3 Races, 4 Weeks- Lee Cook

The last month was quite a hectic one for me, with 3 races in 4 weeks, utterly thrown together and spur of the moment. First up was the Northburn 100 half marathon. To be honest I thought Northburn was just for the ultra guys and girls until Grant emailed me the week before that their were some “fun races” as well.

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Lee post Northburn100 half marathon

The first time I’d ever heard of a half marathon being described of as a “fun race” but when your comparing it to 100 miles I guess it’s a morning stroll! So I entered and managed to get up to catch the mad people head off into the dark with the house music belting out of the Salomon tent. Such an overwhelming feeling of….this is awesome!! I would really like to step up to the 50k next year. Even more so after finishing the half marathon. I absolutely loved the terrain, profile and general brutal nature of it all. The first 7k of the half marathon was pretty steep. We were told that it wasn’t really runnable but I didn’t find it too bad and even found I was attacking the climb at certain points. I managed to establish quite a big lead from the start and had a lonely run from that point onwards. Such a scenic, beautiful race and loved how the profile was simply either just up or down which led to some screaming legs towards the end. I finished up in 1hr45mins with a 5 minute gap back to second place. I was really pleased with how everything went and left with a total admiration for those competing in the 100 mile/kilometre races….. Gods in running shoes!

So next up was Arrowsmith Thee Mountain Marathon 2 weeks later. The thinking behind this was that it was my 30th birthday the day after and I wanted to do something I’d remember it by, rather than just getting drunk in an empty pub in Mount Cook! I entered 6 days before, I’d done nowhere near enough training, anything remotely specific or raced further than a half marathon before but my thinking was….I’ll just do it. You’re going to hear me whine a lot now!

I finished up work on Friday and then did the 3.5 hour drive to Lake Heron camp ground. I had a fairly uncomfortable nights sleep in the back of my car, the inside of which froze as the temperature plummeted down to -3. The first 2 miles were largely flat and 2 guys quickly established a 50m lead at a pace I had no intention of trying to match. Considering I’d rested up all week (something I probably wouldn’t do again) my legs didn’t feel like they had any zip in them at all. I started the 720m climb with the eventual race winner and we slowly started to wind the race leaders back in. About 3 quarters of the way up the climb we were back to a group of 5 but I was starting to feel uncomfortable, so I backed off a little considering how relatively early into the race it was. I hit the top of the ridge with the leaders still in view but as soon as the gradient levelled off, not only were the tendons in my ankles screaming at me but I rolled my ankle twice which hurt A LOT! I tentatively started the steep descent and was losing so much ground through both pain and caution. By the time I hit the bottom I must have lost 5 minutes. Once I got on the flat, tussock, 4 wheel drive track, I managed to find a rhythm and was starting to feel good again. All of a sudden the guy in 4th place came back into view which lifted my spirits immensely.

As I went through 14 miles (sorry I’m still struggling to convert to kilometres) my calves started to twinge with the onset of cramp. I knew now it was only a matter of time. I was so frustrated as I’d drank 1L of electrolyte drink, taken gels and a further 1-1.5l of water during the race. As I approached 16 miles and the 2 hour mark, there was a ford crossing and as soon as I stepped foot in the ice cold glacial water my hamstring went into cramp. Much screaming and cursing followed! Over the next 2 miles I got cramp a further 4 times. By this point I was running like an old man. I couldn’t open my gait, completely flat footed and merely shuffling along hoping my world would end! I fell back into 7th place and was reduced to 11 minute mile pace downhill!! The last 8 miles was just a painful hell, both physically and mentally. I ended up finishing the race in 6th place as someone in front of me dropped out. I still haven’t even seen the results because I don’t want to look at them. Ultimately though I was proud of myself to endure what I put my body through and managing to keep putting one foot in front of the other when every nerve ending was telling my brain to stop. I think sometimes you have to go through such experiences to learn. I often think I have cramping issues due to hydration but then one guy who overtook me was carrying no water and just using his hand from streams. I think maybe more likely its my muscles rejecting what I am asking them to do because I’m not training them for that type of effort or duration. My conundrum is how to increase volume with my proneness to breaking down with injury when I do? Maybe I’ll start to add more cycling into my training with my triathlon background. Again, you couldn’t fail not to admire the stunning scenery which seems to be a constant in New Zealand mountain running.

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Lee on his way to 2nd place in the Wanaka River Run

The following week I’d organised to go to Wanaka for the weekend with a group of people from work who were keen to try doing a race (Kathmandu Riverrun series 13k). My legs, especially my hamstring, really didn’t feel up to it but I felt an obligation to have a go as I’d encouraged them. However, by Friday night and with 6 bottles of beer as lubrication I felt like I’d be fine to race in the morning. We set off on the outlet track on a stunning Autumn day with some incredible colours coming from the turning leaves. The first mile was a steady pace in a group of 4 with Oska Inkster Baynes heading the pack. I’m guessing Oska was running it as a tempo run/negative split as I was already expecting him to be a blur in the distance. Around the 1.5 mile mark Oska started to pull away and I moved in to second place feeling comfortable with my hamstring holding up. At the 4 mile mark I started to have a paranoid feeling that Ben Logan, who had won the previous race of the series, was catching me. I have no idea why as I hadn’t even looked over my shoulder. I picked up the pace which was far too early really and meant that I spent the last 3 miles hanging on rather than pushing for the line. I was really pleased to cross the line in second place considering I had still had the aches and pains of the marathon in my legs. Well done to my friends Adam and Garret who both put in really good efforts in their first races and I think thirsty for more. Post race hydration included beer, beer and more beer….happy days!

About Lee Cook

Lee Cook has written 5 .

Lee Cook is originally from the North West of England and with a back ground in triathlon, is now based in Mt Cook Village and looking to tackle the NZ mountain running scene. In his first outing here he won the Pyramid Run in Twizel in a course record time.

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