Sunday, April 12, 2015

Annual T42/Nugget Double!

The intro bit,
It's that time of the year again!  The time I finally push my arse away from the keyboard and actually take in some exercise.  Nothing sucks more than being most of the way through a race lamenting the fact that you chose to sit on your butt and eat chocolate in the full knowledge that supreme hardship lurked just around the corner.  Well thank f#$k I've actually done some work this year.  I tried the T42/Nugget double last year and exploded 5km into the later of the races.  My 1st ever legit injury/DNF.  Booo!

This bit is mostly about me,
It'll be my 4th outing to T42 and I've been luckily unopposed with previous years competition not eclipsing what was an epic inaugural battle between Kugs and Red.  This year I'll probably be taking my best fitness down there with a decent block of base and sharpening under my belt.  There's a shot of a sub 2:50 but weather and trail conditon plays a big part.  Also, backing up the T42 with a tough race at The Nugget in Waihi is tough.  Particularly for an aged campaigner such as myself.  So in all likelihood, the best run I can have at T42 is one that puts me across the line 1st in the slowest possible time.  Weird huh?

Come at me bro!
The best thing you can hope for is an easy win but there's plenty out there that could easily knock me off my high horsey.
KDay is easily in the best shape of his life, T42 isn't his target at all but if he toes the line ITS SO ON!
Duross has been secretly clocking some quality training, if he wants a piece it'll be a scrap, no doubt.
Lets hope CK is busy running around a Lake...
CK is clocking some legit times at the moment on his way to Kona.  He's as strong on trail as he is tall and handsome but so damn fit right now the only chance I'd have against him would be if he fell into a pot-hole and couldn't climb out.
Kugs can fly when the training is right.  I'd not want to be anywhere near his pace through the 1st downhill half.
Stephen Day could walk his way to the finish in 2:40 flat, as could James Richardson and about half of Wellington Scottish.  I can't beat Wellington on a good day.
To be fair, the list of people that should come and spank me is long and not limited to just the boys. Jo Johansen is coming for a jog, Muir is flying, as is the infallible LTH.  About to get chicked in 3...2...1....
Chance of veteran ladies Kirsten Milne and Katy Dawson fronting as well which would make for a hell battle in the MW40.  There's a stack of 3hr Marathoners rumoured to be making the trip.

....and now for something completely different!
That uppy/downy running bit out of the way there is the all important dance-off to consider.
As most people now know, the T42 after-party is OFF-THE-HOOK.  Some super strong box shapes crafted by KDay and Duross last year, Lilly keeping the bearded brothers Ure and Cam Carter in check, with the usual manic beats from DJ Jono Reeves.  The KJs will be cooking up trouble as always and a strong supporting cast of enthusiastic triathletes and cylcists fresh from a day of cartwheels and sweet jumps.  This years line-up looking so fresh and strong the biggest questions will be who ISN'T coming and who will be last standing when the music dies?

View post on

Aaron Carter and the team at Total Sport know how to host a good event.  Beers at the finish line!  WHOOP!

Nuggety Nugget goodness!
But seriously, how good is that trail from Waihi to Homunga Bay?  If you've never come to this neat little event seriously consider getting out one last time before the weather collapses.  I often catch myself describing the Nugget as a 'cool little event' with a 'lovely community feel' but in all reality it is so much more than that.  It's seen a few iterations and I can't remember ever running the same 21km course once but there is no question that the event is in strong capable hands.  Cheap entry and LOADS of options.  Even some for people who exercise sitting down.
I've a good a shot as anyone to get through this 21km run in front and there's a long long list of dudes that could rek me on my drive for a 3rd title here.  Not least one of my Jnr athletes who just ran a 15:50 5000m.  Coach says you may not to enter the 21km! 
Yeah, it's trails like these.... this is why.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Tarawera Ultra Everywhere Man

Warning - this race report contains nuts!  All of the characters are real but my belief in myself is entirely make believe!  Also, words: some of them are big, wrong or out of order, others may offend.  Or not.  Enjoy!

Much can be said about the 3 day lead up to the 7th Tarawera Ultra.  Best perhaps captured by the word busy repeated 3 times thusly - busy busy busy.
  • Pre-Elite-BBQ noise control for the only two people at Paul's house when the complaint was made.  Sssshhhhh Hoogeveen!
  • Aussie sausage-fest at the Thursday night 'secret spot' candle-light romance.
  • Fridays Elite Q&A "who here thinks the Nazi's were bad people?"  Can't believe I'm still in charge of this thing!

The race start was the usual chaos.  The media coordinators had asked me to get the clowns off the front rank so I pulled the usual suspects back and pushed last years defenders and real race leaders out front for the challenge.
The first few hundred meters that followed the hooter were brisk as always.  I settled into a pace behind the big guns briefly before squeezing ahead as we entered single track.  Somewhere prior to the climb around Tikorangi I caught Kugs.  Hard to imagine how he didn't win that 60km race, I mean.... he had such a good lead at the 1km mark....
Stephen Day, a very capable runner from Wellington Scottish pushed me along and I suffered my way around to the back of the Blue Lake with only a narrow margin.  The revisions to the start had meant for a fast course and for me a 4min leg record.  I owe a lot of that to the much better application of gradient over distance  Tim and the team implemented.  I thought I was in TERRIBLE shape but I guess even on a fast course a good time should be celebrated however undeserved it feels.  So.... WHOOP!

I consider it a perennial humbling to run my guts out over 18km then to look back and realize I've established no significant margin ahead of the gang of guys that would hold this pace through to the 100km finish.  Wow, I suck.

I would've stayed at Okaraka to help dispense some high-fives but sadly I needed to get straight onto a bus and haul arse to my car.  My next engagement required I get to Okatina to crew Bowman, Britton and Wardian.  Being in one of the lead relay teams and committing to support some of the elites, who obviously can't use the drop-bag system, made the frustrating car/bus/car/bus thing barely adequate to the urgency of beating people on foot who are somehow traveling faster than all manor of transport. This said, I managed to make it through to Okatina in time.  Just.  I realize the requirement for this so I'll begrudgingly endure the frustration provided it's a burden everyone abides without exception.  This being my only minor gripe of the day.

Dylan got his 'gels-in-water' combo, the lovable rogue Robbie Britton received his "rice balls" and Wardian was helped on his way through the fantastic Okatina aid station and on his way around the lake.

Once more, buses, chaos and urgency was required to beat those trail-juggernauts through the to the forest.  I arrived at Tarawera Falls ahead of Bowman who was on a tear having given Lake Tarawera its biggest thrashing in almost 140 years.  I awaited Michael Wardian for the first of my pacing duties.  He would arrive in about 8th and was a little low, battling through a trough caused by those long unaided sections around the last of the lakes.  Despite this we rolled through to Titoki in good spirits.  Picking up the Spaniard Pau but conceding to Vajin and his pacer Grant Guise.   We all ran together briefly but the guys were taking it pretty serious despite my entertaining banter.  And singing, I think I should mention the singing.  I am an excellent singer...

I parted with Wardian at Titoki where a Pro Triathlete mate would take on the pacing gig to help him around the loop-of-despair.  My next job was to tag back in again at Fisherman's and run Wardian through to the finish.  Sort of a pacer/relay gig with the capable Swedish Triathlete Marre Cusin (11th Challenge Wanaka 2015, whoop!)

Seriously, google this guy, world records an' sh1t.
I was fortunate to have a little time at Fisherman's with Prasasha who was crewing for Vajin.  Fortunate also to bust a couple' sweet bombs off the bridge.

Wardian arrived in 6th to his surprise as I explained Yun had dropped ahead of him.  By this point in the day Dylan had already won the race (freak) and Jorge was not far off picking up his 2nd place.  Vajin was 8min ahead and a fading Robbie Britton 4min away meant we still had something to chase.  GAME ON.

Wardian and I flew through it.  Picking up Robbie with his hands on his knees as he revisited those precious rice balls.  We gained 2min on Vajin by the finish but he beat us comfortably.  Caliber of that guy should not be underestimated.  5th place was a good improvement over last year for Wardian.  It's a thing.  5th place is a thing.
Next stop SPARTA!!!!

I didn't even stop to take in a drink, I went straight to the information tent to get my next pacer number while I had Tim try and locate Paul.  "Last seen bobbing up and down in Lake Tarawera near the outlet" was the reply I heard as I flagged down a random car at the bridge into the forest.  Two teenagers let me in their truck.  They were hoping to sneak off to the Falls for some romance.  There would be something going on at the falls but it wouldn't be romance.

I arrived at the 60km finish with time to spare and delighted in the company of the hugely entertaining Margo Southgate.  Eventually Paul emerged from the trail, he was wet but moving OK.  A large crowd was gathered and it would've been nice if Paul could have afforded himself the luxury of taking in a little of the applause and support that was being offered his way.  Instead he ripped right passed the ample selection of treats, watermelon, cookies and nuts to deal to his nuts.

lerk lerk lerk
As undignified as it may be to see a man palming vast amounts of vasoline onto his undercarriage, this scene is 'par for the course' in an Ultra Marathon.  I watched him throwing lubricant like he was on the set of an Aliens movie while I considered what this meant for the remainder of our journey.  Stopping briefly in a chair to center himself Paul was quickly ushered on by the crowd and we rolled off knowing the job of making that Titoki cut-off loomed large.  The rules would not be bent for anyone today, not even the man himself.  (unless you count the number of pacers anyone can have at any one time but... come on.... it's Paul)

Paul's movements were encouraging at first.  Jogging most of the time, walking only the steeper assents.  I believed him to be in good shape but I read that wrong.  What followed were some LOOOOOOONG hours in the pine forests of Kawerau.

We rolled in to Titoki with time to spare, he was fueling ok but starting to look a little desperate.  Ice sponging to cool off but careful not to risk too much water sneaking down to the skunkworks of exposed skin and lubricant.  I had the sense that one of his primary goals had been to make this cut-off then just see the end out at any cost.  He was mostly quiet, had an MP3 player on and was talking very little as I tried to gauge what he needed in terms of guidance and motivation.

We were soon walking all assents regardless of incline.  We walk much of the flats as well.  I'd remind him we're still running the downhills and he'd do this despite the omnipresent suffering of cumulative fatigue and the swag of a man working around an accident involving his favorite dangly bits, a belt-sander and a cup of lemon juice.  With smart application of residual fitness and some super clean racing lines through corners meant we were actually making some in-roads into the field.

Fellow competitors would hear my musings long before Paul and I would eventually draw level with them.  Most would recognize Paul and attempt to engage him in conversation.  FOOLS!  This was a stupid endeavor and while he never actually verbalized his desire that they Piss.Right.Off, his short manner made it clear enough.  On occasion I would drop back out of earshot to apologize to them for Paul's state.  Typically they'd reply they understood but I assume most were still surprised by his demeanor.  To say he was a different person would be an understatement.  He was a different species. I can only liken it to when you're petting a cat that suddenly just bites you for no reason other than to remind you that it's a cat, and cats can be dicks.

In the days leading up to the race I could see Paul's serious transformation from race director to competitor and I knew going into this job that it wasn't going to be the cuddly teddy bear Charteris I'd get to take for a trot in the wilderness.  You gotta let the lion outta the cage every once in a while.  He'd previously discussed how we were to track all runners down, chew them up and spit them out.  A scene from Conan our secret mantra.

We were moving, but moving slowly.  When he was up to a jog it equated to my brisk walk.  A walk I would've been comfortable however a pacer should never walk next to their jogging runner.  So I had to jog as well.  I had to jog slow.  Slower than I would normally walk.  And it hurt.  I shouldn't complain though, my legs were still surprisingly fresh.  I was approaching 70 kms in a weird 20km race, 20km tempo, 30km 'walk/jog' day. This was the longest cool-down in history.

We strolled up the 'loop of despair' which in the 4 years since my last visit had taken on a new form.  The burnt wastes of dust and death had been replaced with cool comfort.  Overhanging juvenile pines and track-side shrubs giving the climb a lovely calming feel.  Maybe it need be renamed the 'magical fairy loop of serenity and happiness'.
All the same, our assent here was slow.  Even at a gradual march I'd lose Paul.  I found a stick and was hitting dirt balls into the woods to pass the time.  I wasn't a pacer, I was a bored 8-year old, and I was getting thirsty.  My attention deficit disorder was making me twitch and I needed my meds (alcohol) or someone new to pester.

Mark Ingliss
The exit from Awaroa was the usual affair of making sure Pauls needs were met then attempting to tend to mine without letting him get so far ahead that he thought I'd lost interest in my job.  Conscious that I too had been on moving for a long time I decided to do something about getting my fuel sorted.  I drunk a 2l of water, made some sandwiches, ate some nuts, stole 2 gels and taxed an apple before rolling back up to Paul for the stretch to Fisherman's.

The long straight sections were the worst. The twisty bits were equally as bad.  We would've lost a foot race to Mark Inglis (no mean feat).

I should point out that I was actually having an awesome time.  I was doing something I loved in good company and being a positive person I was well focused on all that was right with each and every moment of the beautiful twilight of a perfect summers day.  This even in the moments where we were moving at 'stab-your-eyes-out-frustratingly-slow'.  Cptn Kirk never asked Scotti for warp factor zero but be certain it exists.  If light is the fastest thing comprehensible, we were grinding toward Kawerau at the speed of dark.  I'm no astrophysicist, but I'm pretty sure that's how the speed/light spectrum works.

Somewhere in the kms prior to reaching Fisherman's out of the wild emerged Bryon Powell of irunfar and the mood immediately lightened.  Somehow the darkness lifted a little and there was music in the woods.  Was it just me that heard it?  Is that gay?  Am I gay now?  Please don't tell my wife.
No, it was music.  Fisherman's Bridge Aid station music.  And sure enough, around 2hours later we were there.

OH MY GOD PIZZA!  New fueling strategy, get a piece of hell pizza, any flavor, apply generous amount of sour cream to top of pizza, mush another piece of pizza on top.  Sour cream pizza sandwich Awww yessss.

It was dark now so I found myself moving under headlamp for the 2nd time that day.  An appropriate bookend to a fantastic day of running and general goofin' around from sunrise to sunset.  Perfect.

I see you gang sign, I see you...
Paul was wearing some famous headlamp that once saved a village from a marauding dragon or something, Bryon had the brightest thing since the big bang, and I had a $20 hand torch that you'd typically give to your kids in the full knowledge that it'll be broken or lost long before the shitty battery wore out.  Still, the mood was as light Powell's headlamp and even Paul was in a better place with the chirpy optimism that we now brought to the evening hours.  It brightened even more when an oncoming runner identified themselves as none other than Tim Fucking Day!!!  Our 3 became a 4 and you could tell Paul felt a million bucks.  A million bucks that had been hidden in a music festival portaloo.  WHO THE HELL STEALS A PORTALOO!?!?!??!!

In the midst of the finishing stretches now and 85km runners were around as well.  Some would recognise Tim and comment on what a fabulous day they were having.  Recognise Tim.  Really?  DO YOU NOT KNOW WHO I AM?!?!?!

Eventually as is with most things approached with such unrelenting persistence and perseverance the distance finally yielded and presented a broken man upon his final destination.  Paul had closed out the final kilometers at a respectable speed and while I was not the first to congratulate him my heartfelt admiration of his achievement would hopefully not be lost in the maelstrom of emotion that enveloped the moments following his arrival.
Epic moment.  I'll always have this.  Thanks again Paul.
The midnight hour was fast approaching and I remember little of what followed Paul's finish to my eventual collapse in a tent on his lawn.  I rested well in the knowledge that my day had been full and complete and few experiences would eclipse another magnificent Tarawera Ultra.  Special thanks to Paul for sharing this with me for the 7th time.  Shout out to my long lost brother Bryon Powell and huge massive man-love and crazy respect to the nicest guy you'll ever meet and fasted dude grey-side of 40, Michael Wardian.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

T42 Race Report

As unaccustomed as I am to speaking...
Another spectacular T42 for all involved!  I'm a huge fan of this event and greatly appreciate all the hard work that the team at Total Sport do to put it on each year.  Honored and privileged to be invited back to defend my title, thanks as always to Aaron, Nic, Cam' and the team, the volunteers and marshals, Allan Ure, DJ-random-moment-Jono and of course the hard working team behind the bar at the Park travelers lodge.

Team Total Sport minus the boss Aaron Carter who was actually in the 42km race

Muir doesn't even touch the ground
2014 was my 3rd running of the 42km trail marathon course, the event now in it's 5th year since inception.  It was always going to be a little quiet given the unfortunate clash with Rotorua Marathon. All the same a hardy group of trail-junkies were assembled at the race start in mild conditions for what would certainly be an entertaining days adventure.  The assembly of runners, as always, filled with a mix of competitive and social athletes, many of whom were in attendance for their 1st time.  Ruby Muir on the long comeback from a series of setbacks would likely eclipse the reminder of the womens field however she wouldn't be unopposed with 3hr marathoner Kirsten Milne ever-present.  My race was no sure thing either as pretenders to my throne Lucas Duross and Kristian Day had made the trip over from Hawkes Bay to test themselves against one another as is fast becoming their Modus operandi.

The trail rolls gently across an entirely runnable 4wd track and terrain represents no real obstacle to speed or endurance.  Very little rain and cool conditions meant the course would be mostly dry with minimal resistance to fast footing.  I went to some lengths to make it hard on myself though wearing near-treadless Inov-8 F-lite 232s.  A choice I would only regret on occasion as I skidded across slick trail made muddy by the passing of some 300 mountain bikers.

Through the 1st 2km I kept a steady pace with Muir and Kristian close-by.  Slightly faster on the flat sections I found the lead early.  Knowing their comfort in descent I regularly looked back in wonder as to why my easy pace was not being challenged.  I could hear Kristian singing so knew I wasn't miles clear.  For the 1st half of the run I really held back looking to do as little as possible to remain in front.  Not surprised when at around 20km I could hear a clear "Wohoo!" from Kristian as I navigated the river crossing which signaled the end of the mostly downhill 1st half.
Kristian chasing

I hadn't been looking forward to the long ascents that followed the halfway mark however I found myself climbing really comfortably.  A very welcome surprise which indicated my strength was well aligned with my aerobic fitness.  Sharing the trail with mountain bikers now I had the opportunity to meet fellow eventers and even got to show off my acrobatic skills as I fell hard tripping over nothing at all to graze my hand and knee.  Pretty sure this was in the exact same place as last year I cursed my lack of attention and inability to recover from what should have been a minor stumble.  I was now fully awake.

Messing with mountain bikers, many laughs
The kilometers ticked by and with 20 to go I asked my legs how they felt and they responded with "brand new, thanks for asking".  A good place to be and likely an accurate measure given the reservation I showed in preceding run.  Given my freshness I suspected no course record would be had today.

Rot eventually seeped in and I lifted the pace from 15 out however anything other than a gradual descent would prove somewhat taxing.  My left calf was hurting but I tried not to focus on it least I made it worse than it actually was.  It would later prove to be calf strain which leaves some dark clouds on the immediate recovery and training plan.

Pushing up the final climb to cross the line 2:57 I was glad to sneak under 3hrs and win for my 3rd consecutive year.  Some 5 minutes slower than last years record time probably a reflection on reduced training mileage, excessive carb-loading and the steady start to the run.  10 minutes later it was Kristian's turn to bring a niggle home nursing quad pain but happy to be in ahead of his main competition Lucas Duross.  Lucas who would eventually emerge 4th having a lengthy battle with triathlete Jamie Whyte.

Muir dominant as always comfortably securing the woman's win in a time of 3:15, 15 minutes clear of Kirsten Milne who spoke fondly of the course, the fun she had and how better it was than running on the road around a stupid lake.

More pedigree in the 24km trail run with legend Annika Smail taking the win with Waiheke's 'Gonzo' Clarke ahead of veteran Marc Scott in the mens field.  Marc's son securing the 11km win and rounding out a successful last 6 months of trail racing for the young man.  Certainly an aspiring athlete to watch.

T42 is one of my favorite races but not solely for the race itself.  The trail is generally fast and a net loss of altitude lends itself to a quick marathon, however, my attendance and support is testament to the sum of all it's parts.  Total Sport do a spectacular job of hosting this event, from the polish of build-up and registration, through to the bustling finish at the Owhago Domain.  Certainly worth mention is the evenings festivities following the prize-giving, making for a fun and rewarding weekend with perhaps more exuberance on the dance-floor than the adventure that preceded it.  The camaraderie of mountain bikers and runners evident in shared war stories over many too many drinks and shenanigans that go well into the early hours of Sunday.
The KJ's.  Double Trouble.

I've said numerous times I'd like to not defend my title and have a year setting my sights somewhere else but I awoke Sunday morning with firm enthusiasm and the knowledge that I will certainly be back for more.

Thanks so much to continued support from Dylan and the Vibram/Barefoot Inc team, great seeing so many of you in attendance.  Gayle, Shaun, Carl (bestme), Dawn, Kristian, Ruby, Leah and everyone from the Natty Park enclave.  Cracking results and strong moves lads, love your work!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Where to next?

I'm not dead yet so I should crack-on and try to cobble together a reasonable club-season and since I have some annual trail races coming up it's probably best I get a proper plan together.
Club running is fun.  I can't wait to feel this good again.

Not including 'injured' I figure there are 3 states: resting, running or training.  I spend a lot of my time in the 'running' state.  That is, I'm actively doing some exercise, maybe 3-5 days a week, but there's no specificity.  It's mostly recreational.  The state I should spend more time in and indeed am in now is 'training'.  This comprising of a planned approach to a measurable target requiring at least 6 days a week of predefined workouts.  More on this later...

The next target event is the T42 in around 30 days time.  This is a really cool event which I do every year mainly because it's superbly organized and rewarding to be part of.  With many hundreds of mountain bikers for company, few running races have such a cool atmosphere both on and off the trail.  This year it has an unfortunate clash with 50th Rotorua Marathon which is also serving as National Champs.  As unaccustomed as I am to running around in circles I'd prefer my laps to be 400m, not 42.2km of horrid cambered roads.  Initially I believed the clash to be detrimental to the T42 however most trail runners will likely share my disinterest in lapping the lake and with any luck come toe the line with me in Tongariro.  To this end I'm hoping for some decent competition to push me since previous years have unfortunately been a relatively un-challenging meander to the finish.

My current aerobic base is pretty good coming out of long days tramping in the south island and not shying away from some good mileage following.  Certainly previous years Feb/Mar build-up has been much worse.  My training weight is alright but a few kgs would certainly help.  Mainly I just need to top-up my strength and speed if I'm to run a solid trail 'thon.  The next few weeks to race-day are important and I've always been good at delivering myself to the start of something having cobbled together the best I could with what time I had available.  I'm also good at throwing-down and delivering a corpse to the finish should I need, so I'd like to ensure the coming weeks are filled with sessions that will tax my comfort levels.  So much of intensity training is mental.  Being familiar with discomfort.  Running hard when you least want to.  I still firmly believe this is one of the defining factors that separates 'off-the-couch' runners with real athletes.  Something I aspire to be.

...So the plan.  I've no reservations about explaining my training.  It's never a secret.  I'm entirely beatable (I beat myself all the time).  I'm fine at discipline provided I have a target in my sights so upon writing the following sharpening program I knew I'd have no real issue seeing it out other than the obvious hardship it includes.

Training amTraining pmSupplementaryDiet
2-Apr1hr easy1hr finish-fastbody resistance/core etcFasting
3-Apr90min easybody resistance/core etcFasting
5-Apr80min finish-fastbody resistance/core etcStandard
6-Apr30km easy inc hill effortsstretching/mobilityLtd Carb.
7-Apr80min hard hill and trail45min easy (St Peters)body resistance/core etcFasting
8-Apr2x 15min @T Pace. (full rec)body resistance/core etcFasting
9-Apr"3-up-1-down" hill repeatsbody resistance/core etcFasting
10-Apr35min Tempo (rising)body resistance/core etcFasting
11-Apr60min easy rollingbody resistance/core etcFasting
13-Apr30km easy inc hill effortsstretching/mobilityStandard
14-Apr80min hard hill and trail14x Hill Repeats (St Peters)body resistance/core etcFasting
15-Apr30min easyDeeks 400sbody resistance/core etcFasting
16-Apr2x 15min @T Pace. (full rec)body resistance/core etcFasting
17-Apr80min hill and trailbody resistance/core etcFasting
19-Apr42km easy inc hill efforts latestretching/mobilityLtd carb. Progressive.
20-Apr80min inc fartlek hill and trailbody resistance/core etcStandard
21-Apr30min easy8x 1km @Rep pacebody resistance/core etcFasting
22-Apr80min rising-ratebody resistance/core etcFasting
23-Apr30min easy35min Tempobody resistance/core etcFasting
24-Apr30min easy25min Hill effortbody resistance/core etcFasting
25-Apr60min easy rolling.body resistance/core etcFasting
27-Apr90min easybody resistance/core etcLtd Carb
28-AprDeeks 400sbody resistance/core etcFasting
29-Apr45min E +2x2km @Racebody resistance/core etcFasting
30-Apr45min easybody resistance/core etcStandard
2-MayRestSimple Sugars

Following T42 I'm really keen to get back over to Waihi and race The Nugget.  Again one of my annual fav's this race covers some AMAZING coastal track. The race departs my summer holiday town of Waihi Beach, covering 21km of genuinely mixed terrain through private land and into Waihi township. 
I've picked up 2 wins and a 3rd place here, the later a highlight of my running career throwing up in a sprint to the line and watching 2nd place slip from my portly wheezing grasp.  That day will always serve as motivation to bring the fitness required to get the job done and nothing less.
With the nugget back in the hands of local management I'm really interested to see how it pans out.  I'm a huge fan of supporting local events and this being pretty much my home town trail run I hope it continues to be the endearing successful event it started out as.  See you all there?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Whirinaki Long Run

People keep telling me I have a book in me.  Despite countless x-rays it's never shown up and I certainly don't recall inserting one.  More likely I'm full of tall stories and bullshit and since I have a terrible memory I should probably take note of the occasional tale least I forget it.

The alarm sounded at 4:50am for what promised to be a lengthy adventure in the Whirinaki Forest with friend and fellow manic Michael Hoogeveen.  We were on the road by 5am and I spent the journey randomly tossing odds and ends into my pack.  It seemed little thought was put into what I took with me in the car as I had 3 headlamps, a box of Girl Guide cookies, a fist-full of gels, some school-lunch-box nutbars and very little clothing.  "I'll take the piddly little headlamp" I thought as I tipped it into my pack, "we'll be done by nightfall".  I pushed around 500 lumens of unnecessary headlamps into the glove compartment of Michael's truck assuming I wouldn't miss them.  Heh.

Through Rotorua, Murupara and Minginui by 7am, we were on the trail and running at a quarter past the hour.  The plan was a clockwise loop of the park, a journey that would blow past 7 DoC Huts over the course of what we hoped would be a 10-11hr run.  A roughly drawn line on Google Earth told me to expect at least 66km.  I assumed this might make 70 but I'd taken a GPS anyway.

The trail was in incredible condition having been upgraded for mountain bikes in recent years with a wide benched surfaces over gradual rolling terrain.   The dawn hours passed without incident, Michael and I detoured to take in first Moerangi Hut then Rogers Hut.  We were moving slowly which I thought best given the long day we had ahead.  The steady start to our day gave me some confidence that we'd still be moving well that evening.
Michael rolling down a section of nice benched track mid-morning.

Mangakahika Hut
I was surprised when around 11:30 as we came unto Mangakahika Hut that Michael was talking of early fatigue and it seemed behind the conversation there were some thoughts that maybe he wanted to turn back. "Let's roll over to the next hut which should be about half way.  Have lunch, then reassess" I said.  Knowing well that at halfway there would be no reason to turn back and completion would be the obvious option.

Leaving the hut we climbed steadily toward a low saddle.  The nice benched track gradually faded to become a more 'standard' NZ back-country trail.  Wading through Bracken, Fern and 'Bastard-Grass' we'd attempt to navigate the occasional Ongaonga though frequently found ourselves in all-too regular couplings with the plant.

Do not high-five the Ongaonga.
It does not want to be your friend
For those not familiar with Ongaonga, it's a native stinging nettle like any other only much worse.  It's embrace will send you into uncontrollable bouts of twitching and shouting like if Michael J Fox had tourettes.  Pain so exquisite that you often wouldn't feel it for the 1st few moments like a really good nut-shot.  To put it another way, when Adolf Hitler, Malaria and Couscous get together for drinks they don't invite Ongaonga because he's a bit of a dick.  That plant is proof that there is a god and he hates us.

The jog just went next-level.  As well as concentrating on foot placement and the usual challenges of not falling on my face, I now had to identify the plants as they flew towards me and establish in an instant whether or not touching one of them would make me throw up on myself.

Cresting the saddle we were greeted with a loud Stag roar in the near proximity to our left.  I seldom hear large animals in the bush so it was cool to know we were sharing the terrain with wildlife of some significance.  It reminded me too that we were in a heavily hunted area of NZ and our presence only added to an already 'target-rich' environment.  To this end I'd regularly pause to ensue Michael was close-by and decided now was a good time to remove my novelty moose antlers.

Central Te Hoe Hut.  Beaut spot.
At 1pm we pulled into the beautiful clearing that housed the Central Te Hoe Hut.  Roughly halfway 'round this was a good opportunity for a lunch break.  Hurried calculations meant at our current speed we'd likely not see the end of the trail before 8pm and certain darkness.  We ensured our stop was a brief one taking only as long as required to demolish a box of Girl Guide cookies and make a short note in the Hut Intentions book before we once again took to the trail.  Ahead was a 500m climb on what we assumed would be the worst of the track.

Expecting pretty ordinary trail I wasn't disappointed.  Too overgrown to run it became a slow trudge into the hill before Bracken and Fern lousy with Bush Lawyer eventually gave way to tree roots.  The ascent lessened into the regular undulation of any given ridge-line.  We weren't making good time and I felt a slight sense of urgency as we fell further behind schedule.  Neither of us had any real concerns with this other than the obvious discomfort of a longer and harder day than anticipated.  I carried a light thermal, a few spare gels and that shitty headlamp so what did I really have to worry about?

I'd jog ahead, take some pictures and wait for Michael who was painfully losing the bottom of his feet.  At some point I tired of waiting and just decided to cruise on to the next hut.  Rounding a bend to cross a creek I startled a buck in the scrub just below me.  I was hardly moving quietly and he'd taken his time to respond to my approach before crashing through the undergrowth to put space between us.  It was the 1st time I'd startled a deer in the bush before and it was quite a special experience seeing a large wild animal like that so close.
Wise Mr Owl thinks we're insane

About a kilometer on I passed a hunter who had just helicoptered in without his rifle.  Upon explaining my recent encounter I could sense him regretting his decision to be unarmed.  After hearing our run-plan he very quickly pointed out that we wouldn't make it.  Thanks for the vote of confidence mate.  Stopping at Upper Te Hoe hut at a quarter to four with a little over half of the circuit complete I was getting a little anxious.  I knew we'd be moving in darkness at some point and I was eager to get as much done before nightfall as possible.  Separation wasn't an option and if one or both of us were to have a misadventure of some sort, being very lightly equipped, this could lead to certain tragedy.

Tracks in high places.  Cliff hanger trail running.
Michael rolled into Upper Te Hoe and mentioned several of his now countless ailments.  "That boy is made of Bulsa Wood and Sandpaper" I said to myself, "though he never really complains about his suffering."  I waited while he refueled and made some quick 'running' repairs.  If you ever get the chance, ask Michael why he was wearing only 3 socks.

Another 500m climb awaited us, this one made exciting by a narrow track cut into the side of a cliff-face making for spectacular vertical drop-offs.  Moving quickly I'd often not assess a dangerous section until after I had passed it. At one stage clearing a narrow slip on lose stones with maximum penalty for failure I looked back and thought how much my brothers 'worry-gland' wouldn't have enjoyed this section of track.

The previous hut book had emphatically highlighted peoples disgust of the condition of the trail through this and previous sections of the track.  To which I had written "Yeah-nah, it aint that bad. Harden up peach xx oo".  All the same, I was aware that I was heading into another slower leg with the likelihood of more bush bashing than Dirk Diggler.  To my surprise cut grass greeted us at one of the junction tops and plainly some maintenance had recently been done.  I explained to Michael that I was thirsty having only drunken a little over 2l of water in the 10hrs we'd been moving.  The map showed it wasn't far to a stream so I pressed on in search of water startling a few more deer along the way.  I was feeling surprisingly good after hydration.  Other than some lingering tingling from the Ongaonga, thorough exfoliation of my legs at the hands of the Bracken, a few spills of claret courtesy of Bush Lawyer, and more bastard grass than seemed necessary,  I was in great shape.

Bastard Grass being a bastard.
The descents weren't entirely awesome however as my shoe for the day was a pair of saucony's trainers not at all built for trail use.  Comfortable; yes, though anything beyond about -20% and they turned into Saucony Road Ski's that would see me slide so frequently I could've been at Sochi.

As I continued toward Upper Whirinaki Hut light was starting fade and direct sunlight had long since fallen to shadow but the track was becoming more runnable.  Leaping down into a creek bed I almost landed on a deer which took off with significant motivation into the thicket.  I could still easily pick out the trail and planning foot placement was no real challenge. The last 2km to the hut had been 'realigned' and I covered it comfortably within 15 minutes.  I was greeted by 2 likely lads standing on the deck listening for wildlife in need of a lead injection.  The last signs of daylight were extinguished and the first stars could be seen as we talked about the section of trail separating us from Michael's car.  I explained that my companion was suffering a bit though the only appearance of it was in his speed, he'd likely not make a fuss but if they could help ensure he was alright I'd be grateful.  To this end when Michael did arrive having covered that last 2km in almost 45 minutes he was served with hot noodles, painkillers, strapping tape and the encouraging news that the next hut was only about 8km away.  A thick cloud greeted each exhaled breath and it was plainly too cold for me to be without a thermal.  A stationary moment would be followed by shivering so I taxed a spare polar fleece from one of the guys who also gave me a couple AAAs for my headlamp and before long we were back on the trail.

My GPS was starting to show fatigue too and it read 65km before I decided to retire it to my pack.  Signposts indicating around 24km remained meaning we'd see close to 90km for the completed loop... ..Though it wasn't yet completed.

Complete and total darkness making it difficult to navigate let alone run.  I was moving slowly behind Michael with my headlamp held in my hand at arms length to reduce the throw of flood required by the fading LEDs to crudely illuminate little more than his heels.  We lost the trail countless times bashing around in a stream bed with ever growing frustration as we clambered over debris a detritus.  At some point Michael fell and half submerged himself vertically.  I slipped through some tree-fall badly hitting my shin then later off a 1m bank.  Fun times.  We were both working hard on our advanced use of profanity.  This was the certain low-point however there was still a lot to be grateful of.  I still had 2 gels and a nutbar and the weather was perfect for a night of aimlessly bashing around in the wilderness.  At some stage the batteries were changed in my headlamp and sweet relief came in the form of pretty average visibility  We eventually stumbled upon a Permolat that preceded a bridge and track junction that brought an end to the hardship.  The trail now opening up as we closed on Central Whirinaki Hut.
10pm.  Tragedy, Pizza Hut Rotorua is closing.

A few packs on the deck indicated the hut was likely tenanted but being that it was now past 10pm they would all be asleep.  We didn't bother to disturb them pausing only to check the time and signpost that indicated 16kms remained.  If the sign was to be believed around a 5hr walk out, on what we knew would be lovely groomed trail.  Typically I'd run around a third of the posted walk time but being that I had already been moving for over 14hrs and knowing that darkness brings all sorts of complexities to running trail I figured it would be ambitious to assume I'd see the exit before midnight.

I still had a heap of running in me and I'd jog down the track then turn my headlamp off and wait for Michael to catch up.  This happened 3 or 4 times over the 1st 30 minutes after departing the hut before I asked for the car key.  We broke the risks down and there really wasn't much that could go wrong for either of us save a lighting mechanical or surprise injury.  So close to safety we agreed that there really was nothing to fear.  Unrestrained for the 1st time in my day I felt as though I was running sub-5-minute kms. Really flying through the dimly lit forest.  More likely I was running 7s but it felt fast none the less.  A reflective Permolat flew passed me and I imagined seeing "5km" written on it.  Confirmation of this came soon after in the form of a "4.8km" then a "4.6km". "Brilliant!" I thought, "I'm almost there!".

My watch said 23:48 as I flew into the carpark. Not quite midnight I had done the last 14km in around 80mins (5:40s).  Not bad I suppose given I was in the dark with minimal illumination and had been on the move for 16hrs.  The cold embraced me the moment I stopped and the time taken to unlock the car door was enough to bring me to shiver.  My ambitious plan to find a river to wash in and get fresh water was thwarted by my immediate desire to sleep.  Struggling to make any good decisions at all I managed to put on some clean clothes and wrap up in a woolen blankie on the front seat and wait for Michael.  I hurriedly forced in 2 oranges and a Ginger beer before sleep took me entirely by surprise.

A light blue light awoke me just after 2am indicating that Michael had made it out safely.  His final 14km taking something like twice as long as mine.  Made all the more exciting by a slight detour for some extra darkness and misery.  Michael was ok though and even though his feet had fallen to bits some 10 hours prior.  His outing some 19 hours in total, easily a record and worthy of a mention in his 'stupidity' almanac.

Somehow neither of us nor the Nissan Patrol crashed out on the journey home.  Arriving at my house exactly 24 hours after leaving it I dragged myself through the shower and into the spare room for a few hours of much needed rest.

I guess there are lessons to be learned from the experience.  Probably the big one being complacency.  Experienced with long trail runs I have had numerous days out that I was much better equipped for.  The problem with regularly carrying gear you never use is that you begin to forget to bring it.  I should probably have taken a hard-shell, a bivy bag and possibly a 1-season bag as I sometimes do however none of these would have actually helped me in this instance.  Rather, they would have given me alternatives to pressing on in the dark.  I should have assumed it would take longer and be further than anticipated and a good headlamp with spare batteries is the obvious fix.  I really surprised myself with my fitness and running strong after hr 16 is good feedback heading toward a trail marathon in May and a full club season.  I finished the day having drunk less than 4 lt of water which is really not a lot considering it was hot and dry for the majority of the time.  I suspect a wall would have greeted me were I to push this much further.

When I go to do this loop again I think I'll fast-pack it and overnight at Central Te Hoe.  When I do this I'll be sure to invite you all along because if this blog has taught you anything it's how much you'd love to share in an adventure with me.  Right?

More sweet trails from the morning running

I reckon the guy that works for DoC drives to work each day in his bulldozer.  Even the slips are benched.

This tree stand vertically UPSIDE DOWN.  It's not attached to anything, completely self supported by impact from where it javlined itself into the trail.  Very impressive.

That's a river down there.  A good jump and I'd make it.  Approx 100m down.  The track about 1m wide with SWEET drop-offs.

Some crinkly green bits probably so lousey with deer you'd be better leaving the rifle at home and bringing the Border collie in for a muster.