The WUU2K 2018 - the race that nearly got away from me, again.
The WUUI2K, my first ultra marathon. My first taste what it’s like to really push yourself far beyond anything you thought was possible. I had been tested before in many ways, but nothing like the gruelling 62km run around the hills of Wellington. One year ago, in my first attempt at an ultra distance race, I succeeded in crossing the finish line and getting my first ultra distance finisher’s medal.
I was dead last. I set the record (which still stands) for the longest time taken to cross the finish line. But I did cross the finish line.
One year on and with three more ultra marathon finishes under my belt, I went into the race this year much better trained, with better gear, better nutrition, more experience, and a good understanding of what it would take to get me to the finish line in daylight.
I had run the infamous Tip Track many, many times, even running repeats up and down to build up my climbing legs. I ran my first ultra distance training run (43kms) in the month leading up to the race, and felt good doing it. I even sprinted the last kilometre because the battery on my watch was dying and I wanted the ultra distance recorded. So I sprinted until it beeped the next kilometre off and hit the save button, before jogging home.
I was well prepared for this race.
My last long run was two weeks before race day – the Wellington Marathon. I wanted a good long, hard run and then I’d taper hard for the next two weeks. I wanted to beat last year’s time in the marathon, but most of all I didn’t want to pick up an injury. So I was fully prepared to bin the race if things started going wrong.
The weather for the Wellington Marathon was miserable, with rain right from the start and increasingly high winds. Undaunted, I put in a really good first half of the race. My worst nightmare was realised in the second half however.
I came around a headland and slammed into a wall of wind gusting to 100km/h just as my foot hit the ground. I felt the shock go all the way up my body, but crucially I also felt my IT band scream.
Two weeks of no running, lots of stretching and foam rolling failed to fix it. I was heading into a seriously hard ultra marathon knowing that my knee was not going to last the distance. I should have pulled out. No-one would think less of me for doing so. I was injured. Injuries happen, and the smart thing to do was to not run this race and risk doing even more damage.
As I have said before, no-one ever accused me of being a smart man.
So in the 14th July, just 5 days before my 53rd birthday, I rolled out of bed and tested my knee. No pain yet, maybe it would last. I got myself organised, had breakfast and left to walk through the pre-dawn streets to the pickup point at the CQ Hotel.
I was feeling quite good on the ride out to the start, chatting with the chap beside me and generally building up a lot of positive energy for the day ahead. It was calm, not raining, not cold, just near perfect conditions at the start.
Things were a little weird for me, and the wonderful weirdness continued throughout the day. I had complete strangers coming up to me and thanking me for the video series I made on YouTube documenting the race course.
I had made the series to try and help other runners, especially those from out of town, get an idea of what they would be up against in this race. So they could be better prepared and have a good day out when they get here. It was also a good reason to run the various sections of the course again and again and again.
I felt I knew the course really well now, and was champing at the bit to get stuck into it.
We all lined up at the start for the final briefing, and having learned my lesson from last year, I made sure I was at the back of the pack, just in front of the tail-end-charlies. I was determined not to go out too hard at the start this year, especially with my dodgy IT band.
The run, or I should say, walk, up Mt. Kaukau went well. I passed a few people here and there, but mostly I found myself trapped at the back, forced to walk most of the ascent. That slowed me down, by about a minute. By the time I hit the top, and it seemed all too soon, I was feeling really good. I was on target for a 9 hour finish and I hadn’t even broken a sweat yet.
We were running in the clouds, in the dark, with a fresh northerly encouraging us along for the first section of the Skyline track. I didn’t push hard yet, knowing that this first section was a bit rough and the more runnable section would come after about 5kms.
I was sticking to the plan and the plan was working.
About 2kms in, my right foot landed on a loose rock and it rolled away. I lurched sideways and fought to regain my balance. But that was all it took for my IT band to decide now was the time to play its first card of the day. Not the start I wanted.
The sun started to rise, on what would turn out to be a lovely winter’s day in the coolest little capital in the world. I continued running freely now that they trail was a bit friendlier. My knee was sore, but manageable, so I tried to ignore it and just enjoyed running with other people, listening to their excited banter as they worked their way into the race.
I was just thinking I must be getting close to the first aid station, when I hit a series of switchbacks and passed a water tank. Indeed I was close, and still moving at a good pace. The day was not lost just yet.
I hit the first aid station at Makara Road in about 1:35, 10 minutes ahead of my targeted time and feeling really good (knee not withstanding). Unlike last year, I was not the last to leave the aid station and this year I crossed the road and started the uphill climb to Makara Peak feeling really positive.
I would like to say that I powered up the hill, but I didn’t. I wanted to, but it was proving to be a little difficult to load my leg and I knew that the following downhill was going to be really painful. So I plodded along, just keeping moving and enjoying the scenery.
By the time I crested the peak, having walked up the last little bit, I was feeling warm and ready to hit the fast section of the course hard. I knew it would hurt, but hurting hadn’t slowed me down too much so far, so I was keen to bank some fast kms while I could.
It did hurt, but I pushed on, trying to make good time going down to Leaping Lizard. Things were going ok, I felt I could continue, and if this was as bad as things were going to go, then I could still come home in daylight.
The thing with pain, I have discovered, is that it seems to get to a certain level, and then it stays there. And such was the case for most of Saturday. Once you accepted the pain and determined that it was not getting worse, then it was just a case of dealing with it and carrying on, and swearing, a lot!
Coming down through the rough section of Leaping Lizard, I slowed right down, being careful. I knew I wasn’t so agile right now and I didn’t want to risk a fall on the loose rocks. A lot of this involved jumping from one side of the track to the other, as I sought out the easiest and safest route down the trail.
On a really steep and rough section I was going a bit faster than I wanted as I leapt onto a mossy section. I felt my TFL fire and cramp, sending waves of agony through my IT band down to my knee.
The rest of the descent was done in a hobbling walk, hugging friendly trees all the way down.
I wanted to run Possum Bait Line. I knew that running this track was crucial to making good time on this section of the course. I tried running it, and even managed to in places, but it was becoming hard enough to just walk. I pressed on, running where I could, walking where I had to.
I was feeling a little tired at this point in the race. Battling the pain and struggling to stay upright was proving to be very taxing. I was starting to wonder if I would make it past the second aid station.
People were passing me, quietly burying me as they powered up the next little rise. Quite a few said thanks for the videos as they passed. It was really surprising just how many people had seen them and how many people recognised me.
I hit The Missing Link and knew there was not much climbing left to do. Then it would be all downhill to the aid station. Not far now.
I came out at the top of the track with a smile on my face and stopped to chat to the lovely woman at the top. I remembered her from last year, and this section was one of the highlights for me, both last year and this year. Her cheerful enthusiasm spurred me on towards the four wheel drive track that lead up to the Snake Charmer track, and the beginning of the descent towards the aid station.
I went to put my legs into granny gear to grind up the hill and took a step forward.
There was an intense flash of pain from my knee, my hip, my back and everything in between and my right leg gave way causing me to stumble. This was not good.
Huffing and puffing like an old man (ok, like an older man) I dragged myself up towards the Snake Charmer track. Once there, I tried to start running again. The same flash of pain, the same debilitating weakness in my leg, but I managed to stumble a few steps and lurch into what might generously be called a jog.
Each step was agony, sending waves of pain through my whole body. It was not quite at the level of kidney stones, but you could tell it had aspirations to be so. I stumbled down the trail, puffing and blowing, working my leg into something more like a proper run.
And this was the strange situation I found myself in for the rest of the day. If I could get myself to run, even slowly, the pain was bearable and I could keep going. But the moment I stopped, to walk around a rough section of track, to drink, to eat, at an aid station or road crossing, starting to run again was sheer agony. And there was no guarantee that I would be able to run. Many times I tried, but failed to get started, and was relegated to walking.
I ran into the second aid station at the Makara Carpark in 3:20, still 10 minutes ahead of my target time to finish in 9 hours.
I was very surprised by that, and hugely encouraged. If I could just keep doing what I was doing, it was still on.
There was a line waiting to fill up on water and it cost me some time, a couple of minutes, as we worked our way through the process. The volunteers were all really helpful and chirpy, but I just wanted to get going, to keep moving. I had a date with Salvation and I didn’t want to be late.
Coming out of the aid station I tried to run, and failed. I walked to the road crossing and was waved across by the marshal, as the oncoming car had elected to wait for me to cross. I went to run across the road, and failed. Even the marshal noticed.
I needed to run Salvation. I had trained on this track specifically so I would be able to run it. In training I’d go and run hard for 20kms and then power up the track, not stopping to walk even a single step. I was ready for this section and was determined to run as much of it as I could.
My legs had other ideas.
The pain in my knee and my hip was something I could deal with, by now I had figured out how to get myself moving and I knew that if I did beast through the first minute or so, then the pain would go away somewhat and I could run more comfortably.
So my IT band played its next card – cramps.
My hamstring and quads now started cramping, (alternatively and at the same time) locking my leg up and preventing my knee from bending. There was very little I could do when this happened but stop and walk for a bit. And that meant having to face the agony of starting to run all over again.
This was really starting to get old.
I struggled up Salvation, seriously unimpressed with my effort, and emerged at the top into bright sunshine. I went back to the previous year when I came through here, struggling to breathe, dead last, not knowing how I’d make it across the road.
This year my breathing was fine, I still had not seen the tail-end-charlies, and I knew how I’d get across the road – painfully.
The run up to the top of Wright’s Hill was actually quite pleasant. It’s a lovely bit of track and it seemed to be welcoming me as I plodded along. I tackled the stairs to the top with no more panting than I have done after having parked in the carpark and walked up. So I wasn’t taxing my system so much it seemed this year. I was still up for running when I could, but my leg was now in full rebellion.
I was still running with other people as we hit the fenceline around Zealandia, a huge improvement on last year. We had been warned in the race briefing that there was grading works going on along the track, and when I saw the state of it, my heart sank.
Much of the rough and broken rock was covered in nice friendly soft dirt. It was a dream to run on in comparison, and I couldn’t run. I tried several times and occasionally got moving, but as soon as I hit a rise or a rough part, I’d end up walking again because my leg would cramp up. It was very frustrating.
By now my target was to make it to the aid station at The Windmill. I was becoming quite convinced that that was where my race would finish. I was not moving fast enough anymore and each time I glanced over my shoulder I expected to see the tail-end-charlies catching me up.
Half-way on a buggered knee would just have to do.
Keen to just get the failure over and done with, I pushed on to the aid station and checked my time. My watch said 5:00 hours.
I was now 15 minutes behind my target time, but still about half an hour in front of last years’ time. I didn’t want to quit. I knew I was messed up and unlikely to finish. I hurt like hell and couldn’t see myself running another 30kms in the state I was in.
So I decided I would keep going until I was cut. I would either get cut at the top of the Tip Track or at Tawatawa. I had no doubt that I would get cut. I just wasn’t moving fast enough anymore. But I was determined that I would keep going until that happened. I wouldn’t quit just because it was hard, just because it hurt, just because my dream race had turned into a nightmare, again.
And so I stumbled along my least favourite part of the course. Car Parts and Barking Emu for some reason just seem hard for me to run on. And on this day it was made worse by me not being able to lift my feet high enough to prevent myself catching my toes on rocks.
And then there were the mountain bikers.
I heard the annoyed squeak of breaks behind me and glanced over my left shoulder. My toe caught a rock and I lurched forward, heading off the narrow trail towards the steep drop that would take me ages to climb back up on a good day. (assuming I survived the fall)
Fortunately for me there was a tree in the way, and I slammed into it as the mountain biker rode past. She asked if I was ok, so I said I was. Of course I was. My leg was now spasming , my hand was bruised, my back wrenched, but more importantly, I had stopped running, and now I’d have to try and start all over again. No, I was fine, no worries.
I did manage to get going again, several times, as more mountain bikers came through, riding carefully around the sweaty, puffing, old man cursing under his breath.
I checked my time and did the maths. I’d probably be cut at the top of the Tip Track if I didn’t move faster. I could have settled with that, jogged and walked to the end of my race and taken the left turn towards home, a hot bath, a loving wife and sanity.
Instead I pushed myself back into a shambling run, no longer just cursing under my breath. I pumped my arms and tried to get a good pace going, something I succeeded at. In fact I was now running hard, pushing to get to the top of the Tip Track in time to make the cut. But I was still plagued with low hanging feet.
My left foot slammed into a rock hard enough crumble the toenail (it all just flaked away when I got home) and send me face-planting into the track. I was so lucky.
Barking Emu is a pretty rocky track, very rough in places. This one section however was soft mud and the worst that happened, beside destroying my big toe, was muddy hands and legs. As weird as it sounds I couldn’t stop myself from laughing. No clean bottom for me this year.
I picked myself up and carried on at a walk. As I rounded the next bend I saw the top of the Tip Track. I jogged (I think) to where the marshals were directing runners and asked how I was doing for time. I was half an hour inside the cut-off and was good to keep on going.
So much for a hot bath and a cold beer. My race was not over just yet.
This next section was mostly downhill – a fast section. But with my leg not functioning at all well, this was not going to be a fast section for me.
I ran what I could, when I could, and was surprised to find I was still not the last runner. I caught up to a group as the trail narrowed and tucked in behind them, content to let them set the pace. I followed them all the way to the first stream crossing and waited as one by one, they crossed. The water level was high enough that you had to choose which rock you wanted very carefully to avoid wet feet.
Last year I bounced through this stream with mostly dry feet thanks to the Gortex layer in my shoes. That layer has long since given up the ghost, but I had come prepared this year, and was wearing my new waterproof socks. This proved to be a masterstroke of genius.
Instead of skipping from stone to stone, trying to stay dry, I could choose the other stones where my shoes would get wet. Given the state of my leg, I lacked the agility needed to use the dry stones, and so, with the waterproof socks on I managed to cross safely and easily. My shoes got wet, but my feet stayed dry.
At Red Rocks the group in front of me stopped, perhaps to take some photos, but I pressed on. I had some flat running to do and time to make up. I pounded along the beach fast enough to outrun the sleeping seals and dead crab carcases, and the group behind me (who were probably not trying to catch me up).
I ran until I hit the sandy patch at about 42kms and that brought me back to a walk. I could see the Owhiro Bay aid station and decided it was pointless trying to get started running again, when I’d only have to stop as soon as I got going. So I walked into the aid station at 8:55, 1 hour 15 minutes behind schedule (but still half an hour faster than last year).
I refilled my water with the help of the lovely volunteers and watched as the group came through and carried on towards the Tip Track. I was right behind them. But they were running and I was still trying to get started. I needed to go to the bathroom, and in my haste to keep going and stay with the group, I’d neglected to go at the aid station. Too late now.
The section from Owhiro Bay to the bottom of the Tip Track seemed to take forever, just like it did in training. I hit the bottom of the Tip Track with about 2 hours left to get it done and get to the Tawatawa aid station. So I started running, up the track.
I was in super-granny-gear, taking small steps, but running. It hurt, but I was running and that’s what mattered. Another runner passed me, walking, and pulled away. It was then that I thought, ‘bugger it’. It was faster to walk, so I did.
Lots of runners were coming down the track, smiles on their faces having conquered the demon and now on their way to the finish. I had so many people stop and thank me for the videos as they passed that I was getting quite embarrassed about being recognised.
My wife’s physio, who was tail-end-charlie for the 42km event came past and called out cheerily as she went, saying she’d see me at the finish line. She seemed more confident than I was that I’d be there.
I toiled up the track, just putting one foot in front of the other, clapping the runners who were coming down. The Tip Track is not a demon for me, more of an old friend. I have run up and down here so many times that it is as familiar as my own street. I just wished I could run it.
50 minutes later I was at the top and turning around for my own run down to the final aid station. I had less than an hour to get there. Last year I had arrived (in a complete mess) at the aid station with 5 minutes to spare. I then sat there in the aid station for a good 15 minutes trying to get myself back together, until the marshals told me to get moving.
This year the rules were changed. This year you had to leave the aid station by the cutoff time. So I ran as best as I could down the track. I made it to the bottom and crossed the road. A glance at my watch told me I had enough time, so I walked the last bit to the aid station.
I was greeted by a lovely volunteer (my welcoming committee) who walked me into the aid station. They were lovely there. I refilled my water, grabbed some food and was gearing up to leave, when my brother-in-law and my nephew appeared.
My brother-in-law had just completed the 42km event in a really good time in his first attempt at this race, and had come to the final aid station to wish me well. It was lovely to see them, and really good to hear that his race went so well.
Refuelled, I exited the aid station determined now that I would finish in daylight. The 9 hour target was well gone, but a new target of finishing in daylight would do to keep me going. I walked up the Berhampore hill allowing the food from the aid station to settle. I could see at least two people behind me and I was determined to keep them there. So I walked as fast as I could.
Running was still beyond me when I got to the top and headed down the other side. I hobbled down the stairs sideways, facing new problem. My left leg was now starting to crumble.
For almost all of the downhills I had been favouring my left leg and it had taken the brunt of each step as it compensated for the right leg not doing its fair share. I had visions of it giving way completely half way down the stairs and me tumbling the rest of the distance to the bottom. At least it would have been faster.
At the water tank I was passed by another one of the people behind me. A lovely older guy who told me I was doing much better than last year. I didn’t feel like it, but thanked him anyway. I tried to stay with him, but he widened the gap going across the golf course.
I pushed into the downhill willing my legs to work, and to my surprise they did. I ran, not fast, but I ran, all the way to Adelaide Road, where I was greeted by shouts of encouragement that nearly made me cry.
And then the marshals helping me cross the road exclaimed “We’ve found the missing Trevor!” They were really excited and happy to have found the long lost Trevor – who was lost in Mornington, somewhere.
It turns out my lovely wife had roped a friend in to drive her all around the south end of the course trying to catch up with me, at the Owhiro Bay aid station, the Tip Track, Tawatawa and Adelaide Road. Unfortunately she was relying on Google maps to determine my position instead of the Garmin LiveTrack app. So at one point I was in Courtney Place, and then in Mornington and then just around the corner.
They had been sitting in the car at the Adelaide Road crossing for an hour before calling it quits. Now that’s endurance!
I chuckled about it as I faced my next challenge –the munting steep climb up Mt. Albert. I had trained on this climb a lot also and knew there was no point trying to run it now. It would achieve nothing and just leave me unable to run anything else for the rest of the day.
On the way up I passed the lady that had passed me at the top of the Berhampore hill. She was having a hard day, but was giving it her all as she struggled up the hill.
Through the road crossing, past more happy volunteers telling me the hard stuff is all done. It’s a sweet easy run from here to the finish. I knew they were right. I had trained on this section a lot, including the previous month at the end of my 43km training run. I knew I could run it on tired legs.
So I tried to run, bracing myself for the debilitating stabbing pain. It didn’t come. There was pain to be sure, but the whole drama of trying to start running didn’t happen this time. I didn’t question it, but carried on, down towards Melrose Park, past the zoo and up the last little hill.
I was still running when I passed the marshals who offered me some jet planes to speed me on my way. I munched them gratefully as I carried on running all the way to the track leading down to Crawford Road.
The stairs here proved tricky and my legs nearly buckled. But I was getting closer to the finish, and it was still daylight. The friendly people at the road crossing helped me down the step and across the roads. And then I was in Mt. Victoria, nearly finished.
Once more I stepped forward to lurch into run and it seemed to work. I’m not sure what changed, but I could now start running again. It hurt still, but at least I could run. The hills still caused my legs to cramp, sometimes forcing me to walk, but that didn’t matter now. I was moving, it was still daylight and I only had about one kilometre to go.
I rounded the velodrome, not stopping to chat with the marshals who were giving me directions. I had my head down, my determined face on, and I was going to finish in daylight!
I came through the carpark and hit the next section of trail, and swore. (I do that a lot it seems). It was too dark under the trees to run without a head torch. That meant stopping, taking my vest off and digging out my torch.
I fumbled with the hooky things that hold the vest closed. Salamon, I love my vest, but this hooky closing thing sucks the big one, big time! I couldn’t get it undone, and fumbled (with the wrong end) for ages. Finally I got it off and dug out my torch. Suitably illuminated, I tried to put the vest back on while walking. But that proved to be impossible. I had to stop and focus hard on getting the hook the right way around and then find the right loop to hook it through.
On a training run this would be easy. But after 61km hard running, in the dark, with a dodgy leg, at my time of life, it was a challenge I just didn’t need. Eventually I figured it out and got going again.
By the time I got to the final road crossing it was dark enough to need the torch outside the covering of the trees. I hadn’t made it in time. But there was no point in crying about it. The finish line was nearly in sight and all that mattered now was crossing it.
I ran up the first hill after the road crossing barely noticing the incline. I ran up the last hill, where the previous year I had struggled to walk up. I wasn’t running fast. I wasn’t running pretty. But I was running.
I crossed the line to Gareth, the race director,(and all around lovely person) telling me I had done much better than last year. As he put the finisher’s medal around my neck I wondered, had I really?
It was dark, everyone had either packed up and gone home or was in the process of doing so. I was two hours late finishing, and keenly aware that I was holding everyone up, again.
Last year my fishing time was 11 hours and 56 minutes. This year it was 11 hours and 7 minutes. So about 50 minutes faster but still a really slow time. By now I was acutely aware that a lot of people had watched my videos and would probably be interested in how my race went, probably assuming I’d be one of the front runners, or at least in the middle of the pack. But no matter how hard I dream, reality just doesn’t seem to get on board with the programme.
But now was not the time for deep introspection. I knew from previous experience that I was about to get really cold, really fast.
I was prepared for that this time however. I grabbed my dropbag and used the towel to dry myself off as best I could, then put on a merino thermal with my Buffalo jacket on top. I put my gloves on and tracksuit pants and then I was nice and toasty.
The next problem to solve was how to get home.
Because of the Matariki fireworks the bus wasn’t running, and there was zero chance of a taxi making it up to the summit of Mt. Vic in the next hour or so due to the buildup of traffic. Megan (I think) asked how I was getting home, and I said I’d walk, slowly. But they were adamant that I was in no condition to walk with my leg the way it was, so they offered me a ride, which I gratefully (you have no idea how gratefully) accepted.
So all I had to do was sit and wait for a bit while they packed up and waited for the last runners to arrive.
Yes. The last runners. I let that sink in while I sat and chatted with the chap who had finished three minutes before me.
Meanwhile I had my Chia drink (nice) and cupcake (very nice) and thought about my day. I wasn’t happy with the way it turned out. I had really wanted this to be a good race for me. I firmly believed that finishing in 9 hours was doable. If I’d had two good legs I would have certainly finished on time.
But I didn’t have two good legs through no-one’s fault but my own. There is no point in playing the “if” game once the game is over.
Or is there?
I’m not happy with the way things turned out for me. But I am happy with the way I responded. I’m happy with the time I put in considering the amount of running I could do. Despite the pain, I was still 10 minutes ahead at the second aid station. My real problems didn’t kick in until my legs started cramping, mainly because of the way I was compensating for the inability to bend my knee properly.
At the halfway mark I was still in sight of the goal, even though by that stage it was slipping away. And when I couldn’t run, when I tripped and fell, I never quit. I never gave up. If I was going to DNF it was going to be because I was cut, not because I quit. In the end I wasn’t cut, and I finished.
I’m happy with my training, and how I prepared myself (mostly). I had plenty of stamina to keep going, probably because of all the walking I did, and although I was tired, I think most of that was from battling the pain and frustration. It takes it out of you.
The last runners duly arrived and I stood and clapped as hard as I could. I had a good idea of what they had gone through to get here, and they deserved all the applause I could give them.
And then things were packed up in earnest. I found myself in the passenger seat of ‘the ute’ being drive home by Megan and encouraged to have another cupcake. I don’t mind if I do. (they were yummy!)
Before I even realised it, I was home. It was over. I had done it again. A second WUU2K finisher’s medal clutched in my hand.
All that remained was to soak in a hot bath and regale my wife with tales of hardship and woe. (well I can’t very well tell her it was easy). I inspected my big toe and after washing all the blood off it, found the nail mostly destroyed. The toe itself is not broken, but it is certainly very unhappy (even a week later) and it will be some time before I can run on it.
My right knee is still painful one week on. I can bend it now and it no longer keeps me awake at night, but it too will require some more time before it will be good enough to run on. I’m fine with that. A couple of weeks off won’t do me any harm.
Why do you do this to yourself?
Ultra runners get this question a lot. And I suspect even other runners in last week’s race might look at me and say – “Dude, that’s just stupid. Why beat yourself up so much? It’s just one race.”
The standard reply is usually something along the lines of - challenging yourself, pushing yourself and seeing just how far you can go. For me there is definitely an element of that. There is also a stubbornness, an unwillingness to submit to defeat without trying everything to succeed, that is deeply ingrained in me. I know when to quit. I just have great difficulty doing it.
In this race I knew that the pain I was feeling from my IT band would go away once I stopped running. I knew it wasn’t doing me irreparable harm. I would heal. It would take time, but I would heal. Already the pain is less and my mobility is more. In a few weeks I will be back running as if it never happened.
But finishing is forever. That feeling of finally making it to the end, that sense of achievement, of battling through and rising to the challenge, doesn’t fade within a couple of weeks. Long after the memory of how much it hurt during the race is gone, I’ll still have the finisher’s medal, I’ll still have the memory of crossing the finish line, I’ll still have everything I learned from the experience.
And I will know that no matter how hard life gets, no matter how much it hurts, I won’t quit. I will keep going until I get to the end, or I get cut.
So what next?
My plan, if things had gone well, was to sign up for the Taupo 100km. But things didn’t go well, so that’s now in doubt. First I need to get running again, and I need to be able to run long, at least 40-50kms freely, before I’ll sign up.
But in the meantime I’m going to work on strength and mobility. I need to stretch a lot more and build up those ‘other’ muscles that support my running. Not just quads, hamstrings, calves etc.
I have a plan to fix my vest as well. I’ll let you know how that goes. I have some magnets that were a shoelace replacement gimmick that might do the trick. It will potentially make taking the vest on and off a breeze, especially in the late stage of the race when your fingers have lost their dexterity. (and your brain has also)
Apart from Taupo, I have no other races planned for this year. That doesn’t mean I won’t do any more, just that I have nothing planned. I’m going to take this time of healing and recovery to really dial in my training so I have all the bases covered. Then I’m going to put that training to the test to prepare for next year.
Next year – 9 hours or less. It will be done.
I really have to say a huge thank you to Gareth and the WUU2K team, all of you. I have had a chance to run in other races over the last year, so now I have something to compare the WUU2K to. It still stands as the best race from a runner’s perspective.
The care given to all of the runners is unique. Everyone I encountered, from aid station volunteers, to marshals, to the core team, were just amazing. You got the sense that they had come out to support you. That you mattered. It was your race and they wanted you to do well.
I’ve not had that feeling in any other race I have done. The WUU2K has a family feel to it that just makes it so special.
I tried to thank the volunteers and marshals as I passed, and if I missed you, I’m sorry. Please know that I really do appreciate you coming out and spending the day cheering us on. You are the secret ingredient that makes up the soul of the race. Without you it would just be a long day in the hills.
There is no doubt that I will be back for more next year. I’ll be stronger, faster, (older) and totally focused on finishing in under 9 hours (ok in daylight, ok then, not last, ok just finishing…)
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Do you like games?
Check out my Steemit Ultra Marathon game where you can win 20SBD for first place, 10SBD for second and 5SBD for third. Get your virtual running shoes on and get ready to run!
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Who else can tell you stories about impersonating an officer, stealing a military aircraft to go on a booze run, or steal military aircraft and go on an unsanctioned bombing run - and that's all before he turned 18!
Check out @len.george and find out what other madness he got up to!
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