After thoroughly enjoying the longest run I’d attempted, the 102km last year (well, maybe not thoroughly but I finished it) I decided there and then I was going to give the miler a nudge. I also decided to get a coach so I’d been working with Coach Ray Boardman. Ray worked with me having this as a long term goal and in between I completed the 62km WUU2K (awesome run) and the 50km Catchment Ultra (also an awesome run). The plan was to also do the 100km Taupo as part of build up but thanks to my body rebelling against me by developing an inguinal hernia I didn’t. I was lucky enough to get surgery on the hernia quite quickly at the end of November, my darling and sensible wife asked if I was going to withdraw from TUM, I just stared at her, she then asked if I was going to drop to the 50km, same stare, the 102km? Stare remained. She may have referred to me as a copulating person with low intellect.
The longest run I had managed since the hernia was an hour, that’s all you need right? Come race week, the good lady and parasite #1 (also known as our 3yo boy Allan, #2 is yet to be named as they’re still forming) joined me up in Rotorua. After going to the powhri I headed to registration then minced around the expo, shared some beers with people (the Fat Wood Pigeon always delivers) was pretty much ordered by Mal to buy one of the new Ultraspire Zygos 4.0 packs (which I used and it was awesome) then tried to get some sleep.
The atmosphere at the start line at Te Puia with the geyser spraying away was pretty sweet, I waited at the back chilling with the cool kids, hearing the challenge laid down to us and then we were off. The journey to Puarenga went pretty smoothly, checked my pace and slowed a bit as I was doing about 8:30/km pace (my mantra was 12:30/km average gets me in with about 2.5 hours to spare, 13:23 gives me 5 minutes before cut off). Puarenga to Green Lake was free from issue and the same for Green Lake to Buried Village which I walked most of in an effort to conserve some energy and not sweat half my body weight out.
Big Fergus was on standby with my drop bag and to help me and another of his friends Nick. After a quick reload of water, gels etc and change of soft flasks (plus mandatory carb reload of Big Pigeon Pilsner) I was off again for Isthmus. This is when things started to get less awesome.
I did have the pleasure of sharing the trail for a while with a nice American gent called Gene who reckoned he might have been the oldest person out there, who was very entertaining (I was also lucky enough to see him cross the finish line where when asked by Kerry if he was going to rest and recover he said no, he had a 200 miler coming up in a couple of weeks!) but my feet started to feel like they were on fire. I also tweaked something in my groin trying to climb over a felled tree and catching my leg (laziness on my part) plus I realised tape on my right foot was too tight, so I was getting a bit annoyed with myself.
I finally made it to Isthmus where I fixed the tape problem but wasn’t happy with what I saw on the soles of my feet, had some fruit and ginger beer, said hi to the legend that is Clive Start and made my way to the boat for the trip across the lake.
After getting off the boat I teamed up with an actual Scotsman (I just sound like one) called Brian who decided to just hang out at my lazy pace where we spoke about all sorts of things until we spied Fergus jogging down to meet us, then we strolled in to Rerewhakaaitu.
Time for another reload of the essentials, swap round of other preloaded soft flasks, an attempt at eating real food (honey sandwich that just gummed my mouth up), another drink of Big Pigeon Pilsner that I shared with Brian, then back on the road again, literally.
The journey up to Okahu was absolute agony on my feet. I tried to stay on the white line as I was getting black goo from the road sticking to the soles of my shoes. Brian and his quality banter made this stretch less painful. As always Fergus was waiting for us at the aid station and he managed to find some silicone spray which was much needed as I was leaving lots of salt drying in places no one wants it.
It was on the leg to Wihapi that I lost the ability to even shuffle anymore, I could walk quickly but there was no way I could run/jog. Along here on one of the downhills we passed Seawon (who I refer to as the Korean Terminator due to his unfaltering pace going up Okataina in front of me last year) but not before we had time for a quick catch up and laugh that Mal had also pretty much ordered him to get the Zygos 4.0 and use it.
Brian and I parted ways on the hill up to Wihapi as I was blowing foofoo and also had a slip and fall. My breathing had gone a bit crazy and frankly I was feeling like shit which annoyed me quite a lot. I decided to take 5 minutes sitting on a log focussing on my breathing, had a gel, a fruit smoothie, some jelly beans, some droewors and tried to just get my shit together. Clive powered on past checking that I was okay and not long after I was on my way again… until the next time I had to stop about 30m up the hill as I could only take about 2 – 10 steps at a time. It was round here Seawon caught up with me and the big man is such a nice guy he hung out with me for a little bit until I told him to take off and not stuff his timings up. He said he’d let the medic know I was looking like a warm turd at Wihapi and took off.
A bit further up the hill there was another chap having a seat so I joined him and we compared what’s broken stories and just as we were about to take off the medic appeared. She was happy that neither of us looked like we were going to keel over and said she’d meet us at the aid station if we needed anything. At Wihapi I was feeling better but asked her what I could do about my feet. Layers of Vaseline was pretty much all that was recommended by this point.
The chap I sat with on the hill decided to call time on his adventure but I felt like I had enough left in the tank, time looked to be on my side and I decided if I could get to Outlet, I’d be able to make a more informed decision as to what I was going to do as I knew what was waiting for me from there forward.
I got in to Puhipuhi just at last light, inhaled a bunch of salt and vinegar crisps and ginger beer, reapplied Vaseline to my delicate little hooves, slapped my head torch on my melon and started again.
When the sun went down and the temperature dropped, I felt like a new man, my pace was pretty steady as it was relatively flat through that stretch of the forest, generally between 9:30 and 10:30 per km so I was making some good headway. I was also able to walk on the pine needles which reduced the impact a little bit.
I may have gone a little bit too enthusiastically up one of the small rises so had to take another 5 minute rest to get some food in me and self check. The rest of the journey up to Titoki was pretty uneventful, I enjoyed the huge moon poking through the trees from time to time and when I got to Titoki I was offered a Cuppa Soup, sheer bliss. That Cuppa Soup and the one that followed it were the best parts of the day for me.
After procrastinating around for long enough and refilling water etc I decided it was time to get the 10km to Outlet over and done with, a sedate downhill was just what I needed. Sadly those Cuppa Soups that were the highlight of my day were now the low point as I projectile vomited them out of my body. Five times. I am not a smart man but even I knew that it was time to call an end to my first attempt at a miler.
After getting picked up and dropped off at Firman Field, I and the other people that called it a night were brought back to the Lakefront. I was shuffled in to the med tent where Dr Ben checked me over and placed me next to a heater until my awesome wife picked me up at 3:30am.
Not the result I was after but the organisation of the event, the countless volunteers doing some hard yards in to the wee hours and beyond plus the sense of community that just hangs in the air made this an awesome experience. Will I be back next year? If the wife lets me then yes.
The Fat Wood Pigeon
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