When you fly to the other side of the world to run a 100k trail race that you have to give it a go right? Well,
that's what I've been telling myself since race day and it was all going so well until three quarters of the way
through the race until I started my usual party trick of vomiting everywhere. Nothing has changed that much from
my nights out at university really?
When I got an email in December from the Ultra Trail World Tour asking if I would like elite athlete support I
thought it was a little bit too good to be true, especially when they agreed to fund a trip to run one of my
bucket list races in New Zealand.
- Running around for some photos in forbidden locations pre-race. Lyndon Marceau
It's the biggest thing I've got out of this running lark so far and I was really excited. Training went well for
January and three big weeks got me in good shape before my taper and thirty two hour set of flights. I had a good
mix of hills, speed-work and mileage that had knackered me out but, with some good rest in my taper, I was happy
with how the legs were spinning over.
The level of competition was getting stronger and stronger as the race got closer, with international athletes
such as Dylan Bowman, Jorge Maravilla, Yun Yan-qiao, Pao Bartolo, Mike Wardian and Vajin Armstrong lining up at
the start with a twenty four hour running inspiration Yoshikazu Hara, who had run 285km in December toeing the
line as well, I knew that if I raced sensibly and finished strong, like I know I can, I could maybe break the
top 5 or hit the podium.
With a rousing Haka at the start, whilst I was hidden in the bushes for a final pitstop, the race got underway
amongst the great redwood forests of Rotorua, with some sick single track trails ahead for us to enjoy. Pockets
full of homemade rice cakes and some CLIF shot bloks, the legs and mind were feeling good and I felt like I
belonged on the front of the thousand runners lining up for an adventure.
- Lining up at the start facing an adrenaline pumping haka amongst some top ultrarunners. Lyndon Marceau.
When discussing the race beforehand with the other nippy chaps they had all hinted towards an easy paced start
for the first twenty or thirty kilometres to ease us into this early season race. Unfortunately no one had
mentioned this to Yun, who was dead set on an improvement on his second place finish last year.
Expecting Bowman and co to mark such a strong move from this omni-smiling North Face runner I just settled in
behind him and trotted along. It felt a little quick but I figured he'd settle down when he realised the chaps
ahead were only racing the 60k race.
No such luck, as I let Yun race Moritz just ahead as I knew he was planning on a slightly shorter day than us. I
settled into a rhythm and enjoyed the wonderful crowds and volunteers at the aid stations and chowed down on my
food every half hour. Bryon Powell was pretty shocked to see me in second early in the race, a little wary that
he might actually have to interview this cheeky little British chap for his website irunfar.com one day. One day
you will have to Bryon and I know you'll enjoy it.
Mr. Bowman, a fan of the game of darts and a dedicated Phil "the Power" Taylor fan, came past at about 50k into
the race and moved very strongly uphill, so much so that I just had to let him go straight past. He was having a
great run and would smash the course record in a wee while. Then I went past Yun & Moritz after we all took a
slight wrong turn into some bush and I was to have the pleasure of Yun's company for a few kilometres after that.
Majell joined at 55k & 2nd Place, yet we finished in 7th… What’s going on there Maj? Kurt Matthews.
From 55k onwards I was joined by Majell Backhausen, pronounced My-Elle I learnt two years too late, to pace me
through to the finish. He was in town for a wedding so it seemed like a good chance to catch up with a friend who
lived on the other side of the world.
Yun and I were having a great little ding-dong battle along the trails, both struggling over fallen tress due to
our less than giant frames and sneaking underneath some that I'm sure Bowman and Maravilla, now ahead, would have
hurdled. Good things come in small packages eh?
After watching Yun grin wildly at every obstacle so far, even when we interrupted his pit stop on the side of the
trail, it wasn't good to see him slump down into a chair at the 70k checkpoint. We had been pushing each other,
racing for third now, for 70k and now he just had nothing left.
Powering out of the 70k checkpoint, happy that I was leaving Yun behind, it wasn't long before my body decided
that I was trying just a little too hard. The racing had meant that it was happy to run or digest food, but not
both, and I chundered everywhere on the loop of despair, as Hara literally jumped, skipped and hopped up a gnarly
looking incline I was stumbling up.
- Determined to keep moving but feeling empty at 85k
This was not unusual territory. I knew I had to get fluids, electrolytes and energy into my body before it chucked
them out again so I continued eating as much as I could, but energy levels were real low. Flat and downhill were
fine but any type of incline just sapped me and I slowed to a crawl. Armstrong passed at 85k, Wardian at 95k and
Bartolo around 97k, all with encouragement and good will. There really are so many nice blokes in ultra racing
and they'd all been there.
My pre race aim was sub 9 hours so coming through the finish at 8:45:11 was something I might have taken at the
start, but on race day I had to make a decision in the thick of the action. I could have eased off, let Yun go
and tried my best to finish in the top 5 or I could try for the win. It's a decision I'll make the same way every
time but if you don't go you'll never win. One day they'll not seem me again until the finish line.
- Crossing the finish line with good friend Majell, even if I can’t say his name. Lyndon Marceau
Overall New Zealand was a great experience, a country full of beautiful, green trails, super friendly people and
enough mountains to keep you entertained for months on end!Majel and I explored the North Island afterwards,
tramping over Maungatautari, running up Te Aroha and sitting atop the Pinnacles on the Coromandel Peninsula, all
great adventures in their own right. I think I'll need to go back for the South Island. Maybe Tarawera needs
another crack too eh?
Dusty: Our trusted car/hotel/kitchen/wardobe for the North Island Tour & post run fizzy pop! Majell Backhausen.
A huge thank you to the UTWT, Paul, Tim and everyone at Tarawera Ultra, Majel, The Byrne family for looking after
me in Auckland and Lynn & the Tylees for being my co-adventurers around Waikato. Inov-8, Julbo and Petzl made
sure I didn't have to run naked, the sun didn't get in my eyes too much and I didn't have to run in the dark at
the start. The X-Talon 212s were awesome on the single track and I didn't smash my face into the ground once.
Hot Geysers and a mistimed jump seemingly make for a great photo. Alexis Berg.