On Saturday March 17th 2012, I ran the Tarawera Ultramarathon 85K from Rotorua to Kawerau in a time of 11 hours and 41 minutes. This was my first ultra marathon and was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I look forward to 2013 when I plan to run in the full 100K event.
Before Tarawera, I had run 11 marathons over the past 5 years with only the most recent of them being off-road. This year I ran parts of the Hillary Trail in the Waitakeres a couple of times as part of my build up, including a 45K run over 7 hours from Arataki to Piha. I followed that up 6 days later with an on-road marathon distance training run. So I felt reasonably confidant about being able to complete the 85K run at Tarawera.
My plan for the day was to walk the hills, eat plenty at the aid stations, supplemented with some lollies, nuts and raisins I had in my bag, and a gel every hour. From looking at other people’s finishing times from last year, I figured I’d be able to finish in about 11 hours 20 minutes which, as it turned out, wasn’t too far off the mark.
I carried this plan out pretty well but as it turned out didn’t eat enough and couldn’t face any more gels after the first 5, so didn’t end up taking in enough calories to make up for what I was burning. If I’d kept up with the gels and actually eaten my lollies, nuts and raisins I would probably have been OK. I ate food at all the aid stations other than the last two.
We set off just after 7am; it was still a little dark and I had a headlamp on but realized after running for only a minute or two that I didn’t actually need it. A lesson learned for next year.
I found the first section from the start to the Okareka aid station the easiest and then got progressively slower on the next two legs to Okataina then Tarawera Falls as the terrain got more up and down hilly and more walking was required.
After Tawawera, there’s a fairly long uphill section on forestry roads. It’s not particularly steep but seemed to go on for a while. It was while running up here that I hit the wall, around about the 63km mark. I was walking the hills anyway but slowed right down, felt really sleepy and had to stop a couple of times very briefly.
After a couple of kms of this, I was passed by Kate Townsley; I told her I felt like crawling up and going to sleep so she very kindly gave me a couple of cola flavored caffeine lollies. They seemed to do the trick and once I got to the top of this set of hills I started running again.
From there to the finish line (another 20kms) I probably only walked two or three more times; I was so determined to just keep on going and didn’t really need all that much more fuel any more (I suppose that’s one advantage of hitting the wall). I ate some pizza and chips at the Titoki aid station, some more chips and watermelon at Fisherman’s Bridge, and then just ran right on by the final two aid stations.
My wife Jane, mother Jude and 7 year old son Jamie were waiting for me at the finish line and Jamie ran the last hundred meters with me. The guy giving out the medals gave it to Jamie to give to me but the cheeky blighter ran off with it, much to the amusement of the announcer. I chased after him and then collapsed into a heap.
While sitting there watching some other runners come in, Jane asked me if I’d run it again next year. I told her to ask me again in a couple of days, but only a little while later I knew I’d be back next year for the 100K!
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I had a thoroughly enjoyable day, even though I had a tough 20 minutes in the 60s. It was made all the more enjoyable by the many people I ran with and talked to during the day, and by those fantastic volunteers at the aid stations and marshaling the course. I could not have done it without you all.
With Jamie before the start of the Tarawera Ultra 2012
Finishing the Tarawera Ultra with Jamie 12 hours later