Grant Guise from New Zealand is our Guest Blogger this month – here’s his report.

The inaugural Motatapu event was held in 2005, with marathon and mountain bike options, and attracted around 1000 competitors. Fast forward 10 years and the event has over 3700 people taking part in over 5 different events – the original marathon and mountain bike, an Xterra Tri race, the 15km “Miners” trail running race and the “Adventure Run”.

New Zealand Landscape for Ultra Running Race

New Zealand Landscape is Unreal! Photo Chredit: Jim Pollard

The Adventure Run tackles the true high country, traversing steep country, rough animal tracks and often no track at all, for 49km with over 3100m of ascent.  If the terrain was not unique enough, it’s also a team race, where you must race with your teammate for the duration, side by side.

New Zealand Running Trails

Motatapu Trail. Photo Credit: Jim Pollard

As the Adventure Run only takes place every 2nd year I was keen to make the most of the entry I had, so I first turned to Jono Wyatt(!), then  to my good friend Matt Bixley, who had run the race twice before. With his past course experience and love of “running” on hard, technical trials, I knew he would be the perfect team mate.

A 6am race start saw 4 teams, “Sheep and Shit, “Glen & Mal”, “Fernhill Home Brew” and Matt and I, as “Team Ultimate Direction” loosely fall into single file and weave out way via headlamp through the beech forest towards Fernburn Hut and Jack Hall Saddle, the days high point. Another 28 teams followed behind on the first of 4 climbs.

Our goal from the outset was to take it as easy as possible for as long as possible. Arriving at Fernburn Hut we suddenly found our selves in the lead as the others stopped to re-fill water bottles. Matt tends to excite easily, so I made sure to remind him of the game plan (and more to the point remind myself of it!). Matt being as cunning as he is short, seized this chance to slow the race down to his pace and we settled in, chatting away to the other teams around us.

4 teams arrived at Jack Hall Pass together, but by the first check point at Highland Hut less than 5km later it was down to 3. Sheep had made a big move to put some ground on the rest of us, but he forgot 2 things – his team mate Mike (aka Shit) and to stay on the course.  Poor Shit chased him down yelling but the two lads were of the back and not seen again till Arrowtown.

After 3hrs we had travelled less than 18km, so steep and rough is the terrain. Walking here is the only option and we again did it in a controlled manner. Surprisingly here we started to put a little more room between ourselves and the 2 chasing teams.

Ultra Running in New Zealand

2013 Winning Women’s Team, Yvone and Megs Photo: Jim Pollard

Phill Wood and Ross Rotherham of “Fernhill Home Brew” had clocked 7hr06 here 2 years earlier and had been following sub 7hr splits – we were very mindful of these 2 behind us. While Glenn Kelly and Malcolm McLeod have both been in fine form this summer.  Arriving at Rose Hut and the base of the last climb we knew all the cards would be laid out. The climb to Roses Saddle was the make or break point in this race. On the other side, once the Arrow River and Macetown is reached, 15km of relatively fast road running awaits. From what I could gather you had 2 options- arrive at Macetown with a big enough buffer to see you to the finish; or arrive in good enough shape you can take advantage of the gravel road tha weaves its way in and out of the Arrow River, running other teams down.

Our plan was to do both!

I was feeling strong and wanted the weeman to be in top shape at the top, so I happily shouldered his pack as we walked away from the 2 teams that had been giving chase. We topped out on Roses with what we guessed was a 4-5min lead and maintained this on the steep descent to the Arrow River. The cold water made my feet feel like concrete, as I looked up to see Matt dancing down the rugged river bed- he was now in his element and for the first time I was struggling to match his pace!

Team Ultimate Direction- 4th climb at Adventure Run

The 4th Big Climb

We reached the Macetown aid station, which thankfully had some coke which we chugged in preparation for the fast and furiosus push to the finish.  From here is 15km, more or less down hill to the finish and we felt confident we had the wheels to get us there in 1st. But you never know what or who is how far behind you, so we ran scared. At least running scared equalled running fast for us, we started to crank out the kilometers. Again I shouldered Matts pack and this proved critical as it allowed us to go that much faster. Dropping 4:30 min/km’s, we hit Soho Creek with 6km to go and Matt declared he now had “white line fever”, meaning adrenaline would see him through to the finish, but I passed him a gel all the same, just to make sure.

Ultra Adventure Race in New Zealand

Finish Line Grins

After almost 7 hours of running in the Southern Lakes Highcountry, most of it with just Matt by my side, we run on to Butlers Green in Arrowtown and what must have been close to 1000 competitors and supporters.

We stopped the clock at 6hr 49, almost 40mins faster than Matts previous best on the course and under Phil and Ross’s men’s course record- but still 9mins off the very impressive over-all course record set in 2012 by mixed team Baz Smith and Jess Simpson.

We were both stoked- our goal was to win and run a respectable time, while using the race as a training run for the 75km Buffalo Stampede in Australia in early April.

Coming in for 2nd was Phil and Ross, running under their previous best, followed by Malcolm and Glenn.

Check out this race for next year –> Motatapu website