As I remember it (possibly missing out many details or getting things completely wrong):
It was a bright and early start for me on Saturday, waking at 6.30am to get some breakfast in, load up the truck and head off to Bethunes Gully. Unfortunately I was operating on 5.5 hours sleep after being bullied into drinking a couple of pints by Steve Tripp. Of course this was also followed by me going home to watch Jeremy Kyle youtube videos to 1am.
Needless to say, I arrived late at Bethunes Gully but not before stopping off at Grid for a delicious soy flat white. Already there was Brent Knox, eagerly anticipating running in his first ultra since last decade some time.
Soon Nolan, Steve and everyone else arrived but it still felt like a mad rush to get everything ready on time for the 10am start. I barely had time to rush to the toilet to grease myself up with Gurney Goo before I had to pose with everyone whilst the ODT took a photo of Steve tying up the shoelaces on his sandals. Plus I had to squeeze in a race briefing.
After the race briefing, we lined up ready to start. I looked around me at the tremendous field of athletes surrounding me. Edendale’s premier ultra-running tulip grower, Ruud Verplancke, Stefan Rapley – the only person ever to defend the wooden spoon at Naseby, Adam Keen, Brent Knox, Steve Tripp……. Someone was missing, it was Isaac Tripp. Not to worry though he arrived in a cloud of dust, just the nick of time to throw his shoes on and join us for the fast paced first ascent of Mt Cargill.
Despite only being 10am, it was already fairly warm but that isn’t unusual for Dunedin and I was sweating disturbingly. It’s a lovely little jaunt up Mt Cargill, until you hit the Stairway to Hell just before the summit. Even on this first ascent everybody was complaining about how much those steps sucked. Luckily for me I was going to be taking things pretty easy after the year I’ve had, and take more of a supporting role. I pitied the others who would be going for the full 24 hrs.
Of course on this first ascent everyone seemed to be in a reasonably friendly and chatty mood, but we all knew that would change. Everyone was also reasonably close together too, we knew that would change too. At this early stage of the race it was Isaac leading, obviously still in a hurry since jumping out of his car.
Not long after most of us had finished our first ascent, we were overtaken by the Christmas Cracker crowd, vying to set a course record. As a group they probably actually won some record for the highest ratio of topless runners. Needless to say, they were all running faster than us. Obviously ditching the tops saved on weight and allowed Geoff Williamson to smash a new course record, followed close behind by Jonah Smith who had tripped up on possibly one of the tamer sections of the course, going uphill.
I figured I had another ascent in me before I took an extended break and almost as soon as I set out on ascent #2 I was questioning my choice. Nevermind that though, I got the job done but probably 10 minutes slower than the first time.
By this stage the Grid coffee cart was in action and there was a bit of a crowd down at Bethunes. I was looking forward to that coffee and Shell Cobby the volunteer barista did a fantastic job of making me my second coffee of the day. Now it was time to relax and watch everyone hurting themselves.
While Isaac might have been the early leader, than soon changed. I believe Isaac may have buggered his knee. I was sure that his training regime of a parkrun every couple of months would make him a contender. Anyway he eventually hobbled out of the race after 3 laps, although he did return the following morning for a 4th ascent with his dad.
Meanwhile our H&S officer and DCC liaison Nolan Hill was obviously very concerned with everyone running in the heat and had arranged for a couple of water pistols to be used to hydrate the runners as they finished their laps. I have a feeling that will become an event tradition, it was greatly appreciated.
As I was enjoying another Grid coffee flat white, Zoe turned up and wanted to drag me up the hill for another ascent. I wasn’t too keen but she was persuasive and off I went. I was slow but there were others doing great things out on Mt Cargill. Adam was smashing it, but only stuck around for six laps. Before the race had even started he had made the bold statement that this was already his favourite event. Maybe he’ll be back next year and stick around a while longer.
When the coffee cart was retired for the day, Shell decided she might join the guys for a few ascents. Well that’s what I thought anyway. Friends and supporters had been turning up and running the odd ascent throughout the event and I thought that was what Shell was doing. Turns out she was in for the long haul as she bagged ascent after ascent in what would turn out to be her longest run ever.
As day turned into night the runners continued their crushing of Mt Cargill. The rest breaks tended to get longer and longer. Isaac took an extended restbreak at his flat. I went up for another ascent just before darkness. On the way down I passed Shell going up and asked her if she had her headtorch in her pack. She replied she would grab it on her next ascent. Good thing she did because she was running in the dark when she arrived back at base camp.
Running up and down Mt Cargill for 24 hours can be hard work, but 12 hours can be hard as well. It was somewhere around this time or maybe a bit later that Brent decided to pull the pin, having run over 50km. It was a mighty achievement and I hope he comes back for more next year.
Around midnight I thought it best that maybe everyone could do with a bit of a pick me up when they got to the summit. Kind of stealing an idea off Grant Guise at Kepler, I took a bottle of tequila that had been sitting in my pantry for 4 years to share.
Now just before, I mentioned that running up and down Mt Cargill is hard work and was certainly taking its toll. I was particularly concerned for Stefan Rapley. Stefan is the kind of guy that can turn up at the Queenstown marathon after working all night and only getting two hours sleep. He is also the only person who has ever defended the wooden spoon at Naseby. He is a guy that knows how to grind out a race. But here I was worried about him because he was having hallucinations. Stefan reported having stood on a seal and also having seen a swarm of jelly fish. Even when I met him with tequila on the summit he thought I was wearing a reindeer themed mankini.
Not long after Stefan left the summit I was met by a horde (4 or 5) of other runners, none of whom saw me wearing a reindeer mankini. They did enjoy the tequila though, especially Steve and Shell.
After I returned to Bethunes Gully after a couple of hours on the summit, I retired to the couch with Nolan’s dog Luka. Nolan had taken a nap and Left Wendy in charge of the camp. Ruud was also back at basecamp, having a sleep in his van. I must have been fairly tired because I fell asleep and didn’t even wake when Croydon Paton turned up and shined his headtorch in my face.
It all gets a bit blurry around this time. Shell finally pulled out after having done 6 ascents. I think she may have said this was her longest single run to date, but it was long enough for her to be crowned the Crush the Cargill womens champ. Shell had actually missed the race briefing about having to touch the trig on her first three summits, so as penance she had to do three extra sprints at the top plus burpees.
Finally sometime around dawn Steve arrived back at base camp after 11 ascents and decided he needed to have a nap. Earlier in the week Steve had boldly claimed in the local print media that he would most definitely summit 12 times. He could afford to take a nap for 30 minutes and still have plenty of time for those twelve ascents.
30 minutes later I woke Steve for his final ascent. Joining Steve was Nolan, Jenna and Luka. Luka and Jenna ended up being joint Cargill Crusher Canine Challenge with 3 ascents each.
Stefan had finally retired from the race but not before bagging 10 ascents. Miraculously though Ruud had risen from the dead and was going up one last time. Accompanying him was myself and Matt Hamblett, who had driven up all the way from Invercargill after work to run through the night. I’m sure that Ruud appreciated our support and chants of “Lets do this!”
Somewhere up Mt Cargill Steve was also enjoying Nolan’s company as they were having a sing along. Apparently Nolan was just making up weird songs whilst Steve was singing Bob Dylan songs and 10 green bottles.
But all singalongs must come to an end and so did Steves run with time to spare. He wouldn’t be going out for a 13th ascent. But 12 was enough to claim a world record for most ascents of Mt Cargill in 24 hours. Not long after that Ruud followed behind with a bloody knee. The race was over and Steve and Shell were crowned the inaugural champions.