Here is a quick wee list of things that I didn’t know going into the race – and that will have an impact on how I approach the event next time around.
- The gear check at the top of Mt. Luxmore is very efficient.I expected to be standing around waiting for ages whilst a large group of runners in front of me had their gear checked. I expected that this process would take around ten minutes, and that I would have to do various stretching exercises etc whilst I waited.The reality was very different. There were at least ten people checking gear, and they did their job very efficiently. I queued for less than a minute before my gear was checked. The queue was alongside food and drink tables, so I was able to get plenty of nourishment whilst I waited. The gear check itself was very fast. The entire gear check process, including queueing, took just over two minutes. Brilliant.
- Food at the checkpoints is pre-cut.
As silly as it may sound, I was worried about how I would eat the bananas/oranges provided at the checkpoints. I mean – do I peel the banana there and then? What if I struggle to remove the peel from my orange due to having cold fingers? What do I do with the peels once I have finished – do I just throw them on the ground?The good news here (for me at least) is that all bananas are but in half, and all oranges are but into bite-sized segments. This may seem like a small thing, but it saved so much time at each checkpoint. This in turn meant that I ate at every checkpoint, which helped me to take on board the fuel that I needed to finish the race.
- Yes, there is snow – but the trail is groomed. The wonderful people at the Department of Conservation had been working hard in the days leading up to the event. They had cleared the snow from the track, meaning that we had only a very small amount of snow trekking to complete. Snow is a fickle thing, and there is guarantee that the trail will be this clear next time around – but I did not get wet feet, and I did not get frostbite on my toes
- Mt. Luxmore is not very steep. Seriously. It isn’t. I could have run up the entire thing (and would have, had I not known that there was another 35km to go after reaching the top!). The hills that I ran during my training programme were considerably steeper. – they just weren’t that long. This actually presents a problem – the vast majority of people were walking up the track, and I felt like I should have been running up the hill. In the end I compromised by running for a minute, then walking for a minute. This allowed me to make some good time without totally thrashing my legs. Which leads me to my next point….
- Running down Mt. Luxmore thrashes your legs.
I run downhill a lot. I consider myself to be a good downhill runner. But I am used to downhill stretches of a couple of kilometres, dropping maybe 350 metres in altitude. The run down from Mt. Luxmore was a distance of 7.3km, and a drop of 1,100 metres. It felt brilliant at the time, so I was fairly hammering it downhill. I still felt good once I reached the flat too. But about 5km later, my legs crashed on me. From that point on I was reduced to a slow jog, well below my usual slow running pace. Next time I will still run down Mt. Luxmore, but I will keep the pace under control to conserve my thighs for the long run out to the finish line.
- There aren’t a lot of toilets on the course.
Fortunately, this wasn’t an issue for me on the day. But if you are a runner that needs frequent toilet breaks, keep in mind that the huts/emergency shelters etc tend to have a single toilet only. The start line was well equipped with portaloos (ten or so), so nervous runners waiting to start the race are well catered for.
- It was cold when I started, and hot when I finished. I’m not of the exact temperature when the race started, but it was cold. I wore a hat and a pair of gloves for the first 45 minutes of the race. I warmed-up pretty quickly going up Mt. Luxmore, was chilly again on the ridge line between Mt. Luxmore and Hanging Valley Shelter, and got pretty sweaty on the descent down to Iris Burn. By the time that I hit the long, flat run out beyond Iris Burn it had developed into a hot day. It got up to around 24 degrees in the afternoon.
- Drinks are dispensed in cups, not from a tap.I was hoping to see big drums full of Leppin that I could quickly use to fill up my camelbak. Maybe I missed them, but all that I saw on the course were half-full cups. This was fine if you just wanted a quick drink, but was a real pain for refilling a hydration bladder. You needed to take several cups, and pour them in one at a time. Next time I will take my camelbak and a drink bottle. I will refill the drink bottle at the drink stops, and use the hydration bladder between the checkpoints.
- I’m a runner, but I spent a lot of time walking.Going into the race (my first ultra), I was confused as to when I “should” be walking/running/whatever. I had a target time of eight hours and managed to finish twenty minutes inside that mark. I was surprised when I checked my Garmin Forerunner log after the run – I had actually spent nearly two hours of the race walking. Breaking it down further, I walked for 9.75 of the 60kms. Not all in one go of course, but little uphill sections spread throughout the course would slow me down to walking pace. Two hours of walking is much more than I anticipated doing – but I still comfortably beat my target time. I guess that the lesson here is that walking in an ultra is not a crime, and you shouldn’t feel guilty doing it.
- Talking to those around me helped to confirm my pace.I had a target time of eight hours for the event, but as I had never done the race before I had no idea of whether I was “on track” to meet my target. The solution was all around me – other runners. A large number of entrants had completed the event in previous years. They were all friendly, and they all were happy to have a quick chat on the course. As I was chugging up Mt. Luxmore I was concerned that I was runing whilst many others were walking. I was keeping pace with another chap that was also running – so I asked him if he had done the event before, and if so what was his previous time. He replied that he had done it twice before, and that both times he completed it in just under eight hours. This immediately reassured me that I was doing the right thing, running at around the right pace, and that if I kept a rough pace with this other runner I should be in goopd shape to meet my target time.