With the record set at 10:10 for a supported run and a 10:25 for unsupported, this was always gonna require a big effort. Both these runs had be laid down in good track/running conditions and I knew that my attempt would be in the worst possible track/running conditions. My training had encompassed a myriad of intentions. I had been out on long runs (4+hrs) with minimal fuel and only water to condition my body. I had raised my long runs gradually up to 7hrs. Over the last three months I had started training with a pack containing far more weight than I would be carrying and had gone out and ran the course in three sections including 2 loops. I got advice from those who know the trail well and experimented/risked giardia, by drinking from the streams along the trail.I gathered information on nutritional/calorific needs and experimented with these over 6 months.
The middle of winter would see either a start or finish in the dark. I weighed up the pros and cons of either and opted for a start before daylight. The morning was hot and humid and a mist obscured the track initially but cleared slightly as I entered Hamiltons. In the daylight I am able to pinpoint, accurately and quickly connection points and hop at speed through this treacherous trail. It soon became apparent to me that this was not gonna be the case this morning. I was unable to work out the 4 or 5 connection points in advance that allows me to maintain speed. The obvious answer was to slow down, which I did slightly and reluctantly. I must have been about 500 metres from the end of Hamiltons when my left foot slid away to the left. Usually my body is able to respond quickly to any unwanted movements and auto-correct but under these conditions there was nothing. My foot twisted and jammed and I was sent slamming knees first into tree roots. I managed to smack my elbow and wrist and recieved a blow to the head which sent my lamp flying.
My first thoughts were of my children. I swore there and then laying in the mud that I would never attempt running through here at speed in the dark ever again. I knew I had recieved a blow to the head and reached for my lamp which was just infront of me . I washed my hand in a puddle and dried it on my vest and checked for blood......there was none. I slowly started to move my legs to check their function and then got to my feet. I walked a few paces through the mud and to my relief realised that I was not seriously injured.
I made my way to the Ascent at Karamatura knowing that I was in some pain from my left foot and right knee but hoped that these would fade by the time I reached the top. The descent to the Whatipu road was awful. The easily run tracks of the summer were gone and the feet were constantly re-adjusting to maintain balance. By the time I reached the Omanawanui ridge the pain in my foot had not gone away. I didn't stop at Whatipu (3hrs) and ran over to the Pararaha Valley. The tracks were in the same condition and being unable to move as I usually would on slippery surfaces due to the pain in my foot and now knee to improve on my speed bored me beyond belief.
I replenished my water supply at the Pararaha stream and changed my socks after the crossing, hoping wildly that this might make my foot feel better. Never in my life had I been so pleased to be running on sand as I made my way to Kare Kare. I didn't stop and climbed over to Piha (6hrs). Here I seriously thought about stopping and contacted my emergency support. I decided to strap everything that hurt and continue. By the time I reached the Kuataika track it was obvious this was over. I contacted my emergency support (top tip: at the gate of Whites there is cell phone coverage on the track side but none on the otherside of the gate) and told them to meet me in Bethells. I slowly walked and limped my way to Bethells.
So lessons have been learned. The obvious about dangerous running but a great lesson in stamina. I knew I could just have easily dropped back into Piha but psychologically felt it would be better to go on to Bethells (10hrs). I used a walking stick so was able to keep the pressure of my foot and strolled along like some happy tramper. I had felt great all day, apart from the injuries, and the nutrition, water and calories were perfect.
We are tough but we are fragile, we are many but we are few, we are stupid but we are also amazing.