To be eligible for inclusion in the World Ultra tour, an event needs to satisfy several criteria. It needs to attract over 500 runners, some from abroad, be a minimum of 100km and take runners over what is deemed to be an emblematic course.
I’m sure not many a finisher will disagree that the majority of the Tarawera 100km is emblematic. The course, elevation and terrain change constantly. At one stage the course is run on a single file technical, root laden trail dodging fallen trees. Another stage a wide pristine pine needle covered fire trail. There were clear cold rivers to follow, mountain climbs where tracks were non existent were it not for the pink marker ribbons. There were fern covered Kauri forests and open exposed pine forest trails. This course had it all and it helped me easily lose close to nine challenging but rewarding hours of my life.
We started in the dark at the Redwoods visitor centre in Rotorua NZ. My very dodgy cheap head torch fell off immediately so I carried it barely able to light the first 4km of track before we could see and were able to drop them off for transport to the finish. Luckily there were a few slightly more experienced people around me. Those that had head torches that seemed capable of lighting an entire football field. Mental note #1: buy a proper head lamp.
After having had the course modified due to nature’s fury the last two years, I was lucky enough to be able to run the 2015 version on a perfect weather day. Cool at first and warming throughout. I felt great early on as I hovered around 3rd to 4th overall. I was also the only one of the eventual top 10 wearing a camelbak full of water & supplies. Mental note #2: research the course and aid station setup more next time. Mind you there were moments later on that I appreciated the extra water I had on board.
From the 12km mark at the magnificent Blue Lake, we traversed various tracks sneaking past the equally pristine Lakes Okataina and Tarawera. I had started to settle in but was keeping the pace modest. My training since the Doha 100km road champs in Nov 2014 hadn’t really been excessive with 30km being the longest single run. Mental note #3: try and train a bit more for this distance. But my legs felt ok through to 35-40km whereafter the terrain became rough for a while. Frustratingly rough at times. Fallen trees needed to be climbed or scrambled under, more tree roots than I’ve ever experienced and short sharp gullies to push through. It was great to see 50km click over on my Garmin. For me it’s a good mental moment where the distance left is finally less than that which I have run. The Tarawera Falls track was a real highlight here as I raced the fast flowing current of the river down to the cascades and towards the next aid station.
At the 60km mark (which also acts as the finish line for those doing the 60km run), the course changes. It opens up to essentially a pine forest region that we would circumnavigate until the finish. The terrain and trail surface did change here and there but as the weather warmed up, my legs (mainly hammies and quads) went through another lull that saw me struggle on the gradual ups and shuffle along on everything else.
I started to get very keen to finish. Lucky for me, by 80km my legs started to feel better than they had been for the previous 20-30km. The running conditions were much more conducive to my road running background of recent years and as such I was able to bring the per km pace down to around the 4:30 per km mark.
Several people ask me why I am keen to run the 100km distance. I still have some relative speed for my age so why go and run around for 8-9hrs at a slower pace? I ask myself the same question usually at around the 60km mark but upon crossing the finish line, that sense of accomplishment no matter what the time is worth it. For 30mins post finish, I wandered around beer in hand, medal adorned around my neck just soaking up what I had just achieved. The analysis would come later and it has. I feel I can do more and I am hungry to show it. But in those first moments after crossing the finish, I do feel a small sense of euphoria and it tends to manifest until I find myself on yet another website entering another one.
I finished in 8:58 for 8th position having been beaten by Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Kiwi and French runners. This was quite an international field. And Rotorua is quite a location. Once back in town, my legs soaked up the hot mineral baths of the Polynesian Spa which is set overlooking the lake. I recommend this weekend event to anyone who has either completed a marathon and wants a unique exciting trail event to sink their teeth into, or is perhaps a seasoned entrant but just hasn’t managed to make the trip across the ditch.
For me, I now turn towards The North Face 100km in May which will be far more competitive and involve a lot more climbing. Many of you may also be training for a key event in the coming months. To help you along, we are launching a brand new running program website – www.runwithusonline.com.au
Yes I know, it’s a competitive area with many websites offering their own version of running programs. So what’s going to make ours stand out from these. The answer is you.
We will provide you with absolutely everything you need to train up for your next event. We have programs for beginners, intermediate and advanced from 5km, 10km and 21.1km through to the marathon, 50km and 100km runs. There’s an exclusive member’s area with info on nutrition, stretching, core strength and general race tips plus many other useful running related topics.
But it’s you that can provide us with ongoing feedback if you wish, to ensure we can adapt and tailor your program to your current situation whilst also accounting for your much needed work/life balance. The more involved you are, the better the results. We feel 100% confident that our programs will deliver you the results you want no matter what your chosen distance.
Feel free to check us out and come runwithusonline.com.au
See you out there.