Matt Rayner - Blog
14 December 2020
I apologise in advance that this blog is 100% focused on running.

A week ago my housemates went to hike the Kepler (one of New Zealand's great walks) and I was left alone for four days. Immediately I felt the need to not sit at home alone and I elected to go for a gentle run up my local mountain, Ben Lomond. I love this mountain climb because it's not too technical and the gradient is challenging. 1400 metres climb in seven kilometres followed by a 1400 metres descent in 7 kilometres. It was immediately obvious that the winds were strong and I expected the winds to pick up as I passed the saddle. On the climb to the summit (a particularly steep 1.4km section) the winds battered me around but I was able to reach the summit safely. Upon summiting I noticed some very dark clouds across the valley, see photo, and I decided that I should head down quickly before the rain reached me. I didn't want to be up on the summit when that hit because the combination of seriously strong winds and rain would make for a slippy and challenging descent back to the saddle. Unfortunately, the wind was so strong that the rain hit me just a minute later and (as expected) the descent became quite unpleasant and "hairy". I carefully descended, a few times dropping to the ground to avoid the winds pushing me off the narrow path. I think I was the only person to summit that day since everyone else wisely decided to turn around once the rain hit. Overall a fun run, and good to experience challenging weather.

A week later and I am finally going fastpacking. The marriage of trail running and multi-day hiking, I have spent half a year planning my first fastpacking adventure. Slowly researching and acquiring the gear, finally I was ready to go a few days ago. If you saw my Instagram then you know it didn't go to plan... I ran for almost three hours to find that the road I needed to run down was closed. It closed that morning for road repairs. It is the only road that goes where I wanted to go and it's the most dangerous public road in New Zealand, so when repairs are needed not even foot traffic can get through. I sat by the Skippers saddle landmark for half an hour and looked at other huts to stay in but there were no realistic alternatives. I went home feeling failed, deflated and frustrated. I knew I couldn't let that weekend go without some form of running redemption.

The same day as my failed fastpacking I set out to climb up and down Ben Lomond in under two hours. I have attempted this three times before without managing to break the two hour barrier. Once I failed to reach the summit due to chest-high snow and twice I summited and descended in two hours 13 minutes. So, with a 25 kilometre warm up, I gave my all and managed a full Ben Lomond climb and down in one hour 55 minutes. For the first time in months I felt amazing while running, I had no doubts that I was going to smash the two hour barrier. My body was so strong and I felt like I had limitless energy. The summit sunset was a big bonus too. It's runs like this that I never forget.

Overall I definitely overworked myself this week with my running. Excluding ultra-marathons this has been my biggest milage week of the entire year. Even with the huge high from the sub two hours success I am feeling overall poorly about my running right now. I won't make the 2000 kilometre target for 2020. I plan to take my running easy for the next few weeks. That's not to say I won't go for some long, maybe even crazy, runs. I probably will still, but overall I will be giving myself some rest. No targets, no runs I don't want to do. A healthy end of year physical and mental recovery. On to bigger and crazier in 2021 - although I'm not sure how I plan to top August's 100 miler.
Bad weather heading my way, time to get out of here!
The view while I realised my fastpacking adcenture wasn't going to happen
Nearing the Ben Lomond summit, what a treat of a reward
Recreating the sunrise photo from earlier in the year
Red mountains and red clouds
Queenstown and the Ben Lomond track with mood lighting
Time to descend the mountain again