Tarawera Ultra 2023 – What I’ve Changed to Become a Faster Ultrarunner

Happy New Year! (bit late or still ok?)

2023 is shaping up to be a big one for me and my business. I’ve got a lot of content lined up for the year, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

To kick things off, I’d like LOVE to invite you to join me for my LIVE workshop on March 2nd.

I’ll be delivering my ABCS to Running PBs framework, which you can use to optimise your training, eliminate the junk and SMASH your next race. There is no BS, just proven, evidence-back, actionable steps you can immediately use to enhance your run training.

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Tarawera Ultra 102km 2023 – Can I Top 10?

Can I do it? Last year, Tarawera was cancelled due to covid, which was lucky for me because I trained so hard that I got a sacral stress fracture a couple of weeks before the scheduled race date 😥.

In 2021, I raced totally underprepared and pushed myself so far beyond my physical capabilities that I collapsed at 95km (yes 95!). I was carried out of the forest on a stretcher. I legitimately thought I was going to die 😬.

In 2020, I smashed my race eight weeks after becoming a Dad and finished 14th overall in one of the most competitive fields ever seen.

This year, I have taken all I’ve learnt from the previous three years and applied it to what has been an absolutely quality build-up (touch wood 👉🪵).

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What I’ve learnt and what I’ve changed.

  1. Last long run earlier
  2. Chill on the speedwork
  3. Only two LONG runs within two weeks
  4. Heart rate over pace and power
  5. Visualisation
  6. Easy runs SLOW

Last long run earlier

In previous ultra build-ups, I’ve run my last big run (5-6hrs) three weeks out from the race. During the last couple of ultras, I’ve felt like I’ve carried a little too much fatigue into the race. This year, I’ve run my last long run (65km) four weeks out from the race to see if I can arrive on the startline a little fresher than years past.

Chill on the speedwork

As I mentioned above, I got a stress fracture last year. Last year, I was trying to run at the 3000m national champs a couple of weeks before Tarawera. I had done a similar build-up before the 2021 race. I added the 3000m goal as a fun project to keep my running fast during long ultra training. BUT, what started as a fun project became an almost primary training focus. I then tried to peak for a 3000m and a 102km trail race. Just one focus for me this year!

Only two LONG runs within two weeks

Whenever I’ve linked up more than two 4 hr+ runs within three weeks, I’ve ended up cooked. After two weeks, I feel fine and appear to have the energy to punch through another big week of training. However, the following week I end up flat as a pancake, which leaves me dropping workouts or ignorantly pushing through my training and turning up to the start line tired. Not this year!

Heart rate over pace and power

What metrics you should use to monitor your training intensity is a complicated topic. For me, I’ve chosen to focus on heart rate during my long runs to avoid getting caught up in how fast (or slow) I’m running. I worry less about what pace I NEED to run to achieve X time or place. That leads into the next point, visualisation.


I’ve worked on mentally placing myself in the race during my long runs. By doing so, I can address all the positive and negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions that come with racing an ultra. For me, stressing about the outcome and feeling like I NEED to be running X to achieve Y creates a toxic mindset that has led to sub-par performances.

Easy Runs SLOW

Taking a massive chill pill on my non-specific training days was something I implemented for all of 2022, and it’s been incredible. I’ve achieved greater quality and consistency in my training. Previously, I had always pushed myself to run within Zone 2. I found this effective when running low mileage, but as soon as I hit 120 – 140 km/wk, zone 2 was too much.

You’re Invited to My ABCS to Running PBs Masterclass – LIVE

Optimise your training, eliminate the junk and SMASH your next race. There is no BS, just proven, evidence-back, actionable steps you can immediately use to enhance your run training.

Until next time. Wish me luck!
Dr Will



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