Matt Bixley (a new member of Team LiveStrong) made a rare trip north this past weekend to sample the trails of the Karangahake Gorge and the Waihi Xterra Ultra Race. Below is Matt’s take on the 2nd running of the “Kaimi Killer”
Totalsport get a tick in ALL the boxes when I look back on an event and make some sort of biased assessment. I run for a variety of reasons, I like the competitive outlet, I like the ability to explore a big place in a short period of time, camping, food, history, mates (old and new). Waihi gave me everything I want from a race with the caveat: I’m on drugs that have euphoria as a known side effect.
A quirk of fate has seen that conferences I travel to seem to have a long run attached to them. I’m sure the organisers use them as an enticement. I’m sitting here in tropical Napier attending the 20th meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics. I presented a paper on the heritability of the colour of lamb meat. Yes, proof I am actually a geek in real life, not just a nerd about running. The point is, it’s cheaper to fly from Dunedin to Auckland than it is to Napier. So the Kaimai Killer was on.
Alistair McDowell was quite happy with the 4am Alpine wake up. My torch failed, by drink bottle failed, I was assigned the wrong race number and my shirt was inside out. I was less enthused. Adding to that, I hadn’t run a great deal since completing the inaugural Naseby 80/80 stage race, I’ve had ongoing muscle/hip/butt problems and all I really wanted to do was explore. I knew I had zero relative fitness, my best bet was to leave the cookies in the jar for as long as possible, 40k (return base) was the goal. Grant and I crossed the style 30m after the start in 1 and 2, Grant immediately lost the track and sat behind me for the next 30 minutes along with a 4 others. All of a sudden I went from an easy 1st to 6th, it was on an uphill, I was happy, somewhat surprised that so many people wanted to chase when Grant eventually worked out he is a better climber than I am.
Around the 2hr mark I lost another slot to “lurch”, a big unit who was running the hills wanting to maintain momentum and clear the lactate. My 3rd poo stop in my entire running career saw Valentino pass by and I was in 9th. But Valentino and I struck some sort of runners deal and we were perfectly matched. His pace suited mine, he wanted to knock time of last year and neither of us got in the way. Valentino was stronger on the ups, I’d come back on the flats. We caught Steve Neary and Al on the fast section with the four of us running together and having a really good time. Evenly matched and working together although I think I took a cookie out of the jar that I wasn’t meant too. I’d also lost half of my lollies and bars. Valentino to the rescue.
At 30k I dropped off Al (the mountain climber) and Valentino, but also walked away from Steve. History says we all arrived at the 40k mark within 5 minutes, Al had commented that the best picnic would win the group. I agree. Al took his time and refuelled, I arrived as he and Valentino were still eating. I grabbed a cup full of chocolate and found myself leaving the Dickeys Flat campground in 5th about 7 minutes down on 2nd and a mere 30s down on 3rd. The fat old man was quite happy as we now ran with the tail of the shorter events and the course changed from rugged to runnable. It was time to dig into the very small cookie jar.
Trimming the story a touch, at the top of the hill I asked and was told that Nathan Bycroft was a long way in front. I asked again , and again and again, all the questions returned “2 minutes”. Eventually at the 2nd last aid station I got, “he’s just left”. I ran hard, uphill knowing I had 4k. Nathan and I had run the Wild Turkey earlier in the year, Nathan is very strong downhill and I’d been rolling my ankle all day. Grant had commented in the first 10 minutes “that didn’t look good” as I went over on it. He was right, my problem was that Nathans’ skill meant as I caught him and we started on a downhill he stuck right onto me. I had no idea what the course would do so I ran hard and scared.
But now is probably a good time to return to what this was all about. Going for a run and exploring. The Kaimai are a must visit place for people. Camping a Dickey Flat with mates is fun, running with other is fun.
Thanks to Valentino for several very fun hours and most importantly the bar.
Steve – nice work on the 30 minute improvement.
Nathan – The last 3k we had was as much fun as I’ve had in a race in a long time. It was a buzz.
Al – Just about the biggest thrill I got was seeing you out running and powering up the hills. It was a pleasure to finally run with you.
Waihi – it’s good
STEROIDS: most are aware that for health reasons I ran this race while on banned steroids. I can get a Theraputic Use Exemption if required, Totalsport were made aware of the situation as were many of the runners. It is my opinion based on how fit I believed I was and my experience against the other runners that the Steroids made a 15-60 minute improvement in my performance. The steroids removed/minimized a number of nagging running related injuries and made me feel “normal”.
And while the lads where battling it out, we have to mention Emma McCosh, who ran a smoking 7hr44, winning the woman’s race by 1hr30 and placing 6th over all- arguably the run of the day in the ultra race!
edit: Matt back – I agree with Grants assessment of Emma’s run. It is a very solid time.