Report by Daniel Philpott
This is the second year I have crewed for someone at Tarawera Ultra after supporting Chris Townley all night and some of the day on his Tarawera Triple attempt last year. I had offered to crew Cecilia and had the privilege of following the sharp end of the field around the trails for the day.
The reorientation of the start line was great. There was a lot more room for spectators and you got a really good view of everyone racing down the start chute. Onwards to the water tanks to see a flying Jim Walmsley, followed closely by the other runners. Cecilia was running comfortably in 5th as she flung her headlamp at me.
A little further down the road well into the morning and by the time the runners arrived at blue lake Cecilia was in 4th position running fast and looking comfortable. At the blue lake aid station I gave her replacement water bottles and had her previously beloved ‘power balls’ thrust at me to the comment of “I can’t eat these they are disgusting”. I guess it’s a good thing we packed a lot of GU gels…
With no crew access to Millar road aid station I had enough time to get a takeaway coffee in Rotorua before moving on to the Okataina Boat ramp. Here I nervously waited chatting with a few other people crewing for other runners and the leaders made their way through until Cecilia suddenly arrived in 3rd place and within striking distance of 2nd!! Some confusion as to what we were doing and a quick pack swap and she was off to the falls.
It is a fair drive around the road to get there so it was a hurried affair to pick up a pacer number and get gels and bottles ready for her. Jim came flying through now well ahead of the lead pack and I would not see him again over the last 40km as he was able to run it faster than I could drive to the aid stations!! Crazy!! The lead woman came through followed by second around 8 mins later and Cecilia 12 mins after that.
Cecilia was in a solid position to challenge for 2nd and with Kevin pacing her closed the gap to 6 minutes at Titoki aid station. I took over pacing duties at Fisherman’s Bridge for the final 10k. Cecilia was now right on 2nd places heels and ran her guts out trying to make ground.
Unfortunately 10k wasn’t quite far enough to get ahead, we had made some progress but with 5k to go 2nd place put on her afterburners and despite running sub 5 minute kms for most of the last 10kms Cecilia would finish less than 2 minutes behind her and only 20 mins behind first place who broke the women’s course record.
It was amazing to see how much Cecilia could push herself against Olympic quality competition but I think we still haven’t seen the full potential of Cecilia’s ability as an ultra runner.