Chasing the cut-off – Jumbo-Holdsworth Trail Race

Date: 27 January 2018
Distance: 24km
Time: 4:42.08

For the past seven years, this event has been on our to do list. But every year there’s something preventing us from entering; too much traveling and sitting over Christmas, too much eating and not enough training, injury, it is always this, that or the other. Finally, this year we took the plunge, very last minute I might add. We only entered five days out from the event (my apologies to the organisers).

We arrived at the start, registered and had our gear checked. A list of compulsory items was put in place to assist with everyone’s safety. Although I had more items than were on the list, my stuff was for some reason still checked with suspicion. For these types of events, I always take along a tiny wee little down-jacket. It weights less than 200g, stashes away to nearly nothing, the fabric is wind/rain resistant, and is in my humble opinion a far more worthy item than a polyprop vest. Nonetheless, I had both. Same goes for pants – although I wore long pants, I also had polyprop tights in my pack.

Race briefing started a few minutes earlier than scheduled, meaning we missed some of it as we were still queueing at the loo for the first couple of minutes. Not only that, but the first few minutes were drowned out by the food truck generator. I tried my hardest to hear what was going on when we finally made it over to race briefing, but with the announcer relying solely on his own voice – no sound system to make sure everyone could hear what was going on – we for all intents and purposes missed race briefing alltogether. Oh well.

Not having done this event before (not even walked the track before), it was all new to us. We started off somewhere at the back, and within 100 metres from the start we were right at the back with only one lady behind us. After about one kilometre, the track split to allow for two options: the Jumbo-Holdsworth, or the Holdsworth-Jumbo. One can go either way around. Most runners do the Jumbo-Holdsworth over Donnelly’s Flat with a slight incline, followed by a sharp, steep climb up Rain Gauge going up, followed by a longer, more gradual downhill via Gentle Annie Track. However, some of the slower runners claim the cut-off time limit for the Holdsworth-Jumbo, is more reachable than that of the Jumbo-Holdsworth. Our way around meant we had 2:10 to get to Jumbo Hut, which is about 10km in and roughly a 900m climb. There is also an earlier cut-off of 1:05 at the Atiwhakatu Hut (at about the 7km mark), that I wasn’t even aware off (yep, like a typical average participant, I didn’t bother looking at the web beforehand). We made that by 5 minutes. Phew.

By now I was starting to wonder what still lay ahead, making everyone dash off like rockets at the start. Within the first kilometre there wasn’t another soul in sight, and we were by ourselves for the whole first section through the forest (about 7km).

And then we reached the dreaded hill. For roughly 3km you climb straight up the mountain via Rain Gauge track. I was going as fast as I could, and checking our progress, it turned out that we could only manage a 20min/km pace. Despite that, we still passed heaps of people (a bit over 20 in total over the 3km stretch) on the way up, without anyone passing us. A lot of participants were going even slower and I couldn’t help but think that a lot of us were not going to make it in time. I have to point out that at the time I still thought the cut-off was at the 11km mark and not shortly before 10km, and if the hill continued as it did for another kilometre, I would definitely not have made it (and neither would everyone we passed).

Soon we popped out above the tree line and around the next corner, we were at the hut. Yay! Luckily it was a little before the 10km mark (9.7km to be more accurate) and we made the cut-off easily with 15 minutes to spare. A quick drink at the hut, which also doubled as another check-point (there were about six in total (I think?) tracking participants’ progress) before heading up the ridges. About one kilometre further (10.7km) we reached the Jumbo peak. A light breeze made sure everyone stayed cool, but unfortunately the fog spoiled all prospects of nice views across the mountain tops. We could only just make out the next route marker, and sometimes not even. Taking into account the tall tussock and other scrub, the path was almost invisible with some muddy parts, and otherwise rock hiding beneath the grass. It was near impossible to watch where you put your feet, and I was again amazed at the speed that some runners manage to do this. How?

We were trotting along where we could, still walking big parts of the ridges as the uphills were relentless. Two checkpoints on the ridge were a nice confirmation that we were not alone, and were looked after. This must be a pretty challenging job in severe weather conditions. We still had to summit Mt Holdsworth (13.9km) towering to 1445m above sea level. Mind you, you pass through a couple metres lower than the trig. Starting at 299m, the difference in elevation between the lowest and the highest point is 1146m. With the ups and downs along the way, however, the overall elevation gain and loss is 1394m and 1412m, respectively.

In my minds-eye, I imagined the top of the mountain to be wider and more flat. Ha! Apart from it being quite hilly, there were also parts on the ridge that were quite narrow with significant drop-offs on both sides, where I secretly thanked my lucky stars that I couldn’t see further than a few metres. Let me just stay this – I love the mountains. It is my favourite place in the whole wide world! A bach by the sea? Nah-ah. I’d much rather take a hut in the mountains for my dream retiring home. Having said that, I am shit scared of the mountains.

For roughly 6km, we continued on up along the ridges, until we finally reached Powell Hut (15.7km) back at the tree line, where another checkpoint was in place. A quick drink and filling of water bottles, and we were on our way with about 8km to go. From here it is downhill almost all the way. And quite a steep one to boot. We did manage to run most of it, but with knackered quads, my progress was slower than I thought. Some of the runners we passed on the uphill stretch, have since come screaming past on the downhill.

With the steepest part of the downhill behind us after about 2kms, we could manage a slightly better pace for the final six kilometres over the well graded Gentle Annie Track. The finish is a few hundred metres from the start, but what a lovely welcome all runners receive. Everyone was sitting and lazying around under the trees, others went for a swim in the stream and drying off in the sun. It was just a nice and jovial finish to a challenging, but good day.

Race organiser, Rob Barber, congratulated us, before we headed over for some free grub; sausages, salad and fruit. What a fantastic finish to a great event. And the cherry on the cake was winning a spot-prize – a 25litre Macpac hydration pack, worth more than both our entries (at $60pp)!

If you haven’t done this before, get it on your to-do list. It is very challenging, but do-able. In total there were about 222 finishers over all the events: 70 in the Hooper Loop (a 12km event), 130 in the Jumbo-Holdsworth and 22 in the Holdsworth-Jumbo. Maybe we’ll consider going the other way around next time. Although, having to pass everyone coming from the front might be a bit of a pain. Still a year to decide. 🙂

 

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Mt Ruapehu 3-day fat-ass run

Date: 20-22 January 2018

day2b

After entering for the Ring Of Fire event coming up early in April, we thought it might be a good idea to see what we are actually letting ourselves in for. We have tramped the Round the Mountain Track a couple of times with backpacks, tenting and generally being prepared for anything the mountain throws at us, so knew the terrain we are heading into. But we were more than keen to experience the challenging terrain a bit more “light-footed”, without the burden of a heavy pack. I always associated the toughness of the track with carrying a heavy pack and wearing less agile footwear. On the down side, should something happen, we would only have our emergency gear with us which might keep us alive, but would be very uncomfortable should the weather turn to custard.

The big brother event by the same name, Ring O’ Fire, is held annually in the UK in August. It is a 135-mile coastal footrace around the Isle of Anglesey, in North Wales. Staged over three consecutive days, it is reputably one of the most challenging ultras in the UK, set in an area that “has been designated an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’”. 2018 will see the seventh running of this event, and man o’ man, if only money grew on trees …

Loosely basing our 3-day fat-ass event on this UK challenge, we thought it would be a nice way to do the local Ring Of Fire event as a manageable (easy?) 3-day run. Being a huge fan of this sort of thing, I naively assumed that a lot of other runners/walkers would also be keen, so we announced our intentions on a few running-related FB platforms. It is, after all, a great way to train and test all sorts of things, from clothing, hydration, nutrition, shoes, to the terrain itself. Not only can one experience the Round the Mountain Track in a uniquely different way, but it could also be a way to see how you would cope to keep going day after day for the three days. Being fairly short days in the world of multi-day staged events, this is presumably really easy. What is not to like?

One of our runner friends offered their ski-club lodge as basecamp/accommodation for every night as it seemed that quite a few runners and walkers might be interested. With some people anticipated to stay at the lodge, and other driving up for individual days only, we decided to keep things simple and meet at the carpark opposite the information centre at Whakapapa Village each morning at 7am, and depending on the amount of runners and/or walkers who pitch up, drive a couple of cars to the finish of each day, leave some there and drive back to the start with another. Once that’s done, we could all start running at about 9am.

Sounds simple enough, eh? But when it got down to business, it was only Gary and us starting day one, and unfortunately he had to pull out after the first day due to an injury.

For these runs, Gerry and I decided to up our calories (and fluid) intake, to experiment a bit more. Instead of the 155cal/hour I took on the 60km long-run, I decided to aim for 200cal/hour.  Gerry carefully weighed everything in packets of 100 calories to make gaging our intake a bit easier.

And this is our best discovery yet (you’ve read it here first!) 🙂 – instead of just adding electrolyte to our water, we added 10g of chia seeds to each of our chest bottles. You may not know this, but chia seeds contain a whopping 486cal per 100g. No wonder the Tarahumara used it as the ultimate fuel for their long excursions! By adding just 10g, you have about 50+ additional calories on top of everything else.

Day 1 – Whakapapa Village to Ohakune Mountain Road

Distance: 28km
Time: 7:35
Altitude: Lowest 1120 – Highest 1538

On the Friday before our ‘event’, on the way to the mountain, we were in contact with Gary who was on his way from Paraparaumu, just a few kilometres ahead of us on the same road. We all arrived at the ski-lodge between 5pm and 6pm. At the lodge, it took a wee while to get everything going – water, hot water cylinder, power, etc, as everything is turned off during the off season. As a result it was fairly late that we fired up the stove to cook some dinner. Having a couple of glasses and chatting away, we ended up going to bed quite late. And by then I was wide awake, so not much sleep was had.

At 7am the next morning, we were ready and waiting at the Whakapapa Village carpark, in case anyone else was driving up for the day.  A few people indicated that they might come along for one or two of the days. We waited a few minutes, but soon realised that it would be only us. So with three souls for the first leg of the track, it meant that we could have a car at the start and one at the finish. Easy, so off we drove to leave a car at the finish before heading back to the start.

At 9:15 we were on our way. Trying to find the route (it starts off on the Silica Rapids Loop Track) we started of at a trot in the bush. It soon turned out that we would not go through this day with dry feet. We were well aware of the gazillion stream crossing still to come, but the first section in the bush was already quite muddy. By hook or by crook, we managed to stay dry for the first roughly 6km. By then we had passed the Golden Rapids (so called due to the high iron content in the water) and were already on the other side of the forest area and onto the Whakapapaiti Valley Track, en route to the Whakapapaiti Hut. Trotting along on the wooden boardwalk, coming from the front was no other than our mate John. He was planning to run the whole track in one day and was already nearing the end of the first leg, having started at Ohakune Mountain Road and going clockwise (we were going counter-clockwise). After a quick catchup and a few laughs we were going our separate ways.

Running up the valley along the wide valley floor, we finally reached one of the more dangerous stream crossings. There are currently three potentially risky stream-crossings altogether, one being the temporary crossing of the Whanganehu River in the lahar valley where maintenance is being done to the swing-bridge. Having done the first two before, I sort of knew what was to come. These streams are usually only a problem after heavy rains when they are in flood. We crossed the Whakapapaiti stream without any problems and were on our way to the Whakapapaiti Hut where we stopped to fill up water bottles and use the loo, before being on the road again in about 15 minutes. The terrain got increasingly more technical – muddy, wet, loads of stream crossing, curvy, narrow paths in tussock, alternating with rock and stone. We were not going very fast, let alone trying to run. This is definitely not the time to throw caution to the wind and risk straining or breaking anything. Very slippery sections in muddy and narrow trenches also made for some difficult and slow going.

By this stage we were, for the most part, reduced to a walk. I guess if it was a race or if I was forced to go faster, I could have managed a slightly faster pace. Maybe. But the purpose of this three-day-fat-ass run was mainly to test out a variety of stuff, among others our own capabilities over this sort of terrain. Not something we’ve done in the past year or so.

Crossing a million valleys (among others the Manganui-o-te-Ao and the Makatoti) meant going up and down all the time. There are literally no flat bits on this track. Before long, we were surprised by Lake Surprise (a shallow alpine tarn) visible in the distance before heading down a steep rock face on a long set of steps. After rounding Lake Surprise on a boardwalk, we scrambled down the ridge and into the valley below where we had to cross the second of the potentially hazardous streams – the Mangaturuturu River. Making it through just fine, we reached the hut by the same name, where we stopped for a pee and to fill up water bottles.

From the hut it is a short walk to the Cascades. This is one of the main attractions of the track and droves of people annually make the trek from Ohakune Mountain Road past the cascades to spent a night at the Mangaturuturu hut, before heading back up. Others just make a day trip to the Cascades and back. The rocks are cream-coloured due to the silicon deposit from the stream and it is quite a spectacle. Clambering up and over the cascades, we only had a short bit of the rock strewn path left, another up and over and down and up again, before reaching Ohakune Mountain Road. By this time muscles were pulverised and knees pounded sufficiently that we just walked the 3+km down the tarred road back to the car.

The weather for our first day could not have been better; partly cloudy and warm with almost no wind, no rain and just the odd bit of mist/cloud drifting in and out of the valleys. Maybe a bit on the hot side for most, but I still managed to do the whole day with a polypropylene vest, a polypropylene T on top, and long pants.

In terms of nutrition, I ended up eating a lot less than on our 60km training long-run. Having to concentrate on the terrain makes it far more difficult to get stuff out of zip-log bags or wrapping etc, and being on high alert to watch your footing and not to trip over something, one tends to forget to eat.

In total I consumed: 1 gel, 2.5 Frooze balls, 45g jelly sweets, 50g dates, 1 apple and 35g chickpea chips. In terms of hydration: I totalled 2.2 litres of fluid, of which 800ml Nuun-chia mix. I did fatigue a bit more, but that could be as a result of the terrain rather than a nutritional faux pass.

Day 2 – Ohakune Mountain Road to Tukino Ski Road
Distance: 24.28km
Time: 6:52
Altitude: Lowest 1566 – Highest 1145

After a nice dinner replenishing lost nutrients, and a couple of glasses, we were ready to take on day two. With Gary’s lingering injury, he thought it best not to continue on and potentially cause more damage. That left only Gerry and myself for the section between Ohakune Mountain Road and Tukino Ski Road. Thankfully Gary offered to help us get our car to the end, and take us back to the start, before driving home to Wellington. Thanks mate, we owe you.

By 9:45 Gerry and I started off along a nice trail in the forest towards the Waitonga Falls, the first landmark of this section. It was very hot and by the time we reached the waterfall, we both took off our polypropylene vests. The temperature was once again quite high, with even less wind than the previous day, some cloud and still no rain.

From the get-go, the prospect of later crossing the hazardous Whanganehu River in the lahar valley kept gnawing away in the back of my mind, to such an extent that I soon developed a nagging headache. Due to maintenance work on the swing bridge, prospective track users have to cross the river without aid, and from past trips I knew that this was quite a fierce, fast-flowing river. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could cross it, and the thought of being swept away (or worse, as my overactive imagination had no problem coming up with all kinds of crazy scenarios), put a damper on the biggest part of the day. As if to reinforce my worst fears, we encountered a party of four trampers coming from the front, who told us that they had to find a spot about 500 metres upstream to cross thigh deep, with arms interlocked, crossing in unison. We were only two souls and knee deep streams are usually more than enough to sweep my feet from under me!

The first 2kms in the forest, crossing little streams all dry footed, should be runnable on fresh legs. But a full day of rock-hopping up and down valleys, left my legs feeling heavy right from the start. I simply couldn’t lift my feet high enough, seemed to have lost all form of agility, and generally couldn’t muster anything more than a lame shuffle at the very few spots that were runable. Again, if you are a young, fit and strong lad/lass you might be able to run a lot more. Me? Not so much. I simply don’t have the muscle strength to keep lifting my knees high enough to clear all the roots and rocks for hours and hours on end, let alone on consecutive days.

After what felt like a very long time, we reached the Manganuehu Hut where we topped up water bottles. Not long after, we emerged above the tree line and into the desert. Rock and stones as far as the eye can see made for very tough going. Another very technical day, where I was reduced to a walk for most of the way.

Going up one side and down the other over an endless array of valleys and ridges we finally reached the Waihianoa Gorge. Its shear size is mind-boggling. The swing-bridge at the bottom of the valley is just a tiny speck. As we sidled down the valley, I tried not to look down and just follow the narrow path, carefully watching the placing of my feet. Finally at the bottom (with a few more grey hair), we crossed the one-person swing bridge, only to start clambering out the other side on an equally steep slope.

From there the up-and-down track continues through the rocky landscape, more evidence that we were in a volcanic landscape. We reached the Rangipo Hut at about 3pm. Again filling up water bottles, Gerry had a chat with the two guys that were inside the hut, while he jotted down our intentions in the visitors book. One came from the front, and the other was going in the same direction as us, but was spending the night at the hut. The chap who already crossed the river said that it was okay. Although he was by himself, he managed fine. He also mentioned that he did cross at the spot that was indicated by DOC. This very slightly eased my mind, having been in a tizz the whole day.

When we finally reached the river, my stress-level was in the red. The water is a creamy white (presumably to high silica content), so there is no way to gauge its depth, and only a few metres downstream is a massive waterfall. I could feel my knees starting to shake a little. So Gerry went in first. The noise levels of the water between the rocks was so overwhelming, we could barely hear each other. After negotiating our options, we swopped places, as I thought with Gerry being much stronger, should I slip and be swept off my feet, he could pull me back. Whereas if it was the other way around, we would likely both go downstream. The water came up to my thigh as I stepped in, and as I tried to slide my leg forward agains the pull of the water, I was relieved that it didn’t seem to get much deeper. It looked as if there might be a spot in the middle that could make a dip, but with the water being white from the silica sediment, it was impossible to know. Luckily I managed to wedge my foot behind a rock which helped a bit on the next step. Gerry started to follow as I was probably crushing his hand holding on. I know we were supposed to cross next to each other in unison, with the stronger person upstream, but by this stage all rational thought was out the door. I just wanted to get across and be done with it. Besides, it seemed do-able if I could only hold on to something for balance. Which was Gerry’s unfortunate hand.

The water level stayed more or less the same – no nasty dips in the middle – and we made it over without incident and life was good. It was probably not such a major issue as I made it out to be, but fears and phobias are exactly that – irrational. Can you tell I have a very healthy (bordering on irrational) respect for water, spurred on by and overactive imagination? Thankfully the ROF race organisers promised to have the bridge fixed by the time of the race.

From here the undulations continued until we finally reached the Tukino Skifield Road around 4.30pm. Following the 4WD track down the mountain, we could finally jog a little back to the car. It was roughly 2.2km back to the carpark, but we parked further down the road as it was in a terrible state and when we dropped off our car in the morning we were worried we might get stuck. As a result we ended up having to run about 4.6km to get back to the wee white one.

This remains my favourite leg to the Round the Mountain track, despite all the hazardous spots. I love deserts and wide open spaces and this part of the mountain offers some breathtaking scenery.

At the time we were making our way around the mountain, I couldn’t help but think about the ROF event. The list of health and safety issues must be as long as my arm, and I thought the organisers very brave to take on this mammoth task. I’m really glad they did (someone had to!) and although you hardly ever hear of anyone getting injured or die on the Round the Mountain Track, it still feels to me as if a million things can go wrong. And should you fall and break something, or hit your head agains a rock, it would result in a massive rescue operation. Fingers crossed nothing like that will happen!

Overall, I can honestly say that if you’re not really strong (muscle and mind), you will battle. As I well and truly did. If the mud doesn’t make life difficult enough, the trenches will. Not to mention the sometimes waist high steps. And if that all sounds easy enough, lets talk about the boulders and rocks. We are, after all, circling a volcano that has spit out an endless supply of rocks over a great number of years.

Although I’m rather scared, I am also really looking forward to the event. With a cut-off of 20 hours, I might be one of the souls at risk of not finishing in time. But there’s still two months left, and if heaps of squats, lunges, deadlifts and the like don’t get me in a better place, then I don’t know what will.

In total I consumed: .75 of a gel, 2.5 Frooze balls, 36g jelly sweets, 36g dates, 1 apple and 20g chickpea chips. In terms of hydration: I totalled about 2 litres of fluid, of which 800ml Nuun-chia mix. Even less than the day before.

We only arrived back at the lodge at about 6:30pm, had a quick shower before heading down to Whakapapa Village for dinner at The Tussock pub. Gutted about having to can day three, we were still hopeful that something will come up. I briefly considered asking someone in the pub for a drop-off (with compensation of course), but thought the better of it.

Day 3 – Tukino Skiefield Road to Whakapapa Village

😦

Enquiries at ROAM, one of the Tongariro Crossing shuttle services, were first met with uncertainty. They don’t really go that way but could make an exception and drop us of at Tukino Road for the third stretch of the track, at the prohibitive price of “at least $200 – probably more”. At that price, we could rather enter the Tussock Traverse and be done with it. So we unfortunately had to give up the endeavour after day two. It’s a real shame, but nothing we could do. And running out-and-back was really not on the cards. That would mean we’d have to run 52km, shower, pack up, and then still do the trip back to Palmy to start the working week as per usual the next day.

On this somewhat anti-climactic note, we decided to call it a day, so we packed up and drove back to Palmy in no hurry.

Run one walk one – an easy ultra

Date: 13 January 2018
Distance: 60km

Time: 8.5 hours (and about .5 changing gear, eating and filling water bottles and food stuffs)

 


Planning for Gerry’s 50th birthday, we decided to do that “thing” where you run your age. Eyeballing the running calendars high and low for a 50km run the weekend before or after his birthday, delivered nothing. So what does Gerry do? He signs us up for a 100km event instead, only double his age. What’s a few kilometres between friends? (Goodness knows how we’ll manage a 100 miler when he turns 80!).

After the 12-day challenge at the beginning of December our training took a turn for the worse. We had the greatest intentions, but it all went awry in the first week after clocking one of our biggest running weeks in a long time. Christmas rolled over and during the Lake Waikaremoana hike over new year, I picked up a cold which just wouldn’t go anywhere. It was not getting better, but also not worse, and in fact, only after we starting to run again in the second week of January, did it help to clear things out a bit.

They say ultras are primarily a mind-game, and having a “final long run”, is definitely part of it. For instance, with marathons I like to do a last long run of about 32km three weeks out from the event. With a 100km, I figured a 60km run seven weeks out should be good. It worked well the last time, so this is now the thing I like to do. Without this long-run, I would probably feel totally unprepared (not that I’ve ever really been prepared for any distance), even if I’ve done the hard yards (which I haven’t). But, this distance gives me the confidence that I can just add a marathon to that, and I’ll be good as. It is all in the mind, eh?

With a whole month of little to no training and still harbouring a wee cough, I was not in the least bit keen to attempt a 60km long-run, let alone fathom the idea of running in all in one go. Which brought to mind the idea to run one kilometre and walk one kilometre. That sounded infinitely easier, and the main idea was just to spent the time on our feet. It was all going to be fairly flat and easy kilometres anyway.

Part of the long-run, naturally, is also to test hydration and nutrition. Since our previous 100km event where we had an array of food stuffs that I thought worked well, I’ve developed a gluten allergy (no, I’m not cutting out donuts and pastries because I think it is fashionable, or more healthy, or I will lose weight. I miss all those things terribly. But gluten doesn’t work with my system – simple as that.) The pretzels and bagel crisps that I loved to much, cannot be on the menu anymore.

This meant I needed a new plan of action. And the best way to test and try it all out, is by taking a full day and test what works and what not. You would do well to have a degree in food science. A minefield that can blow your mind away. The theories out there range from a “less-is-more” approach, to scoffing down everything you can lay your hands on. You primarily need easy carbs, and not too much fat or protein. I know that we usually err on the less-is-more side of things, but I also know that I’ve been extremely tired and out of sorts on some of our last ultras. So obviously I needed to eat more.

Taking one’s own body weight into account, again the figures out there vary from 100cal/hour to 400cal/hour for someone of my size and weight. That is a huge discrepancy. I opted to try a 200cal/hour approach (over the span of 9 hours that would be 1800cal in total).  For Gerry that would be 300cal/hour. Below are some of the food stuffs we considered and for this run it meant that per hour I needed to consume:

  • 2-3 apples (400g)  [100cal = 200g], or
  • 1-2 bananas (250g)  [100cal = 125g], or
  • 1-2 packham pears (400g)  [100cal = 200g], or
  • 4 Frooze balls (potentially too much fat and protein, but I was keen to try it anyway)  [100cal = 2g], or
  • 70g dates (roughly 15)  [100cal = 35g, 7-8 dates], or
  • 60g jet planes (roughly 8)  [100cal = 30g], or
  • 225g boiled potatoes  [100cal = 112g], or
  • 9 corn thins  [100cal = 4.5], or
  • 2 gels  [100cal = 1], or
  • 50g marshmallows (roughly 25)  [100cal = 25g], or
  • 350ml Powerade  [100cal = 175ml], or
  • 3 sesame sweets (sesame, peanut, ginger, tapioca starch and sugar) (60g)  [100cal = 30g]

It is very hard to track what you are eating (which is maybe why most people just opt to go the gel route), but looking at it afterwards I can now see how much I had and didn’t have. We also didn’t have the variety of stuff we were thinking of possibilities for a long run. In theory, getting your nutrition and hydration right means that you will not fatigue so easily – both body and mind. I did manage to eat much more than I’ve ever done before, and I did feel much better for it – mentally and physically. In fact, I would probably have been able to carry on for much longer if I had to.

Eat up
In total, between the two of us, we (roughly) had 600g boiled potatoes (250g in my case), two sesame sweets (1 for me), 8 gels (3 for me), 200g jelly sweets (80g for me), 50g marshmallows (20g for me), 12 frooze balls (5 for me), and 2 dates (1 for me), over the span of eight and a half hours. In every instance, Gerry had about a third more than me. Adding it all up (including the Powerade), I consumed about 1400cal/9 hours (instead of the planned 1800cal). Meaning I averaged out at about 155cal/hour with absolutely no ill effects. So maybe this is my sweet spot? I would, however, like to still try and experiment more by consuming more calories to see what that does at some stage.

Drink up
For hydration we totalled about 2.5 litres of electrolytes (that is 5 Nuun tablets), 750ml Powerade and 4 litres of water between the two of us. Gerry had a bit more. Roughly about 8 litres of fluids, including a sip here and there from a tap on the route. In my case, about 3.6 litres of fluid, boiling down to 400ml/hour.  It was probably not nearly enough, but it seemed to have worked. Again, previously I would dehydrate and end up with a terrible headache, but this time that wasn’t so much of a problem, despite the heat (28 degrees C).

Getting down to it
When we woke up on Saturday morning, we reluctantly started putting stuff together for a long run. In the back of our minds, we still thought of maybe rather postponing to the Sunday, or another weekend. But when we did the sums and checked the weekends, we realised we were out of time. If it didn’t happen this weekend, it was not going to happen at all. And that scared the shit out of me. While we were having breakfast and getting sorted, we also got some potatoes on the boil. My absolute favourite for any endurance event.

After stopping in at the parkrun to catch up with a few friends, we were finally off at 9:15am, not entirely convinced of what was about to take place. Following the Bridle Track downstream, we decided to go explore the trails on the other side of town and basically circumnavigate Palmy. Not sure of the exact distance, I thought that would give us about 25km. A very nice off-road walkway goes all the way (clockwise) from the Fitzherbert Bridge to Milson line. From there it was unfortunately a bit of hit and miss on the pavement, zig-zagging through the industrial area, until we reached Napier Road. Shortly before that it started to rain. Or rather, is was pouring with rain! Pretty soon we were totally drenched head to toe. Running along Napier Road, I watched as the massive droplets were bouncing on the road making little fountains, and I fell happy to be amongst the dancing and splatter all around. We finally reached Te Matai Road that would take us back to the Bridle Track. By then we knew it would get us to about 30km, before we would be back at the car. After a few kilometres of getting soaked, the rain started to ease and we could dry out somewhat.

Back at the car, we decided to change some clothes and stock up for the second half. We changed into dry socks and shoes (from road shoes for the first half, to trail shoes for the second half), and Gerry also got a dry shirt. We ate most of the potatoes, a date and a sesame sweet, and some water, before heading off in the same direction for round number two, not sure if we want to just do the same loop again, or try and avoid the industrial on-road area. Finally we decided to do an out-and-back section on the trail, so turning around before we get to the road stretch. We weren’t far across Pioneer highway (about 8km in on the second lap) when the second round of rain came pouring down. This was even more intense than the first round and lasted for about 15 minutes. We had rain jackets and decided to put them to the test this time, as the wind also picked up and I was feeling a bit cold.

By the time we reached the main road on Rangitikei Street for the second time (where you have to make a big loop across and under the bridge to the other side), we were at the marathon mark. After high-fives, we turned around and ran back to the Fitzherbert Bridge, thinking we will just add the outstanding kilometres around the Esplanade or on some of our usual trails, instead of negotiating the industrial area on the roadside again. Back ‘home’ at Fitzherbert bridge (passing right by the car!), we only needed 4km and opted to do the duckies loop, one of our go-to trails. About halfway through we walked into our third shower for the day. By then it really didn’t matter anymore, as we were already sitting on two pairs of wet shoes (add to that another pair while out on the Nae Nae road track two days after).

We managed to keep up the run-one-walk-one schedule right to the end. And I can honestly say, it didn’t feel as if I have covered 60km. I felt less sore and much better than on my last marathon. Obviously, we were going at a significantly slower pace, but the mere fact that we used different muscles every other kilometre, made a huge difference.

The only challenge on a trail run would be to take into account that there will be hills. Some of which might not be runable. We still have to figure out how to exactly translate this onto a trail event, but the “run bits, walk bits, you’ll get there” still applies. Someone shared that encouragement at a 5-day stage race with us some ten years ago.

In the aftermath, I can feel that I’ve done a significant distance two days after, but I’m not totally buggered like one used to be after this length of event. I will go so far as to say that this was really “easy”. Planning out the next seven weeks, is going to be much harder. Still stressed about the prospect of the 100km event, but in a much better headspace.

Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk

Date: 29 December 2017 to 1 January 2018
Distance: 46km (give or take)

“The Lake Waikaremoana track has the largest area of native forest in the North Island. This region is the ancestral home of the Maori tribe Ngai Tuhoe – the ‘Children of the Mist’. Entirely within the boundaries of Te Urewera, the track mostly follows the shores of the great lake. Over three to four days, it leads you through pristine rainforest, regenerating shrubland areas of wetland, rush and herbfield and a magical ‘goblin forest’. You will also discover magnificent rivers, waterfalls and ghostly valleys of mist.

The Tuhoe people have lived in the Te Urewera region for centuries and they have deep spiritual links with the land. Isolation and the Tuhoe’s respect for their forests, mountains, rivers and lakes have kept foresters and farmers away from Te Urewera. It is a living treasure where nature is totally in charge. Home to nearly every species of North Island native forest bird, the area also gives visitors a glimpse of the avian culture that once flourished in New Zealand. The melodic call of the tui is likely to follow you everywhere as well as the Kereru (wood pigeon); make sure to listen for the call of the kiwi bird at dusk.” [100% Pure New Zealand]

After a week of merriment with friends from far and near, we were on our way to Lake Waikaremoana. It has always been on the to-do list as one of only three Great Walks on the North Island. Two, if you don’t count the Whanganui River canoe/kayak trip as a walk.

Whenever I thought about this walk, I always felt that it is close-by and easily accessible, and something we can attempt running occasionally as training for longer events. As it turns out Lake Waikaremoana is quite out of the way and a long drive to get to, so I guess using it as a regular long-run loop is not really an option.

On the way over from Opotiki the day before, it started to rain. By the evening if was pouring and the wind was blowing a gale. Metservice issued a severe weather watch and it suddenly crossed my mind that the Rhythm and Vines festival (happening in the same region) gets rained out just about every year!

Luckily, we found a cabin for the night in Wairoa Riverside Motor Camp where we could sort out gear and get the backpacks ready for a 4-day hike. The alternative would have been to pitch the tent somewhere – the same tent that had to go in the backpack as we were not going to use the huts. The storm picked up through the night and by the morning it was still bucketing down with strong wind while we loaded everything in the car. The approximately 60km drive from Wairoa to the start at Onepoto Shelter takes about one hour fifteen minutes, and from shortly after about halfway up the windy road, the paved road makes way for a gravel road.

Needless to say, it took some mind-gymnastics to leave the warm, dry car for a walk in the pouring rain. The carpark looked like a mini lake and the lake itself was only a figment of my imagination, covered under a veil of rain and mist. A last cup of coffee and a peanut butter sandwich from left over bread, and we were ready to make a bee-line to the shelter. With the warm clothes and rain gear on and not in our backpacks our packs already felt a kilogram lighter.

Day 1 – Onepoto Bay shelter to Korokoro campsite (20km)

Starting at 600m above sea level, the track winds its way up the Panekire Bluff through the forest until you reach the Puketapu Trig (1180m). Along the way, quite a few lookout points over the lake could potentially make for some great scenes – “breathtaking” as the brochure pointed out. Unfortunately, we could only see short of absolutely buggerall in the thick mist. Just as well, as I had a sneaky suspicion that we were on the verge of some sheer drop-offs on occasion.

Not long before we reached the hut, we had to make our way around a rock cliff where steps and a wee single person path was built and anchored onto the rock face. Presumably, we were in thin air with a whole lot of nothingness beneath us …

Some undulations over the mountain/bluff kept us from freezing stiff, as it was very cold by then. Despite four layers of clothes, my fingers were completely numb and the moment we stopped I started to shiver uncontrollably. Note to self: don’t pack the gloves too deep, as you never know when it will come in handy – even at the height of summer.

When we reached the Panekire Hut (where most people stayed over for the night) after about 4.5 hours we stopped for lunch. The hut made for a nice reprieve from the rain. As we started late, we couldn’t stay long and had to push on to reach our campsite before dark. Donning muddy boots, wet rain coats and backpacks over wet clothes, we were off again.

The undulations continued through the fairytale wonderland until we finally started going down the other side of the bluff. This has to be the highlight of this walk, as the way down had the most scenic forest with waterfalls and streams, amidst the lush green ferns, beech and podocarp trees. In fact, the whole walk is beautifully green and lush – almost to the point of boredom. Everywhere you look are green fronts of newly formed fern leaves and other plants.

Slogging on for another five hours in the rain, while the path turned into little streams in some places and mud-slides in others, we only reached the camp site after 7pm. It was still raining for the most part, only stopping once in a while for very short periods. With wet clothes and mud up to our knees, trying to make a semi-dry, clean bed in a tent, is near impossible. But we managed okay – not too much mud and not too many wet spots. All the soaking wet gear we hanged in the shelter in the hope that it might dry out a bit overnight. Evidently, if the humidity is solid rain, nothing gets dryer.

At the campsite we discovered that (obviously, being a lake and all) there were boaties making a holiday of it. A family of four greeted us, and while they were fully kitted out with BBQ and all, we started our late dinner of quinoa, onion and tuna, and while that was cooking we poured a tipple. A tramp will not be a tramp without a shot of bourbon during the evenings!

While still cooking, a possum decided to join us in the shelter, and the wildlife just got progressively more active during the night, with deer poop and prints all over. It rained through the night, and we knew the prospect of packing up a dry tent was zero.

Day 2 – Korokoro campsite to Maraunui campsite (7km – or so they say)

After a long, hard day, and a late night we only got under way at 10:40am. With everything still pretty much soaking wet, we started off in a drizzle, hoping it would clear at some stage.

Although the mist made for a magical walk in the forest, I was looking forward to a change in scenery. I’m sure even the fairies went into hiding as all we saw were the odd tree monsters. What was meant to be a two and a half hour walk, turned into almost four. I knew I wasn’t going very fast, but we are usually a fair amount faster than the DOC times. This made me question my own capabilities and DOC’s estimates.

Finally the rain stopped (for the remainder of the trip) and when we reached the campsite mid-afternoon, we decided to spread out all our gear to dry out. Boots, socks, rain jackets, backpacks, clothes, tent, fly-sheet, mattresses, even the sleeping bags got wet from sweat or damp (and a spot from my leaky 20-year old backpack where the sack-liner must have had a hole). Some locals were towing people on a tube behind a boat, and later on a noisy bunch with loud music were screaming and cajoling from another boat in the inlet. Luckily, it didn’t last too long, and we had peace and quiet throughout the evening.

During our leisurely afternoon, reminiscing on the day, the walk, and life in general, some more campers (about 10) arrived and it turned out everyone took much longer than what DOC indicated as being the distance.

In the evening we cooked up a storm of green lentil curry, accompanied by a couple of tipples, before turning in for a good night’s sleep.

Day 3 – Maraunui campsite to Waihoruru campsite (7km)

I’m surprised at how busy this walk is. Droves of people coming and going, some with day packs, others like us with backpacks, a few runners with only hydration packs, kids and even a whole extended whanau, dogs and all, who chose to spent new years in the Marauiti Hut. After exchanging some greetings and personal information, we learned that the family are some of the landowners of the area. The bulk of the group walked in while others stayed behind to cook up a feast for the whole family that would be brought by boat later in the day for a huge year-end party. As the head of the family said, they are “meat and potato whanau, not noodle people”.

Another leisurely walk in the forest, occasionally reaching the lake shore where swans were peacefully floating around, while fishermen from boats and kayakers completed the scene.

By lunchtime, we reached the camp and spent another lazy afternoon in the sun. It is a beautiful and seemingly very popular campsite. Lots of other campers joined later on, and most went for a swim. Not brave enough to dive in, I watched from the side with my long polyprop pants and vest, being cold all the time. (As it turned out, I was at the beginning stages of a cold that would plague me for another week or so).

Later on we poured a tipple and started dinner, while the swans were tooting from the lake. It remains one of the nicest ways to see in the new year – somewhere in the sticks away from it all, especially if the weather is good, like it was.

The hut warden made a fire and encouraged everyone to join the festivities. Still later we made some tea by the side of the lake and ate the last of our chocolate, before retiring to the tent. Happy 2018 everyone!

Day 4 – Waihoruru campsite to Whanganui hut (6.5km)

We woke up at 5am for an early start to reach the water taxi in time for the 10am departure. We didn’t book ahead of time and were worried we might not get a seat. Should the first taxi be full, there’s another one at 2pm to try so we wanted to be sure to have both options. If both failed, we would just stay another night.

This day’s walk was easy and enjoyable. We reached Whanganui hut landing (a couple of 100 metres from the hut) before nine. We were 24 people waiting, and luckily being the legal limit of the boat, we could all jump on board. It was a very tight fit with everybody’s backpacks and all, and the boat was sitting quite deep in the water, but we made it back to Onepoto in about 20 minutes.

This walk is deceivingly difficult. A few reasons for this might be that 1) the DOC Great Walk brochure shows the walk profile as completely flat apart from the bit over Panekire bluff. This implies an easy flat walk. Granted, we should have bought a proper map which would show more detail, 2) the terrain is a combination of mud, tonnes of tree roots and stone, causing one’s feet to land at strange angles with every step, and 3) the DOC times and distances seems completely whack. And it wasn’t just us, everyone complained about the times/distance indicators possibly being wrong.

Also, the difficult terrain underfoot made sure just about everybody were nursing blisters every night. Even Gerry who never gets blisters, ended up with a monstrous blister that went from being a hotspot to no skin within a few kilometres.

There’s also some confusion in terms of the water taxis. I will confess we did not do our homework, but again, the DOC brochure shows the “landing” or pick-up spot about 6km further up the track. After some discussions with other trampers, we found out that there’s more than one operator and currently most people seemed to be using the Big Bush company who does picks-ups at the Whanganui Hut. They also have a campsite/accommodation not far from the start at Onepoto. When we searched for accommodation in the area for the night before the start, there was no sign of this place, and all we could find was the Lake Waikaremoana Holiday Park which was fully booked out.

The walk is mostly in indigenous forest, so in the shade, and thanks to the rainy start, we didn’t have the promised views over the lake. Unfortunately, we also missed the waterfall for that same reason, and also because the day was already quite long without the 30 minute detour.

Of the Great Walks we’ve done, the campsites at this walk are much nicer than any of the others. They are all nicely groomed with a cooking shelter and toilet.

We had a hectic year, always a few days (weeks!) behind schedule, packed very half-arsed, carried too much, didn’t prepare at all, and didn’t look at any info with regards to the walk apart from booking campsites and taking the DOC brochure map along. Hence, we have unfinished business with this walk. Whether we do it as a run, a fast-pack over two days or the whole walk again, but planned better – we will be back.

 

Lower Hutt parkrun

Date: 23 December 2017
Distance: 5km
Time: 29.14
Previous: Hamilton #1, Palmy #1, #2, #3Kapiti Coast #1, Porirua #1

Meeting up with friends who were visiting New Zealand for a few weeks, we happened to be in the Hutt Valley during the weekend and decided to fit in a quick run.

Too much eating out, way too much wine (and beer, and whiskey) and not a whole lot of running since the Twelve days of Christmas challenge, is a bad combination for attempting a “comeback”, so to speak. Full of pickled confidence she said, “let’s run to the event and back”. Including the parkrun, that would give us a solid 27km long-run. Great idea. Perfect idea! But…

When the alarm went off before 6am, I felt like the walking dead. When I finally dragged my lame body out of bed, we made it to the parkrun in time only to fit in a 2km “warmup”. Not exactly making true to my ambitious goal, but at least we managed a 7km run. It wasn’t pretty and I felt like shit all the way, but it’s done. Ultreia! On with the corpse.

This is by far the biggest parkrun we’ve done in NZ. At 266 (268 if you include us who forgot our barcodes), the narrow walkway can get a bit congested. Especially since it is also open to the general public taking their dogs for a walk, or a stroll to the local Saturday market close by. To make things easier, the organisers started all slower runners, people with baby-joggers and dogs, off on the stop-bank, where they merge with the rest of the field a few hundred metres futher up the road.

Ran on the Hutt Valley walkway, runners go downstream for 2.5km before turning around and running back. One of the nicest features of this specific event, was the happy newlywed couple who did the parkrun on the first morning of being Mr&Mrs (Megan and Geoff Ferry ), in their wedding outfits! And Mr Ferry and his best men are no average runners either, all finishing in the top (I’m guessing) ten of the field? Some of the best men smoked the course and one took the win in a time of 15:43. Mr Ferry managed a 18:01.

We are so far off schedule in terms of our training, but I’m glad nonetheless that we managed to get out the door, albeit for only 7km.

Palmy Christmas parkrun

Date: 16 December 2017
Distance: 5km
Time: 38.08
Previous: Hamilton #1, Palmy #1, Kapiti Coast #1, Palmy #2, Porirua #1

Another change in our work schedule meant we could fit in another backyard parkrun. The organisers decided to make it a Christmas themed event, so we all (okay, some of us) dressed up for the occasion.

Luckily, we had another glorious day in Palmy, and the festivities got us all in the mood for the Christmas season. Gerry forgot our barcode cards in the car, so had to run up ahead to go fetch it. I was going so slow taking photos and chatting away, that he was back and well rested before I made it back to the finish. Another fun morning out in the Manawatu.

 

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …

The Big Christmas Feast – A Greatest Virtual Run Challenge, raising money for kids on the spectrum

Date: 1-12 December 2017
Distance: 200km
Previous GVR: 2017

My middle name is procrastination. And Gerry’s first, middle and last names are procrastination. Maybe it is just a severe case of student syndrome? But, it only took us until well into the first of December, the day the challenge started, before finally entering. It might just be a classic case of an already out-of-hand hectic life, with work, this time of year, and all that jazz that the fun things in life tend to be ignored and end up falling by the wayside. Luckily we had two minutes of sanity to quickly enter.

Named after The twelve days of Christmas, a Christmas carol dating back to the 1700s, this Greatest Virutal Run Challenge is intended to keep accumulating kilometres to reach a certain target over a twelve day period. Whether you choose to do the Rudolph’s challenge 12km, the Great Santa Marathon 42km, Running with the Elves 60km challenge, or the 200km Big Christmas Feast, you are sure to “bank” some burned calories for the festive season. 🙂

Traditionally the twelve days of Christmas would start on Christmas day. The Christmas carol is a cumulative song, and was probably meant to be from a children’s memory and forfeit game. So on the first day, “my true love” would sent me one gift, on the second day it would be two, on the third day three gifts, and so on. The gifts would remain the same, except each day a new (different) gift will be added.

To go with this theme then, and to reach 200km in twelve days, we should have done the runs in a cumulative fashion as well. Starting at 11km the first day, 12km the second day, 13km the third day, and so on, you would reach 198km after 12 days, with the biggest final day being 22km. Not quite the correct distance, but what’s a couple of kilometres between friends. And if you’re a purist, you should keep to the same course and just add another kilometre each day. 😀

However, being a particularly difficult time of year, things don’t always go according to plan. We knew when we signed up that it was going to be hard, with Gerry’s working on weekends and week nights, just to reach the right amount of kilometres (it roughly boils down to about 17km per day) let alone follow a strict cumulative plan. Allowing flexibility, we sometimes had to almost double the daily average to make up for days when it was really impossible to get out the door. We also couldn’t (didn’t want to) run all those kilometres, and opted to walk at least half or more to make up the distance. Being pressed for time walking isn’t really the best way to add kilometres, especially if your walking muscles haven’t done much in the last year. But we just had to make it happen as running it all is not an option (you cannot jump from 60km/week to 120km/week – that would be stupid).

Here is how it panned out in our case.

1 December 2017 (Friday) – 20km
“Bunking school” so to speak, we decided to start off with a run/walk of 20km. It was a perfect day, sunny and just a slight breeze, and to make the most of it we chose to do our favourite course up in the wind farm on North Range Road. We parked our car where the 4X4 section starts, and ran out for 10km (down to the power station) and walked back. We knew it was going to be hot, so we slip, slap, slopped. Unfortunately, some of my sloppy sloppping were wiped off by my hydration pack, and other spots on my legs I’ve just applied the sunblock too half-arsed, therefore getting rather sunburned in spots. The result was something that resembled a vanilla and strawberry marble cake later that night. Roasted lobster anyone?

Overall it was a most enjoyable outing. Since we’ve been doing 60km+ weeks most weeks the last few months, these outings are not as daunting as before, and definitely much easier than when we were only doing between 30 and 40km weeks.

2 December 2017 (Saturday) – 15km
Gerry had a five-hour training session in Wellington, and with the four plus hours on the road, some preparation and packing up afterwards, it always turns into a very long day. One where the only thing you want to do when finally back home in the evening, is pour a glass and sit with your feet up. We knew the weekend was going to be a challenge, so we decided to do the Porirua parkrun on the way to work. Meeting Gary there, meant that we couldn’t bail last minute, even though it resulted in a very early start, having to get up before 5am. But, If all else fails and we only manage one run for the weekend, we would at least have 5km in the bank.

The course is a steady climb to the halfway mark, which makes for a relaxed and easy downhill back to the finish. A huge-ish field of 129 parkrunners and perfect weather to boot.

When we got back home at 6:30pm, we off-loaded the car and changed clothes, before heading back into the suburbs for a 10km walk. It was 7:30pm by the time we started, and at a 10min/km average pace, it took about an hour forty minutes to cover the distance. This was already turning into a huge challenge and it was only the second day!

3 December 2017 (Sunday) – 10km
Another working day in Wellington, so another ten hours of the day allocated to work and travel. We decided to leave half an hour earlier (to be sure to find parking in Wellington close to Te Papa on market day), and go for a walk around the bays on Oriental Parade before work. Apart from a strong-ish wind, the weather was good, so we managed to fit in a 4km walk in the morning.

Back home early evening, we forced ourselves to go out for another 6km walk. It was a good change from all the sitting while traveling and working on a laptop all day (in my case). It also was a pleasant evening out, although very muggy, but I’m glad we could manage to fit it in.

2pic1

We came, we ran, but we were still some way from finishing…

4 December 2017 (Monday) – 0km
What can I say – we’ve gone from bad to worse. Life got in the way and we could not find a single minute in the day to go out for a run. Two days (Monday & Tuesday) of First Aid training for Gerry, while I’m catching up on photoshop work that has fallen behind due to other work commitments. And still three hours photography training in Whanganui in the evening. What was meant to be a late night, turned into an early morning only making it to bed after 12am.

5 December 2017 (Tuesday) – 22km
With only 45km in the bank after four days, we were well and truly behind schedule. We still had 155km to go by the next Tuesday, meaning only eight days to get it all done. Fortunately, we’ve been having the most gorgeous weather with no rain and only light wind. Unfortunately, this drought also means our water tank is down to only a third and with no rain in sight, we will soon have to pay for showers at the pool or library! And with all the running and walking we’ve been doing, the laundry pile was also taking on monstrous proportions. Not good for our limited water supply.

And as if the water crisis isn’t enough, our laptop decided this was a good day to kick the bucket! Total meltdown and panic stations all round. It’s been a bad year for computers in the Le Roux household. First the Big Mac in June and now the laptop. Everything we do is on the laptop, and although we’re both fairly diligent with backing-up our work, we have been too flat out with bucket loads of stuff to do every day, that we’re about two weeks behind on backups. That’s many hours of work potentially gone. Including this story, that was an ongoing process…

For a few days we both went through the five stages of dealing with loss: denial (not even looking at the damn thing, let alone think about what to do next), anger (stupid stupid laptop, stupid stupid me for not backing up my work), bargaining (maybe just tell the client everything is gone and there’s nothing any one can do about it – a good, solid two weeks of work), depression (pour another tipple, please) and acceptance (shit happens. Walk it off).

A day later Gerry took it to the doctor, who diagnosed the hard drive to be buggered, installed a new one, charged an arm, and claimed they couldn’t retrieve any of the information. Another round of denial and anger on my side. Luckily Gerry has a colleague who is just amazing with technology. He has a wee gadget he created for just such an occasion, and thankfully Gerry could retrieve everything through Thursday night, even in the same folders and structure everything was before! Disaster averted. We owe said colleague big time.

Back to Tuesday’s run; one would think that a day off would make a huge difference as to how capable you feel physically, but boy o boy, stress takes it out of you. With nerves in a knot and having to fit in a longish run, we tried to find a course with a bit of everything while still being close to the car at any given point, just incase we needed to bail. We did the 4km Summerhill trail first, and from there on it was flat all the way, up and down the river on both sides. After 12km we called the running bit quits, and walked the remaining 10km.

6 December 2017 (Wednesday) – 20km

Still stressed about the laptop and all the potential lost data, we did not feel like having to think about anything (where to run, where to find water, toilets, the burden of taking a hydration pack), so we went for our usual 2km ring road circuit on Massey campus. It remains one of the easiest ways to get the job done. We could only fit it in in the evening, and with the car parked on the course, so to speak, we could hydrate and fuel every two kilometres. And, if at any point we needed more/less clothes, a change of shoes, whatever, we had it all right there. After 18km we were tempted to stop, but figured we might as well do another lap and get to 20km.

The intention was to run one lap, walk one lap. But, being constantly pressed for time, we ended up running most of the laps and only walking small bits.

7 December 2017 (Thursday) – 33km

Being in catch-up mode, and physically and psychologically exhausted (with still no good news in terms of our data recovery at this point), we decided to just “walk it off”. Gerry could get the day off of work, as he’s accumulated quite a lot of hours overtime.

The aim was to do about 30km over 6 hours. This was also the day that Jason (the challenge creator – bugger!) was going to run 60km at school with the kids, creating awareness and collecting money for the Running on the Spectrum charity. So we figured we should roughly be out on the road for the same length of time as he would be, but we would only be covering half his distance.

Again we opted to do laps, but this time went around two of our usual loops with the car in the middle. Two toilets on course (three, if you count the one that is about 200m out of the way) and at least two water points. Having the car in the middle, again meant that we didn’t had to carry everything with us in a hydration pack.

Walking is hard. It doesn’t come natural to me (not that running is much better!) and I have to work really hard to keep my turnover high. Although I love walking, I always find it a bit tough on shins and under-utilised muscles. Needless to say, this was one of the more challenging outings of the challenge so far.

8 December 2017 (Friday) – 10km

Another late night (had to get the Christmas cake done) and another early start. Lack of sleep is the last thing you want when you up your kilometres. We all know that rest/sleep is when your body recovers, so going without enough sleep, is a recipe for injuries. Apart from some niggles here and there (Gerry’s plantar fasciitis and shins being the worst offenders on the walks), we were holding up surprisingly well. Touch wood.

Before six in the morning we were on our way to meet Ian Argyle again to help for a few hours on Nae Nae Track. This new track is progressing well, and Ian and a bunch of other volunteers has already put in a lot of effort. Between the three of us, we managed to do three hand railings and a few steps on some of the steepest parts. One of the big issues is having to carry all wood, pegs, waratahs, tools, screws, drill, nuts and bolts, hammer, you name it, up the track. And the further the track progresses, the further you have to carry everything. A good workout which, sadly, we didn’t record as that would have added a few kilometres to our tally. But, never mind.

Back home some four hours later, we could fit in only a 10km run, before heading off for another commitment. The easiest option was to just do our usual on-road Massey loop, and some. So that is 132kms done.

9 December 2017 (Saturday) – 21km

Gerry had his final session in Whanganui with the short-courses photography students, so I decided to run the local club’s annual half marathon to kill some time while we were there.

More on the event here.

As Gerry was now behind on the kilometres, he went out for a quick 11+km run down the road once we got back home early evening. Only 10km more for him to catch up.

10 December 2017 (Sunday) – 20km

Meeting up with the Striders at 8am for their weekly club run, we were uncertain what to do. Not a lot of runners pitch up at these runs, and the ones that were there are too fast for my current state. We thought of going out with the walkers, but chose the slowest group, which I was led to believe would go at a 6km per hour pace, but it soon proved otherwise as they were clearly out on a very leisurely stroll.. So a few hundred metres into the walk, we decided to just do our own thing. Initially we thought of walking 10km in the morning and run another 10km or so in the evening, but once we got going, we just kept on going and managed to run a bit more than 15km, and walk back to the car (about 5km).

Back at the car, Gerry decided to run another 6+km to get closer to where he’s supposed to be. That left him with only about 3km still behind schedule. At this point I was on 174km and Gerry on 171km.

A bit more windy and cooler than any of the other days so far, but happy that we’ve done our bit for the day, we went home to get a Sunday roast in the oven and pour a glass of red.

11 December 2017 (Monday) – 21km
Hard to believe we are on the second to last day of this challenge. Being on the home-stretch, I feel like a horse that smelled home – I just want to get there already. Before Gerry had to clock in at work, we went out for a 15km run. The plan was to run 15km and walk another 5km or so. But, being in no state to make it out of bed early enough, we could only fit in the run, after which Gerry quickly covered his last 3 catching-up kilometres.

After work (and my dental hygienist appointment) we had another nice walk of 6km around the duck pond and through the Esplanade. By the way, did you know that running is actually bad for your teeth? “’The triathletes’ high carbohydrate consumption, including sports drinks, gels, and bars during training, can lower the mouth’s pH below the critical mark of 5.5,’ Cornelia Frese told Runner’s World Newswire. ‘That can lead to dental erosion and cavities. Also, the athletes breathe through the mouth during hard exercise. The mouth gets dry, and produces less saliva, which normally protects the teeth.’” Read more.

But that’s a worry for another day. The bubbly is on ice. Only one more sleep. One more run.

12 December 2017 (Tuesday) – 7km
With only about 5km left to complete the challenge, we went for the easy way out. And what is less arduous than just covering our familiar Massey ring-road. But, unlike we usually do, we decided to go out the back of Massey and straight back to the car. Being only 5km, it took some serious motivation to get going. Why bother with only 5km? 😀

IMG_0246fixeds

Still warm, but with some cloud and light wind, we managed to finish the whole 12 days without a single minute of inclement weather – and not a drop of rain. As it turned out, NZ is in the midst of one of the biggest droughts we’ve seen in ages (as can be seen from the brown grass in some of the photos).

And so another challenge is done and dusted. We weren’t always equally excited about having to go out for long runs, but after a few days it started to get easier. And as is always the case, once you go long, your mind grows strong.

bubbly_shoes

These are the shoes that carried us through the 200km challenge. Evidently, I’m a bit of an Altra fan.

Thanks to Jason, Shona and the Greatest Virtual Run-team for dreaming up these challenges. It is a great way to get going and a good motivator. If I make the next 100km event, I will think back on some of these days and the word, Ultreia! It loosely translates to onward/forward. Which bring to mind the tale about this old man who lived in a very small village, and who was extremely lazy. One day the town folk decided he’s not worth the hassle anymore and they would bury him alive. Pleased with the decision, the old man was laying in his coffin while the bearers carried him to his grave. One old lady was particularly concerned about the decision to bury the old man alive and asked if there wasn’t maybe something the old man could do to pull his weight in the village? A small task like chopping wood or something? At which point the old man shouted from his coffin: “On-with-the-corpse!”, “On-with-the-corpse!”.

On ultras, this will be my new mantra – Ultreia! On with the corpse!