The Tarawera 50km Off Road Race

I like big hairy audacious goals, the ones that scare you to bits.  The ones that in the back of your mind you are scared you may not achieve, but it keeps you going.  So I chose the Tarawera 50km.

Tarawera Ultra
View at the Start. Where else can you get this?

I was nervous and I knew I would be out there a long time, as turtles do not travel fast!

The day was hot and fine and as we all gathered at the start, I listened to two somewhat experienced athletes rave about which type of off-road shoes were the best to run in.  As I looked down at mine, they did also, to see a well worn dirty pair of shoes that seemed well down on their list of besties.  They seemed a bit embarrassed to be overheard rubbishing the exact brand I was wearing, but truth be told, they have got me through hundreds of kilometres so far and would hold together and get me through this race as well.

It was very close and personal in the corral before the start.  So close in fact you could almost feel the breath of the runner behind you breathing down your neck, but before you knew it the hooter had gone, Garmins had been switched on and hundreds of feet ran over the timing mat. We were off.

Single bush trail with roots and rocks.  When you got tired it was hard to lift your feet and so face planting became the order of the day. Tar sealed road, un-mowed hay paddocks with grass up to your knees.  This was just downright bloody hard with a lot of ankle rolling and then some mowed paddocks, rough metal road were the offering of the day.  The surface changed underfoot regularly so there was no way you could get bored. There were some almighty uphills that left you swearing at the organisers and it seemed I did on a regular basis and there were some pretty cool downhills too.  So much so it was almost enjoyable……Shhhh don’t tell anybody.

The aid stations were 7km apart so I set my next goal to the next aid station and the next and the next because 7km didn’t seem so far.  In my head it was just around the block.  Easy peasy!!! Ha ha, not quite but broken up like that it made manageable distances. The aid stations; Wowee…they were like wedding breakfasts.  Huge tables the length of rugby fields or so they seemed, filled with everything that a runner could hope to eat.  First came the liquid, water and electrolytes then came coke, mountain dew, ginger ale, gingerbeer, onto potato chips, pretzels, peanuts.  Move to nutella, marmite, honey or jam sandwiches.  Next came pizza and chips and lastly oranges, apples , bananas and grapes.  A right honorable feast it seemed and not to forget the lovely ladies at the Buried Village aid station decked out in their flowery frocks, mop caps and china tea pots with high tea and the awesome homemade scones with jam and cream.  It is a must to have one of these delectable morsels as they are just so famous.  To miss out would be to miss out on one of the highlights of this event, even though any attempt by me on the day at eating any food just left me with a stomach ache and the stitch. The apples though were a real treat. (Note to self: – practice eating and swallowing real food whilst training to avoid being hungry!) But I did have a stash of salted caramel Gu gels to keep me going…Mmmmm
Plenty of uphills.  Did I mention there were plenty of uphills?  Lots in fact.  We seemed to be forever climbing, but the views over the lakes at the top when we broke through the bush were astounding.  An obligatory photo had to be taken of course.

Ultra Training NZ
At the top of the hill with a view of the lake.

There was camaraderie aplenty.  Even a competitor wanting to sing as he chugged uphill.  I am sure this was just a distraction, but hey it worked as he got us all laughing and the hill was conquered.

It was pretty tough at times and as I like to call it, just plain hard yakka!  This event is not a run for the faint hearted, however with perseverance and determination and my ”never ever give up” attitude the kilometres slowly got whittled down.

As the marathon runners turned off to finish we had just 8km to go.  Again easy peasy, just around the block, I could hear myself say.  Yeah Nah. There was one tough 2km mother of a climb to go.  A slow continual grind, when your legs are already shaky and your lungs are burning and the previous singing runner is nowhere to be found so there is no distraction from the pain. You think there’s nothing left in the tank and you’re praying to whoever will listen to just hurry up and end this ongoing torture.  You get to the top and there’s a 2km downhill to contend with.  You can hear the music.  You can hear Paul on the microphone.  Those heavy feet now have sprouted wings.  You gather speed and feel like you’re flying.  You are so close now. Freedom is just around the corner.  You burst through the trees and with 200m of soft sandy beach to run to the finish gantry – you’re done!  Finished! Survived!  I bloody well did it!  I’ve just done 50km!  I feel like a hero from a comic book with red cape flying out the back…Woohoo…

With open arms and huge hugs Tim and Paul welcomed everyone home, what a blast!

– Suzy Monds

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