Wow what a weekend. So much to go through, apologies if this blog goes into over time, take a bit out of it now and come back later if you can only absorb my rambling in small serves. Over 3000 words, if only I cared this much about study when I was a young man...
A long long time ago
I guess every story should start at the beginning and finish at the end so let me get back to where it all began for Kauri70. Somewhere around late winter I decided to put a circle around this event. I'd had a good 2012 with pretty consistent training and no real setbacks. I was getting all my Sunday long runs done (2hrs of approx 30km on road, always always always in the rain). I was doing most of my speed work and the club results were shaping up alright. I started cutting through the Hawks Senior Mens leaderboad and by the time I got to Nelson for NRRC I was ranked 2nd or 3rd in club behind the world class Aaron Pulford. A good performance at NRRC and not too much recovery lead into the 1 month countdown to Kauri.
Drop the Bass
You can't run 32:xx for 10km or 15:xx for 5 without the right amount of speed and base and a 72 minute Half Marathon was another good indicator that I was actually pretty fit. My only concern being the lack of supreme muscle endurance required to keep the acid on in the closing hours of an Ultra Marathon. With only 3 or 4 weeks separating NRRC and Kauri I had to shake up the training somewhat. Unfortunately any run longer than 2hrs would lead to a very uncomfortable evening in the dog house. I needed a plan.
Keeping it stupid simple
What I did was a 3 day program comprising of 2hrs/day on back-to-back days with a 60-90 minute easy day between (or occasional rest day, perhaps 1 in every 10). Repeat. This poultry 10-12hr per week program would really only be a thin veneer on my pre-existing fitness. So what else could I do? Perhaps some psychological sandbagging to confuse the competition (Dennis deMonchy). Or was I really just lacking in confidence? I'm not entirely sure.
A gym-rat mate was mucking around with Intermittent Fasting as a way to trick his body into eating it's own fat reserves and I had been monitoring his really quite successful progress. About two and a half weeks prior to Kauri I decided to give it a nudge and without much effort went from 74.5kg to 69-ish by race day. Easy 5kg. That'll help for sure. If you want to know more about IF let me know, it's interesting stuff and worked for me. It's not without it's faults and any shock loading has repercussions. Glad to see the back of that lard though. I wasn't too worried about muscle mass but could've rocked some BCAA to prevent muscle loss.
So Friday before race day I had an early start for a charity breakfast to kick-off BuddyDay. Those that read my previous blog will be familiar with this. In short, Buddy Day is a visual reminder of child abuse and a conversation starter for us all to get talking about the very serious problem we have in NZ. I picked up my corflute Buddy and did a few interviews for various newspapers and radio stations then legged it to town to get me some pancakes. If you're the sensitive sort you may want to skip ahead. The conversation with the chef at Iguana went something along the lines of:
|IM TURNING YOU INTO POO!|
Me: “Sink that shit in maple syrup yo”
Chef: “Dude, I'm gonna f%*k that shit up with maple syrup”
Chef: “Dude, I'm gonna f%*k that shit up with maple syrup”
Holy hells, so much maple goodness I nearly died. I didn't so I ordered another plate. 2 serves of maple syrup ft. pancakes I headed home to boarded the Hoogeveen machine. Destination Fletcher Bay!
Somehow we didn't kill anyone or get driven off the road during the scenic but dangerous journey to the very northern tip of Coromandel. Fletcher Bay really turned it on for us. Word around the camp ground was that we weren't allowed to go up to 'The Shearers Quarters'. I got settled in, had a quick dip and got maximum time off feet (because 4hrs in a car wasn't enough).
|Fletcher Bay. So perty.|
|Just some Buddy I used to know|
Dennis deMonchy arrived and I encouraged him to join us at casa del Hoogeveen beach front real estate. An offer he gladly accepted and it was good chewing the fat with him. It became immediately apparent the seriousness he was taking the forthcoming days race. He even had a map (Why had I not even looked at a map once? I didn't even know where Fletchers Bay was).
Another serve of pancakes in maple syrup (not kidding) and it was time for bed.
The alarm kicked off at 4:35am. I'd like to say it woke me but it didn't. I was perfectly relaxed all night with the sound of surf and occasional bird call to settle me but for obvious reasons I had another restless night. About my 3rd in a row. Never ideal leading into a long race. I should learn to worry less. Am I worrying about worry now? Oh dear. Medicinal Marijuana perhaps?
In all likelihood I was probably on the brink of a diabetic coma.
I quickly packed away my tent following a breakfast of, guess what, pancakes and maple syrup! Oh god, never again. Final race briefing wasn't at the Shearers Quarters (we're not allowed to go the Shearers Quarters). Instead in the still calm preceding daybreak Andy from ARC gave us our final instructions which only some of us heeded before setting off in the wrong direction. I blame Dougies enthusiasm.
I had decided I wasn't going to need a headlamp since the 5:30am kick-off meant LEDs were fairly ineffective at illuminating the mostly visible flat running surface. I forced myself to walk much of the early inclines. It was going to be a tough day in terms of terrain and hoped savings now could be spent later. It wasn't long before deMonchy and Dougie were ahead and at times out of sight. I was running comfortably on the flatter sections and flowing down descents soon catching Dougie and eventually Dennis as well. At a switchback in the road I laughed about taking a shortcut across a short section of grass. deMonchy encouraged me, or at least I think he did, I was already bashing through the long grass and pulling myself up the far bank before I had time to really think it through. Somewhere in that 30 second detour Dougie fell off the back of deMonchy who surged up the road to catch me. Then there were two.
This is how we'd both anticipated the race to eventuate. Dennis and I sorting it out over 7-something hours. He wanted me to go. I knew that. I wanted him to lead but he wouldn't.
I should say at this stage I have a huge amount of love and respect for DdM. He's a well spoken, kindhearted father of 2 and wouldn't wish ill of anyone. As an athlete he has achieved some amazing things and a fantastic year of training and racing saw him as the likely favorite to take the Kauri title. If I was going to lose a race to someone, DdM would be near the top of the list.
I had spent several sleepless nights fighting with the notion that he could in all likelihood beat me convincingly over 70km. Some had said the battle was 'too close to call'. These sorts of comments from people that knew us both well had my confidence wavering. I knew large sections of the race would favor Dennis's strength and technical running ability. There would be areas where I could press my advantage but they would be few and far between and not at all geared toward me cutting him down in the closing stages. I joked with him that the course was backwards and I'd be happier were it run in the opposite direction without all the lump rooty bits at the end. And so we rolled ever so slowly though the early hours of the run playing the tedious 'no, you go' game. It was somewhere near Big or Little Sandy bay as we walked up a gradual incline on one of the very rare sealed sections of road when I looked back to see Dennis some meters behind chewing something. It may have been my imagination but I think he was smiling too as if to say 'go on then, go'. I certainly didn't feel like I sped up, I just kind of went from 2nd gear to 3rd and in a short space of I time became very alone. Breezing into the 1st aid station I seemed to have a small but surprising lead.
A couple kms of road later turning into some farmland I looked back to see I had something like 800m. Dennis a still visible speck chugging along consistently. Undoubtedly happy at my choice to burn some matches.
Ahead lay some beautiful burnt red clay bush roads, now catching the light rain. Clay that would gather on the heels of my shoes and form into heavy clumps much to my frustration. As the terrain got steep I figured for certain my slender lead would be eroded by Dennis's powerful running style that consumed most inclines with little effort. The surface was becoming incompatible with my shoe selection and road flats became clay skis as I slid down slick gullies.
Still surprised I couldn't hear Dennis behind me I continued on cautious and slow. I figured it wasn't time to make a race changing 'cut the cord' kind of move and I had to keep telling myself to run as slowly as possible. I would welcome the return of Dennis were it to eventuate in the knowledge I needed to be half way through the race still feeling fresh.
As the 3hr mark approached I check my vitals and I was feeling great albeit a little confused to still be leading. The kms continued to pass slowly and the relentless undulation began to blur together until I crested a hill to find myself completely surrounded by bush clad mountains. Confused as to not see coastline, the ocean or any signs of civilization I started down a notable descent into a no man's land of Kanuka and scrub. Clearing a gate hung so high livestock could easily pass underneath it I began to see signs of life and assume my location to be some kms inland of Waikawau Beach which would later become the starting point for the Kauri 32km event. The 3-4km of gravel that followed were welcome indeed as I could relax into that gentle effortless rhythm of flat road running. Lush. I would later find out that in this short section of road I extended my lead by 3 minutes.
Through the sand-dunes at Waikawau and a couple of familiar faces in the shape of superstar Ruby Muir and her long suffering boyfriend Kristian Day. It meant a lot to see those two and I got a lift from it even if I'm sure they both would've enjoyed it immensely if I were to fall on my face in the soft sand. A couple kms dragged out along the sandy beach forced high by springs, and a short river crossing in the near waist deep waters signalling the end of Waikawau, the beginning of the camp-ground and the start of the most testing 30km in the race. My one woman support crew Jenni Hoogeveen, had taken time out from here pre-32km-race build up to help me into a nice dry pair of Inov8s (Talon212s). A secret mix we refer to as 'never-fade' and a couple Leppins to reload and I was once again off. Not before casting a long look back across 2km of surprisingly empty beach. I said to Jenni “Where's deMonchy? I hope he's alright” as I started to wonder if he hadn't hurt himself or taken a wrong turn. What ever 'hold off and attack late' game he was planning was being very conservatively implemented. The last 30km of this run would be a true test of endurance and strength. Fatigued legs thrown at the tall crinkly bits separating the east and west sides of the Coromandel Peninsula referred to as the Central Divide. Neither the terrain nor my lack of super long run base work would favour me but I still felt pretty good despite a bit of stomach cramp.
I pressed on into one of the longer climbs of the day, a 350m cruise up to the Waikawau lookout. Passing two marshals heading up to their station I chatted about their excuses for not being in the days racing.
This climb would go to make up only a small percent of the days total 2800m with 1200m still ahead. Were that all the days climbing in nice big chunks I would've fared much better. Instead I suffered 10m gains that would immediately be followed by 9m descents that would instantly turn back into 10m climbs again. Breaking any hope of settling into a regular jogging rhythm. I hoped to suffer it less by making it end a whole lot sooner.
The uppy-downy nature of the ridge continued unabated and my Inov8s were getting their 1st real test and slick exposed rock surfaces made treacherous by the misty rain became a genuine challenge. Each surprise slip would cause a tired muscle to respond by reflex to keep me and my Buddy upright. Hamstrings and calves fairing the worst as the precursors to cramp began sneaking in. Dark clouds gathering as my stomach felt worse and now a touch of dizziness. Not just once would I shake my head trying to rattle my brain back into the task at hand.
I had earlier said to Dennis that I would be getting my Buddy to the finish line no matter what and so it was here on the ridge above Coromandel town that for the first time I had to really push.
Track markers signalling the remaining distance slowly counted down and knowing the last 6km would be downhill to finish I would run the math on how much work still lay ahead.
“13. OK, so 7km of what ever crap Andy (race director) could throw at me, then 6km easy downhill. Hang in there.”
Joining me was some of the 21km 'Demi' Marathon runners who would offer some words of encouragement or on occasion ask what the purpose of the corflute on my pack was. For the most part I was too ruined to even speak offering little more than an “urrgh” in response to what ever it was they had said. Fingers crossed I would make the finish and be able to explain all at prize giving. Sorry for being rude guys, thanks for your support.
|Headed into Kennedy Bay Rd Aid Station|
Into the Kennedy Bay Road aid station and I was momentary recharged to see mum and Anne who had made the massive trek to see these few meters of my race. If I had had the energy to spare I would've smiled. Instead I nearly fell backwards drinking a cup of water before staggering back into race mode.
The climb up towards the radio mast is a horrible horrible son-of-a-b$%ch which I've never been able to run. This year barely able to walk as my calves signaled the end to their day like the death throws of a dying cell phone. Some of that hill was walked backwards. Oh dear, what a wuss.
|My daughters "champion!" hands.|
2km of crappy slippery rooty 'technical section' through to the trig above Coromandel town would be heralded by a sign stating “lift your feet”. Seriously? More cramp and a few near falls as I navigated that lumpy twisty foot-grabbing rubbish to the races highest point some 560m above the township. Passing the trig I turned into the 'Success Trail' signalling the final descent and 5km to home. A glance at the watch and I was shocked to see I was well in touch of the course record. Shocked because the morning had been so restrained and the majority of the race had either been a self enforced go-slow or dizzy stagger. Finally free from the roller-coaster of up and down I poured what remaining leg speed I had into the generous downhill gradient. Into town and 2km of beautiful flat pavement and the applause of residents who view ARC competitors as a familiar occurrence on the roads around their picturesque coastal village. 6:51, a slight improvement of 11 minutes on the previous years record time. That will do for now, certainly easy beats for any real athlete considering the race in the years to come.
Somehow my UltrAspire Omega had clung on to my Buddy the entire day and apart from some water-based paint issues she had come through pretty much unscathed. Her story is this one, her adventure was epic and without complaint.
Wrapped that I was able to maintain the race lead across the line for my sponsor BarefootInc and of course Buddy Day. Glad that I could finally get horizontal and make a start on my final '6-jar' challenge for the day.
deMonchy would finish some 50 minutes back, no doubt easing off in the last few hours with his next race target coming to the fore. He'll pull up well, his near 8 hr run being just another day in the office for the rising star of trail ultras. The Goat a few weeks away will certainly suit his technical running ability and the supreme aerobic base he carries into that event will surely see him run a massive personal best time. I didn't have much of a chance to converse with him afterwards but I do sincerely wish him all the best as he continues to improve.
|Buddy with a story to tell|
A huge thanks to my primary sponsor BarefootInc who celebrated a fantastic weekend with Dawn Tuffery taking out the womens ultra and trail goddess Ruby Muir comfortably demolishing the field in the 32km event.
|Me and the legendary DT|
Thank you so much ChildMatters for encouraging me to help raise awareness of child abuse in the community. I hope my few poignant words at prize giving may go some way to getting such an important message out.
Of course the Hoogeveens who were with me all the way there and back again.
Thanks to everyone that has supported me on the journey thus far. It's only by standing on your shoulders am I able to reach up for the stars I seek. My beautiful and patient wife who endures more hardship than any, and those two wee tackers that will very soon grow to know their dad as the manic supercharged lunatic they have to share a house with.