Sam McCutcheon took third for the second year in a row at the 2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon. In this interview, Sam talks about how this year’s reversed course was much harder than last year’s, how the racing dynamic played out from his point of view, if he’s satisfied with his performance, and where else he’d like to race in 2018.
For more on what happened at this year’s race, read our 2018 Tarawera results article.
Sam McCutcheon Post-2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and it’s the day after the 2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon. I’m with Sam McCutcheon who finished third for the second year in a row. Congratulations.
Sam McCutcheon: Thanks, Meghan.
iRunFar: We just had the awards ceremony. You got to stand on the stage for the second year in a row. How does it feel to round up on the podium of a race like this two times?
McCutcheon: Yeah, it’s cool. It makes it feel like the first one wasn’t a fluke. I’m a little bit justified being there a couple of times. It’s shows that I’m going the right direction. I’m not going backwards. There are still a couple people in front of me to aim for.
iRunFar: Speaking of going different directions, yesterday’s course seemed to be the antithesis of the year prior. Not only did you go the other direction, but the conditions couldn’t have been more opposite.
McCutcheon: Yeah, it was a lot tougher than I was expecting. I think it was a lot tougher than everyone was expecting. It’s just another experience. They were completely different races.
iRunFar: How did you feel? You said in your interview with us before the race that you were coming into the race fresh and slightly less prepared than you would have liked to be because you just got married.
McCutcheon: Yes, “very fresh” was what I quoted. I think the freshness started to feel about the 50k mark. It turned out better than I expected in terms of the fitness held through, but the legs definitely weren’t as fresh, and I wasn’t able to push the pace to try to catch up to Cody Reed and Dylan Bowman as much as I would have liked, but I’m still overall pretty happy.
iRunFar: I have to ask about that hot early race pace. I think you guys were on 2:52-2:53 marathon pace at least through the 41k aid station where flattish forestry roads were before that and then onto the technical stuff. You guys were flying.
McCutcheon: That wasn’t my preference, but when you’ve got Vlad [Shatrov] and Cody and Dylan in the mix, it’s sort of right on the edge of comfortable. So we all just kind of went with it. The roads are pretty forgiving at the start. They’re all very runnable. Everyone just kind of pushed each other. I think we all sort of paid a little bit at some stage in the race for that pace, but it was a good experience.
iRunFar: I wrote some splits down for the men’s race ahead of time. I feel like for the first 40k you guys were ahead of those splits, and right after that you started being behind. That also coincides with when the trails got really mucky and murky. Can you talk about what the conditions were actually like out there?
McCutcheon: There was a bit more water. It was drizzling all day, but there was actually quite a volume of water coming through the trails. It also didn’t help that there were 87k and 62k runners progressing in front of us. I think the combination of all that and the fact that the forestry roads turn into single track with tree roots and rocks just made for an interesting day for everyone. It was really… it turned into quite a technical race for the middle section.
iRunFar: The first 40k, it was really the four of you who were very close together. After that between 40-55k, things started to string out a little more. How did that feel being in it? What was going on?
McCutcheon: I wish I could have stuck in the mix for that whole 50-60k, but out of self-preservation, I would have been silly trying to keep up. I knew I had to run that middle section within myself and get the heck out of Okataina and get up that before I could think about finishing. I think that’s an area I’d like to work to in the future, but I ran my own race, and I’m not sure what happened with the front guys whether they were battling each other or just self-destructing.
iRunFar: Coming into the 80k aid station or 81k, you’re about to make the loop around Blue Lake, you were just a couple minutes in third. Second was just a couple minutes ahead of you. Did you know that? Did you start chasing, or were you just trying to survive there?
McCutcheon: Very much survival. I did get told that Cody was just a couple minutes in front of me and had hit a sort of rough patch leading into the aid station, but he obviously got a bit of a pep talk and came out flying. He put quite a few minutes on me in the last 20k. It was very much get to the end. I thought if I got to Rotorua, I could start rolling for the last little bit, but it’s quite brutal over the last… from Blue Lake up over the Redwood forests.
iRunFar: Last year after this race you went abroad a couple times and raced Transvulcania and you raced the MaXi-Race in France. Do you have an idea of going to Europe or jumping off the islands of New Zealand this year, too?
McCutcheon: I think I’ll definitely jump over and probably to Europe. There’s nothing set in stone though. I’m hoping New Zealand will send a team for the Trail World Champs, and if not, there are so many good races these days, it’s sort of choosing one with the level of competition that makes the trip to the other side of the world worthwhile.
iRunFar: We also have another continent called North America and we have some races there, too.
McCutcheon: Apparently you guys just run really fast on those ones. I think North America is a build-up goal and will be worth a trip in the future, definitely.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your third place. Thanks for letting me come hang out on your island for the week.
McCutcheon: Anytime, Meghan. Cheers.
iRunFar: We’ll see you somewhere maybe in Europe or North America someday.
McCutcheon: Thanks, Meghan.
iRunFar: I realized as we’ve been standing here that the lenses on this camera are condensing up. It’s been a big problem the last two days trying to cover this race.
McCutcheon: Tropical New Zealand.
iRunFar: Thanks, New Zealand. Well, we’ll see you perhaps at the Trail World Championships, and, if not, maybe somewhere else in Europe. Congratulations, Sam.
McCutcheon: Thanks, Meghan.