Category: Hillary

Running with believers… time for fever

Or on not completing the inaugural Hillary Ultramarathon…..


It’s been an age since I’ve written, a ridiculous amount of time. Sadly it’s basically life overwhelming the chance to write, chaos of last year’s Xbox launch taking over spare space in my life. Why am I back now typing? Well I’m sat here this morning having had my first ever DNF with a kind of detached grim observation of my mental states…..anyways i’m getting ahead of myself….where have I been since I last wrote…..

Unlike many folk I admire in the patchy beautiful trail running world, I have to lead this kind of normal life as a parent, husband, worker and all the usual stresses that go with providing or others … so running, as much as it’s integral to who I am, tends to have to fit in alongside all the other things…..

Last year was epic with a small crack(ed) team launching Xbox One in New Zealand (which broke us) and absorbing all of my free time – and a great deal of the non free time. Cut forward to early December, post launch and Super Generic Girl and I chatting on Facebook leading to me joining a team of crazies to run the 300KM relay Papakura to The Mount (go see Super Generic Girl’s write ups). Out of shape with a minimal few kms under my ample belt I was back in the game grinding through a fun 24 hours of exhaustion, road running and more drama than a year of Game of Thrones compressed into 1 small rental van in a day….with running shoes.

So I was hooked in again and I knew looming on the horizon like some big god-awful all seeing eye of Sauron (hmmm too many fantasy references?) was the Tarawera Ultra Marathon…..

My first Tarawera was an example of disciplined training, diet and focus. This year was a delayed grab bag of random runs and trying to lose some weight and also spend time with my family. Basically a mess. Over a 3 week December period I ran in the north of New Zealand, on the sweet trails of Rotorua and also for a few days managed to get up on the ridges in the Coromandel. It was there under the towering Kauris with thunderstorms rolling overhead, the sea in the distance on pretty crappy trails that I fell back into the groove…, nature, often lost, no idea, running, climbing….just as it should be. Home.

In the run up the TUM I spent a fair amount of my trail running days with my new found crew, the self named Special Ones (and that aint special in a good way) and had some lovely nights and mornings bombing about tunnels deep in the bush, over hills and through valleys to the sound of laughter and panting. I saw V roll an ankle when we were out running on Rangitoto and did the hospital run with her and FT, I dressed as Santa to run in the rain with a few thousand other crazies and I had a surprise birthday cake and beers in the car park of Arataki Visitor centre on the ridge line of the Waitakeries. I’d accidentally and luckily landed in a loose group of other runners who as Glenn noted were also a family out there. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling.

Cut forward to the TUM. Different from last year – not down there solo turning up for the bare minimum but now surrounded by buddies, text messages and facebook updates flying as rumours and changes fly as Cyclone Lusi descends on NZ ultimately shortening the course and yet again stopping me from seeing Kawerau. Next year?

Tarawera…..what a beautiful disaster of a race. I’m not ready. I’ve got my technical level back up on the trails and managed 1x60KM run on tarmac. I’m not ready. So lets go.

photos4sale_thank_you VTUM_004078 VTUM_007543 VTUM_016981

It’s shortened to 70km and that could be a good thing for me….. I know I have the Hillary hanging over me but lets not think about that now. The first 5km is fast and i’m trying to reign myself in….take it easy, pace it, always my problem. Then I start feeling intense nausea – weird – something that never happens to me. For the next 40km I feel myself going backwards as I deal with stomach cramps. If I throw up then i’m not going to be able to complete this bastard course.

Then it seems to clear and I can start getting some gels in me and more than a mere sip of water at a time. Game on. I start catching back the folks who passed me and as I hit technical muddy descents I just heave myself down them skidding, wooping and jumping at breakneck speed. It’s bliss.

Then 5km out from the end as I hit a flat my left foot catches something – a rock? – and bends a little and click. My foot is screwed, something deep in that bone cage just clicked. I limp and run in the last few kms with a few pain killers thrown down my throat to get me there. Bugger.

For the next 2 weeks it’s off to the US to work, pick up my first GPS watch – a Garmin Fenix – and only 1 light 7-8km run with the snow capped Olympics in the distance on a Arctic blue cold day. Home to sub tropical NZ and I manage a quick 10km but the pain in my foot is like a constant nag; you’re not fixed, you’re pretty broken.  The day before the Hillary i’m limping when I wake up…..should I do this race? Nope but it’s my home track and it’s the first ever race and it’s The Hillary. No way i’m not toeing the start line.

And so it begins and for the first 10-12km the pain is bearable but the pain pills I had when I woke at 4am soon wear off and I know as I down the next 2 and limp up the trail that this isn’t looking good…..when I get cramp in my right leg from favouring my left and i’m at 18km…..yeah it’s game over – there’s still 60km to go…….

So thanks to some good sorts who came to an aid station just to see if they could help out (thanks lovely Laingholm couple whoever you were!) i’m out of the race, out of the bush and in 90 minutes at home in a deep warm bath with a novel and coffee. Feeling relieved, depressed, happy, despicable, gutted. In a couple of hours of course i’m in the car heading to the finish at Muriawai to keep an eye out for The Special Ones feeling a part of this event and not a part of it all. An odd and strange range of emotions.
And so. And so.

I’m back. Sort of. And maybe i’m back and writing. It’s not the glorious return to running i’d want but it’s all my own. Never having been really injured it’s a strange thing to try and accept. And i know I wont. Riverhead Rampage is next weekend – i’ll be there and hope the foot get’s it’s shit together. I dont have any deep insights i’m afraid – this aint no self help guide. But I guess there is some kind of lesson in there….when the world gives you lemons find some alcohol that works well with them as a post run beverage.

For now limping on.