TuM/NB Double

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

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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.

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.

6 Weeks

Its been a crazy 6 weeks!! I raced the Yurribrilla Ultra on the 23rd September POST HERE. A few days after that Jane and I opened the BCR Trail Shop. Its been pretty busy and a little hectic getting that up and running, but very exciting. Right around that time I got a cold and little Isabella was not sleeping very well, so I was getting pretty beat down and tired. This was nothing compared to the beat down I was about to get! I knew as soon as I heard about the 60km being added to the Waihi Xterra Challenge I would

be on the start line. It was a 5am start and as expected Dennis de Monchy took off. I was happy to ease into it and start out at a relaxed pace. About 2.5hrs in I caught sight of Dennis and a while later was running with him. Still feeling relaxed and running easy at 30k a monkey suddenly jumped on my back and I was reduced to a grovel. I am not sure what it was- I am guessing just being sick and tired in the lead up caught up on me?? For the next 10km anything that looked like a hill was being walked, but I was still able to run the down hills at a good pace. At 40km we returned to the start/finish area and headed out for a final 20km with about 500 other runners doing shorter distance races. By now is was pissing rain and the trails were a mess. I knew the race was over as it would be hard to make up the 3-4 mins Dennis had on me with so much traffic on the trail. I tried to enjoy the race as best I could, walking a large section of uphill, but loving the downs. Dennis ran a great race and really deserved the win! He finished in 7hr03 and I in 7hr09, with Darren Blackwell in 3rd.

So less than a week after that I was hanging out at home working and looking after Bella, with about 10cm of snow on the ground outside and the phone rings. To paraphrase it went along the lines of “Hi Grant, Ian Edmond here, how would you like to go to Brazil, in 10 days….” If you haven’t heard of Ian, he is kind of a big deal! 1995 C2C champ and adventure racing bad ass. His wife Nora, who is from Brazil, was contacted about putting together a team for the Rocky Man adventure race. Rocky Man is a team relay race with surfing, Mt biking, Stand Up Paddle Board, Mt running, paragliding, a team outrigger canoe and team run!! The team’s runner, Baz Smith from Queenstown, was injured, so totally out of the blue I got a late call up! So after about 35hrs of travel I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil hot and very tired. I was met by a very “excited” Ian and met the team- the lovely Nora our manager (aka baby sitter), stand up paddle boarder world champ Annabel Anderson and rad man Mike Stewart- our surfer and para-glider from Queenstown. We did some practise in the outrigger canoe- turns out I suck at this and tried to rest, while trying to max out my limited time in Brazil.

It was a mixed bag of racing- there were little to no waves, the mountain bike was all on the road, the SUP was a bit of a drag race, my 32km, 1500mD+ run was mostly on the road, but what trails there were, were super fun and the paraglide take off sounded pretty lose! The logistics for this race are insane and I could not believe how well the race was run. Rio makes for such a crazy setting to this kind of race and it was a great experience. My run started with a flat 2-3km on the road and people took it out very hard! I sat back, but even being conservative I was over heated and cooked within 30mins… I backed it off and tried to relax on the rolling road section and once we hit some single track and got back into it and started picking people off. I passed about 5 people in the 2nd half of the race, finishing 7th in about 3hr11, but had lost a lot of time on those in front of me… We had a few hours and then had the canoe, conditions were rough  about 3 teams had their boat filled with water and had to be rescued  I was bailing water a lot and feeling like shit. After 6 laps, bumping into other boats and waves crashing over the boat we hit the beach running. I am not sure in what position we were after the paddle, maybe 5-6th, but within 2mins we passed a team and continued to pass teams the whole run. We SMASHED the run! It was a pretty cool feeling to pick off teams like this, but it wasn’t enough, as we finished 6th over all. What a day! We returned to the hotel, cleaned up and I packed my bags and was off to the airport at 3am the next morning and endured 30+hrs travel home. Have to say a huge Thank You to Ian and Nora for the late call up and for the 2 of them for taking such great care of the team in Brazil and to team mates Mike and Annabel, as well as Carolina our guide in the canoe!

Between Waihi and Rio was the Sumner Running Club yearly awards dinner. I have hardly worn my SRC singlet this year but headed along to catch up with friends. I was totally blown away to receive the Bob Boland Cup for best senior performance. I was really blown away by this and very very humbled- a real honour.

Next up is the Kepler. It will be a great day on the trails and I will be lining up with no expectations. It has been a long year of racing. I was feeling very positive about the Kepler after Waihi, but after the huge travel and extra race in Brazil I will just take it as it comes. I am sure this last year has made me a lot stronger than what I was a year ago and my training the last 6 months has been as good and as smart as I have ever trained  the question is how well I can rest and recover.

Looking past Kepler I think I am going to scrape all racing for early 2013, we will see I guess.

Yurribilla Ultra


Yurribilla Ultra
– hands down one of the funnest trips and races I have been on!

I was pretty sure when I first was told about this race that I wouldn’t be going, but when oppotunity knocks, you have to take it, and run! And I am so happy I did. At first I had never heard of the race and didn’t think it would work well post CDR- I was hesitant to commit to anything post CDR and I had already been away from home for about a month this year. But things really fell into place and the enthusiasm from race directer Sadie Cranston was hard to turn down.

Pre race I did an interview with ABC 891 radio in Adelaide, which is HERE

Rather than post a full race report here I will direct you to an interview I did with SportzHub.

Overall a very successful and satisfying trip to the Yurribilla Ultra. Did the 1st place and course record have something to do with this- yes, but more so was the people I met and friendships made. It was such a pleasure to chat with so many enthused runners before and after (even during) the race.

Next up is the Total Sport Xterra Waihi 60km– aka the Kaimai Killer! With 2800mD+ it will be a tough one. I did an interview a while back, post CDR, with the Total Sport crew- it’s HERE. It will be a good race, with some has been map reader and a long haired hippy that sits down to pee among others lining up. They have been training hard together in what seems to be a budding bromance- I expect to be dragged around and beaten about by these 2! Will be great to catch up with the NI crowd and run some new trails with friends I don’t get to see much.

And if you have not heard, Jane and I opened the Backcountry Runner Trail Shop this week. Exciting times- check it out for lots of great trail running related paraphernalia.