Yet another adventure ticked off for this year, the Kepler Challenge. Not that I was running it of course, I was playing support for Steve.
We headed up to Auckland on Thursday night after work staying overnight at K & R’s place. Thanks yet again guys. We love catching up with you both.
Our Jetstar flight was actually on time and I was surprisingly impressed with the plane and seating on board. The weekend nearly started out badly with Steve having misplaced his sunglasses (needed for the run) at some point in the waiting lounge. Thankfully the person who found them did the right thing and handed them in to the air crew. Needless to say Steve was incredibly thankful. There ARE still good people around. We hand stuff in and are thankful to see that others do as well. Cheers mate!
We landed in Christchurch just after 1pm and picked up our rental car. A wee FunCargo it was called. Amazing on economy (because it has no grunt on the open roads) but all in all a very suitable, yet ugly car.
The drive from Christchurch to Te Anau is only 2 hours and the roads have no set passing lanes so you really do need to be patient especially with the tourists. Things could end very badly on these roads for impatient drivers.
When we arrived into Te Anau we headed for the Te Anau Holiday Park located on the edge of the lake to the left before you get onto the main lake drive into town. I enjoyed my stay here. We got a tourist cabin for $80 a night which had cooking facilities but shared toilet/shower facilities. The shower block was close by so not really an issue. I think during winter using the shower block might be rather painful to do so in the cold but in summer it is not an issue. The staff here were excellent, the facilities clean, warm and well taken care of. The location also was excellent with about a 15 minute walk into town. I would definitely stay here again.
We took a reccy into town to check out where we were supposed to go for Steve’s registration check for the Kepler. If you are not familiar with the Kepler Challenge it is a regular highlight on the trail running calender for New Zealand. Into it’s 23rd year now and it is a 60km mountain run over the Kepler Track which climbs up through a stunning beech forest, up to the plateau (1300 metres of elevation), across the tussock highlands then back down the other side, through more stunning lowland terrain and back to the control gates for the finish. In order to compete there are only 400 places and you have to be ready to rock and roll at the stroke of opening time on line in June for the spots. They are gone in literally minutes. You don’t just get to enter without having put in the work. They want to know your past running history and your intended training plan to get you into top condition for the run.
The registration the night before the race is to check all your gear for the race – thermal top, leggings, water proof jacket with sealed seams, water proof pants, hat, gloves and safety blanket. Everything to keep yourself out of trouble should foul weather set in. Basically you need to take care of yourself should something unforeseen happen until assistance comes, if possible. Don’t forget you also need to carry nutrition and hydration as well!
Race day was spectacular. We were up at 4am to prep with porridge, coffee and get to the start line ready for the 6am start. The type of people that do trail running differ horrendously from road runners I feel. It is more about the location and the personal goal than anything else. There are people here that come back year after year to put themselves through the torture of this trail. That has to lend itself to recommendation if that is the case. There must be something spectacular about it that they forget the previous pain and sign up again.
After they took off I followed behind for about 7 km into the forest and started the climb up to the plateau. I didn’t make it out of the tree line before my turn around time mark. I didn’t want to miss Steve at the 50km mark of Rainbows Reach and also wanted to get some photo action of the first runners coming in if I could.
As it was I just missed the first runners coming in at just over 5 hours and still looking strong. I headed out to Rainbows Reach and crossed the swing bridge to find a spot to wait for Steve. Eventually he came through but was hobbling along. He had turned his knee and it was excruciatingly painful. We had a brief discussion about whether he should pull out but with only 10km to go it would be a shame to stop so close to the end. He decided to continue on and make a decision at the 5km to go mark.
I left him at that point expecting that he would be quite some time in that case, walking back with 10km to go so I went and got some groceries, took some lake photos and generally potted about. By the time I headed back to the finish line thinking I had plenty of time, who was sitting there under a tree already with his medal in hand? Bummer, I had missed the finish line shot. I did however have an ice cold can of V ready for him though. Bliss on a hot day.
Te Anau is a spectacular town with incredible views. It is well worth more than the passing visit on the way to Milford Sounds that most tourists do through here. For example we had a lovely pizza at a Italian place, great burgers at The Moose and awesome sunsets off the mountains each night. And the race, well I obviously didn’t see the whole track but from Steve’s photos it is amazing. Not sure I would be keen to run the track as walking it is tough work on its own. Kudos to all those that did though. What an awesome adventure they undertake year after year and they still come in smiling each time as they cross the line.