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 Not only that, but there is a time limit, if you don’t make it to Moturau by 3 pm, you’re withdrawn, and if you don’t make it to Rainbow Reach by 4 pm, you’re withdrawn, and if you take more than 12 hours, you’re considered a DNF.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.

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