The Abel Tasman Coastal Classic took place last weekend; it may appear a little pricey at first glance at $195 but it's a whole day experience including lunch and a buffet prize giving dinner at the end.
The day starts with registration at the Marahau Outdoor Education Centre, followed by a boat ride to the start at Awaroa. This year we were bussed around to Little Kaiteriteri to catch the boats, but I believe some years the boats go from Marahau or Kaiteriteri depending on the tides.
After the start, runners quickly get on to the Abel Tasman track itself and then there's approximately 35 to 36kms of trail running. This is a walking track with solid dirt on top of limestone and marble hills. Rain runs off these tracks so it's a dry, hard track with only a very few small muddy spots. There's also a bit of beach running and the occasionally shallow estuary to run through.
One thing I found myself having to be careful about was thinking that because it was an fairly easy walking track, I didn't have to watch out for rocks, roots and mud like I would normally would on a trail run. However, whenever I found myself not paying enough attention I'd invariably almost trip on something or other, so you do need to watch out for those roots and rocks!
There are a few climbs, and the end can be a little mentally draining as you come around each bay only to discover there's yet another one in front of you, meaning another little hill to run up and over. Fortunately for me, I'd started around two-thirds of the way back in the pack and had been passing people for the entire race which helped boost me mentally at the end.
There are three aid stations on the course, very roughly around 7, 14 and 21kms (there's no such thing as an exact distance when it comes to trail running!); the aid stations had jet plane lollies, jelly beans and water at all three and bananas at the second and third (there may have been bananas at the first too, but I don't recall seeing them).
When you get to the end there were oranges, pineapple and water, and a 1km walk away is a Subway sandwich waiting for you back at the event base. I hung around at the end for a while talking to people before walking back to chow down on lunch.
The prize giving meal starts around 4:30pm and includes a beer, wine, ginger beer or lemon lime and bitters and a buffet meal. Vegetarians are catered for too, and get to go up and fill their plates before everyone else. At prize giving there were awards for the first men and women overall and then by age category, followed by a surprisingly large number of spot prizes.
One of the neat things about this event is the supporters package for $110. Supporters also catch a boat, being dropped off at Torrent Bay (the final aid station) and then walk back to Marahau (registration/event finish), covering about 13kms or so. They also get lunch and dinner.
As a runner, it was great having all these people walking back along the track. They pause on the side as you ran past and cheer you on. Great for the head space and unexpected during an event like this.
There is a compulsory gear requirement for this event. Some people groan and grumble about it but it's for your own safety but it's not a huge amount of stuff to take with you and you do need it on you. I got gear checked after finishing the event; if I hadn't had all the gear I would have been disqualified and not been eligible for prizes.
If I'd been stopped earlier on the course - you can get randomly checked at the start and during the event at the aid stations - and hadn't had all the gear then I would have been pulled from the course as well as disqualified etc
Nelson Events say it's a 36km course and maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I'm not really sure anyone knows for sure unless they go measure it with one of those wheel things. But one thing's for sure, your GPS will tell you it is a different distance from mine!
Three of us compared watches at the end and got something like 35.0, 34.5 and 34.0. The reason for such variance is the course winds around hills in the bush. GPS signals are weak anyway (especially when there are a lot of hills) and there's a lot of quick short turns on the course which, if the watch doesn't measure frequently enough, can easily be measured short.
The lesson is don't stress about how far the course was, just enjoy it for what it is.
At about 36kms with a few good climbs and undulations, the effort required works out to be somewhat equivalent to running a road marathon. You'll probably find if you're a marathon runner that your time on this course is a little over or a little under a road marathon. For example I was taking it fairly easy and ran it in 3:50; my road marathon time is 3:40.
Overall I thought this was a great event and well worth the money. It's a full day experience with a lot of socialising at the end, both at the finish line area and then at the prize giving. The trail is great to run on, the event organisers do a great job and I highly recommend this event.
2013 will the be the 20th running of the The Abel Tasman Coastal Classic, and the course will start at Totaranui instead of Awaroa; it's a little further around but the distance should be about the same because it cuts out some back-tracking.
Entries normally open March 1st and sell out within a week or so, so if you want to run the event next year it will pay to get in very early. Check out www.nelsonevents.co.nz for more details or follow them on Facebook.
Prices quoted are accurate for the 2012 event and may be subject to change in future events.
Click the photos to view a bigger version. You can then view the others using the arrow buttons in the popup or the arrow keys on your keyboard. Although most of the photos are on the beach, the beach sections were only a small part of the course. They just make for better photos than running along trails!