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Tarawera 62k - "a little run in the rain"

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Tarawera 62k - "a little run in the rain"

By Kath Broad on 16th February 2018 Race Reports

Tarawera 62k - "a little run in the rain"

Digging deep but almost there! Photo by Photos4Sale

4.20 a.m.  Not really a time to get up.  But it’s not as if I had been asleep anyway.  Some nervous packing, a hushed pick up in the driving rain and then onto one of several buses with 50 other like-minded (crazy) individuals. 6am and we are in Kawarau.  Nervously looking round the room and thinking “most of these people look quite normal” “at least we are dry”.

The race director announces “the rain has stopped so let’s have a briefing outside”.  He’s lying.  Before we know it it’s 7am and we (the ‘fun runners’ or 62km entrants) are watching the 102km entrants about to start.  Watching the elite runners at the front of the starting chute, I can’t help but feel like we are watching some animals in the zoo.  They are very beautiful animals, but they are definitely not human!  I can tell who is going to win from the look of pure determination on their faces.  Further back in the pack it’s a shock and a wake-up call to see that the majority of the runners look just like us.  It makes me think that when I said “never” I was actually wrong.  Maybe one year….

Once they are off, its back onto the bus and out to the start of our (little) run.  The buses are dropping us off in “the middle of nowhere”.  A forestry road, no cars, only bus-loads of keen runners.  A nervous American announces – “we’re gunna be late!”, panic in her voice.  We reassure her that “they can’t start the race without any runners, it will start when we get there – this is New Zealand!”.  One more slight hitch with the portaloos all being locked, a spine tingling karakea and haka and the waiting is over.  We are underway and already soaked through to the skin.

If this is a race of three trimesters, then the first third (Tarawera falls to Okataina) is the honeymoon period.  Scenery that could make you weep, trails that are wet but held together (at this stage of the day – sorry milers) and undulating terrain that keeps you on your toes, but not exhausted.  This is the trail that brings people from all over the word and it never disappoints, rain or shine.  It isn’t without it’s casualties – one woman vomiting in a heap (“I just went out too fast”) and another I have to pull another back onto the track by her feet after she went head first down a bank “I’m over this sheet” (think she was Australian? – but don’t worry, I saw her at the finish line “I wasn’t going to let that beach of a course beat me!”).  it is so dark we almost need headlamps, the rain is unrelenting, I’m slightly behind schedule, but the love affair with Tarawera is still alive and well…

And then comes the Western Okataina Walkway.  We aren’t under any illusions about how tough this “middle trimester” is going to be in the rain -5km of uphill, clay-like mud that would be fun if you didn’t have so far to go….but I still find myself in some pretty dark places.  17 or so kilometres with no aid station and crawling through mud at a pace so slow that I am seriously worried about hypothermia.  More worrying than hypothermia is the fear of falling and breaking something so far from help.  This isn’t fun. The love affair is over – Tarawera, you suck!  Nausea that started before Okataina sets in to the point where drinking isn’t even possible and so I make a deal with myself that I will pull out at Millar Road.  This is actually very helpful, I start planning the logistics of how I’ll get back to my hotel room and a nice hot bath – my mood starts to lift.  Shortly afterwards Kelly Wolf (eventual winner of the 102km – told you I picked her) tip toes past me like she’s floating over the mud and gives a wave to my fan girl “whooooop, go girl!”.  This is the other amazing thing about this event – rubbing shoulders with these sort of elite athletes is pretty rare, and very inspiring.  And then I think “maybe I’m ruminating a bit? (no shit)” and start chatting to a random woman from Sydney, chewing the fat and comparing notes on times when we had felt even less comfortable than present (child birth for instance).  Before I know it, there’s only about 5km to Millar Road and the nausea has passed….Maybe I’m in love again….maybe I can do this?

We can hear the Millar road aid station long before we see it (boom, boom, boom – that music is awesome), and the spirits lift, to the point where I come prancing out of the bush, hands in the air like I’ve just won the Olympic marathon!  The aid station volunteers greet me as if I have also – cheering and clapping and waving their pom-poms (no – really!), and before I know it my bottles are restocked, I’ve been given a stern talking to by a random volunteer in an orange afro wig (“suck it up buttercup, it could be worse – it’s not snowing”) and I am trotting down the road towards the Blue Lake.  I know if I manage to pass through the blue lake aid station I will finish (only 17km from here), but I still have a moment of self-pity where I discuss pulling out with a very wise woman who says “oh no – where are you sore?” to which I answer “I’m not sore, I’m just tired” “there’s your answer, see you in Rotorua”. 

Changing the direction of the course this year was a stroke of genius (can I take some credit? - an idea I suggested after the equally wet 2016 race).  The third trimester is easy running, much less muddy and seems to have a large amount of downhill.  Spectators have good access at the Redwoods (high fives for the whole family – “but mum, you haven’t even finished yet!” “but I’m bloody going to”) and from here it’s ‘only’ 5km to the finish.  I don’t care how long the run is, the last 5km are always hard.  But with a combination of walking, running and shuffling, I manage to knock this off faster than anticipated and even beat my family there who are “still in the pub – staying out of the rain”.  How nice for them.  Not many events boast a finish line hug from the race directors, but I greedily claim mine - it’s one of the main reasons I came back (ok, not literally, but it totally represents the spirit of the day).  A beautifully carved medal (its smells good too), a nice hot cup of tea and I’m already thinking “I’m done with the 62km now….but 102 is not out of the question”.  Actually, don’t hold me to either of those statements!  Post-race euphoria is not a good time to make decisions!

Photo by Photos4Sale

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The Tarawera Ultra is a Wild Things Partner Event. See what others had to say about it by reading the Reviews on our Partner Events page.

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