If I say to someone that I’m going to ‘go hard’ in an adventure marathon after a couple of beers/wines the night before the event I give you permission to stage an intervention. I don’t recall it, but that is what I have been quoted as saying.
So the West Coaster, reputed to be the toughest marathon in NZ (at least until Feb 2013 when we get a chance at the Kaweka Mountain Marathon) was made somewhat harder this year by the course alterations to manage Kauri die back. The first climb up to the ridge was doubled and the stream run was replaced by a sand dune crossing.
For reasons beyond me and any sane explanation, I thought I’d give the race a shake up less than 1km into it. Blame could be laid in multiple quarters, my running/pacing brain (Mike) was absent from the start line, as were any known running benchmarks. Evidently my plan to run hard was rooted deep in the subconscious cos I took off like it was a sub-2hr Xterra event.
The first hills were tackled in excess of 90% of max HR, ie. waaaaaay beyond my 5hr effort pace. I knew there was no sense to this at the time but I was having some fun out there, some guys on my heels on the steep climbs only to drop them on the descents (moreover dropping to a sensible pace when you are running with others is sometimes mentally challenging).
Needless to say by the 12km mark as we headed out along the Te Henga trail I knew I was cooked for the full marathon (wonder if Mike and Myles could see that as they cheered me on under the bridge). But by now only two runners were in contact , which quickly faded to one on the climb out of O’Neils Bay. I was solidly walking the steep(ish) stuff now, as I should have been some km ago. The guy I was running with turned out to be a jolly nice chap from Sweden, I wouldn’t call the pace social but we did manage some nice exchanges.
I was consciously easing off all the while along Te Henga, starting to go into damage control, and the Swede (I should get his name from the results page) I could feel was surging behind me. There’ll be no holding him back, though I did think to ask where he does all his hill work cos there are no hills in Southern Sweden where he lives. The inevitable occurred and I bade him farewell just before the nasty climb out of the track.
And that, it turned out was the last marathon runner I saw for the day.
The cramps started coming on in the Goldies Bush loop, the first were around my achilles which made my toes curl under my feet, did the river section ok this year, only took one wrong turn, but body was starting to shut down. I still wasn’t too bad when M&M were there again near the Horseman’s Rd turnaround (where I had a pack of crisps and a few cups of water/greenish stuff).
Things started to deteriorate somewhat after that temporary relief, cramps came on stronger and extended to all leg muscle groups I know the names of. Stomach similarly started twisting up and I couldn’t take down any food, not even Leppin and my nose started running uncontrollably. Thereabouts on a downhill legs completely cramped and I couldn’t stay upright, taking a minor tumble down a lovely freshly gravelled trail. Also took a wizz soon after and discovered iced tea coming out. Aah-ha! Dehydration (from day before – see opening line) would explain a bit.
At that point had I been given an exit option I would have gladly taken it. But evac from a trail event tends to be a rather drawn out affair which still involves plenty of painfully and slow walking. Honestly, the biggest motivating factor to keep on was the fact that I promised to have the car home for family use, time and placing were long gone from any motivation.
Stopped for a big drink session at the last drink station (flow on UltrAspire hydration bladder turns out less than optimal though I finished the 2l bladder a few km from the finish ). When you are already scared of heights, running Te Henga on wobbly, treacherous legs is not reassuring. One more cramp induced tumble and I could be over the edge (damn that camo shirt).Though as it turned out all I had to worry about was a bit of pain management and the short course walking gaggles which wouldn’t yield track for anyone.
The kicker of the day though had to be the new ‘improved’ finish with an additional 2km loop up the stream and over the inland sand dunes of Bethells (to make the event between 44-45km, or technically an Ultra as others have pointed out).
The race surely counts as my worst tactically (at least on par with last year’s Tarawera). And definitely the most painful, running on cramp trumps broken toe. Km for km it would also rate the hardest I’ve ever done. Will be somewhat happier when I can properly negotiate stairs again (have moved from hands and knees technique to crab scuttle).
Luckily the friendly, fun, and scenic scenic aspects of the event more than compensate for all my foolishness.I’ll be back for sure.