Tarawera history goes –
Attempt #1 2012: normal 100km course – good start, crashed and burned/broke toe around halfway point, grinded out to finish in +12hr something.
Attempt #2 2013: fire course 104km finishing in Okareka – good start, crashed and burned at about 60km mark with gastro issues, good legs carried crook guts to a +13hr something finish.
Attempt #3 2014: cyclone 70km course – good start, happy 7:37hr finish
I was a teensy bit concerned about not having exceeded 50km in the build up, but with enough +6hr runs this year figured I’d be ok and certainly rather more relaxed at the prospect of 100km than previous years. Then came the call of a reduced distance course due to ex tropical cyclone Lusi. First reaction was that of disappointment but soon let it go given the race director’s responsibilities. Second reaction was concern that it would result in increased speed to compensate, certainly hadn’t banked on anything ‘fast’.
In the end I figured I was more than prepared for the proposed 65km in great scenery with a field of friends. It turned out to be between 71-74km depending who you speak to. Similar to the TUM fire course, no easy run out with a return leg from Otakaina to Okareka somewhat making up for a loss in absolute km. The pace plan was to stick to the 100km course pace and then see what was left to bust out for the final section. The nutrition plan was a 20-30min Leppin/homemade gel regime with the added luxury of picking up tasty morsels at the aid stations at will. The social plan was to stick with Mike, ideally leaving it to the finishing chute to decide.
Remarkably it was all going to plan through to the Millar Rd Station, comfortably sitting just under a 6min/km pace (no broken toes, no gastro). Then came a rather urgent quickening of pace by Mike over the big hill section. Turns out he was wanting to ditch the company we were running in (he did use the term ‘we’, not the singular). This resulted in the toughest outbound section being covered at 6min/km instead of my more comfortable 7min/km plan. Trouble with dropping the company was it kind of busted me too, and concern was growing about the pre-cramp tightening/spasm action going on in my calves.
In the end I stuck with him in merry (if not physically diminished) company till we swung into the return Okataina station at which point I cut the bungee. I did assure Mike before then that I wouldn’t let our hard work from early get completely undone, promising not to slip too far back down the field. Heading back up and over the hill two things were apparent, first any rapid or extended movement such as stumbling/ducking/jumping brought on complete leg cramp (quad/hamy/calf). Second, steep sections both up/down or attempts at speed also resulted in cramp. I ended up on the deck a couple of times to the consternation of fellow runners.
Luckily, the main climb was largely a walking affair and most of the descent was pretty gentle so I minimised losses. Exiting At Millar Rd station I also discovered that stopping was a terrible idea as that also brought it on. After an uncomfortable final descent down the road to the lake, the flat section was actually relatively pleasant and was happy enough knocking out the last few km at a decent clip.
Despite the cramp of the last section, I’m chalking that up as an ultra success, came in 15min ahead of the pace plan, ran in excellent company most of the way (missed my super-pacer Pete out with injury), and nothing catastrophic along the way. Even feeling pretty comfortable the day following, at least until I try and go downhill. Realistically I don’t know if I can expect a better outcome at one of these things.
Ps. even with the correct call to alter the course due to weather concerns it was actually great running conditions while I was out on the course, damp sure, but it prevented overheating and we were sheltered enough in the forest.