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New Zealand Alps 2 Ocean Recap

Alps to Ocean 323km Ultra Marathon Recap 

Words of the week – WEE & Pinch….

Some advice when visiting New Zealand – when anyone says there is going to be a ‘WEE PINCH’ this means there is going to be some HUGE HUGE HILLS THAT WILL put you in the hurt locker.

Sarah (2nd Female – speed demon/absolute beast) and I discussing gear before I caught wind of a photo being taken. 

Day before the race;

We were told to meet at 7am out front of a building in town… although I missed this smallish detail and arrived where the buses were by the water so I had to quickly run 1km up the main street to meet up with everyone else… you could say things were off to a good start.

We then all made our way to the pier where in 8 days we would be crossing the finish line. A local school group performed the Haka for us and it was really special. I’ll admit I teared up a little bit, they really got into it and it was a pretty amazing experience. 

We then jumped on the bus for a 4 hour bus ride to the base of Mount Cook where were camping for the night. Along the way we stopped at two pretty amazing lake spots and then did a small hike up to a glacier view point.

                                  Stop No. 2 – Lake.                                                                   Stop No. 3 – Glacier Hike with Sarah

Once we arrived at our camp site for the night a few of us went for another walk up to a tourism centre which had an awesome coffee shop looking out at Mount Cook – what a view – as Rick said… this is a bloody good spot. We were all in really high spirits and excited for the week ahead.

Tent set up at the base of Mount Cook. 

Our final dinner was provided for us at the camp site and we were in bed nice and early around 7pm… I was honestly sleeping about 7pm-5am most nights and it was AMAZING! I would just pass out as there was nothing on my mind except running.

                                     Night before race day!

Day 1 – 44km. Approx. 5 hours 45min

Woke up to POURING rain absolutely pelting down on the tent… I thought ohhh NOOOO Day 1 and it is bucketing down. I was dreading dragging myself out of the tent into the pouring, cold rain. Good news was that at 5am I heard Michael the race director yelling out stay in your tents we won’t start until 9am due to the conditions being too crazy…. fewf! Back to sleep I went… the Brazilian’s in the other section of my tent didn’t understand what had been said so for 20/30 minutes they were bustling around getting ready for the day and it was keeping everyone in our tent awake. I unzipped there section of the tent and poked my head through and said in the clearest english I could so the would understand – Ey guys go back to sleep we don’t run for another few hours… poor things were there all dressed in their running gear eating breakfast and they had no idea what had been said… they were so cute and said oh sorry sorry we be quiet. Haha poor things! 

9am came around in the blink of an eye. There was 6 of us in the tent – 2 ladies Jan and Brenda in one little section, Chris and myself in the middle and a Brazilian couple in the other end. Chris popped his head out of the top of his sleeping bag and said morning Jacqui and I just said Chrriiiisss I don’t want to run in the rain. He made some positive comment and we got on with things. Jan then said JACQUI! Thank you for telling the Brazilians to shshhhh haha. 

The good thing about day 1 of races is that I always have something fun for breakfast because I don’t have to carry this meal with me for the week. I had x2 oat and banana muffins and a jar of nutella and some cereal with milk for this morning… to give you an idea of how cold it was… the Nutella was frozen.

The race was changed up a little bit due to the weather so up first was a Helicopter Ride to the start line. I WAS PUMPED! My first time ever in a helicopter – I was so excited.
                                                 Helicopter Ride. 

Todays start line was very different, we ran off in groups of about 20 people due to everyone coming in dribs and drabs via the helicopters. It all happened quickly and off we went. 

I remember just before we set off I saw this young guy Ryan Adam doing a weird little jumping thing side to side on his toes… and thought what is this guy doing… I began copying him with a big smile on my face and he knew straight away I was taking the mickey out of him.

The first 20k of day 1 involved a lot of paddock crossings with fences we had to open and close – if we forgot to close a fence gate it would be a 2 hour time penalty! I decided after a few fences that it was easier for me to just launch myself over it… this was all good except for the few times I completed axed myself and ended up face down in the mud. When this happened I would look around for someone to have a laugh with about it but I was usually by myself so just had a laugh to myself and got on with things. 

Aside from the gates we also had get over a number of barb wire fences…doing this with a heavy pack on your back in the rain was slightly difficult and not to mention it hailed 3 times! 

The highlight was looking back over my shoulder like in the picture below and seeing Lake Pukaki with Mt Cook at the top of the valley in the background.

So the first day was very painful for me – especially the last 15k. I was in agony from my right plantar fasciitis playing up and the terrain was very unforgiving in the last part of the day with lots of rocks and I couldn’t get my footing a lot of the time.

I ran into camp crying and was thinking how am I going to get through 323km’s of this… I really wasn’t sure if I would be able to deal with that pain all week. At camp I went and saw the physio and Mike was unreal – he dry-needled my foot and strapped it differently. I then was able to get some extra heel lifts off the physios to pop into my shoes to take pressure off. 
I then braved the cold and went swimming in the lake for 15 minutes for recovery – this really helped me mentally and I was much happier after I calmed down a bit and thought to myself I just need to get through each day. 

Trying to warm up after swimming.  

Day 2 – Approx. 55k

Wokeup at 5am to Run To Paradise absolutely  blaring! It was pretty funny once I got past the fact that it was pitch black, cold, sore and had to get up to eat plain porridge with water… #livingthedream.

Big day today – to say I was intimidated by the distance was an understatement especially with how the day before went. Luckily I was in high spirits and the day started well! From about 20-35k I ran with this lady Koleighne who is an absolute machine and came 4th in the end for ladies, she was just super rock solid. We got chatting and a few years ago she completed the Kathmandu Coast to Coast challenge in just over 12 hours – I was like WHAT! That is incredible.

It was on this day that we got offered some smoked salmon on a cracker at about the 35k mark… as nice as fresh salmon in NZ sounds I don’t think my stomach would of agreed with me whilst running. I also was struggling to eat whilst running and couldn’t stomach much more than 1-2 GU Chews! 

I was a tad delirious because of this and I remember at the 20k mark I thought I had only 10k left… well I had 30k left… so I was pretty off the mark with that. Yes it was a pretty flat day but it dragged out a bit. The last 20k felt like it went forever for me… luckily I teamed up with another lady and her husband and we all ran in the last 10k together. Not to mention the views for the last 10k were OUT OF THIS WORLD along Lake Ohau. 

The last 3k was almost the end of me and everyone felt the same about this – it was 3km’s along little pebbles and stones which was barely runnable.

Unreal views for the last 10km’s.

Day 3 – 90k long day… uh oh the big day… everyone dreaded this! 

It began really well – 2k along Lake Ohau and then straight up into a mountain… a very gradual up.. and yep it pretty much just kept going up for the first 2 hours. I ran out of water after 10k so every time I saw a stream I was squatted down or I even just laid flat on my tummy and drank out of every creek and stream I could find.

From the very start of the long day I tried to stick with Ryan Adam another young runner who was having a great week. Mentally it is much easier if you set yourself someone to pace with… it stops you from slacking off but also stops you from over cooking yourself too early.

We reached checkpoint 1 at 20k in and I was finally able to fill up my water bottle. Then it was another 21km’s before the next checkpoint… and it was hot… really hot! We were running along a long gravel road with the sun beaming down. I remember 2 people road past Ryan on their bikes and they said hello, he responded with something like Good morning – lovely day for a jog… they then road past me and I was pretty puffed and struggled to mumbled a basic hello but they saw my big smile and didn’t mind. They actually laughed a little and I then said yep that guy in-front is wayyy too perky for my liking haha. Ryan was Mr positive all week – it was great!

So fast forward to 70k in and as you can imagine I was getting pretty tired – I had been out there for about 10 hours at this point. 

It was now that the very top runners who started at a later time were starting to pass me, Timmy was smashing it out and he ran past me and we were both buggered – he threw his arm out and gave me a cheeky knuckles and without saying much we both just knew that was like a bloody big hug and a small gesture of encouragement. He took a look at me though and our eyes met and he saw the struggle on my face, I was battling and he said – ey just keep moving forward… and that I did!

Another 3km’s on and I was out of water AGAIN and very thirsty. I asked one of the videographers Ryan where a water station was and he said yeah soon – just around the corner.. well…. his soon actually meant about 5km’s away… GRRRR. I WAS NOT HAPPY!

After 1km I was about to pass out, I could of strangled Ryan at this point haha. So I veered off course and cut through the bushes to the big lake that I was running alongside. I was on my knees and fishing water out with my water bottle when Sarah ran past. I hadn’t seen her all day and she paused and yelled out to me ‘JACQUI?’… unsure if it was me slash unsure of what I was doing. 

I was pretty non coherent and I usually would be jumping with joy to see Sarah but I just stumbled to my feet and something along the lines of thirsty, so thirsty came out… need water.. Sarah stopped for a moment and waited for me which is really awesome of her cause she was really under the pump with her time and placing as she was in 1st/2nd spot!

I weaved back up to the path through the bushes and we began running together, Sarah was setting the pace. But just before we began running – I popped my arm around her and said argh I have missed you (like it had been a year since I had seen her or something but it had only been about 9 hours… and she said aww I have missed you too. But wow I really needed that moment. 

She was running about 6 min k’s at this point (73k into the 90k day) and was trying to get me up and about to kick on the next 15k with her so I trailed along behind her for a while. 

We got into the last checkpoint for the day – 75k mark – 11 hours for me at this stage. I was not in a good state. I hadn’t eaten enough food as I was nauseas, I had gone off a bit hard early on, I was dehydrated and battling. 

I couldn’t keep up with Sarah and she jetted off – I began to walk and was pretty defeated. 

There was a massive 12km’s of mountain and hill climbs to conquer… the down climbs just as bad as going up. It was now about 7pm and I was crying, and feeling every single step and was really cold then really hot – I didn’t know what was going on. 

I couldn’t dig myself out of this heap of negativity, pain and struggle and knew it was going to be a long 12k. I had people passing me and I really should of just teamed up with one of them and finished it off but I just couldn’t! In hindsight it is super easy to see where I could of done something differently but in the moment I wasn’t thinking properly. 

Later on I found out that the last section almost defeated a lot of people.

Anyway I battled on pretty badly – crying in the pitch black (such a sook) it was sooo dark and I was questioning everything… why do I do this… what the heck is the purpose… this is the worst pain… this is what I imagine hell to be like… I seriously was down and out…

I crossed the finish line that night and Michael the course director gave me a big hug but I didn’t say a word.. if you know me this is a rarity… I went to bed and my body ached. 

The next day I was pretty emotional and upset for the first few hours of the day, I just felt super emotional. Mind you other competitors were coming in until midday the next day so arriving in at 10pm was still counted as an alright time.

Rest day – Unreal spot to rest up at!

Rest day spot. 

Lots of relaxing, napping, swimming in the lake and doing as minimal walking around as possible and I avoided thinking about the 120+ km’s we still had to cover over the next few days. 

Day 5 – 45k

As much elevation as the long day – the manual said ‘brace yourself for a lot of ups and downs’… it wasn’t lying! There was mountains, river crossings, rocks, paddocks – there was a mix of terrain.

With 10km’s to go I mentioned at a checkpoint to the doctor that my back was really hurting – I had it strapped 2 days earlier to prevent anymore rubbing from my pack.
I knew it hurt but didn’t know that my back was rubbing raw. I decided not to even check it and to just finish and check it after.

The last 5k of the course I spent mostly hauling myself up very steep farmland hills where I sometimes found myself trying to grip onto barb wire fences beside me to get some grip but all I managed was to rip my clothes a bit. Then I would be on my bum sliding down the other side of these huge grassy hills.

The day finished and I ran it in with 2 other guys – this was nice camaraderie and I really enjoyed that. To top off the day we jumped into a jet boat and were taking on an adrenaline filled ride to where we were to camp the night. IT WAS UNREAL!!

Arriving into camp I stripped off and went for a swim in the lake to clean up… it was at this point I realised my back was not in good shape. I walked up to the doctors tent in just my undies and a top and everyone in the medical tent made some ARHGHH EKKKK type noises when they saw it. Mike poured iodine on the wound and I clenched the bench with my hand… OUCHHHH!! That didn’t tickle.

I spent the rest of the afternoon laying in the soft grass on my sleep back with Timmy and Sarah just chilling out. I kept forgetting about my back and every time I went to lay on it I would be struck with pain. 

Medical tent – the legend Mike! 

Day 6 – 55km’s

The poles went away ! I knew today was a longer but flatter day and I wanted to give it a go without my poles. I had become a bit attached to them and felt they were starting to hinder my running rather than improving it so I packed them away and off I went.

I would love to say my pack was feeling lighter but it was still a solid 6kg with water and by now my back was red raw and very sore! 

cheese and wine 5k in 
long dragged out 30 k to start really slat and pretty boring 
Tough day 
chill arvo 
physio dry kneedling again 

Day 7 – 30k finish day

Everyone was buzzing to say the least… last day – I felt slightly mixed emotions as I knew this amazing week was coming to an end.

Last day just before race kick off – a final goodluck hug from Sarah Foster (2nd Female). 

I was running on an empty tank on the last day – No breakfast left and only a Gu Chew to get me through the last run… I was pretty turned off chews by this point so I just pushed through the final day on adrenaline. 

I had blisters, a raw back, sore muscles, sun burn and was hungry but I didn’t care. 

At the 15k mark someone ran past me and said what do you want to eat when you finish… little did she know she was opening up a whole conversation for me to go on a bit of a tangent haha .. I said actually don’t care… all everyone wants right now is pizza, a shower, fresh clothes and a comfy bed but honestly after we get these small requests satisfied then what… then yes it is nice to connect with family and friends but after a day or so of these comforts I really just want to be back out here running again… so I felt bittersweat about it .

Runing into town was a great feeling. there was a crazy lady driving past and yelled out YOU ARE AWESOME!! and then others clapping, cheering, kids high fiving, it was so great.

And then finally crossing that line I felt super emotional and it was a feeling of relief and happiness. emotions are runing high 
what a feeling
so good to finish off the event
.. first night sleeping in a bed was horrible haha I wasn’t use to the bed situation haha

I had a great night at the awards ceremony and then it was time to head back to Australia.

My next blog is going to be about the post race blues and how I cope mentally after completing such a huge event and getting back into everyday life.

Thanks for following along my New Zealand Race! Time to get my foot better and then look ahead to my preparation for Iceland and the Grand Canyon in August and September.

These people made the race 10/10! 
That feeling! 

Thank  you so much to all of my amazing sponsors!

Flight Centre
Back Country Food
City Cave
True Protein
FTI Consulting
Steigen Socks
Body Leadership Physiotherapy
Sea to Summit