Another day in New Zealand, another national park. Today (or on the 27th of December) we are in the Nelson Lakes National Park running around Lake Rotoiti. This translates to small lake which means that I'll run it twice. Don't want to be a wimp. Although I probably should have expressed this desire sooner than the night before the adventure. Scott and father are up for a kayak / run tag team for one lap, leaving my wee sister's boyfriend Tom getting roped into running the two laps.
We start on the hour long drive late for a leisurely start. The starting point is at St Arnaud where there's a toilet block, car park, pebbly beach and jetty. Half of Tom's family are joining the festivities with a walk and a picnic. Tom, Scott and I start off in anticlockwise direction full of enthusiasm and jet plane sweeties. There's a few miles of road pounding before we get to the track running near the lakeside. It's all niceties and turn-taking at the front. Father has started in the kayak and although he can often hear our voices, it is not often that the track opens up in full view of the lake.
Running on scree, Lake Rotoiti
There are a few streams to cross and we do our best to keep our feet dry as long as possible. I fail first due to Scott's long legs and Tom's previous training in ballet. Although I have run around the lake twice and walked it once (aged thirteen on a school camp), the only landmarks that break up the distance for me are; Coldwater Hut, river crossing, Lakehead Hut, voices indicating we are nearly at the finish. So we scree-kick and root-hop our way without any drama to the first hut where we meet father in his kayak.
The sandflies here are immense and like to gobble us up so we nip into Coldwater Hut for our refreshments. Here we meet a couple who are also jogging around the lake in their training for Tarawera. Scott and father swap over their respective running and kayaking roles. There's a wobble and some concerns about an eddy but Scott gets let of. It's only as we get back in the bush that father asks if Scott can swim...
Scott kayaking towards St Arnaud
Tom's a speedster and father is full of enthusiasm so we take off at an impressive speed tip toeing through tree roots and covering our feet in sludge. Covering my feet in sludge is not enough for me and I go for the face plant instead, getting a delicious taste of mud and a bruised knee for the rest of the holiday.
Shortly after we come to the river crossing. I've never done it before, instead opting to continue upstream for a few miles and cross at the bridge. With two laps to run today, there's no time to add more distance. Father went in boldly first with the instructions; one foot at a time, small steps, angle yourself downstream. Despite being midsummer the water was well cold. I'm also a bit shorter than father and therefore the water almost reaches my shorts at times. There was also not just one crossing but two!
Once I'd bravely waded through we popped out by the Lakehead Hut. My favourite hut from school camp back in whatever year. Despite struggling to come back to fitness from a heart attack, father is setting the pace ahead. Tom is hot on his heels and I am struggling at the back with a funny feeling calf. Looking back, I think that I may have had some cramping after coming out of the cold water.
And then finally, we come back round to St Arnaud having completing our first 25km loop. Scott has already arrived in his kayak and Tom's family are enjoying their picnic. I scoff some turkey and hummus sandwiches, followed by a load of chocolate peanuts and a frozen yoghurt. Tom doesn't eat; he's got a slim figure to keep. After much discussion we decide to really rev things up and run back the opposite way. It turns out we've really stuffed around on the first lap and in order to get back to Nelson in time for dinner we are going to need to gun it round the second lap. That's Tom and I on a mission.
I take the lead. Not because I can set a fast pace but because I can't have Tom setting the pace as he's too fast (he's just missed out on a sub three marathon on a few occasions but he'll crack it). We push on well but get lost within the first mile. Given that we'd run that section less than thirty minutes before, that navigation error was impressive. We see the same couple that we'd met earlier at Coldwater Hut as they are finishing their loop and they are all cheers.
It's really heads down, legs running to get back up to Lakehead Hut. Focus. A quick mouthful of jet plane sweeties and back over the river crossing. The water feels much colder and deeper than earlier. Has snow melted further up and more water joined or are we both running out of energy?
Tom and I set off
Once the crossing has been accomplished it's back past Coldwater Hut without a stop and we are homeward bound. It's us against the clock to get back for dinner. My eyes are blurring and I can hear Tom tripping on the tree roots more often behind me. I still won't let him in front. My legs have felt swollen on most of the holiday due to all the flights and my thighs feel fuzzy. We're still making a good effort at conversation but we're out of water and fancy ice creams.
At some point there's a gradual incline and we treat ourselves to a walk. Once we come out of the bush we are back onto the tarmac road which is going to take us St Arnaud. We've pushed hard but father and Scott will come towards us in the car once it hits a certain time. I feel good now and think I'm running well. Tom's feeling good belongs in a completely different category to mine and he is now striding ahead down the road. We know we can make it all the way. I'm trying hard to keep up. I'm ok just not fast enough. We can do it! We'll finish the second loop in time! But then, around the corner, comes father's silver car and our run is over. A mixture of satisfaction of having pushed hard and disappointment at just missing out on completing the loop.
Ice creams and L&P for the car ride back to Nelson. And maybe even a wee snooze. Many thanks to father for driving, Scott for braving the kayak and to Tom who let himself be talked into running two laps with a tortoise. First ultra distance completed.