Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Kepler - the race

A late Tuesday afternoon flight to Christchurch meant i could casually wander down to the airport and my next step would be onto overseas soil, not often you can do that !!. With a flight of just over 3 hours it was barely a longer trip than to Melbourne with the wind against us (a regular occurence), half empty plane and i was lucky to have 3 seats all to myself shame it was too early to lie down and have a nap !.
With time differences (+3 hours) arrived in Christchurch just before midnight but having to go through customs (and getting my muddy Free 4.0's washed as i'd be running in them) meant it was tomorrow before we (me and fellow Gold Coast Runners Peter Hall and his wife Leanne) picked up the hire car and headed off to the hotel in downtown Christchurch (easy to get to except the Rememberance Arch and pedestrian mall meant a few extra turns than expected (some of my better navigating).
The plan being to meet up at 8 and then drive down to Te Anau, by the time i'd eaten dinner (a couple of sandwiches i'd made at home and really didn't feel like on the plane) it was well after 1 and more tired than i thought i woke at 7:55 !!, so pretty much out of bed, repack and down to the car (so much for thoughts of a run in the city !).
Having successfully navigated out the city it was then the long drive south, mutton pie and cappucino (note to self never again say yes to chocolate on NZ Cappucino felt like i had to eat a block of chocolate before i made it to the actual coffee !) and then stocked up on groceries at a town along the way. Lovely scenery, alot of it reminding me of the Princes Hwy on the way down to Portland, as expected lot's of sheep and many green fields (have never seen so much irrigation though this seemed strange as it was looking quiet wet !!) strangely also saw some signs warning of wallabies (never saw any though).
By 4 we'd made it to Te Anau i was staying in a cabin a couple of K's out of town with a glorious view out my back window (3rd picture down) of the lake and the surrounding mountains. With a bit of rain in the air and a chill in the breeze
have to admit i was feeling the sort of cold i hadn't experienced since moving north, was only thankful i had a couple of days to acclimatize.
Certainly got colder once night fell (10 PM !) and was actually woken by the cold at around 6AM (this sleeping bag had been used by me in below zero mornings in German sports halls, surely it wasn't that cold !) so seeing rain it was on with the skins and a jumper and back to bed !!.
Had a better look around the town on the Thursday and, if not for the weather, an idyllic place bumping into Peter and Leanne at the info centre and joining them for lunch and organised a bit of a training run on the course the following day.
Later got in an hours running, certainly warm clothing was going to be an essential part of this event.
Friday morning we did the last 10K's of the course from Rainbow Reach, perfect track for running on, wide and soft underfoot, the Free's were definitely going to be my shoe of choice (they'd taken two days to dry after being washed in customs so was very careful to keep them dry the day before the race).
Picked up my number and race pack and returned later in the day for the race briefing, just how a race briefing should be, short, bit of humour and to the point so getting a lift home was ready for bed at 8:30 having set the alarm for 4.
Only wish i had brought my mixing bowl breakfast bowl as it meant i was having 2 to 3 bowls of cereal (NZ Hubbard Muesli, cornflakes concoction - quiet tasty) every time, still the important thing was having it.
My plan had been to run with my bike top and Moeben sleeves, with gloves on and using the bandanna "Beanie style" but once checked in just realised how cold it was so one thermal top as well as the Goretex jacket came out of my camelbak (bladderless this was one race i wouldn't need extra water) and were put on.
Managed to catch up with some other Aussies and the very low key start took me by surprise, was nowhere near the 7 hour pace time was actually positioned somewhere near the back of the field !!!.
First 5K's was pretty much spent passing runners and walkers whilst going at a very gentle pace (was bemused to see a couple of runners heading back towards me, apparently they had forgotten some of their compulsory gear and were heading back to pick it up), but reckoned this was a good way to start as it would, in theory, leave plenty in the tank for the easy last half.
Once out of the tree line, beautiful clear skies awaited us, only problem clear skies mean real cold and the breeze of surrounding snow capped peaks meant that even three topped and gloved i was damned cold. Finally made it to the hut and the gear check was just thankful there were no long queues and standing around, a couple of cups of leppin and i was ready to go.
The next stage of the run was basically a single file of runners at easy pace, giving me some time to enjoy the scenery, simply didn't feel as though the frozen legs really wanted to be pushed at this point. Sadly the cold was getting to me and i had quite a headache and was wondering whether the thermal beanie was a better option but never quite made that change (the Buff Bandanna had done such a good job on cold morning in France it was virtually my security blanket !!).
Finally we headed off the ridgelines and headed back into trees, by then i'd passed a few runners (helped by a one drink no food stop at the last aid station) and it was simple downhill running. I'd be honest and say i wasn't as sure on my feet on these foreign trails as i would be at home so went down rather more gently than usual, although was only passed by one way more daredevil runner.
At this point we were still running virtually in groups, can't really expplain why but simply you'd find a comfortable pace and just stay on it.
Had a good feed at Iris Burn Hut (nearly half way) and my plan was to then really push out as my legs should still have been really fresh. Unfortunately no one had told my legs this, not sure if the cold up top had just made the muscles too cold or what but the legs had simply lost their usual bounce and anything vaguely uphill reduced me to a walk.
Eventually we made it to parts of track under the sun (as opposed to under trees) and i was beginning to wonder whether all the layers of clothing were making me sweat too much and this was effecting me.
So 26K's to go it was off with the thermal top, the goretex jacket and the gloves and pop a couple of salt tablets, a little better but still was struggling (and it was still coolish - wasn't rolling the Moeben sleeves down). Had a vague idea where i was place wise as had heard the woman i was running with was 14th (should make me around 120 to 140th by my calcs) so was pretty much hanging on, looking for a second wind to at least get top 100.
Next aid station was my last roll of the dice, a couple of quarters of orange sometimes inexplicably a great aid. Finally was getting running consistently though not fast and just waiting to get to Rainbow Ridge (and in theory the easy familiar part). Couple of Leppins there and seemed to finally get my act together, not fast but consistently passing runners and no walking. One mistake at the last aid station grabbed a cup and drank it, unfortunately it was jelly beans, still not far to go so not a great issue. Finally the finish line in sight and i could stop.
Thankful i didn't realise the time (7:20:57) as i'd been confident of something between 6 and 7 hours (was only on seeing the full results i realised how i'd just sneaked into the top 100 99th place).
Absolutely stuffed post race, the complimentary orange juice washed down by the complimentary beer at the end were absolute saviours and for the first time since about 5K's i was feeling pretty good, wandered back to the car as i was sure Peter (and Leanne who was doing the Luxmore Grunt) would have well and truly been finished by now. Beautiful sunny day by now, much better than the weather had indicated in the previous few days, we were definitely lucky.
Wandered back and had a feed and caught up with some of the much better performed Aussies.
Despite this run being only somewhere between 61.2K's (official distance) and 58.6K's (Garmin measured distance) it was damned tough, probably more due to the fact i don't handle the cold well.
Next day (after 10 hour sleep - maybe my body was telling me something), wandered into town for the presentations and was lucky enough to win a spot prize (although the question has to be asked when i'll get to use my Milford Sound boat trip !), after that fish and chips and a leisurely lakeside walk.
That evening was reminded just how lucky we had been weatherwise with heavy rain which continued unabated till morning (goretex jacket and waterproof pants not usually what i'd wear to wander the 100 yards to the ablutions block !!).
This weather followed us all the way north back to Christchurch (picturesque Queenstown being essentially shrouded in fog and sleet i believe it has mountains !!).
Arriving back early evening in Christchurch did mean i would get a look around the town this time, and was fortunate to find a Pub with live music that night (acoustic guitar playing vocalist nice relaxing way to spend the night) and not being tired went for a walk of the block (3 or 4 miles) before bed.
One last chance of a run in town so that morning memorised the street map and headed towards the Gondola, by signs this was around 12K's (plus a little as had to avoid freeways) but with murky weather heading to the top wasn't going to be an option (and having worn a watch so i'd be back in time for a shower before checking out wasn't likely timewise), so headed back in time for breakfast and a shower before 10AM checkout.
With a few hours to kill before the flight out, went for a walk around town but again rain dogged us and eventually ended up in the the Canterbury Museum, so yes i did see plenty of Kiwis and Moas and all the unique birdlife although unfortunately only stuffed !).
First time i'd ever paid to leave a country ($25 Departure Tax) and then a quick (tailwind got us back 25 minutes early), flight home, actually it all went so smoothly i forgot to change my money at the airport (rather embarassing in the supermarket the next day).
A 3 hour run on Thursday, showed me that the Kepler legs were only a small blip and 90 minutes this morning makes me confident of a good 50K's tomorrow in the Kurrawa to Duranbah and return, my 10th start there. Not sure of the weather though, going by recent rain we may actually get good coolish conditions rather than the usual humid, mobile sauna conditions.

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