The Great Kauri Cranleigh Run – 2017

You know when you get 3/4 through a race & find yourself still really enjoying yourself that it’s been a great day out. To be fair, 10 minutes later I was yelling my head off from agonising cramps. But hey, you’ve got to focus on the positives – at least I wasn’t vomiting too.

When Thom suggested a weekend away for this run down in the Coromandel I thought why not. Training had been pretty sparse, but there was plenty of time to get into shape and it was sure to be a fantastic run. 32km, ~1200m of elevation, panoramic views & a heap of beautiful Coro bush trail. Sounds epic.

The “get into shape” part never really happened. With work, projects & family life all being flat out, something had to give … and it was the training. I’d pulled back to the bare minimum of generally 1 run a week – maybe averaging around 15km/wk for the past few months. The one potential redeeming factor is most of that limited training was hill work.

My general race plan on the way down to the race was to take it real easy, try not to blow up & maybe just maybe (hah! Yeah right) have something left for the technical section & big downhill at the end. Thom quickly pointed out that I’ve pretty much never had a race go like that, and he would put money on this not being the first.

Sure enough, Thom the Seer proved correct, and arriving at the start line I threw out the conservative approach & decided on a new race plan. With 2km of beach going onto single trail, I was worried if I took the start too easy I’d seed well back in the field & spend the next hour burning lots of energy trying to pass people on single trail. So new plan: start faster, but not too fast & try seed near the front. Once we got onto the trails, run completely to feel & try to be at least a little bit sensible – especially conservative on anything steep. And then hope like hell I didn’t blow up with 15km still to go.

We set of down the 2km beach section at a reasonably comfortable pace around 4:30’s/km. I paced myself just off the lead bunch, settling in about 20m behind Sean. Coming off the beach you have a beautiful few km of winding bush trails with 4 or 5 stream crossings, and a runnable hill climb through the first 50-odd metres of elevation. I felt I was taking it reasonably easy, but still hanging with a bunch of guys in 3-7th (Chris Morrissey & one other had vanished as soon as we got off the beach). The going got tougher & we pulled back to a hike & ground out a steep climb eventually pushing out of the bush up at the first trig point @ ~7km mark, 350m above where we started. I’d shuffled a few places, but was sitting around about 5th with Sean in sight about 100m ahead in 3rd.

Stream crossing at the end of the beach. 2km in. No point in trying to keep the shoes dry!

The next section involved repeated steep downhills, followed by steep uphills – starting over pasture, and moving onto a quad trail through the bush. The uphills we ruthless – I remember seeing the grade break 40% a number of times – and I decided it was time to pull back or suffer the consequences of trying to keep with the others. So I let the guys ahead disappear, shortened my stride on the climbs, walk more hills & tried to not bomb the downhills too hard.

I felt like this slightly more defensive strategy (as far as protecting the body goes) seemed to be working quite well until at the 13km mark I half tripped on a gorse bush that surprised me lying across the track, resulting in sharp spasms of cram with both calf’s locking up. Oh dear. Not even half way through. This could go terribly wrong. However I had been in similar positions before & knew at this stage it was more of a warning sign than anything too debilitating & could be managed. So I set off again, having lost 1 position (chick’d), started popping electrolyte tabs, cramp spray, & anything else I could think of to hold things at bay.

Everything went pretty smoothly through to the next aid station & the following next 6-7km was a beautiful ridge line bush run, completely runnable along a quad track with interspersed epic vistas of the east and west coasts of the Coromandel.  I held strong pace through this section but saw no one, eventually coming out at Kennedy Bay Rd. I was pretty stoked at this point. I was 3/4 through the race, had felt great the whole run so far & was really enjoying myself. My nutrition was, for once, going to plan. Staying off solid food & a less aggressive fueling approach of a gel every 40 mins with a roughly 1/3rd mix of electrolyte drink to water in my bottle was seeming to do the trick & I’d had no sign of nausea, or any ‘low points’ on the energy front.

However I’d known the whole race that this next section was going to be the real test. A steep climb, followed by a heavy technical steep up & down section (mostly up) on fatigued legs that hadn’t been this long or high in a long time. The first steep climb (~130m up) went great, I felt strong with lots of energy & tried not to fall into the trap of slamming my legs. However as I crested & entered a steep technical downhill the cramp finally bit hard. I’d been looking forward to this section the whole run, so it was a bit disappointing (not to mention immensely painful) to have my calfs, quads & hammies taking turns, or often all at once, going into full blown cramp lock down.

Stretching out was doing nothing, and was often impossible as both quad & hammy were cramping at the same time, so to stretch one was to fire off the other worse. In the end I had to just try & hobble/shuffle/walk with the cramp still in full swing. It must have looked pretty funny (not to mention often yelling my head off), my foot would often stick out a funny angle as even my shin muscle would cramp. But standing around wasn’t working so I gritted teeth & began to force myself forward.

This went on for a couple of nasty km over the next half hour. I was resigned for a slow & painful slog out to the finish when I summited at the last high point – the Kaipawa Trig and beginning the 560m descent over the last 7km ahead of me back to sea level. Miraculously I’d only dropped 1 place (chick’d again) through this ordeal – I guess a good place to blow up is in a highly technical section where everyone is going slow anyway – I’ll have to keep that in mind for future races.

20170513_132529 (1)
Gotta stop for cramp anyway so might as well take a photo.  Finish line in the distance a long way down. Managed to half remove the grimace for the second it took to take the photo 🙂

Through this section I had been noticing that the cramp seemed to be more to do with climbing than downhills, and as I got into the descent, I was relieved to feel the cramp letting go more & more – finally managing to string more than a stride or two together at a time. I was soon ambling along, shortly after running freely, shortly after bombing down the windy, often slippery track – more concerned with careening off a cliff than with muscle seizure. Surprisingly I managed to hold this all the way back to town, only starting to see signs of the cramp when things flattened out on the 2km road run back into town.

I could see there was no one for a long way either in front or behind so I opted for as conservative an approach to the finish as I could bring myself to. I knew the only thing that could cost me a position would be pushing too hard & having to stop to stretch out cramp – so I ran to feel & each time I felt the cramp building I would drop back another 10-20sec/km until I found a pace I could hold.

Seeing the wifey who had lined up a couple of excited toddlers for me to run in the last 100m was a nice boost at the end (despite firing off a hammy cramp trying to pick one up) and I crossed the line in 7th place (5th guy) in 3hr 27m. Overall I was pretty stoked with how the run had gone. I was about as unprepared as I felt I could be for it, and despite wishing the cramp held out for 2 more km at the top of that hill, it couldn’t have really gone much better in the circumstances. I knew I was pushing the line as to what the body would manage so to not blow up earlier was a good outcome. Aside from the obvious, it was a really enjoyable day out. The scenery was magic, the trails (especially the bush single track sections) were awesome & I felt really good throughout the run.

Congrats to Sean who ran really strongly & took out 3rd in 3hr 03 Awesome effort. Also to Thom who battled it out to finish in 4hr 28 despite also having a average lead up, and his old man Alistair who was only 1 minute off taking out the 60+yo ‘Classic Men’ section in 5hr 02 – his favourite line about the trail “why do you keep calling it technical? It’s just bush trail.”

Finally a big thanks to the organisers of the run. They’d obviously done a lot of work on parts of the course for the race. Everything was really well run, everyone was really friendly, the course marking was great and all proceeds from the run go to adding to the 3000+ Kauri trees they’ve already planted along the trail over the past 12 years they have been running it. A great initiative.

Full results here.
Strava link here.

Xterra Waharau 2016

The 2016 Xterra Waharau was held on the final day of the track competition at the Rio Olympics, so I took out the iPad and we were able to both compete and take in Nick Willis second Olympic medal in the 1500m and Mo Farah’s repeat 5000m gold.
A magic day, clear and dry: there hadn’t been much rain in the lead up either so there wasn’t much mud except at the top ridge. The start and finish had moved back towards the road this year, which added a good 1k to the total distance.
This was to be my only Xterra race of the 2016 season – my other planned option at Xterra Waihi not being possible this year due to my roster. So I wanted to have a good hard race, and felt confident that I was in even better shape than last year, so had every chance of delivering.

Warming up on Puriri Grove Track

We took off fast into the climb and I pushed a little harder this year. Still, these climbs are like none on the city cones that we train on. Waharau hills are steeper and much much longer. So I found myself sitting in around 10th place, despite the extra effort.

Again, I found the downhills easy and would catch up without effort on the two patches of drop in the 9k stretch to the top of Auckland at Kohukohunui. But the last stretch of the climb – the most rugged and steep, saw me lose some time and a couple of guys caught me and I was sure I could hear more voices coming up behind. So it was a welcome relief to get back into the downhill, and I made an effort to run strong on the regular ups that punctuated the fall. I caught the two chaps again, plus a couple of others who had let me on the climbs.

You rejoin the other races on the Waharau Ridge Track. It was here that I saw another SL runner tying his shoes. Turns out he was Felix Geller, a speedster on both trail and road. All I knew was that there was now another target and so I shadowed him down the trail. We let rip down the big drops, notching some low 3:20 min/kms. I wasn’t fast enough to pass, but could maintain contact and we hooned it all the way down to the river, where we also caught and other SL runner. I charged through the river and blasted back up the hill trying to get a break from them both. Heart rate through the roof, my right hip flexors started to cramp up too. I had reached the limit, and backed off as Felix speed by. He was off, and not to be caught by me, so it was damage control on the last mile to the finish on Puriri Grove Track. I pushed as much as I could, and was grateful that the other chap was not in view behind. I finished exhausted in 2:16, 10th place.

2016 vs 2015?

Bit quicker up the hill (45 sec faster to the top, if you take out the extra bit at the start)

Equivalent on the first downhill

Faster on the Waharau Ridge Track downhill

Slower on the last km

Seconds faster overall, but further back the field.

Both years run at my limit and well executed.
MEC Results

Mid course:

Lucy Horne 1:20:33

Super Long Course:

Michael Hale 2:16:04

Sean Falconer 2:20:16

Connor Aldridge 2:39:35

Luke Strom 3:06:24

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!

3 months, 3 races

A compendium post-TuM  update:

I was ready to get stuck into some hard training following my disappointment at TuM 2016. However, I ended up being laid low, not with a running injury but with a pneumothorax. A weekend in hospital and a chest drain sorted me out, and once I had recovered I got back into the miles. It’s been great having 8 weeks in a row of 60-70k, and no calf injury for nearly a year. I can feel my body responding better to training and taking less time to recover which is encouraging.

First race back was the Tawharanui Coastal Challenge in early April.

There was a last minute course change, which saw the 30k become just an out and back addition to the 23k. That, and the extra sleep made the 23k the attractive option and I joined Laura, Dave, Sean and Brent who made up our MEC crew. The other difference from last year was the tide was out. Like nearly all the way – hence the times we ran were way faster, not having to scramble on the loose rocks at the high tide line so much.

Not fast. Fun.It was an MEC lead-out at the start on Campbell’s Bay. I was running just behind Brent and Sean who set a strong pace. They had an edge on me on the rocks, but I maintained contact as best I could. Then on the beach sections I would regain the distance. This lasted to about 35 minutes in, where I caught them and then Brent dropped back, looking a bit ill. So it became Sean and I duking it out, with Brent maintaining contact until we left the rocks at Tawharanui and climbed up to the point. I had a bit of catching up to do here, but felt strong and caught Sean at the Trig. I decided to keep the intensity up as we went back downhill and opened up a gap. But it wasn’t a big one. Sean upped his speed too and kept me close as we sped down to Anchor Bay and the second to last aid station.

I kept the pressure on for the beach section – knowing that there was a 3k reef to traverse before the end I had to make the most of my strengths. I got away to about 200m ahead as I entered the Northern Tawharanui reef. I made myself keep at it, but the occasional check back revealed Sean closing in.

I hit the base of Omaha beach – 1 Mile of flat sand to the finish. Sean was only 80m back and I turned on the boosters. I got a bit of a break, and then just clung on to the finish. I was stoked with the win, and elated at having a good battle with a bro – Sean was relentless (I just wanted to him to fold!). So we had an MEC 1-2 in the men’s race. Brent came in for 5th, Laura showed her 3rd at the North Shore Coastal was no fluke, running away with the women’s 23k and Dave came in shortly afterwards. Green singlet domination!

Next race was the Orewa Beach 10k

Orewa halfThis one fell apart. Initial interest was high, but for one reason or another I was the only MEC starter. It was a howling ESE wind with rain ripping up the beach. I neglected to take the conditions into consideration and ran my ‘perfect day’ race plan. I still got 2nd place, but it was with a huge second half slow down, so the execution felt rather poor. Kudos to Brent who braved the conditions to cheer me on – it definitely lifted me. I thought the course would suit a PB, but I’d recommend looking elsewhere – although the start and finish are on the beach, the course has lots of sharp turns and two decent hills which slow you down. And being an out and back – there was huge congestion on the bush track which slowed you as well.

The bonus race was the Waiheke Half Marathon

2158125_origRon and I got some tickets to this and our solid workouts in the weeks leading up gave me two thoughts: 1 – we were going to be very evenly matched and 2 – we were in good form and could be contending with the front runners (especially since the Rotorua marathon 1 week earlier had taken out some of the likely competition).

It was a gorgeous day on the island. We positioned ourselves at the front for the start and enjoyed the downhill spin to Matiatia wharf. On the climb back up we dropped a few of the pretenders leaving us in a group of 4. On the next big downhill to Owhanake we let the legs spin and pulled away. Trail running descending pays dividends in road racing!

It felt like a good pace – manageable but obviously quick. Coming back up from Oneroa beach we were being hounded by a silver fox. We just stuck with the game plan. He caught us around 6k, but once again we would drop him on every downhill, making him work hard to catch us again on the flat. The course is a rollercoaster (300m gain/descent) and this approach worked well. By 8k he had fallen off the group.

So Ron and I sped along, enjoying the amazingly scenic course, steadily pulling away. Te course is not a find-your-pace-and-stick-at-it kind of course. At times we would be in the low 3min/ks downhill then we would be grunting up a climb at close to 4:40 pace. It was well marked and well marshalled- a great effort for a first time event. The only error I saw was the out and back onto Kennedy Point, the marshals helped you cross the road, but evidently didn’t point people left as we came across a bunch of guys who had bypassed this section and were turned back by the lead scooter.

The King of Waiheke

This was at the 16k point. It was getting hard now, but I knew I had to maintain contact with Ron to remain competitive. So I gritted my teeth and hung on. It was really nice getting all the encouragement from the 21k runners still heading out on the other side of the road. The cheering intensified as we came back into the 10k runners at Blackpool. I was feeling the pace but got such a lift that we sped up! We were at about 3:45 pace winding through the streets, 1.5k to go. The last challenge would be the 40 metre climb in the last kilometre. We hit the climb and my ability to stay with Ron was eclipsed. He launched into it and I could not match his pace. He crossed in 1:23:18, me 12 seconds back. Another MEC 1-2!

The experience of digging deep, and of running strong the whole way made this my best half marathon performance to date. On a flatter course, it would have been a PB for sure. It was a real thrill having such a great battle, and drawing out of yourself something extra to meet the challenge. I am looking forward to the rematch!20x30-WHMC1315

Westcoaster 2015

The last bite of the 2015 cherry for me. I was wondering if after a long Spring season whether I might be a bit fatigued, so contemplated skipping this race to focus on Tarawera 2016. But after a couple of weeks post SkyRockNRun, I was feeling way better and I do love this course so it wasn’t really a surprise that I took my place at the start on Dec 12.

You can read previous reports for more course info, this one is a brief bit of race coverage.

I knew it was going to be warm (not crazy hot like 2013) and humid so wasn’t gunning on any PB attempts. Was great to join Sean Falconer at the start line – he had been spanking out the runs in his local southern end of the Waitaks and was fit and ready for his first off road marathon. Without pushing I briefly found myself leading at the start then ended up trading places in the top 4 over leg 1, completing the private farm loop in 2nd place in 1:05:27. First gear mistake of the day – bringing the wrong HR monitor strap and so no data there. Had to rely on perceived effort to guide me ie “using the force”, which is a critical race skill anyway so a good opportunity to test my internal guide.

Razor ridge stoke
Stoking along Razorback ridge

Leg 2 going North on Te Henga felt good, I had dropped behind the first fellow when filling my bottles at aid 1, but was content to pace reasonably. I got caught by 2 more chaps, which made me double check my pace, but I felt I was on track, so kept it steady. Completed this one in 1:11:59 a touch quicker than last year so all going to plan.

Leg 3 To Horseman. Felt good coming out of the aid and ran strong down Constable, into the Goldies Bush section and then hit the steep stairs which dropped me to a walk. No worries, pretty quickly saw one dude ahead once we got off the stairs again as we climbed up. Got passed by Anthony “Little Brown Runner” Hancy here as he blew by. I had a quick stop in the aid, about 26k done and ready for the real race to begin. This year they had moved the aid station down to the track junction, saving 500m or so by eliminating the out and back.Chasing Alec

I took off down the hill toward the river, catching both guys who had overtaken me on Te Henga. Ha! This felt good. Hit the river and noted my second gear mistake of the day – the Salomon Fellraisers were useless on wet rock and I had to gingerly trot across the dozen plus river crossings to avoid a full immersion. In doing so, I got re-passed by one of the dudes, but had to let it slide as this was not the place to try for a show down.

Up out of the river and climbing back up the kauri grove to Constable Road. Here was a pleasant surprise – I caught the guy who had been in front since leg 1. He was walking and looking well spent, so didn’t need to worry about him anymore. Then I caught my river-buddy once again and put in some pace on the stairs to build a gap.

I got to the final Aid at the top of Constable and was told I was 4 minutes down on Anthony who was in first. I figured that unless he fell apart I wouldn’t catch him over the last 10k but set off to keep it an honest race. And honest it was. I did fine until the last 4k, whereupon the effort of the day caught up (my internal guide may have been just slightly over-ambitious). I was teetering on cramp in multiple lower leg locations, and had to button off the gas and take a salt tab. I managed to grind it home, but was really in damage control and terrified of being caught as I had little more to give. Fortunately no pursers showed up and I crossed the line in 4:43:59, a new PB for me and in second place.

Sean had a well-paced cracker himself to go sub 5hrs and nab 5th spot – another great result from the MEC.

That’s it for me for 2015 – looking forward to another great year of running in 2016!

Xterra Trail Nationals, Waihi 2015 – RevRunReport

Last year:

Arrived 15 mins before race start.

This year:

Arrived with 40 minutes, time to get organised, warm-up, find mates.

Last year:

Set off like a stung rabbit, hit first bridge in 5th.

This year:

Went quick from the gun, but noticed a lot more top-end competition. Hit first bridge in approx 25th.

Last year:

The cave freaked me out.

This year:

I had a lamp, and was ready. The caves (2 this time) were sweet, like enforced rests really.

Both years: Hit the long climb and got into the rhythm, catching a couple of dudes.

Both years: Bombed the meaty descent, catching a couple more.

Last year:

Ran the Number 7 level track, version 2 at the same speed as the first pass (9:11 after 9:10)

This year:

Felt great and ran the Number 7 level track, version 2  my fastest yet (8:48 after 9:13 first time)

Last year:

Was a bit spent on the way down to the river (and especially up out again),

This year:

Was feeling pretty good and kept catching people, both on the trip down to the river and also by efficiently climbing back up the grunty punch with minimal hiking.

Last year:

Chased down 1 guy in the finishing straight. Came 15th with 1:44:55.

This year:

Got one guy before the bridge and had a ripping sprint to catch two more in the last 50 metres. Finished in 1:42:51, for 12th place.


Tarawera Ultramarathon 100 km

Tarawera Ultra, The Big One. The highlight of the MEC calender, the prized goal. When Mike forwarded the link to the early bird registration all those months back, I hadn’t thought too much about it but knew straight away I was going to be in. The FOMO of missing out last year and not being part of the pack wasn’t going to happen this time, and I figured if you’re going ultra you may as well go the whole hog and do the hundy.

Training had gone reasonably well, I was stoked to be injury free in particular. My general volume/frequency of training had been a bit lighter than I would have liked but a successful Westcoaster in December was a definite highlight and I did manage a handful of 30ish km runs including some beauties in Coromandel, San Fran, and LA.

photo 2 (3)
Training in the Santa Monica Mountains was a real treat

There were a few glitches along the way, a crash and burn in the Auckland Marathon  but probably more so a bunch of confidence was lost when I missed the MEC Hillary Trail epic just prior to Christmas due to gastro. Feeling a bit like the water boy after missing out on this biggie (75+km) I knew I was well behind the pack – I would have to sort out a solo mission. I was happy to get connected with some trail junkies in LA who sent me on my merry way to the Santa Monica Mountains. It was no Hillary but a solo 9 hour and 60 km later with 2100m climb I felt mentally in a better place, although could still not imagine pushing to 100 km ! My issue with bad chaffage was rectified with a new pair of skins and a half marathon chafe test around Vancouver a couple of weeks before the event.

The Lads smashing the Hillary in a light training session
The MEC crew smashing the Hillary in a light training session

I was pretty excited to be on my first 100 km with such an awesome pack of lads and a big MEC turnout, the race was never far from my mind for the last couple of weeks. It felt like a huge unknown stretching out to 100 km and after seeing the carnage of the Hillary/the DNF of Auckland I  was wary. Completion was definitely not a certainty. My strategy was simple:

1.     Stick with Dave for as long as possible and take it very easy for first 60-70 km, walk all the hills and then if I had something left use it. Be wary of crashing and burning right at the end ! Don’t worry about time, this is only about completion. Mike said 13 + hours. So don’t expect to finish before that!
2.     Don’t be sick or jetlagged in race day. Plan an easy week before and have the best sleep possible night before
3.     Have gels not more than 45 mins apart, drink plenty (Water, not beers)
4.     Scoff like a pig at the aid stations
5.     Keep the mental tank full up on the joy and goodness of race day, stunning scenery, supporters, MEC camaraderie, and pacers.

Pretty cool/scary to see you name displayed on the board the day before, a couple of MECers in there
Pretty cool/scary to see your name displayed on the board the day before, a couple of MECers in there

The day started well after an awesome sleep thanks to Brent’s sleeping tablets. Brent was his usual pre- race frantic headless chicken in the morning which provided some great entertainment. I was carrying a carbo-loading-fuelled Big Bertha that refused to budge so was obviously jealous of lads successful visits to the bog pre race and I hoped Bertha would not come unstuck at an unhelpful time.

It was epic to arrive and see the lads at the start. The new MEC green shirts looked swell. I was frothing as we kicked off some way down the field – pace was determined by the pack as the track narrowed through the bush. There was plenty of banter amongst the MEC brothers, particularly on the highly disappointing colour of Todds shirt. (black? What’s with that?) Once the field thinned a bit I was happy for Dave’s insistence on not pushing and sticking to the plan.

Feeling the good vibes abeam Blue Lake
Feeling the good vibes abeam Blue Lake

The course was stunning and I only felt good vibes as the kms fell easily. We headed up the track after Millar Rd and Sean was having some issues walking the hills with his knee but apparently not running so he suddenly disappeared like a mountain goat racing up the track never to be seen again. Once we started coming down the hill into Okataina at 37 km I relaxed the legs and let the pace go a little more. I arrived into Okataina to a large contingent of extended family support including Elysia with young James which was epic. I hung around scoffing my face, replenishing my supplies and generally sticking around way to long enjoying the festive atmosphere.

General scoffing at Millar Aid station prior to Sean hitting the gas

Dave and I were staying together as we launched into the next section to Humphries Bay and Tarawera Outlet. As warned this section was very slow with lots of up and downs over rooty rocky ground. We plugged away I started to lose some of the previous high as kms fell with much more of a fight. Perhaps it was the knowing that we had not even reached half way that yet that got me down a bit. The mental dark clouds cleared considerably as the trail improved underfoot and gave way to beautiful vistas over Lake Tarawera and the mountain behind. I stayed as long as necessary to replenish at the outlet and pushed on, the good times were back and I relished in the beauty of running beside the river and into the Tarawera Falls. It was awesome to arrive at the Tarawera Falls with all the excitement of the 60 km finish and have a boost of encouragement from the supporters that were there. I had been there for a few minutes when Dave arrived and we  decided to part ways and run our own race. Dave mentioned before parting that we “only had a marathon left and man, we’ve got this bro” and I headed down the forest roads to Totoki knowing I only had a solo 10 before hitting my pacer at 70km. Mentally I was in a great place. A slightly tweaky knee got me concerned for a few kms then passed, and I gradually started to overtake a few other runners.

I arrived in Titoki with loads of self belief feeling fatigued but happy knowing I had pacers by my side to get me through the great unknown of the final 30km. Dad (at 67 yo) was my first pacer and an absolute trooper as he launched out of Titoki with some enthusiasm. While we sweated our way up to Awaroa he kept me distracted with epic tales of woe and winning on the Oxfam 100 km and how we were going to pick off the field in the last 30 km. The Big Bertha kindly dislodged herself just prior to the loop of despair. By this stage I was feeling a bit nauseous and unable to eat. Thankfully I managed to keep gels down. There was some carnage at the Awaroa aid station including a woman wailing with despair and water supplies had temporarily run out. I was happy to feel mentally good but physically the long climb up to Awaroa and the loop itself took its toll, and I was concerned about not having any food.

Joined by Dad at Titoki for a 25 km jaunt through the Tarawera Forest
Joined by Dad at Titoki for a 25 km jaunt through the Tarawera Forest (still scoffing) 

The nausea faded a bit as I left Awaroa and I was stoked to have something left to run the flat and downhill trails, and I gradually picked off places as we continued on. Fisherman’s Bridge arrived and Matt my brother was there to tag Dad out and run with me for the last 10 km. Dad wouldn’t have a bar of it despite already running 20km and stayed with me. Flanked by the Shanks clan was a real treat. They followed my gruff commands to slow down or speed up. We arrived at the last ‘pink’ aid station to Elysia frolicking through the woods doing the cancan in bright pink accessories and I was nothing shirt of ecstatic, only 5 kms to go, and Dad checked out after a solid 25 km support. I set out and felt like I was flying (ok sub 6 min/ kms feels like flying when you’ve done 95!).

It was only overwhelming joy and gooodness I felt despite a tired body as I ran those last miles into the finish, following the Kawarau river. I picked off at least a half dozen runners and having the MEC clan and supporters cheer me down the chute with my bro by my side was wild. I finished in the fading light with an official time of 14:38, which I was happy with for my first 100 km.

Stoked as after 14 hours
Stoked as after 14 hours


1.    I aimed to start slow and was adamant to avoid the DNF so was stoked to finish. Because of the unknown distance for me I maintained a relatively conservative approach throughout but next time would keep things moving a bit faster, especially in last 40.

2.    Was happy to finish ‘strong’, I had no one overtake me since 60 km mark (unless they did it in the aid station) and the mental lift of picking up places was great. Brent’s got a great race data analysis here

3.    I was a bit surprised to never mentally enter a particularly dark place, in my 60 km in Santa Monica hills I felt mentally in a more difficult place. I put this mainly down to the last 3 hours running in the dark solo abroad compared with the beautiful goodness of the course, race day and supporters, camaraderie.

4.    I had no issues with injury, sickness, chaffage etc. The nutrition plan of stuff my face seemed to work well

The feet did take a beating although caused me no grief in the race
The feet did take a beating although caused me no grief in the race

5.    I spent ages at each aid station, a bit too long. A large part of this was my focus on eating, my current racepack has no access to food without taking pack off so did not eat at all between stations, except for gels. For my next ultra (did I say that?) I want a racepack that I can access food while on the go. And spend less time chewing the fat with supporters and soaking up that epic atmosphere at those aid stations! although that was one of my highlights

6.    From pre race feast at Daves place to the post race meet up on Sunday the highlight for me was to go through the pain and glory with such at top bunch of lads, and all the months of training. Dave was a legend to run alongside for the bulk of the run. The support from Elysia and the rest if the mob  (and the ridiculous enthusiasm of Toddy at the aid stations) was epic. Dad and Matt were legends to finish the race with. Thanks Mike for encouraging me to do the full 100 km, it always seemed like an unattainable goal until I did it. And I have to say Paul and the organisers of the TUM put on an exceptional event with a great vibe.
Here’s the strava link

If you want to see more photos of the scenery enroute check out the other fellas blogs. Well done for getting through my ultra-length race report, you know me, never short of words. Cheers! Thom

Post Race debrief with the WAGS in tow
Post Race debrief with the WAGS in tow