Top Waenga

I don’t have to run big long hard brutal events any more, and that is somewhat of a relief. Mal Law had made a post about how difficult he found this years’ Vibram Tarawera and how little he enjoyed it. I made a cheeky remark that 100km races weren’t fun but 160km was. I have changed my mind. Some 35km into Saturday’s run I had already begun to hurt. Everything had started well enough and had gone exactly as I’d expected it too. Marty, Dennis and I ran together for the 1st hour before Marty got his game face on and showed what he is capable of.

We hit the best part of the course, the off track section between Middleton’s, Shrek and Top (see map and table of locations below) that often resembled a moonscape yet contained some of the most delicious water I’ve tasted. Dennis and I quickly picked off, Ray Sanchez, Shona Stevenson and Glenn Sutton and found ourselves running happily, talking about rubbish and generally enjoying the place. The downhill came and I’d hoped to run to my strengths. Instead it hurt and the realisation came over me that I no longer wanted or needed to test myself in such a way and with that simple clear thought and a suggestion to turn left instead of right. I walked off the course. The next 48 hours were some of the most enjoyable I’ve had at an event.

Section between Shrek and Top © Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

Section between Shrek and Top
© Lyndon Marceau / marceauphotography

Immediately after wandering into the start finish area Tom (Pinckney, owner) dragged me off with my bike to go in search of Matheus Rafagnin. Matt was suffering from an unexplained loss of vision, perhaps it was the wind, but he couldn’t see the track or the track markings well enough to keep going. The plan was to ride with him for the last 7km but he stumbled straight into the truck as he was unable to see more that large fuzzy shapes. So I enjoyed a downhill MTB to Mirror and waited for Ann to come through.

Little Annie had a perfect day, barely possible goal of 7:30 for the 50k. So while she got a bit grumpy that I was around to give her a shitty pep talk she managed to battle her way home in 7:25 and win the 50k by an hour from her training partner. They both trained well and it was great to be around to see them finish instead of being up near Mt Horn somewhere talking more shit with Dennis who had completed the 1st 50k in my target time of 6:15ish and sitting in 2nd place.

Next up were the kids 1.5km events. Miss 8 was in tears when the toddler’s race went off as she thought she’d missed her start. So it was much joy when she worked out what had happened, ran her race and nearly caught the girl in 1st with a big sprint finish.  I managed to run up high and get some pictures of Ollie during the rock scramble. Later in the afternoon I was ordered out by Terry (Race Director) to clear up the markings. This is the toughest, most brutal and fun kids course I have ever seen. Multiple deep (for little ones) stream crossings, rock scrambles, steep hiking and fast running. All the kids were buzzing at the end which included medals and a podium for the place getters. Far from putting kids in Cotton wool, they were allowed to explore, have an adventure and get the occasional scratch and bruise.
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After a shower then dinner with both sets of Grandparents (thank you) it was time for the 5/10k night runs. Ollie had been looking forward to this for a week. We thought he was too tired, but a quivering lower lip at the thought of not running saw me standing on the line with him. How much fun does a 10 year old have running with his dad, at night, on trails? A LOT. He power hiked the climbs, hands on knees all Kilian Jornet style while I struggled, and then hammered the long downs (I really struggled). He doesn’t say a lot, but the grin on his face said it all. He won, outright as most were doing 10k, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he feels good about himself, had a lot of fun and loves to be out running. “Daddy I need to go to bed now.” He was shattered, the good kind of shattered that we all love to feel.

Ollie Podium Samantha Podium

At 10pm a Quick trip to Ewe/Loop Bottom to swap and drive some marshalls back. I find Croyden Paton, high as a kite, he’s just killed a rabbit with his poles.

Martin Lukes had come and gone for his 3rd Loop by now. He was well on track for a sub 24 hour time. How much under we could only guess at. Fatigue had to slow him at some point. But 22 and even as low as sub 21 looked possible. So with the thought that if I saw him finish I may well end up with no sleep, I retired for a 90 minute nap. Up again before 2am where I found Emma and Rachael the comms team still at it. No campervan for them to nap in this year. At around 2:30am Marty arrived at Brewery, 10k from the finish. So I was back on my bike to ride out and see him. He duly arrived, shattered his course record with 22:09 and went to sleep.

More riding was on the cards to check on Keiron and Shona  as they finished their runs. Some coverage for BCR and short videos for each to say hi to their families. For Shona that meant saying hi to her kids (6 and 8) who were up at 4am in Sydney waiting for the result. That is one of the fun parts of BCR coverage, allowing people to share their events with family and friends far away. Grant and Jane are doing a great job and sharing the sport.

More friends arrived at the finish but next on the cards was a need from Tom to replace the marshall up at TW. I pleased that Tom and Terry feel they can flog me and fill the gaps when they open. One of the biggest challenges at Northburn is managing the time frames of the course. It’s big and very very long. 48 hours is an exceptionally long time to manage volunteers. Between 6 and 24 hour marks approximately 80km of track are open and marshalled. Only the ignorant would ask for the 1st 50k to be reopened and volunteers to stay out for another day.

So I find myself at 11 am (29 hours) at TW. There were ~15 people who needed to pass through here on their final laps. It was windy, cold and they were tired. They’d all been on the go for 30 hours. All bar one are the most vibrant and positive people I have seen on a course. There is no doubt that any of them will do anything but finish. For many it is to be their 1st finish at 100 miles and for some (Dan Lee, you’re nuts mate) it is the first time he’s done anything like this. I tried to be honest with you all, some of you didn’t like that and proved me wrong, running exceptionally fast to the finish. Virginia was the last through at 8:15pm. The final 22km took her 9 ½ hours. I learnt a lot from those at the end. I don’t have that courage.

Back to the tent and sleep. But not before I’d planted a seed in Tom’s head that will help the event to continue. To the Mountain Bikers out there. It’s my fault, but you have been warned so there is no point in complaining. It’s hard, we already know that.

A big thanks from our family must go to Tom P., Glen C.and Terry D. Thank you for creating an opportunity for us to have some quality time together in the outdoors.

Top Waenga? – That is what TW stands for.

Location and Distance

Middletons 15km
Shrek 19km
Top 25km
Mirror 39km
Bonners 45km
Finish L1 50km
Mt Horn 63km
TW1 67km
Loop Btm 72km
TW2 78km
Leaning Rock 81.5km
Top 85km
Pig Pen 93km
Finish L2 100km
Ewe 106km
TW3 112km
Leaning Rock 115.5km
Lane 120km
Arthurs 125km
Lane 130km
TW4 136.5km
Mt Horn 140.5km
Brewery 150.5km
Garrets 154.5km
Finish 160km

4 responses

  1. Nice write up Matt. And good idea for next year!

    1. ….and thanks for answering the TW question, I meant to ask but forgot.

    2. Thanks for the fun run. Sorry that my will to live disappeared.

  2. You fellas are so honest and genuine. That alone is inspirational. A bloody great writeup and a special event too.

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