So exactly a week after pulling out of The Hillary with Foot of Doom it’s time for what promises to be a blast with another new race; The Riverhead Rampage. For those that don’t know, Riverhead is north of Auckland and is situated on a lovely lazy old river (estuary?) where there is a historic Tavern (although the food was pretty sucky) and a wonderful brewery called Hallertau (where the beer is AWESOME).
Any race that has the word Rampage in it, has free beer and is sponsored by a brewery plus is run by someone as genuinely great as Matt Rayment is a definite even if I spend the days leading up to it hobbling.
Yeah the foot is a worry ,,,,still painful in a boring, dull, painful way. Not sure what’s up but I had this when I got bad bruising a couple of years ago in training so i’m just hoping its that. End of the day a Dr would say don’t run and like that’s gonna happen….dumb suggestion imaginary Dr.
So up and get some Panadol in me and some Mama Chia (Apple and Cinammon and felt more like a snack than a wonder food) and head north to take on Riverhead.
The weather is beautiful – a late burst of summer as autumn rolls over the isthmus (just wanted to get the word isthmus in there) of Auckland. And I get there waaaay too early I realise as I see Matt running around the roads in an orange fluoro vest doing organising like tasks.
So park at Riverhead School and chill with a bit of Carter USM on the ipod. Old school I know. Popping over to register i’m keen to get me one of the RR trucker caps sported by many and I buy the very last 1 from the head of the women doing race numbers. I confess to her I’ve never actually bought something off someone before but she’s keen and who am I to stop her.
Clutching my new 2nd hand hat, my number 3003, my free beer token and a copy of Super Generic Girl’s new Trail Running magazine I head back to the car til the team assemble. I’d describe giving these magazines to every runner free as a supreme skilful deft piece of marketing – SGG says it is that and also they have no choice they HAVE to have the mag whether they like it or not. So I guess skill in marketing all depends on how you look at it. Blanket bombing is another term I guess. (it’s good though so kiwis go get it – inserted in Wilderness Mag).
Slowly the whanau start assembling and we’re all there – the whole crew – Glenn is injured, i’m injured, SGG is typically injured, Carl is a bit broken by the last 3 weeks and Rodliffe just ran a 34minute 10KM 2 days earlier after ridiculous good finishes in all his races. Situation normal: we’re all set.
(Trail Running Selfie – probably a 1st)
Matt gets us all cued up in the sun with a very Kiwi briefing – seriously i’d love for folks who worry about these things hear some of our briefings in NZ. Harden the fuck up could be used and then someone fires a horn: it’d amount to the same thing – brilliant.
And before we know it we’re off. The 21km is a pretty grunty loop up through private land into forest single track with some sweet technical and clay descents, ugly climbs and undulating running around a ridge (i’d had quite enough by the end of that) combined with some gravel forest roads. The temperature is up and folks seem tired but having a good old blast around the loop. Considering that many many folk are coming down from Tarawera, The Dual, The Hillary or in some cases all 3 it’s fun to be in a race which doesn’t feel like folk might die from exhaustion or have to carry their entire house on their backs.
My run goes so – so. I’m keen to just run it and not do any further damage to the foot. I neck a couple more pain killers before setting off and hope.
I’m just behind Andy and Rob as we climb the first big hill but the foot and my lungs aren’t in it and I drop back. Over the next 18km or so it’s a case of walk the big hills, ignore the foot and then run the downhills and flats ignoring the foot. I’m joined by Forsyth and we make a good yo-yo duo as we pass and pass each other but it’s good to hear his voice and laughter and stop to take pics of him. Definitely calms down my mental state which is screaming to really run this thing and stop being a coward.
As we come down the last hill into the finish I wait up for Forsyth to come alongside so we can run in together – great to be able to cross the line as a pair. The crew are there – Carl is tightening up a bit. SGG gets in and is stoked at no injuries and a good run although she later rolls her ankle at the brewery car park – go figure.
My favourite bit of today was definitely the crew – love the banter, love the group watching out for each other and sharing the odd and crazy thoughts we all have. Nodding at people with bleeding limbs that they didn’t notice, laughing at wet wipes at the end. Love this stuff.
Off to Hallertau Brewery for my reward beer and meet my girls but I never stay around for prize giving (assume they’re all being stored for me somewhere) so it’s off to lunch with a 4 pack of Hallertau Number 2 tucked under my arm, a hobble in my step and big assed grin across my face!
Long weekend in Aotearoa this weekend so time for a little RnR. Not bloody likely….full on family day on Saturday, plus shopping, plus dropping into the office to download some docs…….but at least a chance to sleep in….until 2am when the noodle appears asking for a glass of water. Kids have some inbuilt ability to sense when you most need rest – of this i’m convinced.
Still it’s a big day – because entries opened for the 2014 Tarawera Ultra….i’m there poised at 11am and manage to snag Number 6 on the registration….if this materialises into my racing number this will be the lowest number I’ve ever had! How exciting. Even more exciting to think that now things get real and there’s a big hairy audacious goal out there for me to aim at. Suddenly that 2nd glass of wine at dinner looks a bit wreckless.
On Facebook Inov8 give my Birkenhead trail run a tout which is a very pleasant and unexpected surprise so despite not running it’s a day filled with good things in the running area.
Today I was therefore determined to get out and hit the road ahead of running trail tomorrow. And I did. And my god…. road running is a bloody grind.
From the house in the wee small hours I head out to run up Mount Eden and then on to One Tree Hill and it was a good 2.5 hours of work out. However, despite an amazing sunrise over the Coromandel and Rangitoto i’m afraid that it was one of the dullest runs I’ve done in months……
My view this am – just add sunrise.
I had my tunes, I had some good hills, lush views and I had the nods and knowing looks of the sporty kiwis – over 20 runners this am – and yet it was an effort to drag myself around the place. Now face me uphill on a cold wet day in the bush with no comforts and definitely no ipod and my heart skips a beat and i’ll be tearing off into it. The roads i’m afraid just don’t do it. Roll on tomorrow am.
No idea why I’ve started a blog! A whole bunch of reasons strike me; recording my mileage and random thoughts as I run around this lovely landscape that is NZ, posterity for Anouk to read some day and somewhere to get all the crap down in my head without expecting Facebook feedback.
Let’s try a quick write up on running the Routeburn Classic I ran last weekend as a starter.
The Routeburn track…my goodness what a weird long crazy day. I recall vividly, almost too vividly running The Routeburn Classic in 2012…off the high of competing in Cure Kids I didn’t really have any sense of what was/wasn’t achievable and so threw myself into it. All up I lucked out although I only realise that now a year later as rain lashes NZ and snow dusts the tops of the mountains way lower than last year. In 2012 we were picked up at the airport, put up in deluxe accom, ferried around in a friend’s Range Rover and the weather was better than perfect. Bone dry track…..this year not so much.
That said i’m not moaning. This year’s track was gnarly and I loved it.
So Martin Morrisson, Rachel Turney and I met up in lovely Queenstown on Friday and after comparing notes all met at 6am Saturday to head out to the heliport. For the 2nd year in a row we were first there – us keen? No surely not. The weather was low cloud and pretty wet so the room soon filled with antsy racing types all talking about the weather and where the choppers could drop us off if they couldn’t get all the way in to the trailhead. Then light broke and we were off. Chopper No.2 this year.
Smooth ascent and then as we approached the snow capped Remarkables we hit the weather. Man talk about turbulence – some awesome drops as we hit the winds gusting up the side of the rock faces and everyone was pretty quiet. Being in a helicopter (even when you’re contemplating how long you’d survive on a snowy mountainside post crash) is exhilarating. The landscape dramatically plunges this way and that and you are both closer than you’ll ever be in a plane and yet able to speed over features. All too soon we were down in the valley at the start of the Routeburn.
Dropped off we walked up to the mustering area and then immediately turned around to trudge back to the start. My head is always a cluster at this point – trying to be calm, anticipating the run, crapping myself that I haven’t done enough training, worrying about needing the loo, more Glide, more something. It’s rare (at Tarawera) that I enter a zen like calm however cruisy I look on the outside.
Took off my rain jacket – I’ve learnt all too well that the cold I am feeling now will be gone in 1km and I hate being stranded watching runners pass me by as I struggle to get my clothing into my pack. Good wishes all round and then we’re off. Not sure I got to choose my race class – think it was Jedi – gotta love funky self selecting race categories
The Routeburn. I’ve visualised it so much in my head the last year since running it that I know the course inside out – i’m not sure how that happens but I think it’s something to do with a heightened sense of fear on a new trail – I absorb so much of it – way more than I do any street or office.
The first 7 km or so is single trail all up through what I think of as regular Kiwi trail – some technical stuff but mostly grind and lovely ferns, trees and overhang. No views this year as the cloud is well down and it’s grit your teeth and walk when you have to walk which in my life is a lot. Up and up. Then you hit a series of undulating flats until you arrive at the waterfall. I don’t know the name of this waterfall but this year it was ridiculous. Last year it was a surprise as you stumble towards it and “Oh there’s a pretty sweet mountain waterfall”. This year you were blown away by it….The spray reached out 15 feet soaking you instantly to the skin in ice cold water. The quiet-ish crowd suddenly erupts in wooops and woaaahs. One woman is crouched down getting a coat out and another is trying to photograph it. Me i’m happy to have my shower and run through to join damp trail again.
Blindingly awake now I hit my favourite part of the Routeburn. There’s a very technical downhill section for about 2kms to a point between the 2 sides of the valley(can you tell I never learn place names) and it’s just a joy to run for me. I LOVE mashing it downhill, I love running with trees around me and I love technical running. Give me a million wet tree roots, drop offs and loose wet stones….basically any chance to break an arm or an ankle and i’m happy as. I’m behind another guy and he too is clearly into it – we’re passing groups of 3-4 folk who are stumbling slowly picking their way down. ‘I love this shit’ I say to him and I do. We chat as we spring down the track dropping off roots a few feet, tip toeing over loose rocks til we bottom out in the valley get checked by officials and then head up and up the next big climb.
Last year climbing up to the Harris Saddle (OK I remembered that name) was hell – it was bloody endless and my legs were already thrashed by the first 10km with 22km to go. I remember standing off to let a ton of folk pass me sucking on a gel and thinking this just wont end – it’s going to be uphill to the end, i’m doomed. This time I know the track, I know it goes on a while but knowing that makes it shorter and I start to count people passing me. 6 folk get by me. But by the time I’ve used the flat sections on top to catch up i’m back ahead of where I was when I started the ascent – a minor victory in a series of wins and losses that define any run for me.
One thing I learnt reading Dean Karnazes is to think of my body as a machine mid race. When i’m racing I try to switch off all the negative feedback shit that the body just does – hey let’s stop, hey this hurts, hey you could be having a beer right now on a beach…..ok defer that to the end and forget the beach – it’s a grind folks. So I try to do what Dean does – start at the feet and work up doing an inventory. I’m actually in ok shape but I note that my fingers are swollen and I feel nauseous. Finger swelling is either due to salt imbalance or altitude, nausea is likely altitude too. So throw an electrolyte capsule down me (good for cramps anyway) and forget about it – not much I can do about the altitude folks. Right shin is bruised up and cut from a scrape but nothing serious Blackburn ….so get your head in the game and onwards.
Crossing the saddle I feel pretty wasted. A tramper stops me and asks to take a photo of him which I do. It’s the first time I’ve ever been asked by a non runner to take a photo of them mid race so it kind of cheers me up.
Do you ever get crap on repeat in your head when you run? I do. Snatches of songs loop – I remember Alabama 3 at Tarawera….today it’s Lloyd Cole’s Lost Weekend which I don’t know when I last heard which just loops in my head. Try to tune it out and focus on my breathing and now I’m across the saddle on running fast and light on the descent.
Back to descending – loving it. Crashing over the rocks but they’re way more slippery than last year. Into the last 10km past the huts at the start of the treeline and through the undulations. Get chatting with some guy about my shoes (innov8 220s – I love them so very very very much) and he and I tag team until he runs out of steam a couple of KMs from the end. I’m into it now and running down stragglers picking up 6 or 7 people in the last few K. Then there is the finish – a bloody killer uphill – thanks organisers – and i’m done. 4hrs 26 – about 12 minutes faster than 2012 and considering the conditions i’m happy with that. Mal Law is there with a busted wrist – he came in sub 4 the lucky bugger and I think i’ll have to beat you next time bud. Aaron Carter also runs in which is a nice surprise. Martin is 5hrs 24 and he looks wasted and happy and Rach is about 20 mins later which is taking an hour + off her time. Awesome running peeps.
The coach ride back to QTown is brutal – cramped up and exhausted. Rach is looking pretty grim and settles into recovery. I sleep and then just sit silently wishing it were over. Dropped off at the city centre we walk up the road to the hotel for 15 minutes looking a shambles. Bath, shower then out to have Mexican food. Tequila shots and Pacifico are not what i’d recommend for post race rehydration but they’re a lot of fun – another lesson learnt and yet I think the tequila may become a post race tradition…… asleep by 9pm. Great day, great trail. Not sure i’ll do it next year as i’d really like to try for the North Face 100 in Oz around the same time…. but we’ll see……. and so ends blog entry #1 🙂
ps Thanks to Martin Morrisson for the Photos – dude did you even run at all?