Report by Dawn Tuffery
“On Thursday, this trail was the driest it’s ever been,” reflected Race Director Jason, as bedraggled runners finished behind hime. “Now it’s the wettest.”
While the other Goat race run by this team is famous for its rugged rocks, this Kaimai version did its best to pour on the short-notice mud. Thanks to Hadley, a team of us travelled over to Old Tauranga Rd in his van – and even made it safely to the start, thanks to (or in spite of) our collective navigation skills.
The Goat Goes Bush kicks off in a relaxed, pragmatic way with waves of runners crossing a mat spread over a gravel track. The only obvious evidence of an event from the road is a good lineup of portaloos (always wise). Gear requirements are on the comprehensive side for a half, but nobody who’s seen the back clouds lurking in the hills protests.
Unlike some races, faster runners start first to reduce congestion. A kilometre into the gravel track I’m breathing hard and feeling like a fraud. At three k, we hit the Wairere Falls track. The legs don’t feel like running up steps today either. Walking it is.
For me, the fun started once we hit the tops. The mud made the trails slushy but runnable – as long as you’re constantly attentive. Water spread throughout, roots hid under overgrown reeds, and little spiky sticks stuck up into my feet if I was lacking concentration. One deceptive puddle gave me a Dr Foster moment up to my middle and I may have gone under. There was frequent sliding down clay banks on my bottom. Suffice it to say, it was all very enjoyable and the focus required tipped me into a great ‘flow’ state. It was technical at times, but not as much so as other races such as Raglan Karioi Trail.
I was in slick comfy five fingers as I couldn’t find my first preference shoes the night before. These were great for 80% of the run but couldn’t handle the clay downhills. A few people came past at that point. I saw Kris, who’d had stomach troubles and decided to cut the run a bit short. The last few ks of the run are in very runnable forest, which brought back some mojo.
As a nod to the original Goat, the race finished with a hill. The third-place lady was just ahead. My competitive instinct noted this briefly, and then promptly went back to sleep. There was a great welcoming committee at the Aongatete Lodge and good snacks – nut mix, jerky, fruit, sausages and Goat beer. Hadley and Oscar took the challenge of tail-end-charlie, making for a solid day out. Hawks took out a number of merit and spot prizes, with Kris’ shoe voucher cheering him up significantly. Well done to all runners, and thanks to Hadley, Steph and the Goat team for a great event.