Tarawera Ultramarathon 102k
Standing at the Tarawera Ultra 102k start line I felt pretty good. Managed to maintain a reasonable mileage in the last couple of months (well except for Vanuatu beach bumming) with a decent mix of long runs, tempos, stairs etc. The last few days were a bummer though – as I went into a full taper mode, my upper back/neck suddenly fell apart. Luckily my chiro fixed me up (again). I still had some occasional residual pain but nothing too bad. Given I already finished a 100k, I wanted to try and race it this time. And if all goes perfect, have a crack at sub 10hrs.
Anyway, me and Bart lined up right behind some international gun runners and off we went into a long wet day (100% chance of rain for the whole day). Bart has done great data crunching to come up with splits (Tarawera was run in the opposite direction finishing in Rotorua for the first time this year – it is a net uphill course now) but I knew there was no way I could run even splits. So I started fairly fast. The first 35k was firetrail or runnable single trail so was logging mostly sub 5min splits and gradually worked my way up the field. Almost started to thing wtf is this? And then it began.
Climb from Tarawera falls (which were amazing after 4 days of constant rain) was still ok and surprised myself running up the whole climb. And then, after the Tarawera Outlet aid station we got on a proper single trail and man I haven’t seen so much mud in a long time. Never ending, undulating trail, roots everywhere, fallen branches… I went through a marathon distance in 3:39, about 30 mins ahead of my 10hr splits but this was well gone by 58km where I had my drop bag. There was no point in changing shoes or socks so I just quickly restocked nutrition and continued on to the hardest leg.
In this section, I was running with a great Japanese bloke Aki, who had more sponsor logos on his t-shirt than I would be able to count at that point, had a full on support crew and was running only with a bum bag and one small bottle. He basically never stopped running (I had to admire his running form) but I always gained time on technical muddy downhills. Eventually I broke away and just as I started to feel pretty flat, Millar Rd aid station at 75km finally appeared with its energizing sound system.
Short road section and then back again into tiring mud and roots before Blue Lake aid station at 82km. This was my lowest point when some sort of blessing happened. As I was fighting side stitches and hamstring cramps, 2nd lady Amanda and her pacer Keely caught up with me and I knew this was now or never. I happily jumped on the train. It was really interesting chat – both Americans, sponsored athletes, and they surely knew their business (Amanda was top10 lady at UTMB if I remember well).
By the end Keely was cheering up both of us (“hey young man, keep pushing, you are not leaving this train!”) and was even offering me some supplies when I mentioned I didn’t have anything left (which I politely declined, wasn’t sure if that’s allowed?). Suddenly the 16k undulating section was over and we were on the final downhill where I created a small gap. I had about 200ml Tailwind left and zero food but couldn’t imagine stopping at the last aid station and then start running again so decided to just run through.
I really dug deep on the final flat 5k stretch and went into a big energy debt, running in a tunnel not even able wink at people who were cheering up. And btw, the volunteers throughout the day were absolutely amazing. True legends. But I did five even 5min km splits, managed to stay ahead of the girls and finished 13th in 10:17:01. Super stoked and absolutely trashed.
Bart finished strong too, seconds over 12hrs but the tear jerking finish with Oskar running alongside was totally worth it I reckon :)
I had a chat with a few of the top runners (Cody, Vlad…) and everyone was like “fuck me that was hard”. It certainly was a lot harder than I expected. I am keen to find another 100k for 2019. I’m still not keen to go any further than that.
In terms of nutrition, I’m officially a Tailwind convert (Bart’s words actually). I think I had 5l of water, 5l of Tailwind, then about 10-15 bananas (not kidding), 5 GU gels, 2 musli bars, a little bit of chocolate and a few jelly snakes.
Btw, looking at the splits, I have comparatively lost most of the time in the first fast section (dudes were at 42k in smoking 2:55) and least amount of time on the final 23k. I was only 9min down on the winner and what’s even more surprising – my time from Okataina (58km) to the finish was faster then Vlad Shatrov’s. I guess I can see the point of having a pacer for the final miles… Even Amanda got about 8 mins closer to the first lady - it was not enough but that's a lot of time at this level.
Strava log: https://www.strava.com/activities/1400054510
Official results: https://www.sportsplits.com/m3/event?c=34&r=22...