Sunday, 1 February 2015

Honeymoon: The Ultra Edition

We've had the wedding edition and now it's time for the honeymoon edition. The wedding was eighteen months ago, therefore largely forgotten and unlikely to be referenced again in the post. Just like any quality marriage really.


The race starts in Glasgow at approximately 21:00 hours. There's a bit of a storm brewing on the day; what we're nowadays calling a weather bomb. I smash some impressive splits on my bike cycling back from work only to find out our flight has been delayed. We're not too concerned as we're keen to kick the adventure off in style by hitting the champagne bar at the airport. Planning error; Glasgow Airport doesn't have a champagne bar. The choice is between Frankie and Benny's and a Wetherspoons. Hmmm. We decline the flight upgrade upon registration although do score ourselves exit seats. Like the night before any big race, we fail to sleep at all during the flight.

Cool kids on tour

Race Start - Dubai

Ok, so the race start was probably Glasgow but let's not overthink things. We chat with friends we both have in the area, consume oversized beverages and meals and generally just struggle to get into the race-honeymoon thing. It always takes a while to settle in at the start of a race. There's no pavements so I feel we are spending too much energy worrying about our footing this early on. We must conserve! On the last day of this stage I do decide it's a good idea to go to the gym at 4:30am before our flight. Happy honeymoon Scott! I almost pass out attempting a 5km on the treadmill. But we do make the flight checkpoint cut-off in time. Success.

Because I'm happy...

Hire car

Checkpoint One - Sydney (via a compulsory kit check in Bangkok)

It's hard to always agree to the correct route during races. Just as it is hard to agree on the route to take to the homeland during a honeymoon. Let's just say that Scott's decision to stop in Sydney resulted in him running the Cateran trail race alone. But on the upside, my friend Mareta joined us at this checkpoint. She's quite a sportress (get that trending people) herself and was also one of my Smurfette bridesmaids. Due to a Lindt cafĂ© incident, we had a train incident which caused a bus incident. The bus incident involved the driver braking, my giant suitcase which I was leaning on falling over, and then me torpedoing down the bus aisle to much applause. 

There was an Australian diving official on the bus who wants me for the national team. So I'm in the very beginning stages of the race and I am considering ditching ultra running and becoming a svelte diver. Sorry my fellow Team Nathan UK members but you just don't wear the budgie smugglers like the male divers.

In Sydney I mainly worked on the lack of sleep component of the race as I failed to adjust to the time zone. I was also over chips. I know they were on the planned food schedule but they are too salty. I didn't put salty chips on the food list. The crew are really going to have to read the notes more carefully.

Don't jump in - there are jellyfish about

Checkpoint Two - Wellington (via a weighing station in Auckland)

My running shoes are soiled so get cleaned upon arrival by biosecurity. I tick all the boxes about having run on farms and I am disappointed when they don't ask any questions. I have so many near-death experiences with cows at the ready. My wee sister (also a Smurfette bridesmaid) met us at the weighing station as a surprise with some infamous chip and dip. There was quite a long wait until we were given the all-clear to continue out of Auckland.

Official National Park of Auckland Airport

After an undulating arrival into Wellington (no one would expect anything less) we're met by a third Smurfette, Sarah, and her ever patient husband Shaun. Mareta Smurfette is also in Wellington, having left Sydney later than us and arriving in Wellington before us. I told you that girl was good. An impressive split indeed. 

Wellington puts on some windy and wet weather throwing the outfit options completely astray. I manage to squeeze into a child's Air New Zealand dress up at the national museum (which is obviously what museums are for). Hydration was sourced at rum bars, cocktail bars and the boys even managed to find some at a karaoke bar. Highlights included the bucket fountain (make sure you check out a You Tube video if you haven't seen it; seriously epic) and running the Wellington Bays with my friend Anna who taught me all about running on Arthur's Seat when I moved to Edinburgh. 

Running around the Wellington Bays

Checkpoint Three - Martinborough

There was a cheeky wee out and back on the course which involved going out to the Martinborough wineries. I love a Kiwi road trip. We overpacked, listened to terrible music and stopped at the garage for a compulsory pie. Seriously, the race organisers were there for proof and everything. 

Babes eat pies; Smurfette Sarah, Smurfette Mareta, PetiteFeet

Touring through the wineries for wine tastings is done on bike. Less ultra now and more duathlon. My legs were too small for a solo bike so Scott and I went tandem. This was possibly cheating but the results and yet to be confirmed. I obviously did all the work and Scott slacked off at the front. The ice bath for recovery was less ice and more spa bath. The race doctor was actually concerned after the lady racers sat in the spa for so long that some of our legs went fuzzy. We also slept too long the next day and missed the checkpoint checkout time. 
Cycling component of the duathlon

Recovery is an important aspect of any multi-day event; Smurfette Mareta, Smurfette Sarah, PetiteFeet, Bride-to-be Neisha.

Checkpoint Four - Nelson (via Wellington and Picton)

For those of  your unfamiliar with New Zealand's geographical makeup, Picton is in the South Island. Which means we now enter the swim phase of the race. By that I mean that Scott took the overnight ferry whilst I tirelessly swam the 100km required to cross the Cook Strait. Father of the bride and mother of the bride took over as crew in Picton and accompanied us to my home town of Nelson. Or more specifically to my home village of St. Oke (which translates roughly into buzzing metropolis).

I'm just going to add a few scenic photos here to make you all jealous.

View from the ferry that Scott took. Alone. 
Somewhere between Picton and Nelson. Because it's all so beautiful it's actually boring. 

After a caffeine refreshment we make our way up the centre of New Zealand. What a landmark. At this point I develop a new phenomenon known as hill jealousy. This involves me seeing the hills surrounding my hometown and becoming jealous that they are bigger than the hills surrounding Edinburgh. So I decide that I must run up one just to prove that I can. Despite struggling in the heat, this is a success and after five years of being away I find myself running through the mean streets of St. Oke waving to the fans who have all eagerly anticipated my arrival. 

View of my hometown from the top of the Grampians

Celebrating the honeymoon aspect of the race in Nelson

Christmas Eve was spent running in the Abel Tasman National Park. I'll not go into too many details about that aspect of the race in my current overview here as it makes sense to give you a play-by-play of the running experience in a separate post. Christmas Day involved a short run around Monaco (pronounced in Kiwi-land as Mon-ar-co) and then a trip to the beach. I decided not to swim and instead got the entire beach involved in an intense session of pilates that I held on the spot. We mostly held the attempting-to-touch-your-toes pose as that's the pose I first attempted and then got stuck. 

Tahunanui Beach, Nelson
Unfortunately, due to a sunblocking error during the quad biking component of the race on the 23rd, Scott could not partake in any Christmas festivities as he had his head in the toilet. Racers must be aware of the weather conditions where they are racing and prepare accordingly. 

On Boxing Day the father of the bride and Scott did a bit of mountain biking up the Dunn Mountain Trail while I chose to remain on my feet and run, This resulted in me winning the uphill component by a large margin and then getting demolished on the downhill section. You win some, you lose some. At least I looked good doing both. 

Boys on bikes
Oh dear, Windy Point

On the final day of racing in Nelson, we ventured to the Nelson Lakes where I decided I needed to run two laps with Smurfette Hillary's boyfriend. Suffice to say it wasn't the most brilliant idea I've ever had but fun nonetheless and I will post the details in a separate entry. 

Checkpoint Five - Christchurch (via the West Coast)

This next section can be considered the long day element of the race with 607km to be covered. It involves an early start to go via Pancake Rocks (disappointing, no pancakes for eating), multiple coffee shops, a visit to the grandparents in Hokitika, some kea sightings, a trumpet (better than a Cornetto), a quick tour around central Christchurch, a visit to the cousins and finally crashing a pad before heading to the airport early in the morning. The weather throughout was less than perfect, as can be seen below. 

Beautiful weather for Pancake Rocks
Like father like daughter

Checkpoint Six - North Island in General

After a lap of the redwood forest in Rotorua, Scott jumps out of a plane while I practice the dirty aspect of ultra running by spending the day at a mud spa. Rotorua is smelly, just like me after a long run. Fish and chips are on the food plan so they must be consumed. Scott is not a native and dished them all up on plates. We don't have time for plates Scott, it's all hands in if we want to make the cut-offs. From Waihi the competition changed from a solo event to a team event as the cars were divided into boys versus girls. There were competitive games of car bingo, intense real fruit ice cream eating and the all-important suntan competitions. 

By this stage of the honeymoon-race, Scott and I have ceased all communication and are both focused on the finish line goal. It was bound to happen. It's hard to run an entire ultra with someone else. 

Wyuna Bay, Coromandel

Checkpoint Seven - Melbourne

The race organisers hadn't originally put Melbourne in as a checkpoint. But sometimes it's just nice to do your own thing. Or, sometimes your flight changes without the agent letting you know (booo Flight Centre) and you end up with so many hours at Melbourne airport that it is going to be unbearable. Melbourne turns into the speed section of the race, with literally only hours to tear around Melbourne. We make the checkpoint cutoff with plenty of time to spare only to find out that it has been extended for hours due to some desert storm injuring the aircraft other competitors. Like any good ultrarunner, I display an incredible ability to sleep anywhere by crashing out on some airport seats despite the blaring music, bright lights and freezing cold temperatures (inside the airport only; outside it was 38 degrees).  

Melbourne sprint

Checkpoint Eight - Kuala Lumpur

Stomach issues attack in most races. So far I have been pretty fortunate to have stuck to a faultless food plan and thus avoid any problems. Kuala Lumpur was my time to suffer. I did some modeling for Team Nathan UK at a local sports store. Other than some wild driving from crew members and a serious step workout climbing the KL Twin Towers, this section of the race signified hitting the wall. 

Checkpoint Nine - Koh Lipe, Thailand

Arrival into the checkpoint was a bit of a nightmare. No passports. No marshal to give out passports. Eventually lining up at a table and then wait for our nationalities to be called. In order to ease congestion at the checkpoint, those nationalities with the most passports were called first. Unfortunately for us, there was only one Brit and one New Zealander on the boat so we were the very last to be called. Fortunately, there was a shack selling beers while we waited in line. 

Passport control

Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe

And relax. Four nights in one place. Beach hut. Sun. Running barefoot along the sand. A bit of rock climbing in bare feet to get the next beach. Getting lost in wee streets that you don't want to be in whilst barefooted. It's quite a skill to pick the best time of day to run along a beach. Early means there's no people but the sand just wasn't right. The afternoon meant waaaaay to many tourists, ropes from longtail boats that I needed to hurdle but better sand. A cruel decision by the race organisers here. 

Cross training with a bit of kickboxing

Exiting the Koh Lipe checkpoint was also difficult. The boat was very delayed for unexplained reasons. To make the cutoff time at Langkawi airport, aggressive racing tactics were going to be needed. It's a sprint off the boat to the immigration office, Yelling at sleepy marshals to get passports. An extra lap for Scott as he didn't get his fingerprints done. Then an incredible performance by a crew member in a car to get to the airport. I wasn't proud of the person I became but it did the trick. 

Checkpoint Ten - Kuala Lumpur (again, what's with these out-and-backs?)

To celebrate the honeymoon we're back in KL in a swanky hotel with white robes. I love a white robe hotel. There's an athletics track outside the hotel. Or rather a red running track around a park. But we'll call it an athletics track and therefore refrain from any laps. No one wants a repeat of Tooting Bec. Check how the body feels; the last leg starts tomorrow. 

Petronas Twin Towers

Finish (via Dubai and Glasgow)

Last section of the race. Is there energy to give everything we've got? Or is it a trundle to the finish and just be pleased that we've made it? There's nothing left in the tank so we trundle. We hit snow in Glasgow. There's buses from the finish line. The pizza that we've been dreaming about all race goes unordered. 

Of course by the next day, we've forgotten any pain and are talking about entering our next one. 


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