Tarawera Hero

Tarawera Hero

What does it take to run 102km?

Every great adventure starts with an idea.

and our Heroes happen to be full of ideas!

The Tarawera 102km

A couple of weeks ago, Amore Strauss, one of our Heroes from New Zealand lined up to tackle this crazy adventure. Here’s a glimpse of the epic race she had.

The race – it started with catching the bus at 5am from Lake Rotorua. For a nervous first time 102km runner that means waking up at 3h50 am for breakfast and to allow sufficient time for the 100 nervous bathroom stops.

5am – hop on the bus. The air is filled with nervous chatter and a smell of deap heat, deodorant and sunblock. “Nice and fresh and everyone walks normal”, I think to myself…a few hours later our loved ones would be greeted with just the opposite. I sit next to a lady who is from the US. We nervously chat about the race, past adventures, the pandemic and our families all over the world as the bus takes us to the start, Firmin Field.

We arrive at Firmin Field and the first thing I see is the que for the porta-loo’s. Ahh, better join the que now. 20min later and find myself a spot close to the start sitting with my back against the building. The words of Coach Em “try and get as much of your nutrition in early in the race” echoes in my head. Better have that banana then.

7am – race start. Zone 2 is what I want to be in, I say to myself. Everybody races past me, should I speed up? I stick to zone2 as we head to the forest for some single track and breath-taking scenery. As we reached the first aid-station, it reminded me of my first Knysna Marathon as I remember feeling so fresh and thinking I don’t need an aid station now (oh boy, did I crash and burn hard on that race!). Coach Em’s words echoes again, so I grab a few bites to eat.

Nutrition goal nr1 was to eat a least a sandwich and 3 baby potatoes by the time I got to my first drop bag at 41km (Outlet aid-station). Goal achieved, Fantastic, I think to myself as I refill my food stock from my drop-bag.  Quick body check, yip all limbs still in working order and no aches or pains as I cross the bridge to rejoin the track.

Nutrition goal nr2 have a 2ndsandwich and more baby potatoes by the time I reach my second drop-bag (58Km).  As we hopped on the boat at lake Okataina to reach the aid station, I achieved the goal.  I had a change of socks, lube and the rest of my mandatory gear in that drop-bag.  It worked well as I had more space in my race vest (less food to carry now).  With fresh socks and all the chafe marks lubed up, I was ready to tackle the biggest climb of the race.  Up, up and up we go.  You love climbing I keep on telling myself (I really do) but this climb feels like it never stops.  My thoughts go back to the very tough training run I had in the Hunua ranges, with climbs just like this, only difference was that I was all alone that day. I cried and wanted to give up, but knew I had to keep moving to get out as there was no-one there to carry me out. Right, I can do this, I tell myself. I did it that day in the Hunuas, I will do it again today.

Millar road aid station (74km) – I did it! I devour almost an entire tray of cold oranges and I feel ready for the last stretch. Happy that I ate so much during the first half of the race as I realise coach Em was right, I don’t feel like food anymore, I only graze.

Oh boy, Tar road! Dark thoughts, no rhythm, I hate this, I wish it were over. At last, I reach Lake Tikitapu (86km) and I see my husband, who has been wating there for over an hour, unaware of the tar road that broke his wifey. He helps me refuel and tells me how good I look and how proud he is. Positive thoughts as I start the final 16km leg of the race. Run-walk, that tar road, everything hurts, but I shall conquer and see the finish line.

Redwoods (95km) – dark by now with a head-light, it is like running into a magical world with fairy lights, bunting, music and big cheers as you enter the aid station. I see my husband again and a good friend of mine. How do I feel they ask…knackered, I wish it was over.

Final 7km along Lake Rotorua, with the strong smell of sulphur as you run over active volcanic ground. Last year I could see this section, this year I can only smell as it is now dark. Every now and again I get engulfed by sulphur steam escaping from the earth.  Magical, wonderful, majestic is creation. Nearly there, just a little bit more, one foot in front of the other.

I near the finish line and I hear the announcer welcome the 100mile winner. I finally reach the finish line and found myself having enough energy to run with proper form across the line! 15h00:40! I did it!

What made you choose the race?

Before we moved to NZ the dream was always to run Addo 100miler. Time flew and before we knew it, we were moving. Out on one of my last runs in SA one of my buddies mentioned the Tarawera. I remember thinking, at least the 100miler dream can still come true. With the move I forgot about it until my husband and I visited Rotorua for a weekend. It happened to be the weekend of the Tarawera 2020 and since I always have my running shoes with me, I manged to enter the 21km. As I crossed the finish line my mind was made up – We’ll be back next year for the 102km (Yes, first a 100km race before a 100mile race).

How did you feel when preparing for the race?

I had doubts, hahaha! What did I get myself into? What was I thinking? The body felt good though. Coaching was spot on and had no niggles or injuries. I enjoyed just following the program and it took a lot of worries away.

What did you learn about yourself while racing?

  1. It does not matter how much lube or plasters you apply to your body – you WILL chafe!
  2. Cold oranges give you new life after 70 odd km’s (I ate almost an entire tray at that aid station and felt so ready to tackle the final few km’s)
  3. The mind is stronger than the body. I started the race with positive thoughts and just fuelled them the entire race.  It carried me through.

What would you do different next time?

  • I wish to have more crazy running friends here who would join the long training runs.
  • Nutrition – I would pack a variety of sweets (I just bought a big bag of the same thing and divided it into smaller packets for the race…suffice to say.. I don’t like jet planes anymore)
  • I would invest in a slightly bigger race vest with pockets that are better accessible – I ran with a very well-known brand (good vest, don’t get me wrong), but it only has 2 small front pockets (and 2 more for your soft flasks).After running about 50km’s you don’t feel like removing your vest anymore to get to your food in the back pockets (that is now squashed by all the mandatory gear)

Some comments on the scenery and the race itself

The scenery is breath-taking as you run through forests, next to crystal clear rivers and freshwater lakes.  We passed an impressive waterfall and some volcanic fields. The climb from Okataina is brutal. Running through the redwoods (about 10km from the finish) just lifts you spirits.  The race was very well organised and the aid stations well stocked.