Race Report: 2017 Tarawera 102K Ultramarathon Race (Part 1)
Nine years ago when I was planning to conduct the first edition of the Bataan Death March 102K Ultramarathon Race (BDM 102), I found a list of Ultramarathon Races that was published in the Internet and one of them was the Tarawera 100 which was described to be an ultramarathon event on the beach and in the forests of Rotorua, New Zealand. Little did I realize that the said event was born on the same year that the BDM 102 had its first edition with the same distance, except for the fact that it was purely done on the trails and on the scenic spots of New Zealand.
I have read a few blogs and Race Reports about the event from international trail running elites since then and I was amazed how fast these runners would finish the race. Every year, I would also see pictures on Facebook of Pinoy Runners based in New Zealand finishing the event. And last year, I found out that some runners who joined my BDM Races and PAU trail races (Arlene Agulto and Jose Mina, Jr) have finished the race and I’ve read their respective Race Report on Facebook and on their blogs.
After I’ve read their blogs and posts on Facebook, I started to research more about the said Ultramarathon Event. Finally, in the month of July last year, I have decided to join the event. (The event usually starts to accept the registration of runners in the month of June).
While I was on vacation in the US in August 2016, I registered for the race and paid 320 New Zealand Dollars. My daily runs since then were geared towards finishing this race event even if it was six (6) months away which I think was the ideal length of period to train and prepare for this event.
Training & Preparation
I have started running on the paved roads for almost one month and going to the mountains for some hikes during weekends. I would work on a faster leg turn-over and tempo runs on my Tuesday to Friday runs with an average distance of 8-10 miles a day. After I have the confidence of building-up my endurance, I started to run on the trails which are runnable and made sure that I would gain at least 1,500 feet every 6-7 miles of distance. But on weekends, I would go on long hikes in the mountains for a period of 5-6 hours. These hikes would give me at least 5,000 to 6,000 feet of elevation per workout and this was where I would practice my hydration and nutrition strategy. On those long hikes, I would use my trekking poles to lessen the pain on my knees, most specially on the downhill hikes or runs.
These two months (July-August 2016) of training resulted to my satisfactory performance to finish the Zamboanga City 50K Mountain Run last September 2016 and the DBB Rockstar 50K Run which was held in the mountains of Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan in October 2016. After these two 50K runs, I continued my training and concentrated my daily running more in my Playground (mountains of Bataan). This was where I have increased my Vertical Gains in my daily as well as weekend LSD runs. I would typically run a distance of 14 miles with a vertical gain/loss of about 4,500 feet, by doing a “double-traverse” to a 2,000-foot high mountain (Mt Roosevelt) with very technical and steep trails. In every week, I would do 2-3 times of “double-traverse” workouts, in the middle of the day! I would start at 9:00 or 10:00AM and finish at 2:00 or 3:00PM. These “double-traverse” workouts prepared me for the Clark-Miyamit 50-Mile Trail Run. I would consider myself to have finished the race within the cut-off time of 18 hours even if I was lost on the last 2 miles of the course. As per my endurance; nutrition and hydration strategy on these three ultra trail events (Zamboanga City 50K Mountain Run; DBB Rockstar 50K; & CM50), I was confident that I was on the right track of my training as I finished these three “evaluation races” without using any trekking poles.
Last December 2016, my training was not consistent because of the PAU Races that I’ve have to prepare and conduct on the said month. I was planning to run multi-loops of Taklang Damulag with the runners for the duration of two days as my “back-to-back” weekend runs but I was able to run only one loop with a distance of 12.5 kilometers. However, during the Christmas break (two weeks), I started to consistently do some intense stationary cycling and biking workouts on paved roads just to be able build some strength on my quadriceps. I guess, those cycling workouts developed some unused muscles during my runs and my quads started to appear more pronounced and distinct. On the last week of December, I made my first-ever “quadruple traverse” hike and run in my Playround which would take me 7-8 hours of hiking with an elevation gain of almost 8,000 feet and I would repeat the said workout again after a week. I was happy that my body would withstand those “torture and painful” workout and stress just for me to prepare for the Tarawera Ultramarathon. For the month of January, I put more mileage, vertical gains, more “mountain repeats”, and downhill running to my training plus a couple of workouts on longer rides on my MTB and more “heat” training on my daytime runs! I would no longer keep track or record the data/numbers of my daily workouts as long as I would comply and run the number of miles that is scheduled in my weekly training program.
On these two months/8 weeks prior to the event, I practiced my training principle of “Train Heavy, Race Light” by wearing a Hydration Vest with 2 Liters of Bladder filled with water and with my nutrition stashed on the front pockets. On my tempo runs, I would only bring one or two Simple Hydration Bottles tucked on the back of my shorts and carry a number of Coffee Candies on the pockets of running shorts which would served as my source of sugar/nutrition for the workout. I would also do my hikes and runs without using my trekking poles to make sure that my legs and knees are holding up with those very technical steep ascents and descents in my playground. It was part of my race strategy not to bring my trekking poles for the race.
My last evaluation race for the Tarawera Ultramarathon was the Tarak Ridge 25K Trail Run. This is where I’ve proven that I was quick in climbing steep inclines due to my reduce weight and leg strength due to my “double-traverse” and “quadruple traverse” workouts in my Playground
For the months of December 2016 and January 2017, I limited my intake of carbohydrate (on mostly rice and sweet/cola drinks) for me to reduce my weight from 142 lbs to 132 lbs which I consider as my ideal racing weight for ultra distances. Before I left for New Zealand from Manila, I was 133 lbs but a day before the race (when the Volunteers were taking my Body Weight as I was about to receive my Race Packet) I registered a weight of 140 lbs! I was surprised that I was able to put some weight while I was on my way to New Zealand and for a few days of stay already in Rotorua. But I was not worried, I knew I needed those newly-accumulated body fats/weight because of the weather forecast on the day of the event. It will be hot and humid and it was playing in my mind that those not used to the heat will be on a “carnage”.
In summary, I was consistently logging 55-65 miles per week for the months of December and January done on the mountains of my Playground. I was confident that for doing those “double-traverse” and “quadruple traverse” workouts at Playground “Charlie”/Mt Roosevelt would prepare my body for the challenge at Tarawera 102K, the same preparation I made for my successful finishes at the TransLantau 100K (Hongkong) for two successive years in 2015 & 2016.
Trip & Transportation To Rotorua, New Zealand
Last September 2016, I have already canvassed and asked for quotation for the possible flight and purchase of plane ticket to New Zealand from Manila. And also for the available land transportation from the Auckland International Airport to Rotorua. This is also to include for my accommodation or place to stay in Rotorua. I did not bother to contact the Race Organizer or the Race Director of the Event asking questions about directions, places to stay, and schedule for the event. One of the runners who joined the 2016 UTMB brought home a Souvenir Program of the 2016 Tarawera Ultramarathon Race with some posters given by my friend, Jason Schlarb and I reviewed all the things that are written about the said event. All the details, suggestions, and advice on how to reach Rotorua from Auckland International Airport are already there.
It was a choice of a cheaper ticket with more stop-overs along the way which means more days of travel (3-4 days) or buying a more expensive ticket fare with less than 30 hours of travel. I got the more expensive one but the mileage I will get from my trip is added to my Frequent Flyer Privilege and a shorter trip would mean more time to visit more places in the place of my destination. In short, I bought the ticket way before I was issued a NZ Visa which was processed for only 3 working days. Being a Frequent Flyer of Korean Air, my trip has to pass first to Incheon International Airport and then transfer to the flight from Incheon to Auckland International Airport after 12 hours of layover. What is good was that I was given a Free Voucher to stay at the Incheon International Airport’s Transit Hotel with Free Meals. So, after 3.5 hours of flight from Manila to Incheon, I was able to rest/sleep until the scheduled boarding time for my connecting flight to Auckland. So, my total time of travel was only 26 hours!
Initially, I planned to get the services of a Rent-A-Car once I land in Auckland but few days before my departure I cancelled my reservation/booking because of not being confident to drive a different traffic or road driving protocol from what I am used to. Right hand drive vehicles are new to my driving habit! I don’t want that “Shit Happens” before the running event which I prepared for the past 6 months and invested so much resources/money for it only to be distracted or would not push through because of a “stupid” vehicular accident on my part.
My “host” for my accommodation provided me the necessary option for my land trip from Auckland to Rotorua. She advised me to take the Bus Service (for long distance trips) where she gave the names of the Bus Companies to choose from.There are 3 Bus Companies catering to long distance trips in New Zealand and they are: InterCity Bus, Naked Bus, and the Mana Bus. I selected the InterCity Bus and made my bookings through their Website and it was very easy using my “loaded” E-Card through Mastercard! (Next time, I will avail of the Mana Bus because they have toilet in their Coaches and they are “two-deckers” with cheaper price!)
As soon as I landed in Auckland, I had some time to walk-through the Airport, ate some meal, and sit, patiently waiting for my scheduled bus trip. Whether you are going to the North or South of the North Island of New Zealand, you have to take the Transporter 360 Bus to Manukau which is about 40-45 minutes drive. At Manukau City, you have to wait for the scheduled bus to Rotorua at the Bus Stop across the Westfield Mall. At the Westfield Mall, I would go around again to see the stores inside and then ate a good Burrito at the Food Court. From Manukau to Rotorua was a 3-hour drive with never-ending sight of farms and ranch full of lambs and cattles and vast fields planted with corn. The scenery was simply amazing as totally different as what one would see on a bus trip from Manila to Laoag or to the Bicol Provinces! New Zealand is a Paradise!!!
It was 7:00 PM when I arrived in Rotorua and there was still sunlight. A Taxi would be available at the Town Center’s Bus Drop-Off Area and the house where I would stay was only 3 kilometers from the Bus Station and 2 kilometers from the Redwoods Parks which is Starting Place of the Tarawera 102K Ultramarathon.
The Taxi ride from the Town Center to the House where I stayed was only a short 10-minute ride. I was met by my Host/Owner of the house and she showed my room. She gave me a tour of the house and told me what to use in my cooking while I will be in their house. She gave me additional information about the Bus/Commute System from the house to the Town Center and vice-versa and briefed me on the location of the Redwoods Park; the Holiday Inn; and the grocery stores in Downtown.
To be continued.