When J and I officially settled on our honeymoon dates in New Zealand, one of the first things I did was start searching for races happening while we were there. I knew that having a race on the books would be a good way to keep up my Boston training, and racing internationally seemed like a unique experience to add to our action-packed trip. I certainly wasn’t looking for a trail race (after spraining my ankle during my first trail race attempt), but the Macpac Motatapu fit into our schedule and looked like a ton of fun. The event has a pretty amazing number of options: an 8k, a 15k, a trail marathon, an ultra, a tri, and a bike race. We opted for the 15k–it looked tough enough given the elevation gain (see below!)
The morning of the race we plugged the race address into Google Maps and for the first and only time on our trip, got ourselves completely lost down a dirt road to nowhere. After a few minutes of frustration we turned around and took a much more legitimate road the the race start in Arrowtown, which is outside of Queenstown NZ. The signage around parking was a little bit unclear but there was space on the side streets, so we found a spot and rushed over to the bib pickup.
As with everything in NZ, it was super low-key and organized, so within a couple of minutes we were all set and ready to go. They were really nice about taking our jackets at the bag check–the morning was super chilly but it warmed up fast. The restroom lines were also a breeze–the event starts were staggered and ours was one of the smaller ones, so it felt a bit empty in the start area.
When the start time came around we seeded ourselves into informal corrals, which were then set off in staggered waves. This was really easy and helpful to keep the narrower parts of the course from getting too crowded. The most surprising thing at the start was that almost everyone had a hydration pack on–which seemed a little excessive for a 15k with two water stops–but it was a tough course so I could see why a slower runner would want their own fuel! J and I were more than fine sharing my handheld bottle, though.
The race started up a steep pitch on dirt roads. It was hard to not run the whole way up but I insisted on some fast hiking to conserve energy (which paid off for sure!) Everyone was chatting and encouraging each other, and by the first water stop I was down to a tank and shorts. We stopped to use the “loo” since we knew it was the only option and took off again, continuing the climb as we looped through open pastures and up along golden ridges. The vistas were gorgeous but I definitely had to keep my focus on my feet–trails are tough! We wended our way up to the highest point on mostly single track, which sometimes was so narrow that runners couldn’t pass one another. J and I took turns leading, but at this point were had a good crew around us to keep pace with.
Once the downhill started we really had to keep our eyes down on our feet–the trails were a bit slick and super narrow, with some areas that had rope holds for balance. We locked into a few other runners and one of the Kiwis warned us that the much-anticipated river crossing was coming up. We were feeling good with 2k left and excited to laugh and splash our way across the shallows to the finish.
Well, we were dead wrong–the course looped us back and forth across the same river ELEVEN times! At some points the freezing cold glacial water was almost up to my waist. I do have to say I think this was a little unnecessary–no one loves soaking wet feet and we got the point after one or two times. But we took it in stride and ran it into the finish, ending well under our goal of 2 hours.
Post-race we hightailed it to a local brunch spot and grabbed some well-deserved mimosas–there were lots of vendors at the post race area but everything cost money (including the massage tent!), so we figured we’d rather sit and eat. It felt great to warm up and dry off in the sunshine.
Overall, this was a fantastic experience and I’m definitely looking forward to more trail races in my future–including my first ultra in just a couple of months. I’ll have at least another post or two about our New Zealand trip in the coming weeks–please let me know if there’s anything you’re curious to learn more about!
Do you prefer roads or trails? Have you ever raced internationally?