Queenstown, New Zealand
8th May 2020

This blog is mostly about the ultra marathon I ran this week but first I will update you all on the last few weeks in Queenstown.

I have started working again. We moved into level three lock down and some businesses were able to operate again. The hotel I work at has begun giving me hours again even though I am being paid a Government subsidy. I worked just ten hours last week - it was quite dull work but it was quite nice to be out of the hostel for the while.

Hostel life continues to be interesting. We now have new guests moving in which is strange after five weeks with the same people, but it's been a good opportunity to meet new people. Also more people have moved out of the hostel in search of work.

Ben Lomond ultra marathon

Starting at 5:30am should be brutal, but I was just so excited to get started that it wasn't an issue. The first two hours of my run were in pitch black darkness. Guided by the glow of my head torch, which mostly just illuminated the pellets of rain heading towards my face. I had run around 14km to Moke Lake before the sun rose and I was able to see the landscape. I was in a beautiful valley between Ben Lomond and Ben More, following the path of the Moke Creek. Coming out of Moke Lake campsite begins approximately 13km of frequent climbs and descents, as the path winds up unto the mountains and then back down to the creekside. A few kilometres out of Arthur's Point I was able to see the small town for the first time and that gave me such a burst of energy to run down the fast, technical trail into town. Arthur's Point is just a few kilometres away from Queenstown, and along flat, easy trail. This first lap was by far the quickest and easiest lap, I felt great the entire way and put me in a great position to take it a little easier on the following laps and still finish strong. Lap one took four hours and ten minutes. I took ten minutes in the hostel to refill my water and food before heading out for lap two.

I recall that lap two as the most challenging lap both mentally and physically. The ascents started feeling a lot more tough, particularly the 4km climb towards the start of each lap which just goes on and on. I got a view during the first third of the lap this time, before I was running it in the dark. The rain had now stopped and there was a new colour in the sky, blue. I soon warmed up and stripped down from four layers to one. A real problem emerged when I found myself drinking through my water at an increased rate, meaning I ended up running clean out of water with over 10km left on the lap. The steep up and down section of the lap was particularly brutal this lap since I was only barely halfway and already I felt tired and hurting. I took a short break to create a line of rocks in the middle of the track, something to use as incentive for the final lap. I slowly trudged down into Arthur's Point, sent a message to my friends in the hostel and secured myself some hot pasta to eat. Lap two took four hours and 40 minutes, plus a 15 minute break to refill my bag and eat a few mouthfuls of pasta.

I expected lap three to be a very slow parade lap, I thought I would be exhausted and hurting. It's true that I was feeling a little tired and there was a fair amount of pain coming from the blisters on my left foot - but overall I felt great. No knee, ankle or muscle pains at all. I got myself through the lap one hill at a time, reminding myself that I never had to climb them again. I now think I'll probably head back for a one lap run in the not too distant future. I reached the Moke Lake campsite in decent time and knew I was almost halfway through the final lap, a big mental boost. The brutal ups and downs of the following ten kilometers were tough. Progress was slow but steady, I was just about able to bring myself to speed up to running pace on the flat and downhill sections. I started getting some minor hallucinations, which has never happened to me before. I reached the steepest hill in good shape, I had just eaten a bunch of sugary foods in the hope that a sugar rush would help me up. The climb was very tough but I was able to carry myself up an inch at a time. I reached the line of rocks I had left myself on lap two and rewarded myself with some mango, just as the sun was setting behind me. On the final big ascent of the run, the large blister on my left foot finally burst sending warm liquid around my toes and causing a surge of pain. An unpleasant reality of endurance running. However, undeterred I passed over the Peak of the hill and saw the lights of Arthur's Point down below me. This sent a rush of adrenaline into my body which allowed me to run down the fast, technical track faster than I had on any previous lap. I felt quick, I felt strong and I felt unstoppable. I continued running through Arthur's Point and onto the final road section into Queenstown. I had to force myself to slow down because I knew that I was more likely to hurt myself going as fast as I was - I could easily have rolled my ankle on an unsighted rock in the dark. The finish was so strong in comparison to what I was expecting. I finished the third and final lap, completing my second 100km ultra marathon. It took five hours and 17 minutes. My total 100km time was 14 hours and 33 minutes.

I was overwhelmed by the reaction on the hostel on my return as people cheered my return. I would have been more okay with just my close friends cheering but the entire room was cheering and I felt so embarrassed. I had to look away or I honestly might have cried. I was led up to my room where a finish line and medal had been constructed. I crossed the line with a jump and placed the medal around my neck.I am lucky to have made such kind and thoughtful friends in Queenstown.

I have now had a few days to begin my recovery and I have overall been super happy with everything. I already feel strong in my muscles and (as always happens) I am already planning my next crazy run. My left ankle clearly took a beating because it has been very sore. A few weeks rest with gentle exercise will be required. The blisters were quite nasty and unpleasant (and are causing most of my post run pain), but they will heal within the week.

Moke Lake with snow bois in the back
Looking back up the Moke creek
For a brief moment it was almost summer again
The reward view from the peak of a super steep hill
The way the snow capped mountains peak through the hills
Moke Lake an hour before sunset
A beautiful place
My line of stones midway up the steepest hill
Hostel folk