New Zealand is a land I’ve been looking forward to visiting for quite sometime. Arriving to my first international race to see the world on my own two feet was a dream come true. After a long red eye flight, picking up my rent-a-dent car with proper dent decor and cruising to Rotorua in the left lane, it all started to feel real. I’m a runner by trade and mountains and forests are my game.
My life has become very interesting these past months; I’ve learned how to balance being both a mr mom and professional runner. I’m still learning and it seems Tristan has something new to teach me every day, but I’m very content with how life is flowing. Basically, I take care of a little one, run, eat, play more with my son, play with my wife and go to bed; repeat. I know it all sounds pretty glamorous, it is, but I also clean up poop, a lot.
I haven’t traveled much in this life yet, but I’m pretty positive I know how I like to see new lands, I like to run all over them and really far if possible. Paul the amazing RD gave me the opportunity to come and run Tarawera 100k and how could I pass that up?! Thanks so much Paul!
Photo: Lyndon Marceau
From the very start of the race, the track dwarfed by redwoods, I knew it was going to be a blast. And fast, with the line up Paul had assembled I knew we were going to take off hard and early. Through the first few aid stations I kept the leaders of Brendan, Sage, Mick and Vajin in site. We were easily doing 6 min miles/4 min km’s and I was feeling quite comfortable. We continued on with a brilliantly fun section of techy track before Blue Lake (13.7km). Roots and rocks made the narrow track tricky especially when I tried to enjoy the surrounding flora. The NZ ponga silver ferns and fern trees (Wheki) gave the run a very tropical feel. After pretty tame track for the first few km’s I was looking forward to any type of terrain to slow down the steam engine that is Sage Canady. I knew he’s an incredible athlete and I was looking forward to having him get the best out of me on this particular day.
Blue Lake. Photo: Lyndon Marceau
I kept the leaders in my sites till Okareka (19.5km) and then watched them disappear on the preceding road stretch, in route to our first long 15km section till the next aid. I was feeling the effects of a fast start and was also trying to run somewhat of a smart race. I always think I should “run smart” and they’ll come back, but I truly know in races with this caliber of runners one of them will hold on and I should try my best to stay up there.
Blue Lake. Photo: Graeme Murray
A little way down the trail I could see Mick and figured the rest were not that far ahead. I passed him after a few friendly words and kept on trucking forward. There was some light climbing through this section, so I tried to push hard to catch up with the others. Half way to the next aid I popped my ankle, which was very frustrating because I was starting to feel really good. It took a few steps to put weight on it, which led to some frustrating f-bombs as I limped down the track a ways. The rest of the way to Okataina Lake aid (37km) I slowly moved on and came to terms with the ankle. I remembered to accept what was and just breath, each step the pain was somewhat dissolving and as I tweaked my approach down the trail I knew I could continue onward. The ankle did not entirely enjoy all the roots the rest of the race and as I write this days later its the only lingering soreness that remains.
Early on through the forest. Photo: Graeme Murray
Even with this little hiccup, my ankle did quite fine for the rest of the day with only a few other tiny tweaks. With a bum wheel it allowed me to really zone in on the trail and make strong conscious steps the rest of the day, a blessing in disguise. Ultra running is all about adversity and how you handle it. If its not broken you can normally keep moving. Pain is the reward for living a full life. Having struggles in a race or life makes the good times that much more memorable.
Photo: Lyndon Marceau
Entering Okataina Lake aid I had word that they were 7 minutes up, damn. I remained calm and reminded myself that there was many km’s left to click off. From here we entered a supremely technical section, which was beautiful and quite fun! The track led us around the lake and had a new twist and root at every turn. I was starting to get in a groove and caught up to Brendan who said Vajin was just up the way a minute. I kept rolling with some good grunts until I reached Vajin, happy that I was creeping up a bit and still feeling strong with the fast pace.
Vajin and I made it to the next aid having a good time and chatting about fun adventures for the rest of the summer. We are both running UTMB and he plans on being over there for sometime before. Vajin is a great man and it was really nice to spend some km’s on his native track as we got to know each other.
Photo: Lyndon Marceau
I eventually passed him even though I wanted to keep enjoying a nice conversation, but I knew Sage was all business up front and figured I would try my best to run the speedster down. At the next aid Bryon Powell, who was all over the place to give you the great play by play coverage from irunfar, said he had 14 minutes on me. Knowing he was putting space between us made me keep pushing it through the turn around.
The section from Humphrey’s Bay (47.5km) to the turn around was by far the highlight of my whole trip! It was the most technical terrain I’ve ever run on and sections had me flying under logs, hopping over roots and rocks, and shimmying down crevasses of boulders. Yup, pretty awesome. After all this, the experience jumped up to a whole other level as we started to run along the Tarawera River and hear the beginning rumbles of the waterfalls. The first two waterfalls were thunderous and made me do a half a dozen look backs to take in the stunning views. Thinking I made it past the temptations of stopping to enjoy the falls I came to the BIG Momma! A stunning 100ft waterfall stopped me in my tracks and I briefly stopped to say WOW as my jaw dropped to the ground from the beauty. The sound of the falls boomed like a techno club and the vibrant colors of the river had me on a psychedelic ride back to the 60’s. The river was a bright teal and the plant life in the water was Kermit the frog green; it was incredible and most definitely eased the pain of 60km in and 15 minutes in rear of Sage.
On my way back. Photo: Graeme Murray
I preceded back the way I came, hungry to eat away at the gap between Sage and I. It was nice to see everyone else on the way back, saying cheers to each runner I passed. It also gave me a chance to calculate how much time I had on the peeps behind me. Vajin was only 3-4 minutes back and I figured he would be breathing down my neck soon enough. I pushed on and dug deep hoping to catch up a little and put some space between the chasing pack and myself.
Every time I felt tired I told my self “don’t let up just move forward, no pain,” it hurt but was manageable. The good people at the aid stations, other runners, and Paul and Bryon (in their boat) encouraged me to keep trucking. The aid stations felt like they were spaced further and further apart and I ran out of gels with 12km to go before I would see my sweetie Krista at Okataina (km 85) for refuel and a good-luck kiss. I was pretty damn tired at this point of the day, but stoked to wrap this thing up.
In pursuit. Photo: Graeme Murray
Reaching the aid was a big relief! I downed some coke, put in some tunes, and grabbed some gels, water and a half a bottle of sprite for the next 15k. I was ready to go despite the news that I was 20 minutes back of Sage. I had some renewed energy and finally there was one legit climb for the day. Climbing up was hard and it was hot, but I knew I was gaining and hopefully no one was catching up from behind.
This next section was mentally very difficult. The sun popped out to heat up the day and it seemed this section stretched on and on. I ran as hard as I possible could, praying Vajin wouldn’t catch me from behind. I had no clue I was gaining on Sage that much, it would have been nice to know, but didn’t really matter as that was all I had on that day.
Another day, another run. After the race I was able to meet the little girl and her younger sister. So adorable! Photo: Graeme Murray
In the end I ran out of kilometers to catch Sage, he had a great race and I’m very happy I came within 3 minutes of him. It stokes the fire to keep pushing hard in training to see what’s possible and hungry for the next race. Lake Sonoma is next and there is a bunch of fast people on board and ready to fly. All of this is great prep for Tranvulcania and WS, which are approaching fast!
Moments after the race the lake was calling my name so I had to go jump in; it was cold but very refreshing! The lake was the perfect way to cool off the body and clean up from the long day out in the trails.
What a great holiday in New Zealand even though we missed our little man back in the States, who was on his own holiday with his awesome Grandparents! My wife Krista joined me for this journey where her presence was imperative to a successful race and relaxing holiday. So much fun to see her crewing for me at a few of the aids stations to get me refueled and lift my spirits. Continuing onward our journey moved us north to check out the Coromandel Peninsula with their hot water beaches and stunning views in route around the Hauraki Gulf. The beaches were beautiful and we even tried to enjoy the beach with geothermal activity bubbling from below. At low tide, you can dig your very own hot pool right next to the ocean, heat up in one and cool off in the other, very magical. Unfortunately we missed the low tied by minutes which was pretty fitting as I ended up just a few minutes short of Sage. I’m beginning to become a fan of 2nd place, lets hope there’s a 1st every now and again.
Top three: Sage, myself and Vajin. Photo: Graeme Murray
Enjoying the next few days was delightful allowing my body to heal properly and spend some time with Krista. I made sure to eat lots of good whole foods and take my Natura health products of InflamAway, Power Adapt and Amino-Max to flush out the rigors of a hard race in a beautiful place. I’ve been blessed to have the body respond well and heal up quick allowing my body to adapt and strengthen so I can get after my next adventure. These journeys would not be possible without the support and love from my family, friends, you and my amazing sponsors of The North Face, Injinji toesocks (the farthest I’ve ran in them and the best my feet have ever felt) and Natura Health.
Thanks Paul for a great trip and a special thanks to all the people I met and interacted with in New Zealand, I felt right at home.
Equipment and food used.
- Ran in The North Face Better than naked shorts and tank.
- Wore the new Injinji 2.0 ultra lightweight socks and a new buff to keep my hair in control for a little bit 😉 Love these so much!!!
Food- Always Organic
- Eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns and garlic mushrooms from a local café for lunch
- Chicken in garlic sauce with sides of kumara (sweet potato) and other root vegetables for dinner
- Natura: Amino-max, Botanabol, Botanical treasures, Power Adapt
- A couple scoops of Justin’s Hazelnut butter
- I used VFuel gels and a few drinks of coke and sprite with a couple Saltsticks every hour
- After the race I had a BurgerFule chicken sandwich (no bun) with kumara fries and a chocolate malt shake followed by some NZ Pinot Noir wine
- Natura Post Race: InflamAway, Amino-Max, Botanabol, Beyond-Whey, Botanical Treasures and Power Adapt
Photos: Lyndon Marceau