Hilder, honey and a half marathon

Date: 9 July 2017
Distance: 21.1km
Time: 2:17.26
Previous: 2014, 2015

 

The first time we did the Norsewood to Takapau half marathon, it was with family, who at the time lived in New Zealand. I will never forget the box filled with pots of honey that was handed out as spot prizes. Two out of the four of us received a pot of honey. When prize-giving rolled around the following year, I was audibly disappointed for not getting honey again, at which point the Hilders gifted us theirs. Last year the event was first postponed and later cancelled altogether, because of inclement weather, so definitely no pots of honey to be had.

In 2014 I was physically in better shape than any of the subsequent years, but this is one of those lovely, affordable events that you shouldn’t miss. And walking is always an option. Which brings me to this year. This was my first half marathon-length long run in a while and I was keen to see how my hip would behave. At the Great Forest Events, I walked most of the time, and when you take your time, you can do almost anything. So that one doesn’t count. These days, anything faster than a 7min/km pace I consider to be quite all right.

It was again very cold and wet underfoot with lots of rain leading up to the event and snow-capped mountains, but the weather was otherwise not too bad. One tends to forget the hills on this course! Just as well, or you might not come back for more.

I couldn’t help but thinking about Marian. It is a year since Stuart’s passing, and Marian will no doubt be reliving this very sad time. This event will, in one way or another, always make me think of Marian and Stuart. If not for Marian running, then the gifted honey, or Stuart’s passing. I do hope we will see Marian again on the course at a future event.

[Hip update: I had little to no complaints from my hip. Regaining strength if you neglected it for so many years, is really hard. It has taken a very long time for me just to be able to spend some quality time on a foam roller. That is how non-existent my core was. It is still no good, but at least I can stay on the roller for a bit longer than what I could a few months ago. I still do strength exercises very haphazardly, focussing mainly on rolling the knots out, which has helped my mobility and range of movement with leaps and bounds. Maybe it will be easier to join a gym for the strength exercises, but I’m hoping to find a solution that I can do anywhere and anytime on my own. Having entered for the Ring of Fire event scheduled for April next year might get me off my rear to start doing more, as I’m scared senseless just thinking of what we’ve signed up for.]

Stride for Syria

Date: 2 July 2017
Distance: 7.6km (+4km)
Time: 47:31 (30:00)

A week out from our half marathon, we had to fit in a last “cutback long-run” and decided to throw the Palmerston North Boys High School and Palmerston North Girls High School’s event into the mix.

The Stride for Syria intended to raise funds for the Syrian Refugee Crisis. It is labeled as “the most urgent humanitarian crisis of our time” after six years of ongoing fighting and conflict in Syria. According to the brochure that was handed out at the event, 470 000 people have been killed, and more than 4.8 million have fled the country, while 6.1 million have been displaced. That is nearly three times the population of New Zealand that is either dead, misplaced or having to flee for their lives.

So, PNBHS World Vision decided to host a running/walking event, with help from the Manawatu Striders, to raise some funds for the Syrian crisis. (If you wish to make a donation, visit the NZ World Vision website.)

We arrived at about 9am to register and quickly go for a 4km trot before the actual event started at 10am. Going upstream, we ran 2km along the Bridle Track before turning around and running the 2km back. On the way out, we ran into Glen W, whom we had only known from Instagram. Nice to finally meet in person. Although it was quite cold, it was a windless, calm day with little pockets of sun still shining through the clouds early on. Back at the club rooms, we had time for a quick catch up, a sip of water and a trip to the loo. It was great to also finally meet Christine T in person – another online friend.

The school boys and girls did a good job of handling the formalities with guidance from the Manawatu Striders. Starting at the club rooms, the course followed the routes of other Striders events. The first bit is partially on the Super 7s course until you reach the river where you turn right to follow the marathon course downstream, around Waitoetoe Park and back the same way to the club rooms. These are trails we know very well, but it was still an enjoyable run away from the roads, through parks and next to the river.

With an entry fee of only $5, which included a sausage sizzle and banana at the finish, I’m surprised at the very small field of participants. One would have thought that at least both the schools’ students and their parents should have known about it, and made the effort?

Be that as it may, I’m pleased to have managed another run without much pain. Now to see how things will go at the half marathon in a week’s time.

5 things no one tells you, bla-bla-bla …

Is it just me, or is everything your read these days on running forums and in running magazines, a number crunching game? For instance: “6 things you need to do right now”, “I did squats for 14 days and here’s what happened”, “do these 3 exercises right now”, “4 stretches that will fix all your problems”, “these 7 health foods aren’t so healthy”, “31 runner friendly recipes”, etc. You can almost not find an article that doesn’t contain a headline similar to these. But, I’m getting off topic.

getting_older_s.jpg

This post really is just a message I wish someone had banged into my head 20 years ago. And despite knowing what I know now, I still find it difficult to practice what I preach, but here goes nonetheless. Even if I fail miserably and have to say to myself 20 years from now, “I told you so!”.

You know how you sometimes do an event and think to yourself, hey, I’m doing all right, only to find a runner with a 60+, 70+ or 80+ age tag ahead of you? And every time you think, wow, that’s very impressive. I want to be that runner when I’m that age. All I have to do is to keep running.

We are a very (maybe unintentionally) obnoxious bunch, aren’t we? Without giving anything a second thought, you just assume that if you keep running the way you do, you will be fine for the rest of your life. Just look at you, you are running and keeping active while most people your age do absolutely nothing, not even the occasional stroll around the block. The fact that you have a few aches and pains, call it niggles if you like, you put down to “normal side-effects that come with the territory”. And, inexplicably, while you sometimes hobble your first few steps after getting up from a chair or out of bed, most non-running people your age seems not to have these issues? Or so it seems.

But, the truth of the matter is that no-one talks about these things. Maybe because we’re all in denial about getting older? Never has anyone told me that my strength will halve by the time I turn 40. By 45, what’s left will halve again. And by 50, that would halve again. And so on. Things go pear-shaped exponentially. I am assuming that by the time you reach 70, you can count your lucky stars if you can still open your own beer! Actually, according to “scientific studies”, you loose about 1% muscle strength each year from your 30th birthday onwards. “Scientifically proven” or not, I can promise you it is far worse. And the reason is simple – lack of maintenance. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.

In my head I can, of course, do push-ups, pull-ups, climb trees and make wagon-wheels at nauseam. I could still do that “just the other day”. Heck, I remember a time when I could stand on my hands and do push-ups! (Granted, my legs were against a wall for balance.)  The other day I tried some of these things and I could only manage one normal push-up. One. Pull-ups? None! That was enough to give my self-esteem such a knock that I did not even try any of the other stuff that was second nature at some point in my life.

And here’s the other thing. Apart from your physical strength, your eyes go. As I’m typing this, I need to squint and blink my watery eyes constantly to see what is going on. And so too does your hearing. Say what? And your mind. Concentration? Memory? What is that? And memory is a very fickle thing at the best of times. And if you think you used to be a good wine snifter and can easily tell the difference between a Pinotage and a Shiraz, or a Cabernet and a Bordeaux Blend by taking one whiff, just be warned that it will all go to shit after you turn 40, as even your sense of smell seems to decrease exponentially. Nasty things start to grow everywhere, for Pete’s sake!

After being diagnosed with FAI (femoral acetabular impingement of the CAM type) and told to consider a different sport, as well as the prospect of having to have a hip replacement in the not too distant future, I was shocked to my core. Imagine never again being able to run, or hike with a backpack, or climb up a mountain, getting to places that you can only get to by foot. I could not even fathom the thought. I went from being numb to denial, to anger, to acceptance, and back to denial. Why does it always take a “disaster” for one to wake up and smell the roses?

What I can say now, in hindsight (what a wonderful thing) with the utmost certainty is, that if you think you can continue to run into your old age by just continually running, you better think again. Because that is the biggest misnomer in all of the running world. One tends to look at older runners and think they have probably been running all their lives, so it is “second nature” to them. All I need to do is keep on running and I will be sweet as. Not! I can promise you, emphatically, that all those oldies who seems to be just hardcore runners have a whole regime of other physical stuff they do on top of running. They will either go to the gym or do some other form of strength training. Or do some cross-training in one form or another. They most certainly all would stretch or do yoga or whatever it takes to stay flexible. And I bet they also have regular visits to massage therapists, or at the very least do some foam rolling, etc. You cannot in your wildest dreams think that you will be “fine” by just running. You will not. Your muscles will deteriorate and they will tighten up. That is a fact. Imbalances in your body are inevitable and if you don’t maintain (condition, strengthen, flex and loosen up) your muscles, you can forget about running for the rest of your life. There will come a time when you get so buggered in one place from immobility in another, that you will have to stop and think about where to from here.

In a way, I was lucky to be told I have FAI. At least I’m not that old yet, and there’s still time, I think. I hope. In the back of my mind, I knew all along that I needed to stretch and do some strength exercises, but I didn’t heed it. I would always think I’ll do it tomorrow, or start on Monday. And then usually put it off altogether. I have been doing that for a few years and the end result? A hip so stuffed that a specialist recommended an operation. But, stubborn as I am, I tend to side with The FAI Fix guys by also thinking that there must be an alternative. I find it curious that every second person you talk to, suddenly has FAI problems. Why would everybody suddenly have bone growth at the certain spot on their hips? And why does it hit people in their 20s and 30s already? Or is it one of those things that have always been around, but never been talked about? And only recently been named?

Granted, we all sit a lot more than what I, and most generations before me, used to. We only got TV when I was 7 years old. Computers only made it into my world when I was about 20. Mobile phones did not make it onto the scene for many more years. The Millenials (people born between 1980 and 2000) certainly got a raw deal in that regard, by being born into this crap. At least we still, almost, had a “normal” childhood, whatever that might mean. But, in terms of being physical, we were definitely better off, even if the only difference was having to walk to the library to get books for assignments. Nowadays, most information appears at the click of a button, whether you sit in your car, on a bus, in front of the TV, or on the loo. You don’t have to move your butt one inch to get what you want.

As with everything else in life, if you don’t maintain it, it will fall apart. Same goes for your health and physical abilities. Apart from eating healthy (which is a different can of worms), drinking less, not smoking etc, you have to maintain your muscle strength and flexibility in order to stay mobile. It really is as simple as that. And yet, the most difficult thing in the world to actually put into motion. We all know the adage – if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it – but we forever postpone getting our maintenance sorted for another day. Maintenance is always something “you will still do” (like having that mole checked out). Until it’s too late and the easy way or only way out is the “quick fix” by some or other medical professional.

If I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to keep on living like a child. Jump off things, stand on your head, climb onto everything, run everywhere you want to go, even the bathroom, but do whatever it takes to keep your muscles working, be strong, stay flexible and be mobile.

 

 

The David Fletcher Mortgages Urban Trail Run

Date: 11 June 2017
Distance: 12.5km
Time: 1:40

While we were in New Plymouth for the weekend, we figured we might as well participate in another Cut a Trail event. The previous one was most enjoyable and since this one was cheap enough, we thought we’ll give it a go.

As an out-of-towner you can’t pre-enter, meaning you inevitably pay the late entry fee of $15 ($10 for locals if you pre-register at the Frontrunner shop during the course of the week). You also don’t come into account for certain of the spot-prizes if you enter late. But, I guess, these events are small and low-key community events – not really meant for outsiders. That might also explain why there were no water points or toilets. The latter being a bit of a problem when you have x-amount of people queueing for the one public toilet in the area. On the bright side, the banter while waiting in line turned out to be fun. When all the men turned to the bushes (on the East End Reserve, main beach and playground area no less!) one lady casually commented, “it is already full moon, a couple more won’t make a difference”.

Another beautiful day greeted us in the morning, with just a bit of a nip in the air. I decided there and then that we in Palmy most certainly have the most miserable weather in all of New Zealand. Quite sad actually, especially taking into account that Palmerston North had the least amount of sun last summer. So, excuse me for being a bit sad (or make that grumpy) from lack of vitamin D! 😀

The run follows the urban trails around town. We’ve covered most of them on training runs with friends before, but we did see a couple new areas. The first approximately 3km out-and-back stretch on the opposite sides of the Te Henui stream, makes up the loop for the 6km course. But after the first 3kms where the short course runners crossed a bridge to go back down, the longer course carries on to do another 3km loop higher up in the suburbs, twice. A decent hill reduced me to a walk, especially on the second lap. At the highest points on the course, we got lovely views of Mt Taranaki. When we finally hooked up with the second half of the 6km course on the way back, we got treated to another monster hill. But from there, the home stretch is mainly downhill back to the sea.

It took a fair bit longer to complete the course than I had hoped. But, on the bright side, my hip didn’t give any troubles. It might seem that the little bit of mobility and strength exercises are doing the trick. My hip does feel a lot less tight and sore, especially getting up from a sitting position.

There’s hope still.

Next up? Probably the Norsewood to Takapau half marathon on 9 July. A small, country event, which we’ve enjoyed doing in the past.

A tail in three parts – Pouakai Crossing

Date: 9 June 2017
Distance: Depending on the source, 18.4km or 19km

Since Lonely Planet named Taranaki “the second best region in the world to visit”, while highlighting the Pouakai Crossing as “one of two unmissable attractions”, I’ve been keen to see what all the fuss was about.

Mt Taranaki in Egmont National Park has always been on the to-do list. We’ve only done short walks in the area, and “knocking off the bastard” remains on the to-do list.

Trying to find a date that would suit both us and our friends in New Plymouth to walk the crossing, proved very challenging, but we finally settled on a day last weekend. The weather seemed best on the Friday, so by Thursday night, Gerry and I were packed and off to the Naki where a lovely warm dinner was waiting for us. Unfortunately, both of our friends were unwell (with colds and stomach bugs), so we made some loose arrangements over dinner and coffee in terms of the time to start, what to wear and take with, and whether they would walk all the way with us or turn around earlier. But for the most part, we decided to play it by ear.

Part one
Shortly after seven in the morning we drove up to the Egmont Visitor Centre to park (950m), and watch the sun rise over the horizon, before starting off at a brisk pace. Frost covered the grass outside the building and the temperature could not have been more than a couple of degrees. With the first few kilometres all going up the Razorback Ridge (to about 1400m), we quickly warmed up. Coupled with the beautiful, sunny, windless start, we could not have asked for a better day. Apart from some minor cloud, we had stunning views over the farms, New Plymouth and the sea towards the north. Unfortunately, it was too hazy to see Mt Ruapehu or Mt Ngauruhoe.

After about two hours’ walk, traversing Mt Taranaki above the cloud line, we passed the lava columns of the Dieffenbach cliffs. In a rocky stream (or was it a slip?) we decided to make some tea and have a snack. The moment we stopped, it was evident that the temperature was still in the single digits. Donning gloves and multiple top layers not to cool down too quickly, as the steam from our warm bodies, and condensation already had our beanies soaking wet. After we got going again, our friends walked a few more minutes with us, before they decided to call it a day and head back to the car.

Once we crossed the Boomerang slip, I felt more comfortable that we’d covered the most dangerous part. Luckily there was no snow on the slip. The path is quite narrow in parts, but clearly visible. It might be a different story if everything was covered in snow, as there were no markers/poles to indicate where the track might be, as is usually the case in alpine terrain. We could clearly see the red water of the Kokowai Stream far below us, caused by manganese oxide oozing from the earth. The moment we rounded the mountain more towards the western side, the wind picked up and we realised that the first section of the walk was quite sheltered. By noon, we reached Holly Hut, originally built in 1900, but replaced by the current building in 1975. It sleeps about 26 people and a couple of tents can fit on the grass in front of the hut. The Minarapa Stream just before reaching the hut can be impassable after heavy rain, but was completely dry. Two long-drops were a few metres from the hut, and these will have to be cleaned soon, or risk overflowing.

An hour return trip, takes you to the 31 metre high Bells Falls/Te Rere o Tahurangi, a waterfall feature we had to give a miss, as we were pressed for time with the short winter days.

After leaving the hut, we followed the path downhill with beautiful views across the wetland, until we reached the Ahukawakawa Swamp/Wetlands. A narrow wet boardwalk takes you across the wetland. Stepping off of the boardwalk (to pass or be passed) might seem solid, but it is in fact a very wet soggy sponge.

Part two
During our crossing of the wetland and Story River/Hangatahua Stream (the one that’s also responsible for the waterfall), the clouds came rolling in and a misty spray made us stop to put on rain jackets. A steep climb up the Pouakai Ranges for the next couple of hours, with a million steps and very muddy conditions under foot, took us through misty mountain cedar forests with unfortunately no visibility in any direction apart from the few metres ahead of us. Totally opposite to what we had up until the first hut. It was very cold and I was glad we carried all the extra clothes as we wore everything we had by then.

Covered in mud, we reached the Pouakai Hut after about two hours. Another side trip takes you to the Pouakai Tarns where on a good day, you can see a reflection of Mt Taranaki in the water. Or tackle the Pouakai Trig (1440m) – about 1.5hours return. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see anything and opted to skip the outing. Another hiker who thought she’d take the chance, incase the cloud opened up while she was there, came back quite disappointed. It was still cloudy and rainy and the tarn was so small, it takes (according to her) about two minutes to circumnavigate. And obviously no sign of any mountain, let alone a reflection. As Graeme pointed out the last time we did an event in the Naki – if you can’t see the mountain, it’s raining, and if you can see it, it’s going to rain. So, I figured the odd chance of having a good day as a tourist passing through, is next to nothing. You would probably have to do multiple crossings before you might be lucky enough to have a good day.

We stopped at the hut to boil water for soup. It was freezing outside on the porch, but we were too dirty from the mud as well as wet from the rain to go inside. After some hot soup, corn cakes, biltong, cheese and a couple of pieces of dark chocolate for desert, we were ready to head down the mountain. We nearly got a glimpse of what the view might be like from Pouakai Hut when the clouds almost opened up for a brief moment, just enough to see the farmlands way below.

Part three
From Pouakai Hut, the path meanders downhill all the way on a proper wooden boardwalk. Starting off in freezing temperatures, we could feel the air getting warmer the further we descended. The vegetation became thicker and finally you enter the forest again. The change in altitude also makes for a change in vegetation with the totara trees fairly far down towards sea level. It was still cloudy and therefore we had no view of Mt Taranaki, but the change underfoot makes this a totally different experience. Where the previous stretch was almost all uphill in ankle deep mud, this section was all the way downhill on a decent boardwalk. Total opposites.

Deon and Henriette kindly fetched us again at the bottom on a farm road. After a warm shower and clean, dry clothes, we were treated to lovely food, cosy by the heater.

The Pouakai Crossing (not to be confused with the Pouakai Circuit which is partially on the same tracks) is a nice one day hike. Maybe if we went in summer instead of winter, and maybe if we were lucky to have good weather, it might have been a different story, but truth be told (and at the risk of being a stick in the mud), I don’t think it is comparable to the Tongariro Crossing, or some of the Great Walks, as numerous news clippings and articles claim. I my view, and despite former Prime Minister Helen Clark‘s comment “it has the potential to rival the country’s Great Walks”, I don’t think it is quite in the same league as the others. Still, it is a nice walk, and worth the effort.

For a good course (and cause, of course)

For the past month or so, Gerry and I have been scouting trails and routes in the Tararuas for an Ultra event. Yep, we want to add another distance to the 25km North Range Traverse and 12.5km Hall Block Humdinger. A 50km Ultra, we thought, would nicely round off the offering.

It was suggested to us after last years event (thanks Michael), that we could maybe add South Range Road to North Range Road and some, to make an Ultra. We were very keen to get to the 50km mark and with South Range Road only about 14km long, and Sledge Track at about 3km from bottom to top, it meant we needed roughly 8-10km to get to 50. We tried from Scott’s Road side and from Kahuterawa, adding the Back Track etc, but nothing really added up to the right distance, or otherwise proved too difficult to access by bus, or too far to drive, to drop off participants.

But finally, we managed to solve the puzzle, and all the scouting these last few of months, from both sides of the mountain, finally paid off. Adding up the bits and pieces, I’m super stoked to announce that we’ve managed to find a fantastic 50km ultra course!

Starting at the Wairarapa side of the Tararuas (same side that the other courses start and finish), participants will be dropped off at the start of Naenae Road and make their way down the 2.85km gravel road to warm up and spread out the field a bit. After crossing a stream (about ankle to calf deep), the next 600m is mainly on farmland, which is very muddy and will no doubt be a mudfest in winter. Following the valley going up the mountain, the next 400m runs up the creek, zig-zagging through the water. It is a beautiful little gorge with numerous wee waterfalls, ferns and native forest. And then the big climb starts. For the next kilometre or so, you scramble up the new track (thanks to Ian Argyle!) that links the Wairarapa and Manawatu, until you reach the top of the mountain. This is a very technical, steep and difficult section. Not for the faint hearted, that’s for sure!

Once you reach the Otangane loop, you turn left to follow the loop track clockwise. This is an undulating stretch on top of the Tararuas with lovely views in all directions in the clearings. If you feel up to a couple of minutes detour, you could even make your way up Nipple Peak for a 360 degree view of the Manawatu and Wairarapa. After about 3km, you reach the connection track that takes you through to the Toe Toe loop track. Following the Toe Toe loop anti-clockwise for roughly 1.8km, you reach a side-track that takes you all the way to South Range Road. This marks the end of the most difficult and challenging section of the Ultra course. With the first few kilometres along Naenae Road on gravel road, and everything else from here also on gravel road, the terrain is for the most part very run-able, with the exception of the roughly 9km in the first quarter of the course.

Running on top of the Tararuas next to the water catchment area on South Range Road and then through the windfarm on North Range Road, makes for a beautifully scenic run. The stunning vistas and easy terrain underfoot for the last 39km, should add up to a very enjoyable Ultra.

Needless to say, adding an Ultra to our event offering is not something we take lightly. It will not be suitable to all abilities, mainly due to the very challenging section scurrying up the mountain. Being the middle of winter, could potentially also up the degree of difficulty a notch or two. But, we’ve found trail runners to be a staunch bunch and usually up for a challenge.

Currently we are thinking of having a drop-bag point at the first link up with South Range Road, where participants can change into dry shoes/socks/clothes for the remainder of the course. This will also double up as a aid station with portaloo.

Still a lot of detail to work out, but the course is set and that’s the main concern. It’s beautiful, totally do-able, a bit tough in sections, and maybe a bit exposed on the mountain, depending on the weather. A combination of trails and off-road. Should be a fun day out!

30-Hour haiku and photography ultra challenge

Date: 22-23 April 2017
Time: 30 hours
Venue: Mt Ruapehu foothills

A while ago Gerry mentioned that he is looking into ideas for research projects for work. Always up for a challenge of sorts, this endurance photography session immediately came to mind, and Gerry was happily on board. I thought it would be interesting to see what happens, creatively, when you get sleep deprived. I was also curious to know if I could stay awake for 30+ hours, something I have last done as a lazy as bum art student, cramming to get everything ready for the exams.

The plan: Gerry was to take a photo (only one, no retakes or fixing flops) every five minutes for 30 continuous hours, amounting to exactly 360 photos in total. To keep myself busy, I would take a photo of him every 10 minutes, as well as write a haiku. So I would total 180 portraits of Gerry and 180 haikus, as well as taking happy snappies, cooking, cleaning, feeding, etc. Can anyone spot the problem right there?

We decided that Mt Ruapehu would be the perfect spot. I can’t remember how it came to that, but I’m glad we did. We left Palmy on Saturday morning, thinking we will park at the Ohakune Mountain Road carpark and walk anti-clockwise on the Round the Mountain track for a few kilometres until we find a nice spot to start this adventure. Preferably somewhere where we would be alone and away from civilisation. But on the way there, we decided that walking from the Desert Road side might be nicer. What’s the use of a mind if you can’t change it. We weren’t sure which road leads to the Mangatepopo Hut and ended up accidentally taking the Tukina ski-field road instead, which turned out in our favour.

After parking, we started walking along a 4wd track up a massive hill for three kilometres until we reached the Round the Mountain track. Following the track anti-clockwise and having this great valley below with Mt Ruapehu towering in the back, we decided there and then to veer off of the track and just walk straight towards the mountain. We could see a stream coming from the mountain and thought that would be the ideal setting. We had everything we needed with us so all that was required was water, and the valley we were heading into looked perfect for the job. We pitched the tent, walked for a bit in all directions “checking out the scene”, before putting on all our warm clothes, pouring a tipple and firing up the billy for dinner.

By nine we were in our sleeping bags. It was very cold and I couldn’t bring myself to go out for any sort of ablutions. Even my minus 15-degree sleeping bag wasn’t up to the task and Gerry ended up wrapping his down jacket around my bum. Granted, the sleeping bag is at least 18 years old and as they say, after eight years the down starts to break down and don’t fluff up as much anymore. Be that as it may, we spent a very cold night without much sleep.

By 5:30am the billy was going again for some much needed hot coffee before the start of our ‘project’ at exactly 6am. Gerry got himself ready for his endeavour, and that was also the last time he set foot in the tent. Everything went well during the day, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the night would bring. At this time of year, we have roughly twelve hours daylight and twelve hours darkness, which is a challenge in itself. Apart from it being pitch black making photography more challenging, it was also bitterly cold. And with only about 1.1 litres of fuel for the camp stove, I was trying to pace our drinks and food consumption evenly through the 30 hours to make it last.

Gerry was going strong and I was surprised at how I wasn’t sleepy until very late into the night. Or rather, early the next morning. I watched the water droplets form into ice on the south side of the tent, while the damp on the northern side of the tent, including the ceiling of my “den” (a space I built in front of the tent with rocks, the tent front flap and a tarp), started to drip onto everything. And from firing up the stove every so often for hot food, coffee, cup-o-soup, tea, etc, the damp started to drip onto everything. And every time I got in or out from my den, I got more wet from the condensation and ice on everything.

I was cold despite a lot of clothes. I’ve had it much worse on other occasions, however, so by comparison this was probably not as bad. But, for a huge part of the time, I wore a polyprop vest, thin down jacket, fleece top (with hood), as well as a super-duper thick Mountain Design down jacket top layer. For bottoms, I wore thick fleece-type underpants and a ski/snow pant on top of that. Two buffs and two beanies (as well as the hoodie), two pairs of socks and thick gloves (which had to come off whenever I tried to do anything, which was most of the time).

Having to wash dishes in, or fetching water from the freezing cold mountain stream, turned into another challenge. But the most difficult part was to get Gerry to find time to eat and drink. I would be searching for him (also having to take a photo of him every 10 minutes) while he’s roaming the valley, so ended up regularly running backwards and forwards between the tent and wherever he was. Taking food or coffee or whatever to him, holding it as he can only eat or drink small bits between composing and taking the next pic every five minutes, before making my way back to the tent or stream to wash dishes etc. Sadly, it all proved too challenging and I couldn’t keep up with my haiku’s and photos, and therefore stopped at 139, shortly after 23 hours in.

However, Gerry was going strong and we had some fun in the night playing with the fairy lights to create fireballs and stuff. Some light entertainment to keep us going. 🙂 I was amazed at how he managed to just get on with it right until the 30 hours were up. Five minutes can feel like an eternity when you have your scene all sorted out and are ready to take the photo, but when you’re searching for your next subject, time flies by in the wink of an eye.

It was watching Hunting for the Wilder People that made me decide that writing haikus on this trip would make for a nice challenge.

A haiku is a short Japanese poem. It consists of three lines with a 5-7-5 pattern, measured in the English language as syllables. Each poem will, therefore, have 17 syllables. They are also known as mood poems, don’t use any metaphors, and the lines rarely thyme. Usually, they also have a seasonal reference.

Following below are my haikus, depicting the moments in time out in the cold desert.

1.
Six Dawn Early start
A cold night in the mountain
What will the day bring

2.
Cold cold freezing cold
Fingers numb Snow-capped mountain
Can’t wait for warm tea

3.
And icy light breeze
Morning star and silver moon
Tea is almost done

4.
Busy little stream
Yo La Tengo in my head
Too cold for a pee

5.
Turquoise and orange
Is the early morning sky
Gerry on his knees

6.
Waiting for the sun
Frozen droplets on the tent
My toes are still numb

7.
Kilimanjaro
this is a great memory
What are we doing

8.
Shadows long and tall
How are we going to make
The next thirty hours

9.
Frooze balls for breakfast
The sun has started to melt
the ice on our tent

10.
Alison to start
Don’t you weep pretty baby
The sun is out now

11.
Losing my marbles
And the day is still brand new
One and a half done

12.
The sun’s shining bright
Will we make it through the night
Why not fly a kite

13.
Photos and haiku’s
Three hundred and sixty and
Hundred and eighty

14.
Haiku haiku eh
A photo every five
Minutes of the day

15.
The sun is so warm
It is hard to believe the
Night was so damn cold

16.
Now that it’s sunny
A hot brew in my tummy
Life can’t be better

17.
Up close she looks small
The highest mountain of all
on this wee island

18.
There’s no need for rhyme
They come a dozen a dime
Spider on his web

19.
Once upon a time
A man caught a fat big fly
In his glass of wine

20.
Anti-clockwise on
To change the camera lens
for a macro shot

21.
What am I doing
Blue blue blue blue blue blue blue
The morning sky hue

22.
Gerry is looking
For his next great photograph
Spiders rocks water

23.
The ice has melted
Soft sand in the harsh desert
I’d like more coffee

24.
Have to force one out
Snowy mountain ice cold stream
What’s this all about

25.
If this was a run
I would be halfway through a
marathon by now

26.
It was my mother’s
Birthday yesterday and I
Was in the mountain

27.
Why is it so hard
To find a rock to sit on
Thinking of Swiss chard

28.
This is a haiku
Five-seven-five in a line
Syllables that is

29.
The sun in my back
Rock stone snow is all I see
No I am lying

30.
Where did Gerry go
All alone in the desert
just my thoughts and I

31.
Evidence is there
We are but a speckle here
In this vast landscape

32.
Tiny little birds
Are following us around
Where is the olive

33.
Time is on my side
Three doors in rites of passage
Where are we going

34.
Life is a sad song
It is winter all along
The watchtower

35.
Lying on the ground
The sun shines brightly on you
Where to point and shoot

36.
Mount Ruapehu
What a pretty sight to see
Up jumps the cricket

37.
One fifth through the run
If it was a hundred miler
Must be time for lunch

38.
Cheese and salami
On corn cakes will see us through
On a winter noon

39.
The Kaimanawas
Where the wild horses roam free
Thirsty for water

40.
The cleanest water
Straight from the mountain belly
Fill my heart and soul

41.
On the horizon
Like galloping wild horses
Clouds came rolling in

42.
Where will all this lead
This is not an ultra run
But a test no less

43.
Seven hours in
Contemplating the subject
Flies eat morsels food

44.
Aim focus and shoot
Searching for the next angle
Powerful mountain

45.
Panoramic view
Earth sky mountain high above
This is what we do

46.
Tiny little bug
Take a photo take a pic
Never to be seen

47.
Not another soul
Just the two of us alone
And the cold desert

48.
The three muses sing
No other loving baby
Washing in the stream

49.
How strange is this day
An ominous ski helmet
In the barren land

50.
Footprints in the sand
We had not alone tread thus
Someone else was here

51.
Just the two of us
Maybe it will start to snow
Cold cold winters night

52.
Desert it may be
But there’s life in abundance
Fly away with me

53.
Green moss everywhere
Near creeks and streams seeking life
This is desert land

54.
How cold will it be
After dark tonight will we
Make it out alive

55.
Little waterfall
All day long you beckon us
Now we see you clear

56.
This million wee legs
A spider and her babies
Hope the tent is closed

57.
Up the creek we go
Spot a green fern on the way
Got to get away

58.
Why can we not stay
Clouds are gathering behind
Wind chill must be null

59.
Cold is streaming in
Eyes and nose are watering
Need to start the stove

60.
Soon it will be dark
We are so far far away
Another picture

61.
Night is drawing near
Imposing rocks towering
Way above our heads

62.
Come quick come quickly
A white snake between the rocks
Bite it in the tail

63.
Blue sun sky white cloud
Will we make it through the night
You worry you die

64.
It’s hard to keep up
Writing cooking making tea
I can see my breath

65.
Coffee nice and warm
How many cups will we have
Til the crack of dawn

66.
The sun’s setting fast
Nothing good ever lasts eh
Whisky will not help

67.
Endurance built it
Oh when will we run again
Over rolling hills

68.
Cold earth under me
Hope the wind can stay away
In my den I’m warm

69.
With green tarp and stone
My shelter is completely
Haven in the cold

70.
Rough is this here land
Tough and rumble no ones friend
How long has it been

71.
Blurry mountain not
Manfrotto strong and sturdy
That’s how you do it

72.
Approaching twelve hours
Not even half way there yet
Will be dark real soon

73.
My ears are glowing
What happened to the sunblock
I applied today

74.
As darkness wraps us
The horizon is light blue
How cold will it be

75.
Not much sleep last night
Twelve hours until morning light
Maybe clouds tonight

76.
Cup-a-soup so good
Darkness all around us now
Let the games begin

77.
Damp wet cold dark night
You’re so far away from me
I am not sleepy

78.
No moon just darkness
Except for my face which is
Glowing in the dark

79.
Double socks two pants
One a snow pant made for cold
It’s been a long day

80.
My pretty sunshine
Super duper down jacket
In the cold cold ground

81.
I lose track of time
In the mountains so pretty
But what can I say

82.
Need to start din-dins
Salami beans onion and mash
Will we be warm though

83.
Can’t wait for morning
Why do I fear the darkness
Mountains all around

84.
Need to fetch water
Very very icy cold
The stream in the dark

85.
Mice ants and spiders
Scorpions and snakes you get
Fish river canyon

86.
Damp rise from the ground
By morning it will be ice
Another cold night

87.
Zigzag booby track
Don’t you dare to break a leg
Food is on the way

88.
Homegrown beans still hard
How long before we can eat
Stove pot kerosene

89.
Dear God up above
Please protect us through the night
We are but a speck

90.
Homegrown beans still hard
It’s been a hard day’s hard night
Hope time flies quick-smart

91.
In freezing waters
The dishes must be washed
The night is still young

92.
We had fun with lights
Fairy lights make twirls and curls
Tired we will be

93.
Eight hours before dawn
What will get us through the night
Cold cold winter night

94.
My ears are alight
The headlamp strap is too tight
Time for more coffee

95.
Kerosene please last
Us through the wintery night
Blood back in fingers

96.
Alone in the dark
Help me make it through the night
Chocolate and coffee

97.
Don’t go too far dear
No time to take a wee break
The desert is cold

98.
How I wish this was
Rather a hundred miler
Endurance for sure

99.
Keep on keeping on
Long still is the night ahead
Time waits for no man

100.
What am I thinking
Chock n block and chocolate block
What’s the difference

101.
To run run run run
To run run away from you
Into the mountain

102.
Where did the clouds go
Not many to start off with
Just crisp mountain air

103.
Seven shooting stars
Follow the star trails tonight
What will we do next

104.
I have to wonder
How many souls are in tents
Tonight in this cold

105.
We have to be mad
Ice drops covering the tent
And yet here we are

106.
Over halfway through
Now to test our stamina
Very cold very cold very

107.
What to photograph
In the middle of the night
I have been colder

108.
What is this madness
Tomorrow night we will sleep
Like newborn babies

109.
Sleep monster don’t come
Only six more hours to dawn
The ground is frozen

110.
Four layers clothing
Two down jackets not enough
Dusk will also come

111.
How cold can it be
Let me count the ways tonight
Sing song ding-a-long

112.
How cold can it be
Minus seven minus ten
Maybe even more

113.
The Michelin man
If only I was orange
New moon dark dark dark

114.
South side frozen stiff
North side of tent dripping wet
How weird is nature

115.
Haiku psycho poem
Snow wind on the mountain top
Go fly to the moon

116.
Surely this won’t last
Thirty hours of haiku
Hope to last to dawn

117.
Time please fly please fly
Don’t you wish your life away
Only for tonight

118.
A pain in my neck
Stay away you have to stay
Noisy stream all day

119.
Cold cold cold cold cold
How easy to just give up
Sleep beautiful sleep

120.
I have no more words
It is hard to imagine
How to stay awake

121.
I can see each breath
So cold so very very
Where is my mojo

122.
Sunday night Monday
I wonder what will happen
Four hours from now

123.
My legs are frozen
It is so bitterly cold
Earth sea sky but why

124.
We might just make it
A billy with hot water
For another brew

125.
Good morning sunshine
How difficult can it be
This is not too bad

126.
For good neck cover
A hoody is a great thing
Snowy mountain high

127.
What will we run next
On road off road long or short
Only time will tell

128.
Two-thirds through darkness
Bhuja, nuts, tea and olives
Biltong and marshies

129.
Just a few more hours
Til dawn have us excited
Jump for joy jump jump

130.
Do not close your eyes
You are not asleep for sure
Cold wind coming in

131.
Obscuring the stars
Clouds are rolling in from east
Will it bring the rain

132.
Starting to see things
Did that stone just move a bit
Sleepy sleepy head

133.
Four in the morning
Help me make it through the night
No more words from me

134.
Once upon a time
There was a crooked donkey
Hee haw hee hi ho

135.
Why do we need sleep
Sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep
Tomorrow will come

136.
Thirty hours long
Taking photos and write poems
Will we reach the goal

137.
Yellow sickle moon
Rise up on the horizon
Yawn yawn yawn yawn yawn

138.
No more words is there
Haiku hiatus my friend
Take my word for it

139.
Come quick dear sun come
Brighten up the day and smile
Like I know you can

140.
It is hard to sit

And this is where it bolted to an abrupt end. It just so happened. Boiling water for coffee and again for soup not long after, finding Gerry in the dark, freezing my butt off, being sleep deprived, resulted in the slip-up. And on top of that, being completely preoccupied with the fact that it was still dark long after six, while I was 100% sure it was light the previous morning before six, contributed to the fact that before I knew it, I missed a few haikus. I think I just lost my marbles there for a bit, angry at the sun for not rising quicker. Amazing what lack of sleep can do to your mind.

I then roamed again with Gerry for a bit around the valley, before starting to pack up. The idea was to stay another night, but we were cold and dirty and weren’t thinking straight, so I got things ready to make our way back to the car as soon as Gerry took his last photo by 12 noon. Although we were only about five kilometres from the car, the heavy packs, rocky terrain and hill, made sure we got a good workout.

When we do this exercise again (yes, we will most certainly do it again), we’ll tweak and streamline a few things. As is often the case with doing something for the first time, this was a huge learning curve.

We had a lot of food and snacks left over as I was certain we would be ravenous throughout the night. But not at all. I didn’t have much of an apatite, and I realise now that to keep your nutrition and hydration up throughout the night during a 100-mile event, will be a challenge. This exercise was partly to see how we might go at the staying awake part of a 100-miler. With only two off-road 100 mile events in NZ (that I know of) – the Great Naseby and the Northburn – we’ll try to give one or both a try next year maybe. Just to be able to stay awake is 90% of the battle won, so I figured this sort of thing would be good training for a 100-miler. 🙂

But now first to get motivated and get back on the road. Coming back from nearly nothing is going to be hard work and a lot of effort. Especially having to work on my strength and mobility. I’ve realised that for me to do any form of long distance running in the future will take much more effort than just going out for a trot around the neighbourhood most days of the week.