Fiona Hayvice returns as the Tarawera Ultramarathon defending champion and a four-time finisher of the Tarawera events. In the following interview, Fiona talks about what keeps bringing her back to Tarawera each year, her 2016 of racing abroad for the first time, and what she’s learned her years of trail running that she’ll bring into Saturday’s race.
To see who else is running, read our Tarawera preview. You can also follow our live coverage of Tarawera starting at 6 a.m. local time this Saturday, February 11, which is 10 a.m. MST on Friday in the U.S.
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Fiona Hayvice Pre-2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here in Rotorua, New Zealand. It’s couple days before the 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon. I’m with women’s defending champion, Fiona Hayvice. Hi.
Fiona Hayvice: Hi, Meghan.
iRunFar: I’m in your home country.
Hayvice: Yes, it’s so good to be on home soil and have you here.
iRunFar: You didn’t have to travel far.
Hayvice: No, not this time. It’s a six-hour drive, but no flights.
iRunFar: Fair enough. When you look at New Zealand on a global map, it looks like a tiny country in the middle of the South Pacific, but then when you get here, you realize it’s not a tiny country at all.
Hayvice: No, there’s a lot to explore. I think people underestimate it. They come here thinking they can squeeze it all into 10 days or a week or something…
iRunFar: “I can see the whole country!”
Hayvice: No, definitely not.
iRunFar: You are back in the land of Tarawera.
Hayvice: Yes, this is my fifth time here at Tarawera.
iRunFar: Yeah, and you have an ascending scale of awesomeness when it comes to this race. I think it has gone something like seventh, fourth, first?
Hayvice: Yes, you’ve got that right.
iRunFar: How do you improve upon last year?
Hayvice: The good thing is that this year there’s been almost no course changes, so I’m just going to look at improving my time from last year. It’s a good starting point.
iRunFar: I think you’re an excellent person to ask about this race. You keep coming back to it. There must be something about this trail, this race, these people that draw you in.
Hayvice: Yes, it is a combination of all those things. It’s very close to my heart, because it was my first ultramarathon that I ran back in 2011.
iRunFar: You started with the shorter distance, right?
Hayvice: Yes, the 85k. I actually signed up for the 60k that day, but getting to the 60k mark, I was having such a good time, that I decided to carry onto 85k.
iRunFar: No way. Really? You said, “Can I keep going?” They said, “Okay?”
Hayvice: True. Yes, that’s one of the things you can do in this race. Paul [Charteris] is very open to people extending or dropping back, as well, on the day.
iRunFar: Wow. What made you go up in distance that day? What made you come back?
Hayvice: It was the whole atmosphere right from the start—the aid stations, how well they were equipped and the amount of different food you could try depending on how you feel. The volunteers were so encouraging. Then, just the scenery—it’s so runnable and there are lakes and a few hills and lots of forest. It’s just a whole mix.
iRunFar: Do you think you get both faster and smarter as the years have gone on? To what would you attribute your continued marked improvement?
Hayvice: Definitely. From the first time I was here doing the 85k, it was very much at a recreational level giving it a go for the first time. I still think back and have a wee laugh about the fact that I was standing around at the aid stations like it was a big smorgasbord at the hotel having a try of everything.
iRunFar: “I’ve got this buffet for you.”
Hayvice: Yes. Then moving on… but then obviously as the years have gone on, I’ve become a bit more competitive. Now, I’m more efficient at the aid stations to the point where on Saturday, I won’t be using the aid stations. I’ve moved to Tailwind Nutrition. I’ll have that all set out and ready to go. My crew will just be handing.
iRunFar: Hand-offs from your crew baton style?
iRunFar: The course, I’ve been exploring it the last six days I’ve been here. I’m surprised by its diversity. Do you have a favorite part or parts?
Hayvice: It is pretty diverse. I’m just trying to think which is my favorite. They all have pros and cons. Some of my favorite would be the single trail right from Millar Road to [Tarawera] Falls. It’s some of the prettiest around the lakes and over some of the rises. They’re not mountains, really, compared to going to Europe, but there is a bit of a scene there. Then, the forestry roads are obviously a lot wider and open, but the pro there is it’s very runnable. If you get into a good motion, you can tick over the k’s quite quickly.
iRunFar: With hope.
Hayvice: Yes, with hope.
iRunFar: I want to ask you about the progression of your running career. As you said, you started with this race six years ago, is that right?
Hayvice: This is my fifth time, but I did it in 2011, and, then, I had a wee break when I had my son who is almost five now. So I came back to it in 2014. Then this will be four in a row, now. When I came back in 2014, I had just gotten back into running again and picking up the distance after I had my son. That was the year I came in seventh. That was probably for me quite a turning point. I realized, because there were quite a few internationals there that year in the female field. So I thought, Hmmm, okay, this is good. I’m sitting in the top portion. I thought maybe I should be a bit more diligent about my training and put a bit more effort in which I did. I carried on like that for another year without a coach just doing my own thing. Then, it was the middle of 2015 when I decided to get a coach on board and see if that could help make some improvements which… it did.
iRunFar: It clearly did. Then this past year, you really diversified and multiplied your racing. Can you talk about the places you’ve gone? I saw you in Portugal. You were at the Ultra-Trail Australia. Where else did last year take you?
Hayvice: Last year, I also went to Europe… well, I went to Portugal later in the year [for IAU Trail World Championships], but earlier in the year around June and July, I went to Europe for the first time to race. I was at the Mozart 100k in Austria just outside of Salzburg. Each of the races have been so diverse and different. It was very much based right out of the historic city and around some of the surrounding lakes. Then I went over to Switzerland and up into the Alps, up pretty high. I did the Eiger 101k in July.
iRunFar: Both you and David Byrne went. You brought the Australasia force.
Hayvice: Yes. Yes, we did.
iRunFar: How have you found racing out in the wild world to be compared to being on your home turf?
Hayvice: There’s a lot to be said, I’ve realized after having both of those experiences, for traveling over to Europe and racing. There’s a lot to be said for being on home soil and having your family and close friends around—the emotional support and also less travel. It does take it out of you those long international flights. I’m looking forward to running here.
iRunFar: You’ve got to really want to go somewhere if you’re going to sit on a red-eye, all-night flight, don’t you?
Hayvice: Yes, but I do enjoy that part, as well. That’s part of the reason I got into the ultramarathon running, because I saw the opportunity to travel the world and see corners of the world that a lot of people don’t get to see.
iRunFar: I want to end this interview with asking how you found this sport at all. All Kiwis seem to be really integrated into your outdoors. Everyone is an outdoors person. But you’re a mom, you have a business, and you’re an adult-onset competitive runner. How did you find this sport, or how did this sport find you?
Hayvice: Right back from the start? It was actually through a contact in Shanghai who was my first introduction into ultramarathons or adventure racing—a call-out basically to see if anyone was interested in doing the Gobi March through the Gobi Desert.
iRunFar: So you started with a 250k stage race? That was your first one?
Hayvice: Yes. I thought, Well, it sounds like a good challenge and somewhere I hadn’t been before. Yeah, that’s how it started.
iRunFar: Before that, were you a recreational runner?
Hayvice: Recreational runner, yeah.
iRunFar: So you went there. You didn’t blister your feet off? Somehow you came back in love with the sport? Then you ran an 85k.
Hayvice: Yes, not too much. Yes.
iRunFar: I think that means you went backward.
Hayvice: Yes, you could put it that way, but it was over six days. It was a different type of race, too.
iRunFar: Yeah, I’ve done those races, and it’s not an excuse. That’s a lot of miles in a short period of time.
Hayvice: It wasn’t probably the typical progression from half marathons, marathons, and building it up. I sort of threw myself in the deep end.
iRunFar: Another deep end on Saturday, I guess.
Hayvice: Yes, it will be. It always is.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you in defending your title as Tarawera women’s champion. I look forward to chasing you through the woods.
Hayvice: Thanks, Meghan. Great! It’s going to be fun.
iRunFar: Good luck.