2014 Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon Preview
March 10, 2014 by Meghan Hicks · 10 Comments
This Saturday, March 15, at 6:30 a.m. New Zealand Daylight Time (which translates to Friday, March 14 at 11:30 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time), the sixth annual Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon kicks off in Rotorua, located on New Zealand’s North Island. The event encompasses three races, an 100k, 85k, and 60k, with the 100k as the headline race included in the 2014 Ultra-Trail World Tour.
Runners totaling 850 from some 28 countries will run one of the event’s three races. Last year, the race course was modified into an out-and-back due to fire danger, but presently all systems are go for running the full course, which stretches one way from the edge of Rotorua, around several lakes including the namesake Lake Tarawera, through the wild Tarawera Forest, and ending in Kawerau. The 100k course features 2,903 meters/9,520 feet of climbing and 3,232 meters/10,603 feet of descending, an overall fairly runnable, mostly singletrack course with the toughest climbs coming about 30k in and the most runnable terrain in the race’s second half. Course records for the 100k are Sam Wreford in 2011 at 8:33:50 for the men and Nicola Gildersleeve in 2012 at 10:26:28 for the women. There’s currently some rain in the forecast for Saturday, with anticipated highs and lows at 72 and 53 degrees Fahrenheit and a decent amount of humidity.
We’ll be there live, so tune in this weekend for our coverage of the Tarawera 100k!
Women’s Preview – 2014 Tarawera Ultramarathon
It’s only March but this is Meghan Arbogast’s (SCOTT/USA) (pre-race interview) third big ultra this year. We just saw her a bit more than a month ago finishing seventh on a tough-for-her day at the Sean O’Brien 50 Mile. Before that, she won the Bandera 100k in January. Both of those races are part of the Montrail Ultra Cup and Tarawera’s part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, so I think Meghan is on the hunt for the podiums and prizes associated with both those series. Meghan had a great 2013, too, highlighted by a sprint-to-the-finish win at the 2013 Way Too Cool 50k, fifth at the stacked 2013 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and fourth at the even-more-stacked 2013 Western States. Meghan’s fortes are roads and runnable trail, so if she can hang on through the early, harder part of the Tarawera course, she can drop some fast miles in the second half to put her in contention for the win.
With last year’s Tarawera champ, Ruby Muir, out with injury, that makes Beth Cardelli (Salomon/Australia) (pre-race interview) last year’s fastest-finishing returner. After Tarawera last year, she went on to win The North Face 100k Australia, a race she’s now won three times, win the 2013 Trans d’Havet 40k in Italy, and finish fourth at the Surf Coast Century 100k, among other races. Beth’s been around the Aussie trail scene for a good while now, and winning is a familiar finish for her. I expect her to be racing for that this weekend.
Last year, Shona Stephenson (Inov-8/Australia) won the Tarawera 85k, but that was after dropping down in distance from the 100k mid-race. Another strong Australian runner, after Tarawera last year, she went on to finish second at the 2013 UTMF and third at the 2013 TNF 100k Australia, about 45 minutes behind winner Beth Cardelli.
Tomoko Hara (Japan) is a name I haven’t heard of until now, but I suspect we’ll have our eyes on her this weekend. Tomoko and Yoshikazu, from the men’s field, are married and are both fast runners. From what I understand, Tomoko loves road 100ks, and she ran several of them in 2013. Her 100k PR of 8:04:39, which she set last October, is about 23 minutes slower than Meghan Arbogast’s. I’m eager to see how she does in this trail 100k!
We last saw Sandi Nypaver (INKnBURN/USA) race to 11th place at the 2013 Speedgoat 50k. And before that, we watched as she finished second at the 2013 Cayuga Trails 50 Mile. Since Speedgoat last July, she ran to third at the inaugural Telluride Mountain Run and ninth at the Carlsbad Marathon in 3:12:26, which she described as a bad day for her. Sandi is girlfriend to men’s defending champ, Sage Canaday, which is significant in that she’s likely learned course knowledge (at least on the part of the course that is the same as last year’s fire-danger-altered course) from him that puts her in a better spot than most Tarawera first-timers. I suspect she’s an easy bet for top five on Saturday.
Nikki Wynd (Australia) was third at the Tarawera 60k last year, so it looks like she’s seeking some extra suffering by stepping up in distance this year. Nikki is a prolific racer, having finished at least nine ultras in 2013. She won three of them and finished off the podium in only one of those races.
Lucy Bartholomew (Footpro/Australia) (pre-race interview) is a teenager, still! Last year, at age 17, she ran the 250k Big Red Run stage race in Australia, finishing second woman and third overall. Interestingly, she was second at the 2013 Surf Coast Century 100k, where she finished 20 minutes ahead of Beth Cardelli. A rising star we should be watching on Saturday.
Other Women to Watch For
- Shannon-Leigh Litt (New Zealand) — 12th 2014 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, winner New Kelly Chase 100k road race in 8:46:42
- Dawn Tuffery (New Zealand) — third 2012 Tarawera 85k, fourth 2013 Kepler Challenge
- Claire Walton (UK) — winner 2012 Tahoe Rim Trail 100
Men’s Preview – 2014 Tarawera Ultramarathon
Sage Canaday (Hoka One One/USA) (pre-race interview) is the Tarawera 100k defending champion. Last year, he created a big lead by the middle of the race, faded during the race’s second half, and managed to hold off a charging Timothy Olson in what he called his toughest 100k at the time. Now he’s got another year of trail ultramarathoning in his hydration vest, and this should mean he’s all the more prepared to take names on the Tarawera course. iRunFar last saw Sage finish sixth and 90 minutes behind winner Rob Krar in what Sage said was a “just finish” kind of day at the 2013 UROC 100k. Since then, he raced to second behind Mike Foote at the Moab Trail Marathon, DNSed the The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in San Francisco due to the flu, and ran a 2:22:15 for second at the Carlsbad Marathon in January. (I think he also did a short-distance road race around the holidays, too.) He’s been doing some solid training around his home on the Front Range of Colorado the last six weeks or so leading up to Tarawera. It’s been a while since Sage has won a long race, and I bet he’s hungry for a win.
2013 UltraRunning magazine Ultrarunner of the Year Rob Krar (The North Face/Canadian citizen living in the USA) debuts his 2014 season with the Tarawera 100k. Let’s just say that last year was darn good for Rob: a win at Moab Red Hot 55k, a win at Leona Divide 50 Mile, the Grand Canyon R2R2R record, second at Western States, first at UROC 100k, and a win at TNF EC 50 Mile Championships. Phew! iRunFar last saw him winning TNF EC 50 Mile Championships with a simple, stunning, and super-aggressive break from the rest of the field with 10 miles to go. Since then, Rob shut ‘er down for a little bit of R&R and some ski touring when there was snow on his local ski hill. I suspect, however, he’s been getting in some good training in the new year on his home trails that puts him in position for a win this weekend. How does a guy like this top that 2013? Guess we’ll find out on Saturday! [Update 3/10: Rob Krar has decided not to start this weekend's race. He sustained an injury in a fall.]
It’s only early March, but Tarawera will be Mike Aish’s (Mizuno/New Zealand citizen living in the USA) second fairly major event. On the first day of last month, we watched as Mike took second to Dylan Bowman at the Sean O’Brien 50 Mile in Southern California. In his pre-race interview, he said that he’d recently been signed with Mizuno and he was going to be trail and ultrarunning professionally. And for his second race as a pro trail runner, he’s back racing in his homeland. Even when Mike says he’s going to take it easy in a race, it seems he goes aggressively. I think this is just his nature, so I’m not expecting anything different this Saturday.
We last saw Yoshikazu Hara (Japan) not looking so good only a short distance into the 2013 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc where he dropped early on. Yoshikazu won the 2013 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji by ousting some big names like Julien Chorier, Sébastien Chaigneau, Gary Robbins, and Brendan Davies and he’s got a 100k road PR of 6:33:32. I can’t find any racing results for Yoshikazu since giving UTMB a go last year, so I’m as curious as you are on where his fitness is right now. Koichi Iwasa of DogsorCaravan tells us that Yoshikazu is shortly giving up working as a doctor full time to more fully devote himself to his family and running. [Update 3/10: Per Koichi Iwasa at DogsorCaravan, Yoshikazu Hara is out of this weekend's race due to a hip injury. He's still planning to attend to support his wife, Tomoko, in the women's race.]
It’s impossible not to like Mike Wardian (Hoke One One-UVU/USA) (pre-race interview). He’s the guy who’ll race every distance, on any kind of terrain, on any day of the week. A year ago, we interviewed him just as he was returning to running after a major injury, five stress fractures in his pelvis. What’s he been up to since then? More like, what’s he not been up to? Some highlights: a win at the 2013 TNF EC 50 Mile- Washington, D.C., third at the 2013 JFK 50 Mile, a win at the 2014 The Coastal Challenge stage race, and a second at the Caumsett 50k just two weekends before Tarawera. In the last year, there have been a couple lowlights, too: 25th at the 2013 Speedgoat 50k and 16th at the TNF EC 50 Mile Championships. What will happen with Mike at Tarawera? I think the race’s first half is a bit more hilly than the terrain Mike performs best on. If he can run smart through that and then hammer the flatter stuff in the race’s second half, that’s how we might see Mike’s best performance.
Vajin Armstrong (Macpac/New Zealand) (pre-race interview) finished third and about 45 minutes behind Sage Canaday at last year’s Tarawera 100k, and he’s actually been on the Tarawera 100k podium twice before (2011 and 2012). Since last year, Vajin’s done a great job of finding second place at most of the races he’s entered, including second at 2013 The North Face Australia 100k, second at Zugspitz Ultratrail, second at the Davos Swiss Alpine Marathon, and second at the 2013 Kepler Challenge. He did mix things up a bit, dropping from UTMB last summer and finishing fourth in January at the 2014 Vibram Hong Kong 100k.
Brendan Davies (Inov-8/Australia) finished fourth last year at Tarawera, about an hour back from winner Sage Canaday and 12 minutes behind third place Vajin Armstrong. Since we saw him at Tarawera last year, he went on to finish fifth at UTMF and one hour behind winner Yoshikazu Hara, and he also won TNF 100k Australia, finishing about 27 minutes ahead of Vajin Armstrong. So Vaijn beat Brendan at Tarawera last March, and then Brendan beat Vajin at TNF Australia 100k in May; I’m interested in their duel this weekend!
Scott Hawker (Hoka One One/New Zealand citizen living in Australia) raced hard early and then dropped at last year’s Tarawera 100k. Since then, he’s finished on the podium of almost all the Australian ultras he’s raced. And, this past January, he finished fifth at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, just 30 seconds behind fourth place Vajin Armstrong.
Other Men to Watch For
Carlos Sa (Berg Outdoor/Portugal) — seventh 2013 Marathon des Sables, winner 2013 Badwater Ultramarathon, sixth 2014 The Coastal Challenge and more than six hours behind winner Mike Wardian[Update 3/10: Carlos Sa won't start Saturday's race due to an injury sustained during The Coastal Challenge stage race a month ago.]
- Martin Lukes (Asics/New Zealand) — fourth 2013 Kepler Challenge and eight minutes behind second place Vajin Armstrong, 100k PR of 6:46:50 from the 2007 IAU 100k World Championships
- Martin Gaffuri (New Balance/France) — seventh 2013 Ice Trail Tarentaise, eighth 2013 UROC 100k, 13th 2013 TNF EC 50 Mile Championships, fifth 2014 The Coastal Challenge behind winner Mike Wardian and ahead of sixth place Carlos Sa
- David Eadie (Hoka One One/Australia) — 9th 2013 Tarawera 100k, 4th 2012 Tarawera 100k
- Yan-Qiao Yun (The North Face/China) — winner 2013 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, third 2013 The North Face 100k China
- Thomas Bakowski (Australia) — On the podium of multiple Australian ultramarathons in 2013
- Manuel Lago (Brazil) — 9th at 2013 Bandera 100k and two hours behind winner Sage Canaday
- Quentin Stephan (La Fuma/France) — 5th 2012 Ice Trail Tarentaise
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Women’s race, who’s got this and who is going to surprise us on Saturday?
- The pointy end of the men’s field is particularly sharp. On this course, at this point in the season, and among this competition, who will we see emerge as winner? And what man is going to surprise us with an unexpected breakout?