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2018 Tarawera 102km Ultra Marathon: The Longest Mud Trail I've Seen and My First Ultra

Updated: Feb 3, 2019

My first Ultra Marathon is something that will be hard to forget, but I decided to get this down in a blog post anyway.

My #Strava activity for this is here: which contains a few more photos, unfortunately it took me almost a month after the event to get the activity uploaded due to "issues", but much like the Ultra we got there in the end.

I've tried to split this blog up into segments so you can skip through bits if they don't interest you, just scroll down until you find the next segment in BOLD.

WARNING!!! This is a long blog, mainly because I like to give details, so I can look back on this and remember should I forget some details as I get old and my memory fades, but please take a read if you like and enjoy.

Pre Event Sign up, signing up and Injuries

In early January 2017, a good running mate of mine Cameron Blacklock asked me if I would be able to be his support crew for the Tarawera 102 km Ultra Marathon, an event he had completed a couple of times before. He had an ambitious goal of completing it in 10 hours, more that 2 hours faster than he had ever completed it. Cam had been there to help me though a number of my running events in the past and I figured it was the least I could do for him. Never did I think that offering to help him out would lead to me signing up for the following years Tarawera 102 km Ultra Marathon, but that's what happened.

A quick rundown on the 2017 Ultra, not only was it amazing seeing the elite runners smashing the course like it was a walk in the park, the volunteers energy at all the checkpoints was top notch and the event, even though I wasn't running seemed like a well organised and finely turned event. My favorite memory of all however, was seeing my mate Cam cross that 102 km finish line in 9 hours, 49 minutes and 59 seconds. 10 minutes under his target goal time.

6 months later (6th of July) I was doing altitude training at Vertex Altitude when I some how got convinced by Cam to sign up, so I borrowed the office laptop and 5 minutes later... I was signed up. At the time I blamed the high altitude/lack of oxygen for allowing me to make the decision to sign up, but when I look back on it now it was purely a decision of willingness to push my limits. I spent the following couple of weeks waking up with panic attacks wondering what the heck I had signed up for, the only way to get over these panic attacks was to just accept that I had signed up, and start training.

While I had been running every day since January 4th 2017, I knew training for an event like this was going to take a lot of work. Unfortunately as with most runners, you're bound to get injured at some stage. I suffered an ankle injury in September after completing the Sydney Marathon, and just as that came right, I developed a knee injury. In most cases, I would just either try to run, or just give up and wait for it to get back to normal, however with me doing the #RunStrongRED challenge and having Tarawera less that 5 months away I decided I needed to do anything I could to get back to normal. Massage Therapists, Physios, an Osteopath as well as a sports physician all came into play, and thankfully all of them knew what they were on about. This did mean a lot of changes were required to my training, with me incorporating swimming & aqua jogging into my workouts along with knocking a lot of my training runs down to simple long walks to keep the time on feet.

Not only did the injuries affect my training, this also lead to my first DNS (Did Not Start) at the 4th Queenstown Marathon in November 2017. The decision on my part wasn't made lightly, I had spent the previous 2 weeks asking myself "Could I still do the Queenstown Marathon". While the answer to the question was a simple "Yes", it wasn't until the day before when someone made me see that the real question I should have been asking myself was "How would I feel if running the Queenstown Marathon caused more damaged and prevented me from running Tarawera", once I asked myself that question it was an easy decision to make.

I would never consider your first Ultra Marathon as something you would sign up for knowing you could do it, instead something you sign up for to challenge yourself, something to push you to your limits to see what you are really capable of. Almost since the time I signed up, I told myself that short of getting injured, I was going to complete the Tarawera. I didn't care how long it was going to take, I didn't care where I was going to place, I didn't even care what the weather was going to be like, my goal was simply to finish, I wasn't going to be out there to prove anything to anyone except myself that I could do whatever I set my mind to.

Day 1 (Wednesday) - To Rotorua we go

The flight to Rotorua was a moment to relax, something I really needed after rushing around in the morning getting last minute things sorted out for the event and the next few days out of town.

Early on leading up to the trip we had decided to sleep the first night in our rental vehicle, thinking it would save a bit of cash. But on the drive to the airport we decided to change our accommodation to get an additional evening on our first night there instead of sleeping in the vehicle. We checked in and then headed out for a small run before heading to bed.

Day 2 (Thursday) - Lugeing & Rogaine

The previous year we only arrived on Thursday which gave us very little time to enjoy Rotorua, As we had a full day free we decided to check out the some of the sites.

We headed out to the Skyline Gondola and decided to take a few rides on the luge, upon reaching the top we took a little walk around and checked out some of the views and tried to spy on some of the native bird life.

After our first ride down the Luge we got to the top only to find Cam had somehow lost his luge pass on the field, we had no idea where it was so we managed to use mine and we headed down again to take a look to see if we could find it, unfortunately there was nothing on the track, but as we headed up on the chairlift we spotted it sitting on the ground just past the start of where the chairlift starts, Cam jumped off the chairlift and managed to get it, but had to catch another chairlift up.

After the lugeing was completed we headed to The Warehouse to get some last minute things that we needed, in my case a couple of portable USB chargers, a backup thermal top in case I needed to switch it later on in the Ultra, we then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the nights Rogaine.

The Rogaine last year was an enjoyable event, and while it had only been my first Rogaine we managed to score a 3rd place, so we decided this year should be just as fun. Boy was I mistaken, while it was fun an enjoyable, it was something completely different to the previous years event, not only were there more people, a huge number of them were from Rogaine clubs.

The field took us up a bunch of hills and into an forestry area, as well as "shortcuts" through a bunch of gorse and thorns... big mistake, this cut up my legs real good, I remember coming out and back onto one of the roads and passed a couple of people walking down, they had a good laugh the blood coming off my legs.

It was a much tougher course than last year and I figured that it would have been a struggle for anyone to complete all the checkpoints, we managed to get back to the start point only have completed a small few of the checkpoints completed. We were amazed to find out that one person had managed to get every checkpoint on the map, in I think about 45 minutes.

We got back to the hotel so we could shower before heading off to get something to eat, as I was washing my legs I discovered that one of the thorns had got stuck in my legs, and on top of that my Salomon Speedcross 4 Trail shoes had worn a hole in the back of the heel, something that has never happened before. Not only could I not get the thorn out of my leg, I couldn't do anything about the shoes. I had forgotten to pack my other pair of trail shoes and it was way to late to buy a new pair and wear them in before the Ultra. All I could do is hope that strapping my heel on the day would be enough to keep the hole in the back of my trail shoes from causing to much discomfort.

Pōwhiri, Check-In & Race Briefing

1 day to go before race day, we woke early and headed down to the geothermic pool at Te Puia for the Pōwhiri to be welcomed onto the marae, with the rain coming down we were all invited into the marae where we were able to sit down and watch a few speeches from the local tribes senior members.

I remember there being a free seat up the front next to Paul Charteris (Tarawera Organiser) and Tim Day (Race Director), they spotted one of the overseas athletes who was standing around looking for a seat so, they invited him up to join them, he seemed a bit excited and there were a few little chuckles from those of us in the cheap seats.

After the welcome we were free to look around Te Puia and enjoy the geysers, I had seen these last year, so we just had a quick look around, and had a chat to a couple of the other runners that were going to be on the field with us tomorrow. We got a bit wet with one of the geysers going off but that just added to the atmosphere.

We headed back to the hotel and had a quick job to loosen the legs, did a quick shop along with some lunch before getting our drop bags ready, after which we headed down to the race briefings and the elite athlete talks. After the talks and briefings Cam and I checked out the expo and signed in and had our gear checks carried out. We had brought some canned food and headed off to drop it off in exchange for a buff, unfortunately this year they had completely run out. We happily handed over the canned food anyway as it was for a good cause after all, and I joked to the lady behind the table that I would happily have her Tarawera Buff, had a little laugh about that and then I headed off to look at some thermal hats. A few minutes later she turned up and offered it to me. I was actually joking and made sure she knew that but she was fine with giving it to me. I was blown away by that act of generosity, and made my day so much more enjoyable. Cam unfortunately didn't get one which meant his first Tarawera event without one. Thankfully a couple of weeks after the Tarawera Ultra event I found a post on facebook saying they were doing a special order of some more buffs, so I managed to order Cam one as a small thank you for his help.

Cam managed to score a Compressport Tarawera Ultra truckers cap as well which he was hoping to find, talk about good luck, it was the last one. Note to self for next time: do the check-in and expo before the briefings and talks if you want to get yourself something.

We finished getting what we needed and handed over our drop bags before getting a photo each in front of the big Tarawera Ultra sign with all the names of the people competing in the event, there happened to be a number of hashtag signs sitting nearby on a table as well and I managed to find a couple which suited me perfectly for this event #102km and #firstultra.

We had finished up for the day except one last thing, the Polynesian Spa, ideally I would have liked to have done this after the event, but not knowing how long the ultra was going to take me and how long I would be sleeping for the next day I decided we should head to the pool beforehand. It was a nice relaxing evening and apart from the scratches on my legs burning a little from the water, it was a perfect way to relax before the big event. It was then off to the hotel for one good last meal before we slept... we knew it was going to be a long time before we had a real meal again so made sure it counted.


Race Day

We woke early and could hear the crowd cheering for the miler athletes who were just starting to head out, I was thinking to myself these guys going out there for 160km, what legends they are, I can't imagine how they must be feeling, a few minutes later however, I knew exactly what some of them were thinking, I'm about to take on the furthest distance I have ever run to date, can I do this, what if things go wrong, have I done enough training... all those negative thoughts that people get came into my head, and my response was to simply tell myself what I had been saying for months... I'm finishing this thing no matter what.

We drove down to the finish line, which happened to also be the bus pickup spot to take us to the start line at Firmin Field in Kawerau, it was a long drive out in the dark, and I recall being nervous but excited at the same time, knowing it was going to be a long day, but also a day I was going to remember. On the bus were a number of people, some taking on the 102km, some the 87km, and others taking on the 62km, all of us on the bus for one reason or another, but all with the same one goal in our mind... finish.

Start Line

We arrived at Firmin Field in Kawerau at about 6:00 am, and before I knew it we were at the start line waiting for the countdown. While we had been there for almost an hour that time flew by, we managed to grab some photos at the start line before we had to queue up, it was wet but thankfully didn't seem cold, in fact a little warm even.

I spotted Amanda Basham (one of the elite athletes from the previous days talks) near the start line, she seemed a bit puzzled as she couldn't find any of the other female elites athletes, but eventually she managed to track down one, we wished her luck and she headed to the start of the field.

Paul Charteris was there to wish everyone luck and we had a final send off from some local Maori before we heard the final countdown. My nerves of fear and excitement all started up again and before I knew it, we were running. The horde of runners spread out quiet quickly, it appeared like an endless stream of them were just passing me by, but I didn't care, I wasn't running their race, I was running mine.

About 3km in I heard Cam behind me call out "Ouch", I turned around to see what happened while I kept on running, not paying attention I rolled my ankle but continued on running, from past experience I knew that if I roll my ankle I'm usually best to run though it and it will usually go away. Initially someone suggested that Cam had just got hit by some stinging nettle, but we couldn't figure out how that would have got him on his head as well as his leg. As we continued to run, we discussed the "Ouch" moment Cam had and we agreed that it could only be a wasp bite.

As we got a few more kms down the road we decided to take our rain coats off as it was just getting too hot, as the are seamed sealed not only did they keep us dry, but they also prevented the heat getting out. Once the jacket was off we were back on our way enjoying the rain to the first aid station.

Fisherman's Bridge Aid Station (10.5km)

Fisherman's Bridge was the first aid station we reached just 10.5km into the race, it was a quick stop with both of us feeling rather fresh. Cam headed over to try and get some first aid stuff for his Wasp bites, thankfully they had some cream that he could put on. I had a little bit of food from the table and we carried on towards the next aid station.

The next 16km seemed fairly flat although there certainly were some hills here and there, it was mostly on forestry road which was a nice, wide enough that you could have a few people side by side with no problems. Although it was raining, it was still rather warm and the light drizzle from the rain kept me refreshed while we ran along the road.

Titoki (26km)

At this stop Cam went and got some food before heading to get some more antihistamine for his head and leg which were both stung. I stocked up on some food, making sure I had some extra oranges to eat along the way to the next aid station, I filled my water bottles with Coke and Tailwind before we made our way from there toward the next aid station.

I almost missed a turnoff towards the the next aid station, my head was down and I was just following the track when I heard Cam call out, I turned around and turned out I had missed an obvious arrow pointing to the left, hopefully I was the only one that almost missed that.

Tarawera Falls (35.5km)

Reaching the Tarawera Falls aid station I had been holding off looking at my watch, I knew that once I did that my pace would probably slow down, but unfortunately I couldn't help myself. I had found that I had been making good time, a better pace than what I was expecting to make.

The Falls were something you could hear well before you got there, I had been looking forward to this part of the event for a while, I had heard a lot of great things about this section of the course. The previous year when I had crewed for Cam he had suggested I head down there and take a look at the falls, but I had decided against it as I wasn't to sure how far he was away and didn't want to risk not being at the aid station for him.

We took a hit on the time here as we posed for a bunch of different photos, and the falls appeared to be going hard out. We helped others get some photo as well in front of the falls and we all headed off in a little running train, from this point on the trails were pretty well much just single trail and would be until we reached Miller Road aid station, so any people wanting past us we would be needing to step aside for.

Cam acted like a tour guide as we headed up the hills which added to the enjoyment of the day. Pointing out things and saying thing like "See that water there, that's called a ..." I forget now what Cam said it was, but it was interesting at the time, took my mind off the fact that we were running and made things a lot more enjoyable.

Tarawera Outlet (40.8km)

Arriving at the Outlet to our first drop bag station, picked up my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak charger cable along with a small battery pack which I brought the day before from the warehouse for something silly like $7.00, ridiculously cheap, but still a little annoyed that the flight security removed the 4 that I had packed in my bag. Mistakenly I thought they would be fine in the checked in luggage but apparently not they were only acceptable in carry on.

I shouldn't have needed the charging cable and battery according the the Suunto stat sheet of how long they can run for, but as I had the watch for a few years now and have been using mine practically every day for the last year and a bit, the battery doesn't last nearly as long as it use too. I wasn't going to need the battery or cable for a while longer yet, but I knew I would need them both in the next couple of hours and as the next aid station didn't have a bag drop off it was the perfect time to get them.

It took us about an hour and a half to make the next 8km's, but it was a nice section of the course and while it took longer that I expected, it was a nice chance to enjoy the lakeside as well as some of the awesome looking moss covered trees, a little undulating, but nothing to strenuous.

As we were approaching the next aid station (about 15 minutes away) when we were passed by the first place 100 mile runner, and a few minutes later passed by the second place 100 mile runner. These guys had old started a matter of a few hours before us and had already already caught up, an amazing effort on their part, I remember jumping to the side of the track as they approached, no way was I going to be responsible for costing these guys any more time than necessary.

Humphries Bay (48.4km)

The most secluded of the aid stations that we came across, apparently all the equipment was brought in by boat for this aid station. I used this aid station to take a bathroom stop, not the most pleasant place with the smelly drop hole toilet, but better than nothing. We only spent about 10 minutes at this aid station, Cam had a coffee (or was it two) which gave him a bit of a pick me up, I'm not a fan of coffee myself so it was a quick fill up of Coke and some Tailwind before we continues on.

We were eventually passed by Hannah McRae, I said hello and she responded with a careful Hello, at this point she was currently in first place of the women in the 100 miles, she looked like she was doing well, and still had a smile on her face. It wasn't long until she was around a corner and out of our site. About 30 minutes later I mentioned to Cam that we hadn't seen any other woman doing the 100 miler come past yet, about 1 minute later I turned around and saw Sally McRae approaching, we had a quick chat with her as she passed us and we ran with her for a while which personally I felt was a privilege to be able to share the field with her. After a few minutes we let her carry on without us, there was definitely no way I was going to be able to keep up with her for much longer anyway.

This was a rather nice section, running along the lakeside, there were a few little hills, but nothing in comparison on what was left to come. Cam had a bit of a chat to a guy we had come across as we caught up to him, he had traveled from overseas for this event, I think from Thailand and appeared to be hurting in the hips, he was thinking of pulling out at the next aid station. We hoped that wouldn't be the case, we wished him luck and carried on.

Okataina Lodge (58km)

Okataina Lodge was a stop I had been looking forward to getting to for a while, I was covered in mud so I had looked forward to sneaking off to the lake to wash myself off. In the end I didn't end up doing that as I figured I was going to get muddy all over again.

We were standing around for a while at this station so decided to throw on our jackets to keep warm, and while we were at it decided to empty all the rubbish we had collected so we didn't have to carry for the next 16.9km. Unfortunately we didn't get a photo of this but it was a fair bit, mainly gel sachets, some chocolate wrappers, and the odd plastic bottle.

Just before leaving we came across the guy who was wanting to pull out, we tried hard to convince him to stay in it, to complete the Ultra, we even told him we would do it with him, he just didn't want to, to this day we have no idea if he decided to carry on or not. Personally I like to think that he sat down for a while and then continued on, but he did look like he had convinced himself he was pulling out.

After about 20 minutes at the Okataina Lodge Aid Station we headed out, it felt pretty good continuing on knowing I had done over half the distance already, we came out of a bit of the bush and crossed the road, back into the bush then... we hit the serious hills. It wasn't more than a couple of minutes before Cam and I both decided to take off our jackets, we were going to generate so much heat there was no way we could keep them on for a long amount of time. The next 6km was basically climbing, combined with the mud and tiredness it that took me about an hour and a half to reach the top. While I had done some training on hills leading up to the event, nothing in my training had prepared me for this.

Upon reaching the top, I would have loved to say there was a great view to make up for all the hard work required to get up to the top... sadly there wasn't, we were greeted with more mud upon reaching the top. While it wasn't really surprising seeing how much mud we had already dealt with, by this stage it was really starting to drive me a bit nuts. I remember saying aloud a few times that it was driving my nuts... although I didn't exactly use those words at the time, but feel it better I don't put those up here.

With so much mud, I had decided to play it safe rather than sorry, and decided to walk when I didn't feel it was safe enough to run in the mud. As we started heading back down the hill we found a couple heading back up, trying to get cellphone coverage, as someone had fallen and injured themselves pretty bad just a little bit further down the hill.

We carried on down and came across our fallen fellow runner, we stopped to check how she was. She was wrapped up warm and had someone looking after her, we couldn't do anything more to help, so carried on our way, we were both gutted for her knowing how much she had trained only to be taken out by a small misplacement of the foot. Unfortunately I can't remember her name as I type this, but I do recall reading a post on Facebook (can't find the post either) from her, turns out she didn't get out until about 4am or 5am, and didn't get to hospital until about 6 (if I remember everything correctly), apparently she had a broken ankle, and had to wait about a week or so before they could operate on it. I wish her all the best on her recovery and hope it heals up well.

we continued on and dealt with more mud as we moved along the trail, the drizzle of the rain still coming down, but it wasn't enough to make us put our jackets on, in fact we didn't bother with our jackets the rest of the run, despite the continued rain the rest of the day. Cam was a little bit ahead at the moment and I noticed he had stopped and I was approaching him. As I got closer I saw him taking photos, turns out that was my first 70km completed. Just under 12 hours 40 minutes since we had started, I was happy with that time considering the conditions, but to be honest I had no expectations of how long it was going to take.

By this stage it was getting late, nearly 8pm and it was starting to get dark, I got my headlamp out of my hydration pack and placed it on my head. Although ti was getting dark enough and a few people had already started to use theirs, I decided to continue on without it switched on as long as I could as I knew I was going to need the battery life later, and I am pretty good at seeing in the dark anyway.

As it got darker I noticed some Glow worms so I attempted to get a photo of them, another runner came running around the corner and spotted me standing on the side of the track and called out to make sure I was OK, I let her know I was good and I was just taking some photos of the Glow Worms, she seemed surprised there were Glow Worms here, so I advised her to turn off her headlamp and take a look. After a quick look she carried on her way.

I continued on my way to the Millar Road Aid station which was only about 1.5kms from where I stopped to look at the Glow Worms, shortly after continuing on I had to end up turning on the headlamp. It wasn't long before I could see the flashing lights leading into the Millar Road Aid station.

Millar Road (74.4km)

Heading into Millar Road Aid Station was a little exciting, essentially three quaters of the track done, with flashing lights every 50 meters or so leading into the aid station and great music pumping away it was obvious and aid station was just around the corner... or was it the next corner... or the next, I could hear the music so figured I had to be there in the next bend. While it did take a few twists and turns, it was great to run out of the trees and see the aid station. By the time I got there Cam had his coffee in hand, but for myself it was more about making sure I had enough liquids to keep me going for the next part. By the time I reached the Millar Road aid station it was out of Tailwind so I topped up my bottles with coke, I figured I was going to need the caffeine eventually.

As we left the Millar Road aid station, we could hear the music pumping away, and while it would have been nice to just sit around and enjoy the music, I knew if I sat down it was going to be hard to get up. I knew from a recce Cam and I had done the previous year that this section of the run was mainly going to be on the road. Something I was looking forward to after spending the last 50km or so running in mud, some of which almost came up to my knee.

We jogged down the road and chatted, watched cars go past us heading to the aid station. I often wondered if these were more volunteers heading up to help out, or some of the awesome supporters who were going out to support their friends and loved ones, I think I liked to keep my mind occupied in order to take my mind off what I had left to go.

We ran past some of the homes along the road and came across a couple of people out watching the runners, we had a stop and a quick chat with them, turns out one of them had run part of the course earlier that day, I think he may have done the relay, but can't remember for sure. After a brief chat we carried on our way and eventually hit another bit of bush, Cam carried on ahead and I plodded along slowly through the bush making sure I didn't trip over any roots.

Tikitapu (Blue Lake) (81.2km)

Arriving at the Blue Lake aid station, my ankle which I had rolled about 3km in had started to swell up, it was nice to arrive in at the aid station and finally sit down for a while, although I knew it was going to be hard standing up afterwards. I arrived a couple of minutes or so behind Cam who was nice enough to turn off my headlamp to same some much needed battery life and then sat me down and brought me over some much needed food. As I sat and ate the food I watched a few people come into the aid station, each time the volunteers went crasy with excitement as the runners came in.

After what felt like 5 minutes of sitting down which was more likely 10 minutes, I headed over the drop bag tent where Cam was waiting with our bag. I was happy to be able to remove my shoes and pull off my Thorlo Socks which were once white but now drenched and covered in mud, and change into a fresh pair which I had specifically packed for this stop. There had been rumors that a short while after this stop we would be running though a bunch of water around the lake, but at this stage I figured my feet couldn't get any wetter, it was just nice to get a dry pair on for a while. Thankfully I would find out later that the water obstacle had been removed.

Only a half marathon to go until the finish line from the Blue Lake aid station, but at this stage the thought of the time it was going to take to get to the next aid station was not something I was looking forward to. I knew that once I got moving then I would be fine, and I knew that once I made it to Redwoods then it was just a 5km Park Run to the finish.

As we left the aid station almost an hour after we had arrived I noticed a Domino's pizza vehicle pulling in, I wasn't sure if it was just a spectator, volunteer or actual pizza being delivered, but at this stage it was to late now to go back and get some. We reached the lake and headed up some stairs we were able to turn off our headlamps for a little while and enjoy some more glow worms as we walked down the track for a bit. We chatted briefly to a couple of other runners, one of them who was aiming to complete the 102km ultra but by this stage was suffering from a hip problem, and the other who was pacing him who had already completed at least 21km earlier in the day as part of the relay run.

We bid them farewell and we carried on and as we approached the end of the trail leading back out to the lake we could start to hear what sounded like a bunch of teenagers singing away to music bleating out of their cars. It was actually quiet nice and I actually found myself singing along with them.

Soon we were back into heading up the hills, more steep hills, the kind I really hoped we wouldn't have to come across again, but I knew they were coming after looking at the elevation profile every day at work (I had it taped to my monitor) leading up to the event. While I knew these hills were coming, I had some how had hoped they had magically disappeared and I would be treated to a nice easy or flat section. We climbed and climbed, eventually coming out at the top where it eventually opened up and out of the cover of the trees.

Reaching the 93km mark after 19 hours and 13 minutes was a welcomed site, seeing it brought excitement knowing that it was just a short way away, the excitement was a little short lived as we still had to head away from that view another few kilometers before we would reach the next aid station.

Cam had carried on ahead while I had stopped to take some photos, I eventually caught up to Cam just as we were coming out on the road near one of the volunteers, just 1km from the last aid station.

Redwoods (97.4km)

The last aid station was a amazing, while it was nice to reach it knowing that it was only a short 5km to the finish I was actually wanting to just keep moving, but it was only fair to wait and let Cam get his cup of coffee which the volunteers at the aid station were nice enough to make. We eventually headed off and made our way down Long Mile Rd on the way of the final leg of the journey. As we turned into the last bit of forest I remember the smell of Rotorua finally becoming more clear.

We ran out of the park and came across some teenagers at one of the tents guiding people in the right direction, we stopped and had a quick chat with them, thanked them for being out so late pointing us on the right path and then continued on under the motorway before heading though a geothermic area heading towards the Government Gardens. Cam really helped us pick up some ground by using the markers as points to run and walk between, we would run a few and then walk one or two before repeating the process over and over a number of times, making up some time and even passing some people along the way to the finish.

Finish: Government Gardens, Rotorua (102.4km)

Running into the finishing chute, I remember hearing Cam's and my name being called out as we headed around the final bend before I stopped for a moment to look upon the Government building, I decided that instead of saving a few seconds and crossing that finish line that I would take a moment and grab a photo. The sight was a beautiful sight to see and one that even though I only saw for a short while, it will be one that I will remember for a long time.

Cam and I continued on and crossed the finish line 20 hours, 53 minutes and 23 seconds after taking our first step across the start line.

Photo credit:

I was expecting a bit more emotion would come across me as I crossed the finish line, and while I was happy to have completed it, I think there was likely two reasons why I didn't feel the emotion come across me that I thought I would:

I was to tired to care OR (and this is the most likely) I had told myself for months leading up to the event that I was completing it, so in my mind crossing the line inevitable and was no big deal.

Paul tracked Cam and myself down in the finishers tent as I was getting weighed in and gave me the traditional finishers hug that he gives all the finishers of the event. My weigh-in had showed that I had lost about 3.5kg at the end of the event compared to the day before, and that was after all the stuff I had to eat and drink during the event. I was advised I should probably go and have a sit down and have something to eat, but I just wanted to get back to my hotel and get some sleep. I sat down for a while and responded to a couple of texts from people wondering how I was going before heading to the other tent to track down Cam who had been sitting and chatting to some of our fellow finishers.

We then headed off to the car which was parked only 400 meters or so away... that walk took about 5 minutes. Upon reaching the car we both decided a feed of McDonald's was well deserved, so we headed down the road to the 24 hour drive thru. I'm sure we weren't the only ones to visit McDonald's that night and it wouldn't surprise me if this evening was one of the busiest nights the McDonald's drive thru gets in the year. Getting back to the hotel we both smashed down our meals and I have to say, it had to be one of the best double cheeseburgers I've ever had, and well earned. I decided that I didn't need the coke that we got with our meals, especially if we were just going to head to bed.

I ducked off to have a quick shower and clean off all the mud before ordering room service to deliver us some breakfast in the morning... we knew we wouldn't be up in time before the buffet breakfast closed.

Post Race Drop Bag Collection and Getting Home

I was woken by a knock on the door, I thought shoot I hope they don't wake Cam, I quickly rolled out of my bed and was about to run to the door when all of a sudden I had to stop for a moment, Owww, my legs are tight, I hobbled the rest of the way to the door and let the hotel staff in to deliver our breakfasts, I signed for it and then back to bed to try and get another hour or so of sleep. That didn't happen, I simply couldn't sleep anymore so I got on my iPad and had a read up on how the event had been going from the events feed.

Once Cam had woken, we had a bit of a feed and decided we should check out and head down to the drop bag collection. Just as we arrived at the finish line to get our drop bags an alert came through to my phone advising that our flights out of Rotorua had been cancelled... not delayed, but actually cancelled, oh man, that was really not what we needed. We both jumped on our phones to try and get though to Air NZ to see if we could get flights rebooked out of another airport as we waited in the queue for our drop bags. After 10-15 minutes waiting in the queue, we finally got our drop bags, but were still waiting for Air NZ to answer.

We made our way back to our car and came across Chris Dunnell, the head coach of the Christchurch Kathmandu & Salomon run group that I attend on Thursday nights, he had run the 62km Ultra and managed to take 2nd place (something I had found out earlier that morning when I was reading through the results). I congratulated him on his placing, it was a very close 2nd place with only a matter of a few seconds behind Vajin Armstrong, and Lucy Bartholomew taking 3rd place overall and 1st place woman only a minute or so behind Chris. Chris had just come from prize giving and was looking to find where to pickup his drop bag, after a quick chat we pointed him in the direction of the drop bag tent and continued on our way to the Airport hoping that we could get someone in person to help us with rebooking flights.

We remained on the phone while we drove to the airport (don't worry, we didn't break any rules about driving while being on the phone) and as we pulled into the airport car park... they finally answered the phone. Cam spent a lot of time with the lady on the phone asking for flights out of other airports around the North Island, while I was checking the driving times from where we were to the different locations that had flights available. In the end the only flight we could get out of the North Island that day that we had time to get to from Rototua by car was from Wellington, approximately 6 and a half hours drive away. We worked out that if everything went well and we didn't have any problems we could make it with about 10-20 minutes to spare, we figured it if came down to it we could check in online to our new flights if things looked tight. We had to skip getting our Post Race Polynesian Spa, but we had done a Pre Race one so that was fine, we turned that car around and made our way towards Wellington.

We took a quick stop for some food at Burger King in Turangi, as I was waiting for our food to be prepared I noticed someone looking at me and Cam, at first I thought that perhaps they had noticed our shirts that we were wearing... but then I spotted a familiar face, my friend Alex who I knew from Christchurch, he had moved to Wellington a few years earlier, the last person I expected to see there. I called out to him "Alex!", he simply replied "Oh, hey man" as if he wasn't surprised. Turns out he was up there supporting someone who had just done a mini triathlon. We had a quick chat before Cam and I had to leave and get back on the road to Wellington.

The drive to Wellington was mostly uneventful, apart from coming across a car accident which had caused the traffic to back up for about 10 minutes, we got though that and carried on our way. As we came into Wellington I looked up the nearest BP to the Airport while Cam continued to drive, I accidently gave him the wrong directions which almost had us driving into a tunnel which would have added a few more minutes to our travel time, but thankfully Cam was able to get us back on the right road rather quickly pulling into a driveway and back onto the correct road to where we needed to go. It was a quick stop into the BP, I jumped out and started filling the car while Cam paid for the fuel on his phone, and we were back on the road to the airport pulling into the rental drop off with 5 minutes to spare.

We quickly grabbed our bags and managed to check in just in time, only to find our plane had been delayed by 20 minutes... my god, while I have to admit, this day was just starting to make me laugh with all the things that had been going on, Cam pointed out the fact that it was actually nice to just sit and relax for a bit instead of rushing from A to B to C, etc. I had to agree to that. We eventually boarded the plane and finally headed home. I think I pretty well much fell asleep almost as soon as the plane took off, so the flight was pretty quick from what I remember.

We landed in Christchurch and as we got off the plane and to the terminal I spotted a wheelchair, oh heck yes... I deserved that as I was still trying to hobble around the place, I grabbed the wheelchair and started to sit when one of the Air NZ staff came and assisted putting the foot rests down.

I got dropped back to work so I could pickup my car to head home, but before I did that I had one last thing to do... get my minimum of a mile in for the day, after all... it's not official unless it's on Strava (is it?). That night as my head was about to hit the bed I spotted I had been tagged in one of Cams facebook posts (photo above), it read: "I’m ready to push you another 102km Jono... are you? "

If you got to the end of this very LONG post, I congratulate you, sorry it's long but these are more for my memories as they are for others to see what I get up to, I hope that you enjoyed this, and please feel free to leave a comment on my feedback page.

#TaraweraUltra, #TaraweraUltraMarathon, #StravaRun, #Suunto, #MovesCount, #Runner

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