Last weekend at the shortened Tarawera Ultra Jo Johansen was, for many (including myself), an unknown name, that stormed to victory in the woman’s race. Below is Jo’s account of her race.
It was at the finish line of the Hutt river trail 60k back in January that I decided to enter the Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon 100k.I thought “it’s only an extra 40k from 60k, sweet as I can do that.” I then thought again “actually that’s quite a lot more.” I looked at the training I was doing and decided ok double it, nah triple it, run till I can’t run anymore. I became engrossed with this event; I wanted it to be perfect and I wanted to be prepared for the unexpected. The Tarawera became my study. I tested everything – nutrition, equipment, shoes, terrain, weather, hours of the day and night. I studied the course over and over, I watched the trailer/documentary of the 2013- 100times.
My days started at 4am with long runs, shower, bike to work, work and then run again after work - I was training to win. All the pain, suffering and emotion were worth it for such a magnificent race.
Then around rolled March 14th – registration day, I felt sick to my stomach with nerves sitting in front of a panel of international elite runners giving tips and advice. Then I found out the course was shortened I was gutted but it was the right decision. My first thought was “the race pace will be on.” Alarm goes off 4am March 15th – race day. I awake with confidence and a sense of calm and review my plan of attack. I position myself 3 rows back from the start line, the Tarawera song is sung, a karakia is said with a haka following, the countdown is on and we are off. We are on a loop for the first 12k, dark, dusty, still and with a little drizzle approaching. I sit with the pack comfortably, heading out to the Blue Lakes is where I take the lead and I believe that strength will pull me through. Run my own race.
I become so immersed in the beauty of the trails, I was never worried who might be hunting me down. Heading up Miller Road, which to me was the toughest part of the course – rolling terrain, weaving trails, steep climbs to Okataina Lodge, with a couple of falls, and turning of weather nothing could get the better of me. I was absorbed in this race, loving it. I don’t know where the time went, the only time I checked my non gps watch was for timing of nutrition. Before I know it I am on the turnaround where I discover the positions of the other girls 2,3,4,5. I know I have about a 5-10 min lead, so I put more gas in the tank and fill the water bottles for the last time - thanks to team Jenkins who I couldn’t have done this without. I review my plan again then leave the lodge walking the steep and fast on the flat. Traffic is coming from all directions, fast relay runners are passing me and other runners are heading down to the lodge. I am starting to tire, I don’t know what distance I am at, I begin talking myself through the fatigue that was setting in my quads. It was then a Wellington Scottish harrier relay runner tells me “5k to go your doing well” – I become excited and dig deep. Pulling back out to Miller Road and hearing the finish line approaching I feel weird. as I cross over the line all I can do is crack up with laughter and go “really! Did I just win this race?”
I would like to thank Paul Charteris for such a memorable event and Kate and Bruce Jenkins for supporting me through this experience.