Craig Martin – Journey From Show Jumpers to Ironman


 14 December 2017     No Comments

Born and raised in New Zealand, Craig Martin was exposed to the horse world as a child, through his Grandfather, who was a competitive race jockey and Inter Dominion winner. 

“I was always hanging around his horses and stables. My Grandfather was a real horseman,” says Craig, Co-Founder or Wordley Martin and sales manager with Wellington Equestrian Realty (WER). “That’s what I built my whole riding career on – through his example of horsemanship.”

Craig Martin worked and trained in Europe for more than a decade with some of the best in the business, including Tim Stockdale, Barry Taylor, and William Funnel. He has brought horses up through the levels from youngsters to the Grand Prix ring. In 2003, Craig moved to the U.S.A and continued to compete and coach at most of the major North American competitions, including the Winter Equestrian Festival and Spruce Meadows. In 2004 he was long listed for the Athens Olympics, and shortly there-after he arrived in Wellington and has remained ever since.

In 2006, he founded Wordley Martin Equestrian with fellow show jumper Sharn Wordley, specializing in arena construction and site work. Wordley Martin Premium Equestrian Surfaces provides arena architecture, construction, installation, custom footing & related facility products.  Wordley Martin Equestrian continues to be one of the top arena construction companies designing premium performance horse riding rings in North America.

This equestrian focused construction business gave Craig a unique perspective of the Florida horse related real estate market, and in 2013 Craig became a valuable member of the Wellington Equestrian Realty team, marketing horse properties in Palm Beach County.

Craig clearly has a very busy professional life, which only allows him to ride recreationally, but he enjoys remaining connected to the horse industry. Craig’s wife, Rae Marie, also competes as an amateur show jumper and works in equine medicine for Palm Beach Equine Medical Centers. 

“Horses have been a passion all of my life and now that I’m not actively competing, taking part of an equestrian related business keeps me very connected to the horse industry,” Craig says.

“I enjoy being around horse people and with my background I understand their needs when building arenas or searching for farm or luxury property. Finding a client their dream home in Palm Beach County or renovating and improving their existing property is a privilege and I enjoy the process.”

Craig competing in Clermont Ironman Triathlon

Craig has transitioned his competitive ambition in the show ring to training intensely for national and international Iron Man triathlons, which consist of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles. Most recently, he traveled to Argentina to take part in one of the most grueling races in the world, RacingThePlanet Patagonia.

RacingThePlanet Patagonia is a 7-day, 250-kilometer/155-mile self-supported footrace which takes place in Bariloche, Argentina. The course landscape, located on the border between Argentina and Chile, is like no other; there are ancient forests, pristine blue mountain lakes, high plateaus, river valleys, peaks of the Andes Mountain Range and an extinct volcano. In addition to the vast topography, the brutal cold and wild weather conditions tested each racer’s resolve.

His journal of this grueling race is below.

RacingThePlanet Patagonia – Diary of an Adrynalyne Junkie by Craig Martin

Camp Day 1

We left the Race Hotel at 3pm and loaded up on buses for a 1.30hr trip to the camp which would be the start of Stage 1 the following morning. Race organizers had competitors load up into rafts for a quick paddle across a river to reach camp which is pictured below.
Tents where assigned to all race competitors ahead of time and we where lucky enough to have only 6 tent mates in our tent (others had 8). 1 Kiwi, 3 Yanks, and 2 Poms made for some interesting tent banter!  

Race support staff packed up the tents and set up camps for each Stage throughout the week.

Basecamp

Stage 1 – Setting The Pace
 

Awaking at 5am for race prep after my first nite of restless sleep (It had dipped into the low 30’s over night and early morning) I was apprehensive but excited to get on with it. Chip my training partner and I had planned to run this race together as we had trained together, but both of us being incredibly competitive agreed if we got split up we would run our own race. I had trained hard for a year for this race, I was not just showing up I was there to give it my best.

Chip set off at his usual quick pace, getting left behind I set into my own pace and caught up with him on an incline section around mile 16. This particular incline section was up and over a mountain with no tracks so the going was tough. Picking your footing was key and I helped navigate and lead Chip for approximately 1000 feet of incline until we separated and then I was again on my own.

It was amazing with 289 starters spread out throughout the course how you would be on your own then at times would run past people or vice versa. Finishing Stage 1 in 5 hours 16 minutes I felt incredibly happy and knew my hard training had paid off. Lisa Batchen Smith world renown Ultra coach and Rich Wygand my Ironman coach had prepared my body well.

Stage 2 – Running My Own Race

Racing today with one stage under the belt we awoke to a sunny beautiful morning in Patagonia. Today’s stage the elevation gain was the flattest of the entire race. Chip had the `bit between his teeth’ and set off at a blistering pace again leaving me in the dust.

Knowing I couldn’t hold Chip’s pace I again ran my own race, along the way I met Willy a geologist from NZ who was a wiry tough ole bastard and we exchanged pleasantries with a typical kiwi male ‘gidday mate’ gritting our teeth as we had both been pushing hard.

The last phase of this run into camp was along a deserted railway line so we had 6 miles of running on tracks and over bridges crossing rivers into strong head winds gusting 30 mph it was far from a walk in the park. Finishing in 3 hours  41 mins just 10 mins behind Chip I was content and in need of some recovery. Camp was at an old abandoned railway depot and quickly the weather turned as it tends to do it Patagonia, windy and cold conditions made for an early retreat to the tents.”

Craig, Chip & Willy

Stage 3 – Managing Strain and Fatigue

By far the coldest night we had it was below freezing I awoke wondering what the hell I had signed up for. Competing in Ironman races I had finished in under 12 hours….. this type of racing was a whole other kettle of fish. I had been encouraged to participate in this race by Chip, who in turn had been persuaded by Mark Power an Aussie and for sure a mate for life. Mark & I hit it off immediately both of us with a similar passion of pushing the limits! 
My race day strategy was all about getting through this stage with the least amount of strain and fatigue and with the long march right around the corner in 2 days time this race was along way from over. Finishing in 4 hours 8 mins I was keen to get my feet elevated and food in the belly. This type of racing is all about recovery so the next day you can be as fresh as possible!

Stage 4 – Extreme Conditions Set In

Due to extreme cold conditions and high rainfall, race organizers changed the course on Day 4. We had been running through rivers waist deep at times so far on each of the stages. Each competitor choosing there own way to cross the rivers, some used the buddy system and linked arms to combat the strong currents, some of the river crossings, race organizers had ropes across the river for you to hold preventing you getting sweep down stream.

I had read back at the Race Hotel prior to the start the various stage descriptions….. It described elevation gains and losses, single track or off track river crossings etc… Not quite sure what to expect when they said river crossings optimistically thinking they may have been streams I could hop or jump over so not to get my feet wet I was in for a shock. Running with wet shoes after waddling through waist high water in the 30’s is lets just say not fun.

Finishing in 3 hours, 15mins I was in the top 20. At the finish line we where to be transported in buses and 4×4’s to the next camp due to the change in course I quickly jumped into a Land Rover Defender with 5 other runners for a 2 hour road trip to the next Camp.

Stage 5 – The Long March

All different types of people from 49 countries around the world had signed up for `Racing the Planet Patagonia 2017’. The Long March is just that, 45 miles of the toughest terrain competitors had yet to encounter. Lisa, my coach, had told Chip & myself it’s all about `The long day’.

I had been strategic in the stages leading up to today and felt a level of calmness. It was a strange feeling, as the furthest I had run in my life was 35 miles. Today I was going to run with my mate Chip. Chip is an elite ultra runner having completed Badwater 135, the toughest race on the planet. These distance’s are in his wheelhouse, I needed to have his experience around me. The weather was cold in the 30’s, wet (it had been raining all night) lets just say……..conditions for the long march had magnified themselves immensely!!

Steve (the Doc), Chip and myself set off with the runners. Our plan was to work together to be smart, as it was going to be a long day. Steve, after racing with us for the first 8 miles, decided to drop it down a notch and encouraged Chip and myself to push on. The rain was relentless and with constantly changing terrain from single track to off track the elevation gains where everything the course description said- EXTREME. Each phase of the race was broken down into MODERATE/HARD and EXTREME. Day 1 we had had some phases of EXTREME. 

Stage 5 had the most EXTREME sections of the whole race, this combined with the coldest wettest conditions so far it made for a tough day at the office. 7+ hours into the race I was feeling ok but fatigue was setting in, my body was saying enough. It’s a strange thing how one minute you feel completely depleted then the next your feeling better. Sports psychologists talk about the `five second rule’ when you hit the wall basically your mind needs to tell the body to get going within 5 seconds or your mind can let you weaken.

Pain is something I became familiar with in my Ironman training and competitions. I have completed an Ironman with stress fractures in my feet. Pain is something I have learned to deal with so when my body wants to shut it all down I know how to push through. 

Luckily enough during this race I was able to achieve this again, the last 10 miles with sleeting rain and horrible cold conditions Chip & I pushed our bodies to the max…..passing 7 runners we finished in very respectable time of 9 hours 43 minutes.

I was glad to be done, freezing cold and struggling to maintain control of my body temperature I knew quickly I had to get out of wet clothes, get dry and warm. Getting out of the rain into the tent and my sleeping bag I stayed there for the next 3 hours to get my body temperature up and back in order.

Another cold night in the 30’s I was pleased to see the sun had come up for the rest day before the final last run!
 
Stage 6 – Final run to Black Glacier / Cerro Tronador

With another cold night I could not wait for the morning to roll around. My body was tight and tired in the sleeping bag and I was hungry, having a limited calorie intake during the week I was looking forward to getting back to civilization and having a steak & beer!! During the rest day we all sat around a camp fire discussing what we all where going to eat on our return to Bariloche!! 

5.30 am was the start of the last stretch which was a short run up to Black Glacier. I was determined not to lose my overall Stage 5 20th position during this last leg. The short distance was still a test as we ran uphill to Black Glacier the whole way. I ran as fast as I could, being careful not to fall over, sprain an ankle or do something stupid…..hearing the familiar sounds of the Finish line drums beating that occurred at every stage finish I started to smile.   Making the last incline turn I crossed over the `Final Official Timing line’ in a total of 26 hours 47 mins for this 145 mile race. Picking up one spot on this last day running ahead of a South African chap I finished overall in 19th place from 289 runners as they say it’s not over till the fat lady sings:)

Race organizers had set up the finishing timeline just before the decline down some steps to where they had the `Racing the Planet Banner’ with all the Competitors Nation’s flags flying at the edge of Black Glacier.

I waited for Steve and Chip to get to the timing line, the race was over…….. then we all walked down the steps and jogged over the finish together.

Craig Crossing the Finish Line @RacingThePlanet, Photo Credit Zandy Mangold

Cold beer and cold pizza was offered to Competitors…..thinking this would be enjoyable it was so cold by the glacier it was tough to digest anything. We all took some pictures and loaded up on the bus for the 1.30 hour ride back to Bariloche where we all knew a long awaited shower and hot food was there!!

I met some incredible people on this adventure which will be life time mates for sure. Would I do a race again like this, I’m not sure…..doing a race like this in extreme conditions tests your mental resolve. 

Personally I have to be constantly seeking new adventures in life making me push harder, even at times failing in order to feel alive. Endurance sports have made me better at managing life’s little hurdles, whether family or business related I know that the stronger my body is it’s easy for my mind to deal with the daily pressures of work and life.

Next adventure…… not sure just yet , but I’m certain with the new adventure junkies I met in Patagonia there will be something on the cards in 2018!!   

Craig, The Dark Horse, Enjoying Beers Post Race w Mates






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