This year’s Kepler was so so different to last year’s, but at the same time more or less the same.
My build up was pretty mellow and I guess not really ideal. I would have liked to get a few more final long runs of around 3hrs in the final weeks of training, but that was not to be, instead I ended up working in my weekends around home, mostly digging holes and building a fence. I think I worked pretty much every day building the 3 weeks before the Kepler, except the Thursday and Friday right before. But while the running was minimal, what running I did was of really good quality as I was doing some climbs as fast as I ever have. I was very relaxed pre race also, unlike last year when I was probably wound a little tight.
I arrived in Te Anua on Thursday, set up camp at Queen’s Reach and then met Vajin for a run from Rainboe Reach to the Control Gates. This was a super super easy 52min run. That night I had a feast, I cooked on an open fire, cut a few Celtic’s and started out sleeping under the stars- before the bugs sent me into my tent. On Friday I ran easy, did the gear check and moved camp into town next to the Bixleys. I had a very restless night’s sleep, but woke up ready to go!
The morning started like any race should- getting paid out by the race announcer and having 500+ people laughing at your race day clothing choice…..
It was a nice cruisy pace along to Broad Bay, with everyone you’d expect to be there, there about. Once we hit the hill I quickly passed DanC and was in 2nd behind Vajin. Marty finally caught up and went after Vajin, while Dan caught and past me and we arrived more or less together at Luxmore, in about 71mins. Ahead Marty had run Vajin down for KOM title and $500. As we ran under Mt Luxmore just before the snow, the 4 of us were all on this bit of trail at the same time, maybe 2mins from 1st-4th. It was really exciting to see Marty and Vajin swapping the lead along here and I suddenly found myself in 3rd at Forest Burn, when Dan made a pit stop. At Hanging Valley I was still in 3rd, just behind Marty and I quickly caught him here and even spotted Vajin on the first few switch backs down to Iris Burn.
It started to feel like an SRC (Sumner Running Club) Sunday long run as Marty and I chatted away. I had found the flow I was looking for and felt like I was racing, something I never felt like I did last year. We really cruised down and Dan flew past us, we arrived in around 2hr36 at Iris Burn, about 2mins behind Vajin and Dan. Marty reassured me we were running well and to just cruise to Rocky Point, even if he did drop me here! I reached RP in 39mins and left with Marty, were we still only 3mins down on first here! This was the last I saw of Marty and things turned to shit very quickly for me here. I think at this stage I had only had 2 Clif Shot Bloks and a Clif Shot Gel, with less than 1L of water. I had a full stomach right from the start, so the lack of calories more than likely contributed to me crashing hard around this point. I struggled in to Moturau Hut, apparently only 2mins down on who I am guessing was Dan. I was walking and in a lot of hurt. I looked back to see Tony Fats- a former 3rd place getter in around 5hr02- he looked to be moving very slowly but he past me and was gone very quickly. That’s when it really struck me just how bad things had gotten. I waited for the train of people to flow past me. I was stoked to not lose any other places by Rainboe Reach, where my folks and nephew were waiting. My dad later told me that I looked wasted, totally vacant as I stopped and just stared at the drinks table, not really moving until my mum, who ran the first Kepler Challenge, told me to get moving and ran out of Rainboe Reach with me for about 20 meters- she could have easily kept up the whole way to the control gates! At 5km to go I tripped, fell on my face and yelled and rolled around on the trail in pain as my hamstring cramped. Amazingly no one had past me yet. I got up and shuffled on. I somehow managed to hang on to 5th place, finishing in 5hr29, about 1min faster than last year. The final 9.4km was in 52mins, the same pace that Vajin and I jogged on Thursday evening.
Vajin went on to win in just over 5hrs, with Marty 2nd in his 10th Kepler and Dan 3rd. Tony finished 4th about 6mins ahead of me.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the race, but I think I am pretty happy with it. I raced this year, I was in the mix a little and left everything out on that track, sadly most of what I left was all before Iris Burn,, but no regrets.
Was a great weekend away in Te Anau and got to catch up with a heap of good mates as well as make some new ones. I think there are way too many memories and people to note, so I will not even try, but one thing that has me well excited was my 11yr old nephew saying he wants to run the Kepler Challenge! I told him in 5 years, when he is 16 I’d run the Grunt with him- now that is a “race” I am really excited about, we even did a little 20min run on some trails down in Riverton on Sunday- his first day of training for the Grunt.
Oh yeah, I have to also say sorry to the volunteers at Luxmore. I was well in the zone- look again at the photo above- and flew through the gear check without saying a word other than naming the items in my bag that needed checked. No hi or thanks. Without folk like those at Luxmore and everywhere else on the Kepler the race would not happen, the least they can get is a smile and and a thank you- so- Thank You to all those who make the Kepler happen, especially the nice lady that checked my gear at Luxmore, who, I am embarrassed to say, I was a total ass too. Sorry about that.