52 Peaks Challenge

Peaks 17A, B & C – The Dunedin 3 Peaks

Dunedin 3 PeaksAfter a week recovering from something I picked up in Punakaiki (was it a bug going round, that venison burger I had from the cafe or nature’s sign that I needed a rest…) and as I’d stopped the vommiting, it felt like I was taking to turn for the better. I decided I was well enough to take the trip down to Dunedin for this year’s 30th running of “The Dunedin 3 Peaks Challenge”.

Put on by Dunedin’s Leith Valley Club, the 26km mountain race takes in the three largest skyline peaks of Flagstaff (668m), Swampy Summit (739m) and Mt Cargill (676m) make up the 3 Peaks Challenge, and in 2013, the 30th running of the event.

The 3 Peaks Course Profile
The 3 Peaks Profile

This year they’d had record entries, over 250 people were entered and ready to take in the glorious Dunedin weather.

Apparently the weather had been gorgeous all season, not to mention only mere days ago…I didn’t believe them so checked the event website the photos of the last week’s ‘test run’ it showed sunny skies and beautiful views. Unfortunately, we got lashing rain, no visibility and howling winds. Fun times. Still with a day to prepare ourselves, we visited the sights of Tunnel Beach, saw Yellow Eyed Penguins at Sandfly Bay and had a group meal with some friends of friends talking about last year’s race and how hot it was…

Dunedin's Tunnel Beach
Dunedin’s Tunnel Beach

Anyway, back to the race – it was slightly drizzly start, not many in their jackets or rain coats as 200 lined up for the 9.30am start (there was an earlier wave of 50 or so runners who might take longer than 3hrs30m for the course).
The start line was buzzing, yet you couldn’t see the first peak as the cloud above us closed in.

The countdown started and everyone sprinted along the sea-level (ish) road towards the track to the first summit, Flagstaff (668m). The forest was nice, great protection from the wind and lots of mud to get you going. I felt crap. The stomach bug had left me with no energy and lots of people went jogging on past including the top women in the field Victoria Beck, Louisa Andrew and Tamsyn Hayes. Still managed to stay ahead of a lot of the field as we passed the treeline towards the summit. Here the wind hit, the rain started and I thought it was time for the waterproof to come on.

Running through Swampy Summit
Running through Swampy Summit

At the first summit I’d caught a few runners and managed to get a good gap coming off towards Swampy Summit. On a good day apparently you can see the summit from Flagstaff – today, this was NOT the case. Undulating across the tops this was a good test of my legs, but again – energy zapped – I had to walk a few of the uphill sections as I had nothing in the tank.

Passing the Swampy Summit checkpoint there was a great section of descent… first through acres of flax, then down a gravel track into the infamous ‘mudslide’ before reaching Leith Valley Road at the bottom of the hill. An awesome section of sheer mud and no grip! Passing several runners in road shoes (I was wearing my Inov-8 TrailRocs) and the top women again I was pretty happy with my position, if not a lot slower than I’d hoped.

Back up again towards Mt Cargill the rain eased off and the wind began to pick up. Crossing through the paddock and through a newly deforested area was tough going but better on the track at the top. Then the last descent, deceptively long and non technical… which is where I (and apparently the race leader) fell. I went down hard, twisted my left ankle – bashed my right knee and cut up my hands on the slippery gravel surface. Not a great finishing move – this was the glory leg!!

Crossing the 3 Peaks Finish Line
Crossing the 3 Peaks Finish Line

After 5 minutes of standing, swearing and hobbling I decided to give jogging a go. The pain eased as I got to the car park at the bottom and I was able to run in the last 2km along the road without too much issue (although my swollen ankle would probably say otherwise).

Finished in a little over 2hrs49mins and was aiming for around a 2:25 finish – but a preceding week without bad stomach issues and without having to hobble the last 6km would have helped a lot! Still a great race and hoping to add it to the calendar every year from now on – next time in the sun?

I even made the NEWS (me crossing the line at 33secs)! Woohoo, bring on the multimillion sponsorship deal!

Cheers to Catherine for her house and a bed for the 2 nights, Lisa for the meal, Renee for the driving and Caralyn for running the event too!