By James Stewart on 20th March 2018 Race Reports
When I started working on my race-day strategy for the Motatapu Ultra, it was a classic case of "does not compute". I'm a middle-of-the-pack runner so I compared the Strava profiles of those who had run the Kepler in a middle-of-the-pack time to those who had finished Motatapu. It just did not make sense. How could someone who runs the 60km Kepler in 8.5 hours take 11 or 12 hours for this 51km run?? I mean 13 minute kms? Come on, this was 7.5 hours max...
The Wild Things community filled in the blanks as I put my feelers out as to why this was such a "slow race". Snippets of wisdom started to flow and my expectations started to be aligned with comments such as "be prepared for the uphills, they are steep beyond compare", "I underestimated the hills even after studying the elevation profile" and "Motatapu absolutely drained me by the finish". Even with this collective wisdom, I had no idea what lay ahead of me.
The race was a classic rinse and repeat; four big climbs, and four tricky descents. Hardly any of the first 35 kms was runnable (for a middler like me anyway) - maybe 20%. For someone who's Ultra running strategy consists of zoning out and turning over kms this was getting frustrating! One uphill km took 30mins, no joke – it was the very last climb and we were all spent.
All started off well on race-day, six runnable kilometres from Glendhu Bay up the Motatapu Valley. However, when we started to climb out of the beautiful beech forest, the steepness of the terrain started to give me a feel for what was ahead and that this wasn't going to be a fast day out! Hoping for respite on the downhills was futile, equally steep and technical descents put the risk of rolled ankles front of mind. Whilst I could imagine those and the front of the pack frolicking down the ridgelines, I took a more conservative approach.
At this stage I thought we were in the clear for the next 17kms and were hoping to get some quicker kms in. But... we were dropped into a river and had to wade downstream for 3kms... 80% of our time was in the water which made it tough to get any pace up (nice to ice the ankles though).
Got to the 13km to go mark, smashed a cheese sandwich and a caffeine pill and took off, relieved to finally get some speed. Heaps of river crossings (>70, no joke) but nice to get some running in.
Stoked to cross the finish line (just under 54kms according to my watch), with an awesome atmosphere. An hour slower than I hoped for but without training on Mt Oxford a few days a week, I had always underestimated the race. If you want a challenge this race is for you, if you want fast runnable kms then you may want to look elsewhere!