OK, this is a little long sorry…
Had a great day Saturday at the Tarawera Ultra 100km in Rotorua! Well it started in Rotorua at least.
It all started with a hiss and a roar in the dark at the Redwoods at 7am on Saturday morning. Kerry Suter and another relay racer took off at what seemed like warp speed, a little pack quickly formed. I’m not sure of everyone in the group at first, but I do know I was really happy we quickly dropped the guy with the talking watch from the five fingers team and at once Dave Heatley put himself way way out in front of the 100k race and we dropped another few folks the “pack” of 4 that I expected was left- Kepler winner Vajin Amrstrong, 20yr old Kristian Day, 2:19 marathoner Sam Wreford and me, the “fat” guy. Seriously, those lads are tiny, I think they must have ice cubes for dinner or something…….
The 4 of us ran together till about the paved road at which point I had always planned on letting Sam and Vajin go. I was kind expecting Kristian to stick with them as well, but he held back and we ran together into the 2nd aid station at Lake Okareka, only about 1min back from Sam and Vajin. At the Miller Rd aid station we passed Dave and things started to really get fun. The trail started to get a bit more technical here and I started to really enjoy myself. From the start I had felt really heavy and flat, but around 3hrs I started to get into a groove. Kristian and I got into Okataina lodge still only about 4mins behind the front 2. I was feeling pretty good here. The Okataina Lodge was a relay changeover point so there were a lot of people around and a good vibe running through. The trail seemed to just get funner and funner as we worked towards the Tarawera Falls. The Humphries Bay aid station was really nice! There was no crew access, so we stopped to pig out a little here. Somewhere around 50km Kristian seemed to disappear. I was really feeling good and after spending the first 50km trying to run slow and feeling average I was ready to just go with it for a while. I didn’t really push it here, but just had fun with the great single track. Jane was at the Outlet for another speed hand over of gels and hand held water bottle. This next bit of single track was sweet! Jane had warned me she might to have time to make the Falls aid station, so I looked after myself here at the more than accommodating aid station. I was now about 9mins down on Sam and Vajin and Sam had just picked up his pacer- Sjors Corporaal. I knew I was very very unlikely to pick off either of these guys and now with Sjors in the mix I knew I’d be up against even more (I was actually thinking that Sam and Vajin had each other and they should have given me Sjors for the final 40). The forestry roads were brutal. Good old fashion suffering if you will. I had long ago started walking the steep climbs to look after myself for the later stages and there was one sandy climb early on in the section to Titoki that seemed to be a real struggle. Somewhere in here I came across an old coke bottle filled with clear liquid. I whipped the top off, gave it a stiff and pored it over my back, I can’t say how good that nasty old water felt in the hot, dry forestry roads. Where the Falls aid station had been a busy hive of activity, the Titoki aid station was a little barren. Thankfully Jane was there and ran with me for 200m or so. I was steadily slipping back, now 16mins behind the trio in front, but with what I was hopping was a good gap on Kristian. If the Titoki aid station seemed barren, then the Awaroa aid station, at the bottom of a little 5km “lollie pop” loop should have seem like it belonged in Mad Max or something. But I was looking forward to this aid station all day, it was were I had a drop bag with some coke in it! That and the 2 guys at Awaroa seemed so excited to see me and to help out. It was pretty cool. Just as I was leaving for the loop Vajin appeared. He had about a 50m gap on Sam, but was grimacing a little. It might have been a smile, but I am gonna go with grimace. Sam on the other hand was smiling. He was looking pretty comfortable. The little loop was nasty, but in a good way. Really steep, rough and a little over grown. I was hoping that the descent was gonna be the same, but sadly for me it was more forestry road. I figured I had one last chance. Vajin was looking a little beat and who really knew how Sam was doing? I got out on to the forestry road on the down hill and told myself if I can run this last mostly down hill 20km fast and if one of those guys in front totaly blows up I might real one of them in. I started going down and…. it hurt, so I slowed back down and conceded, more or less. I got back to Awaroa in 25mins. So I had 18km to go and was down by 25mins. On the up side, I was only down by 25mins!! That and I had at least 20mins on Kristian. I cruised down the rolling dusty roads, really not knowing when the Fisherman’s Bridge was gonna be, but knowing I was more than likely going to go under Kerry Suters 9hr48 CR. Suddenly I popped out over the bridge and Jane was there again with a fresh bottle to flat coke “only 9km to go” she said. Shit, I might be able to go under 9hrs!! I really tried to push it just after this to see what I had. I was looking at my watch and figured I was gonna miss a sub 9. It was about here I was thinking “hmm, more flat fast run’s would have been really useful in prep for this race huh”. I just couldn’t get my legs turning over. The fields at the end when on and on, but finally I eyed the finish line. I jumped over the wood fence cause I was to tired to take the extra 2 meters to go around it and jogged over the line. I was about 33mins behind Sam who did 8hr33, with Vajin coming in with 8hr42. I was really happy with my final 20km, as I was only 8mins slower than Sam and 3 faster than Vajin. That doesn’t count for anything in the results, but for me it was good to see I was still able to close strong.
It was such a great day and I feel like I got so much out of it. I think the biggest disappointment if the day was the absence of Japaneses runner Hiroki Ishikawa. Had Hiroki turned up in shape and ready to race it would have really made thinks interesting. Maybe not up front, but at least for me over that last 40. No doubt with all that has happened in Japan in the last few weeks he was simply preoccupied. After all, it is just a running race…..
MattB says that this is fast turning into the “must do” race for the North Island. I agree apart from the “North Island” bit, it is simply a ‘must do’ in my opinion. In case you missed that- THE TARAWERA ULTRA IS A ‘MUST DO’ RACE!!! There are so many options with the 60, 85, 100km and the 4x20km relay race. And I don’t want to hear about there being a little bit of paved road or some forestry road. I will bet money I run less road miles than any of you and it was fine. The crazy fun single track and scenery more than makes up for a little paved road. As do the amazingly good aid stations!
On that note a HUGE thanks to Paul Charteris and the great group of volunteers he put together. That race must be a logistical nightmare to organize and it ran so smoothly. Great job Paul, I can’t say that enough!
I also have to say that to Salomon Running and 2XU. Both have been a great support over the summer. There gear is great, so check it out if you haven’t yet.
Last, but not least- Jane- your were awsome!!
Not only did Jane support/crew me, she even videoed a little-