2022 World 100k Championships report

The German customs officer wasn’t buying it. ‘All the way from New Zealand, for a run?’ Narrowing his eyes, he looked at my passport and back to me. If it seemed like a cover story for dubious activity, the white powder stashed in my bag wouldn’t help the case. ‘Why so far for so short a time?’

I blame Wayne Botha. When expressions of interest opened for NZ team selection in the World 100k Championships, I wasn’t initially going to apply. Thanks to cancellations, slow Covid recovery, and busy life, running a half-decent 100km on the other side of the world in two months’ time seemed ambitious. However, Wayne is a persuasive man, and somehow at the last minute, it happened. I also slightly blame Martin Lukes, who was on Dirt Church Radio podcast around that time mentioning the unique attributes a road hundy offers.

There’s unfinished business there too. Back in 2010 I was keen to rock the World 100k champs in Gibraltar, after inadvertently qualifying with my first 100k. Instead, I had a child, and later the qualifier got tougher. Despite NZ having some solid history in the distance, including two silver medals at Worlds, we hadn’t mustered a team for over a decade. So when the congratulatory selection email arrived 12 years later, it felt like a full-circle opportunity that should be seized. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be on a team with Fiona Hayvice and Mel Aitken?

Flashback to 2010 gang at Taupō 100k.

“It’s only, like, half of 200k,” said the aforementioned Gibraltar-busting child with slight derision. “You’ve done more before.” The problem was less the distance than the speed. Unlike in a 24 hour, I wouldn’t be stopping for any meals or massage.

A road 100k is a head game, a pure pacing challenge. To be in a position for a PB, I knew I would ultimately need to feel good running metronomic 5-minute(ish) kilometres for most of the event. When you’re used to doing a 2-3 hour run at 5.30-5.40 pace, the idea of going faster than that for several times as long can be hard to compute. It comes down to a combo of work and faith.

I wrote a programme to gradually convince my body that running that pace for that long was a reasonable undertaking, and got into it. Out of 8-9 training weeks, I think I lost two to random viruses, which is par for the course, but gradually built up some fitness again. Marcus from Connect Osteopathy helped me stay in one piece, and Trek’n’Travel kept me fueled and clothed (three cheers for awesome supporters). A long run around Tamahere at race pace was a key confidence builder. I set myself a selection of cascading goals. Beating my PB of 8.42 (set 8 years prior), running sub-9 hours, getting under the NZ team qualifying time of 9.20, or just finishing, to ensure a team score.

The trip over was a bit rough, with 10 hours of turbulence on the 16-hour flight to Dubai. I was relieved to finally emerge in Berlin at midnight after about 300 hours on planes. In the morning, I set out for a jetlag-beating run and was wowed by the city’s cycle culture. Loads of bikes, bike lanes, and bike-laden balconies, and the cars seemed to happily coexist. This was probably my favourite thing about the city. Along with the 9-euro ticket that entitled you to go on any train or tram or bus for a MONTH. (Hear that, NZ?)

It was good fun to room with Fiona Hayvice and son Spike (AKA Strike, according to his accreditation). We settled in and went exploring. Berlin is a stunning city and we were only occasionally distracted by an underlying sense of anticipatory dread about the run. I mean, excitement.

The imposter syndrome was intense. Looking out over a sea of fit athletes at meals knowing just how fast they are is a tad freaky. It was also hot, my achilles niggled, and I felt fatigued from the minimal sleep, so there was plenty to work on in terms of staying zen.

On Friday we went to Bernau for the opening ceremony and parade. The bus dropped everyone off early and left, leaving slight chaos as everyone wandered in different directions or sheltered in doorways from a rain shower. Once organised, the parade was a blast. The South African team were in fine voice singing ‘Shosholoza’, and we could shoot fangirl glances at Patrycja Bereznowska just behind. (Note – she ran under 8 hours here (as a warmup?) and won the European 24-hour champs 3 weeks later with 256km. Boom). When it was NZ’s turn to be announced, the band launched into lively oompa music.

Afterwards the summer weather broke, and it poured. The weather on Saturday was meant to do this:

It did not do that. It was kind of misty, and then got warmer.

But I’m getting ahead. My brain’s habit of pinging awake at 3am was finally useful, as we had to be up early. A breakfast of mashed potato, a reflective bus ride in the dark, and then it was time to queue for the toilet, and queue for the toilet again just in case.

Start time came at last. We felt proud to be in the mix in our NZ singlets. Group hug – kia kaha – let’s go! I tucked in and relaxed into the first few kilometres, keeping an eye on the pace. It was fun to see all the action and cheer each other on at the out and backs.

There was a noticeable judder after the 30k mark, where things felt tricky sooner than expected. I was managing my stomach carefully, swapping nutrition where needed. I was thirstier than the temperature would suggest, but suspect this was also the humidity (over 90%). One lap I didn’t take a drink due to a niggly tummy, which was a mistake, but was able to rectify it with a bigger drink on the following lap. The setup was quite handy – we’d come past the tents approaching a keyhole lap of sorts and make an order with Steve (‘Small Nuun bottle, gel, sponge over head, Royale with cheese!’) and then he’d have it ready when we’d gone around the small loop and were heading out again.

Getting it done, lap by lap.
© Dinko Bažulić / Croatian ultra running team (Ultramaraton.hr)

I went through the marathon at 3.30 and halfway at 4.10. This started to get my hopes up a little – if I can slow the slowdown enough, a decent PB is possible. However, it’s after 60k that a 100k gets real, and this proved to be true. It gradually took more work to hold the pace. I did not manage to follow Wayne’s advice to run negative splits. Next time!

Many runners cheered each other on during the event, but if there was an ‘athlete’s athlete’ award, I’d give it to Joanne Murphy from Great Britain. Not only did she run a smoking 7.38, but she did it while enthusiastically cheering and encouraging every other athlete in the race en route, even those of us coming in an hour later. Goals.

Taking tips from GBR’s Joanne Murphy on how to enjoy 100k!
© Dinko Bažulić / Croatian ultra running team (Ultramaraton.hr)

The laps ticked on. Two steady laps and a bell lap push left, I told myself repeatedly. How did the laps get so much longer? Then the bell lap became a keep-moving-forwards lap, as things started to feel fragile.

When the end came I turned down the NZ flag Steve offered, as carrying it seemed…too much to think about. This is a cause for minor regret. Brains can be in their own world at these times! However, it was a blast to cross that finish line and hear ‘Dawn Tuffery aus Neuseeland!’ one more time.

The smile’s there, but what are my legs and arms doing?
© Dinko Bažulić / Croatian ultra running team (Ultramaraton.hr)

Mel came in soon after, and we lay on the grass, with a collective mixture of bliss, nausea and cramp. I was pleased that I managed a PB – by a meagre 20 seconds, but still a PB. (These things are satisfying when you’re about to be 40.) Somehow everything held together, despite the niggles and fears, and I felt I’d managed the best result I could muster. There could still be more potential in there too, though the me below probably vowed ‘never again’.

My stomach had held out, just, but finally rebelled. It might be too much information, but I was intrigued to see that the Maurten gels came out looking like a glittering pile of crystal rain, the water storage stuff that you put in plant pots. This does imply it wasn’t doing much on the latter laps.

Fiona came in for a PB also, and we revelled in the relief and joy of finishing. When all was done, I’d come 6th in my World Masters Games age group, 53rd woman in the IAU World Championships (solid halfway) and our NZ team was 13th. Here’s my Strava stats and here are the results.

It was a mission at times, but I’m definitely grateful to have had the opportunity. It was a privilege to be part of the NZ team, and spend some time with a couple of lovely wahine toa.

We did it! Can confirm Mel was wearing pants despite rumours to the contrary.
(Photo by Steve Aitken).

Huge thanks to those who’ve supported this undertaking. Marcus at Connect Osteo, Trek’n’Travel, Hamilton City Hawks, and Mary Rogerson, Uncle Russ, and Charlie Evans for offering spontaneous donations. Heather and Carl made the biggest contribution and kept the home fires burning. Martin Lukes offered some great encouragement and advice. Steve was a fantastic and indispensable crew person. Cheers to Athletics New Zealand for deciding to send a team too. It’s a special experience to be part of. Thanks to that customs chap for eventually letting me into Germany too.

Lovely to see Katrin again.
With a few of the winning US team.

I’d encourage others to consider this event, especially keen marathoners or ultra trail runners. It’s a race that rewards patience and consistency, and it would be great to see NZ teams become a more regular fixture at the World Champs.

Besides, you too could attain this level of adulation from your family.

Race report: Kauri 70k

Seems that the longer the run, the longer you can go on about it. Get some snacks and settle in.

The Kauri 70k last year was my first ultra back post-baby, and was fun for that reason alone, not to mention all the lovely people I met. This time round I wanted a bit of speed. Training this time had at least happened on occasion – two months of good Sunday efforts from 2 – 3.5 hours duration, a couple of good Te Arohas, occasional runs to work and the good old buggy runs.

Support team organising the nutrition

I had a vague feeling I was fitter, but no proof. Waihi Xterra marathon could have been an indication, but turned into a (fun) mudbath. Optimistically, I aimed to beat last year’s Kauri time of 9.09 and ideally knock half an hour off. My favourite fast women seem to be occupied elsewhere this year (the 32k, Kepler tapering, other events) but you never know if there’s a dark horse among the entrants. Either way, the main goal for me would be a solid time…and a fun time.

My taper ended up being decidedly generous, starting almost 5 weeks out in terms of long runs, and my final carb-loading efforts more so. I love eating, and pancakes with lemon and sugar seemed a good way to start a Friday. Since reading Eat and Run (very good book) I’ve become quite addicted to Scott Jurek’s chocolate adzuki bean cake, so I whipped up some of that too.

The drive to Coromandel is no fun for a carsickness sufferer. Add in another hour or so of winding gravel up to Fletcher Bay, and I was stubbornly gritting

Pretty but winding

my teeth – you’re not going anywhere, precious carbs! Finally we made it, and put up the tent (thanks to Fiona for that). Time for a swim! Alba had a big freak out at the sea, and a further freak out at me being immersed in it. Poor child. I refrained from mentioning the imminent abandonment.

Sleep was intermittent and minimal, thanks to a starfish bed hog (toddler) and general excitement (me). At least being awake at 4am was a good chance for some more adzuki bean cake. I snuck out without waking Alba and geared up around 5am. Nervy runners swarmed the toilets and adjusted packs in the gloom as the energy mounted.

Tent + toddler

5.30 and GO! We trotted gently up the hill to start and had some stunning views over the sea of Great Barrier in the sunrise. I could see the silhouette of Kerry and his buddy bobbing along up ahead. (In these shots in the Sportzhub roundup it looks like a halo. Teehee.) The first 12k is great gentle running along the coast path. I had a varied stash of gels and whatnot to keep life interesting, from Boosta slabs to Hammer to Gus. Stony Bay prompted a stop – no more Leppin, maybe?

I felt good overall though (too good?) and stretched out over the gravel road hills for an hour or so (too fast?). Every now and then I wondered if I was lost, but Ryan-who-I-just-met stayed reassuringly behind for a while. He had an amazing support team that put up signs and spraypainted the road.

Inane ways to amuse oneself #45: ‘Gel Idol’

More kms, more meandering, another bay appeared and the rain started. Children in pajamas waved out of caravan windows. We headed into the farm tracks, which requires some loin-girding. I’m not used to being a leading woman and it’s kind of novel – people look surprised and cheer slightly more than when you’re 2nd or 3rd. The video team get me to hold the camera on a pole and talk while I trudge up an epic hill in the farm tracks – a challenge to the coordination.

Inane ways to amuse oneself #21: Butchering dubious nursery rhymes your child likes (because you’re too sleepy to count correctly)

My memories of the first 38k from last year are happy wistful ones of girly gossip up hills with Kate and Natalie, and enjoying going running again. Somehow I managed to completely blank out a huge chunk of glute-clenching elevation, so this was a slight shock to encounter. Ok, a big shock. It’s lonely and wet and the digging deep ensues. Who put all these hills there? Then we have to run down again. Sheesh. It’s pretty cool descent though, exciting and not too slippery. Farmland and cow pats bode well for hitting the halfway mark soon.

Inane ways to amuse oneself #74: Singing complete with lame jokes

My Spyridon FiveFingers are going great guns, despite much freshly graded gravel and a good range of terrain. I was warned that I’d probably want to change to thicker ‘normal’ shoes at half way and accordingly spent half an hour searching the house for a matching pair that had laces. It’s been months since I’ve used anything other than fives, but better safe than sorry? Luckily my feet were all good and the old shoes stayed in the drop bag.

LTH made me smile afterwards – watching at halfway, she was inspired by the way you can easily undo the front clips of the UltrAspire pack as opposed to wriggling awkwardly into it. (It’s a fun image though. I should draw it.) And yay for Jenni! (bottom left, getting water ready).

The flat road to Waikawau offered a chance to unwind, stretch out in a comfortable rhythm and bust out some more adzuki bean slice. The buses came past for the 32k starters and I got some bemused looks out the window. Coming into Waikawau was a huge boost, as a who’s who of awesome cheered me on – Carl, Alba, Jenni, LTH, Duncan, Brian, Ruby, Kristian. Jenni had honed her champion support skills helping Kerry and the water refill went without a hitch. I left thoroughly buoyed, with a huge grin. This was lucky, as the high tide meant the 2k soft sand was pretty draining and I seemed to weigh 200kg. The river crossing offered a nice cool down though, and having clear paths into the forest this year was luxurious. Starting the ultra a bit earlier was a good call by organisers I reckon.

All seemed to be going smoothly until the climbing to the lookout really kicked in and my legs felt unusually wimpy. Oh no, I went out too hard, went through my head. In retrospect I think the sand just sapped a bit of impetus. It sort of came back, or at least I kept moving forwards. I met Grant-from-Thames around here and we took on the next few kms of hurricane-hit ridge, running and yarning over the next 10k or so. The hills up here go UPsy DOWNsy repeatedly, rollercoaster styles so it’s a pretty stop-start endeavour.

Soft sand – one of the trickier parts.

I’ve always been curious whether elites run all of the steep climbs in Kauri or walk like normal people. In a lucky piece of timing, Vajin Armstrong came past leading the 32k at exactly the steepest point on the course while Grant and I were trudging up in companionable but focused silence. So was he running? Was he ever. It was almost a mountain goat skip, light and easy, with plenty of breath to mention how glad he was that these rock faces weren’t downhills. Truly inspiring to behold. As was Ruby, who swept past a little later, virtually floating – and singing – as she headed off to claim second place overall. All class.

In Eat and Run, Jurek mentions that when you run the same event often enough, you identify where ‘your’ race really begins. After 4 times at Kauri (2 x 32k, 2 x 70k), I can pretty much pinpoint it – around 14k or so from home, when you crest the last grovelling rocky hill. I’m not sure why – every person is running the same terrain after all – but it’s just a lovely stretch of trail, and somehow brings in my second wind (or third, fourth, fifth) and an uncanny sense of wellbeing.This year I inadvertently ditched Grant there and soon caught James who was in the final painful throes of his first ultra. We ran together for a while and chatted but eventually my perky cheerfulness gave him an urgent need to vomit and he stopped (well, it was either caused by that or the preceding 58kms). I roll on, glorying in how awesome it is to be running here. Did I mention it’s a lovely piece of trail? The ‘ks to go’ hits single figures. It’s always great to make the final aid station and head up to the tower (any qualms I may have had about walking disappeared around the 30k mark.)

Last year the technical stretch to the trig did my head in a bit. I’d run it twice before, but the faster context of the 32k meant it was over quickly, and offered a good nippy chance to make up ground on more cautious competitors. This time I was very much the cautious competitor and was mentally prepared to take my time. A few more 32k-ers came past but not loads. I got to the trig safely and blew it a kiss.


The aptly named downhill Success track is the most fun part of Kauri, but the caution remained given I was already heading for a decent time and result. I caught up to Jason Good who I’d run with briefly at the start of the 70k way back in that dim morning. His ‘Oh, hello..’, while friendly, contained a slight suggestion that he wasn’t overly keen to be ‘chicked’ for third place, and he found another gear for the next 4km. I was wavering and not up for the challenge so just kept rolling on down. The road arrived – 2k to go! Coromandel Town always seems bigger at the end of the race, but finally that beautiful gate loomed. Round the field and home! Finishing ultras rocks. 8.21, 23 minutes inside the course record, 4th overall and 49 minutes faster than last year.

It was great to see Carl and Alba, who had been eating strawberries with Ruby. Lesley had a great run

Team BI (sans super Ruby)

for second in the 32. Kerry was relaxed in a sleeping bag having been home for 90 minutes. At prizegiving we got trees and the famous kauri bowls. I’ve been ogling them for more than four years, so it’s satisfying to have my own after a solid effort. Kerry gave a very good speech about his buddy and the child abuse stats it represented. Brian Smith became the oldest finisher of the 32k at 80!

On the way home, my stomach had less success retaining rehydration than the carb-loading, but by then I didn’t care. The run was over and it was excellent.

My times extrapolated: 4:15 for the first 38k, 3 minutes or so refilling at Waikawau, and 4.03 for the 32k.

Recovery has gone surprisingly well. No major muscle soreness to speak of, just a general tiredness, and my feet are fine (toenails all accounted for). Many thanks to the organisers, my whanau, fanatastic friends, and Barefoot Inc for the gear and support (do go and enter their Tarawera competition, which I was one of the lucky recipients of last year). Read Kerry’s race report too, and Ruby’s.

What’s next? Tarawera, I guess, but I’m open to suggestion in the meantime..