Tarawera Ultra Marathon

Tarawera 100 Mile Ultramarathon: Return of the Fat Wood Pigeon

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”

Captain Ahab

I had a failed attempt at the TUM Miler in 2020 due to my body rebelling against me at the Titoki aid station (I projectile vomited five times) which I took as a sign to call an end to my first go at a miler.  This was about 9 or 10 weeks after a hernia op so my time on feet etc weren’t where I wanted them to be.  Being a stubborn type of I immediately set my sights on TUM Miler 2021.

As always, Coach Ray worked with me to build myself up towards the event, only problem was I developed some Achilles and Soleus pain near the end of August which stopped me running for quite a while.  As soon as I told him what was going on and the details the physio gave me, Ray mixed my training programme up to become heavy on the spin bike.  I detest static equipment with a vengeance and being a bit hefty, I really don’t like being in the saddle as I lose feeling to everything down there.

Fast forward a bit and I was also sent to a podiatrist who cleared me to start some walk/jog sessions as well as some additional stretches to what Ray had me doing.  So not long before TUM, I got a couple of 1 hour runs in and the Saturday before TUM I did my first hill run since August – heaps of prep.

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Rego done, drop bags handed in. Time to chill and possibly have a wee Kereru with some of the cool kids. #fatwoodpigeon

Rock on to the event itself.  Made it up to Rotorua with a buddy that was going back to beat his (and subsequently my) time for the 102km.  Got to the expo and registration nice and early and the only thing I was first in all weekend was getting through registration.  I checked out the expo, managed to get a shoulder and neck rub at the OMRUB stall and enjoyed the carb heavy refreshments at the Croucher tent before having steak and chips for dinner then off to bed to attempt some sleep.

It was so muggy that night I felt like I was back in the jungles of Borneo, my pillow was saturated on both sides and I ended up getting my Dr Cool recovery strap out of the freezer to put on my head and torso to try and cool me down.  End result was about 2 hours of useful sleep.

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H -27 here at the start line. I’m covered in anti chafe cream, sunscreen and sweat thanks to the mugginess. Not much sleep had last night mostly thanks to the heat. Ah well, something will take my mind off that soon enough. #fatwoodpigeon

Alarm went off at 0200 which gave me plenty of time to get ready, eat something and apply sunscreen gel (which felt weird at that time of the morning).  From there it wasn’t a long walk up to Te Puia to the start line and wait for the wero and the call to begin at 0400.  I was feeling pretty chill about everything, checked my HR and it was steady at 55 bpm which I was surprised about so that when we were underway, I just took my time from the back of the pack.

A few weeks before the event, I had gone through the time, space, average pace required to make sure I cleared each of the aid stations that had cut offs then had an epiphany about 2 weeks out; bollocks to that, just keep going until either the body gives out in some way or I get the tap on the shoulder telling me I hadn’t made it to the aid station on time.

So the run itself, I had tried to drill it in to my head that I was not allowed to go faster than 7 min/km as part of the mad rush out of the start and even then I was only allowed to go that pace for a maximum of 5km, which I surprisingly managed to achieve.

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Aid station 2 complete 3hrs 4mins 22km #fatwoodpigeon

I got through the first aid station at Puarenga relatively quickly, just picking up an orange slice and emptying the bladder then away again.  15km in I started to feel a bit nauseous (nothing to do with the number of Croucher’s I had…) but kept tracking on through the sunrise and in to aid station 2 at Lake Rotokakahi where some jet planes and ginger beer calmed the nausea down.

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In and out of Buried Village. 30km, 4hrs 17mins. #fatwoodpigeon

Buried Village at 31km was where my first drop bag was waiting for me and I felt good when I jogged on in.  My trail buddy Fergus had my bag ready for me and refilled my bladder which led to another pretty quick transition through (this was something I was wanting to improve on from last year).  About 200m out of the aid station I decided to have the first of my rice cakes that I had packed away (thanks to Ray for the bacon and egg recipe) and just walked briskly while shovelling it in.

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About to leave Isthmus. 47km in 7hrs 25 mins. The heat is taking it’s toll and the aid station hasn’t had a resup of water. I do love a good challenge. #fatwoodpigeon

The track out to Isthmus is a strange one, I just couldn’t get any jogging rhythm going and there are a few wee steeps rises that sap the energy out of you.  I finally made it to Isthmus and an ice cold sponge which was awesome.  What wasn’t awesome was being told there was no water as it was about 15 – 20 minutes away coming across the lake.  Having all my vaccinations up to date I filled a soft flask up with the sponge bucket water (yum) and took off to catch the boat.

Waiting for the next boat we were directed to a water supply, so we were all able to refill which was great.  What was even better was the boat was low and had comfy seats (last year I seized up at the back of the boat and then had to jump on to shore).  Once ashore I made my way up to Rerewhakaaitu (55km) to get my next drop bag and catch up with Fergus.  I still felt really good and Fergus commented that I looked a lot better than I did last year at this stage.  I was starting to get a bit of hot spotting on my feet, but it was only 7km to the next aid station.

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56km down, 9hrs 7mins. Looking better than I did at this point last year but I am in Suffer City. Prob last update for a while, heading to the forest soon. Honestly amazed I’ve got this far, wasn’t expecting it. #fatwoodpigeon

The road up to Okahu is literally that, road which is less than comfortable underfoot but it’s all a part of the fun, so another rice cake took my mind off it.  At Okahu I had some more jet planes and ginger beer plus I sprayed my essentials and feet with my silicone spray.

Out of Okahu and after a little bit of road, it’s into the forest again, it was in here I discovered I was no longer able to jog or shuffle, just walk with purpose.  There’s also a hill in here not too far out from the aid station at Wihapi which I fell on three times last year and also had my breathing go a bit erratic.  This year though, I was pretty steady going up there and when I came across the log I had to stop on last year I took a minute or two for a drink and food break and to reflect on how this year was going so much better.  Apart from the blisters I could feel forming in the soles of my feet.

Once at Wihapi (72km) I had some more jet planes and ginger beer.  I also took my shoes off to scope out my feet and spray some more silicone on them.  I could feel a decent blister forming below each of my big toes but the one on the right was gaining some momentum, so I also chucked a blister block over it.

By the time I made it in to Puhipuhi (82km) my feet were starting to really play up, but I had a cup of hot water and some Jet Planes.  I still felt like I had plenty left in the tank and there was also still some daylight left, so after contemplating the how I was going to attack the leg up to Titoki, I got off my fat arse and made a move.

I finally made it to the scene of Spewarama 2020 AKA Titoki where I had another hot water and a rice cake.  I also had someone think that my poles were an aid for standing on, so that was cool.  I had made it clear to my brain that if I made it to Titoki, I had to get beyond it.

I took off at the same time as a local lady who set a thundering pace which I was able to maintain on the downhill and flats but not a chance on the up hill sections.  It was also by this point that each time I caught a root or rock, it felt like the soles of my feet were being ripped off and Paracetamol can only do so much.  It took about 8km before the lady I started this leg with faded away in to the distance.  The last km in to the aid station at Outlet took me 16 minutes and the terrain was relatively flat and I jarred my right knee going down a descent.  I was still within my cut off times and mentally feeling strong but my body, more specifically my feet was not for having it.  I did some critical analysis, it would be 7km to aid station Humphries and another 10km to the aid station at Okataina where there would more medical support.  I felt it was going to be a bridge too far for the feet so gracefully withdrew from the run at Outlet.  I spoke to the medic there and he recommended keeping off my feet for a while and to keep taking in the hot fluids I was already knocking back.  Luckily, by the time I made it back to the Lake Front, my buddy had just finished his 102km so I was able to get a lift back to the accommodation with him and his wife.

Not the result I was after but overall happy.  It was one aid station further than I managed to get to last year, I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d even make it to Rerewhakaaitu so I smashed that distance and even better we managed to beat my fundraising target of $1000 for the Mental Health Foundation by getting it up to $1229.

TUM Miler is officially my Moby Dick and as such, I will be back next year to try and knock the bugger off, I even have written clearance from my wife so that’s positive.

Read about Jamie’s (AKA the Fat Wood Pigeon) experience at TUM last year here:

If like Jamie you have got a big goal you need assistance to complete, apply to join Team Qwik Kiwi.

Click here for more information: https://www.coachray.nz/get-coached-coach-ray/coaching/

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