From the backlogs: The Kepler Track (in a day) Dec 2012

Back in 2012, when Dylan and I were still tramping newbies, we walked the Kepler track in a day with the tramping club.   This is more or less the post I wrote back then.

60 km (okay, we only did about 50 km), usually takes 3-4 days, about 1500 metres of elevation.  In a single day.  It was with the tramping club, so we weren’t the only crazies out there starting the track at 6 am.

What can I say?  There are people even crazier than us that run the Kepler in an annual race, the Kepler Challenge.  The winner usually takes 4.5-5 hours.  Tramping club usually does their “Kepler in a day” trip the weekend after the Kepler challenge.

Ok, so a quick sum up.  We left at 6 am and took about 3 hours to get to Luxmore hut.  We got there right as the multi-day trampers (who I shall refer to as the “tourists” from now on) were leaving.  Very amusing as we arrived to Luxmore, Dylan already had his shirt off (poor boy, feels the heat), and the tourists were kitted out often in full pants, jackets, beanies/stocking caps, and of course their absolutely enormous full packs!  He is gaining a bit of a reputation as a man that doesn’t feel the cold.  At this point I also had 2nd breakfast (nutra-grain cereal) (my reputation is as a bottomless pit).

D with no shirt, tourists in background

Dylan with no shirt, tourists in background

We stopped only to fill our water bottles and were off again.  Our next stop was a side trip up to the top of Mt. Luxmore.  The views are amazing and even though this probably added 30 min total to our time, we would have felt we missed something if we hadn’t gone to the top.

Silliness at the Mt. Luxmore trig

Silliness at the Mt. Luxmore trig

Then it was off again along the ridgeline, which was all up and down, past the two emergency shelters.  I had 3rd breakfast by this point as well.  And just before the 2nd shelter, we switched packs (Dylan had the food pack which was heavier than my pack) as I was feeling quite good and Dylan was feeling the effects of the climbing.  Then it was the long descent down to Iris Burn hut.

Descent to Iris Burn hut

Descent to Iris Burn hut

This took ages and by the time I arrived I thought I was going to pass out from lack of food.  I was also extremely grumpy at this point because Dylan had gone ahead and assumed that I had stayed with the group just behind him.  Well, after falling over/tripping over a step, I lost a little momentum, plus the lack of food equated a very grumpy Rebecca arriving into Iris Burn hut at about 1:30 pm.

Dylan and I inhaled some lunch, refilled our water bottles, and were on our way again lickety split.  No dawdling when you are on this epic ‘day walk’.  We felt quite refreshed (Dylan said he was simply amazed how quickly I perked up after lunch – of course, it may have been the chocolate fish) and set a cracking pace on to Moturau hut.  Well – at halfway we had to stop for a toilet break (yay – great walks have plenty of toilets along the way!) where I was devoured by sandflies.  At this point, we really started to drag.  Not too long after – we had to have a stop to attend to our feet.  Both of us has blisters that needed taping (thank God for athletic tape – honestly this stuff is the best for preventing blisters).  Then we continued to slow down as we trudged to Moturau hut.  Dylan kept thinking he saw the hut (seriously nearly hallucinating!) – unfortunately it turned out to be Lake Manapouri or the beach!  Somewhere along this point we also decided that we were stuffed, our feet were absolutely hammered, and that we would stop at Rainbow Reach instead of back at the control gates (where we started and thus completing the loop).  This would put our total trip at about 50 km instead of the full 60 km.

Moturau hut - thank God!

Moturau hut – thank God!

We finally arrived at Moturau hut, had some snacks, refilled 2 of our water bottles (as we only had another 1.5 hours to go, we probably only needed about 1 L each), had a sit down, chatted with the tourists, and then we were off again.  First 15 min felt great, we took some photos at the wetlands, etc.  Then the wall hit.  This must have been at hour 12.5.  Honestly, I just about came to a halt.  The end couldn’t come soon enough.  And where was Rainbow Reach?  Did we miss it?  Surely we would have seen the sign and honestly it’s been at least an hour.  Oh – there are some people coming this way – we can ask them!  Sure enough – Rainbow reach is 5 min away.

We finally reached our end.  We had no desire to continue on the last 10-12 km (probably another ~3 more hours at the pace we were going!) through more of the same never-ending beech forest.  So instead, we sat down at the picnic table, ate an entire packet of lollies (that was the 3rd packet of the day) and took some photos and waited to be picked up.  We were finally picked up about 8:15 – we probably arrived at 7:30.  It was definitely a wise decision not to go to the end as we probably would have been walking until about 11 o’clock at night!

I'm dead!!

I’m dead!!

However, we were slightly dispirited to realize that nearly everyone else finished the entire 60 km in roughly the same time or less than we took to do 50 km!  So yet again, tramping is a wake-up call that I am not nearly as fit as I think!  I should also add that we were nearly the youngest people to do this in our group.  So yes, all the people that are a lot more fit than us are in their 40s, 50s and 60s!!!

Would I do it again?  Hell no!  I honestly thought I might die at the end.  That last hour was the worst hour of tramping ever.  That was definitely my longest, toughest day of tramping to date.  You might be wondering how my feet fared with “the blisters” (that was a result of a trip up to Big hut in the Rock and pillars some weeks before)?  Well, they are fine.  Totally fine.  Blister blocks covered with athletic tape worked a miracle.  I did end up with 2 giant blisters on each of my littlest toes, however, which was the most painful part of the end of the day.  Also my feet felt as though they had swelled to 3 x their usual size.  At least I can hassle Dylan as this was his idea!

What did I learn?

  1. Walking an entire 3-4 day track in a single day is probably not the best, nor most enjoyable way to see a track.
  2. Dylan and I can probably condense tramping days on other great walk tracks if we want (e.g. two 4-5 hour days can probably be condensed and still be manageable)
  3. Athletic tape is miraculous.
  4. I feel great up to about 7-8 or even 9 hours of tramping.
  5. Hydration salts are a must (we used 4 packets).
  6. I get very grumpy if I’m not fed, like irrationally grumpy, but at least I recognize and acknowledge it.  Also, I need to eat pretty much continuously throughout the day.
  7. I’m not as fit as I think.  There is certainly room for improvement.
  8. Horrible blisters can be managed with little pain.
  9. My legs are much fitter than they used to be (tramping wise), but I need to toughen up my feet!

So how do I feel today?  My calves are a bit tight.  My blisters feel better (now that I’ve popped them).  My lower back is a little sore.  And my dozens of sandfly bites itch like mad.  But I think I’m doing pretty decently all things considered.

Readers, you might be interested to know that shortly after we survived walking the Kepler in a day, I decided to sign up to do the Kepler Challenge in 2014.  I was seriously derailed in my training by some injuries (stupid ITB) but persevered.  My goal that day was to finish within the 12 hour time limit – which I made, only just!  I was one of the nearly last to finish, but I did it.  60km in a single day, in ~11.5 hours.

Happy tramping!

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The Kepler Challenge (Dec 6) 2014

Back in 2012, Dylan and I walked the Kepler in a day with our local tramping club. Dylan had to do a lot of convincing to get me to do it (I honestly thought it was a terrible idea the first time I heard it suggested), so we did quite a lot of training (long day walks) in preparation.

Well, we managed to do most of it. We bailed out at Rainbow Reach (50 km mark) as there is a carpark there, and the others knew to come pick us up. It took us 12 hours to get there (including side trip up to the top of Mt. Luxmore, and 30 min of lunch at Iris Burn), we were absolutely stuffed, our feet were completely hammered (blisters, bleeding, etc.) and at the time we both thought it was the worst day we’d ever had. But for some reason, I thought it would be easier if you ran part of it, as the day wouldn’t be quite so long.

So I decided in 2013 that I would take part in the Kepler Challenge in 2014! I know I know. What is the Kepler Challenge? A 60 km mountain race, with 1350m of climbing and descent. Not only that, but there is a time limit, if you don’t make it to Moturau by 3 pm, you’re withdrawn, and if you don’t make it to Rainbow Reach by 4 pm, you’re withdrawn, and if you take more than 12 hours, you’re considered a DNF.

There is no way I was going to walk 60 km and take more than 12 hours!

Unfortunately, when I began my training back in July after registration (yes, I was lucky enough to get registered on the day it opened up!), I was possibly a little too enthusiastic, was wearing the wrong shoes, and had bad running form, as I immediately had a pretty bad running injury – ITB problems. So followed a solid 6-8 weeks of almost no running and PT. Then another 6+ weeks of PT and very little running. By the time October rolled around, I was running 30-40 min (not the 5-6 hours I should have been doing). Of course, we did do a number of tramps. And I did manage to squeeze some longish runs in before the big day (the longest I did was 23km).

So the big day finally arrived and although I wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked, I was as prepared as I could have been. And all in all, I felt pretty good for most of it. I mean, lets be honest, after about 45 km, you don’t really feel all that great. And I did walk a lot of it (as I had expected – all of the climbing and the steepest of the descent. I really just ran as much as possible along the flat).

Start of the race.  Nervous smile before the control gates.

Start of the race. Nervous smile before the control gates.

I did make a couple of mistakes (queueing for 5-10 min at the very first toilet. After I came out I was officially the very last runner as I met the sweep at that point!). I also took my phone and took a few photos along the way. I stopped at all the water/snack stops for a few minutes.

I followed this American couple most of the day.  They were running the Kepler as part of their honeymoon.

I followed this American couple most of the day. They were running the Kepler as part of their honeymoon.

But I knew that I needed to be to Rocky point by 1:30 to make Moturau by 3. That meant I should be to Iris burn by about 11:30. In the end, I made Iris burn by 11:45,Rocky point by 1:15, Moturau by 2:35, and Rainbow reach by 3:40. My final time was 11:15! Sure, I came in 435 out of the 445 racers who completed the course, but still, I made my goal of finishing!

One of the professional photos I purchased from the race.  This was right before Moturau hut - so approximately 44 km in.  Not too shabby!

One of the professional photos I purchased from the race. This was right before Moturau hut – so approximately 44 km in. Not too shabby!

Proof I finished!

Proof I finished!

And I was definitely better prepared this time around – it’s always good to know what to expect on a course. My feet have gotten tougher over the years too, and I pre-taped any trouble spots. Which meant I never had to attend to my feet at all throughout the day, and only had 1 blister at the very end.

All in all, I’d call that a success. And besides, next year I can focus on working to beat my time. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to enter again (only 450 competitors are allowed to enter, and the waiting list is always maxed out as well)! 😀

Meanwhile, while I was doing the Kepler, Dylan was climbing Mt. Eldridge. But I’ll let him tell you about that.