Staying in Tauranga, about 1 hour's drive from the start line, it was a very early start to the day... alarm went off at 4:30am! We were up and made final preparations, then drove the hour to the start.
I was crewing for Heather for the day, but there were quite a number of people that we knew and would be following during the day:
- In the 100k: Heather Andrews, Martin Lukes, Matt Bixley, Amy Campbell, Mal Law, Penny Kirkwood, Vicki Woolley, Keith Crook, Wayne Botha, Carl Laffan;
- In shorter distances: Ross Steele, Sally Law, Simon Clendon, Gene Andrews, Nick Warren.
Heather started well, and by the 5km mark was already several minutes ahead of the time she had run in training. She gained further time by the Blue Lake aid station, but was feeling good and running well within herself. Then it was a quick dash down to the other end of Blue Lake for me, and get ready for a change into dry shoes and socks... as Heather approached I was told of a change of plan, it would now be keep the wet ones on until Lake Okareka aid station!
Drive around to Lake Okareka to find that I would need to park the car some distance from the aid station. Hmmmm. Never mind, unload all the supplies, including dry socks and shoes, chair out, ready to go. Heather arrives and wants... tape... one of the few things I didn't have from the car because it was in her gear bag rather than the supplies box. Run back to the car, run back, problem sorted. And then... sunglasses... run back to the car, and then meet Heather as she is walking through from the aid station with food. No chance to run up Millar's Rd this time, as the car needs to be repacked.
Heather's off again, looking and feeling good, I have jobs to do. Back into Rotorua to get some cash, back out towards Tarawera Rd to a service station to get some ice, a phone call to the babysitter... it must be close on an hour since Heather went through the aid station. Time for the longish drive to the Okataina Lodge aid station.
Get nearly to Okataina Lodge and the road is absolutely jammed with cars. 5 minutes to travel 500m. Someone suggested a park at the side of the road, but I said "no, I am driving all the way down". The carpark was full, so I just parked in front of an SUV with a boat trailer. Unload the car again, chilly bin, box of supplies, chair, this time make sure I have the gear bag. Order and collect the single shot flat white.
Then wait. And wait. And wait. It was a very hot day, and I had picked a good spot to set up - in the shade on the grass just as the runners emerge from the trees. For the most part I could keep nice and cool. But it must be hot out there for the runners... And indeed it was, with reports that it could be 30 degrees on some sections of the trail. Heather doesn't do so well in the heat, and so it proved on the day. The heat slowed her significantly, and was probably also a major culprit in stomach problems. Ice in a towel to help cool her down, try a few different foods, drink the coffee and some cold coffee milk, restock supplies in her pack, then off.
I walked for a short distance with Heather, then it was back to repack the car. I paused to watch the other runners coming through, and all of 10 minutes before the cut-off Ross Steele appeared with friend Carla. They seemed to be having a fantastic time, stocked up at the aid station and left with just minutes to spare.
I met up with Heather about 1km beyond the Outlet. Her stomach problems had persisted, and although tired she was in good spirits. We worked our way back to the Falls, stopping for a few photos a long the way. The cut off time for continuing was blown, but that was ok. It was a hot, hard day, and now it was time to stop.
Eat some aid station supplies, and then it was time for Heather to sit down. She asked for a specific warm top, but guess what? It was in her gear bag, back in the car! I had anticipated that we would be continuing on to 85km, so had bought the night time supplies, not the finish line bag. But there was a merino long sleeve in her night time bag, and I was not walking 1km back to the car again!!
One last stop, at the Kawerau hot pools for about half an hour, and then it was time to drive back to Tauranga. We finally arrived back sometime between 10:30pm and 11:00pm. I might have only ended up running about 10km of the 50km I had expected, but I was shattered! The heat and humidity seemed to have taken their toll on me as well.
But what a day of attrition! Of the 10 100km runners listed above:
- 2 performed extremely well with podium positions. Amy Campbell 2nd in the women's race and Martin Lukes 3rd in the men's race;
- 2 others recorded a 100km finish;
- 1 had injury problems and completed the 85km;
- 2 recorded finishes in the 60km; and
- 3 did not finish, withdrawing at Okataina Lodge.