After recovering from little training on my school Service Trip to Cambodia, it was time to take on my next race of the year. This time it would be closer to home and not such a stress of having to fly to our destination! Thursday night came around and I was packed for a pretty crazy weekend! I myself would be racing the Hanmer Old Forest 50km and my dad would be competing in the 100-mile race at the same event! Both these races were part of one of Heath Lunn’s, St James Mountain Sports events!
Starting on Friday morning I would crew my dad for the first part of his race until 10pm that night, before mum and my younger brother would come up to Hanmer and take over my job (I needed at least 5 hours sleep before my race). I won’t give away the details about dads race, however, I do suggest after reading this you go and see his blog post here! All I will say is crewing him was relatively successful and it was great to do a 10km lap of the course with him in the afternoon as a warm-up for my race the next day!
Anyway, on to my race! The race was run on 10km laps that were in a figure of eight. This meant that we’d complete the 50km course after 5 laps and that we would be passing the aid station roughly every 5km’s.
After waking up at 4:30am in the morning to see dad finish his event I spent the rest of the morning sitting in the aid station tent close to the gas heater. My race didn’t start until 9am, so this gave me a lot of time to eat breakfast, get ready and get myself to the start line. Breakfast was an OSM and a banana. I hoped this would give me enough energy for the first couple of laps of the race so that I didn’t have to always stop!
At exactly 9:01am, Heath looked at his watch, checked everyone was ready and started the race. Our first half of each 10km lap would follow a series of trails through the beech forest roads and tracks, winding their way around a loop with very little climbs or descents. From the start, I eased into a good pace and led the race. Surprisingly, after only 5km’s I had built a lead by about two minutes. Dad who was relaxing and watching my race felt as if I’d gone out too hard, and when I passed him at 5km’s he blurted out, “Remember this is a 50km race”!
The second part of each 10km loop came past the aid station before winding around a park and climbing up a small hill. Roughly a 150-metre climb, it took us to the top of a small hill, where we would continue down the other side and then along a range of single trails back to the aid station. These 10km loops were really enjoyable and they were great as there was a mixture of different terrains on them. I enjoyed going into the climb leading the race, knowing I had time to take it easy and not burn myself out. From here I eased down the single track towards the aid station. I was met by my brother, Omri who would be crewing and helping me out during my race. He told me I had now stretched my lead to 4 minutes, this excited me and after downing some water and having a few lollies I left quickly.
The second and third loops went like blurs and very soon I was at the aid station having completed 30km in about 2:45 hours. For 50km on trail, I was happy with this time and I was on track to complete the 50km’s in under five hours. But sometimes when things feel as if they are going best, the bad things can happen. As I slowed down to grab a bar and a drink at the aid station my quads locked with cramp and I couldn’t move. I was gutted and worked as quickly as possible to stretch them and get as much proper food as I could into my body. I was hoping this would replace my energy and salt stores and prevent me cramping anymore.
I spent three minutes at that aid station and when I left I knew that I would have to work hard on the next lap to keep a good lead on the guy in second! The next 5km segment, however, was a ball of pain. At 32km, I cramped so bad again, I had to stop and stretch while eating the OSM I had brought with me on this lap. As I looked up, my stomach dropped, I saw the second-placed runner come around the corner and speed past me at a blistering pace! How own earth was I suppose to catch him? I thought to myself. I continued on the lap and made it into the aid station hurting.
Leaving the aid station, the new leader had more than a minute on me and was running strong with his mate who was pacing him. I knew that I would need to go above and beyond to come even close to catching him before the finish. Over the climb and down the hill to 40km’s I put as much effort in as possible and yet it wasn’t enough. He now had over three minutes lead on me and I was giving hope. Omri gave me the run down of what to do in the aid station and I exited with 57 minutes to run the last 10km’s in (easy huh… maybe not after 50km’s!).
The half lap from 40km’s-45km’s wasn’t pretty, and I’m pretty sure the only thing that got me through it was the thought that I wouldn’t be running there again and every tree I passed and step I took was one bit closer to the finish! At 45km’s Omri told me I had made up time (I didn’t understand this…) and I was only down one minute now and he (the leader) looked as if he was struggling. This gave me hope and as I left Omri walked with me and sent me off shouting, “Dig deep, do you want this? You can do it”. He was right, as I made my way around the park I saw him in the distance and immediately my pace quickened and I felt a rush of adrenaline going into the last climb.
Up the climb, I seemed to gain time quickly and was great to have a quick chat on the way up, with Kerensa who was competing in her first 50km ultra (well done!). By the top of the hill, I was within earshot of him and I knew that the last 2.5km’s would be a challenge. A challenge it was, and after 50km’s, running at speeds of 13-14 kilometres per hour for about 10 minutes was pretty sore! But finally, after 50km’s, we were approaching the finish line. Now within 25 metres of each other, it was a sprint finish.
Never have I ever seen a 50km race come down to a sprint, and a good one it was! Unfortunately, today wasn’t my day and I couldn’t get ahead quick enough for the win. I took 2nd overall and 1st Under 18 male in a time of 4:57:44 hours, just three seconds behind first place! Obviously, I’m gutted that I didn’t get that win, but at the same time, I’m stoked! To take second place in an event like this at only 17 years of age is great! Maybe the win can wait for next year!
So that was my 50km race! I’ve recovered well and after taking a few days to think about it, I’m pretty happy with my efforts over the weekend! I’d like to thank Heath and the team at St James Mountain Sports for another great event, and to those on Instagram and Facebook who supported me over the weekend – it really helps! Thanks also to OSM NZ for looking after me always, you guys are great, your support is incredible and your bars keep me going (www.osm.nz/yonni)! Finally, to Dad, Mum and Omri. Your support and funding keeps me going and thanks for all the help crewing me over the weekend!
From here, I’ll be training a bunch leading up to my big race of the year in Taupo, in October. Bring on the Taupo Ultramarathon 100km!