“I don’t even drive that far…” – This was one of the responses I had yesterday at school when a friend found out I had finished a 100km race on the weekend. It was funny to hear this in a schoolyard conversation when it’s also a household joke between myself and dad!
Last year as I finished the 50km event at Taupo I was asked whether I’d ever think about stepping up and taking on the full 100km event. Me being me, of course, said yes and I made it a goal for 2017. Some might say that at such a young age this sort of distance is unhealthy or dangerous, yet I was keen to prove them wrong and have a proper shot at finishing this race.
The race started in the cold on Saturday at 6am in Waihaha Carpark. The field of over 100 runners all stood shivering under the Hoka One One startline and were all ready to embark on their own personal journeys. Some of these runners would smash the course out in under 9 hours, others would be out all day and finish in 18-19 hours. Regardless of how long it was going to take each person, all were there for a pretty similar reason. To get from Waihaha Carpark to Whakaipo Bay and complete the ultramarathon!
As a young runner, I do have a tendency to start off fast, and so when the race started, dad ensured that I started off at a slow pace. It is extremely hard to run this slow on a lovely trail, especially when you have people so much older than you passing constantly! One of dad’s tips for the race was that ‘you can’t bank time, but you can bank energy’. Meaning that if I went out too fast, I’d blow up by 50km’s and have to walk the rest of the way to the finish line. Instead, I should run conservatively for the first few hours and so when I got to 50-60km’s I would have enough energy to continue at the same pace or faster to the finish line.
Initially, dad was going to run the first 10km’s with me at around a 7-min/km pace, but this didn’t end up being the case. We actually ran about 38km’s together. In fact, we covered the first 27km’s of trails together, followed by most of the farmland section. This was a nice way to begin the day and it helped me set up the rest of my race. But at about 38km’s as I went through a low patch, dad decided to push on in his own race and leave me to experience the highs and lows of a 100km race.
The farmland section finished at 42km’s and from there it was a short run to the aid station at 44km’s. Here we would be turning onto the road section of this race, a 6km stretch of windy road. Beforehand, I had thought that I wasn’t going to like this section and I had this picture in my mind of myself walking it. Luckily, this wasn’t the case and I enjoyed it. It was a chance to speed up slightly, prepare myself for the halfway point of the race and to pace off another lady who was running the race (I think her name was Billie). My feet were feeling sore after 50km’s of hard trail and road, so at the halfway point, I decided to change into a pair of road shoes! I also replenished my supplies and made sure I had my trucker cap with me.
From here the trail followed a mountain bike track back down towards the lake. Another running buddy, Matthew Orange, ran with me for a couple of km’s and it was nice to be able to experience a change in scenery, after spending hours running through farmland and on roads! It was around lunchtime when I reached the 60km mark and the bush started to really heat up. Even though the temperature was only about 22 degrees Celcius, it did really feel like it was at least 25-26! After downing a couple of cups of coke and electrolyte drink at the aid station, I continued on and started the big climb over the hill to Kinloch. On this climb, I started to realise why it was so important to start so slow and conserve energy in a race as long as 100km’s. Over the 10km’s to Kinloch, I probably passed at least 10 runners who were all competing in the same race as me!
In Kinloch, there is a small 4km loop that runners must complete. Although some may dislike this sort of thing in a race, I found that this loop was a great time to reset my thoughts and get ready for the final push to the finish line. I sped up and spent as little time in the final big aid station in Kinloch, as possible! I was also informed that at the halfway point I was sitting in 44th place. Not that this should matter during an ultra and with 24km’s still left, it should really be meaningless. Yet I calculated that by 75km I was probably now sitting around 30th place.
From Kinloch, I started the final climb up onto the headlands above Whakaipo Bay and the finish line. This was by far the hardest part of the race, due to cramp and tiredness. I was in autopilot mode and fully focussed on getting to the finish line. I spent about an hour shuffling along with a few guys who were racing the 100km’s as well. All of us were experiencing similar pain and were focussed on getting to the finish line. I stayed with these other runners until about 88km’s, where I discovered possibly a third or fourth wind. With 12km’s to go I decided to just try running, and slowly I picked up the pace. At the 92km aid station, I refilled with water and then continued running the final 8km’s down to the finish line.
The final part of the race was a mixture of up and down trails that brought us down to a gravel road, 1km from the finish line. With such a short distance to run, I picked up the pace and enjoyed the final few minutes of the race. It was an incredible moment running towards the crowds with the sun shining down, and knowing that I was finally about to finish. Then, just after 6pm, I crossed the finish line in Whakaipo Bay.
I finished the Taupo Ultramarathon 100km in 12:10:12 hours! Not quite my goal of under 12 hours, yet I couldn’t be more happy with my time! I placed 16th overall in a highly competitive field of well over 100 competitors and I won the under 20 category! I’m also now the youngest person to ever finish a 100km trail ultramarathon in New Zealand. I couldn’t be more pleased with how my race went. For me, it seems that it was one of those races where everything went perfectly. Throughout the day, it all seemed to work like clockwork!
I was also super happy to hear that dad had finished earlier in a time of 10:42 hours and this had put him in 6th place! He had sought redemption on his race last year and he’d well and truly received it! You can find his blog post about his experiences in Taupo, here. Also well done to dad’s old schoolmates Paul and Ed! Paul had a great day finishing his first 50km, while Ed, unfortunately, had to pull the pin in the 100km at Kinloch – still, a massive achievement!
So, there you go! That was my experience at the Taupo Ultramarathon 100km. An incredible race that is put on by the awesome TotalSport team! I’m now looking forward to resting up for a few days, before taking on my final race of the year; the Krazie Kapers 25km here in Christchurch!
Thank you for following my journey throughout my training and this race. It’s always motivating to have so much support for what I’m doing, and all the comments always mean a lot! Thank you to the TotalSport team for another great event, and to dad, Ed, Paul and Gian for a fantastic weekend!
Also thanks to OSM for supporting me with all my racing! These guys always have my back! You can find all the details about my racing and training on my social media channels. Find me on Facebook or on Instagram! Also, you can find the Strava details for my race, here (yes, the trace is a tad shorter than 100km, but this is because the course is measured on a wheel to exactly 100kms!).