Queenstown, New Zealand
14th 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
The view while I realised my fastpacking adcenture wasn't going to happen
Nearing the Ben Lomond summit
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