The big day is done and dusted

Blog 5: The big day is done and dusted.

We wake up early on the morning of day 5 to the sound of rain and heavy wind. The temperature is in single low digits and with the wind off the snowy mountains, the wind chill is biting.  After the furious pace of the first 4 stages and the lack of calories, our bodies are not coping with the cold. Especially before the big stage. News spreads around the camp that the day has been shortened due to safety concerns. A cheer erupts from the competitors. It’s now 75km. But we don’t get off that lightly. We need to cover 2000mtr elevation gain across the day in the exposed mountain range.

The chilli pants are packed away for the day and the rain jacket is pulled out. As is the warm hat and gloves. We kick off at 8am like normal and I start the day reading my card from Emma motivating me for the day and then devouring two oat packs. I need calories to get the energy up and to make sure I don’t lose too much heat. It’s a steady incline out of camp and into the bush. With the shortened course comes a quickened pace. Blake and I take off together and keep a steady pace through the forest. We clear checkpoint 1 and head into the hills. We climb steadily and stay moving. The weather moves in and as we reach the top, the rain/sleet and cold wind is pushing us backwards. We punch on and clear the stage . The young bucks on the edge of the top 10 join us and we move as a pack through the next stage.

We come off the mountain cold, slightly concerned and wandering what else is to come. Fortunately, it was check point 4. That’s the mara done. We are greeted with cups of warm, hot chocolate which hits the spot and gives us the boost we need. We press on as a group of 5 and we help each other to keep the pace up and keep charging forwards. Positions are on the line but the camaraderie is amazing. That is why Ultras are different to any other sport. When you are on the edge of survival, competition gives way to humanity and it’s a beautiful thing.

We tick off kms and push on. We need to get it done. We clear checkpoint 5 – 20km to go. The young bucks put the pace down and for once, I couldn’t answer the call. Red lining it on the previous days and the fact I don’t recover like a 20 year old has really hit home. I’m alone on the trail as we separate and push for home. I dig deep and think of my family at home and wrap myself in their love and support. Another competitor catches me and I tag on. It’s hurting. It’s also raining and cold!  I come out of the mountains and see a field. That’s when I hear it. The distinctive sound of the finish line drums. I’m done. I start to get emotional. It’s been a long journey and I’m done. I clear the line in just under 9hrs of running time. I’m pleased with that and it means I secure 7th spot. We had 5th through to 13th position finish within 10mins or so of each other. That’s how crazy the competition is.

I’m shivering uncontrollably so I head to the tent. I struggle to inflate my sleeping mat, get out of my clothes and then get into my sleeping bag. It takes me almost 3 hours to warm up. I can only stomach warm noodles and I don’t move for the rest of the night. I’m pre-hypothermic and the core felt like it was shutting down. All I could think about are the poor people still out there.

Power came in 45mins after me joined by Chip and Craig who had another strong day. The rest of our tent filter in as we bed down to the sound of the finish line drum beating when people finished.  I woke this morning feeling stiff but a bit better.  I huddle around the camp fire with my oats recounting the day with Craig.  We talk about food dreams and cravings and how good the first beer will be.  I will come home with an immense appreciation for the basics in life. A stable roof, food at my disposal and warm clothes. It’ been an experience that I will never forget and I have grown so much personally on this trip.

At  9:30am the final competitor crosses the line. Some 25.5 hrs after they started. An incredible effort and everyone cheers.

We are now resting and gearing up for the final 7kms tomorrow before heading back to the hotels for warm showers and good food. And to facetime my little family. Man, I’m so excited to see them.


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2 Responses to “The big day is done and dusted”

  1. Awesome effort Rich….congrats!! x

  2. Rich and Barb Atkins Reply November 19, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Unbelievable Rich…. trying hard to understand the thresholds you have gone through to complete so many kilometres both horizontal and vertical … incredible achievement , Both physical and mental…. enjoy the jog in to town and look back on another planet run success.

    We have really enjoyed following this on the blog… see you back in Auckland… R and Bx

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