I was hoping, after watching the surplus of race reports flood the web in the wake of Tarawera that I could slip under the radar, but apparently my absence has been noted. Now, a good three weeks out, just as I’m relaxing my guard and figuring ya’ll in the running world have moved on to your next race, a call has gone out, there is only one race report missing from the podium. Sorry guys, my defence is as follows; a) laziness b) the simple fact that my race was uneventful, and c) I still like to delude myself that no one really wants to read this.
This race has been my target since I could first run in September/October last year after my knee operation in July. It meant a lot to me, as it was my proof to myself that I could heal and run again after so long of thinking that might never happen. More so, my hunger for this race was driven by the hours I spent at home waiting for my K-Day to return from his 2012 Tarawera training runs. The awesome long runs he did with all our running friends, while all I could do was hobble around the supermarket leaning on the trolley to buy them post run snacks. Whetted further by the hours I had waited in the car for him to emerge out of the bush as it got darker and darker, knowing he had no headlight and knowing I couldn’t make it up those stairs to find him. I resolved that I’d not remain the worrier and that these trail adventures would once again be mine to share.
Being a novice at the 100km distance I figured I’d play it safe and do what I always do; run my own race to feel, none of this tactical rubbish. This was made simpler by the fact that there were really only two other female names being talked about in the 100km field. I started out behind both of them and passed Beth early on upon the stairs in the dark of the morning. I continued climbing, both up the stairs and up the field until I fell into place beside Shona.
I ran beside Shona until about 11km in. Sadly, in spite of how much I’d been looking forward to running with some other ladies and having a good conversation on the trails, we said little. Not that we didn’t try, (I’m sure there are few people in the world as of yet unaware of how chatty Shona is) only I was suffering the phlegm attack of hell, and was wheezing, hacking and spitting which was less than social. I hate hearing myself when my breathing gets like this, and to cope I often put my headphones on and turn my music up loud. I left Shona accompanied by the first good metal song that played, and I’m sure she felt secure in letting me go, seeing as how I sounded like a chain smoker racing a 10km.
Next I ran with Timo Meyer, a pleasant young man in Solomon whitey tighties, who was to keep me company more than anyone else that day. We came through Okareka together and began our long relentlessly gradual and run-able climb from there to the high point of the race. I was feeling pretty comfortable and we climbed past 5 or 6 more guys near the front of the field. I’m not going to lie, not all the faces of those I passed were pleasant. I always try to share a word or two with fellow runners on the trails and when all I get in return is a hurt look, or shock even, it does grate me the wrong way.
Let’s not pretend, we all know it’s because I am a chick. A lot of guys out there seem to find it demeaning to be passed by me; I guess they haven’t considered how insulting this can be. The only way I can read this is that my gender is considered so inferior it demeans you if we can run faster. This really saddens me. The way I look at it, we all started at the same time and are all running to the same place, I don’t look between your legs before I decide if I’m racing you. I know there are lots of arguments about how one gender or another is better adapted, but then think of someone like Kilian, or any of those top guys, surely they have a few genetic advantages over most of us. Whatever our bodies are like we are all just runners out there on the trails. This said, I’ve yet to give my trophy to Sage Canaday who was overall winner, so go ahead and call me hypocritical.
Anyhow, moving on, which coincidentally happens to be what I did during the race, at least until I saw the back of one Emilie Forsberg. Now this gave me pause. Not only is Emilie an international level sponsored athlete, she was also running only the first 40km. Had I gone too hard? Feeling good as I was I decided to try and rein things in a bit, and watched Emilie pull away from me up the hill.
The rest of my run was a fairly lonely affair. I left Timo Meyer on the descent into Okataina and he passed me again about 3kms out. Aside from that I ran with no other competitors for the rest of the day. Had a chat with the lead mountain bikers, crazy bastards were out there on single speed bikes. sadly they only kept with me for a km and then I was alone again. I did see them after the turn around having a swim which turned me green with envy.
A wee drama occurred at the Okataina aid station that I was luckily unaware of. K-Day finished his relay leg there, and had a very anxious wait for my sister and brother in law who were driving around with my bottle, fuel and belt for the long out and back where I wouldn’t see them. Running out of time he had sourced me a couple of packets of babyfood. Thankfully, just as I showed up so did my support with my gear. I did wonder why K was so terse as he gave me my goodies.
A couple of kms out I realised I was missing a ziplock bag with two hours worth of Gu chomps. I tried to ration what I had over those forty or so km. I was my own enemy as I couldn’t bring myself to eat much from the aid stations. I was getting over sugar and couldn’t bear the thought of a Hot Cross Bun (Although I did actually consider grabbing one to use its butter for Vaseline at Humphries Bay, thankfully there was vas for me at The Outlet). Instead I supplemented my Gu’s with the odd handful of pretzels, I always seemed to stuff a load in my mouth just around the corner from every photographer on the course, and let me tell you, dry pretzels don’t go down in a hurry and don’t make for the nicest smile.
Sage went charging past me a good 4 or 5km after the turn around, I swear he was doing at least 16km an hour. I enjoyed being able to see the layout of those lead guys. It was also a boost to pass everyone heading out on my way back. I loved seeing those I knew, even when I got whacked on the back by them. More so, I loved seeing what an eclectic mix we all were; such a diverse range of people all out there sharing such a powerful experience. Running back through the field made this race extra special for me.
My supplies finally ran out at my second trip through Humphries Bay. I slogged through those final 10km before picking up my pacer getting hungrier and hungrier. I started walking some of the ups, even though all of them were gradual. I was pleased with how well my ultra mindset was working. 10km didn’t seem far in the scheme of things, unlike during shorter, harder races when 10km can feel like a trip around the world.
I picked K up at Okataina feeling optimistic in spite my hunger. I told him I was behind on my calories and needed to catch up. He was a little unimpressed as I walked those first 2kms eating and eating and eating. I didn’t know why he was looking over his shoulder so much until he told me those 2kms had taken me 22 minutes. After a packet of Gu Chomps, a peanut butter and honey crumpet and a 300ml bottle of coke-a-cola chia magic and a bit of digestion walking I was ready to go again.
K blasted my ipod through his awesome sound vest, and with a mixture of Metallica, Rob Zombie, Mumford and Sons and Nick Cave I did my best to run that last leg. My right calf started to complain as we worked our way through the bush. This meant that although I was running some of the steeper climbs I was walking some almost flat sections that seemed to especially irritate it. Kristian tried to give me a few a pep talks but I was getting cranky and was less than appreciative. I was trying to think of loving and polite ways to tell him to shut up only he wouldn’t stop talking to let me. In the end I settled for communicating with irritated hand swish like batting a fly. This could mean: ‘skip this stupid song’, ‘get the f%#@k out of my periphery’ and ‘would you please shut the hell up.’
I’m painting a bad picture here. Actually, he really helped me, and we had some nice, relatively coherent dialogue, even a few laughs. He ran me across the line to the sound of Guns and Roses singing Paradise City which was fitting. Little did I know the hardest part of my day was yet to come. Working my way through the folks with cameras and people with congratulations and questions was neigh impossible! I feared I’d never make it to the lake.
I’d like to thank Paul for a sweet event, it looked like a heck of a lot of work, also for those times I’ve slept on your bean bag/couch/floor. Thanks to Dylan and Gayle and the whole barefoot ink crew that were there. Of course K-day, who I’m told had to gracefully deal with multiple questions about the brand of toilet paper I use. Also thanks to my Sis and her husband, who got their first ultra experience; as I warned them it was a lot of waiting around. I was really glad I was able to race Tarawera. But more importantly I’m glad I’m able to run, not just today, but tomorrow, next year and hopefully in 30 years time.
irunfar.com post race interview with Ruby HERE