Signing up for an orchestrated event is the only thing that seems to motivate me to get out and stay active. After a detailed analysis of the cost/benefit ratio of various sports, I found that running gives the greatest fitness return while using up the least amount of time (well, kickboxing doesn’t stand mentioning). Biking just takes to long to get to the same fitness level.
Molly claims that I signed up for this because I have a mini mid life crisis every time another child appears, tending toward the extreme to ward off visions of minivans and afternoons of golf. I just happened to run a marathon around the time Milo was born. It must be just coincidence. Molly shutters to think what I am capable of if we have another child.
The Kepler Challenge is a 60km (36mile) mountain run on one of the New Zealand Great Walks (http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/great-walks/). Being a Great Walk, the track is impeccably maintained with bridge crossings at the streams and rivers, stairs at the steep areas, and boardwalk in the boggy spots. Being a Great Walk it has primo vistas on the mountain tops and lush green forests to run through.
The Kepler Challenge is probably the premier running event in New Zealand. The run is limited to 450 runners and sells out in 5 minutes at 6am on the first weekend of July.
With the gracious approval from the better half to commit to 5 months of training, i.e. out running in the hills 8-10hrs/week, I signed up for running the event.
The Kepler track is located in Fiordlands of NZ, about an 8hr drive from Christchurch (11hrs with kids) so running in an event like this meant a 5 day road trip, stopping at beaches and ice cream joints along the way.
The course goes up and over a mountain range with an initial climb up to the tops of 1100m(3600ft). The event has been going for 26yrs, so the organizers have it all well planned out with aid stations,water stations and portaloos (“porta-potties” to Americans) dispersed throughout the course. The Falcon locations on the map are apparently a warning to watch your scalp when passing, since the nesting falcons have been known to attack hikers with their razor sharp talons. The race has a mandatory list of gear that must be carried with you at all times. Gear was checked by officials before and during the race, reminiscent of TSA security but with a smile.
Me before the race at 5am, wondering why I really signed up for this. 36 miles is a bloody long way… To carry the mandatory gear (2 thermal tops,thermal bottoms, goretex jacket, goretex pants, hat/gloves, emergency foil blanket) along with my food to get me through the event, my pack weighed in around 8lbs. Not huge but enough to notice while running.
Just before getting to the first hut after a big climb up (which did include some power walking on my part). I don’t think any normal person can run up the hill. The top two guys are machines–they don’t count as normal.
Running along the tops was windy and chilly so I was glad to have some extra clothing with me to wear.
Milo, Molly and Naomi wanted to walk into Moturau hut and see me as I came through. The Hut has a nice beach on the lake to play at.
Super Mom ! Molly loved the lush greenery. The woods is wonderfully peaceful…. in the lulls between two-year-old chatter.
Milo, playing in the sand awaiting my arrival. Molly told him not to wade in the water, not having brought spare clothes along. When he emerged wet up to his calves he protested “me just getting something.” Right, the beginning of the excuses….
Wow I am tired here. I had a bit of trouble just before here, “bonked” and was swerving all over the track, couldn’t run straight. I was continually eating food along the way but apparently it wasn’t enough. I ate all of the food I had in my pack plus some candy and granola bars at the aid station, after which I came back around and was good to go.
Here I am leaving Moturau hut after the desperately needed 10min break. The volunteers were wondering if I was aware that this was not the finish line and I still had another 16km to go.
Finished alive. Didn’t quite finish at my expected time, but running 7:05 (82nd place….) still was ok for my first long distance run. Alright, now time to give Molly a blank check.