The NZ Road Relays were held this last Saturday in Rotorua. The course followed the lake circumference clockwise, adding and embellishing upon the famous Marathon loop.
For the 2016 short course, there were six legs of 8.3k, 8.2k, 4.1k, 6.0k, 8.4k and a final 10.3k.
We formed two evenly matched teams and contested the social/corporate division.
MEC Tahi (in order of leg)
Sean, Jake, Connor, Megan, Sean, Connor
MEC Rua (in order of leg)
Michael, James, Michael, Lucy, Myles, Evan
The short course was also contested by the Junior Men and Women, and Masters >60. So after a short burst at the start (all social teams were seeded at the very back), Sean and Michael made their way through the field to sit behind the junior men, who were running ahead in a tight swarm. Michael was briefly ahead of Sean around the 3k mark, but was unable to make a gap and Sean caught up, then took the lead as they went into the final 2k. The first 6k were flat with some small short hills, but the last 2 saw the rural road wind up to gain 130m of elevation. Sean dominated the climb to put team Tahi into the MEC lead and social team lead at the end of leg 1.
Sean 31:37 Michael 31:53
Jake took the reins from Sean and made his way along the steady climb. His legs were beat from a hard run at last weekends Bay to Breakers 12k in Tauranga. James, himself recovering from a broken arm did his best to maintain contact. But in only his second run back from injury, he wasn’t able to keep Jake in his sights and he trailed off in the second half.
Jake 34:44 James 36:49
Tahi 1:06:21 Rua 1:08:42
Connor got his first taste of the competition on the short third leg. It basically drops runners straight back to lake level, losing all accumulated elevation in a scant 4.1k. So it is fast and hard on the legs. Michael was backing up after leg 1, and despite the hard work less than 40 minutes previous, the legs were ready for speeding downhill. He re-caught a number of the masters and junior teams on his flight downhill.
Connor 14:44 Michael 13:07
Tahi 1:21:05 Rua 1:21:49
Leg 4 was for the femmes. For the 6km lap, the course joins the Rotorua Marathon course in the scenic Hamurana hills. Megan took off with a slight lead, but Lucy put in a PB-equivalent run of to pull ahead for Team Rua. Megan ran strong to limit the gap over the 6k and it was race on!
Megan 32:12 Lucy 28:48
Tahi 1:53:17 Rua 1:50:37
The 8.4k fifth leg saw Sean return for a second go. He was head to head with Myles, who started with a headstart, but knew that Sean would be lining him up. Sean paced it to perfection, building into his run and setting the second fastest lap split for the social grade as he took Team Tahi back into the front.
Sean 32:45 Myles 40:02
Tahi 2:26:02 Rua 2:30:39
Sean came into the final transition well ahead, and many would have thought it was game over for Team Rua. But Evan had his game face on, and set about running a new PB for 10k as he did his part to bring the teams even. Connor started strong, but was feeling the leg-shaking effects of his earlier lap and had to gut out a tough finish. And so after three hours of racing, 45km covered, the MEC teams were separated by less than 3 minutes at the finish. A galant effort from all runners and some great times too.
I was ready to get stuck into some hard training following my disappointment at TuM 2016. However, I ended up being laid low, not with a running injury but with a pneumothorax. A weekend in hospital and a chest drain sorted me out, and once I had recovered I got back into the miles. It’s been great having 8 weeks in a row of 60-70k, and no calf injury for nearly a year. I can feel my body responding better to training and taking less time to recover which is encouraging.
First race back was the Tawharanui Coastal Challenge in early April.
There was a last minute course change, which saw the 30k become just an out and back addition to the 23k. That, and the extra sleep made the 23k the attractive option and I joined Laura, Dave, Sean and Brent who made up our MEC crew. The other difference from last year was the tide was out. Like nearly all the way – hence the times we ran were way faster, not having to scramble on the loose rocks at the high tide line so much.
It was an MEC lead-out at the start on Campbell’s Bay. I was running just behind Brent and Sean who set a strong pace. They had an edge on me on the rocks, but I maintained contact as best I could. Then on the beach sections I would regain the distance. This lasted to about 35 minutes in, where I caught them and then Brent dropped back, looking a bit ill. So it became Sean and I duking it out, with Brent maintaining contact until we left the rocks at Tawharanui and climbed up to the point. I had a bit of catching up to do here, but felt strong and caught Sean at the Trig. I decided to keep the intensity up as we went back downhill and opened up a gap. But it wasn’t a big one. Sean upped his speed too and kept me close as we sped down to Anchor Bay and the second to last aid station.
I kept the pressure on for the beach section – knowing that there was a 3k reef to traverse before the end I had to make the most of my strengths. I got away to about 200m ahead as I entered the Northern Tawharanui reef. I made myself keep at it, but the occasional check back revealed Sean closing in.
I hit the base of Omaha beach – 1 Mile of flat sand to the finish. Sean was only 80m back and I turned on the boosters. I got a bit of a break, and then just clung on to the finish. I was stoked with the win, and elated at having a good battle with a bro – Sean was relentless (I just wanted to him to fold!). So we had an MEC 1-2 in the men’s race. Brent came in for 5th, Laura showed her 3rd at the North Shore Coastal was no fluke, running away with the women’s 23k and Dave came in shortly afterwards. Green singlet domination!
Next race was the Orewa Beach 10k
This one fell apart. Initial interest was high, but for one reason or another I was the only MEC starter. It was a howling ESE wind with rain ripping up the beach. I neglected to take the conditions into consideration and ran my ‘perfect day’ race plan. I still got 2nd place, but it was with a huge second half slow down, so the execution felt rather poor. Kudos to Brent who braved the conditions to cheer me on – it definitely lifted me. I thought the course would suit a PB, but I’d recommend looking elsewhere – although the start and finish are on the beach, the course has lots of sharp turns and two decent hills which slow you down. And being an out and back – there was huge congestion on the bush track which slowed you as well.
The bonus race was the Waiheke Half Marathon
Ron and I got some tickets to this and our solid workouts in the weeks leading up gave me two thoughts: 1 – we were going to be very evenly matched and 2 – we were in good form and could be contending with the front runners (especially since the Rotorua marathon 1 week earlier had taken out some of the likely competition).
It was a gorgeous day on the island. We positioned ourselves at the front for the start and enjoyed the downhill spin to Matiatia wharf. On the climb back up we dropped a few of the pretenders leaving us in a group of 4. On the next big downhill to Owhanake we let the legs spin and pulled away. Trail running descending pays dividends in road racing!
It felt like a good pace – manageable but obviously quick. Coming back up from Oneroa beach we were being hounded by a silver fox. We just stuck with the game plan. He caught us around 6k, but once again we would drop him on every downhill, making him work hard to catch us again on the flat. The course is a rollercoaster (300m gain/descent) and this approach worked well. By 8k he had fallen off the group.
So Ron and I sped along, enjoying the amazingly scenic course, steadily pulling away. Te course is not a find-your-pace-and-stick-at-it kind of course. At times we would be in the low 3min/ks downhill then we would be grunting up a climb at close to 4:40 pace. It was well marked and well marshalled- a great effort for a first time event. The only error I saw was the out and back onto Kennedy Point, the marshals helped you cross the road, but evidently didn’t point people left as we came across a bunch of guys who had bypassed this section and were turned back by the lead scooter.
This was at the 16k point. It was getting hard now, but I knew I had to maintain contact with Ron to remain competitive. So I gritted my teeth and hung on. It was really nice getting all the encouragement from the 21k runners still heading out on the other side of the road. The cheering intensified as we came back into the 10k runners at Blackpool. I was feeling the pace but got such a lift that we sped up! We were at about 3:45 pace winding through the streets, 1.5k to go. The last challenge would be the 40 metre climb in the last kilometre. We hit the climb and my ability to stay with Ron was eclipsed. He launched into it and I could not match his pace. He crossed in 1:23:18, me 12 seconds back. Another MEC 1-2!
The experience of digging deep, and of running strong the whole way made this my best half marathon performance to date. On a flatter course, it would have been a PB for sure. It was a real thrill having such a great battle, and drawing out of yourself something extra to meet the challenge. I am looking forward to the rematch!
Starting at 0600 Saturday and finishing a little before 1400 Sunday. That’s just under 32hrs of action. Incredibly the 32hrs passed (almost) without incident. So at the finish line I told Terry “that’s the easiest 100 miler I’ve ever run”. He looked perturbed. I then added it was my only 100 miler setting him at ease.
The scene was set well the evening before with Terry’s (race director) briefing. He gave great insights like – “The course is a giant hazard bomb waiting to go off”. “Any plant higher than grass will draw blood if you get too close”. “The weather up there is serious, you will need your compulsory gear as a minimum”. “It’s barren up there, bleak, there are no trees, nothing”. “Past editions have been a bit easy, and the course has been adjusted to induce anguish rather than joy among finishers”.
The Death Climb, The Loop of Deception, and The Loop of Despair were outlined. The idea of Northburn is to test limits, accordingly not everyone will finish. These dire warnings were delivered in such a way that excited rather than intimidated. Weirdly I came out of the briefing more confident. Partly I guess because the organisers were so supportive, humorous, and warm in their challenge to each of us.
It seems the prep and planning outlined in a previous post (Preparing for Northburn as a 100 mile virgin) were up to task. Perhaps more than anything the switch from pre-event readiness anxiety to absolute belief and resolve on race-day cleared the way for a truly enjoyable adventure. Once we got underway I had no doubt I’d finish, and this belief only increased over the coming hours. The race strategy was simplified to lap 1 hold back, lap 2 maintain, lap 3 suck it up.
I didn’t fully manage to keep a complete lid on the first lap, especially near The Top checkpoint where I was running a bit harder to stay warm and minimise time up there (was cold, and rather windy). Ended up coming in just over an hour quicker than my estimate. Not sure if that was a good thing.
Lap 1 itself was scenic (when you weren’t in the cloud), with a lot of off-trail running and really pretty even if you were running through sections of the stabby plants. And the stream sections were like running on a sponge mattress (mossy grass). The lap itself was simple, a short ‘Home Loop’ back to the start for the supporters, then an ~18km climb followed by a ~15km downhill, then the Loop of Deception. You get to within a few hundred meters of base only to endure a ~12km tough hill loop. Brilliant.
Stopping at base to greet Supporter-in-Chief Victoria, resupply, use the portaloo, swap out shirt for an MEC singlet, and reapply lots of lube everything was good to go heading out for The Death Climb on lap 2. No sign of doubt after the first 50km, still felt like everything was easy. I never really took notice of the comings and goings of the first lap, but I was passing a good number of runners/hikers up The Death Climb. This climb was the real deal with big sections of solid gradient, and it went on and on, and on. And on. And on. Etc.
On the steeper sections I had my left achilles start to protest – tight, hot, tender. I compensated by picking footing to flatten it out, using poles more, and loading the right leg a bit. It didn’t seem too dangerous, and discomfort rapidly subsided when the gradient eased up. Something to manage but not an event killer.
The second lap was a little more involved than the first, both navigationally, and climbing-wise. Though most of it was on 4×4 tracks or service roads. After The Death Climb I had my first moment of course confusion as we unexpectedly came upon TW, the high mountain aid-station/shelter. I’d pretty much had the first two laps committed to memory and we weren’t supposed to see TW till after we’d looped back from Leaning Rock (the high point of lap 2).
Turned out there’d be a late change in course, the reason for which would soon be evident. The ridge up to Leaning Rock was high and exposed, and runners coming back down warned us to brace ourselves. The wind up there was Beaufort scale 9 (severe gale), leaning into it often wasn’t enough and you’d find yourself thrown from one side of the road to the other. Hunching over helped. The change in course was to give us a slight bit of protection as the original course would have been somewhat worse.
From the high point of lap 2, the descent back to base had a solid 1500m of climbing in it. This was actually a good thing, I found the continuous descent of lap 1 a bit tough. My descending sucked a big kumara, I was taking it really slow and all the people I’d overtake on the climbs would wizz by on the descents (though admittedly by now there weren’t too many people around. I might see one or two max at any given time).
In hindsight I may have been holding back a little too much on the downs, perhaps I should have been freewheeling instead of being constantly on the brakes. Though by the end, I had a deep right quad tenderness that may have proved more problematic had I let go on the downhills. Who knows?
The descent towards Brewery Creek also coincided with nightfall. At this point of the course there was only a bit of broken cloud and a decent moon which made it a lovely time/place to be running. I took the opportunity to call the kids and say goodnight. For some reason I was really looking forward to running into the night and I was still feeling rock solid. Everything was happy-good. Though in getting closer to base the mind kept projecting forward to lap 3, the monster. I really saw no point dwelling on it at this time so constantly brought it back to the ‘now’. Now being a good current mental/physical state, the next marker, a tasty treat, some cool water.
Entering base after 100km (~15hrs?), I was tired sure, but that was all. Still positive, still nothing approaching the suffering I’d feared by this point. Victoria was there again at a commandeered table with all my stuff dumped on it. I opted to change socks and re-vas the feet. Fistfulls of lube again applied elsewhere. Then wetwipe freshen up, and down to eating. The pumpkin soup and boiled potatoes with butter and salt were divine and I was evidently hungry as I had a few servings. Brushing the teeth was a great final activity before restarting (thanks Mike) was refreshing plus.
I’d often anticipated the mental difficulty in leaving base in the middle of the night after having already done 100km. What I actually felt was excitement in heading into the ‘mile’ bit of the hundred miler. The extra 60km, the running through till dawn, the night time solitude, the sense of wonder that I was still good to go. I was evidently a bit fatigued though initially heading out of the tent without poles or headlamp.
The first climb of lap 3 was death-climb-solid, though I felt surprisingly strong. The climbing legs fade-rate was minimal (thanks endless hill rep training). At this point I was thinking that maybe a sub 30hr finish was a possibility. Don’t get me wrong, the #1 objective was to complete the event in as good a state as I could manage. But a sub 30hr looked very achievable without risking anything.
About this time I figured I’d taken a bad turn and was ‘lost’. Not lost, ‘lost’, as I was still on the course as the markers attested. Only there was a junction with arrows pointing the wrong way and there appeared to be solid downhill when I still should have been climbing to Mt Horn. It would have been about 1am and I was definitely fatigued and was having trouble processing the situation. I could see headlamps on the parallel ridge to the North of me and way up high to the East of me.
As I mentioned earlier I had only really committed the first two laps to memory. I’d actually made a map for such an eventuality but misplaced in in the panic of packing on Thursday night when I discovered we had a morning flight rather than a midday flight (also resulting in a poor 4hr sleep that night – plus another poor Friday night sleep meant I was already well sleep deprived going into the event).
So I walked a bit of the three directions I could have taken. The only direction I had confidence in was backtracking down the hill (sigh, 1.5hr climb wasted). So I started back the way I came, then thought of calling Terry. Despite a rather poor description of my surroundings we concurred I’d missed a junction on the climb and was on another part of the course on the way to the finish. Rather than descending to the bottom of the climb he said if I just kept going up I’d be back on course.
So here I was, having wasted an hour dicking round, but still feeling physically and mentally strong. Though navigationally I was a bit shakey, double checking, second guessing every change in direction, no matter the course marking. Much like Tarawera, any thought of finish time disappeared and I went back to the finish the course ‘safely and confidently’ objective. While this killed any time related motivation, it probably made for a way more enjoyable experience. I ran when I felt like it, was still capable on the uphill, but almost felt like a lazy 60km. “I could run this bit, sure, but meh”.
Reaching TW again in the dark, they set me off on The Loop of Despair. Even in my casual state, it was aptly named. You backtrack and drop down a fair way then redo the 2nd half of The Death Climb. As it was early morning by now I kept looking up at Venus in the sky only to discover it was my next reflective course marker. This pattern kept going for an eternity. Luckily Snizzle the sock puppet was good company at this point, though she wasn’t saying very nice things about Terry.
After The Loop of Despair came The Water Race, but don’t be fooled by the innocent name. Runners I’d encounter on their way back from it said it was way worse than The Loop of Despair. But before we dropped down we had to re-climb the windy ridge to Leaning Rock. By now under a pre-dawn sky the wind had actually picked up. I’d be hunched over putting a big effort into moving in the right direction and then it’d be like a wave would break over your throwing you rather violently round. That’s gotta be at least 11 on the Beaufort scale (violent storm). On the way back down the headlamp finally needed a battery swap (after about 13.5hrs of burn time). Though there was precious little shelter up here, my hat had already been blown away and race number half blown off. I ended up lying in a ditch using my body to shelter everything changing battery. Choice adventuretime for sure!!
It was proper light by the time I got back from The Water Race to TW (it really wasn’t so bad). I had so much food I’d been sharing it with anyone around runners, volunteers, anyone. My calculation was on the much higher calorie burn rate of a 100km run. Going slower on a 100miler meant I was eating less. Otherwise my nutrition strategy was spot on, a mix of gels, peanut brownies, krispies, real gingernuts, and water on the fly. Nuts, muesli bars, chips, seaweed, chocolate milk, mini Whitakers peppermint chocolate bars, potatoes, pumpkin soup, R-Line electrolytes, and whatever else I could snaffle at the aid stations. Had crystalized ginger just in case of gastro issues, but nothing arose. Possibly my body stress level was low enough to prevent any gastro distress or maybe I was just lucky? I did rehearse nutrition a lot on the build up though.
The return back down to base was pretty uneventful, even the last hill, a nifty +500m climb 5km before the finish was comfortably knocked off. Unbelievably I was still climbing well after 32hrs. Saw Mal and Sal at the summit of the last climb too which was a boost. Then Victoria was waiting about 2km out from the finish to ‘run’ me in. Before I could get to her, there was the small matter of the last fence to cross. This one took a couple of attempts. I lost count of the number of fences we had to cross, there were a lot and they only got more difficult as the hours passed.
Sadly I didn’t give Victoria much of a run in, lots of walking, though running felt comfortable enough I just wasn’t sufficiently motivated. We did run the last 500m though. And that was it. Done. I was completely amazed to have done it without feeling like I was suffering for hours. I enjoyed it so much that I told Terry I want to do it again at the finish! Of course I was completely wacked, but not painfully so, more drained. I felt so, so much worse at the end of my first Tarawera 100km.I guess that was down to the training, mental preparation, and race strategy. But I didn’t even dream of completing it this well.
A final note on the gear, like nutrition, I’d rehearsed this plenty. I’d packed so food and drink were always easily available on the fly. Similarly clothing was selected for gearing up and down to the conditions mostly without have to take a pack off – beanie, buff, gloves, arm-warmers accessible on the fly too. I’d opted for a slightly smaller pack for compulsory gear with a voluminous race belt for food supplies and on/off layers. It was very warm down at base and cool up top, cold in the wind so I was forever adjusting layers.
The headlamp Petzl Nao even nearly when the whole distance on one battery. Also glad I’d taken clear glasses to keep wind/grit out of my eyes, they were magic. The shoe-gaiter (Altra Lone Peak 1.5) combo kept everything out, and rocks/stabby plants at bay. As expected the Black Diamond poles were fantastic on the climbs. Unfortunately I’d set the Ambit3 at max battery saving meaning it dropped about 10% of distance (I figure with the off track stuff I’d done about 165km?) though it gave a credible looking 11,300m climbing. I’d applied moisturiser the night before on any area I though chafing could be an issue, and reapplied lube every lap (including feet). The outcome was zero damage, no chafing, no blisters. So happy with the gear selection, made for an unbelievably comfortable 32hrs.
Felt better than Round Ruapehu for sure (esp. the not running out of food bit). So I expect good MEC representation at Northburn in coming years.
I entered the Northburn100 (miler) a couple of years back. Unfortunately they had an incident with a fire on the build-up to the 2015 edition and didn’t offer the 100 that year so I’ve had an extra year of terror just thinking about the thing. As a bonus, they’ve put that year to good use by adding a couple of thousand metres of vertical and an extra kilometre to the course.
So the mental state over the last couple of months has constantly alternated between excited anticipation, and the why? Why? Why did I enter? Part of the why is the trail-100-miler? Tick, aspect. Honestly if there were an easier trail 100 mile event in NZ I’d have entered it. At this point I’d actually feel pretty secure, happy even, going into an ‘ordinary’ 100 miler. But then Northburn isn’t very ordinary. I’ve stopped reading the race reports because they are a bit disturbing.
Breaking Northburn down there are some pretty clear requirements with respect to training and preparation. As far as I can tell the specifics of the event are: hills, endurance, hills, fatigue, hills, darkness, hills, rocky/stabby/uneven-terrain, hills, varied-climatic conditions, hills, nutrition/hydration, hills, load-carrying, hills, personal care, hills, and mental state. In the build-up I tried to cover off these as best I could within a 6 month average of 10hrs running a week (supplemented with fixie commuting and family hikes).
Hills: keeping a low-carbon family-friendly programme I largely resorted to local neighbourhood hills (lots of repeats of steep 40m and 80m climbs). Have managed just over a 2000m per week average since the start of October. The most vert I managed in a week was 5000m. Ideally I’d have hiked some big long climbs with a silly heavy pack but it never happened. Quite a lot of the hill work was power hiking between 500-1000 metres/hr, that’s gotta be good for me right? 10,000m of vert scares me, have no idea if I’ve done enough.
Endurance: Biggest run I managed was 15.5hrs on a +140km week. Took that big day really slow, carried full gear/water load, and felt like I had a fair few hours still in me at the end (though was only around 3000m of vert). Got in a good number of +8hr runs, and some 100km weeks. Recovery after these big runs has been great, even managed some solid sessions in the week following them. Pretty happy with endurance then.
Fatigue/Darkness: A Rangitoto Island Dusk till Dawn hill set tested my night ops. I actually rather like being out and about in the dark, often wish sunrise was a bit delayed on early morning sessions. Plus I’ve got a headlamp that’s plenty powerful and good for +10:30hrs without having to change batteries (almost feels like cheating). Also tried out a 40min power nap on Rangi after 7hrs on the feet, while I didn’t actually sleep, and restarting was an unpleasant experience I felt great once I warmed up again. I’m also getting the kids to throw a couple of totems in the TW (half lap) drop bag as a bit of lift if/when things go psych-dark. No fear here, psych/electromagnetic darkness spectrum covered.
Rocky/Stabby/Uneven-Terrain: Mostly past experience and gear selection here. With most of the recent running occurring in confines of Auckland city, Rangitoto and Tarawera were main forays on the trail. My first choice shoe-gaiter combo was taken on the family hike around Lake Waikaremoana in January and they worked out great (same combo as Rangitoto and Tarawera). In summary, confident with the terrain
Nutrition/Hydration: Have paid a bit more attention to eating/drinking during the build-up, especially on long runs. Seems to have worked pretty well and have been able to eat solidly on the long low and slow outings using a combination of sports nutrition and normal food. Planning on carrying mainly gels and Farmbake Peanut Brownies, plus a few other solid (savoury) snacks. Drop bags will have a various other treats in them. I’m calling it the Brent 30hr gel chow down.
Varied-Climatic Conditions: Been a bit tricky this one, as the summer has been hot, humid, and rather wet at times. Tell the truth I’m not at my best in the midday heat when I’m fully loaded. Doesn’t look like it’ll be as hot and humid down there though – overnight lows of between 6-8C at base, who knows what’ll be on the tops in the middle of the night. At this point it’s looking like rain is threatening. Was looking forward to a gorgeous Central Otago sunset/sunrise but prefer rain to baking heat.
Load Carrying: Done all of my long runs and a fair number of hill sets fully loaded. The compulsory gear list means carrying a couple of kg of water and quite a bit of bulk. I’ve played with packing options a bit and current setup seems to work well for the kind of running (walking) I’ll be doing at Northburn. Been running with wizard sticks for the past few months, they are great on the combo of climbing with a load. Got options here, no real cause for concern.
Personal Care: Look after the feet, tend to any chafing early, carry sunscreen and toilet paper. Changes of clothes and shoes at base. Common issues covered then, though keeping on top of chafing is a nagging concern.
Mental state: +30hrs in trying conditions? How do you prepare for that? I’m going with the ‘what would DKR do?’ approach. Three runners that often come to mind when I need a bit of inspiration or fortitude are Dawn Tuffery, Ruby Muir, and Kim Allen (DRK listed, of course, in no particular order). At which point you say, wow, that’s enlightened, and not weird at all for a man in his mid 40’s. Yeah, yeah, I could throw in Mal Law but his inspiration membership is already fully subscribed. I think I can work through any issues of resolve or inner darkness, and have a powernap on hand for hallucinations.
Finally, to put it all together on the day(s) I’ve got a plan. The plan being designed to get me to the finish, hopefully only experiencing one sunset.
Race, ahem, event-survival plan: This is pretty straight forward four point plan.
Limit running to the easy terrain on the first lap (ie. cap effort)
Don’t stop unless you’ve got a task that requires stopping (a nap is technically a task)
Keep on top of nutrition/hydration.
Mantra: belief, resolve, endure, entry-fee
Prediction: I’ll finish. I’ll cry at some point. I’ll want to withdraw soon after. Those gels are going to get nasty. But I think I’ve done enough to finish.
Very happy with how my late spring / early summer went. I had two races (SkyRockNRun and Westcoaster) of around 5hrs with lots of climb in November and December. I was consistent, managing to get my 60-70k per week in around my other priorities. Then in January I ramped up the climbing further and got some great trail runs and hikes in. Only thing really lacking was a couple of runs around the 50k mark. I think having one that finished with some gradual road climbs would be good specific prep for this race.
Pre race prep, physical: A
Got down the day before. Hydrated and carbo-loaded well. Noticed that I was really tight in my hips so foam rolled them to bits the night before. Had all my crew instructions ready to go and got to bed just after 10.
Pre race prep, mental: D
I was fit, in probably the best shape I ever have been for this race. And so my goal was a small PB – 15 mins. Very reasonable. However, I had not dug the motivation deeper than that. This is a race I have loved. But still it is an event where experincing discomfort is certain, and suffering and misery are likely. Therefore, having a single time goal is a very vulnerable motivation. A breadth of goals is what is needed e.g. Run my best race on the day, come top x in my category. Push through the pain to finish strong. Never give up, stay positive, keep moving. This is Racing 101, so big points off for this lapse in preparation
Race execution: C
Ron, Caleb and I met at the start and ran together as planned. We actually started a bit further back than ideal but made up by catching plenty on the first 5k. In retrospect, I pushed a little hard on some of the first leg single track in aid of getting to a pace that felt most efficient. Lesson: Start further up. If caught back, bide time and protect legs and await some firetrail to get into position.
Interestingly my heart rate (HR) was a bit high for the first leg. Not sure why, I felt fine. Still thinking on it. Came right by Leg 2 to Okataina.
The trip to Okataina is the most familiar part of the course, and I was happy with our progress here. The effort felt manageable and the HR came back to expected. We came to the Okataina aid station in 4:09:05, just 4 minutes down on my predicted splits for a 10:45 finish.
The third leg to Tarawera Falls was hard. We ended up doing it about 10 minutes slower than expected, but the body felt like we had being pushing hard, not taking it easy. This is still a bit of a puzzle. With the rainy conditions, I thought we would have an easier time (less effort shifting heat), but perhaps the mud made our legs work just that much harder that they fatigued sooner. I had great grip in my X-Talons, but was very glad to swap them out for road shoes at the Falls.
As mentioned in Ron’s report, our three man team collectively stepped off the gas at the Tarawera Falls. I saw we were about 15 mins down on time needed to make goal of 10:45, and not feeling nearly as fresh as expected/desired. That felt like there was no chance of hitting the target (huge mental mistake – counting your current state of wearyness/energy/misery as if it is fixed, when actually you can recover). In actual fact, we were in the top 35 at this point (but unaware) as everyone was behind schedule! We transitioned from pulling each other along, to happily going at the lowest common speed – i.e. whoever was slowest set the pace. Toilet stops, walking breaks, we all took them together.
It was nice to have company, but if I am honest, it was real hard going. I have had more fun pushing myself hard in this section, drawing everything out of my fatigued body. I was downcast at missing my goal, and Caleb wasn’t having a happy time either. Ron seemed content, and we all trudged in slow silence. The quiet company of three was no match for the motivational force of an engaged pacer (or a competitive/positive mindset). No complaints from me, I was very glad to have the boys to run with and wait with – but just a reflection that I wanted to share as a lesson.
On the way to Awaroa after Titoki I noticed my pee had gone from yellow – dark yellow – brown. I started to drink more, but was feeling fine so not particularly bothered by this. Then just as we left the Awaroa aid station (83k) I noticed that it was brown and red. Oh. Not good. I won’t go into the difference between myoglobinuria (extremely bad) and exercise associated haematuria (maybe bad, maybe benign), but I knew that my kidneys were likely stressed regardless. This left me quite stressed. Ron gave me the good advice to go back to the aid and slam some fluids. I did this, asked if there was any medical person there (no, they had just left) and filled both my bottles. I made the decision to run it to Fisherman’s bridge 8.5k away. Dad would be there, which meant an objective opinion, and potential evacuation in his car if necessary.
Ron and Caleb had waited for me (much appreciated) and we picked up the pace and ran down the hills. I now had motivation to get there quickly and was moving the fastest I had in a couple of hours, with little change in effort. Amazing how perspective change can impact your performance. We got to Fisherman’s Bridge and I was very relieved. I took a couple of minutes to check my urine and think and discuss with Dad what to do. I decided to take the safe option and pull out there at the aid station. I sent the guys who were now quite wet and cold from waiting for me onward and I spoke to the race medical team who concurred (nice medical word eh?) with my decision. An hour later in the med tent at the finish I had put on 1.3 kilos (i.e. over-hydrated) and shortly after this I was peeing clear again. The kidneys had bounced back from the hydration and I was fine. In retrospect I can see that I had rehydrated sufficiently (actually too much hypo-isotonic fluid – hence the weight gain) and would have made it to the finish OK. However, I wasn’t to know that at Fisherman’s Bridge and so while very disappointed not to finish, I am reassured that I made the sensible call on the day. Better to live to fight another day then die trying to prove you’re a hero.
So, another year at this excellent event, but definitely not my best or my favourite performance. Some great results from the MEC though, and I will live it to those chaps to tell you the story for themselves. See you soon on the trails.
The last bite of the 2015 cherry for me. I was wondering if after a long Spring season whether I might be a bit fatigued, so contemplated skipping this race to focus on Tarawera 2016. But after a couple of weeks post SkyRockNRun, I was feeling way better and I do love this course so it wasn’t really a surprise that I took my place at the start on Dec 12.
You can read previous reports for more course info, this one is a brief bit of race coverage.
I knew it was going to be warm (not crazy hot like 2013) and humid so wasn’t gunning on any PB attempts. Was great to join Sean Falconer at the start line – he had been spanking out the runs in his local southern end of the Waitaks and was fit and ready for his first off road marathon. Without pushing I briefly found myself leading at the start then ended up trading places in the top 4 over leg 1, completing the private farm loop in 2nd place in 1:05:27. First gear mistake of the day – bringing the wrong HR monitor strap and so no data there. Had to rely on perceived effort to guide me ie “using the force”, which is a critical race skill anyway so a good opportunity to test my internal guide.
Leg 2 going North on Te Henga felt good, I had dropped behind the first fellow when filling my bottles at aid 1, but was content to pace reasonably. I got caught by 2 more chaps, which made me double check my pace, but I felt I was on track, so kept it steady. Completed this one in 1:11:59 a touch quicker than last year so all going to plan.
Leg 3 To Horseman. Felt good coming out of the aid and ran strong down Constable, into the Goldies Bush section and then hit the steep stairs which dropped me to a walk. No worries, pretty quickly saw one dude ahead once we got off the stairs again as we climbed up. Got passed by Anthony “Little Brown Runner” Hancy here as he blew by. I had a quick stop in the aid, about 26k done and ready for the real race to begin. This year they had moved the aid station down to the track junction, saving 500m or so by eliminating the out and back.
I took off down the hill toward the river, catching both guys who had overtaken me on Te Henga. Ha! This felt good. Hit the river and noted my second gear mistake of the day – the Salomon Fellraisers were useless on wet rock and I had to gingerly trot across the dozen plus river crossings to avoid a full immersion. In doing so, I got re-passed by one of the dudes, but had to let it slide as this was not the place to try for a show down.
Up out of the river and climbing back up the kauri grove to Constable Road. Here was a pleasant surprise – I caught the guy who had been in front since leg 1. He was walking and looking well spent, so didn’t need to worry about him anymore. Then I caught my river-buddy once again and put in some pace on the stairs to build a gap.
I got to the final Aid at the top of Constable and was told I was 4 minutes down on Anthony who was in first. I figured that unless he fell apart I wouldn’t catch him over the last 10k but set off to keep it an honest race. And honest it was. I did fine until the last 4k, whereupon the effort of the day caught up (my internal guide may have been just slightly over-ambitious). I was teetering on cramp in multiple lower leg locations, and had to button off the gas and take a salt tab. I managed to grind it home, but was really in damage control and terrified of being caught as I had little more to give. Fortunately no pursers showed up and I crossed the line in 4:43:59, a new PB for me and in second place.
Sean had a well-paced cracker himself to go sub 5hrs and nab 5th spot – another great result from the MEC.
That’s it for me for 2015 – looking forward to another great year of running in 2016!