An Auckland based Dietitian (dietician) (West Auckland). Specialising in Diet for Sport, Diabetes, recovery, training nutrition and weightloss.
So 8 weeks ago, I DNF’d the Tarawera 100 miler pulling the pin at 102km. Roughly 18 hours running. I had been training for 10 weeks and hadn't run for the year previous. To make matters worse I possibly was the most disorganised for a run I had been…..like I can be disorganised but it verged on ridiculous for that run. I wont go into it much but what little chance I had of smashing it I undercut with bad prep.
Coming into the ROF I had another 8 weeks training under my belt so was already in a better position. This time I decided I would make sure I did all the little things I often didn’t before a run. So I forced myself to get an earlier night (last race I had less than 4 hours sleep 2 nights in a row). I got to registration earlier in the day dropped in my drop bags (although I did leave my race bib there and had to go back and get it doh! Luckily Ali Squadrun co comander and coach had seen it and gently reminded me that I may need it for my run).
I got to the earlier race briefing and managed to make a vegetarian tiki masala nom for dinner then back at my tent, I organised all my stuff before I jumped in bed and laid it all out like I see other runners do in their pictures ( maybe I am a proper ultra runner when I do that?) . Last race I didn't have much sleep, no breakfast ,couldn't find much needed vaseline and made it to the start line seconds before start after running across a field to get there!
Morning of: This time my alarm goes off at 3am, I get up, get dressed (wow this being prepared makes things WAY smoother in the morning, must do it again) Jesus this thermal long sleeve top is tight! Feel like I should be a mime doing interpretive dance right now. No time to change it. I probably should have checked that before, ah well. I have some toast and a coffee and walk down to the start ! Feeling incredibly accomplished at being on time and having had breakfast hahaha I am thinking wow what am I capable of with sleep, breakfast and being on time…..its a good day so far and it’s not even 4am! The mighty Chateau is bustling with nervous excitement and has a giant Goat to boot ( I do not think we are allowed to actually boot him). We have a karakia then are told wave one goes first then wave two….I ask they guy next to me what’s this waves business he tells me wave one is fast runners, wave 2 slow runners. I figure I am in the middle, so wait for wave one to end to slip to front of the next…..but its actually just one wave of continuous runners so I jump aboard the train and we are off. This is it, head light on and we are running.
4AM everything lit by headlamps, the air is crisp and we soon hit single trail with an ebbing pace which I keep telling myself is a good thing because I have a long way to go but I just want to fly. I decide to try do a facebook live stream from my phone so I can enter the competition worth 2Grand where you tag #ROF but I can not figure out how to do it while I am running single track in the dark! Arghhh I will try later. It doesn’t take long to hit the first hut and I’m slowly falling into a rhythm and the trail is starting to thin out. I'm getting a little warm so try to roll up my sleeves to my elbow but this thermal only makes it halfway up my forearms, its sucking my will to live! ahh it will do. I decide to chuck on my play list that I meticulously made the night before the race, to keep me revved up. But my headphones have only one side working and its coming in and out so sounds like I am listening to my favourite band while deaf in one ear and they're performing on the other side of a motorway! Wel...jungle…got...games…..everything…..how….names….to the…..shananana…. I listen to it like that for way to long for any sane person, then my headphones just die, part of me with it, I had the most epic play list ever…..I ponder how many of the songs I can sing and what order I would have listened to them. I am just going to have to entertain myself then.! God damn it that play list was the business too. I start singing (in my head). Even my mind voice needs lessons. Why did my headphones forsake me! Now the suns coming up and the pastel colours over the volcanic terrain is insane! For some reason I think of vanilla and I decide I want a vanilla Gel, they’re in the side pocket of my vest and I keep trying to open the zip , but my hands feel strangely numb….they're not working properly any more…..weird as its not that cold. Whats going on with these hands then. I look down at them. I nearly run straight off the trail in shock! They have doubled in size….generally I have monster banana hands any way, but that Thermal top is so tight all the fluid in my body has pooled in my hands leaving me a lumbering husk of a man with sausage fingers. ! I try to make a fist….its impossible and painful. I pull the thermal down try to stretch the sleeve to let blood flow occur and keep moving, intermittently making fists to check and see if the swellings going down….its not but its not getting worse, I have scissors in my pack and I may have to cut the sleeves off. Will I have to cut my hands and let the fluid seep out to releave the pressure? Its too soon to make that call. I will see how it pans out. I have an ultra to run. Soon I am running along board walks and can see the beautiful cascade falls in the distance, another hut goes by, then the climb up the amazing cascades the beauty of the falls distracts from the quad burning of the climb, then more climbing with less distraction up toward the road and I see a sign that the aid station isn't far written on it “ first leg done, see that wasnt hard was it , just 2 more legs to go “ love the puppet master. It actually has me laughing out loud. Chris Townley is a funny guy. And then I hear a laughing from the road above I look up and I couldn't tell but I think chris was sitting having a laugh at us all reacting to the sign! Gold! I've made the first aid station as I try to reload up my bag with my sausage fingers discreetly without horrifying anyone who may witness the marshmellow man hands fumbling gu gels as quick as he can, its comical, its entertaining me.
Leg 2: It is running down hill on road for a bit and I am weary of smashing my knees too bad, at 86kg with a few kg in my back pack, I know I am putting a lot of stress on them and I need them good for a bit more yet! I decide this is a good place to try that facebook live business again after a few minutes of bumbling around everything but Facebook live, I give up on it I am feeling like this should be easy and I am just not getting it! I will try later. So I facebook call my wife instead, to say hey, that I love her and that I just finished leg one. Soon enough we turn left into bush and are flying along I find a good rhythm and decide to pull out my poles to conserve my knees and legs as much as possible for the far more runnable 3rd leg. I am looking at my watch and its telling me my pace so far is good enough to get in before dark, yusss, that's the goal I set myself, get in within 14 hours Ring of fire has 3 different ribbons for the mens 72 finish, under 10 hours gold, before dark volcanic red and within 20 hours blue. I came out 6 weeks ago and had a go at the course and it took me 18 and a half hours self supported, but I am sure I can do 14! I've had 4 more weeks training since then, so surely I can do it! Surely! I have a habit of thinking I will do way better than I actually do, but I lOVE the push to try. Plus I always have the back up or contingency goals. This race it was goal 1) Finish before dark. 2) Finish before 20 hour cut off 3) Finish after cut off. Only way not to is be physically pulled from course! In the description of the course this second leg is described as the second hardest. I actually think it is the hardest, not just because we hit it with a solid volcanic half marathon on the legs , but it is soul sapping going through the volcanic valleys, through the desert region. Each valley seems to get bigger and bigger and the will wanes. And each time you get to the top the wind is intense. We are lucky we have great weather, this section will be absolutely brutal with some higher winds and rain. It is through this section that my over all pace slips , making it look a lot tougher to get in before dark. But it is also this section where I seem to pass a lot of people especially in the relentless steep climbs and descents. All that rock hopping on the coast and running up Piha road in training has paid dividends. Finally I see a bus on a road and know that Tukino Aid station is only a few km away!
I dont hang about long at the Aid station, load up some more Gu Gels scull back 500ml fluid, fill up both my soft flasks, put on my squad run cap and shades and I'm off my watch says about 9 hrs and 45 minutes. Another down hill from the aid station and I am feeling good, relay runners intermittently fly by. Its relatively flat and the terrain is very runnable and I can see I am pulling my over all pace back in! Yuss I think I can make before dark if I can sustain this for the whole leg…...but anything can happen. Once again I fall into a good rhythm, my hands have finally gone back to they're natural gorilla hand state I can finally start waving at trampers as I pass by without them thinking I have the foams hands on from a League game. Strangely this makes me feel pretty good. I can feel a few niggly blisters going on, my face is feeling a little burnt and wind burnt but my legs overall are holding up. I am running in Hoka oneone speed goat 2’s and they have really helped my legs stay fresh. They have felt amazing on the climbs and great grip and cushion while I smashed rocky descents! I am pretty stoked with their first outing on an ultra for me. Before long I pass the last hut and know its only another 15ish km to go, 15 fast becomes 10 and I have been passed by some speedier 72ker runners, hauling my 86kg plus pack weight means I'm usually not the fastest gazelle in the pack on the flats. I get into feeling a little flat now and start concentraing on how tired my legs , so I pull my glad bag from my pocket, in it is a note I wrote the night before “pain is temporary, glory is forever , MOVE” yusss sir. I move. I catch a glimpse of the chateau its so close but so far and it disappears again. The last few km of any race I have been in is tough,this is no different its like my body knows the end is close so just wants to stop and have a nap, its a constant mental battle. I've slotted in behind another 72ker who is keeping a good pace, I know he doesn't want me to pass and to be honest I don't know if I have it in me. We run together silently. Soon we are told … you've got this 2.5km to go, go get it. Its up lifting and he picks up the pace so do I and I stay with him. More glimpses of the chateau and with less than a km to go a couple of guys see my running buddy pass, then as I approach they say” are you going to run him down ?...I reply man it would seem mean plus I don't think I can. And then I think Come on Hamish lets go , I get an adrenaline kick and I let fly, up past him, finally, onto the road a lil zig zag and I am there running into the finish line to see coach Ali from Squadrun who gives me a big hug and my Volcanic red before dark medal. Officially finishing in 13 hours 18 minutes. Then I get a another hug from Coach Kerry. I am stoked and I am spent. It was an amazing adventure on an epic new Ultra in a place I love. As the adrenaline wears off and fatigue sets in I creep off back to my tent for a curry and coke and to rest my legs.
Note: a roof top tent with ladder access was exciting till the day after the ultra and climbing in and out involved contortions and weight placement very unique on smashed post Ultra legs.
ere to edit.