2019 Tarawera 102km Ultramarathon

Deciding to commit to this event 3 weeks out, is a great way to bypass the usual long term stresses of preparing for an event. I knew my body was in great condition, no injuries and was fit enough to do it, and since I was training with a bunch of guys and gals who were doing another ultra – I’d thought I’d get one done in early this year.

Leading into it, I have been trying new things for the last few months. A new eating lifestyle (High Fat, Low carbs and no processed sugar) and the big one – trying out using power as a indicator – when I run.

The Tarawera Ultramarathon (TUM) is based out of Rotorua – about 3 hours east of Auckland by car (or 45 mins by plane). I managed to get a lift with Chilli and Gus from BTR, who pulled through last minute helping me with logistics! Legends.

Leaving Brisbane Thursday morning, getting to the Rotorua Events Centre by Thursday night was easy. Gave us Friday – to get used to the smell. Get absorbed by the pre-race events – hear some briefings, hear some well (and not so) known trail-famous runners – which was actually a really good session!

I also opted to stay at the lodge at the start line, so I was on the bus to the start line at 7pm on Friday night (I am not sure why more people didn’t do this). Allowing me to roll out of bed at 5am, for a 6am start – as opposed to the others who were on a 4am bus from Rotorua (Plus it was only $50 for the night)

The Run:

6am starting in the dark for 10 minutes (wasn’t worth putting on the headlamps) and once over the golf course – the sunrise was on, and all good for the start of the single trails. Must say I loved this section, taking it slow and enjoying the scenery of the flowing clear creeks and green lush environment.

Sticking to my plan of keeping my power down to about 210W, I found a couple of others doing a similar pace – also a good reason to have a bit of a chat. After reaching the first checkpoint at Mangawhio (14km) – I still had plenty of water and food, so I kept going.

Enjoying the run and the technical trails between 40-60km, I was still feeling good and running steadily – keeping an eye on my power – most of the time.

Reaching the Okataina Checkpoint, and my first drop bags, I decided to stay in the same shoes – just change the socks. Restocked my food – which was a good thing because the checkpoint didn’t have much substantial food, and I was off again.

This section had “the hill” on the map – again taking it at a sustained pace and for a hill that was only 450m high – if felt alot longer – but all good once at the top.

Coming down the other side, getting my pace up abit again, my ears were blocking from water – nothing major – just an irritation of a blocked ear and hearing yourself breathing. I decided to take it slower to try to get ride of it, but it didn’t want to go. I took it slower and walked a bit around Blue Lake – really wishing I could jump in the water with all the Saturday afternoon families enjoying the water! But if I did – I know I would find it really hard to get out.

After the Blue Lake checkpoint was the final route to the Redwoods checkpoint, an undulating and technical section which also got dark for me. So headlamp came out and taking it easier along this section as well. A certain highlight was running through the Redwoods – and seeing the lights of some attraction in the dark – I thought I was halucinating – but was confirmed by others later that they exist. The entry to this checkpoint was also awesome – missed getting this CP with a video on entry – that would have been cool…

No real time to stop – just had a quick refill and back on the trail for the final section – a steady 7km flat section back to the Events Centre – with lots of cheering it certainly helped with teh run to the end. Special kudos for Andy Gray who ran with me for a bit at the end (after he already did the 50km) and got some video of the finish! A great reception and welcoming to a good day on the trails.

Interestingly I was put in the “special recovery” area as I had lost 6kgs of weight since the weigh-in the registration. Least I got to have my beer and a miso soup in a comfy area! Also really appreciative of Andy Gray other Brisbane Trail Runners (and Jackie Pova) who hung around until the end to see me finish and see how I was going.

Such a great community feel and after about 30 mins, got myself together – and trekked 1.5km back to the hotel to get some proper sleep.

Thanks to;

  • Andy Dubios for the last minute tips on power.
  • Pete Trimble for buying me a future race (Coastal High), during this one – as it opened (and sold out ) while I was running
  • Chilli, Gus and the Toomeys for helping massively with logistics of transport and lodging.
  • All the legends at MGTR who made some of the longer runs trail running really enjoyable.

Nutrition:

  • 1 x Clif Bloc square every 30 mins
  • Between every checkpoint 2 x Arbonne PreWorkout + at every check point and top up water to 1.2L for each leg – which I drank most of.
  • Variety of fruit at the checkpoints.
  • Was excited by the fact Dominoes NZ was sponsoring Blue Lake Checkpoint – unfortunately they didn’t have any in the window I went through. Before and after apparently 🙂

Gear:

  • Mountain Goat TrailRunners singlet and Hat. I would say the course was about 80% protected from the sun (and the high UV in NZ). I applied 1 good coat of sunscreen pre-race, and had my long sleeve top in my bag – but didn’t need it.
  • Lululemon Skins and Pants in 1. Just found these a week before – and a natural fit for me and also stopping any chaffing!
  • Salomon Speedcross 4 with Innersoles (because the standard Salomon innersoles are terrible)
  • Salomon 12l pack – the old faithful. No where near full, but has the front water bottle holders which I love.

Tips;

  1. Get used to NZ timezone a few weeks before the event. It’s actually pretty easy from the East Coast of Australia
  2. Be prepared to use you your own Drop Bags for food. They had run out of good stuff by the time I went through.
  3. Probably only need decent x-road running shoes. The trails are not too technical, and there is 1 main section of technical running – I would skip the full trail shoes next time.
  4. If you don’t know the course – don’t listen to the volunteers who say – this is the last hill – I heard this soo many times – where it wasn’t 🙂

2018 Coastal High 50km Trail Run

Back for another Wild Earth Coastal High 50. After having completing this in the last 2 years, I knew the course with all it’s elevation and scenery that goes with it, and certainly excited to be doing it again with the Mountain Goat Trail Runners…
Leading up to the race, I had a fairly consistent set of runs and was relatively confident of the distance. Also over the last 4 months I have significantly changed my diet to eliminate carbs and processed sugars aka keto style of eating. Something that has been working well for me – although only recently have done just one longer distance run (21km at Yarrabilba), I knew my nutrition intake post 21km was a bit unknown as well.
Also, in the 2 weeks leading up to the run, I decided to revisit Luka my remedial massage, to ensure the leg muscles were still behaving. 2 weeks out was the first session, and realised my legs were excessively tight and knotted, I also had a followup session on the Thursday before the run. He did advise that they still needed some further releasing, but it was better than they were 2 weeks prior.
This year, in the week of the event, preparation was better than previous ones. No long haul flights the week of the run, and some decent nights beforehand.
The night before, staying at the Finish Line (Camp Site) provided a 3.30am wake up, 4am Bus departure and then a relatively small wait at the Start Line at Binna Burra for a 6.30am start. I had a half a peanut butter sandwich on the bus as a start.
One of the main draw cards to The Wild Earth Coastal High, are the organisers “Those Guys”, with the well organised logistics and professional but casual attitude – especially at the pre race briefing. Always a good laugh. Anyway, next thing we knew we were off. I was in Wave 2 (5 minutes after Wave 1), and started off with Pete. We made bit of an effort to get near the front of Wave 2, due the long single trails that lay ahead at the 3-4 km mark – at the start of the Lamington Trails entrance.
The first 20kms were magical trails, flowing, scenic and a few slight ups and downs to loop around the Binna Burra area. I was going quite strong and fast with Pete and had a good group of other runners we were having a chat to along the way. I lost Pete (he was going to fast at about 22km, and I had my 2nd 1/2 peanut butter sandwich. Through the last 22km, I was having macadamia nuts every 20 mins or so and relatively well hydrated. From memory the CP1 was at 22km, and I thought I would catch Pete – but the CP didn’t come around to about 25km on my watch….
After CP1, it was a steep downhill to the valley, another chance to have a bite to eat, another 1/2 sandwich and taking it easy on the steep terrain. Once at the bottom – we started along the road section and the first of the creek crossings. Going down to the creek and jumping a log, I started to jump the log and whola – a massive cramp under my thigh. Taking a minute or 2 to recover and try to stretch it out, I crossed the creek and walked for a bit, to try to stop it happening again. Having a little shuffle/walk along the road section and unlike previous years, we turned up earlier into an ECO lodge for CP2. A blessing with less road but still not having fun with the leg twinges.
After CP2, we cut off the road and into the first of the climbs, in a new section of trails – a much better alternative route to the previous courses, which was further along the dreaded road. Trekking up the first of four main hills, the cramps got worse. Having to stop a few times on the incline and stretch it out, I was passed by a lot of runners (all offering assistance one way or another). One think I was certainly missing was some Crampfix. As this has happened previously (see here) and I would bring some as a safety precaution – I accidentally left the bottle in the glove-box of my car at the finish line). Pushing to the top of the first hill, the downhill was even worse. There was a moment where another runner was with me helping stretch it out, where you could see my calf muscles provide some entertainment of what looked like a baby in a mothers stomach trying to get out!
The same on the next up hill and downhill, by then I had lost alot of time and Deb and Trav (the mid course sweepers came though) offering some assistance. Probably the best bit was the pep talk from them. Nutritionally I felt fine, I wasn’t thirsty and had plenty of salts and didn’t feel like I needed more.
Finally reaching Apple Tree stairs (900 or so) – this section wasn’t so bad, as I was limited to fast walking, as this was not triggering the cramps and I could start to pick up a bit of a pace again, albeit still a shuffle. With the last CP3 at the top, I wasn’t hungry and took another 600ml of water to do the last long decent, feeling better with the fast walk pace, reaching the bottom of the waterfall and then the final hill back to the top. My legs were fine with the fast walk back to the top of the last hill. I wasn’t hungry or overly thirsty just really frustrated with the cramping.

Cool view via relive:

Strava details
Finally reaching the finish line, well after I had planned for, I was happy to be done. With a massive cheer from the crowd and the MGTR crew and with the traditional hug from Matt and Chris, I got my finishers medal and finally had a chance to catch-up with everyone to see how they went!
My legs, where the cramping was, felt massively bruised and sore, but was ok to walk and take it easy. Fortunately staying at the finish line mean than I could keep moving and have a good stretch while all the other runners came though. I was such a fun positive experience seeing all the other runners come through the finish line and the different states of joy and completion. Staying for the final runner, a 77 year old runner, who looked like he had taken a couple of falls with bandages and falling injuries was definitely a highlight! Gives me hope that I have quite a few years of running to go in me!
Time to revisit a proper training plan and regular stretching and releasing of the knots in the legs, to ensure the cramping doesn’t happen again.