The Hardrock Diaries – scare on scree

Kiwi Grant Guise has been using the mountains of Wanaka as a training ground for what he faces at Hardrock in coming weeks… his training regime is gruelling by any measure, but with a flight to States and the realities of Colorado hitting home, he ruminates on the past few weeks’ preparation which had its scares.


Guise on Alpha, out back of Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand – good Hardrock training territory. Credit Pete Barham

My “Camp Hardrock” is done and dusted, and I am licking my wounds… I said in my first post about how my 200km “crash week” wouldn’t be the breaking of my Hardrock prep, but could be the “making” of it. Well, it was the breaking of me….

It was a wonderfully fatiguing time spend in Wanaka and Queenstown, with minimal nights spent sleeping in my van and maximal vertical accumulated.

By the fourth day after a very social Mt Difficulty Ascent I decided to head for home, with an extra night in my own bed and breakfast with the family winning out over more steep vert.

By mid morning, with 150km and 11,000 meters of vert in my legs from the previous four days, I was rolling up the Leith Valley with my sights set on Swampy and Flagstaff summits. Around 10km in, on cruise control along Swampy Ridge, I was feeling surprisingly good. I was excited by how good things felt, by how strong and durable I was feeling. Oh, how short lived this was……

Descending off Flagstaff like I have so many times before a pain arose in my left shin. No biggie, it was short lived and I kept on descending. It of course quickly returned and this time a lot sharper and more painful. At first, I chopped my step and tried to run through it, still very my in denial, before halting to a stop, with a drawn out “ohhhh fuuccckkk” silently leaving my mouth.


A quick self-assessment ruled out any sort of stress fracture- tendon and/or muscle I guess….. I limped on, as the little world in my little head started to crumble in. Back home I started downing ibuprofen like Skittles, massaging and icing the shin. “How, what and why” was playing over and over in the left-over rubble of my little head.

Luckily, Dunedin has some slick massage-physio types and I could get some great treatment from Geoff at Muscle Works and Mitch at Kinetic Health. Tight, overworked lower leg muscles, and an inflamed muscle-tendon on the shin was the cause of the pain, which I can gladly report has calmed down greatly after a few days of rest and treatment. After a few days I even enjoyed a pain free jog.

I am not sure what to call this little episode. It was certainly not what I was expecting to be writing about. It’s the first time in a very long time I have failed in training and not run because of pain/injury. I have prided myself on not getting injured and for handling big training blocks. I am for the most part, what I would consider, a “low mileage guy”. My week in, week out totals are not big. I love running, as long as I don’t do too much of it. Focusing on quality and keeping it fresh, as well as giving my growing family and business the time and support it needs are far bigger priority’s in life than a yearly total on Strava.

But when it needs to be done, for a short period, I love fully indulging myself and pigging out on day long affairs in the mountains. Racking up, what are for me, big miles and vertical gain. The strength and more importantly the confidence that comes from this is empowering. Not achieving the weeks goal can have the opposite effect and not hitting the target because of an injury can be crushing.


I tell folks – those folks that are foolish enough to ask me for advice – that an ultra-marathon is just a giant problem-solving game. I am a slow thinker, so I guess that could be why I am drawn to the slower games that mountain ultras offer, rather than the on the fly thinking that a race like the Kepler presents. I had to tell myself at the start of the week that training can be a game in problem solving also. Excepting there is an issue, assessing it and making a plan on how to move forward and fix said issue are all things an experienced and successful ultra-runner (and people for that matter) do on the fly, mid race, in the heat of battle.

In a race, I feel I am pretty adaptable and good dealing with issues. If anything, I just don’t let things be an issue- I don’t stress about a last minute course change, if my preferred flavour of potato chips are not at the aid station or if my support crew is a not show- I’ll just roll on. Stress is a great waster of energy and steals focuses on what matters, which is what you can control.

BUT this – a show stopping injury. It robbed energy and focuses and had me stressing, until I looked at it the way I would if it was a midrace issue. Except, assess and move forward.

In two weeks, I won’t be worried about the 2 days, 25km and a couple 1000 meters of vertical that was missed. The shin is coming right, as is my bruised ego from not being able to look at that seven day block on my “moves count”.


So, the week that wasn’t – my 200km week, turned into 5 days, here’s how it looked:

Day one- Roys Peak, Alpha, Spots Creek out and back, Wanaka- 39km and 3215mD+ over trails I know well. Pete, on his own Mt Difficulty “anti-tapper” joined me for the back half.

Day two- Double Ben Lomand, Queenstown- 28km, 2870mD+. I love BL- it is an epic peak right out of Queenstown and it always leaves me wanted more, but not today! I was joined by Bernard, who is returning to UTMB this year, for both laps.

Day three- Gladstone- Grandview- Breast Hill- Gladstone loop, Lake Hawea- 39km, 2242mD+. A wonderful solo lap above lake Hawea.

Day four- Mt Difficulty Ascent Marathon- 43km, 3000mD+. Always a good time at a Terry and Ed event and a super social run. Stoked to still manage 6hr30 and finish feeling strong.

Day five- Swampy and Flagstaff- 25km, 1200mD+. A fun lap of the local hills around Dunedin.

Totals- 28hrs, 176km, 12,600mD+ and lots of fun!


Out of interest, TRM’s editor, Chris, also asked if I might touch on some of the gear I am using for Hardrock also (cause we are all gear heads at heart)…

AFM1759F_BlueAltra yeah, I am the Altra distributor in New Zealand, so you might think this is one sided. But running 100miles is hard! I wouldn’t make it harder on myself by running in crap shoes!

Altra Olympus 2.0/2.5Like last year, I will likely again run Hardrock in the Altra Olympus shoe. It’s a max cushion, Vibram MegaGrip beast. They could rename this thing the “Hardrock”- it’s a great option for long, gnarly mountain races. I have done most my training in the 2.0, but the 2.5 version has just landed. The FootShape toebox and Max cushion make for max comfort and this shoe shas never let me down!

AXU16604Other Altra favourites are the new Racing Hat and Arm Warmers. As a pasty kid from the bottom of the world, I get dealt to by the sun, so the arm warmers are as much for sun protection in the high mountains as anything. And the minimal Racing Cap is perfect for keep sun off your face, but not blocking your view of technical trails.

Screenshot 2017-06-26 21.38.43On the topic of sun – can’t forget your eyes, especially at altitude where the UV is stronger. Julbo Eyewear AERO glasses with Photochromatic ZEBRA lens will be on my dome for the best part of 24hrs. Super lightweight and with the changing lens, these are great for high peaks and in and out of tree covered trail.