RUNNING THE HILLARY TRACK
With only one month preparation
By Ciaran Regan
Completing the 75km Hillary Track on the
edge of Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges, with the second fastest time ever, is no easy feat.
Chris Bachmann, a 30-year-old from Germany has now lived in New Zealand for more than three years. The idea to run the Hillary Track came from a running friend of his during a conversation in November 2012 and from then the idea was stuck in his head.
“We were only chatting about long distance running, of f road running and then we accidentally talked about the Hillar y Track. It was more small talk.”
Chris is already an athlete who likes to push his abilities beyond his limits, whether in the gym or on the track. His dad was a passionate runner and began coaching Chris in long distance running from the age of ten. At 17 Chris became German Junior Champion at the marathon championships in Duisburg with a time of 3.09 hours.
Ten years after his second marathon Chris decided to get back into long distance running and competed at the end of October 2012 in the Auckland Marathon coming 86th overall; then four weeks later his very first of f road race and marathon, the West Coaster, coming 5th: “I felt good on those two races and I thought, what else is possible? I wanted to keep pushing my limits.”
Only a few weeks after that race, the idea was born to run the whole Hillary Track at the end of summer.
At the beginning of March 2013 Chris was lucky enough to find a running partner in Sindre Stoten. Meeting through a friend, Sindre had arrived in New Zealand only a few weeks prior. Sindre was born and raised in Norway. At 20 years old he had proven to be one of the best crosscountry runners in Scandinavia. He is now studying to be a chiroprac tor at Auckland University of Technology.
Within a few days of meeting each other they began training. They had only four weeks to get to peak level for their big day. During weekends they would go over to the Waitakeres to run and get to know this beautiful but demanding track. Their runs lasted between 1.30 and 3.30 hours, covering 15km to 25km. Sometimes they were accompanied by running friends who were able to help them get used to
the refueling process needed for ultra-marathons.
They were able to test their level of fitness by running the Dual on Rangitoto. Three weeks before the big race, they both finished in the top 10 in under-four hours.
After a week of tapering and full of excitement, the big day arrived, they picked Sunday the 14th of April. A supporting team was already organized to bring them to the star ting point at 5.30am at the Arataki Visitor Center and then to cheer for them at the different road crossings and beaches, over the course of the race.
It took near 20 minutes before daylight kicked in but, Chris and Sindre were fully confident not only to complete the Hillar y Track, but to break the track record of 9.09 hours.
The weather conditions were perfect, a cloudy sunny mix and just over 20 degrees – the track was dry after a sunny week.
They set the right pace and were even faster on the first 1.30 hour, but after two hours Sindre unfortunately started to struggle with stomach issues. He then had to pull out of the race at Karekare just after the four-hour mark. “I felt really sorry for Sindre because he was so excited about the race and he really wwanted to ccomplete it. BBut he had tto stop bbecause we ddid not want to take any ririsks. I can’t fifind the wwords to ththank him.”
So that was when Chris had to run by himself to Anawhata Road, where he was meant to meet his organized pacemaker, Richard.
After getting lost with Sindre earlier in the race for 15 minutes, Chris made a second huge mistake, Chris turned left into Anawhata Road after 6.30 hours losing about 20 more minutes, but the track record was still reachable.
“When I arrived at the bottom of the carpark just before Anawhata Beach, I knew straight away that I was wrong here and I turned around. What else can you do?”
But the fif th big hill, the biggest of the track, leading to the summit at Kuataika, got him completely. He lost a lot of time. His pace and strength was diminishing and he experienced his first and only energy low right after arriving at the bottom at Wainamu Lake.
Chris managed to lose another 10 minutes finding the track before the beautiful waterfalls.
The track record was dramatically gone, but Chris had promised himself to complete the race with a very fast time regardless of not having had much preparation.
At Bethels Beach more friends were cheering for him and his pacemaker and friend Richard were ready to get him over the last two hills and 15km.
“It was good finally seeing my friends after so long – it felt like ages. They gave me back my smile and motivated me a lot. Without them and Richard I would have slowed down a lot at the end!”
Chris completed the whole Hillary Track in tears of happiness at 4.23pm, with a finish time of an incredible 10.23 hours. Had he not lost those 45-minutes earlier in the run, he would have run the second fastest time ever on that track. A very brave and strong performance – for a first ultra-marathon.
After the race Chris was happy and proud of his supporting team who did such an amazing job, cheering for him over the 10.23 hours.
“This run was epic and the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. The Hillar y Track is the most beautiful track in New Zealand for me and I enjoyed every minute even though it got quite tough at the end.”
Afterwards the whole team went to a friend’s place in Muriwai to enjoy a well-deserved barbecue.
Chris is a motivational coach and personal trainer at Altitude Fitness in Newmarket. He believes there will be more challenges coming up, but more importantly wants to inspire others to push their limitsas well.
Running the Hillary Track was the hardest thing Chris has ever
done in his life.
Chris [fourth on right] with his support team at theMuriwai finish.
Exhausted in Muriwai: Chris completed the Hillary Track with a time of 10.23 hours.