Thursday, 21 February 2019

So where have I been?

I have run since Round Rotherham but not much. The last real race was at a Peak Raid mini MM in the Peak District in November. It was damp, cloudy and a bit chilly but actually I ran quite well and was pleased with my choices, timing and my overall points.
First lady and good overall
The nav wasn't perfect but then I am not orienteering much anymore so it was perhaps to be expected. I even beat some fast male runners who were over ambitious and so lost points- I will probably never beat them again and certainly not in a straight running race.
Winning team Krypton at Runfurther
Then we disappeared to the southern hemisphere for 3 months. In Australia I didn't really run except for some short runs on the beach. I did try open water swimming but much as I love swimming in lakes and rivers and playing in surf I think swimming in the ocean except as fun is not for me. Bold and beautiful do early morning Sunday swims from Manley and it was great to take part and the cafe breakfasts afterwards were even better.
The 'Bold and Beautiful' at Manly
Once in NZ I did run a bit but very little really. A drizzly rest day for Bob saw me run the Puke Ariki skyline behind Lower Hutt again and I had a few other short runs but nothing serious.
Strange trig points in NZ
I really wanted to enter one race whilst we were there. Tarawera was my favourite but the $800 entry price soon put a stop to that. I then found the St James miler (100 miler that is) and it seemed like a good idea.
The winner in 21 hours or so. Awesome!
It was based just outside Hanmer Springs in what looked to be a lovely area and sort of fitted with our holiday plans. After quite a bit of indecision I entered. It was a big learning experience and my first ultra dnf. It was taken some getting over; and even now I keep replaying the day and wondering if I made the correct choices. Lots of lessons learned.
Fowlers Pass recee. Hot
Preparation for the event went OK really although we were on holiday and doing kayaking and walking rather than running. I wasn't too worried and didn't think I would lose fitness that quickly. I did struggle to find some ultra food for my drop bags - no UHT custard, no For Goodness shakes choc milk and more. This was to prove quite a big issue as the CPs had almost nothing.
Beautiful scenery and good paths
I had sort of checked the route the best I could from the satellite image and trace on the website. I had a very rough idea of the route. I knew it only had 3000m of climb which seemed very little compared to most 100 miles I have done. Maybe this let me assume an easy race and faster time?
More gnarly tracks near the end
In the end it meant I felt I should be running lots and I perhaps went too fast too soon. We arrived several days before the race which is just as well as the start, and finish, were about an hour up a dirt road (sorry hire car company).
Fowlers Hut

We camped at the start next to the historic Fowlers Hut and DOC loo. Couldn't sleep in it as there were birds nesting in the chimney and mice under the floor boards.We receed the first section up to Fowlers Pass which was on a good path and beautiful.
Contemplating the race route
The climb didn't seem too bad and I also got an idea of the valley and grass 'flats' at the bottom. We also recceed the last 16km loop and were fairly sure we had found it OK despite the path being called something that none of the locals had ever heard of and neither had any of the noticeboards or maps.

 I knew now that only 7 had entered the miler- 5 guys, Lena and I.

We met Lena when she came to scope out the start and I had made contact with Ben via facebook. He came second in the end.
The last 16km loop- I never got that far in the end
It was an early start and the registration was a bit chaotic. The RO had been ill and turned up about 10 minutes before the start. We did not get our correct start bibs and more importantly we did not get the promised maps. I am happy to navigate but I do need a map to be able to do so! This stressed me.
Taking a pole for the river crossings
The drop bag situation got a bit bizarre and the website had some conflicting info. I had made my choices by then and there wasn't really much chance to change things. We had emergency locator beacons and knew there would be some support vehicles out on the route plus the CPs. For CPs I imagined a manned post with some shelter and perhaps even somewhere to sit. Ah well no. Some were tents with a table across the entrance and perhaps some sweets, water and energy bars. Others were abandoned Land Rovers with our drop bags cooking nicely on the open tail gate and even less shelter. Then came the kit. I assumed the compulsory kit was just that. There was no check and people started debating what we didn't need to take as the forecast was good. Again I had made my sack choice based on what I had to carry and there was not time to change it now. More stress.

I started jogging along happily with Ben. It was soon clear he was faster than me and so I let him go. Perhaps even on this first 6 km loop I had gone too fast but it felt OK. By now we had done two major river crossings and I was worried about how my feet would stand up to being soaked for so long. I was also worried about how little running I had done in the last 6 weeks.  It's never the issues you expect that cause the problems in the end!
Up and over Fowlers Pass was fine and I gave Bob a cheery wave as he stood there taking photos before going off for his mountain adventure.
Still smiling at this stage
I descended the other side with a little care but it was fine. I knew I needed to turn right at some point and was a bit stressed about the lack of markings and having to hope that I was going the right way. Lake Gulon CP arrived.. an empty tent with water and sweets and some bars. On I ran. The valley floor was heating up terribly and it was a bit lonely. Usually I quite like my own company but I would have liked company to confirm we were on route. Somewhere I knew we crossed an historic rabbit fence - it featured in his route description but was not on any maps I had seen on line. I found it and the drop bags hanging there. Next step was to find Caroline Bivy and the head of the valley. The path in places had the expected DOC orange markers but they ran out at landslips and were no where to be seen on the huge braided river floor. I hoped I was still OK but didn't really know. Two guys on trail motorbikes appeared. They were part of our support but had never been in the valley before and had not been given a map by the RO. Using their ipad we decided we needed to carry on for another 2km. DOC huts are often hidden in trees and Caroline Bivi was too. The CP was on the edge of the trees; a guy stood by his quad bike. As I turned and ran back down the valley I passed Andy on his way up. He had started more slowly but was now moving well and caught me up and passed me in the next couple of hours.  There was some blue spray paint at some critical points which helped and the pathway through long grass had been mowed for us. The race had several names- The St James, The Miler, Beardies beat and the Great Southern Alps Miler. Not bad for a race in its inaugral year. It made the few signs confusing to me and it took some hours before I realised that the GSAM was me / our race. There were a number of other foot and mountain bike races going on under the same umbrella organisation so I could not assume all signs were for us. It was now scorching hot on the valley floor and there was absolutely no shade. We crossed rivers and streams all the time so water was fine but the promised electrolite did not appear at the next bag drop and neither did the bananas. I opened my chocolate milk (not a brand I knew) and it was awful. It could be that it had been sat cooking for hours. I drank it anyway and tried to force down some solids. I knew I was burning up now and was cross about the electrolite.  On I plodded up the Ada valley in search of Christopher Cullers hut and our next CP. Andy passed me now but I couldn't keep up. This demoralised me a bit but I plodded on. I ran out of water assuming the side valley would have as many streams and rivers as the main valley. By the time I found the CP I was way too hot. The Land Rover guy was great and let me have his seat in the shade and a bottle of water from his chiller. I sat chatting for a while trying to cool off. Aparently Andy was only about 15 mins ahead.  The views above were superb with the looming presence of the Faerie Queen and Gloriana looking quite intimidating. I successfully found my way up to the head of the valley and then the path in the very welcome woods on the return. Sometime after the Christopher hut I lost our route. I now had to decide whether to carry on but add about 3km or to reverse and look for the correct path. I decided to push on as that was certain even if it was longer. I arrived at the next unmanned CP (The Henry) in late afternoon and in real need of shade and refuelling. Sadly the tent entrance was blocked by the table. I crawled in only to find it roasting. As I crawled the suspected hernia under my left ribs popped out. S**t , not what I needed. Crawling back out it pooped again. I lay trying to ease it and also trying to refuel a little. Then I decided I needed the loo. This was to prove the final straw. The hernia just popped repeatedly and at one stage I was lying in the grass with my pants round my ankles trying to ease the pain enough to sort things out. Once dressed I lay by the tent again. It improved, a little. The heat was awful so I decided to push on up the next side valley to the Anne Hut. I felt it took for ever and I was getting more and more despondent. Every small effort seemed to make the hernia react again. I arrived at the hut to cheers from a bunch of young europeans doing the Te Aroea. I did not feel worthy of their praise. The CP was manned by an old guy from the Land Rover club. He had been there for hours and now seen 4 runners. He was bored out of his tree.  I didn't think I could go on. He quickly agreed and was clearly made up by the idea of driving me out. As I sat with a cup of tea the pain eased but I was mindful of the dangers. A GP friend had warned of strangulated hernias and being a medical emergency. The section of the trail in about 16 km time was only accessible on foot and so any emergency meant we had to push the red button on our beacons and wait for the helicopter, and by then it would be dark. I was slipping further and further behind my hoped for times although I was still about two hours ahead of Lena and had plenty of time to meet the cut offs. I convinced myself that it would be irresponsible to continue. Once the radio call had been made to other marshalls that was it really. They organised for me to be driven out via a point where a Land Rover club GP would meet me. When I reached him it was dark. The pain had gone but the area was still very tender. He assured me I had done the right thing. There followed another long and exciting Land Rover drive out of the valley and over a pass to gain the gravel road and finally the finish area. I found our tent with Bob fast asleep. Taking off my shoes and socks was agony and I tried to do it without bending an aggravating the hernia more. I fell into bed full of disappointment and confusion.

So what were the lessons.
1. Prepare better in terms of what to expect from a race and don't allow anything to be left to chance even if it means providing your own maps.
2. Don't make hasty decisions; review all the options. Talk them through out loud or even write them down. Once I had had a cup of tea and a rest I was feeling a bit better. The heat was going out of the day. I could have waited and eaten.
3. Don't decide to quit on the way INTO a CP.  I had enough time for Lena to catch me up and then to go with her. I even had time to go an lie down for an hour or so and then decide whether to continue.
4. I had visions of my fastest 100 miler yet. Ha ha. Perhaps a slow time would have been better than a dnf.
5. Written notes for your drop bags reminding you what to do etc. This worked well for me on the Northern Traverse. I should have done it again Also write on your hand... eat, drink, enjoy....
6. Expect the unexpected. I was worried about having soaking wet feet all day but they were fine. I was worried at no real running for 6 weeks but my legs were OK. My dodgy foot was OK and behaved thanks to the mostly grassy paths. the heat was awful but the hernia was the real issue. It had never happened DURING a run before. (and has not happened since)

So did I do the right thing or did I 'bottle it'?  I know the lack or route marking was making me wary. I know the lack of map really stressed me. I know not having enough of the right food didn't help. Why didn't I wait for Lena? Why didn't I aim to get back down to the Henry CP? or even to the Lake Guyon CP?
It took me several days to get over this and there were some tears. In the end I told myself it was ridiculous and to get a grip - it was after all just a race and really not that important in the big scheme of things. Yet I am not truly over it and still question my decisions.
Perhaps I need to go back and do the race in two years time now I know better what to expect. maybe this will lay the Ghost.
Now for the rest of 2019. Living out of a car, a kayak and tent in the wilds of NZ meant I forgot to enter the Haworth Hobble and so I will miss the first race in the Runfurther series for the first time in ten years. Disappointing but my fault. We have entered many of the others and I hope to do 8/12 in the series. We have also entered the LDWA 100 for the first time, plus I have entered the GRP 220km and hope to get an entry for the Tour De Geants. Time to stop moaning, worrying and to get running.