It’s the day of the Pomona King of the Mountain race. I wake up, eat my nutritious meal and start to prepare mentally by listening to some motivational speeches and music. Little did I know what this day would hold for me. I was 100% focused on making all of my training add up to boost me and carry me up the spectacular mountain that was ahead of me.

The race starts with a compiled burst of energy from all of the competitors and my mind goes into endurance mode with lots of neutral self-talk. One of the topics I thought of while pacing myself up the mountain was what it would be like to hang around some of the top competitors. Even just for a week, to experience their lifestyle and get to know them as people. I finish in a time of 39:45, and for my first year competing in anything like this, I was satisfied, knowing I pushed my hardest and did the best I could.

I treat myself with an ice-cream and settle down on some hay bales with my close family to congratulate the people who got top placings and test my luck in their new NZ trip Lucky Draw. Time goes on and I begin to hear my little sister start nagging my mum to see if we can leave. Nope. We wanted to stay just for that 1/90 chance I had. There was of course doubt on winning, because who actually ever wins this stuff. Turns out I did. As soon as I heard my race number come out of the announcers mouth I heard my entire row, which consisted of my supporting family, gasp in disbelief. We honestly could not believe it.

I thought I was going to have a break from running after the race. So, what did I do? I amped up my training schedule, training on various mountains and introduced a strict diet that I was able to stick to in the time leading up to the trip. My neutral self-talk had come true! I was going to spend five days with some amazing and inspiring people. Meeting all of them was a pleasure and it really opened my eyes up more about what it takes to be at the top of your game.

In NZ, the team and I went to a primary school and we got to experience the strength of their Māori culture. The little kids performed their haka and they got so immersed; it gave me goose bumps.

The race day had finally come and not knowing really what to expect I was just excited to be there. The race starts and oh man, I did not know what I was running into. The mountain is probably around five times harder than the Pomona one and the terrain on the ascent was easy and not so technical, but it was the distance that killed! There were moments where I reached a peak just when I thought I had reached the top, to see through an opening and see how much further I had to go. It was mentally exhausting and that is why I loved it so much. I got to see a side of myself that I had never seen before. A side where I actually considered giving up. In everything that I have ever done I always go in with the mindset that I CAN, but this tested that thought to the boundaries. Now I know what my mind is like under extreme pressure I can utilise this experience to become even better.

The downhill experience was fun. Sliding down through the coarse, sandy, soil, jumping from rock to rock, dodging trees. This section was where all the battle scars came from and I got my fair share. Finally, it was the last push. Across the finish line in a time of one hour and thirty-one minutes. Once again, I was satisfied and had the biggest sense of relief. It was awesome, just being in a totally different country with amazing people and getting to experience this wonderful event. Yes, the race was over but the NZ trip itself was far from it.

That night, we went to a local venue with a BBQ and got to have such a fulfilling dinner with the team and hostesses. The next day, we were off on an adventure and there were definitely some funny moments along the way. We went to a bush track on the ridge of a moderately large hill that led down to an amazing beach. Great photo opportunities. To finish that day off we had an even more amazing dinner at a local yacht club that we could only just get in because of friendly community member signing all of us in.

With the amount of time this trip was, I formed some unbelievable friendships and bonds with the athletes. To conclude this amazing trip, the team and I had done a various amount of fun activities throughout the day on our long drive to the Auckland airport. These included white water rafting, the luge, and even more running! I only did the luge because I did not want to get wet, paddling through the unforgiving waterfalls and my legs were dead from the race. One thing I remember the last time I went to NZ was the thrilling luge ride and I had made it a goal of mine to do that at least one more time in my life. This experience has just been handed to me all thanks to the NZ lucky draw and I am so grateful for it. I want to thank Dan for organising such a wonderful trip as it has been life changing.