Rotorua’s Michael Voss knows the trails surrounding his hometown well but is under no illusion that will make for an easy day out at this weekend’s Tarawera Ultramarathon.
Voss, who took victory and a course record in the Tarawera 50km race in 2020, has stepped up to the 102km event this year and is looking forward to his first taste of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour.
“I live just down the road from the forest so I’m pretty familiar with the course, that’s quite a big advantage as I wouldn’t want to be running it blind, that’s for sure,” said Voss. “I remember the first time running some of the hills and thinking it was so hard, I’ve done lots of the course numerous times now and I pretty much know what’s coming up, especially in the second half which will definitely help but it will still be tough.”
The 24-year-old’s 50km victory in 2020 was by more than five minutes and he’s looking forward to the challenge of 102km on the Tarawera Ultramarathon course.
“The 50km was my longest run last year and still one of my longest now, haven’t got anywhere near the 100km which is a little nerve wracking, but you’ve just got to trust the training,” he said. “I’ve done lots of slow long easy miles and then a few tempo sessions and interval work. I’ve mainly been training for marathons or half marathons and road races but have increased the long runs to cater for the 102km distance and then spent time getting used to the nutrition side of things which is quite a big aspect.”
Staying on your game for more than 100kms of trail running is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one, something that is not lost on Voss.
“First up I’ll be seeing if I can complete the distance, to see if I can do it and do it well, and then go to that next level of hurt I guess,” said Voss. “I know I can run to 50km, 60km pretty easily and I think once you get to that point that’s when the real race starts. There’s going to be a lot of patience at the start and just making sure I do the basics right and then try and get to that 50, 60km mark as comfortable as I can and hopefully be somewhere around the leaders and then knuckle down and bring it home.
“My last trail race was a 24km at the Taupō Ultra a few months ago between the Rotorua and Auckland Marathons, I enjoyed that and decided that I needed a new goal so I sat down with my coach and thought I’d give the 102km crack and see how it can lead on to bigger opportunities once the world opens up again.”
Voss’ success on the trails follows strong performances on road, including a win at the Rotorua Marathon, a second-place finish at the Auckland Marathon and a number of half marathon podiums.
Voss had watched the Tarawera Ultramarathon from afar before taking victory in the 50km race last year, with the community spirit of the event something which appealed to him.
“I remember seeing it in past years before I raced it and seeing the support out there and the aid stations which looked like a lot of fun, and the way that everyone got behind the event,” he said. “I’d been training in the forest for my own races and then I’d see some of the Elites run past and everyone was really friendly and I tagged along for a few runs and thought I’d give it a go one day. I persuaded my coach last year to let me enter the 50km and I really enjoyed it.”
Voss isn’t alone in turning to trail running recently, with more than 60% of runners signed up for the Tarawera Ultramarathon set to take part in the event for the first time in 2021.
This year marks the 13th running of the Tarawera Ultramarathon, with runners from across New Zealand taking part in either the 21km, 50km, 102km or 100-Miler race, with the 102km event a part of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour.
For more information on the Tarawera Ultramarathon, visit www.taraweraultra.co.nz.