Trials and tribulations of the KSR trail running team.
A great result on quite a bad day!
Exactly 3 weeks before the Tarawera ultra I was in pretty much the best shape I had ever been in. And I started to get a little cocky about it. In my head I was already making plans for a podium position, picturing the oh so great success!
Then came a fall on the trails at the Gold Coast. Nothing too bad really, I stumbled on a fast downhill section and ended up with three consecutive forward rolls. That was at about KM 25 of the 50 I did that day and the rest actually went quite smoothly without any pain.
The bad awakening came about 4 days later. During the fall I had bruised my hip bone and that had caused the ITB to work harder to balance it out. Naturally this fatigued my ITB heavily and unluckily I didn’t notice that until the damage was done. My ITB wouldn’t let me train properly for the rest of the preparation time.
Now, one could argue that all the hard work had been done already and three weeks prior to race day you start tapering anyway. That is true. But tapering does not mean that you are sitting still for three weeks. Though I could still run a little bit, go out for some longer bike rides and swim my butt off it still felt like I was barely working out.
I did a lot of foam rolling, went to the physio twice and even worked with painkillers (something that I always try to avoid)!
Then came race week and little Moe wasn’t that confident anymore. Somehow my body seemed to work again but determination and self-assurance looks different. The fact that ultra freaks like Michael Wardian, Sage Canaday, Brendan Davies, Martin Gaffuri, Scott Halker, Vajin Armstrong and Michael Aish were part of the field did not really help. It got me somewhat excited though. That was a plus.
At least my mandatory carboloading had been going well and about 30 minutes before the start adrenaline kicked in. After all, I was about to run my first Ultra Trail World Tour race. Now matter what, I should be happy!
And off we went!
Due to cyclone Lusi the race had been cut short to ‘only’ 73.5km but still a similar amount of vertical gain to the original course (about 2,400m). The first 12km were run on a loop before we headed out into the real beauty of New Zealand’s wilderness. To my surprise I found myself in the leading group from the beginning on and the pace felt great. Confidence grew and I felt like I could run at that speed forever.
Well, sometimes the feeling from your guts is a bitch. It only took another 8km and at the 25km mark my right leg started to seize up. It got increasingly harder to follow the pace and the pain started to become un-ignorable. About another 10km later I had my first little cramp in the left calf. The little bugger soon shared the pain with the right calf and for pretty much the entire rest of the journey I was battling against them. They were strange cramps though. I was still able to run but running was hard nonetheless.
Around that time our leading group also started to fall apart because Sage started to make a move for it. And in no time I found myself in the middle of nowhere, running by myself. Not really much fun when you’re battling ITB issues and revolting spasms in your body.
To make a veeeeery long and painful story short:
For some reason I managed to hold my position pretty much throughout the entire race, losing only one spot just meters away from the finish, but also passing other runners on the way. To be honest, during the race I could not really understand why nobody was passing me. After all, I was hurting like Charlie Sheen in rehab. But apparently everybody behind me, except for the fabulous pacing Martin Gaffuri, was hurting just as badly.
To quote Sebastian Kienle, one of the best endurance athletes of all time: ”If it’s hurting me. It’s killing them!
Crossing that finish line in 7th place meant a huge relieve for me. I know my decision to race was not the smartest. I might have done my body more damage that it can take and the injury that I have been collaborating with should not be bothering me for such a long time. But in the end I am happy to have shown myself once again what ultra running is about and the reason why I do this sport: your mental capacity is all you need when you approach a race like this. These battles show me again and again what I am capable of when I put my mind to it. And I know that this ability is not limited to running. I can take this focus and reflect on other situations in life, my studies at Bond University and also my future jobs.
But after all the pain and relieve one should also mention the sheer beauty of New Zealand’s trails. Even though I could barely walk when I finished I still managed to some extend enjoy the nature we were running through. This and the flawless race organization of Paul Charteris and his team have made this race such a special one. It should be on everybody’s list!!!
To put it in Sage’s words – “Shameless Sponsor Plugs” + the lucky ones that don’t even sponsor me:
Shoes: Asics Gel Fuji Racer
Socks & Calf Sleeves: Compressport
Shorts & Short: Ron Hill Down Under
Nutrition: mix of SIS & Hammer gels +
Nutella sandwiches and ginger at aid stations +
about 4-5litres of fluids
Backpack: Salomon S-Lab 5-litre
Handheld: Kathmandu 600ml
Watch: Soleus GPS Tour
Music: ipod touch