From 10km speedster to marathon pace-setter, Rotorua runner Michael Voss is always adding new strings to his bow. This weekend he faces his biggest challenge yet.
Michael Voss has proven he can succeed in 10km, half marathon and marathon races but recently has turned his attention to off-road running.
Once again, he has found success.
Last weekend, he took on the 32km Tussock Traverse at Tongariro National Park, comfortably finishing first in 2h 30m 17s, ahead of Fabe Downs (2h 34m 4s) and Albin Ridefelt (2h 35m 31s).
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"I really enjoyed it," Voss said.
"It's a different form of running compared to the road running I've been doing - you sort of don't worry about pace, you go on how you feel. Sometimes you're hopping over the rocks so it gets real slow and then on the flat bits you sort of just let go."
He said he found trail running more interesting than pounding the pavement.
"The scenery was cool and the terrain ... it's something different. I just went off the front at the start and nobody really followed. I got over the first hill and had about a minute lead then didn't see anyone else for the rest of the race.
"I just ran my own race, got enough fluid in throughout - it was quite warm and dry. The nutrition and hydration is probably just as important as the training when it comes to race day."
BOP pair do battle in 10km championship
Voss growing in confidence and ability
Voss is back in action again this weekend, after enjoying the Tussock Traverse so much he decided to leap into the deep end and take on the Tarawera Ultramarathon 50km race. Having moved into Rotorua from Reporoa, he now has plenty of forest in which to run for training.
"I finished the Tussock and talked to my coach and I'm keen to give it a good crack. I want to get more into the trail-running races.
"I'm basically in the forest every afternoon and in the weekends, so I'm real familiar with the course. Hopefully that helps me on race day, knowing what's coming and where the big hills are."
He said making the jump from 32km to 50km would require some sensible running.
"I'll just take it a bit more cautiously, not go out too hard. I'll gauge where I'm at in the first few kilometres and try to get through the first half as comfortably as possible. After that I'll start looking at the race and see who's around - take it as it comes.
"I think the main thing will be hydration, especially with this hot weather, if you don't get that right it's basically race over."
Meanwhile, both the men's and women's 100-mile and 102km races will be stacked with elite international athletes as well as local stars hoping to mix it with the best in the world.
Leading the way in the men's 102km race, which is a round of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, are a host of international contenders, featuring current 100-mile world record holder Zach Bitter (USA), multiple winner of international races in recent times Patrick Reagan (USA), 2013 & 2014 Tarawera 100km champion Sage Canaday (USA) and 2019 LA Ultra 555km winner (held in the Himalayas of Northern India) Tom Evans (GBR).
In the 100-Miler, Zac Marion (USA) should lead the way as he looks to put the disappointment of last year behind him, when he was forced to withdraw part way through the event with injury.
Kiwi Carl Read, who cut his teeth in long-distance triathlon before turning to the increasingly popular trail running scene, could make a race of it, while Brendan Davies (AUS), Adam Kimble (USA) and Vlad Shatrov (AUS) all have the potential to challenge for the podium.
The women's 102km race is shaping as one of the great races in the 12-year history of the Tarawera, with any number of leading candidates from the world of trail running including a few locals vying for spots on the podium.
Leading the way is 48-year-old Italian Francesca Canepa, who has picked up 16 race wins in her eight years of racing.
Among the many challengers include Nicole Bitter (USA), who placed 7th at the Western States last year; New Zealander Fiona Hayvice, whose 5th place finish on debut over the distance at the Western States 100-Miler in 2017 put everyone on notice; and Lucy Bartholomew (Australia), an ultra-running phenomenon, winning eight races in 2017 alone. In the 100-Miler, American Cat Bradley is the leading favourite.
Race director Tim Day says the quality of eliter men's and women's races reflect the growth of the event as well as its international reputation.
Tarawera Ultra, Saturday, February 8:
100-Miler: Sets off from Te Puia at 4am.
102km: From Firmin Field Kawerau at 7am.
50km: From Te Puia at 7am.
21km: Starting at 10am at Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake).
All events finish line on the Lakefront Reserve, Rotorua.