Sunday, 19 March 2017

Running the... Abel Tasman Coastal Track


Abel Tasman Coastal Track

New Zealand Great Walk

60km

Sunday 22 January 2016



Weather Bomb

The plan was to run the 60km Abel Tasman Coastal Track, one of New Zealand's Great Walks. Easy track, doable in a day, and the parents had offered to drop me at one end and then pick me up at the other end. Logistics dreams are made of. On Saturday my father asked me if I had looked at the weather for the next day. I hadn't. He had. He thought the run possibly wasn't a good idea. As I am now Scottish; a bit of rain was not going to put me off. Wind? Well, I don't understand the speeds when they are in wind form. What does gale force even mean? Who's this Gale and how strong is she really? And when describing wind to others why do I always lean to the left? So many questions; none of which will be answered on a solo 60km run. 
We drove from Nelson, dodging fallen trees, and arrived in Marahau for a 7am start. A fallen tree is better than a tree still contemplating a fall. It was pishing with rain. The adults asked if I was sure I wanted to do the run today. Yes, doesn't everyone want to run for hours by themselves in the rain?
Marahau - start of the Abel Tasman trail



Marahau to Bark Bay ~ 15km
07:00-10:00
three hours

A few weeks back I took the Wesley family to the Abel Tasman for a day trip. Boat in, small walk, lay on beach, boat out. A beautiful summer day and absolutely rammed with tourists. Too many people. Sadly, on those sorts of days, the Abel Tasman is a national park ruined. Fortunately, today the day tours were cancelled due to the WEATHER BOMB. With my rain jacket hood pulled tight I plodded through tracks that had turned to streams and admired the roaring waterfalls. Sometimes I was showered in the waterfalls as they crashed over the bridges and boardwalks. I was drenched within minutes. Within the first two hours I did not see a single person, and saw only two before the third hour was over. I'd put my money on them both being German. 

Weather bomb
 
 
At the Anchorage Bay Hut turnoff I continued on to Torrent Bay via the high tide track. The monsoon put me off stopping for a drink. The photos display how beautiful the day was.
 
 

 
At around 10am I reached Bark Bay; flushing toilet and a hut where I could write in my trip intentions. I sit outside to eat crisps. The hikers indoors are probably not ready to have my three hour run shoved in their faces just yet. When I do venture inside, to drip all over the log book and describe the weather as shite, I find them all hunched around a fire discussing their possible departure at 11am. 



After texting the adults to let them know I would be departing the hut at 10:15, I do a rough calculation of time and distance. I knew I was taking it easy but I seem to be very slow. Low tide is at 11:45 and I need to be at Awaroa Hut for the estuary crossing as close to this time as possible in order to cross safely. At my current pace, I am not going to come close to that.

Bark Bay to Awaroa Hut ~ 13km
10:15 - 12:00
1 hour 45 minutes

Keen on making up time, I put my feet back into my soaking shoes and tear off towards the beach. Low tide track. Hmm, but it is not low tide and no one mentioned I would have this crossing. Another jog around the hut. Back out the track I came in on. A fallen tree was partially covering the sign pointing me in the right direction over the high tide route. My hopes of making up time are further dashed when I realise that there are a number of inclines over the next 13km. 

I run past an extended family who comment to their children that my speed is the sort of pace that they are after. 'Totes, if you want to get across the crossing today!' the nitwit in me calls. They are surprised I am crossing today, I am surprised that they are only doing a 13km walk. Calculating walking distances as a runner is confusing.

 

Swishing my rainjacket arms, I do as best as I can to make up time. Trying to run at pace means that every incline is a cruel mountain. I am also not particularly fit so my incline running ability is not flash. There are infrequent signs informing me of distance, to which I give the deathly stare. Surely when I get within a few kilometres of the crossing there will be walkers coming towards me who have managed to cross at the lowest tidal point?  No walkers. Still no more walkers. Finally two walkers; neither who look wet like they should after a tidal crossing. Going down, down. Campsite. No time to fill my drink bottle; I am about twenty minutes after the lowest tide and I need to get across. 
 


 
 


Awaroa Hut to Totaranui
12:00 - 13:30
1 hour 30 minutes



The crossing doesn't look too bad
Scores of walkers are sitting on the hut's porch. What on Abel Tasman earth are they doing? None have crossed and the water is only going to get higher. A quad bike appears from somewhere collecting oversized tramping packs. I rip off my running shoes, wrap them in a plastic bag and squish them into my bag. With my reef shoes shoved on, I flap my feet rapidly towards the water. I have my reef shoes on because of the beautiful sharp shells and crabs I am going to see through the crystal clear water.... Or so my sister said. There has been so much rain that the water is as murky as murky water. Totes murky. 

Olivia also used her hands to motion that the water would be a bit above knee height when asked about the crossing depth. As a vertically challenged member of society, I am expecting the water to be around my mid-thigh.  It is currently around my waist. I lift my backpack up at the sides and back. Everything is in plastic snap lock bags but they won't handle full water immersion. And my cell phone is in my side pocket, the device I need to use to let the parentals know where I am. 
 
Ahead of me is a couple; the girl in a poncho and the guy with a tramping pack on both hi front and back. The girl is my height and now crying as the water is getting higher as we enter further into the crossing. There is no way that my sister; on her tiny steroid-ruined thighs (yes, she's a weight-lifter who has abused steroids for years) would have got across this water. I realise it is higher because of the rain; but this much higher? 
 

The water isn't pulling me sideways down to the ocean but it is coming towards me. Before I know it; I am crossing the estuary in the torrential rain, tits deep in water. As I am still wearing the rainjacket (the irony is that it is my sister's), the water has streamed down the sleeves. With my backpakc now above my head and strapped around my neck, I use the thunder thighs I was genetically nonblessed with and lurch forward. This is not fun and I do not like it. I contemplate the swim. I could easily swim it. All my kit would be stuffed and I still have 25km of slow slogging at the other side of this water. I would be rather chilly and as hungry as I am when I am really hungry. 
You'll all be pleased to know that I survived. After about 20 minutes, I dragged myself ashore. I sat outside an eco-friendly toilet; head in hands; shed a few tears and then repeatedly swore at a Weka that was trying to steal my food. The jet plane sweeties did not make the journey successfully. A wee bit sticky now. After letting the parentals know of my survival (but not worrying them with the trauma) I trudge along, thankful not to have a belly full of salt water. 
 
Cheeky Weka
 

 
In comparison, the rest of the journey to Totaranui was unremarkable. There were some beautiful beaches and even the weather was clearing. Totaranui is a mega camp. There are even recycling bins. Families fight over the best camping sites. 
 



View of Totaranui Beach

 

Totaranui to Whariwharangi Bay Hut (via Separation Point)
13:30 - 15:30
two hours



As I wander out of Totaranui, swigging away at an unhealthy soda beverage, I see an automobile which looks like so many other automobiles. It also looks like my father's. Winner, winner, it is! A fabulous surprise; they can take my rubbish. I let them know that I am feeling fine but that I am a bit slow and therefore will finish an hour behind schedule. 
 
A few kilometres later, the rain jacket can finally come off. The chaffing from my shorts is a true story. Trudge, trudge, beautiful beach after beautiful beach. 




 
 
 

 
 

 
 
On one of these beautiful beaches I meet a lonely German guy who I get speaking to. His English isn't brilliant so somehow he gets confused in the conversation and decides that he will run with me; whilst carrying his tramping pack and wearing jeans. Side note; jeans are not a good hiking decision at any time, and an even worse one when it is wet. HIs original route got changed and now he is heading to a small beach that I don't know. He tears off ahead down a small trail off the beach. For the second time today, I wonder if I might be killed. Fortunately, he doesn't spring out from a bush and kill me. The pen also seems to drop regarding the fact that I am running all the way. He lets me continue unharmed. 

 



I take a track up to see Separation Point. There are no seals today. I then wiggle my way to Whariwharangi Bay Hut; a splendid looking two storey hut with lots of little rooms and a big wooden dining table. Inside I speak to a couple of Americans who are claiming to be Kiwis ( dual nationals, pfffft). Their plans today changed from their original booking due to boat cancellations. They are confused as to how I have come from Marahau. The distance is not the first reason for their confusion. It turns out; the WATER CROSSING WAS CLOSED! As the weather bomb raised the water levels and there was a risk of flash flooding, the park rangers had closed the crossing. That was why there were so many people sitting outside Awaroa Hut. I am sure the closure was well advertised inside the huts; they just weren't expecting someone to jog the route today.

View from Separation Point
 
Separation Point





Dual citizen couple are also confused as to how I am dry. That crossing was hours ago darlings and I have been running like the wind ever since. Well, I have been running. And it is now hot. And it was hours ago. And clothing dries. Educating others across the globe.
 

Whariwharangi Bay Hut
 

 

Whariwharangi Bay Hut to Wainui Bay
15:45 - 16:30
45 minutes

Last leg. An uphill then a downhill. Fabulous. My legs are a bit tired. It has been a great solo adventure. As an unknown bird watcher, I have thoroughly enjoyed the cheeky natives about. I have less than a certain number of kilometres to go. I can't remember what that certain number is but it must be getting smalller. I meet day trippers and families heading up to the hut for a sleepover. I run down switchback after switchback. Legs are giving it the thud, thud. Wish there was a flat part. I get closer and closer to the bay. Come on flat, be round a corner somewhere. A flat section came, at the bottom of the hill where one can expect flat ground to occur, and naturally if felt like an uphill climb. 

And there are my parents, waiting in the carpark for my arrival. Mother holding a tablet in front of her face but forgetting to press the play button on the video, and my father with a phone in front of his face taking several blurry unflattering photos in quick succession. Parents and technology; the best entertainment I have had since that water crossing. We stop for a cracking pizza and snicker slice in Takaka before father and I crack open several beers and the motherlode has to drive us back over the hill back to Nelson. 

A solid adventure, thanks to the parents for not stopping me and providing transportation. And thank you to all the walkers I saw that didn't tell me about the crossing closure; turning back would have been a longer run and I would have had to return another day to complete the track. 




My braids shrunk a little in the rain
 
A classic football / rugby pitch in New Zealand






Sunday, 15 January 2017

A Summer Marcothon


The rules on Christmas Day are that you must wear a santa hat and drink champagne before the run

Running every day for a month is hard for most. Running every day for a month in the lightless arctic month of December in Scotland is harder still. Obviously, this had to become a challenge. This challenge had to be called The Marcothon. It is named after some bloke in Scotland. Marco runs more than occasionally. So does his wife. Google the story. You can even buy the t-shirt.

Running every day for December when you are currently residing in summertime New Zealand and have very little employment obligations… not as difficult. Perhaps even cheating. But given that I have attempted numerous times in Scotland and achieved just once, I thought summertime New Zealand matched my commitment level more closely.

The rules; run every day in December for at least 5km or 25 minutes (whichever comes first).

Previously highlights included leaving a Mexican restaurant at 11:30pm after pitchers of margarita so that I could get a run in before the midnight deadline. Wearing my day’s attire which consisted of heeled boots and a Christmas jumper. I was so drunk that I unfortunately left my woollen hat in the restaurant. Thanks Sinead and Tina; that was a brilliant night. Neither were inspired to take up running.

This year I decided to pair up the Marcothon with the Beerathon. The second challenge is pretty self explanatory and was the harder of the two given my preference for overpriced craft beer and my limited funds. I have listed the beers at the bottom for those of you who are thirsty.

I would like to say that my run on the first of December was a memorable one but in all honesty, I cannot remember it. Most runs consisted of loops up to the Centre of New Zealand (cool fact; it is in my hometown), out-and-backs along a trail following the river (watching others enjoy the swimming holes), and jogging to the supermarket to pick up kai. Kai in New Zealand means food. Yes, please be embarrassed if you live in Britain and have named your child that without Google searching for all the meanings around the world.

Highlights this year included a beautiful run up Mount Manaia. Stunning views in the North of New Zealand on a gorgeous day. I had my sunhat and sunglasses on; although it was more because I was so hungover that I couldn’t face the world. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the top due to my over consumption the night before. On the upside; I didn’t vomit.

Scott did not actually run up the hill; my sister Hillary did and very patiently waited for me when I was too slow! 



Another highlight included a run joining two of my favourite trails in Nelson; the Maitai walkway past the dam and then up over Coppermine Saddle and down passed Third Hut. My favourite part of the trail had been closed after a slip caused by the Kaikoura earthquake in November (yes it was scary and yes I survived, although standing across from a bookshelf which was swaying while things fell off was not my smartest move).Clearly people had been up this trail dispute it’s closure as evidenced by the warning tape having been ripped down and tyre tracks everywhere. So I figured it was OK. Once I neared the end of the trail I realised that it was NOT OK and I had to cross a very scary slip made of large slate scree. I promise that I will not run on that trail again until it is open. Being summertime, some of the creeks had dried up and I ran out of water during my 45km journey. Fortunately, my father had decided to cycle in the opposite direction up the hill and had stashed a beer for my lunch with less than 20km to go. Beerathon for that day; tick.

Lunch on the Coppermine Saddle


Possibly the best run was on Boxing Day when I had a 6am flight to Auckland, then a few hours to wait for Scott and his brother Andy to arrive from Hong Kong. On arrival into Auckland, I got changed into my running gear and threw my suitcase and handbag on a luggage trolley. I then preceded to run the approximately 700m between Auckland Domestic and Auckland International terminals seven times. To get between terminals you follow a coloured line, which despite running it numerous times, I cannot remember if it is green or blue. Travellers reactions were amusing. On the first lap; she’s running late for a flight. The second lap; oh dear, she has forgotten something from her original terminal. The third lap; phew, she has got her lost item but is now running very late for her connecting flight. Good thing she travels in her full brightly coloured running kit and Ariana Grande ponytail. The fourth lap; wtf??!! Fortunately, only one couple saw me run all seven laps. I had a Dundee shower at the International terminal and awaited the boys arrival. After almost five months apart, I am sure that Scott didn’t mind if I was a bit smelly to greet him…

Running with my airport trolley between Auckland Domestic and Auckland International Airport! 
And the beers on the Viaduct in Auckland post airport (and showers)




And so I achieved Marcothon this year. At the end I was running as little as I needed to as my injury from the Taranaki 100 miler flared up. But completion is completion; whether it is summer or winter!

Beers
  • Altitude Brewing - The Moonlight Track
  • Kereru Brewing - Silverstream Pale Ale
  • Kereru Brewing - Resonator IPA
  • To Ol - Garden of Eden
  • To Ol - Cloud 9 Wit
  • McCashin’s Brewery - Stoke Maika Red Ale
  • Kereru Brewing - Karengose
  • Wigram Brewing - Ginger Jerry
  • Kereru Brewing - Old Red Oak Ale
  • Brew Moon Brewing - Luna Wit
  • McCashin’s Brewery - Stoke Recognition Rich Porter
  • The Mussel Inn - Brown Cow
  • Garage Project - Dark Arts Coffee Bock
  • 8 Wired Brewing - Wild Feijoa
  • Kereru Brewing - Pohutukawa Golden Ale
  • Tuatara Brewery - Amarillo
  • Renaissance Brewing - Elemental Porter Ale
  • Renaissance Brewing - Fellowship Aotearoa Pale Ale
  • Kereru Brewing - Guava Weisse
  • Maui Brewing - Doppel Shot Double Bock
  • Abbaye de Leffe - Leffe Bruin
  • Renaissance Brewing - Voyager
  • Funk Estate - Soul Slap
  • Deep Creek Brewing - The Leprechaun’s Belle
  • To Ol - Liquid Confidence
  • Kereru Brewing - Come Bye: Shepherd’s Ale
  • McLeod’s - Scotch Ale
  • McLeod’s - Tropical Cyclone
  • McLeod’s - White Sands
  • Brouwerij Rodenbach - Rodenbach Grand Cru
  • Hallertau Brewery - Nocturne
  • Saku Olletehas - Saku Porter
  • Garage Project - Mutiny On the Bounty
  • Boundary Road Brewery - Flying Fortress
  • Moa Brewing - Session Pale Ale
  • McLeod’s - Pioneer Porter
  • Wild Buck - Golden Lager
  • Sawmill Brewery - Pilsner
  • 8 Wired Brewing - Hippy Berliner Cucumber Edition
  • Baylands Brewery - Petone Pale Ale

Me being a hero so that my sister does not get her only pair of running shoes wet. Yes ultrarunners, some people can run with just one pair of shoes!

New Zealand has really rubbish locations for running - Cable Bay, Nelson


 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Taranaki Round the Mountain Solo 100 Mile

Taranaki Round the Mountain 

New Zealand

100 miles (160km)

Friday 4 November 2016 at 17:00

Undulating road



Preperation went pretty well in October. First I entered the race. Then I went on holiday to the Great Barrier Reef for a week. This was followed by a week in Myanmar and then another in Borneo. Three weeks of sweating, having a dodgy stomach and drinking beer. If anything, I'd prepared too much.

I pretty much entered because both my father and Sarah love to crew me so much. I thought that it might be nice to look at Mount Taranaki. Having seen Mt Rainier, Mt Saint Helena and Mt Hood in July, I then visited an erupting volcano in Vanuatu in August! Seems that I now love volcanoes so much I want to run the entire way around one. With this being a long race and having no training, I warned them that it might get a little ugly. They were still up for it. 

My father and friend Sarah sorted the race logistics while I worked on my suntan, swam with some turtles and rode on the back of motorbikes.  Kit packing was relatively easy given that I do not have much stuff in New Zealand. Even my sister's treatment in Wellington coordinated itself. Father and I created a spreadsheet which I studied on a bus trip to Palmerston North. There, I out-ate my pregnant friend Neisha when we ordered pizza and her husband Chris sorted out my fruit bags. Dad drove up from Wellington after an early flight from Nelson on the Friday morning. We made it to New Plymouth for 14:55. Registration was at 15:00. That was our first clue that no one involved in organising the event had a clue what to do with the solo runners. I couldn't stay for the race breifing as I needed to sort the car kit, get changed, eat and get everything in the right places. As much as I would have loved to meet the other runners; two hours before a 100 mile race was not the best time for it. To me there was the possibility that I would be out on my feet for 27 hours, I did not have an hour to become more confused about race rules.

We rushed to get some food before we had to assemble for a second role call at a hall near the race start. Weirdly, we then had to travel a kilometre down the road to the start line for a third role call. I was so busy french-braiding my hair, doing thy face, touching up the lippy and putting vaseline up my arse that I missed most of these roll calls. With ten minutes to go I scribbled down a food plan for my dad. Liquid every half hour, food every hour. Medium food every two hours. Big food every four hours. A guess of what I'd like for the first twelve hours. Sorted.


Race start - photo by Di Chesmar


Kent Road - 17:00 - Friday 4 November - START


And then we started. Jogging down a small rural road being led by a vehicle with hazard lights on. Amusing given that we were running on the left, therefore were more likely to be hit by a car from behind. It was also the quietest road we would run on all day. And near a crematorium. Maybe they were trying to tell us something.

Highway Three. We run on the right during the light, much to the amusement of the peak hour traffic heading towards us. There were 15 starters and all but four of us took off. Mike Hos, Mgcini, Croydon and myself were left at the back all secretly battling for last place. It was definitely a game of how slow can you go. I walked up everything that vaguely resembled an incline, including speedbumps. The trick was to look ahead, otherwise once you started running the incline, it did not look like an incline anymore. My strategy is CONSERVE. At this point, slow is not slow enough. There is a mini competition amongst the four of us at the rear; who can be the most conservative?




Walking break - photo by Di Chesmar


We take a right turn in Inglewood to follow the highway. Exciting stuff. Our crews were given maps at registration. Naturally they were for the relay race which is following a slightly different route in places. There are also no marshals out until the relay starts at 3am. Fortunately, everyone in the race seems to be experienced and the crews are organised. We are running this race ourselves.

Supporters say that we are doing well. We better be; we've barely started. If you are having trouble now, you'll be in big trouble later. You'll also be in trouble if you get hit by fireworks; a high possibility when a car full of white trash drives past shooting fireworks out their window!


Midhurst - appox. 20:00 - Friday 4 November - 25km

Time on feet: 3 hours


It is cooling down so I put on a long sleeved hi-viz that my friend Anna has let me borrow. There was a bit of borrowing kit for this race. Clouds are falling down the sides of Mount Taranaki. It's a mighty fine mountain; perhaps a little smaller than I was expecting. I've been here before but don't remember it. Tomorrow, I will realise why I have no memory of the mystery mountain.


Erm, another walking break? 

Father has gone to pick up my friend Sarah from the airport. She's flown up from Wellington after a day at work. They call her a smiling assassain at work. Just what I need from a crew member; a telling off with a smile. She offers me a banana. The banana is not on the food plan. I should be getting sushi after four hours. I don't know if it has been four hours yet. I have no watch. We are at least past three hours because she landed at eight. All I can focus on is the sushi...

While my crew are away, Mike's crew have adopted me and are handing me out water and crisps on the hour. Initially there is a slight communication issue.

Mike's crew: We're giving you chips at eight o'clock
Me: Ahhhhh (wondering why they are going to give me hot chips)
Mike's crew: Your dad gave them to me
Me: Like crisps?
Mike's crew: Yeah, chips. Crunch crunch.

He didn't actually say crunch crunch but I am going to be running for a long time and will amuse myself. They were crisps. I had packed them. They were on the food plan. Everyone is winning. By 8:30pm our head torches go on. I do not have my nice head torch in New Zealand so I have a lightweight one which does not emit much light. It doesn't matter though as the whole race is on the road. We have also been given red bicycle lights to wear on our rears. Fortunately I manage to clip mine to the back strap of my head torch without it bobbing about too much. I decide not to carry the glowstick I was given at registration. I am not sure how I am meant to carry that about for 100 miles.


Mount Taranaki


The three boys and I continue to bring up the rear as we weave around Eltham. We walk a long incline around the marathon mark in the dark. Fortunately, I got my sushi about half an hour ago after stomping fiercly that I wanted sushi after four hours. Scotland has rubbish sushi and I am making it my mission to eat as much of it as I can while in New Zealand. We are all back on track and Sarah makes up more sushi for me in the back seat. Every runner has a sushi making kit on the equipment list right? 

The boys all have earphones in now. It might have been my shite chat but I try not to take offence. Mike stops to change his shoes on an abnormally high stool, Mgcini has dropped back and Croydon has a walk run strategy to protect his knees in his fourth hundred miler of the year. And I just plodded on.


Kaponga - 23:40 - Friday 4 November - 55km
Time on feet: 6 hours 40 minutes


Mount Taranaki has disappeared in the darkness. It has been dark for three hours and there are no runners near me now. Croydon's crew come past and park ahead every few kilometres, giving me a cheer as I pass. Father and Sarah stop every half hour to hand over some goods and share a few words of encouragement that fans have left on the Facebook tracking page, aptly named She'll be running round the mountain... Naturally, a message comes through from Keith Hughes but that's too inappropriate for even my blog.

A Facebook page; there's some pressure to finish now.

It was widely advertised that there would be breakfast available to all runners and crews at Kaponga. Unfortunately, this did not actually apply to solo runners. Maybe next year the organiser's could put out notes specific to us long haulers? 


Manaia - 69km



Somewhere in Taranaki - 02:40 - Saturday 5 November - 80km
Time on feet: 9 hours 20 minutes


HALFWAY! The team share celebrations all around in the form of orange juice mixed with a little sparkling water. I had another three peices of sushi earlier; somewhere nondescript where I was torn between staring at the white line on the road and the stars above. I have run the last four and a half hours without seeing a single runner.

Given my lack of actual running this year, my plan was to get to halfway without feeling like I had been running. And I do feel good. Out in the wilderness, looking at the stars, all  on my lonesome.... like camping, but I'm on the road, running. And cows keep scaring the shite out of me. I'll be cruising along, wishing upon shooting stars (for world peace obviously, although that was clearly a waste of time as America decided to vote for Trump) and then MOOOOOOO. But it's not initially a recognisable moo. More of a hehehe little girl, check out our creepy eyes in the darkness. A little freaked out, I pick up the pace.

My father has written the description  of this section as imperceptible rolling. I walk when a vehicle lights up the road to show me an incline but the road is quiet now without many vehicles. Some milk tankers roar past, always leaving plenty of space now that I am running on the left hand side. The tankers also courteously dim their lights when they spot me gliding towards them. I am sure I was gliding.

Suddenly, it's pishing down with rain. There has been a little drizzle. A few threatening clouds. I am prepared and have my rain jacket on. Screw you rain. Hood up. Head down. Try not to splash in any puddles. I do not have any spare road running shoes.

At about 3am I come past Sarah's car and shine my torch through the window. It can be hard to recognise runners and cars so sometimes we have to give each other a little wave. They are both sleeping inside so I tap the window and tell them that I will see them down the road for my banana. Turns out that they had sat it on the rear windscreen for me to pick up! We arrange for a similar plan at the next half hour pitstop so that they can sleep through for the hour and I can collect water.

Runners spotted since 10pm: 0
Shooting stars spotted: 3

Bathrooms were a little difficult during the lighter hours of the evening. Fluroscent clothing on highways is a good safety combination. Fluroscent clothing and attempting to use the bathroom in God's acre is not a great combination. But in the dark I confidently wait until I cannot hear any tankers approaching before ducking into a shallow ditch next to the road. Those tankers definitely would not have spotted me... my reflective vest, red rear light and front head torch wouldn't have stood out that brightly in rural blackness right?  I sure hope not as I have clearly hydrated well and need to tinkle about six time in the next three hours.

Road cones in the distance. Conveniently located on the road indicating road works. Only one lane is available. This could be interesting. There are some stop-go lights in action. Do I wait at the lights if they are red? Fortunately, I do not have to worry as my gigantic UK size three feet alert the lights to my arrival. Chuckling at my cleverness, or good fortune, or whatever,  I cruise along the single lane road. I'm not sure how far I get before I realise that the lights will assume that I am traveling at the speed of a car. Therefore, traffic will soon head in my direction. I really hope that this traffic does not come as I am running across the single lane bridge. Thoughts of people getting hit on bridges at night and falling into the water consume me. So it's time for a wee fartlek as I tear across the bridge. Up on a hill somehwere I can see giant tanker eyes waiting to storm down. I have gone less than 50 metres past the bridge when the tanker comes roaring down, having been given the green light above.

Antonia: 1
Tanker: 0


Team selfie in Opunake - 98km



Opunake - 05:00 - Saturday 5 November - 100km
Time on feet: 12 hours


I've forgotten that there may actually be other people still in this event. I have run alone for seven hours; occassionally shared the romantic star-lit sky with some intimidating cows but mostly just put one foot in front of the other without a bother. And now, with dawn approaching, I may be able to see a red light in the distance ahead. Or is that a red lit up sign? Are we entering a village? No, I think I can see a runner. Is there another red light ahead of that one? Is there a red light in the tree? Is someone going bush? Shite, there are red lights on the road everywhere. My entire vision has turns to red spots. I need to look down for a while, look at the white line. The white line has been my ally for so long.

A bit further along and my vision clears back up. I can see a red light. There is a runner. Just one though, I was bonkers about all the other spots. He's travelling slow but has done this event many times before and will make it to the finish. We jog for a while before I walk with some pumpkin soup that Father and Sarah have lovingly prepared with a gas cooker and billy tin.


Serious water boiling


Running sunrise 



And then, after no other runners all night, multiple runners. A female runner, Grace from Hong Kong has completed the 100 mile event before. Unfortunately, I don't get to chat as she's busy behind her car when I pass. I do stop and chat with my New Zealand teammate Vivian who had a similar training idea to me; take a holiday in Asia. Unfortunately, she has a head cold and although continues on for another half an hour, eventually needs to pull from the race to sleep the headache off.

At Rahotu the crew hang out with a goat while I hang out in the public toilets. Crisis averted. As the relay has started, checkpoints have now been set up. A young boy holds two cups out as I come past. I mustered a polite no thank you. Turns out, he was not actually offering me a drink. He wants to know my race number. I have to lift up a few layers (it's still threatening rain). I could have riden on the back of a motorbike to this point and no one would have cared. I apologise a number of times for being a daftie. I guess after 14 hours of running, I am feeling a bit tired.


Rahotu local

Team selfie




Pungarehu - 07:45 - Saturday 5 November - 118km
Time on feet: 14 hours 45 minutes


Marathon to go! I am definitely finishing this thing even if I have to walk the final marathon.  Which I am not going to do. But my legs are sore. And the news of a marathon to go is not as exciting as I had hoped. I ask to be told when I have 20km to go. As it is daylight, we run on the righthand side of the road again. My left leg and foot welcome this change. The camber of the road is harsh after a whole night.

I want to talk to Scott but the reception is not good enough. Fortunately I catch up to Perry and have my first conversation on the run since 10pm. Talking miles are free miles. Perry has run around New Zealand and across the USA. He's completed this event twice; it's like a mile jog to him. We take it easy on the inclines. Previously I have powered up hills when walking but I do not have that kind of fitness anymore. Stomping up a hill would take just as much out of my legs as jogging up it would. He's got a dodgy stomach and I've got dodgy legs.

The miles become less free and more labouring. I have not had a run down of mileage throughout and asked the crew only to tell me the following markers; marathon, halfway. 100km mark and a marathon to go. Perry knows the area and he knows how far we have to go. Between 120 and 130km it gets harder and harder for me. I am limping.


Less happy


I need to stop for a cry. I am not quitting, I just need a CRY. So I stand in the road, put my head in my hands and try a wee wail. And I order a coffee. But the type of coffee in the car won't do. My crew will need to buy one.

There is no mountain. 

Perry is faster than me at running now but sticks with me, even when I hide in a hotel toilet for a while. I cry as I ask the lady if I can use the bathroom. She daren't say no. When I am hiding, the first relay team comes past. I didn't see him but I imagine he caught us slowly and barely managed to get past us.

Relays started at about 3am. Each team seemed to contain about a thousand runners. The road is also very busy now with relay cars coming past in both directions. Some cheer, others are probably wondering how such slow runners got in front of their team. I suspect most are oblivious to the solo event's existence.

Warm liquid feeling on my foot. No, I have not peed myself! I think that was a blister popping.

When my coffee arrives I have to force Perry to continue on without me. He's had a choolate milkshake and a lemonade popsicle and his stomach is feeling better. What a combination. My stomach feels worse just thinking about the milkshake. I'm giving it the there's too far to go waiting for another runner all the time, go Perry, go! and he's giving it the we've got about 30km to go, I've run 5,000 before... Except he's not actually saying that because he's a really nice guy. He eventually goes ahead and I walk with a coffee. From now on, I will only eat jet plane sweeties.


Okato - 10:00 - Saturday 5 November - 132km
Time on feet: 17 hours


FLYING. Like those jet plane sweeties have taken me under their wings and I am off. Unfortunately, not far up the road, Perry is a different kind of off. He's leant over a railing, staggering about. I'm listing the different fizzy bevereges I have in Sarah's car. At the top of the hill, Perry crosses to get sorted out with his crew man. Rain starts pouring down. I am running the fastest I have all day but still walking the hills (albeit, a bit faster also). This is so much fun! Weeee!

I did run 4km on a treadmill in Borneo. All that hard work is clearly paying off for me now. 

I fly into Sarah's home beach town of Oakura. There is a checkpoint here too. They want my number and that is uber cool with me. Except that it is a four digit number and that's too many numbers for me to have memorized at this point. I grab some water as I suspect I have been to fast for Father and Sarah so will likely miss them. Oakura was the only place anybody was actually out cheering so it was quite busy. Fortunately, I spot Sarah practicing yoga moves on her car roof and yell out for some jet planes and water further up the road. Or it may have been cola. Aparently I was super happy to be riding a sugar high.


Omata - Saturday 5 November - 152km
Time on feet: a bloody long time


So I am crying again. I actually ran through Omata with tears. There were so many hills between Oakura and Omata. Neisha's husband Chris had seen the course description and told me the hills were big here. And now my legs have gone all jelly for running. And the high is all gone. And waaaaaaaaaaaah. Walking up the hills is not the problem; it's trying to run again once I am off them. A relay team must be catching me as their runners keep cheering for me. I hope I managed to smile a little as it was nice of them to give me support.

There is still no mountain. It was all a lie. Everyone is lying to me. They put these hills here on purpose. And they hurt my foot. It's all a conspiracy. 

With about 7km to go I see a guy up ahead who I think is Perry. Given that Perry is behind me, I am slightly confused. I am also in a lot of pain. I feel terrible when I pass the non-Perry runner with only a brief hello or well done. I would normally stop and have a chat, see if there is anything I can offer the runner. He's going to make it now though. As I finish my water bottle, I hold it up high for my crew to get it. Then I drop it on the grass. Like I was in a marathon and couldn't wait for them. But really, my foot hurts so much that I don't know how I am going to run to the finish. Even hills hurt it. So many hills.

Father told me it was about 40 minutes to go. He's a dick. It's been ages. I'm not going to talk to him anymore.



Omata - 8km to go



Spotswood - 12:40 - Saturday 5 November - 155km
Time on feet: 19 hours 40 minutes


5km to go. I asked the lady at the checkpoint how far it was. She was smiling; oh, about five. There's no room for about, lady. It better not be a smidgen over or she'll be getting the wrath of me. I see Sarah and Father (it's all that guys fault, we're probably not even related) for the final time. I don't want anything. Go away. Make it all stop. My foot HURTS. But I still might kick you with it.

I would say that this is my slowest 5km ever but let's be honest; I've staggered some pretty bloody slow kilometres in my life.

As I come into New Plymouth, marshals are out at each road crossing. Only five solo runners and two relay teams have come through before me in the last four hours so the marshals are pretty bored on lookout. I maverick the roads myself, holding up my arm so cars let me across. The cars are cool about it. I'm not sure how the drivers feel. I must look a mess. I can't stop, must shuffle across roads.

All I can see up ahead are the hi-viz dots of marshals. That's a long way to shuffle.

Marshal: are you okay?
Me: NO

He doesn't offer a solution to my pain. I cry at a couple of them. Is it much further? Is it much further? Their answers are WRONG because any step is too far. Two relays teams pass me. Great support from the runners who have passed me. Fly boys, fly! Thank goodness they were nice or I might have told them where they could shove their 5k sprints.   One marshal at a big intersection tells me that he will walk me across the road. So, because I am strange, sleep-deprived and exhausted, I cling to this guy like a new puppy. Walking right next to him as he moves cones, further than I have  to go because I no later trust my own judgement and am done with mavericking. I suspect he was slightly worried.

How much longer to go? 

I have a very sore foot.

Left turn. Hill. Yay! This is the last one. I'm not bloody running. The finishing line is on grass. After 20 hours of road running, my legs don't know how to do grass. I shuffle in. There are not many people at the finish line; a few relay teams that passed me, Father, Sarah (who was making enough noise for a whole crowd) and my friend Zalena who I have not seen since before I moved to Scotland. The girls' doing the announcing were great and even commented that Sarah's enthusiasm for coming first lady was greater than my own. I am so pleased that the race is over now. I get down on my hands and knees to crawl out of the rain. I won't walk for a few days.



This is what 100 miles looks like

Thanks team! 

I stumbled over the line in 20 hours 20 minutes, meeting our aim of finishing and exceeding anything we'd thought timewise (22 hours optimistic, 24 hours realistic, 27 hours pesimistic). It's not a particularly fast 100 mile time but it was fast enough for me! The guy I passed walking comes across the line not long after. Unfortunately, his finish is overshadowed by a relay team who pass him as he finishes. It is a shame that the team did not hang back and allow him the cheer he deserved for running solo. Once I am sat down having a beer (note; the beer selection was terrible) I am saddened to find that Perry's stomach got even worse and he had to pull from the race with about 15km to go. When you are so violently ill that you lose your false teeth; I don't think there is any way to continue. He'll be back, running across whatever country you live in some time soon no doubt! Croydon finishes his fourth 100-miler of the year an hour later and Mike Hos completes his first ever!  

At prizegiving I receive my first belt buckle as this is my first 100 miler. Unfortunately I do not receive $1000 as there need to be five entrants in a category, despite the solo runners doubling in size this year. And anyway, there were so many sunglasses, televisions, treadmills and holidays to give out to the 5km relay runners. there was nothing left for us hard-core soloists! Mgcini crosses the finish line during the prizegiving and gets a bit cheer. They should have got him up on the stage! 

A HUGE, HUGE thank you to my Father and Sarah for offering to put themselves through this with me! Father; for his crewing and post statistics enthusiasm. Thank you for not taking any bad moods personally. Sarah; for her cheering and social networking enthusiasm on little sleep. Thank you for helping strip me naked post run and then carrying me to brunch. Some firendhships know no barriers!   

Stats

22 hours 20 minutes
6th overall, 1st lady
15 starters (12 male, three female)
13 finishers (11 male, two female)
One mountain

Runners please! 

This event could be so good... it just needs an ultra runner to take charge! Fortunately all the runners and crews in the solo event were experienced so it ran smoothly and we had a great time. BUT, it would be great to get some of the small villages involved, support some of their local businesses in the wee hours and rely less on our crew. The relay seems to be a great event and the solo concept is brilliant... it just requires a little more love. 

On another note, can New Zealand do less spot prizes and better beers at races please? Priorities folks! 














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