Race Report Tarawera 102K Ultra Marathon Race (Part 3)

15 03 2017

The Day Before The Race (Friday)

If it is your first time to visit New Zealand, three days before the Race Day is a nice period of time to tour around the City of Rotorua to buy some groceries and souvenirs; look and try some places to eat; and have a brief recon of the place of the event. However, if I will go back to join this race again, I would prefer to arrive on Thursday, join the Welcome Ceremony and Race Briefing on Friday, and be ready for the Race on Saturday.

On the day before Race Day (Friday), I decided not to join the Powhiri Welcome Ceremony in Te Puia (about 300+meters from Rotorua Holiday Inn) which was scheduled at 8:30 in the morning and instead joined the Race Briefing at 11:00 AM at the Rotorua Holiday Inn. After taking the Bus at Route 10 from the house, I have to transfer to another Bus for Route 11 from the Town Center and then alighted at a street corner about 100 meters to the Holiday Inn. I was late for a few minutes as Tim Day, the Race Director has already started the Race Briefing. Once I’ve settled on the edge of the Hall, I was able to see the Pinoy Runners among the audience and saw some familiar faces whom I saw while on tour at the Town Center for the past days.

Tarawera Briefing

Tarawera 102K Briefing By Tim Day, Race Director

The weather forecast for the weekend was perfect and there was no rain. I was happy and maybe, most of the runners too, that there was NO Mandatory Gear for the race. It will be hot and humid but I was confident that my heat training in my Playground would never compare with the heat to be expected during the race. A sample of the ribbons as trail markers was shown to us and they would stand-out in the forest even if it is nighttime because it has a reflectorized ribbon. All the other details of the race route and their rules and regulations are clearly stated on the PDF file that anybody could read on the event’s website. The RD had mentioned that the Aid Stations would strictly implement the Cut-Off times. The Race Briefing did not take long and it was followed by a Question & Answer Interview Among the Elite Athletes.

Tarawera Numbers

Tarawera 102 Ultra Marathon In Numbers

Tarawera Cut-Off Times

Tarawera 102K Checkpoints & Cut-Off Times (Saved On My IPhone)

After the Q & A Session, the Emcee encouraged the Audience to have a “Selfie” with the Elite Athletes. I have only 3 “selfies” on my iPhone and they are from: Jim Walmsley; Yassine Diboun; Camille Herron; and Meghan Hicks.

Since the Race Registration was scheduled at 3:00 PM, I decided to have my lunch at the Restaurant inside the Rotorua Holiday Inn. Before 3:00 PM, I was already on a line for the Race Registration. Every runner for the 102K & 82K were weighted from a scale before getting his/her Race Packet which consist of the Race Bib and Souvenir Programme. The Race Organizer Paul Charteris made an apology that the Commemorative Shirt for all the Registered Runners would not be available not until the following day because the Main Event Sponsor, Compressport, made a mistake in sending the cargo to the South Island. So, up to this time, I am still waiting for the arrival of my Commemorative Shirt through the mail as promised by the Race Organizer.

After I received my Race Packet, I went home but had to drop by the Town Center for a “Take-Out” Dinner. At 6:00 PM, I was already in the house ready to eat my dinner; prepare my running kit and go to bed at exactly 9:00 PM.

On Race Day

The main goal is to finish the 102K distance and be able to earn some UTMB points (even if I am no longer interested with the UTMB races).

The race strategy is to start slow; maintain my hydration and nutrition needs every mile or every hour; and be able to maintain a “buffer time” of at least 2 hours from the cut-off time in every checkpoint. If I still have the strength, I would finish strong!

On my running kit, I decided to use my old Patagonia Shorts, Compressport “On/Off” Trail Shirt with Uniqlo “Heat Tech” as Baselayer, Salomon Cap, FitBelt, Drymax Socks, Mission Buff, Two Simple Hydration Bottles, New Balance Vazee Summit Trail Shoes, Adidas Gloves, Oakley Sunglasses, AMG Headphone with an iPod Shuffle, Petzl Headlamp, and Patagonia Houdini Jacket tucked inside one of shorts’ pockets.

I decided not to have any Drop Bags for my additional food and clothes to change along the route as I would no longer have the time to pick them up the following day because of my trip to Wellington the following day. On hindsight, I should have those Drop Bags for my “comfort” food and extra headlight. Maybe, I will have to use “disposable” drop bags in my next race if I intend to just leave them for the Race Organizers to dispose.

I woke up at 3:30 AM, took a shower, drank a hot coffee and ate some hot noodles. And after one hour, I was already on the road to the starting area by walking but I was carrying a plastic bag with two cuts of Pizza, a Nutella sandwich and one piece of Banana. I could feel the coldness outside to be tolerable even if I have my Patagonia light jacket tucked in one of the pockets of my Patagonia Shorts. I just thought that the mild cold of the day will be advantageous to my body as I tend to sweat too much during races. At 5:00 AM, I was already at the Redwoods Park Visitors Center. While waiting, I started to eat the food inside the plastic bag that I carried from the house.

Tarawera 100 Map Elevation Profile

Course Map & Elevation Profile

I had enough time to relax and observe the arrival of the other runners. I even had the chance to meet the brother & sister Pinoy staff members of the Park; had a picture with Chris; and meet with the whole Pinoy group of runners.

15 Minutes before the Gun Start, I was already about 10-15 meters behind the Starting Arc and just waited there until I heard the announcement of the Emcee telling to the runners to just pee on the trees around and not go to the Toilets to fall in line! He said that the trees need everyone’s pee! And the usual Maori Ritual started at the front of the Starting Arc. I could not see the ritual but I could hear the chants and some music. And after the ritual, it was time for the countdown…

Tarawera Start

100 Feet Behind The Start Arc (Right Side With Red Cap)

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Starting To Jog From The Starting Line

At exactly 6:00 AM the race started and I began to move forward. I could feel that I was very light and comfortable with my slow pace with only one Simple Hydration Bottle filled with water and the other empty bottle as my cup/glass if I intend to drink sodas in the Aid Stations. I had one Clif Gel inserted in each of my hand gloves and 4 pieces of Fuel Bar in my Flip Belt. The race started with an asphalted road for about one kilometre and the road became a wide track of dirt road as the runners thinned up along the road. I controlled myself and preserved my strength even if I was confident that I can run the moderate ascents on the early part of the course. After running for about 40 minutes going up to a higher elevation, the sunlight started to shine but I opted to let my headlight on as it became too dark to be running inside the forest with roots exposed covering those single track trail. The ascent was not too difficult as I was entertained by the number of runners ahead of me and those faster runners who would overtake me along the wider part of the route.

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1st Kilometer

The first Aid Station is 16.7 kilometers from the Starting Line and once I came out from the forest, I could see a big Water Tank where beside it was a group of Marshal/volunteers asking if I would like to leave my headlight behind. I opted not to give me headlight as I know I will be needing it during nighttime. Once I passed the volunteers, it was another moderate uphill until we reached a wide road with lots of gravel and crushed rocks. You could see the blinding light of the sunrise ahead of you while you could see the dust coming from the road as a result of pounding on the ground by those faster runners ahead of you. More people would cheer us on this part of the route.

Tarawera Kilometer 2

First Climb Inside The Forest

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Inside The Forest

Even if we were running inside the forest, the trail was wide in most of the parts before the first Aid Station. I kept my headlight switched to On as it was hard to distinguish the roots from the black colour of the surface of the trail. I have observed that the single trail trail inside the forest are too soft and with cushion as I pound my feet on them. I could feel that there are piles of dry leaves mixed with the dirt on the trail. I was neither fast nor aggressive in my pace because I was too careful not to trip or fall down on my knees due to small protruding roots. I have read so many blogs from faster runners who joined the past editions and almost all of them had mentioned for having some wounds and scratches on their knees, legs and palms because they haphazardly fell down on the trail. It was time to be careful and deliberate in my steps on those single-track trail.

Tarawera Headlight Drop Off

Water Tank Where Headlights Can Be Dropped

Tarawera After Water Tank

Downhill & Uphill Climbs After The Water Tank

Tarawera Dirt Road

Wide Dirt Road Before Sunrise

Tarawera Dirt Dusty Road

Very Dusty Dirt Road With Runner In Front

Tarawera Blue Lake Aid Station

Approaching Blue Lake

The first Aid Station is at the shore of Blue Lake. The lake looks like blue in color from afar but you can see how clean the water is as you approached it. I refilled my hydration bottle with water and the other empty bottle was used as my cup where I could drink water as much as I could because I was feeling early on that the water I drank on those 16 kilometers were not enough. I had to arrest the seemingly start of being dehydrated because it was already hot at 8:00 AM, after 2 hours+ of continuous running and fast hiking. I grabbed some slices of watermelon and oranges and ingested some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I guess, I only stayed at the Aid Station in less than 3 minutes and I was back on the trail. I grabbed another two or three slices of watermelon bites and carried them with my hand as I waked away from the Aid Station.

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Still Running To The Next Aid Station

From the Lake we go back again to the Forest and it was becoming hotter. I realised that the temperature inside the forest is higher than the temperature once you get out from the forest. Even if the trail was shaded with trees and tall shrubs, the temperature feels like you are exposed directly to the sunlight. I was feeling okey as I trained in my Playground with this kind of situation. I was regularly taking my Salt Tablets every hour and drinking water, and always maintaining to have some candies (Coffee Candies) inside my mouth.

The cut-off time at Blue Lake Aid Station is 10:00 AM which means that I have a maximum time of 4 hours to reach and leave this place. However, I was able to reach this place in 2:14+ hours with a buffer time of 1:45+ hours. This distance to the 2nd Aid Station/Checkpoint would be almost 7 kilometres!

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Having Fun & Meeting New Friends

After a few minutes, I reached Miller Road, where the 65K runners had started one hour after we started. I could see the tire tracks of the Buses on a wide dirt road that transported the runners from the Greenwoods Park to the said place. There is no Aid Station or Marshal on this part of the route as the road would continue to be uphill. The next Aid Station would be almost 10 kilometres to the next one and there is an imposed cut-off time in it. On my time splits, it appeared that it took me to reach this place from Blue Lake in 59+ minutes which means that I was able to cover the distance of 23.5K in 3:14+ hours which I think not bad as I was gaining some buffer time.

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The Day Is Getting Hotter But I Need To Smile

The 2nd Aid Station is Okaitana which is Km 40 from the Start. This Aid Station is also a Checkpoint where the Cut-Off time is 1:50 PM or 7 hours & 50 minutes had elapsed from the Start. My Garmin Watch would register a time of 5:52+ hours and I became worried that I was able to decrease my buffer time to 1:08+ minutes. It was supposed to happen that way since I had more and more hiking as this section had the highest peak of the course. It was becoming hotter that I had to fill my two Simple Hydration Bottles with water in between Aid Stations. I started to eat Potato Chips at the Aid Station to include sandwiches and watermelon/orange bites. The watermelon and orange bites were very refreshing to my mouth. In terms of elevation gain, this section (Miller Road to Okaitana), is perceived to be the hardest part of the route where almost everybody had to hike the ascending portion. I power hiked the steeper sections and jogged the flatter portions of the route along this section but by the nature of the trail which is wide and clean, clearing or passing this section seemed to be easy on me as compared to my Playground. As I reached the highest peak of the course, it was all downhill up to the Okaitana Aid Station. However, the heat of the sun and the forest took a toll on most of the runners who are not used to hot condition.

To be continued…





Race Report: 2017 Tarawera 102 Ultramarathon Race (Part 2)

24 02 2017

Race Report: 2017 Tarawera 102K Ultramarathon Race (Part 2)

Airbnb For Accommodation

Whenever I join ultra races abroad, I usually make my bookings on motels through their websites. I never had the experience to bring my camping gears and set up my tent in camp sites near or within the Starting Area of a trail ultra race. Since I was planning to join the CCC @ UTMB this year (but I was not lucky to be picked on the lottery) and try to stay on Airbnb in Chamonix, France, I looked for “homestays” in Rotorua, New Zealand on the Internet. Staying in New Zealand in an Airbnb accommodation would be a nice “first-time” experience for me prior to going to other races in Europe.

After some browsing on the Internet, I found a place which has so many positive feedback from the people who stayed in the said house. Considering the cheaper amount to be spent as compared to staying a Hotel or Motel in Rotorua, the house is located near the start of the event and the place is quiet and affordable. Looking at the Profile Picture and the name of the owner of the house, I was able to conclude that they could be Asian and it would much easier to communicate and to be relate to them since we belong to the same Continent. So, I made the decision to book for my accommodation in this place. For a duration of stay for 8 days, I was able to pay almost P 20,000 to include some fees.

Upon my arrival at the Town Center of Rotorua, NZ, I called for a Taxi which was waiting for passengers as the right side of the building. The driver is a 75-year old guy and he took some time to look at the address of my destination and glanced at his reference of the places of the city. Then another Taxi Driver asked him if he has any problem on our destination since it took him a couple of minutes to move his Taxi from where I boarded. The other Taxi Driver told him what street to take and the old guy realised where the house is located. It took the Taxi Driver less than 10 minutes to reach my destination.

It was already 9:00 PM when I arrived at the house and the Hosts, Gillian and William Ma were waiting for my arrival. They are very nice hosts and very helpful in giving me some directions to go to some places in the city; very responsive to my needs in the house; and give me some information about the city. They had been in the said house for the past 5 years and they are still childless. I told them about the reason why I was in Rotorua and they were surprised to know that there is such an international event happening in their neighbourhood without them knowing it. Much more surprised when I told them that I will be joining the 102K distance event and they could not believed it since they have known that I’ll be turning 65 years old in 3 months. Of course, I told them also that I am a retired officer with the rank of Two-Star General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the second day of my stay in their house. On the early morning of the second day of my stay in their house, I had a lengthy conversation with Gillian and we had to get to know more about her and her husband and the things/places to visit in Rotorua.

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Gillian Ma, My Host

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William Xu, Husband of Gillian

My room has a Double Size Bed with a view of the frontyard of the house with a wide glass window draped with a rolling curtain. It has a locker room and equipped with an electric fan. I was wondering why there was no air-conditioning unit for the room but by opening the window with a small space, I can feel the cool air from the outside to be entering the room. However, I was warned by my Host to close the window during nighttime because some flying insects would be attracted to enter the opened space of the window because of the light from the room. The bed, comforter, and the pillows are very clean and comfortable. However, I have to walk for about few feet outside my room for the toilet and bathroom. The toilet and bathroom are separate rooms but there was no problem for me as they are considered as “common” bathroom & toilet for the guests. I was lucky that I was the only guest for the first three days when a Lady from Switzerland occupied another room in the house for an overnight stay after I finished the race.

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Frontage Of The House

Their address is: 11 Carroll Place 11, Rotorua, Bay Of Plenty 3010, New Zealand.

airbnb

Advertisement From Airbnb On My Room

Warm-Up Run To Redwoods Park

After a breakfast of hot coffee and quaker oats, I prepared for a brief run to the Redwoods Park from the house which is about 2.5 kilometer-distance to its entrance and there is another one kilometre to run from the Gate/Entrance to the Visitors Center of the Park. I surveyed the actual place where the Starting Area of the event is located and I had the chance to inspect the trail of the park not knowing that the first kilometre of the race will follow the asphalted road towards the mountain.

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Entrance To Redwoods Park

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One Kilometer Distance From Entrance To The Visitors Center

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Redwoods Park Visitors Center/Starting Area Of The Race

After some picture-taking of those things inside and within the Visitor’s Center, it was time to engage with the personnel of the park. This is where I met Katrina who told me that she has two other Pinoy personnel working with her in the Park. Before we ended our conversation, we had a “selfie” where she approved of it.

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Katrina, A Staff At The Redwoods Park

I returned to the house jogging with a faster pace and I found the weather and the cooler breeze to be like Baguio City during summer time. I knew already that we will have a very hot weather on race day. While I was jogging, I was able to pass a commercial centre which is called Redwood Center which is about 50 meters from the entrance of the Park. From what I’ve seen within the Commercial Center, I knew already where I would eat my lunch for the day.

Bus Rides

I had my second shower in Rotorua and prepared to walk again for my lunch at the Redwood Center. After lunch, I took a Bus Ride to the Town Center for some shopping of souvenirs from Rotorua. Bus Rides are very efficient and orderly in Rotorua. All you have to do is remember the Bus Route Number and pay NZ$ 2.35 for the said route and have the option to transfer to another Bus Route Number within 30 minutes after you are being dropped by the first bus you have taken for FREE. All you have to do is to inform the Driver that you are transferring to another Bus Route after alighting from the Bus, so that he can give you your ticket for the next bus transfer you will be taking. As you board to the transfer Bus, inform the driver that you are transferring from another Bus and give your ticket. The Bus Route goes only on a One Way Loop which means that the next scheduled ride always comes from the Town Center and not from the Turn-Around Point of the Bus and pass on the same road where I was picked up! All the Bus Stops have the scheduled time of arrival posted on a pole adjacent to the Shaded Bus Stop. I have observed that the Bus arrival on the Bus Stop near the house where I stayed was always prompt and on the dot. The Bus Stop near the house where I stayed is only 50 meters away!

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Bus Schedule Posted On Bus Stops

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Typical Picture Of A City Bus In Rotorua

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Picture Inside The Bus

When I learned about the Bus Transport System in the area, there was no need to take the Taxi. However, the schedule of the Bus starts at 7:00 AM and ends at 6:00 PM. If you want a ride after 6:00 PM, take the Taxi by calling the number 07-348-1111 as you could hardly see any Taxi roaming around the streets/roads in Rotorua. Once you call the number and state your location where you can be picked-up, the Taxi will be there with you in few minutes!

(Note: It is advisable to buy a Sim Card for your Cellphone at the Auckland International Airport as soon as you arrive for the cost of NZ$ 39.00)

Change Of Schedule/Itinerary

Even if I have friends on Facebook who are presently living or residing in New Zealand, I did not send them any PM or give them a hint that I need some help or need answers from queries I would like to ask from them. I just patiently read the instructions stated on the Souvenir Program of the Tarawera 100 Ultramarathon Race and then use the Google/Google Maps to get answers from concerns and queries where I need some answers.

My stay in New Zealand was focused in joining and finishing the race where after the race, I would go back to Auckland and board my flight back to Manila. Just simple as that! However, a sudden change has occurred in my schedule.

A PMA Cavalier (PMA Alumni Class ’81 and former Officer of the Philippine Navy) whom I had the opportunity to work with during my assignment in the Philippine Military Academy as a Tactical Officer and member of the General Staff of the Headquarters PMA as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence and Security, sent me a message and welcome greetings for arriving in New Zealand safely. After an exchange of messages on Facebook, I called him using my cellphone. I found out that he is now residing in Wellington with his family and he is inviting me to visit their place before going back to Manila if there is a way that I can squeeze his invitation in my schedule. I said, Yes, why not?

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With My Host In Wellington, NZ, Captain Virgilio Velasco, Philippine Navy (Retired), PMA Class ’81

Looking at my schedule that if I can finish the race before midnight of Saturday, I would take the first trip by bus on Sunday for a 7-hour bus ride to Wellington to rest and at the same time enjoy the view along the route, have a brief tour of the city immediately after arrival, stay overnight in their house, then have another bus ride back directly to Auckland on Monday and then depart for Manila on the morning of Tuesday. It was a hectic schedule that played in my mind but it is doable. However, my friend has a better suggestion for my schedule. The bus ride from Rotorua to Wellington was fine as I will be seeing the sea, the different city centers and landscape of the North Island of New Zealand while I was resting in the bus and have a chance to have some picture-taking during the brief stops in the Bus Stations along the way. Upon our arrival in Wellington, my friend would bring me to their house and have a home dinner with his family and then Rest Overnight. He suggested that I would take the last Jetstar Flight from Wellington to Auckland on the following day, Monday so that I he can bring me to a city tour the whole day before my departure. The schedule was perfect! He advised me to simply book my trip On Line through the websites of the Bus Company and Jetstar. He even generously gave the details of his Credit/Debit Card for me to use for this purpose. Of course, I declined since I have an e-card prepared for this trip.

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Prominent Mountain On The Road To Wellington

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Bus Stop For Lunch

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Kiwi Burger, So Far, The Best Burger I’ve Tasted

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Last Bus Stop @ Wharepaku Before Wellington

So, in a matter of few minutes after our conversation, I was able to book for my bus ride to Wellington and Jetstar Flight back to Auckland. My excitement to finish the race became secondary objective and my trip to Wellington became the primary objective of my remaining stay in New Zealand.

Little did I realize that this change of schedule will greatly affect or have an impact on my performance during the race.

To be continued….








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