How to make it big in Japan

So I don’t write much here any more. It’s a pity, I am sure the hoards of fans must be terribly upset……. With facebook being what it is (that includes lame and evil) and the Backcountry Runner blog and Backcountry Runner Shop taking my time.

But I figure I should give the old Ski Runner blog a little love and string her along just a little longer before doing the humane thing and flushing it down the toilet like one would a pet gold fish that has died and you are not really sure what else to do with. Continue reading

TuM/NB Double

My Tarawera/Northburn Double– yeah, not really the “double” ……..


Swampy Ridge Track

But before Tarawea, this story begins in a far, far away place. A magical land, famed for its pissed uni students, tropical weather and a very expensive stadium that no one really wanted….  In addition to these claims to fame, Dunedin is also the home town of international bad ass runner Anna Frost and thus the first port of call for a collection of the International Salomon Running Team. The chance to run with the WeeMan and Frosty on their home trails, see some old friends and meet some new ones was too good to pass up so I headed south, car camping in Trotter George on the way and meeting the team early morning. We headed up the Pineapple Track and to Flagstaff and then on to the aptly named “Swampy”. We had thick fog and zero views, but I was far from disappointed. Continue reading

Avalanche Peak 2013

Good times (not necessarily the time I ran) at the Avalanche Peak Challenge in the weekend. I would not say expectations were high, rather, I was looking to have a good hard hit out and see where I was at in my UTMF build up. For whatever reason, I went out somewhat fast from the start as we did the small loop around the Village. Why, I am not sure? I never race like this and I learnt why not. We hit the climb and I almost immediately felt like shit. I had nothing in my legs for the climb and unfortunately had about another 1020 meters of steep, rocky vertical to go…. Continue reading

Avalanche Peak

On Saturday I will return to the start line of the Avalanche Peak Challenge in Arthur’s Pass Village for the first time since winning this race in 2010. Well, OK, no, that is a lie. I did in fact return to the start line of the APC in 2011. On that day I had a little time to kill in the morning, before getting married to my lovely wife Jane, and so headed out for a look. In 2012 I was racing the HK100, so again wasn’t really worried about missing the APC.

Le Tour du Grand Veymont, France- the fixed line wasn't for show!

Le Tour du Grand Veymont, France- the fixed line wasn’t for show!

Avalanche Peak holds a pretty special place in running for me. After returning to NZ after an amazing winter in France, racing Ski Mountaineering Races- the greatest sport known to man and competing in the World Championships and Pierra Menta, as well as small races every weekend getting my ass kicked, Jane and I moved to Arthur’s Pass for a few months before starting winter work at Cheeseman Ski Area. Jane made exceptional coffee in the Arthur’s Pass store, while I drank it, as well as washing dishes, cleaning toilets and eating off-cuts of cake… I was inspired after my winter in France and I had big plans (and still do) with what I wanted to achieve on skinny skis and a lycra one piece. There were many stand outs who inspired me, I worked for Pierre Gignoux, who together with Stephan Brosse have the Chamonix-Mt Blanc-Chamonix speed record on skis, and the one and only Jordi Canals (whom I had met 1 year earlier when I won the Asian Ski Mountaineering Champs in Japan) introduced me to a member of his “young ski mountaineering team”. THIS GUY was a freak back then and I looked into his summer “training” for inspiration during the snowless months in Arthur’s Pass and my attention quickly turned to Avalanche Peak (remember, this post is about the APC, not me reliving past ski mountaineering glory….). Winter came and went and I found myself again attached to a brush of some sorts at the Arthur’s Pass store and again paying the Avalanche Peak and Scott tracks a lot of attention. I was thinking I was pretty bad ass, I mean I could get up Avalanche Peak in like 1hr20- I owned that thing…… Then when I finally removed my head from my ass I discovered that there was a race up Avalanche Peak!? And people got to the top of Avalanche Peak in 50mins!! WTF I was shocked, horrified even, but most of all inspired even more.

2009 I turned up to a pretty typical day on the Main Divide the first time I was to race APC- it was raining hard and the course was re routed and I finished 6th and a good 2omins down on Jacob Roberts. I was pretty disappointed, I had been injured and was so far off the pace.

In  heap and hurting, at least I wasn't puking this time

at the finish line APC 2010- expect a similar sight this Saturday

But the next year I got serious. The ski mountaineering lark was behind me and I had decided I wanted to be a mountain runner (for the record, I am still trying to make up my mind about being a good one or not) and trained hard all summer. I was so focused. I was running up Avalanche Peak by head lamp and then serving coffee’s at 9am (yeah I had worked my way up a little). Come race day I was so so ready- 50mins to the summit right on Jacobs heals, before I took the lead along the ridge, just holding on for the win by 11 seconds by the time we got to the Bealey Hotel.

It was a huge turning point for me as a runner and amazingly satisfying to achieve a goal that I set for myself the day I found out about the APC.

So, what of APC 2013 for me…….. I am really excited to be back at the race that made me want to run, race and move fast in the mountains (when they didn’t have snow on them). I know a few things- I am way way fitter that I was in 2010, I have loads more endurance and am certain that I am a quicker. What I am not sure about, and this is pretty important, is if all that will make me faster that I was in 2010. It sounds simple- if I am claiming all these great things then I should clearly be much faster at APC than I was in 2010, but no. The APC course is so full on; so steep in its climb; so steep and loose under foot in its descent; fast, but technical down the Crow and then just hard work finishing along the Waimakariri to the finish. To be truly fast on this course you need to have really put in the time on this kind of terrain and I haven’t. We will see – I can’t wait!

Arthur’s Pass Scrambling

Arthur’s Pass Scrambling

Just before Christmas Robert Jarvis gave me a call- it’s always nice when Rob calls as he is always up for a good mission in the hills. Ironically, at the time I was standing in the living room of Rob’s World Rogain partner’s house- Matt Bixley. While some might think Rob’s biggest achievement was the silver medal he got with Matt in the 40+ age group at the 2012 World 24 hour Rogain Champs, I strongly disagree. I think it was putting up with Matt for 24hrs…… (Only joking Matt, I just wanted to work you into this post so you did not feel left out after missing out on an epic outing yesterday).

Anyway, Rob and I finally keyed up a run, our first together in some time as Robert had done his ankle in pretty bad a while back. Robert’s cousin Karl, fresh off a 5hr45 Kepler was keen also and we set off for APNP. A few years back, when I first started running again and was living in AP Village, I did the Avalanche Peak- Mt Bealey traverse. It was a  trip that neither Karl nor Robert had done before and I was keen to do it again to see if I could improve on my 4hr30 time.

The Arthur’s Pass info website names risks: “Height exposure, loose rock & ice, narrow sections” and speaks of the Razor Ridge “at times on a ridge no wider than 20cm, with 80 metre drops on both sides”. In addition to that fun, we also had amazing views and I even did a little “shoe skiing” coming off Avalanche Peak.

It was an excellent day out in the hills- 10.8km, 3hr54min and 1450mD+.

After a nice training week to finish off 2012- 17hrs, 4270mD+, 125km, I felt like this week built on it- even if it was smaller- 12hrs45, 4000mD+, 97km. Both weeks included 3 very good quality speed/tempo sessions.

Last night I watched a movie of the 2012 edition of the UTMF- the next big race that this new block of training is working towards. It is 50mins and very very much aimed at non running viewers, but is still well worth a look.

A rest day or 2 next week and then off to Totaranui for a week, and maybe a jog in the St James with Jez Brag.

Salomon Running XR Mission Shoe Review

Salomon XR Mission GG reviewMy phone rang on a snowy spring day in Castle Hill Village with the offer of a trip to Brazil, to race in the Rocky Man adventure team race- an offer almost too good to be true. My next adventure was less than 2 weeks away and I was about to go from cold, snowy Castle Hill in New Zealand’s high country to the relatively hot and humid Rio de Janeiro in early November.
From the little time I had to prepare and research the running leg of Rocky Man which I would be racing, I was able to find out that the run was mostly on the road, with some fun, rough looking single track trails in the steep hill side around the city that will host the 2016 Olympic Games. Being the gear geek I am, combined with some seriously damaged toes from racing the 125km Canadian Death race earlier in the year I knew I needed to make sure my footwear was perfect for this mixed terrain race. The loss of toe nails I suffered at the Canadian Death Race was from a combination of hot temps (resulting in my feet swelling up) and very steep downhill sections during the race.
My mind flashed back to a trip to the Hong Kong 100km in February were I was lucky enough to run a short distance in the Salomon XR Missions, during a Salomon HK demo event. Salomon’s XR Mission shoes are dubbed as a “Door to Trail” shoe- meaning they are as at home on the road as they are on the trails. I had spent some quality time in Salomon’s other Door to Trail offering, the CrossMax and knew that the Missions would be perfect for Rocky Man.
The wider toe box of the Missions (compared to my normal ‘go to’ racing shoe, Salomon’s XT Wing SLAB) would allow for any toe or foot swelling that I might encounter during the gruelling 32km, 1500 vertical meter run, especially during the steep downhill sections that the race profile revealed. Other than fit, having a shoe that preformed equally as well on road and trail surfaces would be key and the Door to Trail Mission did just that.
The Rocky Man run was very demanding, with fast, flat road running (not my strength), steep, technical single track trail up and down and then finishing with a quad smashing 5km downhill finish on the road. While I was far from in the best shape for such a race, I couldn’t blame my gear at all. The Missions provided a smooth ride on rolling streets, handled the rough, technical (fun!) trails that were thrown their way and the LT Muscle (a lightweight EVA cushioning) saved my legs on the steep pounding and impact they received during the final steep downhill on the pavement.
If you live in a spot (like most do) where you are running on the streets and roads from home to access your local trails, or even a mixed terrain race, where trails and roads are encountered, the XR Mission from Salomon is well worth a look!

Weight: 326gr per shoe (size US9), stack height: heel 25mm, forefoot (15mm)

Mission reviewed by Grant Guise, a Salomon Running sponsored athlete and winner of the 2012 125km Canadian Death Race and Yurribbilla 56km Ultra (Australia) record holder.

Kepler- 2012- round 3….

I am getting slower, at least that is how it looks on the surface if you look at the results from the 2011 and the 2012 Kepler Challenge….

But, despite being a good 8mins slower over the 60 most celebrated and significant kilometres in New Zealand mountain/ultra running, I am happy. Happier than I was post 2010 and 2011 Kepler. Strange I know and a little worrying.

I  knew as soon as I jumped at the chance to go to Brazil to race the Rocky Man Adventure Team race my Kepler would be affected. But as I told anyone that asked- “kepler- I don’t give a F@#$, I am going to Brazil!!!” And I really stuck to my guns on that, I would not have changed a thing. The 32km around Rio de Janeiro was really not that bad and a very good hit out 1 month out from Kepler, but the travel totally killed me. I lost a good 2 weeks of training in a key period. But still I was not fazed and feeling really good. I got some good training in with Martin Cox and Gary Melhuish and was feeling good. Then I felt bad, very, very bad. About a week out I got massive stomach pains, started feeling really, really fatigued and lost my appetite. I was taking naps and had to force food down- blaaa- I was all but out on Tuesday. Jane and I loaded up our van with the BCR Shop, a smelly dog, a small pink squeally thing, and a skinny (and oddly tanned) Brit that runs up hill fast and headed south.

We had organised a little group run on Thursday afternoon and I felt surprisingly good, having had my appetite return the day before somewhere around Tarris. Friday was mad- I don’t know if I could dream up a crapper pre race prep- BUT I also could have never dreamed of the response our little BCR Trail Shop received at the Kepler pre race registration expo. It was crazy- for 6hrs we got slammed and it was great! So a big thank you for all the amazing support folks! By the end of the day I was trashed and went back to a feast cooked up by the one and only Andrew Town. Still on the fence as to whether to race or not I hit the hay, alarm clock set for 4am.

up around Luxmore

up around Luxmore

The plan was simple- run easy- really easy. With no expectations (OK, I did think around 6hrs would be nice) I trotted off, watching the leads disrepair…. I somehow found myself leading a small group of 4, with 2 more close behind along the tops. I think we where in 9th-14th place and I arrived about 12th place, a good 15 or so mins down on last year in 2hr51. I was still feeling good, real good having been so sick and just run 30km, so I just went with it and tried to keep up a good pace out the Iris Burn. Not long after Moturau I started to fade a little, but lucky Big Phil was there with a Go Pro- I had to run fast, well at least try.

Just before Rainbow reach I had a few lads on my tail- Julian who I hadn’t seen since Hanging Valley and SRC club mate Simon. I got some coke at Rainbow reach and was then quickly past by Julian and then Simon… the next glimpse I saw was a flying Ruby Muir!! She was leading the women’s race and I quickly did some maths and was beside myself. Ruby was on pace for a very very fast time. Not course record fast, but 5hr30 something fast! It gave me a boost of energy knowing what she was about to achieve  I even stopped at one point- yelling at her to say she was on pace for a very fast time- knowing she didn’t have a watch. I then saw her ear phones….

I crossed in 5hr37- feeling really happy and knowing had things been a little different the week before I could have gone a bit faster- at least that’s what I will tell myself!

Ruby crossed about 20 sec later! 2nd fastest woman ever at Kepler and fastest first timer! Can’t wait to see how the rest of her summer plays out.

Our “house” did pretty good- Martin Cox won “king of the mountain” and was 7th, Marty Lukes 3rd, GaryM 6th, me 11th, Andrew just over 6hrs, Matt way slow- but he had a rougher day than I did! Nicely done. My little princes Jane did great. She was cranking along for 30km, 3hr30 to Iris Burn, but then the wheels fell off- or at least her ITB tightened up and knee pain forced her to walk it in! 8hr30 and I was very proud of her. Just over 11months after she gave birth to Isabella, Jane tackled her longest race ever!

Resting up now before I hook into the build up for my biggest challenge yet.