2017 was to be my year, the year when I gave it my all, and knocked the Hillary off once and for all and felt a sense of conclusion. Spoiler alert, I’m not done.
My build up had been tremendous. I had pushed really hard, and balanced my speed work, hill work, long runs and very hard 2 hour tempo runs. I was at the top of my game.
I knew that if I ran a good race, that I would be around 13 hours, an exceptional one would be just over 12 hours, maybe 12:20.
But in true style of my running coach Barry, I wasn’t aiming for a time, but an effort. Over the last 2 months I had been figuring out what effort I can sustain for a long time. Running, or rather trying to run through the mud of the Hunua Ranges, over the tree roots, through the supplejack, and but sliding down the hills had been heaps of fun. Now it was time to see where that fun got me.
I started some very hard 2 hour tempo runs, where I did a 4k loop through Totara Park. The aim was to finish loop 5 at the same time or faster than loop 1. And most days I got there. A 20k tempo run through Totara park was the back bone of my prep. Those last 4k on that 5th loop would be a full on effort, and pushing really hard to try and beat my time of the first loop gave me confidence that nothing could break me. That last loop, while hard was a buzz.
Running/walking the Hillary last year in 17:55 in the cold of the July winter, after running it in the heat of February in 14:25 told me that I could and would just keep going no mater what. I knew I could do it, baring injury I would finish, the question though was how quickly. So it was time for a taper. I had lost one of my strava segments, my favourite 4k loop to someone else, so the taper, and my 10k fast session gave me an opportunity to get that back, and I did just (by 18 secs, which was 2 minutes faster than my previous best time at the segment at). I wondered if my low carb diet was working. Doing tha loop in 18 minutes over 4k, rather than 20 minutes is a huge improvement, so that told me I haven’t lost any speed due to the low carbs.
I’ve changed my diet to Low Carb. I’ve changed my training to almost tramping on some runs, yet here I was faster than I’ve ever been. Who would have thought?
With a few more days taper (10 in all) I was ready. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas 3 days out from the Hillary.
I was more focused than I’ve ever been. There were 4 pages of written notes of how I was going to run, including all eventualities. Well almost all eventualities, I didn’t include cramp, and I didn’t include falling on your face twice, or running into a tree. But hey, they’ll be there next time…
It’s Friday So I head off to pick up my race pack, and walk in. Ops, I forgot my drop boxes. So have a quick stop at Countdown to buy some gels and the local organics shop to buy fooze balls. As I’m putting the gels into the Systema containers I notice they don’t have cuts in them. So I borrow some scissors from the nice people at check in, and pre-cut the gels. That was lucky; crises averted, imagine if I had food but couldn’t get into it!
That night I pack my race vest. I stuff 4 fooze balls into my zipper pocket, and 1 gel into the magnetic pocket, and 1 gel in each waste pocket. Everything is packed and ready.
I head off to bed at 9:00pm until all too briefly at 2:30am the alarm goes. I get up and each my chia seed porridge with sunflower seeds and blueberries. I have a glass of water. I then try and go back to sleep on the couch. I was meant to be sleeping between 3:00 and 3:45am, but no matter which way I lie I can’t get to sleep on the silly couch. So at 3:15 I watch an episode of Suits instead. I have my green tea and then around 4 start to get dressed. My episode finishes around 4:15 and I head to the car to pick up Kelly. He is my crew extradionaire for the day. I’m not the best at letting people into my head so I’ve written out what I think are 4 quite detailed pages of instructions, hopefully this will help me through each aide station quickly.
With Kelly in tow we head off to Arataki and arrive there around 5:30 which is later than I was aiming for, but I mucked around a bit as I was leaving. I head for the toilets, sigh, they’re not flushing, so this is not going to be nice. I stay in my warm gear until Shaun Collins starts the race briefing, at which time we saunter over to it. Where who should we meet but Tom Hunt, the legend who is doing a double Hillary. Shelby Hyslop asks us to shine head lights on Tom so she can take his photo. Tom has eaten a good meal and is looking nice and relaxed, but very ready to go again, and as per usual Shaun is running late, which means so is Tom.
Shaun briefs us; don’t be silly, have fun, take care of yourselves. We are given a re-usable cup just before the start which is a cool idea; but I didn’t see that info in the email, so I’m a bit put out I need to cary it. Once I get to Huia, I can’t figure where it’s going to go. So I stuff it in my shorts pocket at the start. We’re off. I realise though that I can give the cup to Kelly when I run past him again, he can hold it till Huia; so I off load it. I strike up a great conversation with Vicki Wooly the Editor of Kiwi Trail Runner, what an amazing woman.
The opening section goes well. I just cruise. It’s much slower than last year. I concentrate on being fast and light down the hills and walking the steep and jogging the inclines. I catch up with a couple of guys. They’re much faster than me up the hills, I can’t keep up with them, at a comfortable pace. So I let them go. But at the top I skip by and cruise down, zig-zagging across the roots and hear: “That’s where we’re going to lose our time…” It sounded like the coaching voice of one runner to another doing his first big run. I take heart, I must look like I’m ok and in control. I certainly feel like that.
So the mode of operating is cruise the hills and go light footed and quick on the descents, no braking. Everything appears pretty effortless at this point.
Going up through Hamilton track is easier than it’s been for me before and I back up behind a few people before zipping past. I’m surprised at how many people there are to overtake. I’m really holding back, and they must have burst out of the gates to be being overtaken already. I’m only going at a steady effort, nothing fast. I catch up with Bronwyn McKeage and we have a good chat about life. After a while, I move on by and pick up the pace. I meet Rae, and we chat. Then there’s a couple of guys talking work. They let me by.
We pop out of Hamilton track and onto the Dam access roads, this is a good opportunity to easily make some time down the hills. There are nice grass verges you can run on rather than the 4wd stones. I sort of lope along at 5:00 – 5:30/k with the heart just ticking over. I make sure I don’t overtake anyone going uphill. I conserve my energy and only over take on the flats. No point in getting carried away yet. There’s a running group over from Aussie, 4 of them and we chat. They’re already finding it hot, and tell me about the peaks they’ve got coming up in the coming days, they seem to be biting a lot off.
We hit the dam and the sealed roads, and my pace drops to 4:40 – 5:00/k, it’s still very easy. I go for my gel so I have lots of energy for the Karamatua hill to come. It’s doesn’t have a tear mark and I can’t open it, so I go for the next gel, and it doesn’t have one either, and the next one, nope no tear either. No gels I guess. I push it a little up the road to Karakatua Camp ground and the drive way, because I know I have a big downhill to the camp, and the aide station to recover. I manage the river crossing without falling in. Shelby’s there again and takes a photo (I learn later she loses her memory card at Karekare).
I meet Kelly, dump the 3 useless gels on the chair and Kelly hands me 2 more checking they have tears. He hands me my water bottles. I’m about to muck around, but he keeps me focused and we walk through the aide station. This was a turning point. My loss of focus is re-focused. I probably loose 10 seconds or so, but that is all this stop takes. It didn’t feel like it at the time, but I can see with hindsight, that was “game on” moment. Kelly steers me through the aide station, Shaun makes sure I go through the foot bath. Everything is a blur. There were people on the left, I assume that’s where the aide table was, but I didn’t take it in. Kelly gives me my sunnies I put them on, he attaches my hat, slaps me on the back and sends me on my climb.
Before I know it, I’m back on the track. Kelly looks over his shoulder and tells me I need to go. I assume there was someone coming, so I feel motivated and go.
With that Kelly’s gone, I’m on my own, and I’m jogging.
This is a path I planned to power walk, but I feel so good I jog it. I remember the plan to power walk it, I shelve the plan; I jog. I check my race vest, the bottle keepers aren’t done up; I go to do up the right water bottle, but can’t get it in, blasted phone must be in the way. Oh no, it’s my head lamp. Oh sigh, where’s that going to go? I was meant to give that to Kelly! I contemplate yelling out like a person in distress to Kelly to come back and grab the lamp, but I’m running, what good will it do? I contemplate stopping and putting it in my pack, but that will take time, and this is a fast stretch and I’m going fast. I decide to stop on the Karamatua climb instead and stuff it in the top, hopefully less time lost there. I’ll run with it in my hand instead. But then I have an idea, I can loop it to my pack for now. After looping it on which is surprisingly easy, I realise it’ll never come off easily, it’s there for the duration. Well at least I wont have to remove my pack.
Funny thing is this climb I keep over taking people, and I’m only walking. This is the hardest climb of the lot and it’s going well. “I’ll let you through, it looks like you’re on a mission” one person says. Oh no, does that mean I’m walking too fast? My heart rate was high (159) running/jogging the opening inclines. I max out at 165 then on the walk up Karamatua, this can’t last, so I control my breathing, and it drops to 163, 162 and stays there, which is acceptable. !62 is maintainable, but 165 escalates to 173, which leads to burn out. So that’s fine, that’s acceptable. I concentrate on form. There are people bent over already, they look ugly. Stand proud, stand strong, walk strong. I meet and Kiwi who lives in Aussie, he’s here doing the team event with his partner. We trade stories of beginning to run, it seems everyone has a similar story. The story of the pain of learning to run, and the story of using running to balance life. He though has a high paying job and gets to run all over NZ and AU. Different life to me, but nice to talk. We get to the top and I manage to rip a gel open and squeeze it into my mouth. That will see me right for heading up Omanawanui to Manukau heads in another 30 minutes. But it’s time to say good bye now, so I say bye, see you and Whatipu and I concentrate on heading down Puriri Ridge.
I eat a fooze ball or two, but they don’t feel right at this pace. Or rather, I don’t like the taste of them today. (I should have had the little bag of seeds to try too). I’m simply doing too much running. I’m breezing downhill and steadily climbing the hills. I over take the occasional person and a couple from France. It’s a struggle to keep my ego in check and to not speed up to over take, but I manage to reign myself in and not blow it. Now when I see someone I think about “how long” it will be till I overtake them, rather than “how quick” I can over take. I control the drive. I reach the trig following closely two people. I keep close to keep the pressure on them, but don’t make any moves to over take. The heart rate is around 159 – 162, I know over taking would stretch me to 173 and blow the day. This year will be controlled. And I gently over take one before the heads as he pauses. At the top I look longingly at the seat, but I decide today is a race day and I wont spend my 20 seconds here today. I dance my way down the tough stuff and once under the trees and on the sand I go for it. A good solid effort to Whatipu now the footing is safe. I’m in great shape, there is no fatigue at all. I’ve followed all my goals; I’m on plan. The only place I pushed myself was on the path from Huia to the Karamatua walk, I know that has not had a detrimental effect.
I blast into the aide station, with Kelly setting me up well mind wise at Huia, I’m all focus now. I hand my water bottles to a helper and ask for water while I stuff my vest with 2 gels and more fooze balls from my drop box. I put a paleo bar in my pocket. I scoot to the end of the table take two water Mellon and an orange segment and I’m off (in hindsight, I should have eaten half a banana before I left). I eat the orange, and 2 pieces of mellon before I’ve finished the grass area.
I’m into the climb and see a blue backpack, he’s a new one, I wonder when I’ll pass him? But my right shoe is annoying me, it’s too loose. So I stop and tie it up, with that, green hat who I overtook at the aide station re-overtakes me. I slowly tie my shoes, do it once, do it right.
I catch green hat and we have a good chat on our climb to Paraha. I over take and lead, then I let him by, then me, then him. We take turns. But on the descent into Paraha, I’m well in front by about 30 seconds. We come to the chain in the cliff, and I jump up, my left groin cramps. Ow! I have to stop and stretch, but I can’t figure out what to do. So I hobble slowly around the cliff. I carry on, and stop 20 metres later. I have to stop and stretch. But the problem is I can’t figure out what to do. The cramp feels kind of in my groin, I’ve never experienced this before. I don’t even know how to stretch it out. This is no good, we’ve only gone 28k or so and I have the worst cramp I’ve ever had running. I’m confident it will disappear. I discover later it gets worse, but at this stage I thought it was just a blip.Green hat over takes as I’m trying to stretch, I look ugly. How do you stretch this cramp I continue to wonder? I’m going again and catch him, he asks if I want past? I say yes, and that he can over take me when I go for my swim in Paraha stream. I don’t think he believes me. I wasn’t going to swim here, but I know it will do the cramp good. I get to the stream, it’s low, so I have to head up 5 metres or so, I sit down and stretch out and enjoy the cold on the cramping legs for 20 seconds. I turn over and kneel and dunk my head, I count to 20 again, and then I go. I’m careful as I come out of the stream with shoes heavy with water. We come to Buck Taylor, Green hat asks if I want to over take and I say yes, and you can pass me at my rock up here. Half way up there’s a rock I always pause at and have a seat. So I pause, he walks past, I count to 20 and carry on. This is a hard part and it’s better to have him feel the pressure than me. I let him lead all the way up Buck Taylor and Zion Hill. I keep back enough that I don’t feel obliged to pass, but close enough he feels the pressure to keep the pace up and pull me along. We’ve had a good run here and pushed each other, it’s been fun, like a training session with a friend. This is why I love trail running. At the bottom we run side by side to the aide station and have a little bit more of a chat.
Then who should be at the aide station but Anna Murphy, she fills up my drink bottles. I ask her to get get the sausage out of the top my pack. Well that got some ribbing of the rest of the aide station for her and me. After getting 2 water mellon and 1 orange and I’m off (in hindsight, I should have had half a banana and another orange). I run out of the station to keep up the pressure until I’m out of sight, then I walk to concentrate on eating my food. I walk quickly up the hills. I’ve decided to give up on the fooze balls. I know that with my low carb diet I will survive. I’m not certain how many gels I’ll need though, I figure about 1 every 1.5 hours. (With hindsight, probably more like 1 every hour or so, so about two per leg). I catch “blue back pack.” He ran out of water he tells me before Karekare and is feeling a bit sorry for himself. So I look him in the eyes and try and cheer him up a bit, and let him know that Barry says it only takes 3 minutes to fully recover. This seems to work for him, and you see his expression change and light come back in. I know it’s not all me, but sometimes a kind positive word is all you need. He’s in a better place and is starting to recover his zest. It’s good to be able to support each other. I walk faster than him and he follows. Towards the top of the climb I’m running and can’t get a gel open, so I’m looking down trying to tear it open with my teeth and wham, I run full pelt into a tree hanging over the path! Sigh. I carry on. The gel helps and I’ve decided it’s gels only now, I just can’t stomach the idea of the fooze balls. I push hard on this climb. I know I have all the downhills to come to recover.
I get to Log Race Rd and call Kelly. Shelby gets a nice photo of me talking on the phone to Kelly and gives me stick that I’m taking a business call. It is business, but the business of running. Then some nice marshall (Paulo Osorio I discovered on facebook later) jogs log race with me, what a lift that was. He called it “active marshalling” I call it fantastic. I blast down Piha Rd and into Usher Track. I can’t wait for the falls and a swim. Some nice rangers are there and give me a snake from one of their very cool Hillary cups, oh how I’d love one of them. I eat the snake and have my swim. It’s cold, refreshing and restoring. It resets all my body. While I’m swimming, green hat and a women with a black pack go by. I don’t panic, I’ve only been in the water 90 seconds, and 3 minutes is the plan. But after another 20 seconds I feel fine, and seeing people go by, it’s too hard to stay in. So I hop out. My legs are cramping as I’m getting out, it’s hard, but the water was good. I grab another snake and jog down the Kitekite falls. In hindsight, maybe I should have stayed in another 5 minutes, and reset all the mussles? Not just the body?
Once out of the falls and on the road I see black pack woman, and easily catch her I’m feeling fresh and pushing it, I’m rocking out at 5:15/km which is fast for this stage for me. I get into piha 20 seconds behind green cap. Kelly and Ange are there, gazeebo up, team Blundell, what a great sight that is…
I sit down, it’s shoes off time, Ange dries my feet while I scarf food down. I chug back my green tea, or lets say what had thawed of it. A banana, a bit of watermellon, an orange and maybe something else. It’s shoes and socks on. Then Kelly has me up. I don’t know how long it was, but it was a bit longer than it could’ve been. But he has me up, puts food in my hands and says we’re off. I walk out eating a peach with 2 watermellon in my hands. “I’ll walk while I eat” … “Nah” Kelly says “jog, you can walk on the beach…” Oh yeh, I can. So I jog and eat. Kelly runs and jumps the wooden bits on the road, how he jogs on the tar seal in bare feet I don’t know. Then we’re on the beach. He’s still in bare feet, that must hurt. We walk this bit, I eat the last of the food, he slaps me on the back, and I’m off jogging. Black back pack is ahead. I can catch her, so I jog to catch her. That was my mistake; the ego took over, I should have walked. Next year, someone can YELL at me, walk the beach you idiot. I catch her. She’s worried about how far there is to go on sand and is walking, I explain there’s only another 500 metres and try and act strong as I jog off. I’m thinking, yeah, I’ve got her, and carry on running. What an idiot. We eventually get to Whites Track and the climb, she overtakes me easily. Rookie mistake, I over did it. I’m absolutely had it. And I amble up Whites Track, it’s silly slow, she over takes me and makes some polite reassuring comment as I’m left in her wake. It’s a struggle to the top of Whites. But at the 4wd track I manage to run to Anawata Rd. My legs are cramping again, it’s more of a jog wobble. I have to stop. I have to walk. I’m 100 metres up Anawhata Rd and hear the cheer squad cheer for the next person about to pass me, it’s blue back pack. He gives me some nice words as he passes, and asks me how it is: “I’m hurting” I say. The cramp is there constantly now. I simply can’t run, so I walk. I get to the farm gate, but can’t run the small incline, it’s too hard with the cramp. But green hat is catching. I’m jogging down Kuatika and every step hurts. I can’t zig zag, it hurts too much. This is a track you need to zig-zig, but for some reason with the pain of the cramping muscles I can’t. So I jog down as slowly as I can, braking, rather than free-flowing. There is nothing free-flowing about my gait. With that something cramps badly and I fall. I relax, and fall down like a pole falling, arms beside my side, I arch my head back as my chest hits the ground. I resist the urge to put my hands out. I’ve read you ought to just fall, and not stop yourself. Well it seems to have worked, luckily nothing hurts, except for the writhing pain from the cramp. I turn over, I can’t straighten my legs, green hat stops, pushes down on my knees and feet and stretches me out. It felt like forever, he lost a lot of time doing that. He looks really worried, I mean I really fell hard. I say look I’m fine, you go. I sit there composing myself, and gray shorts comes along, pauses, asks how I am and passes my drink bottle I lost. I say I’m ok. I get up. I walk.
This is the absolute lowest point. I know my body wont run. I’m not angry, tearful, black or depressed, I’m just resigned to walking. At least I’m not in the depressed black hole like last year. I know I can continue, but I’m frustrated. I mean, I DON’T GET CRAMP! And here I am, I had to walk up Whites and Anawhata Rd, and now I’m going to have to walk down Kuataika too. Last time I was here I had such fun running down it, and I was looking forward to that today. Giving up isn’t an option, there is still heaps of time/distance to go, there is a long way to recover, so onwards we go. And it’s here I get the insight into the difference between now and last year. I see there as being heaps of time to get things back, not that I wont make it, there is only positivity, even in the adversity. It seems like forever, and I finally get to the stream at the bottom. I sit completely in the stream for a minute. Someone comes by who I recognise, he stops for a moment by the stream entrance as he can’t figure how to cross dry. He walks in, chats, then leaves me to it. I’ve been in the water know for 90 seconds, I roll over onto my knees, my legs cramp, but I manage to put my head in the stream to cool down; 20 seconds will do it. I turn back and sit on my bum and kick the mud off my shoes, no point in having dirty shoes, and once again I’m off. Trudging up the hill. I say trudging, because it is a walk, not a power walk. That said, I have a good speed up the hill, better than last year and I over take a Japanese man. Another man over overtakes me, and red pack woman overtakes too. I get to the top and try a jog after the man and red pack woman. I can jog! This is exciting, I thought I might be walking for a lot longer, it’s probably only been 30 minutes of walking. I back off at the next incline and walk. I try jogging down; it’s not a happening thing, I walk. The next while is frustrating as I try a little jog, but it’s mainly walking.
I get to Houghton’s track and can hear the man and red-pack woman hear talking. I’m buoyed, I’m not far behind. Houghton’s is steep and gnarly, it’s my style, I try jogging and discover I can. I felt for sure, that with the cramp I would be walking this, but here I am jogging. I catch the last placed 34k woman and then Red Back Pack woman. She says her quads are gone and I go past like a gazelle. I’m at about 80%, which is amazing. Even though my quads, calves and groin are crying out in pain, I keep it up. Except for the pain, it’s easy. Then on an easy stretch of flat easy track, wham! Cramp. I’m on my face again like a pole. I wiggle around to sitting, but I can’t reach my toes, so I can’t stretch anything out and it hurts. It’s not as bad as the Kuataika cramp, that was 10/10, this is only 8/10. I’m spread across the track and an older woman comes up, and in a patronising tone says: “Oh you poor thing, just stay there you’re fine.” She angles to go around and pass, but not one to give up an opportunity I say: “Do you think you could help stretch my calves?” “Sure” she says. She pushes my feet and the relief is immediate. Just 5 seconds more I say. 10 seconds later I’m back in business. I thank her. I stand up, there is nothing like being patronised to get me going.
We come metaphorically sprinting out of Houghton’s to Lake Wainamu and head around the track. Funny how you think the worst of someone when you’re in pain, but she’s actually really nice. She asks if I want past, I point out that she caught me, not the other way around and I’m happy. We chat about partners. She stops at the falls and I carry on. There was this sense in her that she was sight-seeing, she’s from Aussie. I carry on, I’m hanging out for the lake. Finally I get to the dock. There are teenagers there, diving for style. I take my pack off, they make a tunnel for me to run through. And I manage to run through it, and ugly dive off of the end. I don’t fall on my arse, so it’s a success, but I suspect it was about 2/10 points for style. I stay under water for a while and realise that I’m not going to float to the surface, so kick ugly style to the surface. I’m guessing by this time the laughing has died down. The water is hot! It’s not a relief at all. I’m really annoyed it’s not cold, this is a waste to of time. I swim back as quick as I can, this wasn’t as good as it was meant to be. I collect me gear and I’m on my way. Then 50 metres down the track I realise I’ve left my orange drink bottle behind. I walk back, can’t see it, one of the others I ask to help points it out, and I’m back off. Another minute lost, but better to have the bottle across Te Henga than leave it behind. I start to catch people in the stream around the sand dunes. I love the catching. I’m functioning well again. I over take people. Shelby is there an takes a photo. I have to cross onto the soft sand, so walk that bit, there’s no energy to run soft sand, even if I wanted.
I pull into the aide station. I pull my pack off and ask Kelly to unloop the headlamp. I ask the time, 3:05pm. Kelly says, do I want the headlamp, you wont need it he says, but the rules say after 3 you have to carry one, so I say to put it in the pack all the same. Do I want the headlamp, or tourch, headlamp I say, it’ll fit better. To my surprise Ben and Tessa are there. It’s nice to see them, but I’m stuffed and I don’t know what to say. I get the frozen towel, drape that around my head and start changing my shoes. Ange and Kelly say how good I look, I feel like rubbish. I say I’ve had heaps of cramp and that it’s been demoralising. Time to cram a peach, banana and mellon. Shoes off, black sand dune sand cleaned off of feet cleaned with water, dry off, socks on, shoes on. Kelly puts my headlamp in my pack, repacks it with gels, I tell him to get rid of the fooze balls. Four gels seems excessive, but I choose not to criticise it.
Kelly has me up and I’m off again. Finally my silly headlight isn’t dangling and bouncing beside me, what a relief. I finish my peach and have two mellon as Kelly jogs. I can’t figure out which way to go, Kelly stairs me low, we take the easy path. This is hard, but it is good. I feel good. Kelly leaves me.
I power walk the opening stretch and my legs cramp again. I can’t believe it. I can’t run, I can only walk. Sigh.
And that is the story of Te Henga. Once again walking it, just like last February! Very frustrating. I manage little trots, but I know I could do so much better, but I can’t jog. Everything hurts and I’m affriad I’ll cramp bad and fall over again; so I walk.
I’m used to at other times walking through lack of energy, but not because of cramp. Never have I hurt like this. Cramp. Cramp. Cramp. It’s ugly. Even walking uphill now hurts. Before Bethells the hills did’t hurt if I walked them, well nothing hurt, if I walked. But in this heat, it’s hard. So here I am, cheering on the 34k stragglers, giving them encouragement as I pass. I start to eventually come across 16k stragglers to cheer on too. I’m kind of proud of my walking speed, I’m not the slowest out here. That said, I don’t look down on anyone as I know how hard it is to be out here, walking or running. I stop in the one shelter place on Te Henga, under the dark canopy, the place is a bit like “We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re not scared…” I stop there for about 3 minutes, chatting with a 34k guy and two 16k women, trying to cheer them on. I want to recover a bit in the shade, I know I’ll need all the body temperate I can over this next bit. But eventually I have to go, no one else is interested in going yet, so I say bye and I go. I keep thinking of how little distance it is to go to Constable Rd. Te Henga is only 10km, then it’s all downhill. The problem is, I’m going so slow, it’s going to take a long time. I think about how long, and decide that’s not something I’ll spend time obsessing over today. Today the crossing is going to take time and that’s life, I get on with it and let the thought go. I have little 20 second breaks in the shade of flax and gorse occasionally. Sometimes when I sit down, I roll around cramping up and wonder if I should have just kept going, but my body is tiring. The cramp is ugly, but no one sees me, it’s my own little quiet battle.
Then the un-thinkable happens. My silly watch runs out of battery. I have no insight into my heart rate now. I’ve been doing the mental calculations now about battery life since Piha, wondering why it was going down so fast, but I knew I had 15 hours battery, and couldn’t figure out why with my calculations it was going to run out at about 10:30? I knew if it was to last I needed to speed up, and I didn’t have the pace. But this is no where near 15 hours.
Then comes Te Henga half-way aide station. They offer to hose me down, I say YES! But, the water, it’s warm. Sigh. I’m given lots of hosing down, it’s nice, but it’s not a relief like really cold water, but at least it’s wet. I feel better, but no colder. While some nice person is hosing me, someone else fills my hand held bottle. Warm water in the bottle too. Sigh. I contemplate ditching it once I get out of sight, but decide not to. I try the warm water, it’s wet and not offensive. I drink it. I wonder if the warm water might help? And hope it’s better for me than cold water. Strangely enough, it eventually cools down to my body temperature and feels cool. Strange, my body is obviously working OK if it could cool my water bottle down in my hand. That’s a plus.
I then get to the constable road stairs.
There are zombies and bodies everywhere.
I try to encourage each person I pass. Just one step at a time. Take 3 steps, then a break I say. There are people conquering their Everest today; well done to them. They’re in more of a pain locker than I have been all day. Their eyes are glazzy and hollow.
I carry on the stairs climbing, there is no need to pause. I’m good at stairs. And today is no exception, I’m tired, but good. I go up them without pause.
I get to the aide station, I grab two oranges, 3 mellon. I’m asked about water, but I have enough. The people here look very concerned for their charges. There are people everywhere, this is the busiest thing I’ve seen all day.
Someone has a weed sprayer, what a weird thing to be doing today. I think to myself: “People need to choose appropriate times to spray weeds.” I don’t say it though, instead I look quizically at the two guys with weed sprayers. “It only has water he says.” Why would you want that I think? “Would you like me to spray you?” he says. “Yes please!” I say. “It’s cold!” “Yeah, we put ice in it.” “You’re a life saver.” I say, “Can I please have a little more on my head?” He obliges with a tiny bit more. I rub the water in. Ice water is scarce, I could do with more, but that wouldn’t be fair, so I don’t ask again, instead I say thanks, and I’m off. As Forrest Gump says; “I was running” I look at my watch, it’s completely run out of battery now, so much so, it doesn’t even tell the time! Crap, oh crap. What’s the time. I think of phoning Kelly to ask, but then remember my phone has the time. I think of phoning him all the same to check the time, but decide to just I check the time on the phone. I can still make 12 hours if I run as fast as I can. I think of phoning, but decide to just concentrate on running. But I don’t know quite when we started, we started late, but how late? I can’t do the maths. But I’m confident I can probably make it under 12, even just over would be good. So I simply run, it’s all I can do. Then I cramp, I jump up and stop. 16Km walkers over take me as I try and stretch out on the side of the road. This tar seal sucks, this is embarrassing getting passed by 16k walkers. But I walk, it’s my only option. I’m not a walker, I’m a runner. There are sniggers as I walk, then run, then walk. I jog the flats, walk the hills. It annoys me that walkers are laughing at my efforts, if only they knew what it took to get this far. Then we get to the top of the final hill, I’m running, grass ahead YES! The grass will be difficult but soft. I run every step, I run through the pain. I’m cramping again, but I carry on jogging. I know if I make the downhill of Edwin Mitchenson it’ll be ok. I cross into Edwin Mitchenson track, and as I’m heading down, a runner is catching me. That can’t be? There was no one around me. This is embarrassing, it sounds like they’re going fast, whose overtaking me? But it’s Tom Hunt jugernaught of 3 people, who are about to complete the Hillary double. I yell out to Tom as he passes me like I’m standing still: “Tom you’re a legend.” The woman pacing at the back says: “You’re doing a good time yourself.” To which I reply, yes, but I haven’t done it twice in a day. Tom, or his front pacer, I don’t know who, say “Let’s smash this” and they crank the pace up. Tom’s goal was 12 hours. I know if I try and follow, I might get close to 12 hours myself, so I give it my all. But I can’t keep up, they disappear so quickly. I feel so slow today. I stop to tell one marshal, that guy who just passed you has just done this twice today! He’s astonished. I trot down the stairs I’m not capable of jogging down here, my legs are gone. I walk the incline to the car park, I jog the car park, I jog the path, I bounce down the stairs, I get to the to the rocks and I jog them. Everyone is walking, it’s tempting to walk, but I can’t, I jog. I hit that sand am I’m running as hard as possible. I feel like I’m running as hard as I can. I suspect it’s about 6:30/k, but man it feels fast. The legs feel heavy, they hurt, and I’m not stopping.
I have to walk up the dunes through the gap, but then, I’m running again, as hard as possible. It becomes easy, it becomes free. Kelly waves out, I wave back. I’m on the home straight. I wave to Isaac and Raewyn as I come down the chute, and see 11:48, I’ve done it, under 12 hours! Who would have thought. It’s a great time. It was 14:25 last year.
But I’m disappointed at all the cramp, and can’t help but think what might have been. All I can think of is the disappointment of the cramp. I’m so annoyed. I hobble to the ice bath and force my cramping legs down into the ice. People look on like I’m a bit nuts. But it helps the calves and the quads, it feels nice. There are little comments about, do I realise how cold it is? Yes I reply, while thinking… duh! That’s why I’m here. My muscles are spasming so much. I can get my right calf and quad in the kids paddling pool full of ice, but my left leg wont push down, and no one helps. So I give up, and put ice on top of it instead for a few minutes. I scoop it on, and hold big chunks on. But I really wanted the ice cold water on the leg to refresh things. It doesn’t really work, so a few minutes later after sloshing ice on the legs, I get up go to the family. Day over. Good but not great. The cramping and walking through out the day is forefront, and it’s all I can think of. There isn’t any sense of relief.
3 Days latter
It’s taken 3 days for my head to get over the fact I cramped. But I now realise less than 12 hours is good, but at the time I was gutted for what could have been. I reckon I lost an hour with the walking. I know I can knock another hour off of the time.
At this stage, from what I can tell, the Low-Carb-High-Fat diet has played havoc with my magnesium and I need to supplement that, so I’ll try that and hope it’s okay.
Bring on next year! There’s got to be another hour I can knock off!
I’m ok with this year, but I know I’ve got more in me.
Time to recover and find the next challenge. Maybe Taupo 100k Ultra?
One month on
One month on, I’ve research, and listened. From what I can tell, magnesium has nothing at all to do with my cramping issues. A research project on the research https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0048475/ suggests that magnesium is of no benefit at all to cramp. My issue is under-training.
My conclusion is, that coming down Paraha Track was my undoing. I remember thinking, I wonder how far they are behind me, and jumping up onto the rocks to go around, wanting to keep the pace up. That was when I got cramp in my left groin. The reality is, I was stopped for a good 40 seconds before anyone caught me, I could have gone much slower on those rocks and not been overtaken. Sigh. I’ve since discovered that that is called my adductor muscle, that’s to doctor google and a friend who is a sports doctor confirmed that’s definitely my adductor. In talking, it seems that almost certainly that one mistake sent a chain reaction spiralling through my body, which lead to the later cramp. Basically my adductors aren’t strong enough to be superman. I need to either work on them, or be more humble/sensible, or probably both.
And Piha, I’ll walk the sand. And Bethells, I’ll walk the sand. Next year!