Tarawera Ultramarathon No. 1

The Tarawera Ultramarathon. You beaut!
Having heard about this race over the past few years, and reading more about ultrarunning, the desire to do one myself has been growing. My attempt in 2013 to run the 85km option fell short due to an ITB injury.
For 2014 I had entered the full monty – 100km – and trained well. The training itself was brilliant, taking my long runs offroad to explore Lake Waikaremoana, Waitakares, Hunua ranges and Rangitoto/Motatapu. (Logging 1x50km run; 3x 45km runs; and 3x 30ish km runs). Running with the MEC crew where possible made these long outings all the more enjoyable; and I made sure to absorb as much of the knowledge and experience I could from Mike and Ron during these runs to help me prepare.
I must admit I was gutted when I found out the race had been shortened, as 100km had been the race I was preparing myself for, but come Saturday night after finishing it was evident from the weather that a fair decision was made. After a couple weeks of preparing a race plan and evaluating scenarios, this was now thrown out the window. In addition, I had left my watch at home and the only thing available was my mums analog watch. My plans were gone and I was forced to run to how I felt.
After a good tapering process and 6 months of injury free training, I was excited to be lining up on the start. Even better was when Mike, Ron and Brent hustled past in their attempt to get closer to the start line. Providing some company on what could be a long day.
The start was brilliant and I was feeling good. Brent had done similar training to myself, and once we started realised we had similar times in mind, so we got into a good rhythm. Mike and Ron had cleared ahead within the first couple of kms and we left them to it. The scenery was beautiful, getting to run through the redwoods and around the blue lake and cyclone Lusi had not shown herself yet. We started comfortably, regular walking on the hills, taking on board nutrition early on. Brent was very diligent with this and reminded me to get into my pattern, and the elevation profile he had inked on his arm helped give us an idea on what was coming ahead.
My support crew were out in force and it was great to have them join in the day with me. At the Okareka Aid Station I got to have a chat, a few photos and some provisions and then Brent and me were back off.
Brent and I were working well as a team, and having someone to chat with made the time go quicker. I was feeling remarkably fresh. We were pacing well, and I started thinking I had more in the tank to give. So we started walking a little less and kept making progress, while the rain begin to drizzle. Not sure if Brent was feeling unwell for long, but by surprise to me at about 40km Brent gave the area around him a good spray, as he threw up several times what appeared to be his mornings fluids. I hung around for a touch before Brent kept telling me to keep going, so I kept moving, ending the teamwork we had going on.
I thought if I wanted to finish any earlier, I could not leave it solely to the return leg. With only 30km left and still feeling good, apart from a tightening groin muscle, I decided to pick up the pace. I walked less and shortly after was the large downhill into Okataina, which although the rain was gradually increasing, was not muddy at the time. I started to pass more runners, which was a great feeling.
Coming in to Okataina I saw Mike, Todd and Ron on their way out which was great and looking good. Although I knew what they were heading into, and was not looking forward to the climb to come.
I saw my family at Okataina, did the out and back (seeing Brent on the return who looked a lot better than when I had left him), and then stopped for a refuel and quick chat. I swapped my shoes and socks and decided to put on my trail shoes for the return run, as the rain had now been consistent for the past couple of hours. My brother in law Chris joined on as my pacer and we took off to begin the climb out of Okataina, into unknown territory for me having never run further than 50km. Having pushed it for the last 10-15km I was starting to feel the fatigue and my low point of the day was reached on the climb. I was doing my best to maintain some momentum, however it was a tough and slow slog and after passing people on the way down, I was on the receiving end as I was getting overtaken on the climb. I had slowed down my gel intake as I was struggling to put them away, and was scared to let it back up. But continued to down the occasional one, which had quick results and a rise in energy. By the time we hit the top I was feeling better again and ready to run. The rain was solid now and I was motiviated to push to the end and have nothing left in the tank. The pace felt good and the body was handling it. My groin was getting tighter, but knew it wasn’t bad enough to stop me. Chris kept me motivated and having a few laughs. He was wearing Nike frees, so on several occasions I turned around to see him slipping around or hands on the deck due to muddy conditions on some areas of the course.
Someone on a quad bike told us we had 2km to go to the Millar Rd station, so we followed the lead of a runner in front of us and picked up the pace – a great section of downhill trail running. After what seemed like over 2km, he couldn’t maintain the pace and stopped to walk while we kept on going. A quick swig of Coke at Millar Road and then the home stretch was on. We picked up the pace again on the down hills passing several other runners and pushing for the home stretch.
I saw my father in-law on the final stretch of the road, who we gave high fives and kept pushing to the finish line. With my family cheering me on, I entered the finish area and had completed my first Ultramarathon! 8 hours 11 minutes. (6:50 kms, based on 72km). Finishing 54th.
Massive thanks to my awesome family for coming to  support me. Was great having them there to cheer, support, run, and get to spend the weekend with them. And to my wife for supporting and encouraging me throughout the months of training.
Now to hit the 100km in 2015…

2 thoughts on “Tarawera Ultramarathon No. 1

  1. Super story Caleb – I felt like I was right with you the whole way. Super consistent and sensible pacing effort too – much better than my start in ultras. Great watch BTW – I thought you were making a statement about gender stereotyping and how we limit each other with our preconceptions. I like the way you are talking about next year too. It took me half a year to get over my first stint… you’re a natural.

  2. Think Mike might be right, seems like it comes pretty natural. I’m confident in predicting you’ll beat me in 2015 – so you are better off aiming for Mike.

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