Rotorua runner Michael Voss has proven he can excel at many distances. On Saturday he took on his biggest challenge yet, the Tarawera Ultramarathon 50km.
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Michael Voss is far from a trail running veteran but you wouldn't know it.
On Saturday, the 23-year-old Rotorua runner took to the Tarawera Ultramarathon 50km race like an old pro, leading comfortably throughout to take the win in 3h 41m 27s ahead of Australia's Ben Duffus (3h 46m 44s).
Voss is making quite a name for himself across multiple formats, having finished third at the 2019 Rotorua Marathon and winning the 32km Tussock Traverse a fortnight ago. He admits the trails might be where his future lies.
"I love going out on the trails, it is where I do all my training and it makes the time go a lot quicker and is more scenic, I have some unfinished business on the road but I am definitely getting into more of this now.
"The best part of the day was the supporters, the aid stations and all the friends and family out there that kept me going on the day. You go through some rough patches and wonder why you are doing it but hearing them boosts your morale."
Voss suggested he had timed his effort to perfection, with not much left in the tank at the finish line.
"I felt the hammies going on the Sulphur flats there, there were a few little stumbles so yeah, I didn't have much more in me.
"Unlike the marathon, you sort of don't worry about pace, you go on feel - you get to an uphill and take it easy, come to a downhill and get rolling. I lost the leaders through the first aid station and from there I didn't really know where they were so I was sort of running scared for 35km.
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"I wasn't meant to go until Blue Lake but I had that gap so I just kept my rhythm and it worked out in the end."
His coach Kim Stevenson gave some insight into one of Voss' advantages on the trails.
"He's a top mountain biker and in that forest, if you have mountain biking skills you run the lines differently. He uses those skills, he would've killed them on some of the tracks because he knows how to run the lines. He's been in the top 20 in the Whaka100 bike race so he knows what he's doing out there.
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"He was awesome today. He's a classy track and road runner, he's placed at nationals and he's a 2h 20m marathon runner and he's not even really started. He's a very, very consistent trainer - I've had him for five years now."
Voss will have another crack at the Rotorua Marathon in May and said his trail running experiences would help.
"Definitely, I've had some over distance runs so when you get to the marathon you can push a bit harder. It's not as far but still a few months to freshen up for it."
Women's 50km winner Caitlin Fielder is these days splitting her time between Europe and Nelson but is proudly Rotorua-born and loved the hometown support.
"It was amazing actually, I was born in Rotorua and haven't been back in about seven years so it was like trotting down memory lane around Blue Lake but back then I wouldn't have run that far so it was like coming back with a whole new mission. My mum dad and sister and friends were along the track so that was cool, I loved it."
Fielder is relatively new to top-level running but hinted this won't be the last we see of her at the Tarawera Ultra.
"I started running properly two or three years ago and I now live in Andorra which is between Spain and France and is pretty mountainous. I train every day and get into it more, but I just enjoy the running every day without any pressure.
"I would love to come back every year and make it a regular trip back home for sure."
Fielder won by just over 27 minutes from Debbie Donald (NZL) with Ella Higgins (AUS) just over a minute behind in third.
Tarawera Ultramarathon 50km Results
1st Michael Voss, NZL, 3h 41m 27s
2nd Ben Duffus, AUS, 3h 46m 44s
3rd Vajin Armstrong, NZL, 3h 54m 5s
1st Caitlin Fielder, NZL, 4h 11m 58s
2nd Debbie Donald, NZL, 4h 39m 9s
3rd Ella Higgins, AUS, 4h 40m 28s