Tarawera Ultra 2012

Having had time to sit back, reflect and soak it all in, it is time to share my 2012 Tarawera Ultra Marathon experience. Having often used the excuse of ultra running to take me to new parts of the world, I was excited by what was in store for me in the beautiful Bay of Plenty region in the North Island of New Zealand. The course itself took in 100kms of beautiful trail between Rotorua and Kawerau, following a beautiful river and passing through exotic forestry, native bush, lakes and waterfalls (www.taraweraultra.co.nz).

The team behind the race, headed by the tireless Paul Charteris, leave no stone unturned and have put it well and truly on the international calendar. In true Kiwi style, everyone was made to feel welcome with a down to earth and friendly atmosphere. The volunteers rocked and the food on the course was spot on.


My journey to the Tarawera Ultra kicked off last September when I visited our dear friends Jon & Vicki in Auckland. It was there as a friend I experienced the impact that Multiple Sclerosis has on the individual and their loved ones. It was a real eye opener and I wanted to do my little bit to help. Not surprisingly, I managed to incorporate ultra running into my plan, and combine it with a great cause. As I knew that Jon & Vicki were moving to Melbourne, I got in touch with MS Australia and talked to the very helpful and passionate Julie about my plan to run Tarawera and raise money for Jon. Little did I know what amazing support I would receive along the way – to be able to raise over $1500 made the experience all that more rewarding and enriching.

After years of talking about it I was determined to focus on a more holistic approach to my training. Overall I think I did ok on this front – my diet was ok throughout, I stayed away (most of the time!) from drinking too much beer, and made sure I got plenty of sleep. For me though one of the biggest positives was finding Crossfit King and meeting trainers/friends Jimmy and April. Crossfit challenged me on many levels both mentally and physically – it was engaging and fun and most importantly I got to be part of a supportive community. I also had the support and guidance of John Pearson (my online coach who I highly recommend), an accomplished ultra runner and all-round good bloke.

On reflection, the turning point and defining moment in my build up to Tarawera was taking part in the Fats Festive Fatass, an annual 48km run in the Brisbane Forest Park held two days after Christmas. Carrying a bit of extra weight and running in the QLD heat made for a tough morning, but it proved to a be a good test and kicked off the campaign in style. The stars must have been aligned as I went through the training block with no injuries and my motivation was consistently high. Other than my build up to the Knee Knacker Trail Race in 2008, this was my best build up to date.

The days leading up to a race are a special time; there is that sense of excitement, anticipation and satisfaction in having made to the starting line. With that in mind, Tanya and I arrived in Rotorua on the Thursday to maximise the experience and were joined by my parents who made the journey north from Christchurch to experience their first ultra. The trail running festival kicked off that evening with a 7.5km fun run on beautiful single trails in the Redwoods, followed by the New Zealand premiere of “Unbreakable – The Western States 100“. One of the stars of the film, Anton Krupicka, was in town so I grabbed the opportunity to have my photo taken with him. All in all I was in ultra-running heaven.

Friday was spent driving around to the aid stations reachable by car – a good chance to get a glimpse of what was in store for the next day, and I liked what I saw. It was great for my support crew to get an idea of distances, time, directions etc and make race day that little less stressful. We finished the day at the race headquarters at the Holiday Inn, doing the registration thing and having a browse at the expo, then home for a light meal and to get the kit ready for race day.

Arriving with plenty of time to spare, we joined fellow runners and their crews converging on the Redwoods, making up the largest and deepest field ever assembled at the Tarawera Ultra. The start line of an ultra is always abuzz with nervous chatter, last minute gear checks, and plenty of love and goodwill in the air.

The gun could not go off soon enough and I quickly settled into a pace I was comfortable with (ie, not that fast!). I had a time in my head that I wanted to achieve but did not want that to take away from the experience by obsessing too much early on. The first 60km of the race took in stunning trails through shady native kiwi bush and lakeside views to die for. I ran some sections with other runners, but a lot was on my own and at my own pace. Overall I was running within myself and constantly reminding myself that there was still a long way to go.

At the 60km mark runners left the Tarawera Falls Track and entered the Kawerau Forest. We were now on forestry tracks, a lot which were runnable, so I started making deals with myself, if I ran for a 1km I could then walk for a minute. This worked some of the time, but I probably walked more than I should have. I caught up with a runner I had met earlier in the day, only problem was it took me a while to realise that and I probably asked him the same questions I had earlier. I felt like a complete dill when I realised this but luckily Graham forgave me and we ran together into Titoki Road aid station (69km mark). This is where he, along with the other 85k runners, turned for home and the 100km runners went in the opposite direction. Mentally this was a tough moment, but it was never an option for me to do the 85km, so I didn’t hang around to0 long. By this stage the runners had thinned out and I found myself alone with no others in sight. This is when mentally I had to start digging deep and keep positive. I thought a lot of Jon and how passionate he is about running, how he would give anything to be out on the trails but unfortunately was unable to due to MS. This made my situation pale into insignificance … I had no right to feel sorry for myself!

I think the defining moment of the race for me was completing the loop of despair, a tough 5km loop at the 78km mark. I was feeling pretty shattered and flat as I started the killer 2km climb up a goat track, but knew it was the last real tough section of the race. After the loop, it felt like I was on the homeward stretch and I picked up both mentally and physically. The homeward stretch was 17-18km of very runnable forest roads and I clicked off the k’s in my head to the beep of my Garmin, firstly into Fisherman’s Bridge to see my support crew and then the 10km to the finish line. At the bridge, I left my pack with Tanya and started the final stretch feeling pumped and running strong.

I was a bit surprised at how good I felt in the final stretch and the k’s seemed to fly by. I had a couple of moments where I was hit by a wave of emotion and even a few tears, which you never see coming! About 3km out I ran into friend and race photographer Paul Petch, which was a real buzz. He was able to run with me for a few hundred metres and get a couple of shots, impressive stuff. To have Tanya and my parents at the finish line was a special moment and one I will always savour.

I stopped the clock at 13hrs 11 minutes, just over my goal time and overall am happy with how it all came together.

It takes the support of friends and family to achieve your goals and dreams and I am blessed to be surrounded by amazing people. To my beautiful wife Tanya, thank you for your encouragement, patience and love. To Mum & Dad, thank you for everything and it was so special to have you both in Rotorua to share the experience. To Jon, Vicki and family, you are a source of constant inspiration and we think you guys rock. To everyone that donated to MS Australia and sent messages of support along the way, a sincere thanks and it all made for an experience that I will cherish for a long time to come.

Six Foot Marathon 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Six Foot Marathon is one of the marquee fixtures on the Australian trail running calendar. Not going into too much history, as you can see that on their website , the marathon is by far the largest trail race in Australia with over 800 runners, is a point to point 45km race on a historically significant trail and is held in the spectacular Blue Mountains, west of Sydney NSW.

We opted to stay at Jenolan Caves, which is about a 3 – 3 1/2 hour drive (depending on Friday afternoon traffic) from Sydney and is also the finish of the Six Foot Marathon. It is a beautiful spot and  regarded as Australia’s most outstanding cave systems. Didn’t get alot of time to do the sightseeing thing, but will definitely be taking Tanya back at some stage. Post-run festivities in the evening were pretty much non-exisitance though and if you are after a celebration, would be staying in Katoomba, as we will be next year.

Saturday morning started with a 530am pick-up from Jenolan Caves and 90 minute trip to the start of the trail, just out of Katoomba. We arrived with ample time before the race started, so consumed some bread and golden syrup, coffee and talked tactics. Shaun promised us there were no real killer hills and having not done my research, I believed him!

Not wanting to make excuses, I was a bit apprehensive how I would go in the run. I had a solid trail race about 3-4 weeks earlier at Mt Glorious in Brisbane, but since then my training had dropped off and I had attended a mates 40th in New Zealand and it had taken its toll!!

Anyway, there I was at the start line and too late to have second thoughts. I took off in wave 2, about 20 minutes before my mates and it looked like it would be me and my own thoughts for the next 5 hours or so.

The first 15km down to Cox’s River, was a pleasant stroll through bush and farm land and after an  hour on my feet (my normal time to warm up), started to feel good. I was well aware there would be a runners jam at the start on a few hundred metres of stairs, but was frustrated to get caught behind a group coming into Cox’s River, some fun technical single trail. I understand this happens when there are so many runners, but when a slow runner at the front has 20 or so people behind him and refuses to make any effort to let people pass, pisses me off.

Keeping control of my emotions, I crossed the creek and started the climb to the Mini-Mini Saddle and then onto the Pluviotmetre (26k mark). Having not done my research and listening to Shaun, I wasn’t really prepared what was ahead. I am not a novice on hills, but this one really hurt. Other than a small downhill section around the 20k mark, it was constant climb for around 10km (seemed alot longer). It was here I started to question my training and my back was giving me a bit of grief.

Reaching the Pluviotmetre was sweet, but the following ks along Black Range Road really questioned my resolve. It was undulating and the ks clicked by very slowly. To keep going, I gave myself a 30 second walk every 5 minutes, not always sticking to this, but doing my best. Knowing there was a downhill section to finish kept my spirits up and the odd chat to fellow runners took my mind off feeling sorry for myself.

The last 10k is a bit of a blur and one of the tougher moments I have had in my short ultra career. It was the thought of crossing the finish line and not running anymore that kept me going and my time goals were not a concern anymore. Due to cramps in my calves and stomach, the downhill was not what I expected or wanted and being passed by other runners in what is normally my strength was a bit demoralising.

Finally getting in ear shot of the crowd and off the trail onto a concrete path, I was able to fly down the last 1 km and to hear my name called as I entered the finishing shoot, made it all worth while. While I had a tough race and probably under trained, I had finished another ultra and it was an amazing experience, testing both my mental and physical resolve. Tanya got a teary phone call, which at first she thought I had hurt myself, but then understood it was post Ultra emotional moment.

It was great to see Shaun and Pete come in a while after I finished and they both had big smiles on their faces and proud to be Six Foot finishers. Will be back again in 2011 and can’t wait.

The year that was & the year that will be

After an amazing 2008, running trails on the Nth Shore Mountains of Vancouver and surrounds, tripping across Canada and running in the New York Marathon, 2009 has been all about settling back into life in Aussie and reassessing goals and ambitions. Having already been through the experience, both Tanya and I knew it would take time to settle back in after being away for nearly 2 years and it has been the case.  I must admit that I did have withdrawals from running and living in Vancouver, missing the amazing trails, big selection of races and most of all the group of amazing runners I met. In saying that I have been able to compete  in some local trail runs in Brisbane and surrounds, with the biggy being my first ever Kokoda Challenge (KC), a 96km trail run in the hinterland of the Gold Coast.

I am lucky enough to have a group of running buddies here in Brisbane that keep me motivated and honest and was privlidged to join with 3 of those mates to compete in the KC as team Fighting Koalas. Having never run in a team event, it was a new experience and one that I gained a lot from. Our main goal of finishing as a team meant a lot of time and effort was put into preparation and planning for the event and ensuring we were ready to go on the day. The event threw its fair share of challenges at us, but the the boys rose to the challenge and out of 300 odd teams, we were the 8th team across the line with all four teamates together (our main priority). The satisfaction of sharing the experince with good mates was special and I was  very proud to be part of the Fighting Koalas on this day.

After sorting out some career issues and settling back in to Brisbane life (not really that tough!!), my passion is back and stronger than ever. I am starting to talk Tanya’s ear off again about all the events I want to run in 2010 and getting excited about what lies ahead. I am planning to mix up my running with other stuff, such as swimming mountain biking and include plenty of core and stretching work. I have been going to Pilates once a week and finally got talked into joining a small swimming squad, meeting twice a week.

After an extended time away from my blog, I am planning to keep it a bit more updated and use it as a source to motivate me for a big 2010. I love hearing what others are up to and reading blogs from friends in Canada such as Pricey and Ellie, keeps me in the loop and continually jealous. 

I will leave you with my plan of attack so far and hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and may 2010 be a great year for hitting the trails.

Mt Glorious – Sun 7 Feb – 32km mountain trail run

Six Foot Track Marathon (Blue Mountain, NSW) – Sat 13 March – 45km

Pinnacles (Brisbane State Forest) – Sat 10 Apr – 18km/all hills

The North Face 100 (Blue Mountain, NSW)   – Sat & Sun 15/16 May – 100k

Lake Manchester – Sun 20 Jun

Glasshouse Mountains Flinders Tour – Sat 24 July – 50km

Flight Centre Epic Mountain Bike –Aug – 100k

Glasshouse Mountains Trail Runs– 12-13 Sep – 100k or 100 mile (depend how I am feeling!)

Lamington National Classic – 23/24 Oct – 22km x 2

2009 – Dreams and Aspirations

img_2566-21After being very slack for the past few months, I have decided to kick off my blog again, this time from Brisbane, Australia. It is a long way from the Nth Shore Mountains of Vancouver, which it is hard to compete with, but as I am finding out there are plenty of scenic and challenging (as I have already found out the hard way) trails to keep me out of trouble. 

Settling back after an extended time away always poses its challenges, but both Tanya and I are keeping pretty positive and confident it will all come together. I am still on the lookout for work and really hoping that I can secure a permanent position, as I am craving the routine and security that comes with it.

In regards to my running, after a great year in Canada I am pretty pumped about another big year, especially out on the trails. I already have one race under my belt, which will be my next posting, and have plenty more on the calendar to keep me motivated and training hard. I have managed to keep up a bit of running over the summer period and pretty happy at the fitness base I have heading into the year.

I thought it was about time I sat down and mapped out my year, always helps to have a bit of direction and know what is in store. I am planning to take part in most of the trail runs I can in the SE Brisbane area and also some further afield, good excuse to get away for the weekend. So here is my wish-list for 2009:

Mt Glorious – Sun 1 Feb – 32km mountain trail run
Wild Horse at Night – Sat 28 Mar – 30km
Washpool National Park(NSW) – Sat 4 Apr – 42.5km
Pinnacles – Sat 18 Apr – 18km/18hills
Glasshouse Mts Cooks Tour – Sun 17 May – 50k
Mini-Kokoda – Sun 14 Jun – 27k
Lake Manchester – Sun 21 Jun – 33k
Kokoda Challenge – 18/19 Jul – 96k
Flight Centre Epic Mountain Bike – 22/23 Aug – 100k
Glasshouse Mountains Trail Runs– 12-13 Sep – 100k

Lamington National Classic – 24/25 Oct – 22k x 2

I am also contemplating running in a couple of marathons as well, maybe on the Gold Coast in early July, will see what happens. I am looking forward to a big year and working on other aspects of my running, such as nutrition, core strength/stability and flexibility.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Knackering Experience – Stormy 2008


It had been 25 days since my first ultra-marathon experience at Knee Knacker and I was about to embark on my next. This time it was to tackle the 50 mile Stormy Ultra Trail Race in Squamish BC, about 50 minutes nth of Vancouver. The race had not been in my initial plans, but hanging out with trail runners can be infectious and I had started to contemplate it in the lead up to KK. I was going into new territory, so my goal was to first and foremost finish and secondly try and go under 10 hours.

After some indecision, mainly mine, we decided to head up to Squamish on the Friday evening. My in-law’s, Barry and Yvonne, were in town and about to experience first hand the world of ultra-running. On arrival in Squamish we were able to pick up my race kit at Brennan Park (the finish line). Our timing was spot on and got to see the first 100 mile runner (Gary Robbins) come in under 8 hours for his first 50 mile, a really quick time. I thought if I looked that good after 50 miles, I would be a happy man. We checked into the hotel, feed of pasta , race kit preparation, last minute race day instructions for Tanya and Barry and then collapsed into bed.

Again our timing was good in the morning and we got to see Gary finish the 100 mile race in a time of 17 hours 39 minutes, smashing the course record and looking like he could run another 50 miles (he’s a freak).

By the time I had caught up with fellow trail runners, said my goodbyes to Tanya, the 10 second countdown was on. A bell started us off and like sheep most of us followed the leaders down the wrong road. After some shouting and change of direction, the long day had begun. My focus was on Aid Station 1 and with the help of an internal voice chirping away at me that there was along way to go, I settled into a comfortable pace.

In comparison to Knee Knacker, Stormy is more of a true runner’s course as many of the trails aren’t as technical. This along with the mere fact that is is also 30km longer, I had my work cut out for me.

Normally I find myself running alone (maybe there is a reason for that!), but today I caught up with Dave (a fellow Knee Knacker participant) and ended up running close to 25km with him. It was great having company and it takes the focus off your aching muscles. You have some engaging chats out on the trails and learn a alot about people and their previous lives before running, always interesting stuff.

From my previous traning runs in Squamish and talking to other runners, I knew the loop from aid station 7 to 10 was going to be a tough leg. It was 22km in length, a 6 mile (10km) climb up 9 mile hill (also known as bonk hill) and a long gradual downhill on Ring Creek Rip Trail (which seems to go on forever).

I got into aid station 7 in good spirits, quick change of shirt and socks, stuffed down as much food as I could stomach and was on my way again. I was feeling good and making good progress up 9 mile hill, mixing up running and waking. It was about 3 miles up that I started to struggle and the hills seemed to get steeper and my progress slower. Negative thoughts started to creep in and I started to feel a little sorry for myself. It was then I ran into a 100 mile runner, who at that stage had been out there for over 24 hours, what did I have to complain about! I snapped out of it and started to focus on positive things, Tanya of course, fellow trail runners, the beautiful scenery, anything but how much I was hurting.

I made it to the top, chatted to a lovely couple at the aid station and headed off on Ring Creek Rip trail. As I said it seemed to go on forever and every corner brought another long stretch of trail that looked exactly the same as the one before. There were 3 old abandoned old cars evenly spaced out along the trail, so used those as my targets. Even though it was all runnable, I allowed myself 1-2 minute walking breaks, taking time-out from the constant pounding.

To say I was relieved to see Tanya and her parents at aid station 10 is an understatement. It is amazing how much it can lift your spirits seeing friends and family. Also being on the homeward stretch helped immensely.

The last 11.2km section comprised of a lot of ups and downs, just to ensure you are completely buggered when you finish! I normally love downhills, but 8 hours or so into the race, they were not my favourite pastime. The constant jarring and stress on the quads and joints was not pleasant. I was even cursing out loud the downhills, anyone that might of heard me would of questioned my mental well-being.

Anyway, I pushed on and hit the last 2km stretch along a nice flat forest trail. Even though it was a long 2km, the thought of crossing the finish line and not having to run anymore kept me going. I ran solo for the last 38km of the race and that’s how I crossed the line. Having everyone cheering just for you was quite a humbling experience. I stopped the clock at 9hr 18, coming in 11th out of 57 finishers.

Every endurance event I take part in, I learn a lot about myself and completing 80km was no exception. It seems to bring out both the worst and best of me and dealing with self-doubt is one of the most challenging things I had to face. I aways surprise myself though at how I can push through the bad times and somehow gain a new lease of energy and solider on (kind of like life I suppose). A great day out!

Stormy Photos


The final race report is still at the printers, so here are a few photos from the day just to prove that I crossed the finish line. Unofficial results are up on the Stormy website and I am happy to report that I came in a respectable 11th out of 57 odd runners. I am not too sore, just have the odd moments where I feel exhausted, can’t understand why!

Trail Running in Queensland – TRAQ


After spending the summer running trails in Vancouver and surrounds, my mind is already thinking ahead to my return to Brisbane. I was very excited to see the start up of the ‘The Trail Running Association of Queensland’. This group of dedicated runners are out to promote trail running/walking in Queensland and lobby and work with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to allow more trail events in our beautiful surrounds. I am looking forward to helping out where I can on my return and becoming part of the Queensland trail running community.