To say I went into this race under done on the training is a pretty big understatement. My longest training run was 22k and I’d only done a couple of other decent runs. I had been struggling to sort knee pain issues which popped up after 6 Foot. So instead of turning up to “race” we turned up to run (and or hobble) our way through 50ks of pure beauty.
For those who don’t want to read the full race report then check out the awesome video Andrea took of us on the run! Carrying his GoPro for 50k without complaint he captured the ups and downs and butt slides in all its glory!
The race starts at Te Puia – a natural geothermal park in Rotorua. Check this out – can you think of a more epic start line?! Actually it was heaps more epic as before we started there was a traditional Maori welcome (mean Haka!) and a dedication to a local trail runner, Steve Neary, who passed away in car accident the week prior. It was a very special start to what became a very special race (I mean run, no racing Jen your knee is crap!).
New Zealand weather was at it’s finest with torrential rain throughout the night before the race but easing into light drizzle for the start line. At 14 degrees it was pretty brisk for us Sydney siders but luckily we had a) Jules & Craig to be coatroom attendants for us and b) we were in a geothermal park with lovely warm steam surrounding us! 24 degrees of warmth according to my Suunto.
The count down was on and then we were off. The atmosphere at the start line was awesome. Cheers of “Go Squaddie” already coming fast and thick from the supporters made us feel very special. As with all runs of 600+ runners there was a bit of congestion as we made our way out of the geothermal park but soon we were running back through the car park and onto the trails. I’d ran this initial section in a training run on a holiday a couple of months ago so felt some comfort in knowing what was ahead.
Shit loads of fun is what was ahead!! Single trail delights as we wound our way through the Whakarewarewa Forest. High fives from the Coach came just before my first favourite part of the run (they all kept getting out-shone by other parts…) winding our way through the large redwood trees. I was having too much fun to take photos so here’s one from my training runs – me and the Mrs always hit these trails when we’re in Rotovegas. The heavy rain the night before had made the trail super bouncy woohoo fun.
The first sketchy off-trail section was soon upon us as we cut our way up towards the first aid station, it was pretty tough climbing in the very soft ground. But I love a good off-course adventure – pretty used to them by now with the number of navigational issues we’ve had in our adventure racing!
We flew through the first aid station not in need of anything to eat or drink this early on. The food looked pretty amazing though.
Then the first real climb came, up and up we went. Whilst some sections were runnable I reminded myself (and Andrea) that we had 43k more to go! So slow down nelly. At the top was a aid station that we were about to blow through when we say Polly, a fellow Squaddie who we met at rego and who funnily enough went to school with Jules! Quick selfie then we got on our way again.
Soon we were at Green Lake (14k in) where some friends of Jules were waiting to cheer us on – my first cheer squad, it was AWESOME (thanks Bunny)! Then my next favourite section, the offcourse adventure – thanks race director Tim. Woohoo bum sliding here we come. The rain from the night before and also all of the feet that had trampled before us made it impossible to stay up right. One by one we went down. Each trying a different technique, all failing miserable. When I went down a second time I couldn’t get up again so decided to admit defeat and slide my way down on my bum! Heaps of fun.
We headed off up to Woodstock on the 50k deviation, cutting through wooded farmlands (and over lots of fences!) you suddenly climb this section to be welcomed by the greenest of green fields and a stunning view of rolling hills and lakes. Despite the crappy weather (now raining quite consistently and a far cry from the 24 degrees of the hot steamy start line) we were both taken aback by the beauty of it. Selfies, photos, videos.
Returning back to the Green Lake aid station we refilled and refuelled, got another cheer from Bunny, then were off. Now at this point we were about 28k in and my legs were starting to feel the efforts, having long surpassed my longest training run! And soon I started to hit my not so happy place. My knee was starting to ache and my run was becoming more of a limpy hobble. By the time we hit the 2k road section from Green/Blue Lake lookout to the Buried Village I was not in a happy place:
This was my lowest of low moments, I was in the doubting myself, my ability to get to Buried Village never mind getting through the final 15k! I was in such a tough place mentally.
But a bit of reverse psychology from Andrea (the “if you stop, I stop” crap), a change of socks, shoes, shirts (into the Squadrun super shirt) and a supportive hug from the Mrs (thank you!!!) saw me come good. Oh and yeah I switched to caffeinated tailwind and released the demon inside of me! I don’t drink caffeine, bar the occasional green tea or coke with my bourbon (hmmm bourbon…) so when I get caffeine in me all hell breaks loose. Poor Andrea. Half way through a ramble I did stop to tell him that!
With my new caffeine enfused high I was flying – and dragging Andrea along for the ride. We had such a great last 15k, keeping very good pace and just getting the job done.
As we entered Lake Tarawera’s surrounds we were again taken aback by the beauty of the surroundings. Stunning single trails winding up and down and round the lake. It was awesome and with the crowds well thinned out by now we had a great time going at our pace, which was still surprisingly nifty.
We hit 4ks to go with the surprise Zombie aid station (the one before had Dominos Pizza which had been boated in!). Definitely the caffeine but I was just feeling so amazing, see the beaming photo and was super keen to get the job done!
Now whilst I said to myself there was no racing to be done, when we realised we were on track for a 7 hour finish time (a solid 45mins quicker than we thought we’d do) we started to get a little competitive with ourselves. Unfortuntely this was when we hit the last monster hill! But what goes up must come down (unless you went down before coming up!) And the last downhill section was amazing, though my knee was bugging me again with the consistent downhill bashing but I love a good speedy downhill so I had some more concrete and hardened up and got it done.
We could hear the finish line before we could see it. Cheers and cow bells galore. We hit the shoreline of the lake and it wasn’t soon before we could see everyone who had made the 20 min boat journey to cheer us on (yeah just us, who cares about the hundreds of other runners!!) Jules had come out with some of the in-laws including our nephews, so cute to get high fives from them as they cheered on Aunty Jen. I was so rapped to see the guys I didn’t even notice the final photographer – but I was still able to give the exact same shitty arm waving pose!! Really need to up my race photo game.
Before we knew it we were crossing the finish line and super happy to have ticked off our first 50k run race - check out that look of pure delight on Andrea's face hey!
Coach hugs and high fives, free beer and more hugs and high fives from family followed before we headed off on our boat to a more private part of the lake to soak in the natural waters.
Seriously a fantastic race that I’d highly recommend for its fun and friendly atmosphere, well organised start and finish line, kick-ass aid stations and breathtaking atmosphere.
Check out some more photos below... Thanks for reading (or skimming or just looking at the photos!)