2013 Tarawera Ultramarathon Men’s Preview

Tarawera Ultramarathon logoThis coming Saturday, March 16, at 6:30 am local time (which translates to 11:30 am Mountain Daylight Time on Friday here in the US), runners from Australasia and the rest of the world will race together in the New Zealand bush at the fifth edition of the Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon and its 100k, 85k, and 60k races.

[Editor’s Note: We’ve also previewed the 2013 Tarawera women’s field. Check out this post for some extra beta on the Tarawera race’s history, location, route, and weather forecast.]

Race Coverage and On-Site Reports

iRunFar will be onsite! We’ll be providing live coverage of the Tarawera 100k men’s and women’s races, with the live coverage page going live Thursday evening Stateside.

2013 Tarawera Ultramarathon – 100k race

The 100k men’s race is, far, far, and away the deepest race of this weekend. Where to start among the chaps who will be toeing the line? Let’s begin with my picks for the podium in no particular order: Sage Canaday (USA, Scott), Timothy Olson (USA, The North Face), and François d’Haene (France, Salomon).

2012 UROC 100k - Dave Mackey - Sage Canaday - Max King

Sage Canaday (center) chowing down early in 2012 UROC.

Sage Canaday brings to this race a stupid amount of raw speed from a short-but-super-sweet road-running career; he sports a half-marathon PR of 1:04:32 and a marathon PR of 2:16:52, both of which he set in 2011. Almost exactly a year ago at the 2012 Chuckanut 50k (post-race interview) in Washington, Sage ran to a second place at his first ultra and, since then, he’s been lighting up the American ultrarunning scene with a course record at the 2012 White River 50 (post-race interview), second at the 2012 UROC 100k (post-race interview), and a CR at the 2013 Bandera 100k (his race report). Finally, Sage has got youth and vigor on his side; he’s possibly the most eager-to-learn/grow/expand/excel creature I know in the US ultra world right now. But, his first year of running ultras has not come without glitches. Let’s just say that the kid has a penchant for missing course markers as he’s flying around on the trails. If he can keep his eye on the course’s flagging this weekend, he’s a clear favorite.

Everyone knows Timothy Olson as the guy who re-set the venerated Western States 100 course record (post-race interview, his race report) last year. Everyone also knows Timothy as the master meditator of the trails for his peaceful approach to running and racing. Oh yeah, and you might know him as the dude (who’s not Tony Krupicka or Hal Koerner) who runs a lot without a shirt. After a wicked 2012, which included wins at the Bandera 100k and Waldo 100k, a couple seconds at Lake Sonoma 50 (post-race interview) and the Leona Divide 50, and a third place at the Run Rabbit Run 100, Timothy went into an end-of-year hibernation to recover and rest his body. We know that Timothy has his eye on the prize of defending his title (and possibly record) at this year’s Western States 100. We also know he’s been out on the trails and building an enormous aerobic engine. He showed his fitness with a second place at February’s Ray Miller 50. Timothy’s a mountain runner through-and-through so this course suits him. He’s got the clear talent to take the Tarawera win if he’s putting himself in a place to peak for this race as he works toward his other 2013 goals.

François D'Häene - 2012 UTMB

François D’Häene after winning the 2012 TNF UTMB.

In 2012, François d’Haene’s top performances included fourth (but still under the previous CR) at Transvulcania, victory at the Ice Trail Tarentaise, a win at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (post-race interview), and second at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championship (post-race interview). Uh, hello consistently outstanding international ultrarunning performer! What’s he been doing since December’s San Fran outing? Some ski mountaineering racing, some ski touring, and racing to a second place behind Max King at El Cruce stage race in South America in February. I would be surprised if François isn’t setting the pace for most if not all of Saturday’s race, and if we don’t see some sick performances out of this guy in 2013.

As long as we’re talking about dudes from abroad, let’s toss Jason Schlarb (USA, Hoka One One) into the mix. When I think of Jason’s running, I think of a steam train that’s always pushing hard, but that sometimes pulses with speed and, once in a while, goes off the tracks. His highest level performances of 2012 include a third place (and just a minute back of second place Sage Canaday) at the Chuckanut 50k, a win at the San Juan Solstice 50, and a seventh place at the heavily stacked Speedgoat 50k. His 2012 also included a DNF at the Run Rabbit Run 100, where he got lost early on. But Jason might be the best-prepared-for-New-Zealand’s-trails international runner in the race. He, his wife, and their child have been traveling, training, and otherwise adventuring in-country since November. And Jason finished fourth at the 2012 Kepler Challenge (his race report) on New Zealand’s South Island early on in his stint abroad.

Before we move onto the local and near-local folks, I’ll mention that, though Tony Krupicka’s name is still on the entrants’ list, he pulled out from the race a couple weeks ago as he’s healing a hip muscle. Right now, he’s gearing up for Transvulcania in mid-May.

Okay, onto the Australasian men. First, Vajin Armstrong is the New Zealand speedster that (at least if you’re from North America) you might not have heard of but should have. In 2012, Vajin stood out most from the crowd when he won the American River 50 in California, came second at Australia’s The North Face 100k, took second (but more than 30 minutes behind winner Sage Canaday) at the 2012 White River 50, and first at the Kepler Challenge. Vajin is no stranger to Tarawera, as he’s got a pair of second places at the 100k distance in 2011 and 2012. I hear he’s been hitting the training pretty hard, so I’m gonna’ go with Vajin as the local with the best chance for a podium spot.

Last year’s Tarawera 100k champion, Mick Donges (Australia, Salomon) is back to defend his title. This guy remains a bit of a racing-results enigma to me. Among his results last year are a 67th at The North Face 100 in Australia, a fourth at Kilian’s Classic 45k in Spain, a 35th at Giir di Mont in Italy, and a 62nd at Sierre-Zinal in Switzerland. And this year he already won the Australian Ultra Runners Association Trail National Championships Maroondah Dam 50k. What will Saturday hold for Mick?

Brendan Davies (Australia, Inov-8) is another close-to-local to watch this weekend. The guy’s been hovering at or near the top of the Australian ultrarunning scene since 2011. His greatest performances show that he has both mountain-goat and road-turnover abilities and include a fifth in 2011 and fourth in 2012 at Australia’s The North Face 100k, an 11th place at the 2012 IAU World 100k Championship, and a course record (by hours) at the 2012 Great North Walk 100-miler in Australia.

Expect to see David Eadie (Australia) among the top 10 finishers this weekend. He ran to fourth place at last year’s Tarawera 100k. He’s a two-time finisher of and 21:30-ish runner at the Western States 100 and he also completed the Badwater Ultramarathon last summer. I think he has a marathon PR of about 2:31 from roughly six years ago.

Scott Hawker (from New Zealand but living in Australia, Hoka One One) is another fella’ who hangs at or near the top of the Australian and New Zealand ultrarunning scene. His top results include a CR at the 2012 Kep Ultra 75k and the Glasshouse 100k in Australia.

2013 Tarawera Ultramarathon – 85k race

No high-level men (that we know of) have entered this distance. [Editor’s Note, March 13, 10pm: It looks like Rickey Gates (USA, Salomon) is racing the 85k, instead of the 60k. Rickey’s results of the last year or so are mixed. For example, he came 10th at Transvulcania, 14th at the Mount Washington Road Race, second at the 2012 Speedgoat 50k, second at the 2012 Pikes Peak Ascent, and third at the 2013 Empire State Building Run-Up. If he’s healthy and happy, look for him to dominate.]

2013 Tarawera Ultramarathon – 60k race

As interesting as the 60k women’s race will be between Anna Frost and Emelie Forsberg, the 60k men’s race will be equally fascinating but for another reason. The top men entered in this race couldn’t be more different from each other. I think this race will be like putting different species of bacteria in a petri dish and seeing who comes out alive.

Rickey Gates - 2011 TNF EC 50.

Rickey Gates during the 2011 TNFEC50.

Let’s start with Rickey Gates (USA, Salomon). Rickey’s results of the last year or so are mixed. For example, he came 10th at Transvulcania, 14th at the Mount Washington Road Race, second at the 2012 Speedgoat 50k, second at the 2012 Pikes Peak Ascent, and third at the 2013 Empire State Building RunUp. If he’s healthy and happy, look for him to dominate. [Editor’s Note, March 13, 10pm: Rickey Gates is running the 85k.]

Samuel Ongaki (a Kenyan living in South Africa, Nedbank) could be the wild card to this race, or he could also be the likely winner. I’m having a hard time deciding into which category I should put him. He’s run 2:57 for a 50k at the paved-but-not-flat and hyper-popular Loskop Ultra Marathon 50k in 2011 in South Africa. That’s not a freak performance for him because he’s also run 3:01 at South Africa’s Om Die Dam 50k. I believe Samuel is a 28:32 10k-er and a 2:17 marathoner, but I can’t find any evidence of him racing on trails. How will his raw leg speed hold up under the new-to-him duress of a trail race’s climbing, descending, and technicality?

Greg Vollet - Arches National Park

Greg Vollet enjoying a February run in the States.

Greg Vollet (France, Salomon) is the Salomon International Team Manager and an incredibly fast runner. I used to think that Greg was a rabbit for his team members, setting a hard pace and then either dropping out or slowing to let his runners shine. I was wrong. Turns out, Greg is evolving from a high-level mountain biker to an ultrarunner and learning the ropes… sometimes the hard way. Greg only knows one speed and that’s – pardon my language – balls to the wall. If he can hold his pace for the full 60k as he has proven his ability to do in his third place at France’s 2012 Mont Blanc Marathon and fifth at the 2012 Pikes Peak Marathon, he might win. I ran with Greg a couple weeks ago in Moab, Utah, and he told me that because this race is early season, he won’t have too many miles in his legs yet.

Think of Jarad Kohler (Australia) as a multi-sport athlete. He trail runs, he adventure races, he races off-road triathlons, he has a past of on-road triathlon-ing as well as whitewater kayaking, and he’s at or near the top of the results in the dozens of competitions he’s entered over the years. Already his 2013 resume includes a win at Australia’s Two Bays Trail Run 56k.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Who are your favorites for the men’s races and how do you think these races will go down?
  • Did we miss someone you think needs to be in this preview, or did we miss covering a crucial race performance for someone who is? Let us know in the comments section!
Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Senior Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

There are 18 comments

  1. Mic Medeska

    Hoping to see Rickey do well in the 60k, doesn't need a win in my opinion, just a solid finish. And hoping for Sage to run away with it in the main event. When did Tim Olson join up with North Face, I thought he was a Pearl Izumi guy?

    1. the other "Geof

      Timothy teamed up with North Face earlier this year. Heck, they are even making "gear" for his little one. : )

  2. Tim

    I'm excited to see a NZ event drawing this kind of crowd – They have some of the best trails in the world, and it's great to see their races getting more popular.

  3. Simon

    Sage and Brendan will fight out top of the podium but don't rule out Mick as his running in 2013 has been extremely fast….

    Jarad and Emelie to win in the 60km

  4. thomas

    May be the race is to short for Tim Olsen. In 100 k races Max King may be in front of Olsen, WS 100 no chance for King and other,

    Nevertheless, I guess Olsen is going for victory, King second.

    The race of the year, a remarkable race of the century will be the transvulkania,

    with Olsen, with Jornet, with Kuprica, etc, the abs. top runner are present there.

    thomas

  5. Paul Charteris

    Hi Meghan,

    Thank you very very much for your extremely thorough and professional preview of his event. My word! You have certainly done your homework on both the men's and women's field. It must have been at least a day of researching and writing to generate that content. As Race Director it is extremely pleasing to see such a complete preview of an event that is admittedly thousands of miles away from most of your audience.

    Tarawera has been a dream (and at times – a struggle) so it's very satisfying to see so many runners from all over the world arrive in Rotorua, ready to race.

    Cheers, Paul

  6. Charlie

    Vajin, Sage and Francios top 3. The Aussies (Mick and Brendan)are good but not good enough in this company.

    note: Vajin came second to Ryan Sandes not Sage in TNF100k in Australia.

  7. Matt

    Brendan has beaten Vajin before and Mick has done it twice (including Tarawera)so not sure why they wouldn't be good enough. Vajin has of course beaten both of them at TNF Australia as well. I think they're pretty even. I'd have picked Brendan over Vajin on the regular course, but Vajin should beat him on this one.

    For the overall podium. Who knows. Cool field.

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