Tarawera Ultra 2010

Greetings

Well the Tarawera did not fail to please on Saturday. Myles Robinson and Michael Hale fronted up for the 83.4k offroad ultramarathon between Rotorua and Kawerau. The start at 7am was in the dark, with an overcast sky. We were farewelled by our fantastic crew of Stu Hale, Todd Calkin and Dan Buchanan as we set off towards the Blue lake.

We stayed near the front of the pack as we made our way up the hills of the Rotorua redwoods forest, although the pace of an ultra is not hard to keep up with AT THE START. Taking our time to walk up the steep hills we shared a friendly chat with Warren the Ultra marathoner from Brisbane, who kindly shared his wisdom with us mere padawans. A big steep descent at the 5k saw Robinson leave Hale behind, who was taking it very easy to preserve the legs. Some great single track lead the way to the very familiar (for those who have done Xterra tri or Rotorua Half Ironman) lap around Tikitapu. At the aid station at 13k, Robinson had pulled away but both runners were feeling fresh and easy.
A quick road stretch down the hill to Okareka allowed Hale to catch a couple of runners including Robinson, and they proceeded up the long grind together towards the Western Okataina walkway. At the turnoff (17.5k) both were still feeling fresh, and well positioned in 7th and 8th place in the mens 84k. This section proved to be the most challenging of the course (if you have done the Big O, you will know what I’m talking about). Virtually no flat sections, and long uphill single track was to dominate for over an hour. The boys got on a ‘train’ – a group of 2 runners going a bit faster than them. Its amazing how just following those heels can make you faster. This group of 4 stuck together for half an hour, before we dropped the chick and then Robinson and ‘Mark’ (the other guy) dropped Hale, who had decided it was time to let the legs have a wee walk. It was then a punishing descent down to Lake Okataina. Steep trails made the leg pounding intense, and here Robinson broke free from the last member of the fellowship of four. He wound his way to the lake seven minutes clear of Hale.

The aid stations were fantastic. You would run through and get a heros welcome – people cheering and waving, it felt great. A huge buffet of biscuits, gels and lollies was on offer to, and they were eagerly taken up.
The third section, from Okataina Lodge to Tarawera Outlet was very scenic and a lot less hilly. We worked our way alongside two beautiful lakes. This was where Robinson showed his class, and pulled out the fastest split of the entire mens field (FYI only the 100k legend Kerry Suter was faster than Myles over this section). This was also where Hale found his spirits get a little low as his body hurt and there was a lot of race left. However, after reaching the aid station at Houghtons Bay, hale felt a bit better and again was able to lift his speed by hanging on to a pair of faster heels through the beech forest.
At The Tarawera outlet (60k) Calkin joined in as Hale’s pacer. By now Robinson was about 40 minutes up in second place, and bearing down on the race leader. The addition of Todd really benefited Hale who again lifted his pace on the absolutely stunning 5k section to the Tarawera falls. A word about the scenery: this race is gorgeous. The worst parts of the course would make for a great weekend run any day, and the best bits are worth a long long drive just to experience. It certainly helped keep you mind off the aching body. A word on the aching body: After no pain in the first 2 hours, by hour 3 the body was tired and achey. From hour 4 to 8.5, this ache did not progress – it would come and go but was very manageable. From 8.5-9.5 there was significant fatigue pain that would make you want to cry.
From the Tarawera falls the course changes. You leave the singletrack and the lakes and move onto forestry roads following the Tarawera river. It was here that the renaissance began. Going through the aid station at the falls, Hale was lapping up the cheers from the crowd. With some electrolyte drink and watermelon in the belly, he and Calkin then got back into the run and found a good rhythm. Quite quickly, runners who had been ahead and out of view for hours started to appear. The road then turned into a significant hill, and the anguish on their faces was contrasted against the grit in Hale’s eyes. Buoyed by Calkin saying ‘you are going at a crazy speed” and other words of great encouragement, the pair wound up the pace and went past the other runners like they had just started and were on fresh legs. It was actually amazing how good you can feel after seven hours of running. Hale went from a pace of 7 minute kms along Okataina to sub-5 minute kms – and held it there for over 80 minutes. Passing so many runners this late in the race is so much fun.
Robinson however, was too far ahead to be threatened, and was charging hard himself, trying to catch the guy in first (who by the way is an ultramarathon fiend from Australia – not a first timer like Myles or Mike). He battled through exhaustion and wouldn’t even let up for a brief walk as he closed in. He finished in a remarkable 8:55 less than 5 minutes down on first place. Outstanding. Myles ran a perfectly executed race on his first outing – a natural ultramarathoner.
After the 80 minute surge from heaven, came the 60 minute grovel from Hell for Hale. The legs remembered that they had been going over 8hrs and reminded him of what that really should feel like. The pain was rather distracting. His speed slowed, and now it was pure pride at being in third place made Hale push hard to keep going. Although a nice regimen of run for 3 minutes, walk for 1 minute was what the legs had been promised for this stage, Hale and Calkin kept them marching on, breaking into a walk only briefly. However, the pace slowed more and more and new body parts declared their exhaustion in a loud and undeniable fashion. The soft offroad surface was not helping as this required a lot of stabilising muscles to progress through. Calkin was at his encouraging best as he consistently lifted the spirits of a despondent Hale, who was certain his moment of glory would be met with a moment of reality crashing back in as another runner would fly past in a similar cocky fashion to his earlier burst. But he kept going, and finally hit the fields of Kawerau. These sports fields would further taunt the runner. They never seemed to finish, just kept going and going. Calkin spotted some cones ahead and tried to encourage Hale by showing him this sign of the finish approaching. Hale shrugged this off “I won’t believe it until I see the actual line”. It hurt too much to hope for the finish to appear and then be greeted by another 3 rugby fields to run along. Calkin fired back, “Mike, you better get going, there is a guy coming behind you”. A flash of pride lifted Mike from the shuffle to a trot, and like an oasis in the desert, or a beautiful face in a sea of uglies, the finish line appeared. The trot strengthened and Hale lifted his head to hold back the oncoming challenge and to make sure he looked good as he crossed the line, exhausted and in third place.


Thanks to the Journeyman James Spence for the ticket, Matty Raffs for the bach and to the great support of Todd, Dan and Dad! You guys are great.


PS: Mikey Lichtwark – The guy who was about to catch me (but didnt!) was Dan McKenzie, 3rd in the Coastal Challenge 2010. Boom.


LASTLY: Team Run tomorrow 6pm in Cornwall Park, Puriri Drive. Good short hard session.

Michael Hale
Race Time
Leg Time
Time of Day
Pos
Cat Pos
Gen Pos
Dist Done
This leg
Pace
Leg 1 – Okareka
1:48:12
1:48:12
8:50:37
17
8
17
18.5
18.5
0:05:51
Leg 2 – Okataina
3:56:08
2:07:56
10:58:33
16
8
16
36
17.5
0:07:19
Leg 3 – Tarawera Falls
7:01:44
3:05:35
14:04:09
26
8
26
59.8
23.8
0:07:48
Leg 4 – Kawerau
9:30:39
2:28:55
16:33:04
10
2
10
83.4
23.6
0:06:19
Myles Robinson
Race Time
Leg Time
Day time
Overall
Position
Cat pos
Dist Done
This leg
Pace min/Km
Leg 1 – Okareka
1:48:06
1:48:06
8:50:31
16
7
16
18.5
18.5
0:05:51
Leg 2 – Okataina
3:48:56
2:00:49
10:51:21
10
4
10
36
17.5
0:06:54
Leg 3 – Tarawera Falls
6:24:56
2:35:59
13:27:21
13
1
13
59.8
23.8
0:06:33
Leg 4 – Kawerau
8:55:00
2:30:04
15:57:25
11
3
11
83.4
23.6
0:06:22
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