Oli Vincent/Rudi Smith/Robbie Rawles/Tom Hunt SK Main Range 2019

I’ve written this account on behalf of our team of 4 who attempted the Main Range SK in early January 2019. Oli Vincent, Robbie Rawles and myself (Rudi Smith) all from Taranaki and Tom Hunt from Auckland – although he is an honorary Taranakian. We are probably the first group larger than a pair to have a crack at going under 24 hours.

Although I was living overseas at the time, I first ran in the Tararuas back in late 2014. As a training run for the TUM85, I went round the SMR loop in the typical Tararua clag. At the time it was the furthest I’d run. It was also completely the wrong sort of training run for the flat and fast TUM course, but I didn’t know any better at the time. I don’t think I’d even heard of the SK and if I had it would have been incomprehensible. But I absolutely loved being up there.

Fast forward to March 2018 and having been repatriated, I did the SMR loop again. It was a magic run. Now very much aware of the SK, my curiosity was sparked. I bought some extra maps the next day…

A combination of logistics, common-sense and lack of confidence put me off thinking about planning an attempt until August when Oli floated the idea about a group of us going down to give the SK a crack. Robbie and another gun local runner, Kyle Bridgeman, were keen. I muttered something about having a rule to not run all day and all night, but it didn’t fool anyone, much less myself.

Over the coming months we firmed up the date window to 5 days immediately after New Years. Tom joined the team and Kyle, being the most sensible of the group, elected to focus on mountain adventures closer to home. Having done a few runs down that way I was volunteered to be the navigator. Although I was a little apprehensive about the responsibility, it was a good excuse to go and spend some time down there.

My other concern was my ability to keep going for a full 24hrs. I was less worried about my legs lasting, but rather anxious that my body wouldn’t be able to handle the overall fatigue. I’m the sort of person that fades by 8pm and needs to be in bed by 9. A real wild-child. So hopefully by being a useful navigator, the others would not drop me as I stumbled half asleep down the Marchant. Robbie and Tom are both incredibly strong runners; you only need to look at their quads to see that they like hills. Oli was probably more nervous than me, but had a miler under his belt and is most comfortable on highly technical, steep terrain in appalling conditions wearing no more than a light tee. My longest run to date was less than 10 hrs, so I was definitely pushing the unknown.         

November and most of December slipped away with me having other commitments or the weather being mediocre. However, finally before Christmas there seemed to be a weather window to do the Dundas section. I rocked up to Putara after dinner and was just about to sneak in cruisy run down the gravel road when 3 fit chaps rocked up who clearly knew what they were doing. I was introduced to Chris Martin, Chris Swallow and Tom Middlemiss; the latter who was making an attempt the next morning. They kindly offered me the option of joining their party; Tom and Chris S were due to head off at 3am the next morning. I was a little hesitant, simply because I needed some sleep. However I woke alert at 2am and joined them in getting ready. We had a fantastic run together along the Dundas in clear conditions; I was very grateful for the tips on getting out of Herepai Hut (with your back to the hut door head straight forward on the overgrown track), off East Peak (turn right before the waratah)  and off Dundas (take a 180 deg bearing before adjusting to 200 deg as you start to descend). I peeled off at Arete as the clag came in and returned to Putara via Bannister and Cow Saddle (navigationally I was less keen on going down Cattle Ridge in the clag). Chris split shortly after me and dropped down to Poads Road leaving Tom to have a fantastic run out in very marginal conditions. He is well deserving of being #18 on the sub-24hr list. I had an awesome run with two top-notch blokes and the fact that we subsequently had no major navigational issues on our own attempt is very much due to Tom and Chris’s kindness and helpful tips on that run.

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From West Peak looking along the Dundas; Chris and Tom are dots on the ridge in the middle of the photo. Storm clouds to the south waiting to greet Tom.

Once the long range forecasts started to come in we firmed up our date to Thursday or Friday as there seemed to be a window of fairer weather between two periods of high winds. At one stage the forecast looked pretty miserable and I thought about suggesting we reschedule. Thankfully the next forecast came in better and I kept my mouth shut. Not sure if the others were having similar concerns. Eventually we settled on Friday morning (at the common start time of 3am) as any earlier than this we’d be hammered by the wind and pushing it to Saturday morning would mean we’d get nailed that evening.

We separately drove down with Robbie picking up Tom and the Spot in Wellington with the plan for me to meet them at Kaitoke. Driving through Levin I couldn’t see the ranges and made sure to double check what the wind speed was there – about the same as forecast for the following morning on Mitre. It felt manageable but I didn’t want it any stronger. One car was left at Kaitoke and we drove north with plenty of banter and discussion on nutritional strategies (Tom and I were both jealous of Robbie for packing 2 cheeseburgers). We collected Oli from Masterton and even more crazy ideas came to the surface (SK via all the road ends anyone?). After a brief stop in Eketahuna for last minute supplies we arrived at the Putara School to stay the night.

With a carb-heavy dinner the banter continued as we went through the route (turn left at the top of the ladder for glory! – note: don’t) and planned pacing. We’d agreed to work on Grant Guise and Matt Bixley’s 2014 splits of 21:30 and Tom had come up with some 22hr splits. I had also prepared some splits ranging from 20 hrs to 23:30. In the lead-up I’d semi-seriously talked about 20hr splits in the hopes that working to that would make us comfortably end up doing 22 hrs or so – allowing for a few slow splits and longer hut stops. I certainly didn’t want to be in the position of being behind splits for the golden 24hr target.

On a more serious tone, we discussed how we’d manage the group dynamics. I was concerned that we could lose a lot of time on stops. With 4 people it would be easy to eat up time if we all stopped at different times to shed gear or pull food from inside our packs. Not much that we could do about hut water stops, but we were hoping the team dynamic would make up for that when we were moving. The goal was for all 4 of us to achieve sub 24hrs together, but we did talk about splitting late (i.e. post Kime) in the day if it looked like some could make it and some couldn’t. But we were all confident that we could make it together – barring any weather, navigational or nutritional troubles.

With that done, we finalised the last bits of gear we wanted to take and hit the sack. As seems to be tradition for pre-SK kips, we all slept lightly. A mighty gust of wind woke us all shortly before our alarm was due. Once breakfast was sorted we headed out the door and down the road. It was quite warm despite the fact we could hear the wind roaring over the tops high above us.

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Robbie, Oli & Tom smiling at the start line.

Starting at 3:11am, we moved up the track at a comfortable speed, mostly hot but occasionally we’d feel a cold gust downdraft through the trees reminding us on what was waiting above. We reached the hut a little earlier than I’d hoped for and filled bottles and bladders. A hunter came outside to check what he ruckus was about, probably thinking we’d been up all night looking for the hut. We left him in peace, navigating away from the hut mostly by feel – the track being sufficiently overgrown to prevent one seeing more than a metre ahead.

Navigationally, I did a great job of keeping us off the faint track and taking the direct lines over the leatherwood. The guys were very patient with me despite our legs and hands getting cut up. The higher up we went the more we felt the north-westerly wind and eventually as we crested Herepai we were in its full brunt. Running through to Ruapai was quite unpleasant, being continuously buffeted by the wind coming over ridge. Maybe I stacked it in the dark, but I will maintain I was blown over twice. We all convened at one stage; I was feeling very uncomfortable with the weather and was thinking about bail options, Tom said it was at the upper end of his limit and Oli bellowed that the circumstances were awesome. Further on I elected to stop to don gloves to get some sensation back in my hands and was in two minds about adding my rain shell.

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Jumping back on the trail somewhere between Herepai and Ruapai.

I was greatly relieved when finally the dawn broke as I’d been struggling with the route finding in the dark and wispy cloud rushing over us. Shortly before East Peak things started to ease off and it ended up being a quite pleasant drop down the saddle towards West Peak. By the time we were sidling around the summit, we were basking in the sun’s glow and feeling considerably happier.

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Oli, Tom and Robbie sidling around West Peak with the winds whipping over Raupae behind.

Our respite from the weather was brief. As we climbed up towards Walker we were enveloped in the clag, although thankfully the wind had now completely left us. Despite having to check the breadcrumbs on my watch a few times, the clag didn’t cause us too much grief until we got to Dundas. At the survey mark Tom whipped out his compass for me and we took a bearing to head off towards Arete. We took the right line, but in front I gradually veered off to the right and followed the start of a scree run until I realised we weren’t on a trail and heading for Triangle Knob. The breadcrumbs on my watch indicated where to go and thankfully the clag thinned out enough for us to see the main ridge around 100m away and 20m higher. We resigned ourselves to getting back on course; the guys were great about it but I was kicking myself for losing 10 minutes.

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Oli and Robbie in the clag somewhere along the Dundas ridge.

Things went smoothly from there and I was quite happy with the way we were all moving. So I was a bit surprised when we crested Arete to find that we were roughly 10 minutes off Tom Middlemiss’s splits from when I was there before Christmas. Thankfully the clag thinned as we dropped down to the Pukematewai junction and I knew the rest of the range was easier to navigate. We were confident it wouldn’t take a huge effort to make up the time to get back to our target splits.

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Me (Rudi) at the Pukematewai junction. Oli said I reminded him of his grandmother who, I can only presume, was also a mountain runner.

The next section of trail from Pukematewai to Butcher Knob was atrocious. Tom Middlemiss had mentioned that this section was muddy but I didn’t pay the comment much thought. I wish I had. Most of the next 4 km or so was in mid-calf deep mud the consistency of chocolate mousse. Our Tom had it the worst and could only the get meagre traction from his shoes and repeatedly went over. But slip after slip he kept on getting up and moving forward. In a different manner, Oli also came into grief. He caught the front of his left shoe on a submerged root or rock and ripped most of the toe box open. On inspection his insole and sock greeted us through the yawning gap. Not to worry, we were only 7 hrs into a ~24hr run…

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The Butcher Knob Chocolate Mousse.

Unfortunately, our pace barely picked up in the firmer section through to Drac Biv and beyond towards Nicols. I found myself getting a bit despondent thinking of the inevitable grind down the Marchant after being out 30 hrs or something. I made a comment to that effect to Oli, but he brushed it off with his usual positivity.

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Oli and Robbie smiling in the goblin forest after Drac Biv.

The next section up to Crawford was quite pleasant. The sun was out and a light breeze was a vast improvement of the stifling heat in the forest. Once we siddled around Crawford we got stunning views across the main range. Hector looked very far away but seeing the grotesque beauty of the Tararua Peaks reminded me of why I was up here. I did a time check at Junction Knob and reckoned we were 25 minutes off 24hr pace.

Although the section was very runnable, we were slow dropping down into Andersons. Another time check and we were another 10 minutes down. The stops at the huts and some of the junctions hadn’t been too long, but undoubtedly longer than if we were a group of 2 rather than 4. We pushed on into the last lot of goblin forest and thankfully it wasn’t as oppressively hot as the earlier stint around Drac Biv.

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Oli on top of Kahiwiroa. This was the only time Oli touched poles the entire journey. Which was a relief as early on he had “pole-envy” and threatened to snap all 3 pairs we had with us!

On the section along Kahiwiroa, Oli and I chatted about the pace, our now lofty 24hr ambition and what we wanted to achieve. We’d both been moving well throughout the day and although Robbie had had a couple of brief bad patches it was now as if they hadn’t happened. Unfortunately Tom hadn’t come right from the Butchers Knob mud-fest, but being a stubborn-bugger he’d kept moving forward without complaint. In hindsight, it’s easy to see that the constant falls had been a huge energy drain on Tom and it started him down a path leading to a large nutritional hole. Although splitting along the main range was earlier than we’d previously discussed, I was very keen to avoid the disappointment of having no one from the team achieve sub-24. I’d been having enough fun to warrant coming back regardless of my outcome and was happy to push on or stay back. We resolved to keep moving and split no earlier than after the Tararua Peaks to ensure no one came to grief on the via ferrata.

On top of Aokap we found we were 45 minutes off 24hr pace, having dropped another 10 minutes during the previous section. Oli and I continued our discussion on splitting into pairs and Oli dropped back to raise it with Robbie and Tom. Robbie was on the fence about going but ultimately decided to stick back with Tom primarily because Oli and my strengths were more aligned. Oli runs in a blistering, almost suicidal manner downhill but never stacks it; I’m almost the same. But we’re both no match for Robbie climbing. This meant that Robbie gave up his shot at going sub-24 but brushed it off like a true champion. The only thing left to decide was when. This was settled very quickly by the fact that Oli and I had to crank it to make up time and Tom needing 30 minutes at Maungahuka Hut to, in his words, “sort my life out”. Shortly after the start of the climb up to Wright our party of four amicably split into two pairs.

After we split, I reckoned we were 50 minutes down on the 24 hour target, but had 10 and a half hours to make it up. If we could get into Kime by around 8pm (17 hrs from the start) we’d have a shot at getting down the Marchant in time. Provided that Oli’s shoe held up and I managed to stay awake! We both agreed that we’d head back up the Marchant after finishing to meet the guys and finish as a team. We picked up the pace until we were moving at a good Tararua clip – shuffling the downs and flats and wearily clambering the ups. I lead and Oli persistently followed close behind giving me no respite from my own pacing.

We hit Maungahuka Hut in good spirits which only lifted once we realised we’d made 10 minutes back on our Aokap split and were consequently 35 minutes down. We both went to fill our bottles but found no water came out of the tap. I hit the tank and found it to be full. Then I noticed the tap was fully cracked through at its connection. Oli mentioned that he’d read something about it not working; I did a lap of the tank but couldn’t see any valves other than one without a handle. We didn’t have time to muck around so we sprinted (shuffled) to the tarn and scooped water into our bottles and bladders. Only once we got back did Oli remember that someone had wrote something in the hut book about it; as it turned out the valve we wanted was under the tank. Ah well. We left the book by the hut door for the others and cracked on.

We worked hard along the next section and hopes were high that we’d make up even more time. We reached the ladder and via ferrata section and moved through the bottom section pretty quick. Halfway up the ladder I started to feel a little weak so at the top I smashed a gel. Then another one. And then a bar. Oli had been and gone whilst I was eating and I inadvertently sent him “straight up” after skirting round the top of the ladder. It looked a little exposed from where I was standing and I noted the track went around to the right a bit more before climbing up. I sheepishly joined him. We pushed on from there and were soon enough climbing up towards Bridge Peak. I was fervently hoping we’d knock 15 minutes off the split but it kept going and going. Both of us acknowledged we were hungry, but didn’t want to stop. Never go up the Bridge Peak climb on an empty stomach! Eventually we hit the top and made a direct line to Kime Hut, cutting the dogleg.

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Half-arsed ladder selfie. We weren’t in the mood to care; we had time to make up!

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At that moment Robbie was enjoying dinner at Maungahuka Hut.

 

Our hope of taking 15 minutes off the split was dashed but we still pulled in 10 minutes, leaving us on 25 minutes down. We were well on track to hit our sub-24 target. Kime Hut was choccas and I can only think what the occupants must have thought when we rocked up at 8pm. Two were brave enough to approach and try and engage me in conversation. I responded whilst smashing a Snickers bar into my mouth and rooting around in my bag for a light windproof jacket and headlamp. They produced a packet of sandwiches that an amazing and – to date – unknown mountain runner had delivered for us from Otaki Forks (thank you, whoever you are – please get in touch). Into the pack it went and we left the hut dwellers to enjoy the sunset.

The climb up and over Field and Hector was at that magic time of the evening just as the sun was dipping over the horizon. We pushed on around the Beehives but were discouraged after we crested Atkinson at how far away Alpha was. If only False Spur joined up. Oli had a hard time coming down that section as although his legs were functioning perfectly his left shoe was not. The size of the rocks and pebbles were the perfect size to enter his damaged shoe. We switched our headlamps on halfway down Aston and we were again in darkness. We shortly hit the signpost to Alpha Hut. We’d only made 5 minutes up and were still 20 minutes down. It felt as though we could have easily lost more time on this split, but my earlier optimism of making our time back was shot. We’d worked pretty hard and neither of us could have gone much faster.

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Oli on the top of Hector.

 

We bypassed the hut and transitioned from the rocky trail to the loamy and rooty soil. I knew that there was a climb up out of Hells Gate but only realised we were on it once we were halfway up. It was a relief to get it out of the way and we cruised on. Navigationally, it was better than I expected but there were still a few points where Oli had to pull me back to the actual track. Suddenly we hit a sign post. Block XVI. I checked my watch. 40 minutes off the split. We’d gone from 20 minutes over to 20 minutes under! Everything felt lighter. Barring any major difficulties we’d make it. We didn’t slow up though and pushed on.

The last section down the Marchant was defined by two mistakes on my part. On the navigational side, I erred by turning my watch on to tell me how far the finish was as the crow flies. It was depressing how long it took to chip away at those k’s. On the nutritional side, I kindly described and offered Oli first pick of my two accessible caffeine gels. He opted for the Vanilla Cola, leaving me with the Green Plum. On downing his gel he proclaimed that it was the worst gel flavoured in the history of the world. My feelings were almost as hurt as the rest of my body. It also didn’t help that my own gel was coffee flavoured rather than the fruity freshness that I was anticipating. Maybe I’d given him a coffee one instead of the delicious Vanilla Cola? I tried to make amends by offering him half of my remaining Snickers. He agreed, but wanted to wait a little bit. I was hungry and keen to down my half, but was prepared to wait a little bit. A little bit later I mentioned the Snickers. “Nah, a little bit later” was his response. This went on for eternity until he announced that we’d have it at 21:20. I wasn’t sure if he meant that as 9:20pm the following night or indeed our 21:20 split. Another eternity passed and he finally relented. (Half) a Snickers bar tastes best at 12:30am on the Marchant ridge. About 5 km before the end I came to the realisation that my shoes were half a size too small for a 24hr run. The sensation had disappeared from my toes and my normal light form was replaced by heavy, laboured footfall on the dry clay track.

At our 22:30 split I realised we could possibly go under 23 hrs. We didn’t necessarily increase our pace (we couldn’t) but it was a warming thought. Time ticked away with 24 hrs feeling more likely than 23 until we hit that gorgeous post and rail fence in the Kaitoke carpark. We rounded the last corner at 22:59 and sprinted (shuffled) to reach the sign before the dreaded 23:00 ticked over.

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22:59!

 

I cursed my previous decision to park the car halfway along the carpark rather than adjacent to the track end and we shuffled down. The “glory” that we’d turned left for consisted of a bag of salty chips, some water and messages to friends and family. We had word from Robbie and were relieved that they were safe, well and still moving but down to Otaki Forks. We were also in awe that they hadn’t stopped and kipped the night out at one of the huts. True legends.

We settled down for a kip, grateful that the others weren’t coming down the Marchant (otherwise we would have felt obliged to head back up). Oli picked the car whilst I opted for the flatter car park gravel. In an ironic twist we were both awoken at 4am by a group of runners heading off to do the Southern Crossing. The others joined us shortly thereafter (almost running me over – my fault, not theirs) in good spirits and we headed off back to civilisation for some well-earned rest.

Everyone seemed to pull up well: Robbie did a sub 20min 5km the day after, Tom was fizzing for the Ultra Easy 3 weeks after and Oli immediately started talking about the Valleys SK. Unfortunately it took me a little while to come right. My running was back to normal a couple of days after, but I subsequently ended up with a skin infection on my lower legs. Presumably the Butcher Knob mud went to work on my scratched up legs. I was prescribed IV antibiotics, 1kg of moisturizer and 4 days of bed-rest; two separate doctors ignominiously advised that my symptoms and response were exactly what they see in elderly patients. I’m mentioning this as I’ve now learnt that it’s not just slips, trips, falls and the weather that can cause you grief in the mountains. Take care, bed-rest sucks! It’s also the reason that this report is so damn long.

Massive thanks to the following people for supporting our adventure:

Chris Swallow and Tom Middlemiss for graciously letting me join them on their run and sharing their vast knowledge. Without it, we would have lost a lot more than 10 minutes coming off Dundas.

Chris Martin for his advice, interest in our adventure and creating an amazing community around this stunning run.

Tony from Spot NZ for providing us with a tracker. It’s obviously of interest for people to follow the dot, but also was highly beneficial for Oli and I to know where the other boys were once we split.

Rob, my long suffering GP who I only visit after I’ve done something adventure related – you’re the man.

Robbie’s sisters Emily & Susan. Emily kindly did a 2am collection run to both sides of the ranges and Susan drove us back up to Putara at the end to collect vehicles.

The team for an amazing adventure. Looking forward to running with any or all of you in the Tararuas again.

Additional note from Oli

Rudi has done an excellent job of capturing the adventure from my perspective so I won’t re-tell or correct the parts where he has played down his role and abilities and oversold mine!!  

For me, achieving the challenge and experiencing the Tararuas was awesome.  However the banter and fun of being part of a team during the build up, the run itself and post run stands out as a highlight. Being part of a team not only motivated me to go from talking about it to committing but also made it possible to complete it.  There would be advantages of running it solo or as pair but I wouldn’t swap my experience for those.

My experience of the relentlessness of the SK environment means that my admiration for anyone that attempts the SK solo has gone to a whole new level.  To have the navigational skills, athletic ability and mental strength to go under 24hrs solo is seriously impressive. For those that may not possess a high level of all the above attributes I strongly believe that a 24hr SK is still possible by attempting it as a team.  This doesn’t mean that everyone and anyone will complete the SK as with the variables of navigation, weather and how a runner goes on the day, even the best may fall short on an attempt.

I do hope that Robbie and Tom go back as both would nail it.  On top of their undoubted abilities, Toms stubbornness and Robbie’s commitment to the team are two factors that would contribute to a sub 24hr run and I know I would be keen to be part of a team with them again.

As normal Rudi has left me in awe as a result of the exceptional job he did navigating in a trying conditions, while taking photos, keeping the pace ticking over and supporting the team. I wouldn’t have made it to the start line without Rudi’s commitment to being the navigator, and I wouldn’t have made it to the end without his pacing.  Without a doubt Rudi would be a sub 20 hr SK’er if he ever went solo and had the right conditions. At least running solo he could eat his snickers whenever he wanted!!

Lastly, I second my thanks to those mentioned by Rudi and would like to also thank a few others.   Sam and the kids for the ongoing support (and apologise for the stress following the dot caused). Jenny/Nat/Fiona/Tom for the accommodation.  Chris Martin for the encouragement. All those Taranaki runners that make my running enjoyable and interesting by coming on mini local adventures and the banter they provide.  Last but not least, Robbie, Tom and Rudi for the good times and I’m already planning the next adventures that involves road ends, dress shoes and a large can of peaches!!

In respect of food and fluid just times Rudi’s by three!!

 

[We’ll plan to update with an account of Robbie & Tom’s adventure from Maungahuka to Otaki Forks]

Splits

Point Split Cumulative Time

Herepai 59 00:59

East Peak 86 02:25

Dundas 144 04:49

Arete 64 05:53

Drac Biv 106 07:39

Nichols 107 09:26

Andersons 98 11:04

Aokap 114 12:58

Maungahuka 76 14:14

Kime 156 16:50

Alpha 130 19:00

Block XVI 80 20:20

Kaitoke 159 22:59

 

For reference:

Date: 04/01/2019 – 05/01/2019

Start time: 03:11

Sunrise (Daylight): 05:53

Sunset (Daylight): 20:57

Total Daylight: 15 hrs 04 mins

 

Fluids

Electrolyte Plain Water

Start: 500ml 1500ml

Herepai: 1000ml

Drac: 1000ml

Andersons: 1000ml

Maungahuka: 1000ml

Kime: 1000ml

Balance: 500ml

 

Total: 4000ml 2500ml = 6500ml

 

I use the Shotz electrolyte at double the normal concentration (2 tabs / 500ml = ~1800 mg sodium/L). I am a light drinker, so I expect the others would have had more than this.

Food

Breakfast: 1x banana

2x mini pita with Nutella

1x Clif bar

1x fruit pouch (aka baby food)

 

To Crawford: 9x Mother Earth Oaty Slices

3x Shotz Gels

1x mini pita with Nutella

2x Snickers.

= approximately 250 kcal/hr.

 

After Crawford: 4x Mother Earth Oaty Slices

3x Shotz Gels

4x Shotz Gels with Caffeine

1.5x Snickers.

Nothing between Crawford and Aokap and after that approximately 190 kcal/hr.

 

I had portioned out my food in 3hr blocks and packed them in ziplock bags. This method served me well as it was easy to quickly access the food from the main part of my pack and allowed me to roughly keep track of how many calories I’d put in. I was less diligent in the second half of the run, but this was less critical as I’d set myself up nicely.

I finished the run with a large amount of bars and gels left over. In addition to what’s listed above, I also took a fruit pouch (aka baby good) and some salami, both of which I didn’t eat. The plan for the fruit pouch was to have about halfway – to freshen up from my staple of bars and gels. Similarly, the salami was a last minute protein addition to satiate my appetite late in the day after getting jealous of Robbie’s dinner plans. On the run I didn’t feel like either and was quite happy munching on bars and gels all day and night.

Gear

Key pieces of gear worth mentioning were:

Montane Ultratour 22 pack – a bit too big for what I needed, but it also meant I didn’t have to completely unpack it to reach gear or food at the bottom.

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Poles – I actively used these the entire run, except for perhaps the last few km down the Marchant.

Suunto Ambit 2 – We had lots of watches between us, so the others had theirs on GPS settings to get them through the full 24hrs. We’d decided that I’d only activate the GPS on mine for navigational purposes and consequently had it on the highest accuracy settings. This worked well when we needed to double check breadcrumbs in the clag.

PLB – In addition to the Spot on Robbie, I carried a separate PLB – just in case we split into 2 groups! We also had 2 sets of maps & compasses and an extra Garmin eTrex (thankfully not required).

Salomon S-Lab Speed shoes – normally I’d run in Speedcross, however I wanted the narrower toebox and heel that the Speed offers for the more technical sections.

 

Quick weight breakdown of what was in my pack for context. Probably a bit on the heavy side compared to others – but I wouldn’t have not taken anything (except for the ~800g of food I didn’t eat!).

 

Pack & water receptacles: 770g

Spare clothing (max): 1350g

Nav/emergency accoutrements: 1100g

Food (max): 2200g

Water (max): 2500g

 

Total (max): 7920g

*When I started it was about 6700g as I had extra gear on and had only 2L of water.

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