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Oh. My. God.

Said exactly like Steve Martin in Housesitter.

So I thought I was ready for my first ultra, 70k is not a bad place to start. Plenty of marathons under my belt. I had done a 50k for training a month earlier in a decent time and pulled up all right after it. I even tried to throw in the hardest hills I could find for that one where you pretty much had to walk up them. I had clocked up a 100k week that week and the mileage was good over the last few months. I had a slightly tight achilles and a bit of a cold from 2 weeks out so I only did about 20k in the 2 weeks leading up to it, but that was time to taper anyway, so no excuses. My last marathon 6 months back was 3:53 and I did a 1:35 half a month earlier. But for all the training it was still no preparation for what was coming.

Somehow I had thought it was not a very technical run (the first 40k wasn’t so maybe that is where I got it from), but it is apparently one of the toughest ultras on the calendar. The worst thing was the brutal and technical downhill sections. When your quads are shot, and legs cramping, it is a killer. A few times I slid down on my butt as that was the safest way down, and towards the end I was having to use trees to swing down the ‘hill’.

My quads were so shot that by the end I could barely lift them and could only swing my legs for a fast walk which must have looked a bit like that marathoner who is looking weird and wonky at the end. At least I could manage a shuffle when I made it to the town since I no longer had to lift my legs.

So the lesson learned is to do a hell of a lot more hill training. A hell of a lot. I live in the Waitekere’s so it is impossible to avoid hills, but most of these are just hills for little fluffy white lap dogs in comparison. And make sure you search for words like ‘tough’ ‘hardest’ and maybe even ‘crazy’ on the main web page for the first trail ultra that you are going to do.

It was almost impossible to run on a good part of the 2nd half (especially with the quads not working). The ascent was very steep and then the sawtooth pattern of ups and downs following the ridgeline meant that even a fast walk seemed fast for what seemed to be the last 25k or so. It took me over 7 hours just to do the last 30km so that is slower than a slow walk. The terrain and my legs were to blame.

People were saying it was one of the toughest ultra’s around this way so at least I finished, and finished before the cut off time. Hey there were even a few others who finished after me. My wife though had to help dress me after the shower. It was impossible to bend down far enough to get my pants on.

You have to look on the bright side though. Every ultra after this one will probably be a cinch. But then again these kiwis (at least ARC) are crazy!

By the way, you did get some great views to help distract you (a little bit) from the hell you were putting your legs through:

P.S cheers to Liz for the anti cramping spray and the salt tablets, and the other gent who also had some spray as well. I’ll be taking them on my next run.

P.P.S – the ultra version of this race is only done every 3 years so the pre-race organising isn’t quite as polished I guess compared to other ultra’s. At the least you need to double check that your overnight accommodation is sorted. Sometimes you think it might just be you, but there were quite a few other people who didn’t know exactly where they were staying. I only made one wrong turn (it was in the dark and you found out after a few steps where you went wrong) but it was generally very clear where you had to go and the aid stations were fine.

Simon Dando