Flying half way around the world and leaving the family behind to explore and have adventures isn’t as easy at it seems. I feel for the professional athletes who do this year after year for months at a time. I find two weeks long enough. I’ve never been one to tear around all over the place seeing as much as possible. I’m more inclined to stay for a while in one place, explore that area, get a feel for the locals and what they do, who they are etc.
Frozen Head State Park
Wartburg, TN, USA is NEVER going to feature in a tourist guide and long may that continue. Frozen Head State Park can remain one of natures secrets. Known only to the locals and to those with connections and to those foolish enough to seek out the requirements to enter the Barkley Marathons. With the race timed for early spring, the park is still in its transition from its winter coat of snow and ice to its summer cloak of leaved oak, sparse patches of rhododendron and a scattering of pine. But in the 8 days I spent there, Frozen Head State Park was naked in all it’s glory.
With all the leaves on the ground the internal vistas, land forms, rock features, gullies, spurs, streams, pools and waterfalls were visible from everywhere. Steep (very steep) sided valleys are well traversed with a variety of trails allowing visitors the full range of experiences. The Barkley refers to the anything that resembles a path to Candy Ass trails, and anything more substantial inevitably leads back to the Big Cove Campground and is referred to as a quitters road.
My eight days at the Big Cove Campground exceeded all expectations of what the Barkley was. I went there knowing that it was more than just a race that Laz and Raw Dog had set up to allow people to find their limits, They’ve done that nearly perfectly. The more capable participants just take longer to find their limits, whether that be timing out, passing out in my case, or fearing the solitude of a second night insecure about their limited navigation skills. For the less able there is still a place at the Barkley, the off track travel is punishing for the uninitiated. The terrain is steep, unforgiving and horrifically unrelenting. Darkness is forced upon everyone, instant teams and friendships are made to deal with various parts of the course. When the deals are broken for one to Quit, the result is more often than not, two or three quitting at the same time.
Don’t bother coming here if you’re the ‘A-Type’ who likes box ticking. You don’t belong and will never understand what the Barkley is truly about.
The Park itself should be a must stop on a trail runners pilgrimage to somewhere else. If only just to sample what the Barkley might be. It’s also a navigators dream, a 1:24,000 topomap with 20ft Contours and features galore. Alas, there will never be a Rogaine in there.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
I had made no plans beyond the Monday scheduled finish day for the Barkley. I had expected to be thoroughly destroyed physically. Fortunately that didn’t happen, my Barkley failure was more mental. The plus side to that was I was now able to get over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for some more camping, hiking and some exposure to what American tourism can be.
The garish sights and sounds of Pigeon Forge en-route to the park were saddening. Try taking all the tourist attractions from Rotorua, Queenstown and anywhere else in New Zealand multiply by 10 and jam them all onto the side of a 5 mile long, 3 lane (each way) strip. Gatlinburg was only marginally better, a sort of mini-Queenstown but on steroids. The best part of Gatlinburg was tasting a variety of vile concoctions. Moonshine in its various forms and flavours. Vile, vile, horrible stuff after the beer education I had been receiving at Frozen Head from Mike Dobies.
But the Smokies are better than that and it’s fantastic to see so many people out enjoying them. Hundreds and Hundreds of people, everywhere. Families out for hikes. Trampers out for extended trips, through hikers on the Appalachian Trail. But campervans, huge campervans and buses.
The weather didn’t play ball, but I got a taster of what he park had to offer and why it was called the Smokies. And I got into some Bluegrass.
Tennessee is an experience, now onto the rednecks in Bright, Victoria. Thank you to Enduro Safety for their support and Ultimate Direction for the trustworthy gear.
Enduro Safety will help prepare your business for an ACC audit so you can take advantage of the discounts available on ACC levies. They can also advise you on compliance with the new Health and Safety at Work Act, and are experts on drone safety. Andrew and Heather at Enduro Safety also happen to be ultramarathoners and trail runners, and provide health and safety advice to a number of trail running events.
Some Thirty Six hours of travel put me in Nashville and then another two-hour drive the next morning found me in Frozen Head State Park setting up a tent for the next seven or eight days. I had expected more people to be floating around particularly as the days drifted by. The characters are now arriving, good people. I’ve been fortunate enough to be taken under the wing of a 15+ year veteran here acting as Camp Mother. Fortunate in that he is a craft brewing
master and self-confessed beer snob. So I have been getting an education. Naturally the Kiwi and the Aussie/Canadian (Nicki Rehn) find themselves camping side by side, along with Heather Anderson (another Ultimate Direction Ambassador) who is the hard arse that holds the OUTRIGHT record for the Pacific Crest Trail.
Being early has been helpful, the pace is slow and relaxed. Reading the map and taking advice has been done bit by bit
and isn’t information overload. The park itself is unlike anything I’ve seen. Coming out of winter it is stark and naked stripped of all foliage. Everything, literally everything is a shade of brown and grey, and it is steep, terrifyingly steep. Not any individual climb, but the long and unrelenting combination of them. There is NO flat ground. You go UP and then DOWN, you never go along. There are some 13 climbs per loop, they will each extract their piece of me. It is steep and it is rough.
Game day is sometime between Midnight Friday and Midday Saturday here, which is 7 hours ahead but a day behind NZ. The expectation amongst some of the more experienced is for a late start. Not knowing the course nor the difficulties ahead, I am trying not to concern myself with those things and what they might mean. Just wrapping my head around the task ahead and how to break it down into manageable chunks and worry about only those things I can control.
The of departure from home brought about some very humbling but exciting support from Enduro Safety. It took a load of pressure away from us and has allowed me to eat real food not just bread and water. For that I cannot thank them enough.
Enduro Safety will help prepare your business for an ACC audit so you can take advantage of the discounts available on ACC levies. They can also advise you on compliance with the new Health and Safety at Work Act, and are experts on drone safety. Andrew and Heather at Enduro Safety also happen to be ultramarathoners and trail runners, and provide health and safety advice to a number of trail running events.
To follow the race, well you can’t, or at least don’t expect to follow it in any sense that you’ve followed a race online before. There will be some twitter postings (google – “Twitter #bm100″), some of them will have useful information some of them won’t. That is all part of the mystique and I hope that never changes.
If you do not hear anything about me, that is a good thing.
I know there are a few people looking for me to write something about my impending failure in Tennessee.
Grant got some answers out of me for BCR and that’s published here http://backcountryrunner.co.nz/2015/03/13/the-barkley-marathons/
Dan and ULTRA1234 also sent some questions and they are here http://ultra168.com/2015/03/18/bixley-does-barkley/
It’s not easy packing up and leaving the family for 3 weeks to essentially go and have fun, on your own it’s even tougher. But those thoughts will help on the day(s). I fly out on Saturday and with a miracle in time Travel arrive in LA before I leave Australia. It would be nice to trip around and have a good look at Tennessee at the nearby states but I’m taking the race pretty seriously. A couple of days looking at the parts of the course we can access and getting used to the map and compass combination. declination is 5 degrees west as opposed to our usual 25 degrees east or a map aligned to magnetic. Then it will simply be resting and taking in the characters and culture of the event.
The goal is obviously all 5 loops, a few who I respect and know my abilities have given me their thoughts and I hope not to let them down.
Coverage and the ability to follow the event are reasonably sporadic. There are only 40 starters and after 1 loop there will be less than 20 and then less than 5 after that. With each loop taking 9-12 hours, don;t expect much. Twitter, which you don;t need to sign up for looks like the most plausible option for coverage using #bm100 in their search engine.
I’ll have fun.
Having no money to travel to the World Rogaine Champs I 2014 I figured that if I was going to get to another one in the next couple of years I’d start having to do some serious fundraising and with that came the thoughts of putting on a 24 Hour. That plan suddenly morphed into flights being paid for to get to The Barkley Marathon’s in Tennessee at the end of March. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-V8x0hQXA4 , Runners possibly don’t recognise it as a Rogaine, but that’s exactly what it is from my perspective. 5 Loops, 20,000m Climb and maybe 200km with Map, Compass and a 60 Hour time limit.
Come Midday Saturday and 30 soon to be lost souls set off into the Dunedin back country following my mini version of a Barkley Marathons. 5 Loops, searching for pages, being scratched by briars and never ending climbs. The intention for the set up was to give a tour of the hills with options for the less experienced to achieve personal goals. For the more experienced, there would still be challenges and a few of those competing in Godzone took up the opportunity for a training day with a 30-40km night ride in the middle. It seems the Ride was a highlight for a few with big cheesy grins from a couple of very experienced individuals giving away their thoughts. I feel bad for Lisa and Sarah who missed that opportunity, but the blokes in their respective teams should have no concerns over their fitness but their Nav should be monitored!!!!!!!
Throughout the day-night-day the competition between the small number of teams was very close and it became evident the front-runners were all taking it seriously. In the end however the largest team who were able to take the event as more of a relay had the leg’s to outlast (just) the others who went out for all 5 legs. However it wasn’t until the begging of the 5th leg that they had a lead on the scoreboard. Up until that time that had been finishing each loop in first but had been tactically dropping controls under the assumption there would be lots of easy ones to collect on the 5th leg. They (Awesome Possums) had previously attacked another 24 hour and had been humbled by the demands so it’s great to see them try again and keep developing their skills.
Greg and Ramesh were the 1st out on leg 5 but there weren’t enough points available for them to steal 1st, but a hard-fought last 3 hours saw them nearly steel 2nd of Nick and Nolan who had miss calculated how many points they needed to be safe and came home early. Greg and Ramesh were only about 15 minute short of being able to collect the final 1 pointer and missed 2nd by a meagre 0.4 points.
For me there were personal highlights of having Bob Cunningham and Laurie Kennedy out on course. They have done a lot for the Dunedin outdoors community and Bob has memories of camping at Waiora when the scouts purchased the property in 1948!! My other major thrill was a team who were out to learn, experience their first ever attempt at night navigating and last the full distance. They did all of that and are proving to be an inspiration for their friends.
Thanks must go to my ever patient wife for allowing me to go away all the time and then to assume her time was free to prepare all the food. Tim Jowett who helped out on Saturday with 3hr and Pizza deliveries and to Greg Thurlow who after a sleep went back out on the course collecting some controls as the temperature hit 33 degrees.
So all up around 90 took part in the two events which is on par with how many I’ve had turning up. Success for all. Now back to two weeks of intensive Genomic Selection in Armidale, NSW.
edit: Bill Kennedy has already chastised me for only using Team Names and not individuals, in my defence, it makes for a tidier table.
|Lisa and Sarah||11||10||12||8.2||41.2|
|Carl, Seb, Masha||11||11||12||3.8||37.8|
|Dom & Warren||11||11||9||31|
|We Can’t Get Lost||9||4||9||3.4||25.4|
|Bob & Laurie||10||4||5||4||23|
|The Southern Stoller||880|
|Yoann and Scott||720|
|Marcello & Robyn||610|
|Day & Night||490|
|Kate & Rob||440|
|Grahams + Some||270|
|Cute World||Collected Lollies|
Congrats to Matty and Lily on the birth of their daughter 48 hours after the said child competed in her 1st rogaine.
Tim Jowett pulled up short to go and collect the pizzas for the 24.
A Traverse of the Tararua Main Range has been on my bucket list for nearly as long as I have been enjoying running in our backcountry. There is so much history behind this section of the New Zealand hills, so many stories told, trips made, rescues, documentaries, books and personalities. My own interest in the range probably started in 1986, when as a diminutive 13-year-old, weighing in at 35kg I hoisted what seemed like a 20kg pack and set off from the Putara Road end in classic Tararua conditions. This was a compulsory trip for young Rathkeale lads, a three-day loop around Roaring Stag, Cow Creek to Kiriwhakapapa. It was wet, cold, miserable and I didn’t tramp again for 15 years.
Interest was sparked when Grant asked for a bio and plans to go up on the Ultimate Direction website. I put in a long hoped for Traverse as a goal. That started a conversation which rapidly escalated into committing to the adventure. But with the range having notoriously poor weather, how should we plan it from the bottom of the Sth Island. In the end we booked flights, gave ourselves a two-day window and hoped for the best. Without fail, when asking some experienced locals, the best was considered to be a dying southerly and the 24-36 hours immediately post that when the wind would turn back to the North/North West. Ten days out and the long-range forecast showed exactly that for Saturday. It never changed, quite possibly the most stable forecast I have ever seen.
Driving up from Wellington on Friday morning our hopes were dashed. The Southerly had plastered the Southern Crossing and Eastern Range with a heavy dumping of snow. There was Zero chance of completing our goal, but there were options. A trip through the valleys would still be possible or possibly the beginning of the main range before dropping off to the west and Otaki Forks if we were lucky. But as we pulled up to the Road end to camp it was abundantly obvious that there was no snow on the main range. The storm had stalled over the Southern and Eastern parts.
Not wanting to rewrite the entire Schormanns-Kaitoke history which is well documented in this book
The original route started through Bryant’s Farm and up a ridge to Putara Hut, Kareti, Hines and joining the current trip at Ruapae. That was closed in 1977, but doesn’t seem any different in length based on my reading of the older trip reports. The trip was first completed in 1963 with the goal being to complete it between Friday evening and Sunday evening to be back at work on Monday. Any variation on the route was acceptable, but the Main Range is considered the hardest. Gary Goldsworthy probably set the 1st very fast time, 25 ½ hours, punctuated with 30 minute breaks (1:45 Total) at huts for fuelling. Colin Rolfe then set a long-standing time of 22:59, again with 1:15 of breaks, this was finally broken last year by Chris Swallow and Laurence Pidcock (22:12) but they unfortunately made some errors which cost them nearly 3 hours in total.
So at 3:30am Grant and I set off with a variety of goals. Yes, one major goal was to run the fastest time but more of it was about exploring and seeing what the range had to offer. I had made an A3 map with the Northern section on one side and the Southern on the other and added some notation about direction, time and location for water. In the end though, the map only came out to see which of the numerous peaks was next or which it was we were currently standing on. By my count there are 39 named and 26 spot heights that you go over or immediately next to. Navigation was never an issue in the perfect conditions.
Not planning on getting lost or spending time sitting down I had more or less followed Colin Rolfe’s schedule for everything beyond Dundas. Others had been quicker to that point so I worked on something in between that I figured was conservative. When added up I’d pencilled in 21:05 (67 minute below the record) and genuinely thought a 20:00 could be possible, it is, but not for me. I was somewhat surprised at Herepai to find we were already 5 minutes down on our estimate which in turn was 11 minute down on the previous best. Not concerned, we felt that getting to the far end of the range in one piece, with the ability to move well would be the key. Sunrise around the East and West Peaks meant time for photographs. In fact we took a lot of them. With Grants ability to quickly catch up he did most of the work keeping friends and family updated with our whereabouts, one of the bonuses of modern technology I guess. We arrived at Dundas some 40 minutes behind schedule which in reality was still 25 minutes up on the record, but Dundas is only 4 ½ hours into the trip. Oh well, nothing we could do about it.
We continued along, never focussing on more than a peak or a hut at a time, eventually coming to the end of the 1st map (Anderson Hut), turning over and then beginning the 1nd half. Approaching halfway is always a milestone for me as I find the 2nd part of a run seems to move much quicker in my mind. There had been some wonderful views in that 1st half. The early traverse from West Peak to Pukematawai is simply stunning. The headwaters of the glacial Park valley were gorgeous, but with a surprisingly warm day at 9:00am we were very happy to drop into the bush, top up water and douse our heads at Dracophyllum Hut.
Descending off Crawford 2 Gliders shot around Junction Knob hugging the ridge as 2 trampers on the Te Araroa section rested. After having lost time early we’d actually made up small pieces here an there on the way to Maungahuka. Like so many of the 2 day reports the leg to Maungahuka over Aokaparangi is critical to success. For the longer trips this is often completed in the dark and needs to be done to make day 2 so much easier. So perhaps it is unsurprising that for a one day trip this is where I was beginning to struggle more relative to Grants pace and just like the Motatapu Adventure run he shouldered my pack for the climb, found some activities to amuse himself and left me to much on food and get to the hut in good shape. So while I began to struggle (12 hours of moving) it was obvious that everyone prior had also struggled as we were still not losing time to our estimates.
Maungahuka to Kime was estimated for 2hrs 40minutes, and it looked like we could make up some time, but the excitement we had around the twin peaks of Tunui and Tuiti (and that blasted fatigue) meant we lost another 10 minutes. Grant had carried my pack up Bridge Peak again, as around here he was getting quite concerned about the record. For some reason I felt we were still good with a 30 minute lead and I knew I was still moving well even if it felt sloth like. That section is something I will never forget, it seems to be skipped over in some reports, but for me the history that has gone into the placing of ropes, chains and ladders is as enthralling as the terrain itself.
We arrived at Kime and our first ankle-deep, slushy snow after nearly 15 hours, about 30 minutes behind plan but 40 minutes up on the record. It was obvious many people had gone over the Southern Crossing and the unexpected fine day had reduced the snow to mostly slush but in parts it had drifted to knee-deep. The forecast had given +5 to -5 for the day, with additional 25-30kph SE winds, this wouldn’t have been enough to remove much of the snow. But we quickly got over Hector, getting a cheer from a group camping in the Field/Hector Saddle and looked incredulously down into the Snowy where another party had gone for the night. Moving over the Beehives then up and around the Dress Circle to Alpha losing only another 5 minutes to plan. It had been a stunning sunset and fitting end to our views for the day. Alpha Hut was to be our last stop so we geared up for the night and moved quickly on. Whilst Kime was considered the breaking of the back for the trip, arriving 10 minutes early to Block XVI signalled that barring disaster the record would be lowered a little further.
Given my extensive experience in 1986 of having been to the junction to Herepai Hut some 3km into the trip, I had been designated the expert for the first 15 hours. Grant having run the Southern Crossing race in 2012 was likewise designated the expert for the Marchant Ridge, he can get up it in 2:30, I predicted a down trip of 4:30+ which he refused to accept. It has a somewhat fearsome reputation, but Ignorance is Bliss. Nearly the entire traverse was a long red line (new ground covered) on the map for both of us. So we just accepted whatever it was that came before us. None of it was particularly bad, the climbs are not long and the ground cover/track is what it is. We knew the Marchant would take 3 hours, so it didn’t really matter what it had, that was how long it was going to take.
Down onto the Dobson Loop Track I had my one and only fall, I was happy, it was comfortable on the ground. I didn’t have to run, running made me feel sick. Grant wasn’t so happy that I was happy there. At 1:03am we popped out into the new DOC car park, only 28 minutes down on a plan that was made with no knowledge of the terrain. Greg Thurlow was possibly more excited than we were, Grant was pretty excited and I was too spent to really know what was going on. A call home to re-assure Ann that all was good and we were off back to Greg’s.
Without a shadow of doubt, this is the single most satisfying run/trip/hike/race in our backcountry that I have ever completed. The history, the weather, the terrain, the support from Greg and sharing it with a mate were what made it so special, thanks guys. The time was a bonus.
Now some boring stuff:
Other than Greg dropping us off and picking us up we were quite keen on doing this trip by ourselves. We just wanted to keep things simple. So we carried everything you’d need for a day out and perhaps an uncomfortable night.
Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Pack
2x UD 16oz Bottles
2x Thermal Tops
1x Thermal Pants
1x Beanie (plus Buffs)
1x GOOD Shell Layer. Not the rubbish seem sealed that is suitable for passing compulsory gear checks but in my case Gortex Jacket and Pants.
1x Emergency Bag (not a blanket)
Some first aid, food, lights and the ability to light a fire.
The table below shows our Planned and Actual times for various segments compared to others who have gone quickly across the main range. Hopefully that will be of use for others in the future. Some points to note. Swallow/Pidcock moved exceptionally fast and their times suggest they can go well under 20 hours, I think that we were more than an hour behind them by Dundas alone. Their split to Nichols includes an additional 20 minutes out to Kelleher.
Distance: Who knows, contrary to popular belief, GPS is not perfect? My watch clocked just over 74km and with the settings I used forgot to add the ascent. I also know that it measures around 300m short per 10km with the 1 minute collection, so perhaps 76km. At Alpha Hut our watches were only 2km different but Grants then went crazy and he clocked 91km, but after uploading it was corrected to 77km which tallies nicely with mine. His 6826m of Climb tallies nicely with Greg Thurlow’s ~6800m recorded in 2008. So if anyone wants a .gpx file, just ask.
.GPX File can be accessed from the following link (I Hope).
Tararua Main Range .gpx
The boss at Ultimate Direction NZ doesn’t like Rogaine’s, however he doesn’t stop the minions from taking part in them, nor does it stop the minions for talking about his lack of interest as they pass the hours while trying not to get lost.
So with the demise of Heights of Winter due to flooding, Marty came down to Dunedin and Team Ultimately No Direction took on what seemed like the rest of Canterbury in what turned out to be a very competitive event. Bob Cunningham has been putting on more traditional Rogaine’s as opposed to my entry-level easy efforts for a number of years. He, along with Laurie Kennedy planned and mapped the last New Zealand Champs in 2012. This time they used some land adjacent to the 2009 Nationals and after a couple of false starts we finally got a run on what turned out to be a stunning day.
Planning was simple; draw a series of 4 loops around the entire map, a quick check with Matt Scott confirmed it was around 50km in a straight line. So even with Greig Hamilton saying they were just out for a walk, once the gun went there was going to be some pride on the line. Greig after all is now the 3 time NZ Champion and there is no way he would want to lose to me.
5 minutes before the start we discovered it was now an 11 hour event and not 13. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to planning. With 4 loops the field filed scattered a bit. Lara Prince and Katie Bolt took what we termed loop 3, Matt and Greig started on Loop 4 and we along with several others went on Loop 1 or a general anti clockwise direction.
I mistake early meant that Georgia and Tim quickly lead us by 5 minutes, however we turned that around and in passing figured they were doing exactly the same as we were, or almost. They passed us again on loop two with far superior planning that saw them collect a set of 8 controls around 15 minutes quicker than we did.
While the mapping left a bit to the imagination, the controls with their highly visible tape were generally easy to locate still within the circle and on a feature more or less as described. 55 being the only one that was completely awry, as can be seen on the GPS plot from Greig and I. On dark and short on time we couldn’t locate 22, neither could Tim and Georgia, Greig reckoned it was easy, but his GPS says we were looking in a different place to where we were. “Matagouri, Head of Gully” and my (red) GPS track runs up and down the gully and Greig’s doesn’t go near it. Oh well.
The day moved on, I wanted Marty to carry my pack up a hill but he was having a rough day so I did the only thing I could to help, and took the pen and paper of him to save weight. I got some amusement at an electric fence with a big jolt before crossing it, only to look back and see Marty frantically pacing back and forth like a forgotten puppy trying to cross the fence.
Map with Routes. Red is Mine, starting in the middle and going to 31, 90, 25 and continuing anti clockwise. Greig and Matt (Green) started with 11, 57 and continued in the opposite. The significant point of difference is the South West Corner where Georgia and Tim followed the green line and it proved to be much faster.
Another minor planning error and Tim skipping a control (24) saw them pass us again. Upon catching up we discussed where we needed to be over the next 2 hours to make it home in time. Sweeping the course still looked possible for us at least with all but one control on out route home. We both met the goal of being on Mt Trotter at 6pm, but the time wasted at 22 trying too hard to get it, saw Marty and I 3-4 minutes back from Tim and Georgia and the possibility of being late and/or them collecting the extra 20 points they were behind.
I figured if we ran hard I could take the shameful option of skipping 26 and making sure I got in the door before Tim and claim the win on time. In the end, with around 1500m to run Tim departed 11 about a minute in front of me with both teams looking like being late and getting penalties. So with the prospect that gamesmanship had been undertaken and that our scores we actually tied I ran hard to beat Tim to the door. This seemed to be confirmed when I passed him only for him to up the ante and literally beat me inside by a single step. And for the purists who like to make sure that teams are always together. Of course they were right on our heels, ;-)
As I write I’m not sure of the final result. Matt and Greig cleared the course with 30-40 minutes to spare. They ran the same distance and gained the same height as us, 59-60km and ~3200m of climb. Greig also made a few errors as can be seen on his plot. We left only 3 controls, Tim and Georgia 4, then I think maybe Lara Prince and Katie Bolt followed by Tane, Hillary and Dave. With Tane’s review here tanecambridge.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/golden-road-rogaine/
I find it enjoyable going back over them and seeing where improvements can be made. On this map, with nothing being flat, more time should have been spent looking at the contours. We’d had a look at the European Champs from earlier in July and both plotted 140-142km routes there, that map had only 500m of TOTAL elevation gain, so contours were of little importance.
Good fun day, some really interesting places to visit.
edit#1: Was disappointed that Phil and Robert only ran the 6 hour, so I’ll claim the cigars/beer/wine that Phil wanted to race for at HOW. Thanks Phil.
edit#2: I think that NZ will be well represented in South Dakota at next months World Championships. Tim and Georgia already have a Junior title and I think they’re in good enough shape as are Lara and Katie to podium in the Open Mixed and Womens respectively. Matt and Greig will threaten in the highly competitive Open Mens and if Phil’s Ankle is good enough I’d expect Robert to make his 3rd appearance in the top 10 overall, which in turn will put them near the top of Vet Mens. All the best.
I have next to no experience of running the Tarawera 60k course and didn’t even get to the boring as bat shit 40k road part of the 100k course. But I was asked for advice so this is it.
“Only the 60k” – yeah whatever, that’s further than Kerry Suter is running. Everyone has their own reasons for doing the different distances. I absolutely hate with a passion 100km and it would take a very special course for me to try one again. There’s more chance of me running circles on a track for a day than there is of me lining up in the 100k at Tarawera. So I too, am “only” running the 60k and for me it is “only” a training run. Your reasons are yours, and that’s what makes you happy.
The Course – As pointed out, my experience on the course could be written on the back of a small postage stamp with a marker pen. But I can read a profile. Re-read what I wrote about the Kepler on BCR. It still holds true. “If it feels comfortable and easy, stick with that.”
I think the start in the dark will help people settle down and take it easy for the first hour, as will the fact there’s 700+ starters. It will be slow, be happy and accepting of that. The goal is to be able to run well from Okataina/Humprey’s to the finish and mow down all those people who had piss poor race plans. Remember to suck the life out of them as you go past feeling righteous about how well you’ve done.
Tarawera has a bit more climb than the Kepler, but the Kepler has 80% of its climb in one go in the first quarter. vTUM60 has its vert spread over the entire 60k in shorter blocks, they are more run-able and as a result could possible lead to the unprepared blowing it. So back to the “If it feels comfortable……..” Rumour has it, from Okataina to the Outlet is the best part of the whole event. Hope I get to see it.
JacketGate – I never knew there were so many idiots out there, professing to be trail runners who clearly have no idea or experience of being outside in even moderately challenging conditions. If the conditions play out and a “Cyclone” is going to hit the Bay of Plenty sometime on Saturday. THERE WILL BE NO RACE for a variety of reasons.
a) emergency and rescue services will have higher priorities than a running race
b) volunteers will have higher priorities than a running race
c) there are clearly a bunch of muppets who lack the gear skills and experience to be out in those conditions.
I type this knowing that Paul is making a decision on compulsory gear in the next hour or so, not a decision on the race. Probably not a very clever thing for me to write and could stir trouble. But it’s my opinion.
So the jacket thingy. I think most people don;t know what a Waterproof Jacket actually does. It certainly doesn’t keep you dry for very long. What it does do though, is keep you warm. It minimizes new, cooler water coming in, and minimizes the cooling effect of wind/evaporation. A polypro top doesn;t do that in the same way. They are open weave. WIND + RAIN = COLD
Saturday’s conditions are likely to result in far more people requiring medical attention than heat/dehydration/hyponatremia. Cold and Wet robs people (who are already compromised) of the ability to make sensible decisions. Being hot will slow you down, being cold will kill you.
Chafing – stole this bit from my BCR piece
3B or Vaseline, there are others but 3B is my go to for 24 hour races. Vaseline is good if the chafe has already started. Use liberally before the start and get it right into those places that you don’t want to mention. WASH YOUR HANDS. Boys – the race can get exciting so tape your nipples. Lycra – learn to love it. Unless you are very experienced, if it rains and your shorts get wet, they will lose all their softness. The stitching in the seams swells with water and rubs hell out of your inner-thighs. Vaseline will not fix that problem. For ball chafing, use a sanitary pad. No I am not kidding; I’ve done it several times. If you run far enough, you learn to leave your ego behind and do whatever it takes to keep going (editors note- we don’t advise leading out your “lube” of choice)
Here’s the BCR piece – I’d better do some work now.
Anyone who thinks that just because you’re not making the podium you aren’t competitive is living in lala land. I took the above statement as the compliment it was meant to be. I had a good run, and it was given by a highly respected bloke in good shape who felt (with a large degree of validity) that he’d probably give me a better run for my money than it turned out to be. Old Buggers are competitive.
I don’t need to wax too lyrical about the actual course, there are plenty of photo’s floating around. Some people love it, some people hate it for a variety of reasons. I like it, it suits me. I like the terrain, the history and the camping at Moke Lake. I am very grateful to the Foster family for allowing us to share their property, one that they are clearly very proud of. It’s a station steeped in history, with gold discovered in the valleys in 1862 and upwards of 3000 people living there. There are various parts of the run where you go past relics of that era. Scheelite (for Tungsten) was mined in the area from 1880’s as well. With the boom period being around the World Wars as it was used for hardening steel.
But back to the race itself, or more specifically the Old Mans race, after all it’s once you hit 40 that it gets competitive. A look around those at the start was sufficient to realise a few young blokes were going to get a lesson. John Fitch, Roland Meyer, Jake Roberts, Phil Wood and debatably Nathan Peterson. I say debatably, because that’s what we did, debate whether he was an old man or not. There are some very strong resumes on that list and a lot can be learned from talking to them.
So off we trot and what I was told later was like a rocket, but in my mind was comfortable as plenty were in front. My regular battle with another vet, Malcolm Mcleod began in earnest, with Nick Kensington and Phil Wood tucked in just behind. Unbeknown to us at the time, Jake Roberts was in the lead group of 6 or so along with Nathan Peterson.
I started giving lip to Malcolm almost as soon as we started, I then fell, followed by passing him for the first time in the exact same spot as last year. And that is how the entire run unfolded, we too and fro’d with each pass being within a few meters of where they occurred last year. So neither of us really pushed the pace, or at least it never felt that way. We both knew he would pull away on the regular uphills, I would slowly drag that back on the flatter sections and make a gap on the downhills. So depending on the balance of ups and downs the gap between us varied +/- 3 minutes, with Malcolm having his biggest lead at he first significant uphill when he walked away to a 3 minute gap. About that time I could also hear (and see) a noisy Phil Wood just behind me. That would have given him a lot of confidence that I’d gone out too hard and he was about to give me a piece of humble pie.
Malcolm and I discussed who the other old buggers were around, no one was able to tell us who the two unknowns (Jake and Nathan) were in front of us. GTG, Blake Hose and Ben Duffus were known and long gone. I knew Matty Abel was there but the other two were a mystery. We eventually worked out Nathan was up there and debated his age. Regardless, he was having a good run. Unfortunately Jake wasn’t and was eventually passed on the long final ridge. SMMM isn’t a race you run hard without some sort of preparation. Hopefully he comes back and teaches the young boys a lesson.
Up the final climb I came upon Matty Abel cramping. I quietly hoped he would just lie there and die. He didn’t, so instead of running me down with just meters to go like last year, he had the entire last 8k to run away from me. Bastard. But I go to the top just seconds ahead of Malcolm has he had closed the 2 minute gap as expected. Just like last year, and again I managed to slowly extend the gap on him during the run home.
It was great to be able to run a full race with no niggles again. It would be great if that continues because Malcolm and I enjoy our battles, unfortunately I’ve been quitting on them too often. It would be nice to see how out true abilities differ on different courses.
Nathan finished about 15 minutes in front and that augurs well for the biggest event of the year. Heights of Winter where brains meet brawn and the old men battle in teams.
Sorry No Pretty pictures. It was a race.
It’s a great family weekend. Ollie was 2nd overall in the 5k, 1st Male, Samantha was 1st little girl in the 5k, Ann managed 2nd old ducky in the 10k, and yes I managed 2nd old git and 6th overall in the Marathon. It also turns out that the Aussie boys can run hills. Who bloody knew.
It’s well-known I hate drug cheats. It’s come up a couple of times and was one of my earlier posts,
Recent developments now mean get to have a taste of what steroids might be capable of. Many will be aware that last Friday I had a preliminary diagnosis of a Tumor in my head. I had a loss of sensation on the left side of my face, loss of function, dribbling, slurred speech, headaches. Generally symptoms that could be ascribed to a Stroke, a Palsy or a Tumor. I’d had the symptoms or some of them for maybe as long as a year but most for just the last two weeks. It was no surprise to have a Tumor diagnosed.
Both Ann and I have varied science backgrounds with combined degrees in Chemistry, Statistics, Biology and a Masters in Ecology. Ann’s job is liasing with all the 1st year health science students (our doctors). So the words Tumor to us aren’t a death sentence, more evidence and consultation would be required for that. However, Brain Tumor was about #2 on my list of what was wrong even before the initial diagnosis.
Our Health system works well when you’re in trouble. Within an hour of the initial consultation a Neurologist (Associate Professor Graham Hammond-Tooke) had ordered an extensive list of bloods to be taken. I assume the results came back on Monday, as mid-morning I was called for a 2pm appointment. A further hour of tests resulted in a diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell’s_palsy). Bell’s Palsy is a diagnosis by elimination, by that I mean it’s what’s left if other obvious things don’t fit. essentially I am missing several symptoms of both a stroke and tumor. Lopsided smile broke out, much like the photo on wiki. The doctor appeared dissappointed that it wasn’t a tumor, he admitted he was as he would then know what he was dealing with. So there is still some degree of uncertainty, but there is no rush for an MRI, that will happen sometime in the future. For now, I am an experiment in Steroids in sports.
I am on a solid dose of common garden variety Prednisone which is a corticosteroid. They have a variety of uses, but in a sporting sense they are used to reduce inflammation. As such they are banned under the “Prohibited In-Competition” section S9 of the WADA code/list. The same rules Dirty Lance used when he was busted at the Tour of California one year and got a back dated therapeutic use exemption once they’d made up a bullshit story about saddle sores. The relevant WADA documents are attached.
I’ve now had two 60mg doses and my experiment of 1 suggests it helps. Not on my gammy face just yet. But on all the other aches, pains and niggles that I’ve been suffering from. I’ve had one run on drugs, my 4th run in a row. Saturday, Sunday and Monday were all quite pathetic. But now.
Rib Pain – GONE, Ankle Pain – mostly gone, Hip – GONE, Hammy – mostly gone. Mentally I feel like I want to run harder for the 1st time in quite a while. So bring on Waihi 60k this weekend. I’ll be glowing like a Dennis DeMonchy head torch on the start line last year.
I’ve written to the team at Total Sport to let them know the situation. I could start the process of getting a TUE but can’t be bothered in the short time available. What I have asked is to just be allowed to run but excluded from any merit awards. I’m really only interested in having some fun, telling some lies, mostly getting laughed at and exploring new terrain. If they’d prefer me not to run, then I’m fine with that as well. It just means I’ll go on course with Dazzler and yell abuse at people. In the long run, if I’m on an extended course of drugs I’ll get the TUE.
But until I do. To paraphrase K Day, “Dirty fucking drug cheat.” I’ll take that, as it sure beats Brain Tumor.
One more thing, the guy in the photo on the Bell’s Palsy link. Quite accurate.