compete in the Coast to Coast. Over the eight months leading up to Coast I blogged and posted to social media about my training, as well as spending an epic week based at Arthur’s Pass being filmed and photographed alongside Jess De Bont, Richard and Elina Ussher, Robyn Dewson, David Avei and Courtney Atkinson. Plus, the great crew from Kathmandu, Resonate Productions (filming) and Mickey Ross (behind the lens).

While the weather didn’t exactly play ball, we managed to find enough breaks in the weather to get the job done. Biking up the viaduct, running through the pass and flying in helicopters – it all sounds so dreamy! (*cough) Read sandflies, lots of backwards and forwards, and a healthy dose of waiting. But an incredible experience and a new group of friends were made.

There aren’t any more screenings planned, but hopefully, we can work something out and get a screening here in Christchurch sometime soon. When I know more details, I will post them on my social media channels.

I also want to apologise in advance to Anna McCone and Joy Weston-Arnold. During school days, I loved doing aerobics (you will not catch me in those outfits ever again!!), and one year we headed to Invercargill to compete. It was a time that frizz hair was all the rage and throw-away cameras were how we recorded our life events. There is a section in the documentary where I am flicking through old photo albums and come across a section from the good old days. My fingers are crossed that the majority of people who watch will blink at the very second this image comes on the screen because boy howdy, it’s a doozy!”

“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.” – Unknown

International Yoga Day

I was asked recently if I was happy with how my Coast to Coast training went. As a whole, the answer is “Yes”, but compared to when I trained for Coast the first time, my situations couldn’t have been more different. The main factor between the two was working for a company compared to now being my own boss. Working for yourself has this dreamy connotation – you get to work your own hours, have as many days off as you like etc, etc. But to be honest, the last two (or so) years have been the hardest of all. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I know I shouldn’t say this but some days I just want to throw it all in the air and work in a café. But luckily those days are few, and there are more good days when I feel like I’m kicking butt and doing what makes me happy.

No matter how many hours you get to put aside for training, there is one aspect that I did the first time around that I didn’t do last year was yoga. And I regret it. If I can offer you one piece of advice – yoga is it. Mentally. Physically. It helps on so many levels. And as it’s International Yoga day today, I thought I’d write about it.

When Lululemon asked me to speak at their event to celebrate International Yoga in a few weeks, I was initially stoked, but that was quickly followed by ‘What they heck am I going to talk about?!’. Which got me thinking. Yoga is more than just downward dogs on a mat and praying that you don’t fart, though. Even though it’s really, really hard not to laugh when someone does. Or an excuse to pick your toenails when you’re holding a position for what seems like an awkwardly long time. If you’ve done yoga before, I can almost guarantee you can relate to both. And while I do love going to classes, I find my yoga in the hills and mountains; my form of meditation that helps with the stresses of life. Have you ever found yourself running along, and then you get to the end suddenly and wonder how the heck you got there? So lost in the moment that it becomes therapeutic. That’s what yoga is to me.

If you’re free next weekend and are in Christchurch then why don’t you come along? They describe their event as “A day of flow, connection and inspiration from Christchurch’s best. Explore how the benefits of yoga show up in all areas of your life and how practice can become something so much more than on the mat.” You can grab a ticket here.

I am in no way sponsored by Lululemon, but I want to genuinely share with you how awesome I think they are. And not just because they have amazing fitness clothes. I went into their shop a while ago (I try and stay away to be honest as I just want to buy everything!) to sort out some gear for my Coast to Coast supporters and started chatting away with the lovely girls working there. A few weeks later I received an email asking if I would supply some magazines to an evening they were organising (which, I, of course, said yes) and was stoked a few weeks after that to be invited to their event ‘Talk to Table’.

Rocking up to the stunning venue in Lyttleton (the old Kingswood Skis workshop) I was blown away. I was one of 50 that was invited along, all from the Christchurch community who Lululemon support in different ways. Surrounded by people who ran their own business, were ambassadors or worked for Lululemon, we mingled while listening to epic tunes before sitting down to a beautiful spread by Herba Gourmet. It was a great night meeting new people, going somewhere new and feeling like what I do doesn’t go unnoticed. No longer do I think they are a global company chasing the dollar, but a company who supports their community and is helping those in the fitness industry pursue their goals. A boomer of a marketing strategy!

And it gets better; I was invited to their store opening too! They have moved out of their temporary store next to Ballantynes in the iconic Container Mall and can now be found further up Cashel Mall at 145 – 161. The morning started with a Bootybarre® class at the recently opened On Pointe studio at Carlton Corner. It wasn’t just the new gear that got me excited, but if I had my time again, I would have carried on with ballet and dance. I was so excited to go and do a class in their studio and while it turns out I’m not as strong as I was when I was 12 (those glute exercises), the love for ballet is still strong. Described as a fun, high energy fusion class, combining Pilates, Dance, Yoga with Cardio Intervals at the barre, it is suitable for all levels. Give it a nudge if you’re looking for something a little bit different from the usual yoga class.

We then headed back for a yummy breakfast and the chance to check out their new store before it officially opened to the public. I would highly recommend a visit if only to see the beautiful art on the walls by local artist Lara Marshall.

Thanks Lululemon for your support and for giving me the chance to be a part of your amazing community.

“True meditation is about being fully present with everything that is – including discomfort and challenges. It is not an escape from life.” ~ Craig Hamilton

 

I’d seen the trailer of the Waitomo Trail Run earlier in the year and decided if there were any events to head north for this would be one. So (easily) convincing Scott to join me, we booked tickets to Auckland for a long weekend to explore the caves of Waitomo.

Like every event these days, it rolled around far too fast, and my training was somewhat dubious. Or maybe it wasn’t. It’s fair to say the last year of consistent training has set me up with a pretty solid base, which I occasionally take for granted. When I thought back over the previous week, I had managed to fit in a mountain bike, a road bike, a kayak, a trail run and three yoga sessions (it’s my new morning ritual, will be interesting to see how long it lasts!). So why I hadn’t trained specifically for this race, there was plenty of cross training in there to keep the heart ticking over.

Meeting Scott in Auckland on Friday morning, we picked up our rental car and hit the motorway south. With plenty of time to kill before registration in Waitomo at 5pm, we decided to take a detour and see what Raglan was all about. Discovering a quirky little surfing town, we grabbed some lunch and spent a very peaceful afternoon on the beach soaking up the autumn rays and watching many attempt to catch the decent-sized waves rolling in.

Punching in Waitomo to the navigation, we opted for the shortest route, resulting in a gravel road and some very beautiful North Island countryside. Hey, it’s, all part of the adventure.

The Waitomo Trail Run, now in its second year, is put on by Paul Charteris, well-known in the trail run world for running the Tarawera Ultra. It had managed to attract 3,300 people, a massive number for a New Zealand event. There were four options – 35km, 22km, 11km and 6km. So no surprise, we both entered the 35-kilometre event – may as well get our money’s worth!

Staying with a great friend’s parents, who live a very handy ten minutes out of Waitomo, we planned to head to registration about 5:30pm then on to their house. What we didn’t count on was 3,300 others turning up at the same time!! After seeing the length of the line, and what we imagined would be at least an hour wait, we headed back to the Roberts with the plan to come back just before registration closed at 8pm. Definitely a great idea – we turned up with no line and were registered in less than five minutes!

An early start had us parking the car and getting on the bus while it was still dark. Heading south for a good 30 minutes had me questioning just how underprepared I was for this race. Opting to not take a pack with water (there were aid stations along the way) we looked around and couldn’t spot anyone who had made the same decision as us. Too late now but it certainly didn’t help the nerves! We were on the second bus to arrive at the start, which meant we were also in the second wave to start. We were at the Mangapohue Natural Bridge, and a quick five-minute walk amongst beautiful native bush, deep in the undergrowth had me excited as to how the day would unfold. I was feeling good; drizzling and warm, it was ideal conditions for running.

The gun went off just after 7.30am. Playing follow the leader, we climbed some stairs and headed off on the course. It’s not often the start of the race is memorable, but as I arrived at a fence with the competitors in front of me coming back looking lost, I could only laugh. No one had any idea where the track was. Some were saying that it took us back to the carpark where the bus dropped us off, with others saying that it had to be the track and maybe we went past it? So off we all went again, back to the start. The front runners arrived and were told to turn around and head back; we had missed a marker right at the very start which took us in an entirely different direction. Eventually, we found it and got back on track, but by now we were all a big group again and had lost at least five minutes of time.

I managed to get into a steady rhythm as best I could – it was extremely wet underfoot which made for lots of sliding! It was exactly like the jungle – except you could reach out and grab branches without your hand being covered in biting ants! Gotta love NZ. The terrain was beautiful; dense bush, river crossings and lots of single track. We also went through the only cave of the day, a highlight of the course. I had planned on taking pictures with my iPhone for the entire course, but after face-planting in the cave while trying to take a photo and still run, I decided that a broken phone wasn’t what I wanted, so it was put away and only pulled out a few times when I was walking.

The first aid station was 10 kilometres in and I arrived feeling great. The race had opted for a ‘no cup’ policy, so I was carrying my Altra Aspire cup in a belt around my waist, along with my phone. The aid stations were second to none – water, electrolytes, fruit, sandwiches, coke and sweets – everything needed to keep you going. Grabbing a drink and a few bananas I didn’t wait around long and was back on the trail in no time.

The next eight-and-a-half kilometres were the toughest of the day. Mostly through farmland, it was quite steep in places, both up and down, and the wet underfoot made it very slow going. I took many tumbles and ungraceful slides, and at times carried an extra few kilogrammes of mud under my sneakers, but it was bloody good fun. Run the flats and downs and walk the ups was the motto of the day, which seemed to work out very well for me. I even ran some of the ups!

I had no idea how far away the next aid station was, and after what seemed like ages I was questioning whether not taking a pack was a bad move. I was just lucky that it wasn’t any warmer – if I come back to do this race again I will definitely be taking a pack with me! But finally, the aid station came into view, where I guzzled down some much-needed water and sweet oranges, before grabbing a few more goodies and eating while I walked.

A few kilometres after the second aid station we got to a section where we could opt to go through the hole in the rock – or bypass it. When in Rome! I was with three other competitors, so we all decided to head for the gap. Helping each other through – well I was fine, one of the few times being small is an advantage! From then on the landscape opened out and was mostly downhill as we headed for the finish line at the Glowworm Caves Visitor Centre. Unfortunately, the last four or so kilometres was on the same track as the 6km race, which meant many people and plenty of children dodging. It was a shame really, as it slowed the pace and there were just too many people going in both directions and was too narrow to pass easily.

But it did mean that the end wasn’t far away and I managed to cross the finish line in 5.02 hours, just sneaking into the top 10 females. Scott was waiting for me having come in an amazing hour beforehand, and finishing 12th overall. I wonder how he would have gone if we didn’t get lost at the start??

I’m a South Islander through and through, but this course gives the trails of the South a run for their money. While it doesn’t have the Southern Alps to frame the backdrop, I can only imagine what it would be like on a beautiful day. If you want to do a run in the North Island, then I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter. – Francis Chan