Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon

Tarawera Ultra

Wow what a line up to be part of at the Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon. I was so fortunate to be invite to race against the best athletes in the oceanic region. In Australia there is no better athlete than Beth Cardelli (Salomon) and in New Zealand Ruby Muir (Five Fingers UltrAspire and Barefoot Inc) is the young gun powering though the trails in her five fingers. I was so please to be named amongst these class athletes running for the 100km title. Niki Wynd (Hokka) and emerging athlete Steph Gasset were lining up for the 60km event and Canadian 100 Miler runner Candice Burt (Salomon) were also amongst the individual line up. This was a great race. The competition was deep for the females and I was oh so happy to be invited to join in the fun. The men’s competition was thick and fast. With young gun Sage Canaday (Scott), western States Winner Timothy Olson (The North Face) last years 2nd placed Vajin Armstrong (UltrAspire/Saccony), Australian Aura Ultra Runner of 2012 Brendan Davis (Inov8 and Barefoot Inc) last years winner Mick Donges (Salmon). The elite athletes at the Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon were treated to press conferences, athlete seminars, guided tours of the Rotorua Springs and Traditional Maori Villages.

The race director Paul Charteris thought of everything in regards to promoting New Zealand, Rotorua and Trail Running as a sport and I was so please to be part of this classy event. After a slight nutrition malfunction at the airport where my expresso and vanilla Hammer Jugs were confiscated from me by Airport Security at Sydney. “Doh! You idiot”. I thought. I’m blaming my Hubby Mikey for suggesting that I pack them in my carry on to get through quarantine. I met up with Brendan in the duty free area and hung out and tried to relax. I was on a different flight to Brendan, we were to meet up in Auckland to fly to Rotorura on the same plane.

I jumped on the LAN plane and I was happy with the size of the craft. I was soon horrified when I was flipping through the In-Flight Magazine, I found a used tissue with a bright green golly scrunched up and shoved between the pages. Foul. I called for assistance and then started to disinfect my hands and all the plastic areas on my seat, tray and arm rests. When the plane landed I met with Brendan in Auckland and we almost missed our flight to Rotorua because we were too busy gas-bagging and we did not hear our flight being called. In Rotorua we hung out at the Redwood Forrest for a while and met with the other Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon runners. On the Friday Brendan and I got up early and tested out our race kit under head torches. We ran laps around a garden and we found a hot spring that I could soak in later. After a nice breaky, we headed back down to the spring and soaked and stretched. It was pretty funny. We were surrounded by Korean Tourist in the small rectangle spring. Within a few minutes of soaking a local school group of about 25 kids started a drama play involving the bathers. It was totally un-expected and I’m not sure what was to come from it. It was pretty funny all the same. A bunch of kids were dancing and going mad around the spring. It was surreal experience. The Friday was made up of a quick tempo run to the conference, a tour of the Rotorua Hot Springs, a sighting of a lazy Kiwi, and the Athlete Seminar. I enjoyed being part of the seminar. All the athletes on the panel were so different it was nuts how we all approach our running, training and racing in such a diverse way. I then was asked to help out on the UltrAspire Stand. I think my old retail skills came in very handy and I made sure the sales kept coming for my awesome sponsors Barefoot Inc. I then headed to the Hammer Stand to help with sales in hope that my services could be traded for some Expresso and Vanilla Hammer Gels that I was short of due to my f-up at Sydney Airport. Back the hotel the Barefoot Inc had a team meeting and I was a signed the lovely Anna to be my support crew for the 100km. We then packed out bags and went to bed. I had a crap night sleep as always. I just am too excitable before an event. I ate a banana in the middle of the night and drank fluids hoping this would settle my nerves. I tried to visualize the course and before long I was asleep again. I woke up at 4:30am for the Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon, ate some porridge, taped my feet, had a coffee, went to the bathroom then headed to the race start. I was pretty excited. I always am I love racing. I went to the bathroom a few times and made sure there was nothing left inside of me. Did my usual warm up and lined up at the race start line.


734151_10151543487810049_1778146072_nAll the athletes counted down the Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon and I was off and running. I just get so excited have to run out and get rid of my nerves at the start of an event. After about 1km I started to chill out and find my rhythm. I headed up and over the first few climbs and I was totally surprised to see bush stairs. What? I thought NZ did not have stairs like Australia. This was weird. Before long I was over the rolling hills of bush stairs and dust fire trails and after about 8km Ruby had caught me. She was panting heavily. Too heavily I thought. Man she is going to blow up if she continued to breath like this. I threw off my head lamp at the aid station and We ran along together, either her just behind me or I was just behind her and after a long flat section she edge away form me. I decided that I was going to ease up a bit and let her go. Knowing that there was 90km to go. I chilled out and just enjoyed the Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon. I rolled up and over the climbs. I love running in New Zealand. I could fly through grassy sections of bush and not have to worry about being bitten by a deadly brown snake. What a bonus! I hooned past the Blue Lake and cruised into Lake Okareka where my amazing Anna and James were waiting for my with my bag swap. This was bloody efficient. Too easy. The best support crew I’ve ever had. I’ve never been looked after so well in a race. After sorting out some of my things I started the big climb up the sealed road. The next 20 ks were a bit of a blur. I just knuckled in and climbed up and over the ridge along the lovely snake free grassy single man track. At about the 30k mark was when I started to feel cramps in my stomach. I pushed on trying to ignore it and after a few more ks I was starting to have some issues. After a few stops, in which the stinging nettle took it’s revenge on me as I tried to re-join the track. I soon started to feel a bit better. The thought of a few of my clients having gastro this week did enter my mind, heaps of kids from my mum’s and bub’s class were away sick vomiting and with gastro and my kids had up-set stomachs also and a cold. Maybe I had a bit of that I thought. I finally reached the top of the climb and I rolled down the descent into Okataina Lodge. Again Anna was flawless with my bag swap. I was so impressed with her support crew skills. I tried to pull myself together and go back to basics with my nutrition and hydration. I could feel the energy being sapped from my body. Every time I tried to feed myself I felt like it was going straight through me. When I reached the Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon 40km mark I was having real problems. I took some gastro stops. I was loosing too much time in the bushes trying to sort my guts out. At the 45km mark I noticed blood in my stool. Man this was not good I day at the office. Far out. But I’d already downed about 5 gastro stops before I’d noticed this. This new hurdle was going to make this race a bit more interesting than normal. I thought about stopping. I was out of energy. I had nothing to give. I even shed a few tears. I ran through Humphries Bay just trying to figure out what to do. I pushed on, hoping that Beth would not be catching me soon, but knowing she’d be on my tail soon enough. I spotted Sage, then Time, Vajin returning in the opposite direction. I ran through the Tarawera Outlet check point and someone asked me how I was going and I told them I was “Shitting Blood”. There, done , I’d admitted it. I was not well. I did not want to give up though. I just hoped that the gastro stops would buy me some time. I trudged on, not fast, and totally depressed and I was soon joined by my good friend Beth Cardelli. Beth is so nice. I really enjoy training with her. We have shared many a tears together, mostly on my part. “How are you going” Beth asked. “Not good, I’m shitting blood”. I replied. “I can’t keep anything in me. I have not eating for about 10ks”. We chatted for a little while, I then spotted Brendan. “Rudy is 16 minutes ahead of you. Go For it” . Brendan encouraged. But I was gone. I wanted to stop. A few seconds later I hit the deck, and I was grazed on my elbow, knee and I cried. I was so lethargic. Beth came and picked me up and offered me a few snacks. I could stomach nothing. At the time I thought I had a stomach ulcer. I took an anti-inflammatory last year to keep my airways open a day before a race with food so I could breath. Maybe that is catching up with me I thought. I wish I never took any of them. They are just too harsh on your body. Far out man. Why is this happening to you today. I let Beth go on and I tried to just get to Tarawera Falls. A few of the guys encouraged me by saying that Beth was only just ahead. I then soon spotted Ruby. She looked great. “How are you?” She asked. “Not good. Can you tell Dylan that I am bleeding from my butt”. I asked. I just wanted them to know that I was running slow because I was not well. I soon reached the Tarawera Fall and I spotted Beth coming back the opposite direction. She was only a few hundred meters ahead of me. I decided to take my time here. I told the staff what was wrong with me and I decided to use the bath room and check out what was going on. I still was bleeding bright red blood. This was really frightening to me. I had never experienced this before. I came out of the toilets and let the staff know the situation. I re-filled my bottles and kept my fluids up. I decided that gels were not a good choice for me at that point in time and I switched to Hammer Heed, knowing that this mix with carbs and base chain amino acids would be enough to get me to the end if needed. I decided that I’d go on as I was still going to make it onto the Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon podium. I had a job to do and I did not want to let my team down. My job was to get onto a podium. I ran on and started to cry. I pulled myself back together and reminded myself that I was running for Inov8 and Barefoot Inc and that I was not going to give up. I still had a chance of doing well. I pushed on and just waited for my body to recover and absorb some glucose. Come on Shona, run this is what you do all day with clients. You always run around on empty, there is no difference to what you are doing now. I started to spot all the runners coming back in the opposites direction and I started to lift. I’m a people person and I love the energy I get from running around with PT clients. I started to cheer, wave and say hello to every runner who came my way and I started to get my energy back. I hooned into Tarawera Outlet and decided that the Heed and the Coke was the go for me. I was checked again by the first aid staff and I told them that I was feeling pretty good again. My stomach had settled and I was running. At the check point a guy called Darren jumped ahead and I soon caught up to him. I ran behind him for a little while enjoying his great climbing ability. When I was following him I felt like I was being dragged along by a freight train. We chatted together and made a few bets about who we thought would win. (I later lost the bet and I now owe his friend who I will meet at Northburn a beer, his friend will then return the favour and buy Darren a beer). After a few ks I had to jump ahead of Darren and took off. I was back from the dead and I was starting to pull some sub 5 minute ks through this tough technical section. I hooned into the Humphries Bay Check point and filled up again with Heed and Coke. This was working wonders for me and I was onto a good thing. At the 75km mark I was finally able to go to the bathroom and pee. At last I thought. I was soon proven so wrong. On a green mossy patch I left a 1 inch by 20 cm bright red line. Oh No. This puts a stop into everything. I had to slow down. I could not loose any fluid and I had to protect my kidneys. I walked for a bit and I drank all my fluid. A few ks later I stopped to pee again. I used a leaf to catch the pee so I could inspect the colour. I was disappointed to see that it was still bright red. I slowed again. I went into survival mode. I ran along hoping that the U168 boys would still be around with their speed boat so they could take me the 8ks to Okataina Lodge check point but I knew they’d be following the front runners. I was too slow to expect any assistance. I ran and walked on just letting my body and not my brain dictate what it wanted to to. It was amazing how trained my body was at running. My legs just had a mind of their own and they would take off without my commanding them onwards. Other times I slow to a walk and contemplated what my body was doing. I felt like I had let it down in some way. The thoughts of all my races to come in the year popped into my head. I can’t wreak my kidney’s on this race. That would be so stupid. You have to pull out at the next Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon check point. I could not pull out though. I did not want to make the call. I wanted to know what my sponsors wanted me to do. Did they want me to tough it out and make the podium for the 100km or did they not mind if I DNF the 85km? Another DNF due to sickness was not a fun term to accept. I felt like I really was letting my body down. I stuffed up somewhere. I have been trying to hard to get my asthma right since November. I’d given up dairy, wheat, products containing gluten and peanuts. These are the triggers that I have identified as asthma promoting foods.Now I was being tested again with this new health hurdle. I popped out of the bush at the 85km Check Point and I ran to Anna my support crew. “Tell Dylan I have been peeing blood and shitting blood”. I said to Anna.”I’ll go on if you want me too, how far behind is the next female?” “She’s ages behind you. I’ll get Dylan.” Anna said. “If you’re pissing blood I think you should stop”. I looked up the hill. I knew that all I had to do was climb up there and then roll down the other side and I’ll have the 3rd position. I was miles ahead of the next female. I was worried that if I was on I was going to damage my kidneys. I was scared of that awful sharp stabbing pain that you get in your back when your kidney’s are being damaged and I did not want that to happen. I was in tears when Dylan arrived. “If your peeing blood you should stop. You’ll win the 85k.” Dylan said.” Your too sick, don’t risk it”. “I’m not wining the 85km I’m DNF the 100km.” I said and I burst into tears. “I’m not crossing the 85km line I’m DNF the 100km, I’m pulling out. Not winning.” “The pull out line is over there, that’s how you finish. You have to cross the 85km line to pull out it’s the same line. The rules are as such”. After looking up the hill a few more times but with Anna and Dylan urging me to be smart and pull out and that my health was worth more than a race result I ran across the 85km line. I knew that if I kept going I may do myself a serious injury. I refused to accept my medal. Dylan picked it up for me though just in case I changed my mind. I burst into more tears, ashamed that I’d pulled out of the Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon and absolutely gutted. Everyone was cheering for me as I crossed the Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon 85km finish line but I refused to accept the win. I was checked over by St Johns Ambulance. I the headed with Dylan, Anna and Gayle to the finish line so hopefully see Ruby finish and let Brendan know what had happened. We arrived to see Ruby cross the line from a far and I was ordered to get change and go to the hospital. Brendan had managed a solid 4th place in the event behind Sage, Tim and Vajin. At the hospital I was seen straight away. Bloods were taken. I fainted. I was put on a drip and ordered to stay the night for rest and recovery. I ate some food and I was covered in blankets to stop me from shivering. After a few drips to flush my kidneys to prevent kidney damage I was asked if I previously had a heart murmur. I looked at the fluid bag and asked them if they’d given me a complete electrolyte replacement mix. They answered no, just a saline kidney flush. We decided that the next bag could be a balanced electrolyte mix and my heart soon returned to normal beating patterns. Far out man, who would have thought that something just as simple as a saline solution IV could give you a heart murmur. I said goodbyes to Gayle and Brendan and I was left with a meat lovers choice of pizza. I ate the pizza, even though I’d normally not eat meat but I decided that this was not the time to be fussy. I was told I had a mild case of muscle meltdown, but it was really minor considering what I have just done. My Keytones were at 1200 after 85km and the Ironman two weeks earlier were at 30, 000. I was in pretty good shape in the doctors eyes. I was looked after by the staff at Rotorua Hospital and I was discharged the next day at 11am. I promised them I’d see a doctor, sports physician and a gastroentrologist as soon as I arrive into Sydney. I missed the awards ceremony that was held the next day at the Holiday Inn and I headed to Abracadabra to organize all my drop bags. At Abracadabra I was approached by the 85km female winner Jenni Hoogeveen. She kindly thanked me for allowing Dylan to give her the 85km Medal. I was stoked that Brendan had organized that for me. I really did not want to accept it at prize giving. If I was well enough to make it I was going to pass it down the line and hopefully the other who entered the 100km athletes would have done the same and it would have ended up in Jenni’s hands. I guess this way the medal ended up in the rightful owners hands. Okay the results for the day are as follows; Ruby Muir the up and coming young trail running ran 10 Hours 30 Minutes Beth Cardelli, coming back from injury 11 Hours 43 minutes Kelly Harrington I’m not familiar with her abilities 14 hours 23 minutes. 85km Unofficial 9:31 Shona Stephenson, Candice also finished short of the 100km at the 85km mark with a time of 10 hours 37. Jenni Hoogeveen 1st place the Vibram Tarawera Ultra Marathon 85km event with a time of 11 hours 4 minutes. What I have learnt for the experience. I will drink fresh clean water and use Endurolyte Caps as my hydration plan. (This is what I recommend at UTA camps if only I had followed my own good Sports Nutrition Advise) I will go back to my weak solution of Perpetuem. I made the perpetuem mix too strong for my body weight trying to save weight on water. I will water down my Hammer Gels some more. My guts are always an issue for me. I have a retroverted uterus. Meaning my uterus is resting towards my back on top of my intestines (Or Flipped back the wrong way). I’m sure this is one of the reasons why I am having a few problems at the moment. It’s amazing that I could have had children. I have a retroverted uterus and I also have polycystic ovaries. Both of these abnormalities would normally make having kids really tough. I guess I like breaking all the rules. I will be dosing up on probiotics to help produce healthy bacteria in my gut. I have been run thought all the tests under the sun this week at the Hospital and with Doctors over 3 appointments back in Sydney. All my organs are functions correctly. The blood looks to be superficial only caused by straining. I have and no further symptoms, and I have been running around with clients all week and i have not had a repeat assurance of any bleeding. I have still be referred to a gastric specialist and a sports physician. I will keep you posted on my results and recommendations. My Kit for the Race


Tarawera Ultra Marathon

  • inov8 x-talon 190
  • injinji mid-weight crew socks
  • inov8 Barefoot Inc branded BSc Compression Shorts
  • inov8 Barefoot Inc branded BSc Sports Bra
  • Hammer Visor
  • Ay-Up Ultralite All Rounder head torch.
  • Spi-Belt
  • UltrAspire Spry pack.