Te Haerenga (the journey)

I struggle with this race report as it is hard to put in words what I experienced running the Tarawera 100K. I was not sure what to expect nor was I sure how my body would react to 62 miles of running with 10,000 feet of climbing on ever-changing terrain. What I went through in that 13 hours was well beyond my imagination and far surpassed what I dreamed it would be like. As this was a long day and I can’t do justice in describing the stunning scenery, the amazing athletes, volunteers and spectators, the pain or the loneliness I experienced I thought I would provide some highlights:

  • The first 2.5 miles boasted around 700 feet of climbing which meant 25-30 min of walking and the entire time having the quads, hams and calves burning. The run went from physical to mental right from the start.
  • The comradary or the runners was inspiring. Many times I would run miles behind someone and just embraced the company even if it was just listening to our feet making their way through the trails. I had a great conversation with a young lady, Mary, who is in law school and was doing her first trail run and ran 18.5K as part of a relay team. One day she is going to do the 100K no doubt. I met a man, Tony, who asked me my name and as we leapfrogged each other he would scream, “Go Kellie!”  There was a wonderful lady, Kate, that was running the 100K and her cheer crew “100K8” would cheer me on often yelling, “GO USA” or “GO KELLIE!”  A lady I ran with for quite a while that was doing the relay was also part of the “100K8” cheer squad and at the end came running to find me as they knew I got lost (more on that later) then bolted to the finish to hug me when I finished. A lady snapped a picture of me crossing the finish and came over to me and said she saw I did not have anyone with me so she took a picture then handed me her business card so she could forward it to me. How could you not love ultra trail running. The people are amazing.  
  • There is no way to explain the beauty around ever corner you turned but much of the first 60K you had to keep your eyes down so you did not wind up on the ground. I remember several times looking up and thinking I was running through a framed picture or a post card and wished my Dad was there to capture the moments with his amazing eye for photography. Below are some pictures I found on flikr of the course I put in a slide show (if you hover over you can advance the photos manually).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • The 60K finish was at Tarawera Falls. I remember running and hearing this amazing sound of rushing water and at this point I had hit 6,600 feet of climbing and my legs were in need of some inspiration. I turn a corner and look to the right and I swear my smile was from ear to ear! The picture does not even come close to showing how tall the waterfall is but it was majestic!

  • The Aid Stations were the BOMB! I run slow enough in these runs that I can eat anything so I tried a little of everything! My favorite were sticky buns! I know you are all shocked I did not say M&Ms but I did not really see anything that looked like them! I also loved the array of lollies (their version of our gummy candy). The one thing I can tell you is the jelly beans in NZ are not like in the US. I spent 10 min running while picking them out of my teeth 🙂

  • The last 40K (25 miles or so) was all on fire roads (dirt and pebbles) and I was alone 24.8 of these miles. This is a lot of time to think, reflect, remember those important in your life, talk to yourself in a way you never imagined and find out how mentally and physically strong or weak you are. This is why I love ultra trail running. This is why I do it. I thought about my Grammy who passed 20 years ago from cancer. I thought about my Grandpa Jones who went to every one of our soccer games and track meets in school. I imagined my sisters were pacing me the last 30K and talking to me to get me though some of the tough areas like walking up a steep hill of soft sand for 15-20 min at mile 50. I thought about my little friend Katelyn who is 10 and does triathlons and running races and calls me her hero. I could not let her down. When I had to go to the bathroom I would laugh hearing my Dad telling me at Ultraman that I would have a much better time if I did not pee so much 🙂
  • The sun started to go down and I had 1K left. I made the mistake of taking a wrong turn as the sun was setting and by the time I realized I was heading the wrong way it was dark. I made my way back and with limited visibility I made another wrong turn and saw a few volunteers walking a dog who pointed me towards the trail again. That last 1K took me 22 min 🙂
  • I crossed the small little finish line with a huge smile in the dark and felt oddly wonderful. Paul the race director popped on the microphone and asked me if Florida was the same as NZ and if it was harder or easier. All I could say was, “It is not even remotely the same and my quads are shredded!”  He just replied, “That’s what I like to hear!”  It was the hardest thing I have ever done physically or mentally. But one of the most rewarding.

I felt at home in NZ. It is a place I can see myself living. It is Heaven on Earth. I felt the aroha (compassion, tenderness, sustaining love) of the people. E noho rā for now. I will be back on the South Island January 2013 for Challenge Wanaka.


10 Responses to “Te Haerenga (the journey)”

  1. You are a warrior! When you move to NZ let me know cause I’m right behind you. The scenery was breathtaking and the mental toughness you must have had to pull out of who knows where must have gotten you through many, many miles. But, you always pull though and you do it with a smile. Keep inspiring!

  2. Jenni Sevenich Says:

    You are such a strong woman – I am proud to call you friend! I love this report, and the pictures make me want to go there and run those trails. Congratulations on such an amazing accomplishment. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  3. Leslie Zednai Says:

    Beauttiful trail, beautiful country, beautiful soul. This inspires me and if I get lost on my first 50K… you can bet I will be thinking of you and chuckling… thanks in advance for being right there with me. 🙂

  4. Wolfgang Schmidt Says:

    Nice writing, Kellie. Reading your report makes me want to be there. Awesome showing and finish (as usual). Your are a true champion. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  5. libby Bergman Says:

    all I can say is wow. you continue to inspire me every day with your strength, wisdom and amazing ultra endurance talent. I knew you would succeed and kick ass because you rock. physically and mentally you are the strongest woman I know. I am so proud of you for achieving such an amazing feat and doing it in style!!
    I hope I’m at the start line with you in january 2013 🙂 secret goal to go with you 🙂
    congrats on an amazing performance. I hope I get to experience new zealand with you!!!!!

  6. wow.
    well written.
    i cried.
    i want to move there.
    “that’s what I like to hear”
    you earned that one!!

  7. Stepmonster Says:

    How inspiring you are to all who know you! I did not know you got lost!! 😦

    I am with Carrie – let us know when you are moving – we’ll start a compound!!!

    Just a beautiful blog and look forward to more. Love you tons and tons!

  8. Excuse me for the ALL CAPS but….

    I LOVE READING YOUR RACE REPORTS KEL! They make me so happy. You are a machine of pure awesomeness. Your spirit and determination amazes me.

    I’m sorta infatuated with you. Not gunna lie…

    You are my hero too.


  9. Thank you for sharing your experience with the world. It seems you have reached even higher limits this time … Did you ‘find your limits’ as your blog title says? Personally, I think there is no limit with Kellie and when you are close to it is pure, raw, and beautiful filled with humility, humanity, mindfulness. It not something you can necessarily put into words but you have a done it well in this post and, again, you made me tear up!

    Congratulation on your amazing amazing adventure. You are truly an inspiration to others, you certainly pay it forward in so many ways so thank you for that!

    As I have told you before, I have a little gift for you, which was intended for your phenomenal accomplishment at the Ironman Canada, but it seems to be appropriate for both achievements (I promise it is not icing on a cake!)

    Thank you Kellie!


  10. Great Race report,
    I admire your great spirit!
    In terms of running ability, I hope to get close to that some day.

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