Jacob Lamont tells his tale of survival on the Northburn 100...
Run all of NB100? Yeah right! The Northburn 100 for ultra runner mere mortals like us is in fact, One Hundred and Sixty One kilometres of hiking and what we like to call an ultra-run/shuffle. I say we, because I do these races with my partner Jen (sometimes reluctantly on her part). So here is the lowdown on feeling the burn at the Northburn.
Northburn Station is situated next to Lake Dunstan, about 5 minutes from Cromwell and is a favourite area of ours. Northburn (NB) the race is not new to us, we’ve been here many times doing the 50km and our first 100km... but a 100 miler is a different beast. The unknown, all we can do is trust our training and see how it pans out.
The race briefing goes down on the Friday night before, where race director Terry tries to scare the s#@t out of the newbie’s. He’s slightly disappointed that the weather looks good for the weekend though… meaning we may miss out on the full NB experience - bleak and nasty weather with insane winds.
We head back to our room afterwards to check our gear and drop bag. Now it's time to try and get some sleep.
Race time is 6am Saturday but is slightly delayed with GPS trackers being checked and so on... everyone is bunched around the start line, you can feel the nervous energy. Countdown... we’re off and running. It's dark at first, so with head lamps glowing in a line snaking up the mountain, we head out on the first 50k loop.
As the sun comes up we’re met with amazing views of the lake and surrounding mountains with clusters of fog the higher we go, perfect running weather with next to no wind. This loop would be the most scenic of the three, later loops you’re in too much of a daze to always enjoy the view.
Jen still going strong on the down hill.
The climb goes on for hours and so does the descent, when you finally get down near base camp they turn you back up hill for the ‘Loop of Deception’ before completing the first 50k. We are mentally prepared, having done this before. We are going well and both feeling good but by now it’s getting hot out.
We run into Base Camp Start/Finish grab supplies and eat some real food, 50k done.
Off we head on loop two, another 50k and 3750m of climbing and we are still feeling good!
It’s quite hot in the valleys now as we head on another massive climb aptly called the ‘Death Climb’ ... and then it happens… somewhere in the middle of the climb my legs start to cramp, cramp like I’ve never had before, so badly I’m down to a crawl and I can’t keep food down now. I felt so mentally and physically strong but now I feel a mess! Jen and I wonder if the race is over for me... so we call Croydon (our pacer for the last loop, he’s done the miler more than once) his advice is to keep moving forward any way I can... "Just make it to TW the main aid station in the mountains, when there, make a decision on what to do". Croydon reminds me, "no one is coming to get you"… I use this mantra and slowly start to feel better heading to the 65k leaning rock aid station. My legs feel damaged but I can run and I feel good again… Jen is still a trooper.
Ouch... feeling tired and sick
TW arrives 68.5k. Hot soup and potatoes… yes… sooo good. We replenish from our drop bag and head off… next climb is Mt Horn 81k.
In the second loop we run/walk with many others at different times sharing our experiences of the race, we even cross paths with the speeders at points on their third lap… incredible… I’m in awe… seeing them race by actually picks me up rather than disheartening me.
We get to Mt Horn… Now it's some descending and a traverse back to Base Camp.
In this loop we meet David from Aussie, we’ve run with him at different times during the race, and hearing about my cramp he gives me some salt tabs. I feel later on they really helped… placebo or not.
I keep feeling stronger but Jen is starting to waver, her feet are feeling very sore and mentally she’s drained. Jen tells me she wants to stop at 100k, at about this time we hear our names being called… It’s our friend Karen here to support us; she’s run out to meet us… it’s so good to see friends. Jen puts on a brave face but is still determined to stop at 100k.
Northburn looking epic... can you pick Jacob and Jen?
I run on to get our stuff ready leaving Jen with Karen. They follow on behind.
100k done. We’re now both at Base Camp Start/Finish, We get a little rest and Jen tapes up her feet, during which everyone convinces her to head back out on the last 60k loop. She's come this far!
Off we go with our awesome pacer Croydon… 60k and 4000m of climbing ahead of us. We will now visit TW a few more times as the final loop is made up of horrible mini missions with names like the ‘loop of despair’ and the ‘water race’… fun times!?!
We now both feel strong on the climbs. Having Croydon with us is invaluable as he’s done this part of the course unlike us. My downhill legs are average but I feel surprisingly good (and I weirdly remain this way the rest of the race).
A spectacular sun set appears, magic.
Finishing the mini loops we head for TW one last time, it's getting dark again so on go the lights… Boom... 142k down... way further than we’ve ever been before. An ‘awesome’ downhill, an uphill to the ‘bicycle wheel’ check point and then one last down to the finish is ahead… we know we’ve got this!
Croydon keeps us moving and entertained by chasing rabbits as we go. Hilarious! Tired and in a slight state of delirium things like rocks, plants and small animals on the course seem weird and distorted under our lights in the dark. The wind picks up in NB fashion as if to say 'I haven't finished with you yet' but we're not too bothered, we're on the home stretch.
As we get near the bottom of the downhill we see a light… its Karen running to meet us again… this picks us up even more. Our little crew of four head for one more climb and then down, it seems never ending.
We finally get to the last few km’s and Jen feels she can pick up the pace but soon realises this may be premature but we keep going, we can smell the finish line.
As we round the final bend we see the finish all lit up, Croydon and Karen run ahead to the line, we can hear a few cheers, it feels like we're sprinting now... at long last Jen and I run over the finish line 43hours 39mins after we started… elation… high fives and hugs… we are in a daze as it barely sinks in we’ve finished... we’ve made it!
I’m overwhelmed with pride for Jen as she’s such a wee battler.
Over the whole race Karen and Croydon updated everyone on our progress on social media… they read out messages of support as we raced… it was amazing and so helpful. We had so much support from them both, also Grant Guise, Terry Davis, other racers and every one of the amazing people on the course and aid stations. It's the community of Ultra runners that make events like this even more special.
Now we need sleep.
10am Monday with sore legs we receive our buckles. It looks like a strange meeting of tired but happy shuffling zombies. 57 finishers in total, massive smiles of achievement everywhere. It’s been real. The best experience ever.
This 100 Miler was achieved by not only by Jen and I but with all the support we received from everyone from family to well wishers.
All smiles, hot and sunny!
Special thanks must go to our sponsors FurtherFaster NZ. Julz & Rocky have been amazing… we feel overwhelmed by their generosity. In this race we used and tested all of our Montane gear to the max and it handled it with ease. A testament to having top gear.
Also credit goes to our coaches at Infinity Fitness & TeamCP.
Lastly... Jen and I would like to share this achievement with our special running family Croydon, Karen, Jenn, Emma, Trudi, Kate, Fleur, Simon and Rob whom we shared many miles of training with to achieve this epic goal.
If asked to sum up the Northburn 100 in two words - ‘Brutally Beautiful’.
Thank you everyone.
On to the next...?
Northburn ‘you don’t race...it you survive it’.
Written by Jacob Lamont. Photos by Croyden and the rad support crew.