–Of Rookie Mistakes–
Sell your running shoes and start a punk band- Taniwha 60km
Last weekend was the Total Sport Taniwha event held on the Waikato River Trails. Among the many lining up was Matt Rayment, taking on his first ultra distance race- The Taniwha 60km. Below is Matt’s excellent race report-
How do I describe my first experience of running and ultra marathon? Rather be forgotten, then remembered for giving in. So the old song goes. I actually had a whole Ipod filled with Refused* to motivate me when the going got tough during the Taniwha 60km, but for whatever reason it stayed put in my belt. Turns out things did get very tough.
I’d ostensibly done everything right in the months up to my first “ultra” distance race. Lot’s of kms, specificity, running on tired legs, asking others who have done the distance before…..the whole gig, I’d gone as far as having my photo taken with Bryon Powell. I’d engaged in visualization of what the course would look like (having some knowledge, having done the marathon distance in 2012) Everything. I’d practiced a studied, consistent pace, I’d repeated the mantra “start slow get slower, start slow get slower” ad infinitum. Nutrition? yup. Shoes? yup. On top of training I ran 17km to work over winter every morning shift I had (I’m an RN so work shifts). I’d lost a lot of weight over the last 2 years with this whole “jogging” thing and it was cemented with my beloved colleagues that I had also lost my mind when I grew a beard, referred to myself as “Fat Anton” and vouchsafed my desire to run 60 kilometres; which let’s face it,to most people may as well be running to the moon. Was I ready? was I bollocks.
All of the aforementioned composure went out the window when I missed the race briefing due to a toilet stop and arrived at the line just as the friendly total sport person shouted “GO”. I was left standing on the road, watching a group of people, some of whom, in my mind at least, I should be running with/in front of shoot off up the road. I had quickly adjusted my belt, handheld and shorts and took off after them. Clanger #1: Start in a panic, with every negative thought/deeply held belief bouncing around my head with great salience and my ego leading the way. 1.5km in I looked at my watch and noticed a 4.15 min per km pace. Dick. So I stopped. Adjusted my stuff again and went off a far more considered pace.
By the time I had gotten to the bottom of the endlessly awesome switch back section I’d realigned my chi (or whatever) and had managed to slam the lid closed on the crazy thoughts. I totally began to enjoy myself and the benign if relentlessly undulating trail with the pleasant view of the river. I popped a GU every 40 mins and sipped water frequently. Life was good.
I hit a low point about 1km past the first aid station (the marathon start). I remembered this bit being much less hilly, hot and relentless than last year. It was getting really warm by this time and my left ITB was beginning to get tight. I hemmed and hawed about using ibuprofen then eventually threw some at it and blessedly it went away. I walked some, drank some and focused on how pretty the trail was and, as they say things got better. For about five minutes until… Clanger#2: I had for some reason chose to wear box fresh socks which were now rubbing with alacrity on my heels on every uphill. Dick. I stopped to wipe and lube said heels, which helped for about a minute. Ah well. At this point Clanger #3 reared it’s ugly head. No water. This wasn’t so bad actually as I’d practiced a lot running with no water and, like the something coming out from behind something else I began to enjoy the whole experience. The discomfort, all of it.
–In The Woods Is Perpetual Youth–
I felt young and unencumbered for the last two thirds of the run. A state of La belle indifference took over.I felt cheeky even. Legs cramping when you bend them to put tape on your heels? Easy! don’t bend them that way! The nice Canadian woman at the aid station 32km in will only give you 300ml of water for your bottle while blithely explaining that there is an aid station 7km up the sun parched road? Smile politely and casually drink cup after cup of water whilst empathizing with her predicament!! Even when it got bad. And it did get bad for the 10km stretch between aid stations at km 40 and 50(boring gravel bike bath, HOT, legs really hurting ) I just kept going without any sense of the distress or calamity that hit me last year. I might have seemed like a giant four year old disconsolately kicking stones and only running the flats/downs. I may, May have answered a Mountain biker’s query of “whaddaya call a 60 km run?” with “something that middle class people with too much time on their hands do” but honestly, at this point I couldn’t have been happier. The most important thing to not care about was my time (a first for me as I’ve discovered a competitive streak a mile wide). I was approximately 45 minutes behind what I thought was possible for me at this point and just didn’t care. I was doing an ultra!!!
–No Pasaran! (you shall not pass)–
The last 10km of my first marathon (the Taniwha in 2012) I died a 1000 first world problem deaths. Shit got real. This time there was no question of distress or not finishing and my mood began to pick up even further. Some water on my head and another bottle refill plus more GU and I was off after it. I was trashed by this point but never had the sense that I would stop or quit or even be distressed. I cut the last 10km into segments “six km to the last aid station, I can run six km!!” etc etc. As I said before I was TRASHED and was forced into a deranged power hike/shuffle on any moderate uphill grade, muttering and snarling to myself..The true sense of The last ten km is comparatively shady and less gravel than the preceding 50 so I was really enjoying myself. I was determined not to be passed again this run and even picked off two 60 and a few 42km runners which was a huge psychological boost. Then I began to hallucinate** a bit which was pretty cool (foot steps behind me and a dog in front of me which was a stump) and even more reason to suck it up and keep on going. I succeeded in my goal and didn’t get passed in the last 10km. I finished in 7.42 and felt (and still feel) stronger and more capable than I ever thought possible.
I say that running saved my life. It really did in lots of ways. I’m fitter, calmer and braver, not to mention more committed and disciplined than ever. Rebecca and I are closer. I’m a better father too. I feel more connected to the community in general and especially others who run. Apart from the obvious joy of overcoming the challenge, it was seeing my wonderful wife (who murdered the marathon) and all the other old salts (literally and figuratively, we are a salty people) who I had encountered on this run. Their warm regard and sincerity was palpable as we congratulated each other as I hope mine was to them. Here’s to more runs, more pain, community and sincerity. I’m really glad I did this, and I’ll be back.
**It may seem trite or even cute to an established ultra runner to have perceptual abnormalites at 55km but NUTS! this is my story.
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