It’s Not All Events

As I promised here is all the goings on that aren’t a race. As many of you are aware I’ve entered the 50km Tarawera Ultramarathon, which of course requires a fair amount of training and preparation. I also have been getting a lot of sideways looks and “say that again” from people. Oh and I’ve been getting a ton of new cool gear too.

Now with just 12 11 10 weeks remaining until it’s time to toe the line in Rotorua, my training has kicked it up a gear, with Chris laying out a 12 week plan to see me finish well. Looking at it all laid bare, and seeing a 38km run on top of 20kms of other runs in a week and two swims, it’s pretty damn imposing. But that week is still 6 weeks off and is my peak week, so I’m confident that if I follow the rest of the plan I’ll be able to build up to it.

Before starting into the 12 week plan we had a go/no go point which involved me getting the okay from my doctor. Having been overweight for a good amount of time, it was important to be sure my body would be able to survive the training and then event. When I had my last physical 5 years ago, I got a clean bill of health and have been pretty healthy along the way so wasn’t too nervous. So after an EKG, blood tests, and the requisite poking and prodding, I received a clean bill of health and the blessing of the doctor to crack into training full noise.

With some pretty big runs on the books I was struggling with how to fit them in and still remain married. Thankfully when I went to my boss with a plan to tack a few hours on Monday to Thursday and take a half day on Friday, he was on board with it. So now Fridays for me have been powering to get everything squared away for the week, gearing up and hitting the Waitakere Ranges just 10min from work.

If you’re not familiar with the Waitaks, it’s 250km of trails in 16,000 hectares of rugged native forest, mud, and hills, sandwiched between West Auckland and the Tasman Sea. It is also home to the iconic Hillary Trail, which for the most part follows the coast. For three years I’ve been working right next door to the park, and it wasn’t till I had a good look at the trail directory on the Wild Things website that I realized what non Hillary trails there are to run/walk/crawl.

Since I’ve started solo running in the Waitaks, I’ve learned quite a bit about my limits, and had a few scares along the way. As a former scout I thought that I had a good handle on being prepared. I made sure I had plenty of water and food, first aid kit, survival bag, jacket, lamp, and map. Before leaving I’d tell George where I was going, how long, and email her a copy of the map (a neat feature of the trail directory). While this certainly ticked quite a few boxes in the Mountain Safety Councils Trail Running Guide, a few near misses highlighted a hole in my plan.

The dense bush and hills means that cell coverage is pretty weak sauce, so not so good for staking your life on. While there have a few bumps on the head from low branches, a few slips off the trail, and some shed blood, I’ve been pretty lucky. But luck can run out, and it was time to invest in a personal locater beacon (PLB), which these days is the size of a pack of cards. It’s hard having a cool new bit of kit that you hope to never need to use.


Last year sometime I happened across the Brecca Wanaka Swimrun event, and I immediately started lusting after it. Swimrun, originated in Sweden as a pub bet between mates (like all good things should), and is a new sport/format for New Zealand (but I’m predicting it will get big). Basically it’s an event where you run, swim, run, swim, rinse repeat. So just a triathlon without the bike you say? Not entirely – there are no transitions per se, you run in your wetsuits, swim in your running shoes and carry everything you and your partner need. Oh yeah, you read right, your partner; swimrun is a team event and that’s not a relay, you have to stay within 10m of your team mate.

Now while Wanaka looked great, the budget wasn’t going to stretch that far, plus the water would be cold. However a few months back Brecca announced an event almost on my door step in the Bay of Islands. As a child, I’d spend a week each year holidaying in Paihia, and seeing that the course would have us island hopping many of the Islands we’d visited over the years, I was sold. At the same time Tim was thinking the same thing. After the ‘debate’ we all do before entering an event, we’d convinced ourselves this was something we had to do. After a wee bit more debate and we had the all important team name: ‘Pair of Icebuggers’. Along the way we also convinced the ‘Amphibious Angels’ Liz and Hayley to enter. Although Liz didn’t take a lot of convincing and I think Hayley was simply told she’d be entering. Thankfully us newbies will have team ’11 Seconds’, made up of fellow Team CEP members/bad asses Penny and James, to bug with questions and hints.

Now entered, it was time to start getting the gear together (and I love new gear), particularly for the swimming side. As luck would have it Tim got word that one of his CEP Compression stockists, Kiwi Multisport was setting up to be New Zealand’s go to swimrun store. So with a quick pre-order, we’ve got the awesome Zone3 Evolution wetsuits, along with pull buoys and belts wrapped up. With swimrun being big in Sweden, the home of Icebug, I’ve got already a bevy of light, grippy, non absorbing shoes in my collection to pick from to cover the run sections.

All that is left is a load of pool time to get the technique right, a lot of open water time to get the technique right, and a pile of epic team training to get our techniques right. That, and a metric shit ton of swimming fitness, so so much swimming fitness needed. Early indications have shown that, contrary to what I thought, I can’t breathe while swimming. I get all messed up, mixing a combo of exhaling when my mouth is out of the water and inhaling as I put my head back down, and/or breathing on the same side as above water arm (sorry I’m going to need to learn the swimming lingo too – what the hell is a SWOLF??).

Something that I’m finding to be quite amusing are people’s responses when I say I’m training for an ultramarathon. What they seem to hear is “I’m training for a half marathon”. I guess that’s what makes the most sense for a big guy to be saying, because they’ll say something along the lines of “oh the Auckland half” or “21km is a long way”. With a wee smile I politely say “no, it’s a little bit long than that”.

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