Feel the (North) Burn

TrailRunMag 20.03.2012

Co-organiser and Trail Run Mag insider, Lisa Tamati, previews this weekend’s Northburn 100. Keep an eye out for regular updates from Lisa throughut the weekend on www.facebook.com/trailrunmag and www.twitter.com/trailrunmag.

The Northburn 100 is getting closer. Team Salomon has a top crew coming as is my Stateside friend, Ray Sanchez, who I ran with the in the Himalayas last August in La Ultra – The High race. He is definitely a contender.

Tracey Woodford is also back and I tip her to be on top again all going to plan.

The Northburn100 came about after Glen Christiansen from the Golden Gate Resort invited me down to give a talk one night in the town of Cromwell. I fell in love with the region and Glen and I were brewing up race plans within minutes. I had been looking for a place to run a 100mile event and had planned to do it in Taranaki, my home town (but someone beat me to it).

Then, Glen spoke to keen endurance athlete Tom Pinckney, owner of the gorgeous Northburn Station and the race was born. Tom and I set up our own company and the rest is history. Last year’s event was fantastic and very successful. We tried our best to make everyone very welcome and to provide an amazing running experience. My goal was to have the toughest 100 miler in the southern hemisphere and I believe I have made it. We got awarded 4 qualification points for Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, the highest amount available giving Kiwis and Aussies a chance to qualify.

This race is extremely tough… the ascent for the 100 miler is over 8000 metres – the equivalent of going from sea level to nearing the top of Mt Everest. So a key is starting out really gently and slowly and consistency is the key, not stopping at the very comfortable check points too long.

The fact that we have three different loops which all go through the main vineyard check point with lots of food and supporters is brilliant but makes it also hard to leave on round two or three. The longer you dally, the harder it is.

The other key is not to tear downhill and shake the hell out of your legs too early; they will be shaking messes by the end no matter. Also, keeping as warm and dry as possible (don’t try ditching the required equipment, you could pay for that very heavily. Last year we had 100km/hr winds and sideways sleet – it was violent). If the weather turns to shit up on the top range it can be very frightening and we have a set up a great network of support for the night sections and have spared no expense with our medical team and 4wd drive ambulance, helicopter on call, doctors etc, as we want our competiotrs to have a great adventure but to be safe as well. That is our priority.

So my key advice: start out slow and taper off, take it gentle on the down hills for those quads and walk the steep ups (you won’t have a choice probably). And don’t stop for long periods. You are in a race;  a long, long race and the pressure has to remain on if you are to get through this mammoth challenge.

And make sure you have a top headlamp or three for the night – it can be as black as the inside of a cow up there. The toughest bits of the race are the ‘loop of despair’, just when you think you should be flat for a while, it goes down, down, down and round and round before finally getting back to top camp. Then there is the water race which is technically very tricky.

We are pleased with the amount of international competitors this year and hope to attract more Kiwis and Aussies (you’re not international, really!) next time. Unfortunately we clash a bit timewise with the fabulous Tarawera Ultra so we will try and do something about that for the future.

This remains, however, a challenge of champions and anyone who starts it in my opinion is a gutsy person and a winner. And those who finish? Bloody tough and bloody lucky.

Northburn100, 24 – 26 March 2012, Cromwell, NZ


NB: so this is a race that the woman who ran the length of New Zealand, and ran and finished the toughest footrace on the planet in La Ultra The High, is happy to organise but won’t run? This is one tough puppy people… Keep watch also for Gordi Kirkbank Ellis, having another crack despite bad knees…. Ed.