2017 Ultra Easy 100k

Ahh the goal race for the season. Worthy of a full race report, this one. Make your self a cuppa and sit down, this could take a while:

This race is a beautiful beast.

Vital stats: 100k, 4700m climb/descent, anticlockwise loop in Wanaka, with elevation between 270-2000m.

I saw it online when looking for a new ultra challenge to replace the Tarawera Ultra. As I said in my 2016 report, I love that race, but need to get away to be able to come back with the true hunger to race that. So, when I saw the course map, with its three massive climbs and natural loops in one of NZs most pristine alpine areas, I was in.

And my training over the summer has been focused on this one race. The goal was to log regular 65-75 km/week and try to get about 2000m of vertical each week as well. Of course it would be better to get more, but I have worked out that those numbers are about what my schedule can accommodate without displacing family, friends or work commitments. And I have to say I did well, more or less hitting those numbers for a good 10 weeks following my recovery from the Auckland Marathon.

I had a week down in Wanaka with the family to holiday and check out bits of the course. I ended up only running twice down there for several reasons:

  1. The parts of the course I wanted to check out (Pisa range) cross private land, requiring difficult logistics to organise your own way.
  2. I didn’t want to get weary before the big day
  3. Holidaying is fun, so I was happy holidaying.

I caught up with Burton and we did a brief shakeout up Mt Iron, and Myles came down for the 42k as well, so we had a good MEC crew lining up.

I have to mention the weather: It was meant to be Central Otago in summer – think blue skies, low winds, hot days and cool crisp nights. Instead we had a week of significant wind and on the Saturday prior to the race, a blizzard came through and it snowed on Mts Roy, Alpha and Pisa. Interesting. So that’s why you have to take all this compulsory gear…

3am and we are off!

But on  race day (the 28th) we had perfect weather. The 50 or so solo runners plus another 50 teams were sent off from the Albert Town Tavern at 0300, heading up Mt Iron, then along the Wanaka waterfront to the base of Roy’s Peak. There was a bit of a breeze blowing in from the West, and at that time of the morning it makes it kinda cold, but within a few minutes I was comfortable with my chosen outfit of merino T shirt with arm warmers plus extra merino T over the top (to be ditched once things warmed up). My bottom was covered with running shorts, my calves with compression socks and my feet with inov8 trail roc 255s.

The game plan was straight-forward: Get to the highest point (Mt Pisa) at 68km in decent shape, then use whatever is left to run the long downhill and flat section home to glory. I’ve done a few Tarawera 100s, but have limited experience in the mountains, and so wanted to make sure I wasn’t exposing myself (if you will) in the high altitude.

Leg 1 to Roy’s carpark was smooth sailing. I ate and drank to schedule, and found myself moving comfortably at about 5:15 min/k on the flats. It was interesting how fast others seemed to go at the start, I was initially left in the back half of the field. I came to Aid 1 (15k) right on schedule at 1:30 and struck my first hurdle: My drop bag was no where to be seen. No drop bag. Dang. That one had my gels, my bumbag and 600mL bottle and most importantly, my trekking poles.

This took me aback and I wandered anxiously, searching for the missing bag. The RD Terry was at the station and so the aid crew summoned him. He quickly helped me find the Aid 2 drop bags and we looked for the missing bag in there. Negative. Oh no. Suddenly, I remembered that I had dropped this bag off at the last minute, after having returned home to add my poles to it. I had absent-mindedly put it in the container on the far right, which meant I had sent it to Lake McKay Aid at 88k! Terry (what a legend) said he would see if someone could get it for me and bring it to Aid 2 at Cardrona Valley Rd.  I thanked him, nervously filled my bottles and grabbed a handful of the gels available and headed up the climb. I spent 10 minutes in that Aid and really should have only spent 2. But that was my fault, so there you go. What this incident did get me to do though was flick from a ‘I need to race this thing’ mindset to a ‘this thing is a mighty challenge and I need to do whatever I can to make it through to the finish’ mindset. That was a good thing, methinks.

Great view? Yes. Great photo? Not so much.

A word on trekking poles: these things are wondrous for mountain running (hiking). They take pressure off your legs and keep you feeling stronger for longer. Its like having someone behind pushing your sorry ass up the hills. They don’t work on tight single track or overgrown grass/foliage or over boardwalks where they get stuck, but they lap up wide open dirt roads. I got mine on Dec 31 and had worked on my pole conditioning and coordination (my ‘pole dancing’ technique) so I would be ready to race with them on Jan 28.

Climbing up Roys Peak was fun. Through switchback after switchback we gained 1000m of elevation as the sun slowly rose over Wanaka town to our East. I calmed myself down and chatted to a few folk, most of whom were faster at hiking than me and steadily moved ahead. Brad was one of these people and he kindly gave me some of his fruit Danish as we told each other of our build up to this race. By the time we hit the final ridgeline (somewhat precarious) to the summit it was light enough to turn the headlamps off. I had warmed up, and paradoxically, the wind had dropped now that we were at 1500m too. There were plenty of tourists at the top, as the conditions were perfect to witness the sunrise. It was truly spectacular to have beautiful landscapes in 360 degrees as the sun peaked over the hill and I was feeling good!

I don’t always watch the sunrise, but when I do I wear my butcher’s boots.

I took a pic or two and headed along the skyline singletrack to Mt Alpha, marvelling at the view of Mount Aspiring and the Southern Alps to the North West. The great reputation of this trail totally matched my experience and I felt filled up by the rich visuals surrounding me.

Happiness on the ridgeline
Happiness on the ridgeline

The ridgeline to Mt Alpha was great fun, and I started to catch back up to a few of the fast hikers. We summited and then started our descent, running swiftly to the amazing Alpha Aid Station. Co -RD Ed (co-legend) had driven his 4WD up and he was there with his missus dishing out water, chips and hot pies. Yep, they had a diesel generator at 1500m and a pie warmer. I gushed, and promptly downed two mince pasties. Then, with bottles filled, I continued my descent. It was 12k downhill to the Cardrona Valley and I steadily caught runners despite taking it easy on my legs. Again, this part of the trail was truly gorgeous and I arrived in Cardrona with the body feeling good and the mind at peace.

Alpha Aid Station. Yes, that’s a pie warmer. Best. Alpine. Aid. Ever.

It was great to see the family at this point. We had been going nearly 40k and taken a good 5 and 1/4 hours. It was also great to see my drop bag had made it with my poles! I took my time to swap clothes, and top up supplies before chasing back after Brad who had already made his way toward the big climb up the Criffle Range.

We crossed the Cardona River (chilly but nice at mid shin level) and I cranked out the poles as our second 1000m+ ascent began. This one differed from the first in that you couldn’t see right to the top as it had several false summits, but you could see North to Wanaka and South to the Alps so we enjoyed some terrific views as the sun continued to rise. It wasn’t too hot though, I was fine in a t-shirt merino with the gloves and arm warmers well and truly stowed now.

View from Criffle range to Wanaka.

I was a bit more on pace with my contemporaries on this climb, but again Brad pulled away. It sure felt nice having the poles to assist though. I got to the top of Little Criffle in just under 2 hours. At this minor aid station there was a lonely looking dude sitting on the back of a quad bike loaded with water and a bag or two of chips. I topped up the bottles, took a selfie and said a hearty thanks as I left.

The 12k section south to Bob Lee Hut was rather bland. You follow a 4WD track along the top of the range, but often so far inland that there are no views. The only vegetation is tussock, so although your first 5k of this is rather pretty, it is nothing on the visual symphony of Roys Peak and the skyline trail.

Top o Little Criffle Selfie

Coming into and out of Bob Lee Hut Aid I made a couple of errors – I lost the trail twice in a short period of time. The first time was my fault, I saw a crushed red cone ahead and missed the massive row of intact cones on the left hairpin when I passed through a fence. The second one could have been avoided with better markings. As I left the Hut, I was told to follow the fence line down to the track. I ran down the fenceline for 100m where the track departed from it to the right, which I took and ran downhill for half a km. Then I realised I hadn’t seen any markers and had to walk back up the hill to the station where I had departed the ‘track’. I was surprised how buoyant I was when faced with these wasted efforts. I think pacing my run to finish strong meant I had a good reserve and that helped keep me going when these things went astray.

We were now 60k in, 9 hours down. I was feeling weary but not really sore. My nutrition and fluid regime was working well (gels and water only on the go, topped up by real food PRN at the aid stations). The real milestone though was getting to the top of Mt Pisa. I remembered it being about 10k from the Hut, but the advice we got as we left was that it was 12 or so. In any case, I was keen to get there in good shape. For me, being 2000m high and 12+k to the nearest vehicle was not a place I wanted to run myself into the ground at. So I was really happy to pull up alongside Andy from Dunedin, and I took it easy while we ascended and chatted together. We made the top in 1:36, meaning it was nearly 2pm. It was still sunny but it was pretty cold with gusts from the West. My arm warmers were back on when we hit the aid station. Some poor soul had been abandoned to serve water to sweaty runners on this desolate mountain top in the wind. Lucky guy. If I thought the section to Bob Lee was a bit barren, this leg was just plain stark desert. Few tussock remained and we traversed long straights with nothing but dry rocks at our side. This was not the Southern Alps that make us romantic and misty eyed. Having run through the Rangipo desert a couple of times, I can tell you I would far prefer that environment, because you have a view. I guess what I became aware of on this run is that I like running in the mountains, but more accurately I love running where there are great views and interesting features. I want a visual feast if I am to don the ultrarunning robes. I want to at least get a buzz on if I am to drink the cup of suffering.

So no, you will not find me entering any of the masochistic ultras anytime soon. I am a trail runner, who runs ultras on occasion, but there must be a payoff. You may not care where you run, I do and I’m OK with that. Runner, know thyself!

Top o Pisa Aid. Misery loves company.

Where were we, oh yes, top of Mt Pisa. Well, now the fun begins: a 20k downhill where we drop from 2000m to 300m ASL. It would certainly be amazing on a MTB – that Big Easy ride would be all time! Its not such a picnic running down however, especially on legs that have run for 11hrs+ and 4000M+ climb. So I changed plans and kept my poles out, hoping that they would take a bit of the bashing my legs were gonna receive over the next 2 hours.  I turned the music on and started to let the legs roll. After a while, people I hadn’t seen since before I lost the trail came back to view. I was making ground! Then the view appeared as we moved out of the centre of the range and all of a sudden I was hit with the magnificent scene of Lake Hawea, the Clutha River, Mount Iron and Wanaka. The grin appeared, the arms went up. I began to hoot and cheer. This was great. The hill high carried me down to the farm at the bottom, somewhat tempered by the increase in gradient as we finished the descent. The knees were letting me know they had been abused, but there was no catastrophic damage and I was a happy man rolling into Lake McKay Aid to see my family once again.

12 k to go to the finish. I put on the MEC singlet for the heat (and to represent!). I keep the poles, as I have a hunch they will help me start up every time a stop threatens to seize my legs like rust. I pass more people and although I am well achey, I am in good spirits as my race plan seems to have been a smart one. But somewhere just before Stevenson Road Aid my knees become more than sore, and I stop running freely. Have I eaten lately? Not really, I thought I could cut back now we have just 7k remaining. Those caffeine gels are tasting gross and I’d rather not have another thanks. I will myself to the Aid and realise that I will be caught if I don’t shake this shutdown. So I smash some fluids. They don’t taste sugary enough (who makes that non-sugar electrolyte rubbish, what absolute homeopathic codswallop… rant over), and I know I need energy. So I have a half banana, and then another half. Then I make myself leave the Aid, despite the chair looking so appealing. It hurts so much to start running. The flats are the worst. I can walk hills guilt-free. I can run down hills. But flat running is not working for me right now.

And then I get caught, first by a team runner, then a guy with mini polls I haven’t seen for ages. Then Victoria, a Chilean runner who has yo-yoed ahead and behind me since Mt Alpha. She tells me to stick with her to get to the finish. I rally somewhat and start running a bit more, but she moves steadily ahead as we cover the last few km. We hit the road at Albert Town and I look back, no one behind me, and nothing left in the legs. I walk-run to the final bridge, see Heidi waiting for me and greet her and Heather gladly as the kids join me for the final walk to the finish (I would run but Beau decides that walking is what he would like and I’m a very selfless guy). So I finish, exhausted and full of running in 14:40:48, 18th place.

On reflection I’m very pleased with this run. It was by far the hardest course I have tackled, and I measured my effort 95% spot-on. Lessons include better attention to drop bags, and making sure to eat right to the end. I fully recommend this event, its got a great team behind it and the first 40 and last 32k are just sublime to spectacular.

One more thing – We used these great GPS trackers called Yacht-Bots, which enabled friends and family to follow along at home – this was awesome! I hoped you enjoyed it – I certainly loved reading up on the FB comments from those who were following live. More (all!) races should do this. Review the race







Raglan Karioi Trail 2016

After having a blast at this course back at the inaugural 2013 event, I have been looking for an opportunity to run it again. 2016 handed me the opportunity as it makes a perfect hilly build up race for my summer alpine adventure.img_4300

Myles joined me for this one, and we headed down to Raglan in the pre-dawn cloud. This year’s race  water contrasted greatly with 2013 – instead of relentless sun we had the whole mountain enveloped in mist and occasional squalls passing over form the South West.

The race has obviously gone from strength to strength under the passionate RD’ing of Francois. You know a guy puts his all into a race when he hikes a 50L water can up 40 degree slopes so you can have an aid on the summit ridge. This year there was a real host of post race goodies to indulge in – a great BBQ, local fruit and veg and popcorn and a couple of kegs to sample curtesy of the good guys at Pilot Brewery just up the road.img_4302

After the dawn karakia Francois set us off up the grassy slopes, heading to wards the bush line and the obscured mountain top. I was in about 10th place and comfortable as we entered the forest canopy. I had bought my trail roc 255s, somehow imaging/remembering this race as a drier affair than it was.  Should have taken the talons. It was mushy deep mud at the top, and I struggled for grip.img_4301

Pacific views on the descent to Te Toko Gorge

I made it to the top in about the same split as 2013, but took a bit longer going along the muddy ridge and down to Te Toko Gorge and the first aid station. I think this can be attributed to my lack of grip and not that I have lost my descending ability. Once again, I felt best on the Whaanga Road section – even with the hill training being my focus lately, the gruelling nature of these climbs was more than a match for me.

I caught up a bit on my 2013 split on the Whaanga Road and farm loop section. As I passed the start of the keen 10k people I knew the biggest climb was coming. And it proved once again that it was able to smack me down. I gave it my best but was unable to get a quicker split this year. I then slid my way back across the ridge before the enjoyable bomb downhill back to HQ. I stopped the clock in 2:51, 11th place (7th male), about 4 minutes faster than 2013.

So a great fun time, but not quite the demonstration of strength gains I had hoped for. A great and gruelling course. I was very impressed with the four mighty wahine ahead of me, and Chris Morrissey who showed his class by taking the race out for the 4th time, coming in just under 3 hours.

Definitely a race to recommend, I hope to be back in less than 3 years this time!

NZ Road Relays 2016

Pre event preps

The NZ Road Relays were held this last Saturday in Rotorua. The course followed the lake circumference clockwise, adding and embellishing upon the famous Marathon loop.

For the 2016 short course, there were six legs of 8.3k, 8.2k, 4.1k, 6.0k, 8.4k and a final 10.3k.
We formed two evenly matched teams and contested the social/corporate division.
MEC Tahi (in order of leg)
Sean, Jake, Connor, Megan, Sean, Connor
MEC Rua (in order of leg)

Michael, James, Michael, Lucy, Myles, Evan

Team Rua ready!
Team Rua ready!

Leg 1

The short course was also contested by the Junior Men and Women, and Masters >60. So after a short burst at the start (all social teams were seeded at the very back), Sean and Michael made their way through the field to sit behind the junior men, who were running ahead in a tight swarm. Michael was briefly ahead of Sean around the 3k mark, but was unable to make a gap and Sean caught up, then took the lead as they went into the final 2k. The first 6k were flat with some small short hills, but the last 2 saw the rural road wind up to gain 130m of elevation. Sean dominated the climb to put team Tahi into the MEC lead and social team lead at the end of leg 1.

Sean 31:37 Michael 31:53

Leg 2

Jake took the reins from Sean and made his way along the steady climb. His legs were beat from a hard run at last weekends Bay to Breakers 12k in Tauranga. James, himself recovering from a broken arm did his best to maintain contact. But in only his second run back from injury, he wasn’t able to keep Jake in his sights and he trailed off in the second half.

Jake 34:44 James 36:49

Changeover at the start of leg 3
Leg 2/3 changeover

Tahi 1:06:21 Rua 1:08:42

Leg 3

Connor got his first taste of the competition on the short third leg. It basically drops runners straight back to lake level, losing all accumulated elevation in a scant 4.1k. So it is fast and hard on the legs. Michael was backing up after leg 1, and despite the hard work less than 40 minutes previous, the legs were ready for speeding downhill. He re-caught a number of the masters and junior teams on his flight downhill.

Downhill time
Downhill time

Connor 14:44 Michael 13:07

Tahi 1:21:05  Rua 1:21:49

Leg 4

Leg 4 was for the femmes. For the 6km lap, the course joins the Rotorua Marathon course in the scenic Hamurana hills. Megan took off with a slight lead, but Lucy put in a PB-equivalent run of to pull ahead for Team Rua. Megan ran strong to limit the gap over the 6k and it was race on!p1060970

Megan 32:12 Lucy 28:48

Tahi 1:53:17 Rua 1:50:37

Leg 5

The final changeover

The 8.4k fifth leg saw Sean return for a second go. He was head to head with Myles, who started with a headstart, but knew that Sean would be lining him up. Sean paced it to perfection, building into his run and setting the second fastest lap split for the social grade as he took Team Tahi back into the front.

Sean 32:45 Myles 40:02

Tahi 2:26:02 Rua 2:30:39

Leg 6

Evan bringing it home for Team Rua
Connor with 2k to go

Sean came into the final transition well ahead, and many would have thought it was game over for Team Rua. But Evan had his game face on, and set about running a new PB for 10k as he did his part to bring the teams even. Connor started strong, but was feeling the leg-shaking effects of his earlier lap and had to gut out a tough finish. And so after three hours of racing, 45km covered, the MEC teams were separated by less than 3 minutes at the finish. A galant effort from all runners and some great times too.

Connor 45:38 Evan 43:49

Tahi 3:11:42 (3rd Social) Rua 3:14:30 (4th Social)


Congrats to MEC Team Tahi!

PS Many thanks to Ev for the accommodation!

Tarawera 2015 Pre-event Ramblings

What talent we have in the field this year! Read on for tales of woe and predictions for our MEC cohort this weekend.

We started with nine entered, but how many Maungakiekie Endurance Club athletes will finish the 2015 Tarawera ultramarathon?

Myles Robinson

Alas, brother Myles is a clear DNS. An open-dislocation of your right ankle will tend to interrupt your ultra marathon plans. We hope to see the return of this giant later in the season.

Ron King

Ron is an ultra veteran. Yes, he is a bit old, but I’m talking about how he is wise to the wiles of this event. He has yet to have a 100% performance at TUM, and I reckon this is his year. My pick is a solid, sensible race in the 100k and a sub 11hr finish (and new club CR).

Dave Atkinson

Dave has an 18 month history in running. 9 months since his first marathon. He ran his first ultra in November, the Hillary trail in December… this guy is moving! I’ve been really impressed with his buildup, very consistent. He’s in the 100k and I pick him as a finisher for sure.

Thom Shanks

Thom had a couple of dips in his buildup – an unexpected DNF at Auckland Marathon and a bit of gastro taking him out of the Hillary. But this guy puts in the big runs solo in foreign fields – if that’s whats required. Look for him to run alongside Dave for the first half. The smart money is on Thom to finish this 100k, whether in front or behind Dave is anyone’s guess.

Todd Calkin

Feast or famine. All in or all gone. Todd can be polarised runner, but he may have found a third way. His injuries have been a major set back to his preparation, but he has stuck at it and found a way to keep his foot in the door (so to speak). He’s strapping the ankle and taking on the 60, I think it will be a successful start to a strong year of running for Toddy.

Michael Hale

Ending 2014 with a bag full of endurance was a brilliant start. Spending the next 6 weeks not running was less helpful. Last Friday I was still in pain and had given up, but I’m gonna try another run and if I get through that, I will start the 60k. It would be a super cautious (50% walking for the first 10k) approach. The odds are that the calf flares and I walk out. But if it doesn’t I’m going all the way to Kawerau, baby.

Caleb Pearson

Caleb has elected for the peak late / minimal taper approach. But he’s got many marathons and last year’s 72k to draw upon. He will run smart and get through the low points to finish well in the 100k

Sean Falconer

Sean was the MEC revelation of late 2014, only to be out of running action for months with a series of injuries. He’s a fierce competitor – low on smack talk, high on pushing himself to the very limit. He’s managed a few runs in the last 2 weeks and is aiming to get his body through the 60k. If the injuries stay away, you can guarantee he will make it to the finish at the Falls.

Brent Kelly

Brent and Caleb had a great run together for most of last year’s race. This year could be similar, they both have the experience and similar low-volume buildups. Previously reknown for his fast flat half marathons in training, Brent has done less kms but clocked more vertical gain of late. He will battle through any lows that come to finish the 100k and get that medal. Watch out for him and Caleb – I’d say they’re likely to be running side by side this year as well.

The Rev’s Tarawera Ultra 2013 Report

It was a great day for me. The weather was mild and overcast – perfect for running. Even the pre-5am alarm was less noxious than usual. I ate my breakfast and got ready on time, another rarity. Just after 5:40 nine of us MEC lads were driving to the start line in the Redwoods in Rotorua. A few stirring words from the Race Director and we were off up the hill, headlamps bobbing in the woody grove.


I was entered in the 60k solo run. Last year I had a great run at the 100k solo, and had taken on the 85k in 2010 and 2011. 60k in 2013 would complete the set. I was hoping to be able to blast the race, and be in the mix for a top placing – but that was back before I got injured 5 weeks out from the event. My right calf had been giving me trouble since then – I hadn’t run pain-free over 30 minutes, and had missed nearly all my targeted workouts in this period.  But I had been doing anything else that I could. Strength workouts and hill hiking were my staples. I would find the longest, steepest slope in close proximity (Maungawhau being the best in Central Auckland) and then go straight up and down it as fast as I could walk. These hikes were hard in their own way, but the ongoing calf pain had me seriously wondering if I would be able to complete the whole 60k course. Truly, not in any sand-bagging sort of way. I made peace that I would not be as fast as planned, and looked forward to enjoying the beautiful course and the comradery of the MEC, even if just at walking pace.

I was encouraged by my orienteering run at Cornwall Park on the Thursday before the race. I had no calf trouble despite pushing hard for nearly half an hour around the paddocks and managed to be the fastest on course two. I wrote my predictions for Tarawera, where I guessed a 6:15 would be possible with a compliant calf.

Todd and Sam's early morning prep

Alongside me as we worked our way up the early hills was Todd Calkin. Todd was doing the 85k in a 2-man team with Sam Thom. Todd had his own ruptured training when he was smashed in a kite boarding accident. We were somewhere around 30th, and even then the singletrack would cause the whole pack to slow to a walk when the climbs got steep or tight. That fit nicely into my plan of preserving the body early on,  and Todd was happy to take the rest these breaks offered. I have run with Todd every year at the TuM, but this was the first time we had shared the first leg. Talking away and taking in the view, it was just a joy to be experiencing the magnificent environment along with a close friend.

I pulled up to take a mimi and heard Bryce Robinson run by. He was running the first leg in the 2-man 85k he was doing with his brother Myles. Bryce has been getting faster and faster over the last couple of years as he has focused on road 10k and half marathons. This was his first offroad event and he was looking good and going fast  – his split was a good eight minutes faster than mine for this leg. I caught back up to Todd and we ran by our great supporters at the Tikitapu (Blue Lake) aid station. On the technical bush track down to Lake Okareka I pulled away from Todd but he closed the leg hard to finish just behind my time of 1:50 for the 19.5k.

Robinson Bros at Transition 1

I grabbed my backpack and more supplies in a not quite (but close) formula 1 pit stop and headed out up Miller Road. Myles was way ahead, and Sam Thom quickly ran past. I saw Victoria Travers and asked about Ron. Ron King is another MEC regular, and was taking on the 100k for the second time. He learned some good lessons at last year’s race and had a good buildup this year with a super 5th place at the Kaweka Challenge. I forgot that he would be behind me (unless he HADNT learnt the lessons from last year). Also behind me was the final member of our MEC tribe, Mathew Raffills. Mat was doing his first ultra and was taking on the 85k solo. He had trained faithfully by himself down in the Hawkes Bay. Nigel Turnbull was his pacer and crew extraordinaire for the day.

Ron and Whanau at Okataina

Like the first leg, I wanted to run steadily in the second 17.5k stint over the Western Okataina hills, with the goal of arriving at the third leg (last for the 60k) ready to close hard. By now I was marveling at the lack of pain in my calf and was starting to believe that I would complete the race. I didn’t see many people on this leg, but as I worked over the hills  I felt like I was walking less often than in previous years. I stopped to stretch the calf when it started to grizzle, but otherwise had a sweet run. I came into Okataina in 1:57, a bit slower than predicted, but still my fastest time for that leg to date.

It was great to see Heather, Heidi, Dad and all the other supporters at Okataina. I got all my supplies reloaded and just as I was about to leave heard the announcer say that I was in second place. “Bollocks” was my swift reply. There were three of the fastest trail runners in the world entered in the 60k, super speedy international racers from the Salomon team. No way in the world I was anywhere near them. But, if the announcer had said it… maybe I was somewhere up in the pointy end of the field. I left the aid station determined to work hard until the finish. Bryce had started about 18 minutes up, and Todd around 10. I turned my music on and began to chase.

Coming into transition 2

The Eastern Okataina track is a delicious windy, rolling path that gives regular views across Lake Okataina. I was now confident that the calf was going to hold and I powered along, catching solos and team members regularly. I saw two members of the Salomon team on their way back from the turnaround, but wearing team (not solo) race numbers – leaving me wondering if they were racing as a team now. Bryce came speeding back, looking fast as he returned from Humphries Bay. No way I would catch him – he made the transition to technical offroad running in fine fashion.

Eastern Okataina

Speaking of technical running, I caught a toe about five times on this leg. I generally was able to self-correct but had the full tumble once. I did grow tired of smashing my sore toes and then stumbling about madly. I don’t remember having this problem before! As I descended into Humphries Bay on Lake Tarawera I came across Todd going back up the hill. He was followed by two guys wearing 60k solo numbers. I ran down into the aid station determined to catch those fullas. A couple of cokes and I was off back up the hill. I came upon Todd after a km and thought I would be going too quick for him, but he stuck with me for a few kms more. I love how Todd can push himself right into that red zone. Together we caught the two solo entrants until Todd lost touch on one of the climbs. There was plenty of traffic on this leg as I ran into the outgoing runners. The track was thin, but they were very obliging. I received a lot of praise from these runners which isn’t something I’m used to – maybe I looked like an international with my new haircut. I saw Ron briefly and he looked good. With two km to go I passed a girl moving swiftly, she stuck with me for a bit. Another km and I saw Nigel and Mat heading out, both looking good. I said hi and sped off toward the finish. I shot out of the trail and into the transition area. After a bit of misdirection, I was lead down to the finish by the lake. As I crossed the line I asked where I came.  I was sure I was up in the top three but was stoked when the guy gave me a finish medal and told me first place! 5:56:27

FinishedTwo fine supporters

So, another day at Tarawera where it all comes together for me ato produce about the best race I could with the fitness I had. I’m thrilled with the result and also with ‘getting it right’ two years in a row. I’ve had some dark times during these long races before which makes two good ones all the more appreciated. The real highlight though was experiencing the challenge with some of my best mates and our wonderful support crews – to share such an adventure together is what really makes an event for me.

For the others (I’ll let them give their own stories, but briefly:) After a smart and solid first 50k, Ron had some bad luck and had a hard second half, finishing in 13:15 for the 100k. Todd and Sam managed to get back in front of Myles and Bryce when Myles was mistakenly sent to the original 60k changeover at Tarawera Outlet. Mat Raffs paced himself brilliantly enabling him to run back from the Falls faster than he had gone out, catching many and finishing his first 85k in 12:37.

Mat, Mon, Mika - Team Raffills

The Rev’s MEC Tarawera Ultra Picks 2013

Picks for Tarawera 2013 – The Fellowship of the Trail

Well, we started off as a good sized group tackling the mighty Tarawera ultra marathon. But a slew of injuries has laid waste to a large number of our fellowship. Some are gone, some are just hanging on, and some are forging on, like Sam and Frodo, far beyond that which they were expected to go. My early picks follow:

Me – 60k

Put the ipod on repeat and get it to play track 3 – the injured calf overture in B minor.

This right calf hacks away at me after a good recovery over the Summer/Christmas period from the last time it flared. It aches when I dont run, and grates when I do. Yet, I still feel strong, and reasonably fit. With no long run since Feb 13, all plans of a speedy 60 are gone, and the question I now face is: will the calf hold out and enable me to run the distance, or will it be a long hike in the woods.

Prediction: Calf OK – 6:15, Calf not OK – 9 to 12hrs

Ron King – 100k

Ron has seemingly found himself aknew in the trails this year. With this fresh fondness for offroad, he has a couple of >60k runs under his belt, along with his 5th place at the super-rough Kaweka Challenge earlier this month. A bit less volume than last year, but more specific and with more experience. look for him to smash his 2012 time. I’m picking 10:30-11:15, and inside the top 20. 

Update due to course change: Finish time is harder to call now, and will be slower than previous years due to more difficult finish. But, I beleive this will play into Ron’s strengths. He is great on the hills, so I’m picking him to use his wisdom in pacing and nutrition and finish strong to be top 20 this year, lets say 11-12 hours.

Todd Calkin/Sam Thom: 78k team

Todd was building into his training but a nasty kite boarding crash into the ground (can someone link the youtube video – it is mean!) has given him some kind of upper back situation.  Jake, his original partner is no better, his running curtailed by ITB issues and lower back pain resulting in his withdraw from the race. Mate, we are all getting old. Fortunately, Todd has pulled in young blood in the form of Sam Thom, who with his recent Ironman training may provide a key anchor for this team to get them to the finish on Saturday. They will have fun, they will finish – time, I dunno, lets say 9hrs.

Caleb Pearson – 85k

Caleb is another with ITBFS issues taking him down. After setting his PB in the Auckland Marathon last October, he has battled back and forth with the injury, but has reluctantly succumbed and surrendered his entry.

Bryce and Myles Robinson – 78k team

Caleb has generously given his entry to the Robinson Bros. Neither of which were training for this event. Bryce – a quick road runner, recently building his distance from 10k/half marathons up. Myles – the old steamtrain, super reliable, strong and completely dedicated to finishing every event he starts – but alas, lacking much in the way of training over the last season. How will these ring-ins fare? I reckon they both have one good leg in them, and then one uglier one. Im guesssing a 9hr finish – should be close racing against Sam and Todd.

Mat Raffills – 85k

Missing from our troop last year due to work commitments, Mat is back for 2013. He has been solidly doing the big runs – logging many solo tags of Te Mata peak over the last few months. He has put the work in, and his ever increasing long runs have faithfully been chalked up. He’s new to the distance, but steadfast in his resolve – he will finish this sucker. He is supported by Nige Turbull, and I’m picking a finish between 11 and 11:30.

MEC 10 Miler 2012 Report

The second Maungakiekie Endurance Club 10 Mile was recently held at the Nikau Cave Cafe in Waikaretu. It was a classic Autumn event – cool and still, with a heavy fog adding to the atmosphere. A hardy crew of runners and walkers had made the drive south.

Although not able to race due to a bit of calf trouble, I kept my mind happy by organizing timing on the day. Richard Drake (who first came up with the idea) had done a superb job of course marking.

The event is an out and back along Waikaretu Valley Road. The road follows the course of a small river with a few gentle hills, then after five km climbs steadily upward to the turn around. It has a rough seal, little traffic and plenty of great views making it ideal for this kind of event.

The merry eventers were set off just after 10 am. There were a mix of MEC regulars, some local Waikaretueans and one large extended family group. Along the beautiful course they were all pleasantly surprised with a family-organised drinks stop at 4km.

How could you refuse a drink from these guys?After the completion of the event, folks were able to enjoy to a hot shower and some good old homestyle cooking from the Nikau Cave Cafe.

So how did it go?

Well, in the 10k walk we had the speedy pair of Anne and Lucy Horne take off. They were first home in 1:34:43.The best rehab for an ACL repair for sure Bec Horne and Janie Rich upgraded their 10k walk to include some good running and finished strong in 1:22:41. Chris Horne did his own thing, coming home in 57:32 after walking an unknown distance. 

Jenny Hale, Natalie and Murray Stephenson walked as a team and were over the line in 1:48:48.

The 10k run served up some sweet surprises. Richard Drake, feeling a bit worse for wear changed from the imperial mile to the metric kilometer and ended up taking out his local event in 45 plus change. After staying with Richard, Trav Reynolds got a bit weary and found Chris Horne to be a perfect recovery buddy. Trav was a starter (and finisher!)  in last year’s edition as well.

He started up his running engines just in time, before was almost mown down at the finish. His 54:22 narrowly held out a fast finishing Stuart Hale who crossed the line in 54:23.

In the full distance, Myles Robinson and Todd Calkin traded places at the front on the way out, both reaching the halfway point in 36:50.

Myles was able to pull ahead on the descent following the turn and crossed in 1:11:14.

Ben Horne raced it well to work his way into second after a wicked-fast descent also. Todd was able to work back into second on the flatter sections and finished in 1:12:45, with Ben next in 1:14:42. 

The ‘local lads’ of Richard Lang and Andrew Woodward looked to be having a good old chat out on their run. THey ran the whole thing together and finished up in 1:18:05.

The Warkworth teachers track club – Vern Dempster and Ian McHale also ran together and  easily took out the Masters section with their time of 1:27:36.

It was a great day, with many smiles at the finish and a few requests for a rematch. Big thanks to the Woodwards and Rich and Nicola Drake for the support and organization at the venue. We will be back.