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Welcome to my blog which I hope to develop with some interesting material on ultra running both on the trails and road including reports on races and interesting training runs, views on kit and equipment as well as anything else I find of interest. I love running for adventure, opportunity and well being. Enjoy!

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Days 50-51: Mavora Lakes Road to Merrivale Road (Longwood Forest)

Start: Mavora Lakes Road (2,797km)
Finish: Merrivale Road (Longwood Forest) (2,924km)
Distance for the 2 days: 127km
Cumulative distance: 2,924km
Distance to Bluff: 130km

This trail is making me work for my kilometers right to the last, as it has done all the way. It would be a real mistake to let my guard down at this stage and think that the final few hundred kilometers would be a run in.

My run down the Mararoa River Track yesterday morning is a good example. Gem joined me and we set off bright and breezy at 6am, just catching first light and then a sky coming to life with simply amazing shades of red and purple. I’ve learnt already from my time on the trail that riverside trails usually spell trouble, and so this track proved to be a complete nightmare. It was marked by orange topped poles which were difficult to spot due to the height of the undergrowth. The river bank rose and fell regularly and the terrain varied from bog to rutted pasture to thistles to long grass, and my patience wore think very quickly, particularly from the amount of barbed wire fences to be negotiated. It was clear that very few through hikers use the track, instead opting to follow the gravel road running parallel around a kilometer to the side. If I had not been so focused on following the trail to the tee in order to set a completely legitimate record, then I would have been on the road too! The first 18kms took nearly 4 hours – thank goodness for the early start. The remainder of the river track wasn’t quite so bad, and by lunchtime I had made it to Princhester hut, the trailhead for a penultimate ‘hard tramping’ section across the rugged Takitimu Mountains.

James fed me like a king to set me off all charged up, but I left the team feeling a little emotional, probably just from the knowledge of what was up ahead, hard tramping usually meaning super rough terrain, and that was exactly what came. The guide book described new, unformed trails through rolling forests and tussock ridden open ground. The DoC trailhead signage didn’t look too promising either describing the 40km section I was tackling as taking 30 hours, or over 3 days. I was aiming for well under 24hours including and overnight stop from a 2pm start. I made good progress to start with, covering the first 17km to Aparima Hut in 4.5hours. From there a new 13km untracked but well signed forest section followed which the sign said would take 8 hours. I certainly wanted to be into the next hut before midnight so no time to lose.

I set off briskly, hoping to get as much distance under my belt as possible before dark. It was painfully slow going, no chance of anything more than a fast hike, and it required real concentration to pick the orange waymark arrows fixed to the trees, particularly with no ground trail line to follow. However it was a lovely evening to be out moving through the woods under the beam of a head torch, and thankfully it was mild too. I decided to call it a day at the next hut, Lower Wairaki, arriving about 11.30pm. I had been on the go for 17.5hours, covering a huge amount of knarly terrain including a health 30km into the section, so it would be a well deserved, albeit short, rest. I was running the section on a daypack only, so my kit for the overnight stay in the hut was rather limited, but I managed to cobble together a set up of a warm baselayer, my running shorts, Compressport leg and calf guards, some lightweight waterproofs and a foil emergency survival bag. With a bunk and matress in the hut, it was perfectly adequate. I even had some leftover cheese and ham sandwiches from the day to chobble on before bed!

I slept fairly soundly in short bursts, occasionally waking from the moisture build up in the foil bag – not the most breathable sleeping bag! So I switched in and out of it whenever it became uncomfortable, and I just about kept warm enough to stay comfortable. I set the alarm for 5.40am and was on the trail for 6.00am. I had a final 16km section - with a stiff climb to a summit of 1,000m+ - ahead before the meeting point with the guys at Rock Hut. That was my proper breakfast stop, and an approach which always focuses the (my) mind! The heat was building early, and I didn’t really want to stop to refill the my hydration sack (and treat the water) so again all the focus was on getting the to the meeting point as quickly as possible. They had camped there overnight and it was certainly comforting to see them and be ‘out’ of the section, and the reward of a hot (dehydrated) breakfast and cereal made the effort well worthwhile. The rest of today has involved a mixture of tracks and trail types in a much more gentle, rolling, setting, albeit with plenty of knarly Te Araroa sections thrown in. We’re seemingly now out of the alpine terrain and the hills are gradually mellowing down towards the south coast. Today, from the summit on the Takitimu Track, I caught my first glimpse of the south coast ocean. That view certainly helped draw me along over the course of the day…. To the west we have far reaching views to the mountainous Fjord land but I’m quite relieved to be skirting that lot.

So with just 130km to go, I have one final test ahead of me – the Longwood Forest. It’s more ‘hard tramping’ so undoubtedly final test of mental strength, particularly as I will be in the forest for the most part of the day (50km), and Te Araroa has definitely given me forest fever. The twisting trails, the tree roots, the boggy bits, the stream crossings, the spiky plants, the scrapes and scratches from the sharp dead branches – it all adds up to mental torment in the forests. Anyway, that’s tomorrow to look forward to! The good news is that when I pop out the other side, I will be on the south coast, and then it’s a flat-ish coastal traverse to Bluff. Nearly there now….

Mararoa River Track

Mararoa River Track (a nice bit)

Tweeting or sorting my SPOT out

On the Maramoa River Track with Gem

At the top of Twinlaw

Takitimu Track

Breakfast after Takitimu


Sophie Bragg said...

Hope the last 130km go your way and the glimpses of the coastline continue to spur you on. Unsurprising you've been feeling emotional with the adventure you've had over the last 51 days... I've felt emotional just reading about it, let alone living it! Keep doing what you're doing JB. You're amazing!
S x

Hugh Marsden said...

Fantastic Stuff Jezz - I'm not family but I felt a bit emotional too reading about what sounded like a very challeging route. Sounds like you need a mini machete made out of carbon for next time!!!! BTW you do look a bit like Jesus! Nearly there. Tramp safe! Hugh

Anonymous said...

YES!! You're doing amazingly well Jez, so so amazing! You're so close now, well, close in your ultra, superman terms! Keep on going mate, we're all cheering you on :)

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how close you are now Jez and how incedibly well you have tackled and beaten this 'project'! Proud as ever and looking forward to the next blog post or two, Helen x

Anonymous said...

From Darren by the way :)

Anonymous said...

Super job Jez, keep going on those last (few) km's. As a very proud sister-in-law I have been spreading your story amongst the Frenchies :-). Woody x

Anonymous said...

That first view of the south coast ocean must have been pretty emotional lump in the throat inducing. Another major milestone ticked off. I wonder what temperature the water will be, should you be tempted to leap in. Definite photo opportunity there! Take care, and savour the remaining kms. MtM & Jo

Anonymous said...

We have really enjoyed reading your blog. You are an inspiration. Keep it up - nearly there! Love Jeff and Sheila (woody's parents) xx

Debs M-C said...

Can't wait to see the picture of you holding a cold beer. Debs xx

Ps: I think you look more like the naked rambler now :-) Except, not naked. Obviously! Definitely in need of a good sleep and a big feed.

Anonymous said...

Captivating as standard Jez. We particularly enjoy the parts where you quote a guide book cautiously declaring a section takes 5 days, then you bomb it through in a couple of hours! Will certainly miss checking in with the story. Enjoy the last bit! Ben and Holly.

Anonymous said...

NEARLY THERE !i wish i could be at the finish to welcome you but i AM there in spirit. what an adventure, what an achievement.
courage and strength for the last miles and love to you too Mouse

Anonymous said...

Anyone running 130kms as a one off is an amazing achievement but to think you're going to run it after just completing 2924km is out of this world! You're certainly one in a million Jez (or probably one in 10 billion, trillion, zillion!!) We're with you to the end Jez and in true Gem style we send you lots of supporting hugs, giggles and sparkles! Love to you all, Love from Kate, Tom, Josh and your little black friend Bramble xxxx

Andy Coomes said...

Very impressed. Say Hi to your Dad in law.

Steve said...

Inspiring stories that make me smile. Doing Comrades in June and now I am going to upgrade to a 30 miler the weekend after next. If not now, when ?

Enjoy the cold beer Jez !

Anonymous said...

Awesome that you've been able to maintain for so long. Crazy respect to you.

Anonymous said...

Keep on trucking dude.....
Big man hug at you,

Jon Allen said...

Enjoy your last few days! We're looking forward to your report!

If you have the chance, drive over to the Fjordlands and Milford Sound once you are done. One of the most beautiful places on earth.

Steven Morris said...

Another bowl of porridge, another couple of days covered ( reading the blog that is ). It's been tough, but, together I really think we are going to make it Jez! COME ON WE CAN DO IT !!!!!

Anonymous said...

Amazing & glorious ! Anticipatory congratulations from the Over Wallop branch of the family !