No Pain, No Rogaine

It’s 10pm and the drizzle has switched up a notch to steady rain.

“In fairness,” chirps Dani a couple of metres ahead of me as we scramble through the thick Old Man’s Broom, “at least we’re not in that prickly Matagouri.”

We have named ourselves team Around The Clock, (team74) and we’re navigating our way across the gully to Checkpoint 71, via some thick scrub we’re hoping to skim around the side of.

Wind the clock forward an hour.

“In fairness,” I chirp, a couple of metres behind Dani as we scramble through the thick Matagouri bush, “at least this time we’re on track with where we want to go.” The compass assures us of it.


Oh the power of positivity.

Dani is a weapon on the navigation and with the compass, I’m in awe as she still manages to work out roughly what ridge we’re heading for.
Wind the clock forward to 2am.

“F*ck this,” we say in chorus, as we bash through a combination of the both elements of scrub, down by a stream we end up wading through.

Our legs are bleeding, we’re bundu bashing hard and even suffering the odd tumble down a steep bank. Incredible how you can be skimming along the top of a pile of branches, then within a split second you’re basically underground. Well under scrub.

Our Positive Cup is empty. It’s 3.30am.

We reach Bush Camp up by the access road. Soaked through (water goes up your sleeves when you’re swinging from branches in thick scrub), cold and shivering and bit fed up, and desperately needing something hot in our bellies. Our spirits lift as we’re greeted by the chirpy Search and Rescue guys and volunteers who are there to make life comfortable for just a few minutes.

Inside the hut is a war zone. Casualties are huddled by the fire and sleeping, their minds and bodies too hammered to continue.

The rule here is simple. “If you go inside by the fire, you’re declaring you’ve finished.”
Not the case with us. We still wanted to add a bit more discomfort to our adventure.
A quick change of clothes and about four hot drinks later, our discomfort subsides enough to head off once more. The rain has not subsided, the wind has picked up, and the need to keep moving to retain some core warmth is vital.

Welcome to the scene in the thick of the small hours at the NZ 24 hour Rogaining Championships in Hanmer Springs, North Canterbury.
The name of the event is grandiose. But simply put, Dani and I are there as part of a fun adventure weekend away with friends and collectively we think we are due a challenge.
The challenge is delivered in spades thanks to a southerly blast that shakes the muggy low pressure system out of the way just before midnight.
When we kick off at midday on Saturday things are great. We boost up a few peaks gaining well over 1000m in altitude pretty quickly, steadily punching our CPs we’ve marked on the map. The back blocks of Hanmer Springs are beautiful. Life was good.
At 8.30pm, on point with the weather forecast, the clouds started to spit at us. On goes an extra layer, the wet weather gears and the headlight, pocketing one more CP as darkness falls.

The birds start to chirp as we leave the relative haven of Bush Camp at 4.30am. Mentioning a sunrise is too generous, but the sky starts to lighten after a while. We’re mindful of nearby CPs, but also battling to stay awake. That battle is occasionally lost as we both start to sleepwalk as we hike down the access road. It’s quite funny and we laugh out loud as we both take turns at momentarily losing consciousness while our legs continue to operate. The SleepMonsters have fun with our minds too, I see police cars ahead while giant birds fly towards me. Complimentary hallucinogens hell yes.

The rain turns to sleet and the wind picks up more.
We opt for a technical trail for further CP seeking to get us off the exposed tops.
Before long, a couple of hours are chewed up. We punch in a couple more CPs, then high five and call it a day.

Even as we navigate the last hour home, we’re not out of the woods with battling the conditions and it’s important we keep moving as our body temperatures battle.
It’s 9.30am, and we arrive back at camp. Where it all began, 21.5 hours ago. We tag ourselves in.

Hot soup and bread and we are out of the elements.
We grin.
Back at the house our friends slowly return home too from their adventures.
The place is a bomb site with wet clothes and muddy shoes and mushed up race food that never got eaten.

Slipping in and out of warm naps throughout the afternoon, we gather our thoughts in the early evening and head to the pub for some goodness.
Between the six of us we mow a couple of kilograms of steak and sink a few pints.
Life is good. We grin. We share stories.

Tomorrow is Monday and we’ll be heading back to the real world.
But for two days we escaped life, gave our minds and bodies a good auld shake up, and replenished our souls.

A few ultra yards in the backyard. Marlborough, NZ.

April 25th, 2020.
Embracing the hurt box – A special kind of special.

It’s weird. As you’re being sucked into its void, you already know that when you are eventually spat out on the other side you’re going to be in a thousand pieces.
Welcome to The Hurt Box. The crazy addictive and viscous, yet endlessly rewarding drug of endurance sport.
Simultaneously, a switch in your brain switches from ‘we’re running for quite a long way’ to ‘game on.’ The pain factor rises, discomfort levels take a spike, and your mind clicks into sixth gear on the grit scale. No amount of hydration and nutrition will get you out. The deeper in you get, the more you don’t want to leave because you’re in new territory now and your curiosity gets the better of you.
A game of self negotiation, pain management, injections of great moments, and moments of ‘I think my brain is warping.’
The ultimate mind vs body battle.
When you enter Hurt Box land during a race, you have no choice but to push on. On the other hand, when you start running a 3.2km loop at 6.30am on ANZAC Day with an undetermined distance in mind and you enter Hurt Box, a voice in your brain pops up and says “Well if you’ve gone this far, you might as well make it worthwhile.”
Other self-justifications for running for 13hrs 49 minutes; a sunrise should be matched with a sunset. Running one marathon should be matched with running two marathons. Running only two marathons would only encourage your South African mates to give you grief for stopping so early. A bit like this:
“Kiwi, did you get attacked by a sheep on your run?”
“No. Why?”
“Well why didn’t you at least run the Comrades distance of 89km? You silly kiwi…..”
This conversation went through my head as I clocked 80km, so with a big sigh I moved my virtual finish line from 85km to 89km.
But I was wise enough to stop at 89km and not make it 90km. Because we all know how that conversation would have gone…. “Why did you stop at 90km, and not run 100km?!” I wasn’t going to open up that can of worms.
I do have one question of my own though – to whoever organised that gale force wind situation on the top ridge for five hours…. Why?! That was horrible. Obviously.
With my race gear stashed in a vehicle at the bottom of the hill I thought it’d be a luxury not to have to wear my hydration pack and carry any nutrition. But as silly as it sounds, I put it on for one lap early on and I discovered my level of focus took a rise. So that was a nice learning surprise. One of my bubble buddies Una joined me for some laps which was epic, and she pointed out that the loop was just long enough to not really remember the beginning by the time you got to the end, so you didn’t really feel like you were running loops. I happily agreed with her when she mentioned this, but crank the clock forward a notch, and in the final couple of hours when things got dark, (literally and figuratively) I clung onto that observation with all the grit and madness I had. Cheers Una! A third lesson I learned was that if you eat an orange with your head down, orange juice starts to come out your nose. I was horrified, disgusted and amazed all at the same time. On the snacks topic, freshly baked banana bread delivered on two separate occasions during this challenge was happiness on another level and the best fuel, so cheers Macca for that and all the other snacks you rocked up with, and even the herbal tea which I have never been a fan of until then!! Legend, this wasn’t your first rodeo.
And then, just like that, beneath the star studded sky my watch did a little bleep to tell me I’d clocked over 89km. With a bit of a grin on my face I said ‘oh yay’ and pegged back into a walk for the final downhill back to the finish line. The wind had disappeared altogether, even the sheep and cows had gone to bed.
It’s at that moment you say ‘So now it all makes sense. Lucky me, what a treat.’
PS. I wonder what the normal people are doing today? 👣🙄😁🧡





#covid19 #lockdown


* Total distance: 89km
* Total time: 13hrs 49mins
* Total laps of the 3.2km hill loop: 28
* Total ascent: 2460m
* Best fuel of the day: A delivery of freshly baked banana bread.

Taupo Ultra Marathon. New Zealand.

November 2017 – “Running is nothing more than a series of arguments between the part of your brain that wants to stop, and the part that wants to keep going.” So Taupo Ultra Marathon was pretty much one massive argument, for 11hrs20mins, over 74km of trails, road, and farmland. Amazing, loved it, Lake Taupo is beautiful, injuries suck but not every race can go to plan so just battle through, thumbs up to everyone who hammered their way through, marmite sandwiches are bloody fantastic. Taylor Pass Honey thank you so much for the fuel, you guys are awesome! @taylorpasshoney #taylorpasshoney #BeeWildStayPureNourishLife #TasteoftheUntouchedSouth

Ultra all sorts

A pre sunrise departure from Taupo across the lake made for a beaut start for a gruelling day that was awaiting. Snow clad Mt Ruapehu greeted us on the horizon as the sun came up, and in the foreground Lake Taupo sparkled under the clear blue sky.

Pulling into Kotukutuku Bay a shade after 7.30am was like setting foot in a race start looking nothing less than paradise; a tiny wee beach big enough for about 40 people- our entire race contingent, for the 74km run.

8am and the hooter went. 4km uphill trail to kick start the day, then we hung a right and pretty much ran around the lake back to Whakaipo Bay, all inclusive of a 2000m ascent, and some hefty descents chucked into the mix. (Money back guarantee.)

Unfortunately my calf, which was heavily strapped, decided to ping a mere 2km into it all.

Less than ideal.

And then I rolled my ankle, same leg. Great, everything obviously was not going to plan.

Oh, and that annoying guy behind you, who, as you roll your ankle and almost kiss the dirt, blurts out ‘Oh no!! Ah well, that’ll be the first of many!!”.. LET HIM PASS YOU, his five cent comments are only going to worsen…

Within half a second this race was all about the complete, not the compete. It’s a massive mind shift, and exhausting.

Shifting your goal posts a few metres as they say, (mine were shifted from let’s say Eden Park to Carisbrook Stadium…)

Needless to say, the first 15 km sucked big time, despite the beautiful surroundings of farmland and trails, and that big giant lake. (Singapore can fit into Lake Taupo, by the way. I was told that on the boat ride. #funfactanditsnotevenfriday

I was so very close to pulling out at one stage, but managed to get my head around the pain management side of things….power walk the uphill, shuffle/manage the flats, and thankfully, hammer the downhill.

So long as I had forward momentum and I was meeting the compulsory cut off times, I really had no excuse to pull pin. And I wasn’t last!!

And justifying a DNF to your mates would probably be worse than this pain. A case of a lesser of two evils.

Anyway, Richie McCaw played the Rugby World Cup final with a broken foot, so none of us have any excuses.

Luckily, the middle 25km section was lots of downhill on trail, so the groove was regathered, a reminder of why we love this stupid sport.

Awesome atmosphere, heaps of banter, never knew marmite sandwiches could taste so good.

At the 50km mark at Kinloch, despite the doctor’s orders the evening before at the race briefing, at the aid station I really tried to sweet talk to medic into flicking me an anti-flamme or two, this calf business wasn’t pretty. He frowned at me, then got on the blower to the doctor to check, and this happened:

“I can give you some pain killers?”

“I’ve been taking lots of them already.”

“Well Tom the doctor said if they’re not keeping on top of your pain, then perhaps you should pull out of the race.”


“There is. NO way. I’m pulling out now. Thank you.” And off I hobbled/walked/jogged, whatever the hell you call it after 7.5hrs of this when you still have a gnarly 24km hilly section to go.

By the way, sore heels is the worst!! I never knew it was actually a thing??!!

Luckily soon after another runner on the course hooked me up with some great little anti flammes, enough to get me to the end.

Just before 7.30pm as the sun dipped behind the mountains, I crossed the finish line, running!! Cracka.

11hr20mins, she was a fair old day out there.

Moral of this story;

When you find yourself saying almost outloud to yourself- ‘Gosh those cows are in great condition!!’ you know you’re doing your best to distract yourself from the hell you’re currently enduring..(they were really healthy looking cows though..)

Always be polite to medics, they may have to scrape you off the floor at some stage.

Take your anti flammes in your survival pack anyway, (they may get you to the finish line) Just hope the whole kidney failure thing the doctor spoke about actually isn’t a thing….

ULTRA TRAIL RUNNING Fresh Trails Mac Mac Ultra 100 miler. South Africa

May 28, 2019

When the runners are away, the media will play… “Keen for a bit of a hike up Mt Anderson this afternoon?” asks the photo/video guy. “Yea for sure,” replies the kiwi… A 12 hour mission of steep hiking, tough 4WD’ing in a non-4WD van, 🤣 epic sights, wonderful people, cockle-warming whisky, jaffles, guitar jams and great yarns….. And Mac Mac pools in the morning! Fun adventure times at the weekend with Arlo van Heerden, getting a few extra snaps as we captured the action of the brave and daring runners at MAC MAC ULTRA

Phonix Capture cc – Professional Photography and Videography KeyHealth Nevarest Team #goodbetterbest

A1 SERIES Gariep Dam. South Africa

June 16, 2019

Bumbling around media crewing at the #A1series A1 Adventure Racing Series this weekend, smack bang in the middle of South Africa; where the Free State meets the Eastern Cape meets the Northern Cape.. Eish man it was f🤐🤐king fr🥶🥶zing!! Dot watching the map and getting amongst the action as #TeamNevarest endured 30 plus hours on foot, boat and bike, churning it out in -8deg temps. Old Brown Sherry (OBS) helps warm the cockles at breakfast time, while seeing ostrich, wildebeest, zebra and springbok en route is always lekker fun. What a top effort by all athletes as they endured the elements. Awesome stuff Adrian Vincent Saffy and Castle Lite Adventure Racing Team for putting on such a great show. #A1racing #goodbetterbest KeyHealth Nevarest Team

Check out my write up here.


A1 SERIES Loskop Dam. South Africa

July 15, 2019.

So there was this one particular bridge….

Kiwis call it a Swing Bridge. In South Africa, a Hang Bridge. And I tell you now, take their advice and hang on. Tight.

You know the hang bridge is living up to its name when the leopard spore near the bridge poses less of a deadly threat than the wooden rotten planks you’ve just walked across, encompassing a splendid bird’s eye view of the river bed below, between the misplaced boards that is. (This property boasted the most dense population of leopard in the world, part of a rehab programme.)

With Team Nevarest; hosted a National Series A1 Adventure Race, and media crewed the action – a delicious recipe for organised chaos.

I had the edgy pleasure of returning to the gorge the following day, where the kloofing leg had taken place, to take down the check point, which was tied to the bridge. As I snipped the cable ties to release the sign, hanging on as the bridge swung, a part of me wanted to leave the sign there to aid in the structural stability, although the foot boards were rotting at a great rate so they will give way first I’d imagine.


Rural Mpumalanga; among crop fields, cattle, gorges, a big dam, dung beetles, baboons, the roar of the lions, and hilarious warthog. Because when are warthogs not hilarious?

“Make sure you close the gate properly at CP27, because the rhinos can open the gate.” That’s Adventure Racing in South Africa in a nutshell. And the hippos did actually show face when the athletes had finished their final paddle leg, a mid Sunday morning nonchalant casual “ja ne we chose not to eat you this weekend…”

(Ja ne- kiwi equivalent to ‘yeah-nah’ ie yes/no/maybe- do not commit.)

The Afrikaans language is known for its direct ways, and the sign next to the kettle above the fire was no different. ‘Use this water. Make the fire dead when you finish.’ (or something along those lines..)

Lack of sleep does catch up eventually; Mid Sunday afternoon while re routing the course to take down the CP signs, we pulled up to the farm we’d be hiking around and I got out to open the gate. No word of a lie, I turned around 20 seconds later and the guy behind the wheel was fast asleep. Wow.. impressive. Not having the heart to wake him, I lay down on the warm grass next to the gate, agreeing a nap was a good idea. A quick shut eye for 5 minutes, and we were recharged and back into it.

A top weekend, and getting pretty much zero sleep is a small price to pay for the awesome sights and places, seeing the brave displays from the athletes, and all the gifted nuggets of mad magic that go with this adventuring world.


Check out my write up here.