Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon Race Report – Adam Clarke (Up n Adam)
Race Date: Saturday 22nd February Results: 2014
Moonlight Mind Games
Your mind is your toughest competitor, standing at the start line of the Shotover Moonlight Marathon deep in the valley with the river freely flowing next to us while the old gold miners suspension bridge swung freely above I knew this was going to be one epic race!!!
See I've always played and loved team sports, learning how to manoeuvre towards a common goal, but now the individualism of running and challenging myself really appeals to me, playing against another team or opponent can be hard but fighting against your own self-doubt and pushing your body to new boundaries and sometimes trying to find new limits is even harder and what I love.
So when I lined up at the start of this marathon in the amazing town of Queenstown NZ after being ferried in by helicopter from our accommodation on the Ben Lamond sheep station a 35,000 acre privately owned property which all of the race is set on, I knew I was going to be pushed to the limits I love to chase... just by looking at the sheer size of the mountains out of the chopper window and the rugged country side that flowed confirmed it to me this was going to be tough, but what really struck a chord with me was a brief conversation with a two time finisher "take your normal marathon time and double it"!! (2.49 marathon for me) I certainly knew it was going to be a hectic day out there and I had found a race that ticked all the boxes to fuel my addiction.
A traditional Maori send-off complete with Harker had me pumped and the tone of the day was set.
Straight away we were into a couple of teasing small climbs of around 400-500 metres (well not that small) on pretty loose rock the calves burnt up but I had to get used to that feeling, my plan was to start at an easy pace then work into the race and take in as much of the incredible surrounds as I could, I was hoping for 5 hour 30 minutes with the goal of squeezing into the top 10.
The trails were tight single track and technical with spectacular views, as we weaved our way along the side of the mountains already deep in concentration with a focus of not looking down into the valley one slip could have dire consequences.
I found good rhythm as we hit Stoney Creek where the tight track continued it included plenty of change of direction, twists and turns with the first of numerous river crossings for the day (the feet weren't dry for long at all) with the first big climb coming up called long spur as the name suggests it was long and steep and pretty taxing.
This was the first test of the legs, I ran small components as the track was purely heavy clumps of thick grass which made it difficult to get any good stride up not to mention the 15% gradient did not help which had the heart rate elevated probably higher than I would have liked at this point.
In the struggle I decided to conserve some energy (and get the heart rate down) and power walk then break into a jog when I felt the grade ease underneath me, this felt like forever but would of been about 3-4k not long after I had reached the top and the highest point of the race 1080m I turned and was hit by the most incredible view that would have taken my breath away had the mountain not already done so moments earlier.
This is the moment that I crave and is pretty much one of the best feelings that one can experience the runners high! That deep feeling of endorphins flowing through your veins and the feeling of renewed energy and euphoria that comes with it.
After a few pics I passed the Marshall who mentioned I was in 11th place and then I started on the first real decent.
I'm certainly not an experienced trail runner but for me the decent was bloody tough (tight steep relentless), by the time I reached the bottom the quads were feeling it but I still felt in control. Feeling pretty buoyant, I was in my element scurrying along ridge lines through creek crossings with not barely a sound or any distractions, I felt truly at peace with myself perhaps getting caught up in the moment got the better of me and a massive twist was about to develop.
Heading down a very steep and slippery ridge line with only half a metre of track and steep drops into the valley taking extreme caution as one slip and it’s all over.
I got to the bottom veered left and continued on following the tiny trail for 10 minutes or so, I discovered that the pink marking tapes had disappeared and I hadn't seen one for a while, looking back to see the lead boys heading towards me an instant rush of panic came across me..... Yep I had missed the turn and cut out part of the forest loop f##K, I had to climb back up the ridge line and get back to the forest entry.
I could see numerous guys I had passed 15 minutes ago entering were I had gone the wrong way.
My day had been completely turned on its head, well for me anyway see yes I am extremely competitive and felt pissed off!!!
Obviously all my own doing so I bolted to the top of the ridge I started running like a man possessed with several emotions running through me anger stress and anxiety over losing around 30 minutes, I slipped into a crazy haze and ran like it was at a 5km event slowing down for nothing the worst thing was I had no control over it, the switch came on with no way of overriding it I knew it was going to come back at me later but I just powered on regardless upon reaching the halfway point (22 km) I had done 25.5km an extra 3.5 ks three and a half hours of a hard slog.
The next part of the course was breathtaking and majestic as we hugged ridge lines and connected onto access roads on the property.
Rolling up and down through a couple of drinks stations I had settled down a bit after having a good chat to myself and just got back into a comfortable rhythm around 30k mark, in awe of the views we hit the next big winding climb 1000meteres called The Point, the mindset switched back to aggressive with no holds bar attack, I was going to take this on with no holding back no regrets. I wanted to find some real hurt and hopefully come through it (rolling the dice as they would say) a bit crazy but fun from my prospective.... this is where the mind games start - 'just get to that tree then we will walk on the steep section.... I make the tree - don't walk get to the next bit of pink tape legs burning heart rate through the roof!!! The good guy in my mind telling me conserve take a bit off it, the assassin in my mind wanting more push push!!! You have more to give dig deep, don't slow.... and so this went on for 15-20 minutes as the track got rockier and less identifiable.
I was making sure I was following the pink tape and not straying off line I didn't want to make another navigational mistake.
Whilst I was in the hurt box most if not all of this climb, this is the reason why I love to take on these challenges, I feel you find out more about yourself in this time frame, and it gives me a grounding and a sense of appreciation for all things that I have, but even more so you gain so much from finding that something extra, it’s hard to explain but I feel as though when my legs are on fire and beginning to give out, my lungs are burning up and every muscle is feeling the pinch there is something there that does not allow you to give in and that intrigues me.
I looked up and could see the Summit I knew it was going to be an amazing and a just reward for my efforts so far another minor milestone reached and totally worth the 360deg view that was hard to leave but I didn’t have time to waste as from my earlier efforts.
Now with the two biggest climbs done, all I had to do was to get down off the top for some reason I had forgotten how tuff the earlier decent had been as I was about to find out this one was going to be even worse!!! I scurried along the ridge for what felt like an eternity (3km) it took me around 20 minutes as I slipped stumbled and stacked it a few times along yet another very tricky narrow rocky grassy trail.
Keeping your feet along here was hard work I found myself concentrating more than ever plus I think my earlier hard push and stubbornness to be aggressive on the climb was starting to take its toll. From there the decent began straight down a wire fence line along more rocky boulder narrow track with no let up the mountain had full control of me, I was in a world of hurt coming down, the quads began to lock up as I started to use the fence as my walking frame, it was the only thing preventing me from more stacks , frustrated with myself for going at such a ridiculous pace earlier had caused this (yes talking to myself in the middle of the mountains in Queenstown...yep I'm crazy in the coconut!!!!) For me this was the toughest component physically and mentally it was bloody hard on the legs I was starting to feel pain in smaller stabiliser muscle groups which is a major sign of fatigue it was getting pretty warm, I had to be strong and really pull it together, I drew strength from my preparation I knew I had done the work put in the hours and sacrificed, it was too important to me to let it all unravel.
Second last checkpoint to fuel up then a tough climb 650 metres (Sefferstown Hill). The mind was reset I found my composure as I jogged and walked breaking the climb into small chunks of 10 metres to help me get to the top, I knew I was getting close... I reached the top took the moderate decent on full pelt (well I felt fast but if you were watching me it would have not looked pretty or fast) I was really starting to feel the sting in the sun so it was a welcome relief that we now linked up with the river which we would follow ducking up and down the banks for the last 6ks it was a brilliant way to finish up with every 50 metres crossing through knee deep fresh cold water, I dunked my head in the fresh water (yes its fresh and you can drink it) a few times to get some relief as I now began to focus on a time, the 5.30 mark had been blown so a new target had been set of finishing under 6 hours, my watch read 5.40 with around 3k to go I lifted and whilst yeah I was hurting, when you know you are that close you can always muster up just that little bit extra, as the sheering quarters become visible I knew that was it!!!
As had been all day, the support from other competitors and volunteers had created an awesome atmosphere , as I received a huge high five from race director Adrain Bailey and a generous applause it was done !!!! Wow what an Epic race a very tough and technical mountain marathon which had it all tight single track, epic views, forest trails, sharp steep descents, rocky ridge line creek crossings. It really pressed all of my buttons and had me challenged from start to finish there was no real let up on the whole course the mountains had control of me all day but on this day my greatest challenge was my biggest competitor between my two ears, conquering that has given me renewed confidence of being able to control the battle from within which we all fight with from time to time. This is an event that will bring out the best in you physically and mentally.
It took me to another level and asked some serious questions whilst exposing some weaknesses (descending, navigation)but that’s why I love this sort of stuff and I will go away and try and get better but at this point I feel it certainly fed my addiction and if you are wired like me you will love this race.
You hurt me Queenstown but I still love you and I will be back for more.
Race Day Nutrition:
- 5 hours 56 minutes
- 12th place
Race Day Nutrition:
- Breakfast- 2 Hours before race 6 Weet Bix with boiled water on it with Banana , 2 white toast with Honey cut off crusts, Skim Flat white small , 2 salt tablets.
- Gel every 45 minutes (I set my watch to remind me of this) containing caffeine
- 3 small Banana’s (25km mark, 32km Mark,39km mark as I was feeling hungry and a little empty)
- 5.0 litres of endure with water mix in a 2 litre bladder (sipping every 15 minutes)
- 2 small packets of sultanas (just as I went along at various times)
- 2 Glasses of flat coke (half way) 2 cups of Water.
- 2 salt tablets every 90 minutes.
- A beer (not sure that’s in the manual, then 20 almonds, pasta salad with brown rice I forgot my protein drink so I had a chocolate milk and 2.0 litres of water followed by a dipping of the legs in the lake for 15 minutes @ 11 degrees.
I give this race 9 /10 Hurts.
My new theme song - Go your own way. Fleetwood Mac :-)
Stay tuned for more info regarding Travel options with Upntravel who will be taking a group back next year.