On February 11th, 2023 I have scheduled the Tarawera Ultramarathon (TUM) in my running calendar. The Event caught my attention beforehand, because of the positive reports. Since Jette and I have always wanted to travel toNew Zealand, we saw a great opportunity 😃 to combine both. The preparations at home have been in gray winter weather and went very well. Finally, on February 4th, 2023, we landed in Auckland right after the first cyclone and just before the second hit the island. Now we had a week to get used to the 12 hour time difference and the sunny and humid weather conditions.
The course and the weather:
The weather was quite rainy this year in New Zealand and therefore extremely humid. Otherwise, the summer is always pretty unstable in New Zealander, but the Kiwis could not stress out enough that it is one of the worst summers in a long time. The weather is a bit like the UK, except that it's an average of 10 degrees warmer and the sun is much more intense. The heavy rains meant that the route had to be changed about 5 days before the event. We did not start in Kawerau instead at Lake Okatano, which is about 60 km away from the original start and omits a large part of the "original" track, which I very much regret, cause I wanted to experience the course. But we were allowed to discover another part and so we ran the 50k route.
On the first section of the track you think you are walking through a jungle. Huge flag, a dense network of lianas which hangs between the trees, creating an almost impenetrable undergrowth. Along beautiful lakes and changing vegetation you suddenly enter the Redwood Forest with 115m high California Redwood Pines and feel quite small and meaningless. In Rotorua you then run between volcanic hot springs that are still steaming for more than thousands of years and spread a dominant sulfur smell. A track cannot be more diverse. But this part was also shadowless and perfectly timed in the midday which lead to high temperature and overheating. Leaving Rotorua again, you dive into dense forests before returning to the redwood for the last few kilometers.
The weather played into our hands and was very warm and sunny on the day of the endurance run and so also very humid due to the heavy rain in the previous days. Admittedly, this is not my preferred weather, but anything is better than constant rain. After the first half I was admittedly extremely well boiled. So I had to slow down to save and regain energy, but my mantra “Downhills and flats are made for running” kept me going. The deeper we got into the forest and the sunset progressed, the temperatures dropped and I regained some of my power.
The organisation was right on, especially when you have to change the route for about 1,600 runners 5 days before the start of a large event with about 5,000 participants and then organise the transport for all starters to the startline. So in short words, it was great. The Aid-Satitons were well filled and supplied and despite many more runners on the same course (100M and 100K used the same course on which otherwise only the 50K and 21K takes place), there were never any problems with long waiting times. The joy of the volunteers was amazing and they took great care of you. It felt very much like a big family. By far the best Aid station were the Boys-Scout. When over-motivated young people snatch the bottles out of your hands and enthusiastically fill them up, for that moment your forget that you are not doing well and you start to smile inside. And this can be quite relevant if you are in a bad mental state. I am always so thankful for the volunteers at these events because without them none of this is possible.
It was obvious to me, that drinking would be very important in the warm temperatures. So I made sure that I was drinking a lot and that I always had enough water and electrolytes between the Aid-Sations. I estimate that I have consumed about 6 liters of liquid. It's always a challenge though, because drinking too much isn't ideal either. So if you are still able to use the bathroom, it is a good sign you are fine.
When it came to eating, I relied on my hearty pouches and the occasional gel.I ate small portions pretty regularly so that my stomach was not overwhelmed by big chunks. IIt seemed to me that I was constantly eating, but that also distracts a little and makes time go by. Luckily I didn't have any GI problems with my stomach and I ate enough so that my stomach wasn't growling and I wasn't going into a deep hole. There was even pizza at the aid station, where of course I couldn't resist.
Mentally and Physical:
I was really excited for this event, so I was in a positive mood. It was my desire to finish my second 100km race. I thought it was great to experience this unique nature with the variety it had to offer. I was prepared for a warm day and thought about my strategy in advance. I knew exactly what I wanted to do at the AID stations and why, and I stuck to the plan. My strategy was to run the first 50K slow, which only kinda worked. After that I had to keep my pace for another 20 km and then see what was still left in the tank. The big unknown was how muddy and wet the track will be due to the heavy rains leading up to it. With every kilometer in dry shoes, this uncertainty became smaller and the confidence that it wouldn't be a mud fight increased. In the end, the paths were very good and the worries unnecessary. But that's exactly what makes such an adventure so appealing. The expected "heat" isn't actually my friend and I told myself that as you run you want to learn how to manage it and have a good day. That was my task to find out for the future. I tried to frame it positively and not let affect me negatively. Unfortunately, after 50KM I was pretty fried by the heat and the next KM was more like a steady hike. It also helped that I told myself that I've flown halfway around the world and you can't give up just because you're tired. As the temperatures dropped, I got some power back.In the last 20 km I even overtook a few runners who were almost 5-7 km ahead of me in the middle of the event. That gave me a mental boost and whenever a 100 miler who needed to run our loop twice overtook me, I was thrilled and told myself that I wanted that too.
The nature! We had “jungle”, the Redwood Pine Forest, which made you feel so small as the trees were gigantic tall and the smelly volcanic pools. The great aid stations, especially the boys scouts, the people cheering in costumes, the followers who shared exciting experiences with you and of course the joy when you realize that you made it and then realized you almost hit the time you dreamed of. The anticipation of seeing my favorite person arriving shortly after. Another highlight for me was also how well my body and mind coped with the exertion and how fast I recovered with no sign of pain.
- Distance: 102.8 km
- Aid-Station Village Green : 10 minutes to change my shoes and clothes, sunscreen and resupply my food. (KM 46)
- Total time: 12:15:07 hrs
- Pace: 7.08 min/km
- Elevation: +2240m / -2270m