Broken River King of the Mountain

“You guys are so underground, you’re what bouldering wishes it was”  I had to agree with StevieE, the sport of ski mountaineering racing is extremely underground in NZ. After a short existence between 2006- 2009 when I was organising a series of races the only event has been a super low key race in QT, part of the Winter Festival, that is a short skin up Coronet Peak. For some reason this race is more or less not at all promoted and I have even been told it is “really just a race for locals”?? So yes, the sport is underground, but to my delight a day or 2 before I took off to Canada I got an e-mail from Barrett at Broken River Ski Area telling me there was going to be a race and could I spread the word- could I ever! Well I tried to anyways.

Barrett explains the course- the boot pack up Margo’s is directly above his head

Race day dawned sunny and calm which helped make up for the less than desirable snow conditions. I was thinking and with no disrespect to anyone, that I would have a fun little skin around and win the “race” (I was looking at it as more of a social occasion) pretty easy- then right before the brief a guy in a one piece suit turns up- great, I was going to have to try now. Barrett counted down and we all took off- well Chillis and the guy in the one piece lycra did. I chased and took over the lead as we started the climb up the main basin and with no skin track- it was way too firm for that- we tacked like a yacht race up to the bottom of Margo’s to the boot pack. I arrived just in front and lead up and chatted with the lycra clad man. “I have heard of you”– that is never good, “Chris, Chris Forne”. I replied saying we are even cause I had heard of Chris, he is after all a pretty big deal in adventure racing and orienteering circles, like a really big deal. This had me worried as we booted up cause I knew I was not gonna drop Chris, he is way too strong and I was already feeling like I needed to puke. Into the transition and out in less than a minute, Chris however, could not say the same, fumbling with boots, bindings and skins. Even with having to stop on the ski down due to a lack of flagging I built a good 90sec+ buffer. I held this on the short next climb and skied back to Palmer Lodge. A packed deck of people waiting for the snow to soften, aided by a lack of any finish line timer, had no idea I was winning the race as I crossed the line. Knowing this I decided it would be funny (at least to me) to pump my fists in the air and yell. This was of course was greeted with many a strange look until a lady asked if I had just won the race and then people clapped- Yes, we are underground.

the usual suspects post race

 

Chris was about 2mins back and Tim Ensor had a blinder rounding out the podium. Huge thanks to Barrett and the Broken River crew for hosting this great little race. I really hope this event is back next winter and we can get a few more folks turning out.

Here is my “Move”from the race- it was just a wee fella

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My Owsome CDR Trip

My Owsome CDR Trip

Marcelo, myself, Julia and Jeremy pre CDR. Photo PV

“Go Death Racer…”– Jeremy randomly yelled as we dodged mud puddles early in the race. To our amusement an unseen runner behind us responded with great enthusiasm – “GO DEATH RACER!”. It wasn’t until about 13hrs later, when I hit 104th St in Grande Cache, that I smiled like that again when hearing those words…. During those 13hrs I experienced the highs and lows that one would expect during an ultra, but unfortunately for me I was experiencing then in what felt like a sauna. Jeremy and I run 2nd and 3rd together into the 19km check point a few mins down on last years runner-up Ricky Reusser. I was feeling good and quickly (and unexpectedly) pulled away from Jeremy early into the 2nd leg. I run most of the climb to Flood and Grand mountain, unlike last year when I walk most of these climbs, and arrived back into Grande Cache in 4hr30, about 4mins down on Ricky. These 1st 2 legs of the race I run pretty easy and felt great apart from my toes that got mashed from the steep descents. During the next stage I stopped at every one of the small creeks to throw water over my self, wet my hat and fill a bottle that I used to pour over my self. I was surprised to catch a glimpse of Ricky ahead and despite to a few more times at streams I was catching him with ease.We walked a hill together and Ricky told me his quads where trashed from the descent from Grand. As we crest the hill I started running and made a gap – it was strange I was leading that race, something I haven’t done in a long time. About 55km into a 125km race I was leading. I let that sink in and at the same time told my self it didn’t matter to how I wanted to run the rest of the race. I made sure to make a good break on Ricky as I was expecting him to come back and he did pass me as I was running up the highway – he was in a car having pulled the pin on the race. Hmm, that changed things, but Jeremy was still behind me and he had put 1hr on me in 50km at the HK100 in February so I knew I still had a race on my hands. I got into the 65km check point well up on my time from last year and feeling OK, but I was starting to get very hot. The climb up Hamel was pretty slow going, slower than I run it last year, but not as slow as Jeremy (unknown to me at the time) and I put some more time on him. At 88km there is a 5km loop which I did in about 30mins + the time I spend fueling at the aid station I knew I had at least 35mins on 2nd, now with not much more than 30km to go. I was starting to get excited that I might just have this thing. But it wasn’t smooth sailing as my toes where really hurting and the heat was crushing me. Coming from winter and training in freezing temps on snow-covered trails to 27+ degree temps with a warm wind was hard going, even having dumped about 8L of water of myself during the day.

Leaving CP5 and on my way to “getting er done”. Photo- PV

At the final check point I was greeted by Phil and Marcelo who had been taking great care of me all day – Phil was always sure to hurry me out and not let me hang out. I changed in to my SpeedCross3, had some coke and left with multi caffeinated gels and red bull. I was well up on my time from last year at this point, and was excited about what is the best bit of single track in the whole race from CP5 to the river. Last year I closed well but this year I knew I was going to just be trying to hang on, still not 100% how far back Jeremy was. I was surprised to get to the river more or less the same as last year, despite a large amount of walking. The short jet boat ride was fun and I could have just stayed sitting on that boat knowing the steep climb that lay a head – the final stretch home was a bit of a blow out. I was greeted by Ricky Reusser who had hiked in a wee way to see me finishing, I felt like crying when he said 5km to go, but a few minutes later I popped out on a dirt road where 3x CDR winner Jack Cook was hanging out. Jack told me 2.5km togo and offered me “beer or coke”- I went with the coke and hooked into the final km’s. I popped out onto 104th St where every other house had people sitting outside, bbqing, partying and yelling “Go

Satisfied to say the least! Photo- PV

Death Race”- Thats when I really smiled again. I crossed in 13hr27, about 20mins faster than last year. I had hopped to go faster, but very happy with that time on what I found to be a very hot day. I felt really beat down from the heat in the 2nd half of the race even after dunking my head in every creek on that course.

This trip to Canada has been pretty special. Its been a real fun time getting to hang out with fellow Salomon team mates Jeremy and Julia, as well as our owsome guide and Salomon brand ambassador Phil.We have had a bunch of laughs and taking 3 podium spots made for a succesful weekend for Salomon Running. Jeremy had a hard day of it, but hang in and finished 2nd, while Julia lead the womans race from start to finish!

“Thanks you’s”- Have to give a huge thank you to Phil, Julia and Jeremy for a great trip, as well as Salomon Running for the huge support in getting me here and also Suunto Australia and Udo’s Oil. Thank you so much for the support! And Jane for putting up with and being so supportive of my training and running.

A little relaxing and time with my 2 lovely girls awaits and maybe even a little ski mountaineering race at Broken River in 1 week. Then next running race is Yurrebilla Trail Ultra, a 56km race in the hills behind Adelaide in South Australia in about 5 weeks time. This looks to be a  great little race on some sweet trails – I can’t wait!

FULL CDR RESULTS HERE, Phil’s CDR photos HERE

Laying Low In Canmore

After the long, but thankful smooth, trip to Calgary I was greeted by Phil at the airport and when then headed to Canmore, along with Julia who has travelled from Germany (Jeremy travelling from Hong Kong was delayed). After visiting a few coffee spots with Julia I visited a dentist to get a x-ray on  a tooth that started giving me grief the day before I left home and are now taking some anti-bioethics. Less than idea, but better than a tooth infection I guess. Jeremy arrived and Phil gave us a guided run on some sweet single track. We have been filtering through the massage therapist and more or less repeated our first day here again- coffee hang outs and easy runs.

We are taking off today on the long, but extremely scenic drive to Grande Cache, which will be transformed into one big ultra-running/festival town by the time we arrive. Race day temps could be around 25degress- not bad if you have spent the summer in those temps, but less than ideal if you have had the last few months in freezing temps like I have.

I have been posting photo’s here and Phil will be doing race updates on Twitter @S_FlightCrew and @SalomonRunning and likely Facebook also. You can check out the race web site here Canadian Death Race

CDR- Round 2….

Off today to Canmore (and then on to Grande Cache) for the 125km Canadain Death Race. This will be my 2nd crack at the CDR, with a 3rd place last year.

A recent (last 4 months) total change up in training and more recently an over haul of my diet and a greater focus on core/strength work I feel like a totally different runner from 12months last year.

Final prep talks last nice with the one and only Marty Lukes (sadly not over a punt this time) and Christophe via skype.

Ricky Gates before last years CDR and his course record run

I can’t wait to get to Canmore and have  a little trail time with fellow Salomon team mates Jeremy, Julia and PV.

I will hopefully get a few updates out from Canada and I am sure PV will be twitting/facebooking updates come race day!

Scared!

I am scared, scared shitless about my next race coming up.

There, I said it, I got that off my chest and feel better for it. I will be out of my depth, hugely under prepared and very very much a fish out of water as I line up tomorrow in the Canterbury Cross Country Champs– 12km at Halswell. SRC are the duty club so I will for the first time in 3 years of being a  member pull my weight and help out getting things set up pre race. Then my race kicks off 1440, but Jane is going to line up in her 1st ever cross country race and first race as a SRC member tomorrow also! I guess I will warm up with little Bella while Jane is racing- so that means Jane will have to crank out her 8km in 35mins, or our little princess will be left to her own devices for a while…

The other race I have coming up I am a lot lot more positive about! The 125km Canadian Death Race is now about 16days away and I am feeling good and ready to go- not too ready, but getting there. Other than a niggle on my ankle which is some what of a mystery (all the “good” injuries are) as to how and what?

Last weekend I had my final long run and then a good hill session, both runs in the Port Hills, accompanied by GaryM and George Dog and wearing some flash new Salomon SpeedCross3s courtesy of The team at Salomon NZ/Snoworld.

.Looking past CDR I have some pretty exciting race plans coming up for the summer- I can’t remember the last time I was looking so far ahead. At this stage I think I will be lining up in the following-

Yurebrilla 56km, Xterra Waihi60km, Kepler 60km, Kaweka Mt Marathon, Shotover Moonlight Mt Marathon and The Hillary 50mile (if that last race gets the green light?). We’ll see, might add Tararua 35km in also if it works and need to balance racing with family, work and “fun runs”.

But first things first – CDR!! oh, and that scary 12km tomorrow….

Foggy and Castle Hill Peak

Another good week of training, some good speed stuff, capped off by a good hill session on Saturday and then some fun on Sunday- climbing Foggy and Castle Hill Peaks from Posters Pass. About 47-48mins to Foggy which s well off my person FKT of 36min from Pass to Foggy Peak, but not fast conditions and there was lots of stops and photo taking. 1hr40 to Castle Hill Peak, where I spent about 10mins hanging out and then 2hr50 I was back at the car where Jane and Bella were waiting. We headed into Springfeild for coffee- the big treat from the week!

Trig M track- only real snow free option around home for hill repeats

On the climb to 1741m Foggy Peak

On the ridge about half way between Foggy and Castle Hill Peaks

Getting closer and more interesting

Foggy Peak (left) and Castle Hill Peak viewed from highway 73 driving back to Castle Hill

Commiting

So I am thinking about removing the “Ski” from this blog’s title, so little have I skied this year it is boarding on embarrassing. I hate to admit it, but without a doubt the way shit went down in regards to ski related gear a few months ago has sadly dampened my enthusiasm for skiing. That and trail running, for now at least, is just so darn fun! It is an interesting place I find myself in with regards to running at present. With all of life’s little changes coming at once I feel like there has been a big change, but with the lifestyle chosen, consistence has never really been, well consisant. I committed to racing the CDR for the 2nd time about 7-8 months ago. I knew way back then it was going to mean less skiing and more running during this time of year. I have been very tempted a few times to blow off “training” and go “play” (the 2 blur into one more often than not) many a time since the hills around home have been covered in snow. But staying on track, following the training program, keeping the focus on the CDR and remembering the commitment I made to turn up to that race knowing I have done everything possible to prepare has in itself been very satisfying.

Craigieburn’s looking all snowy and tempting

I was feeling pretty tired last week after being dragged around by Vajin on the Sunday and doing a solid back to back weekend, lucky last week was an easy week! This week and next are lots of good high intensity training (might even have a blat at the Canterbury XC Champs). I found it odd to drive away from the mountains here and into snow free Port Hills for training last month, but I managed to top that oddity by driving out Oxford way to do a tempo session on the flat farm roads in the area this week. Coming up I have some fun training- it is not based on time, distance or heart rate- it’s all about the vertical gained! Hopefully I can complete that around here on foot on some snow free trails.

Other news- I have been very luck to receive support from Mother Nature’s, the New Zealand importer/distributor of Udo’s Oli, as well as some of the other great products in the Flora range. Mother Natures is a family business operating for over 30 years mainly supplying healthy Snack Foods and recently have started bringing in the oily Udo’s goodness! You might recognise Udo’s 369 Blend as it is pretty popular among the US ultra running community- it’s what the cool kids use, not wanting to be on the out I tried Udo’s last year when I was in Canada for the CDR. It tastes good and is good for you. I have been loading up on it this past week, so hopefully just the ticket to help with recovery coming into CDR. If you are keen on getting some, or just want to learn more about Udo’s 369 check out Ollie Pacific Heath. They have some good videos on the 369 and recipes also.

Balance

Another good week of training for me just gone! Don’t get me wrong, I know I am not a hard core high mileage, mass vertical rad man of running, but the last 3 weeks of training have been bang on for me. A 12hr and 2x 14hr weeks for the first 3 weeks of my CDR build up. Mileage was pretty low the first 2 weeks with slogging in snow and then training on skis. This week was all pretty good quality running (for me), but sadly the vert was down a bit- 1/2 of last weeks 6000mD+, but there was almost 50km more distance covered- it’s all a trade off I guess. Right now I am really happy with the balance I have with my training and that is without a doubt the advantage of having a (very very knowledgeable) coach in the form of Frenchman Christophe Malarde. I won’t say who else Chris coaches because it will just sound like I am name dropping, but he knows his stuff and I am pretty happy with the direction we are heading in. I am looking at it as a long term relationship. I knew there would be little to no real change in time for TNF100 last month (only 6 weeks with Chris then), but I was probably wrong as I arrived at the start of that race feeling very rested and so ready to run. A good recovery and now into a good training cycle I feel the balance is really what I have been lacking for the last 14+ months. CDR might even be too early to really reap the rewards of this, but I think improvement will be seen.
Super fun weekend was had in Chch running. Saturday was solo on the Crater Rim Trails. Cashmere, Rapaki, Vernon, Sugar Loaf, Gibbes Pass, Pack Horse, Mt Herbet and finishing at Diamond Harbour with a milk shake and a ferry ride to Lyttleton. 5hrs, 44km and 2180mD+. Sunday I met up with Vajin and Nelson and we started out at Little River. It was all gravel or sealed road which was very odd for me, but it is good honest running that you can not hide from like you can do on the trails sometimes. I don’t really know the area, but you can see a map of it on my MovesCount. 5hrs20, 51km and 1470mD+. Was a fun outing, again finished off with a milkshake, chocolate, for the 2nd day in a row. Easy week coming up so will be a good time to get some skiing in I hope!

Did both long runs over the weekend in the above slippers (that’s what  they feel like), as well as 4hrs the week before in the snow and mud above Chch and a few other outings. I would say I would have maybe been better in my FellCross on Saturdays and the week earlier on the Crater Rim Trails as they are pretty darn muddy and slippery right now, but I feel like I have run enough in these shoes now to say they are pretty good. The upper and fit is very very nice. I would love to see a winter/SoftGround version- maybe with a FellCross sole?

I aren’t going to go for a full on review- they are good- light, comfortable, tick the right boxes. But there is no point re-inventing the wheel- the lads at Ultra168 have done a great review so check that out!

Snow

The Castle Hill Basin, like most of the South Island, last week got slammed with snow! We awoke to about 15cm on Wednesday morning and by that afternoon there was about 80cm! It was as deep and fluffy as any pow pow I have seen in NZ before. I managed to get out for a few skins/skis. but running has been a real pain in the ass and impossible on the trails around here which are now covered in about a foot of nasty snow. I have been in the Port Hills running a little and yesterday finally got out for a decent ski tour. The week of training was pretty good, just 5 days training, an easy short run, a repeat session and then 12hrs over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 14hrs, 6000mD+ and a whopping 85km all up. Nice mix of running, skiing/skinning and plodding/hiking/slogging. As well as some quality family time and a little sledding.

Southern Thing

A little trip south, with a fun early morning run up Ben Lomand in Queenstown and another jog up to Okaka Hut on the Hump Ridge Track, over looking Te Waewae Bay near Tuatapere.