Tarawera Ultra 2014

Tarawera Ultra 2014 World Trail Ultra Tour WTUT

I had unfinished business at Tarawera Ultra 2014 part of the World Trail Ultra Tour. I DNF’d the event in 2013 due to a heamatura so I was keen to cross the finish line of the 100km 2014. I arrived in Rotarura at the buzzing Holiday Inn where the Tarawera Trail Expo. I spotted My Inov8 Team Mate Brendan and we were soon whisked away in a van to the amazing Red Wood forest by my mate and BreafootInc Team Mate James Kuegler (AKA Kugs) the Director of Cadence Coaching. He has set up a really cool running coaching group and about 10 of his clients who were racing part of Tarawera Running Festival. Tarawera Ultra 2014 has 4 events. The 60k, 85k, 100km and the Team Relay that start in the breath taking Red Wood Forest in Rotarura.

After a little jog to free up our legs through the massive plantation Red Woods we drove back to the Tarawera Ultra 2014 Expo and were informed of the bad news. Cyclone that was due to hit the course at about lunch time tomorrow. We were then informed that the course will be shortened to 65km. There would now only be two distances. A 65km and an 55km. What a Cyclone? In New Zealand? I thought that only the tropics were effected by clycones. Man at Hakuba International Trails 2013 in Japan, we were lucky to get out of the country before the Typhoon hit. Last year I was unable to fly OUT of Rotarura because of poor visibility due to fog, now we have a clycones on it’s way. (I did not even bother booking flights in and out of Rotarura from Auckland this year. I decided to see if I could get a lift both ways. Flights were in the end able to get IN and OUT of Rotarura even with the Cyclonic conditions.DOH!)

Okay. Let’s get your head around this and with last years 85km Winner Jenni Hoogeveen looking on I pulled out my nutrition plan and my maps and re-jigged my race nutrition down from a 100km Race Nutritional/Hydration Plan to a 65km Nutritional/Hydration Plan. This basically meant I was chucking out most of my solid food. Out went the Hammer Bars and the Perpetuem Solids. The conditions were cool for me also. I then reduced my hydration intake too. I decided that I would NOT do bag swaps. I will just swap water bottles and Hammer Gel Food Bags. I guessed that the Tarawera Ultra 2014  now would be run at a higher intensity early. I wanted to be as lite as possible. The new course will mean that the cats were to be flung in amongst the pigeons. The fast, speedy 60km runners will be with the 85km runner with the 100km runners. The field will be thick and fast. The World Trail Ultra Tour branding meant that top athletes from New Zealand, Australia, USA, Hong Kong, Japan would be lining up for the Tarawera Ultra 2014 tomorrow morning. No one knew who was running what event. I was kind of hoping the rain would come sooner rather than later. I like a nice wet track.
Shona Stephenson in the Tarawera Ultra 2014 World Trail Ultra Tour 

Running a 65km is different from running a 100km, as a 65km is different from running a marathon. It’s a totally different head space. The Tarawera Ultra 2014  was shortened but the elevation was increased. We were to complete the climb in the first 5km twice and the biggest climb of the course twice also. The course will now be a loop plus an out and back. The total elevation will be increased from 2200 to 2700m. My plan of attack would then have to change a bit too. Most importantly I just had to remain nice and relaxed and run my own race.
With my Tarawera Ultra 2014 drop bags organised. I made it easy for myself. Start Bag, The Lake and the Lodge, that was it. I could not pronounce the Maori words for the locations so the Lake and The Lodge worked for me. I placed them in the correct truck I was ready to head to the hotel and have dinner and hit the hay. I did my best to sleep but the Irish Pub across the road was pumping in Rotarura that Friday night and I was kept up by disco beats and singing. It was kind of nice to listen too when pre-race nerves kept me from sleeping.
I got up at 4:30am taped my ankles had a small breaky met my BarefootInc Team Mates Dawn, Ruby and Daniel. At the start line I went through my warm up and got ready to race. The conditions were nice and warm. The cloud cover left the air humid and moist. I decided to strip down to a crop top as it felt like I would be too hot after the first climb.

My Tarawera Ultra 2014 race kit was the following

Inov8 X-talons 190
Injinji Socks
Inov8 Race Ultra Calf Guards
Inov8 Elite Race Fitted Shorts
Crop Top
Inov8 Race Ultra Vest
Hammer Visor
Ay-Up Ultra Lite Head Torch.
In my pack I had my Inov8 Singlet and my Inov8 Race Ultra Shell

Tarawera Ultra 2014 Nutrition and Hydration Plan

500ml of Fluid with 1 Scoop of Perpetuem Per Hour
Hammer Endurolyte Cap Every 30min
Hammer Gel every 45 minutes

After the Opening Ceremony Maori Haka at the Tarawera Ultra 2014 we counted down to the start 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 , 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and we were off and running up the first climb. Okay the aim for me on this first climb was to work my technique and not thrash my legs. I imagined I was being drawn up the climb with an imaginary rope pulling me up the hill. I kept out of everyones way and also make sure I have a clear track ahead of me. I was slightly leaning into the hill and working my posterior chain, whilst not loading up my quads and kept my cadence high. This was all I thought about. The stairs then came. Again it was all about technique. All I was concentrating on was getting my knee into perfect position over each step then lifting my foot off the ground and the same time as positioning my knee over the next step then lifting my foot off the ground. I was working my cadence, saving my muscles. I stepped and breathed, stepped and breathed. Keeping my breathing and step rate high. Counting, counting, always counting my cadence out with every step and breath. 1, 2, 3,4,5,6,7,8,2,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,3,2,3,4,5,6,7,8……and so on. (Sometimes I find counting in 8’s works better than counting in 10’s).
At the top of the first climb of the Tarawera Ultra 2014 I then relaxed and rolled down the hills and enjoyed the ride. I was cautious on the descents. The Tarawera Ultra 2014  is my first race in 2014 and it would be a tester for my ankle injury. It’s a long season and I want to make sure the ankle makes it to the end of the season. The ligaments in 2013 had all gone on both sides of my ankle. Even my front foot tendon was torn at some stage too. My muscles and strapping tape is what is holding it together. I was going to ease it into 2014 and make sure that it is there at the end of 2014.
The trail soon opened up along a ride line and the 55km runners all turned left and the 65km runners stayed on the gravel fire trail. The trail then looped around the ride and returned us back to the start line where handed over my Ay-Up to an official and quickly filled up on 500ml of Heed and headed back up the start climb for the send loop.
Man in the day light the climb seemed massive. There is something about not being able to see how big the hill was in front of you in the dark. I much prefer not knowing what I was climbing. Ignorance is bliss sometimes. With the loop done I was off and cruising along the fire trail where I was caught by an unknown Kiwi runner dressed in all black. It was Jo Johannsen. We chatted for a bit and she suggested that she did not even know if she was able to make it to the end of the 65km.
“Just eat and drink and you’ll be right”. Was all I could manage to reply. I have asthma so I usually can’t chat whilst working hard. After about 500m of running together she darted into the bushes for a nature stop. I thought that would be the end of her. I was proven very wrong. About 1 minute later she bounced out up the trail and past me and a storming pace and within 1km was gone.
I hit the single trail again just easing my ankle down the descents and just enjoyed myself. the Tarawera Ultra 2014 is a located beautiful part of the world. I made sure I took in my surroundings The forest is just beautiful, covered in ferns, mosses and beech trees. After about 25ks of running I was caught by my mate, Aussie Beth Cardelli. Beth was her usual self. Just bouncing happily along the track. Beth makes running look so effortless. We shared a few words together. I enlightened her that the leading Kiwi had not run an ultra before and she should be able to run her down. I was also I was trying to work out what Beth had on the back of her calves. I later worked out it was a pair of Tempary Tattoo Boxing Kangaroos. Too cute! I love Beth’s quirky little things she does before en event. We raced 30/50 Challenge together in VIC and we both made sure we had a spray tan, eyelash and brows tinted. She soon past me and was gone. I did my best to hold on but I knew there was a big climb coming. I also always have a crap patch around the 30km mark. I usually am just waiting for my body to tick over into a higher fat burning zone. I ran into the 2nd Check Point Lake Okareka feeling focused. I quickly swapped my drink bottles over, grabbed my food bag, with the help of Kugs and I was off and running up the climb towards Millar Rd. Soon after the checkpoint I lost another spot to the UK runner Claire Walton.
In this 3rd leg I just tucked in and did my best to hold my rhythm. It was basically a 15km climb made up of two peaks. It just did my head in. I kept just wanting to hit the top so I could run done the other side but the 2nd peak just never seemed to come. I was past by another Kiwi and around about 40km into the Tarawera Ultra 2014  I was then passed by the USA Runner.
Again I just wished the descent would come. I was soon being passed in the opposite direction by the relay leg runners and then Sage Candalay, Varjin Armstrong, Scott Hawker, Matt Murphy, Brendan Davis, Dave Eadie making their way out of the forest. The rain was starting to come down and I thought about the runners having to come back along the wet track that was churned up by the entrants twice over. I was happy I had on my Inov8 X-Talons 190.
I was cautious running the descent. Not knowing what my ankle would react. At the end of 2013 my ankle was so bad I had trouble turning to the right! So I was pleased with how it was going thus far in 2014 but I was playing it safe. I was still feeling a bit sick and bloated. I’m pretty sure the bloody “Curley Fries and Mash Potatoes”, (with bloody cream!) that I had for dinner the night before were not working well on my gut. I was so bloated and it hurt. Thank bloody goodness I’d taken enough Imodium’s to stop IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) whilst racing this year. I also worked out on leaving Auckland Airport that the Thai Pumpkin Soup had grated cheese in it too that I for lunch the day before! Man I just can’t win. What is wrong with just good plain clean food? What’s wrong with stating that your meal has cheese in it? I knew I should have just had the hot chips! Grrrr.
With my guts feeling crap I descended and I was cheers up with the sight of Kiwi Runner and BarefootInc team Mate Dawn who was running to 65km and Ruby who was running the Tarawera Ultra 2014 Relay Leg floating past. They looked like they were having so much fun together. Like two friends out on a run, having a chat. I was soon smiling and feeling better. I past a Kiwi runner. I was not sure what event she was in. It was hard to tell who I was racing now, but I finally I felt like I was finding my groove.
I ran into the check point a bit sore and sick feeling and not looking forward to the climb back out. I was told that I was not running straight out. I was a bit confused, and I knew I was dehydrate. I was to continue on for 2km on an out and back. I was totally out of water. I’d run out about 5km back and I was feeling the effects of Dehydration. My concentration was crap. I was passed by a runner at the check point. That leg was a long, tough one and I was totally out of resources. I filled up on Heed and I hit the tracks again. I love this part of the forest. The single technical trail is just marvellous. Lovely Silver Ferns kept me smiling and I just took in the scenery every time I felt low and crap. I grabbed a pink band and I was heading to the finish line. Come on Shona, you are on the return now lets try and bring this home. Stay with it. I spotted a few more female runners on the return. The lovely 17 year old Lucy Bartholomew was chasing me down as well and every other Kiwi runner on the trail trying to bag an Aussie Scalp. I know the New Zealanders love beating us Aussies. I’m married to one. We can’t watch any sport that a Kiwi Team Verses an Aussie team. I’m surprised if he was going for me in this event.
I ran into the final Tarawera Ultra 2014  check point on the return a bit more composed. I’d managed to consume 500ml of fluid in 4km and I was feeling fresher for it. I again filled up with another 1L of water and hoped that this would be enough to get me to Miller Rd. I tucked in behind a bloke and ran and walked up the climb I pushed hard on my hip flexors and used my hands to lift my legs. After only a few hundred meters of walking I found myself running.I kept my cadence high up the 5km of climbing. On the climb I was spotted by many mates, who were calling my name but I was too focused to recognise anyone of them. I was there to grit it out to the end and it hurt. I was past 50km and I was feeling good. I usually really suffer from 30-50km.
At the top of the climb. I had finished 1L of fluid. I bombed a few Endurolyte’s and with my hydration levels sorted I started to really warm up. I did the sums and worked out the race was going to be a 72km event not a 65km event. I still had some time to run down a place or two if I tried.
With 11km to go in the Tarawera Ultra 2014 I picked up the pace and started to really enjoy the conditions. I started to get a bit worried about the other runners still coming up the climb. The wind was picking up and whipping the branches of the trees in all directions. The rain was starting to get heavier. It was wet, slippery, muddy and soft under foot. I managed to pass a female runner on the descent who was having trouble in the conditions. One false move would result in an ankle injury. I did my best to dodge and weave through the track and not collide with the runners on their in leg into the Lodge.
I was soon at Miller Road then onto the tarmac and hooning down the descent. I tried to pull out some sub 4 min ks all the way to the finish line. It never ceases to amaze me but no matter what the distance I am racing I always need to know how far the finish line is. With a spectator informing me I had 300m to go I dug a bit deeper and ran over the finish line feeling a bit bummed that the race was only 72km. I was really starting to feel good, and ready to rock it. That was the Tarawera Ultra 2014 bring on UTMF.

Tarawera Ultra 2014 Results

Tarawera Ultra 2014 Ladies


Tarawera Ultra 2014 Men


Tarawera Ultra 2014 By Shona Stephenson

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