The Bellbird Buster is a 30km trail race in the Port Hills in Christchurch, New Zealand, part of the Crater Rim Ultra event and was my first proper trail race.
The week before we’d had pretty hot sunny Spring weather so I was stoked to think I’d be skipping about the top of the hills in the sunshine for a few hours on a Sunday.
I was wrong.
It was so cold. So cold.
At some ungodly hour on a Sunday, after hopping on a bus from where we’d finish at Hansen Park in Opawa, I was stood in the Port Hills somewhere along the Summit Road shivering uncontrollably. Even with extra layers and my trusty down jacket the wind was cutting right into my bones, and a group of us huddled together behind a car to try to get some shelter.
Eventually, after what seemed like hours, we had the safety briefing, checked our madatory gear and shed our extra layers ready to start.
With 900m of ascent and nearly 1200m of descent, this was no walk in the park. Or skip about the hills. From the start line we climbed steeply, for longer than was pleasant, before the route evened out and I was able to get in a bit of a rhythmn of the undulating single track that hugged the side of the hill.
Ups and downs followed, jumping over tree roots and trying not to twist my ankle on rocks or the uneven ground. I felt like a kid again, running through the woods with the [biting cold] wind in my face.
The route opens out at points to a grassy wide track meaning less concentrating on footing and more gaping around at the views, which were stunning. Even though they’ve become familiar to me over the last year there’s always something new to see and it’s easy to get yourself beautifully lost in the moment. Stopping to take photos provides a great opportunity for a rest and a munch on a pretzel.
Around halfway there’s a killer section down-and-up Kennedy’s Bush track. For some reason, I’d got it into my head this track was a gentle incline; oh how I was wrong. A lovely 4ishkm run downhill, but with the mental pain of knowing you had to run those 4km right back up.
At least once that bit is done, it feels a bit like you’re on the home straight. I was in familiar territory at this point, as I’ve walked this part of the Crater Rim walkway many times as it’s not far from my house. Getting to the Sign of the Kiwi cafe with the splendid aid station manned by some wonderfully enthusiastic peeps was a delight, and as long as I kept shoving preztels and peanut m&m’s into my mouth meant the legs kept working.
Hitting the Rapaki Track was the best highlight; because it is literally all downhill from here; down the track into Hansen Park and the finish line. Only, you have to do two laps of the park to finish. At this point, with feet and legs aching and energy depleated, you have to run PAST the finish chute to do one more lap of a park – talk about the ultimate mental torture.
It took me 4 cold, long hours, longer than I’d thought but given it was my first trail run I didn’t really know what to expect. Not easy but bloody good fun and definitely not the last.
As an event it was amazingly well organised, the aid stations were brilliant and the marshalls so happy and fun – I always love to support local events and this one certainly shows off the hidden gem we have in the Port Hills here.