Tauranga runner Sam Clark has surprised himself, smashing the course record at Mount Ruapehu's Ring of Fire Ultramarathon.
The 28-year-old three-time former Coast to Coast winner blazed around the 72km course in eight hours, 30 minutes and 25 seconds, beating the previous record by 16 minutes. Clark said he had no idea he was close to the record.
"Coming in, I was under the impression I was looking at about nine-and-a-half hours," Clark, originally from Whakatāne, says.
"I was more just paying attention to what I was eating and the timing of the individual stages. Ultramarathons will take as long as they are going to take, you go your speed at the what you can maintain the whole way. I would have been happy with nine-and-a-half, to 10 hours.
"At the moment I'm only running three times a week but also swimming three times a week as well as kayaking and biking, so perhaps that the magical combination."
Clark was 47 minutes ahead of the runner-up, Wellington's Andy Palmer. Clark placed second in the Tarawera Ultramarathon 50km race last month and says the Ruapehu event seemed a natural progression.
"I had a pretty decent result at Tarawera and I took what I learned there and applied it to this race. From the outset it looked the course would suit me, being hilly and technical terrain."
Weighing in at 83kg pre-race, Clark says there are some challenges to being a bigger runner.
"I have more to carry around and I eat more. On Saturday I had 35 gels, two bananas, a bottle of Coke and a muesli bar. It is hard and try as a I might I am just not going to get down to say, 70kg. With the amount of races I do, to lose weight it is just not realistic to try and restrict yourself."
Clark is a three time Coast to Coast one-day champion but did not compete in this year's race. He says he has no firm plans for the immediate future.
"There is no shortage of events but not having that three-and-a-half month training block for Coast to Coast at he start of the year had given me a bit more freedom to explore things.
"I am gearing up for a whole bunch of stage races in China in June and there is also a good ultra circuit over there. It is about four or five 100km races.
"The racing in China has become a little more run-saturated and paddling and being a fast mountainbiker counts for less than it used to. It is sensible to have a more run-focused approach. The endurance base I have built up over the past however many years has translated well into this."
A record-breaking near 660 athletes entered Ring of Fire, including more than 100 internationals, competing over a range of distances. There were a number of top placings that were given to Bay of Plenty athletes.
Top Bay of Plenty results:
1st men's 72km: Sam Clark (Tauranga), 8.30.25.
1st Men's Team Relay: Sjors Corporaal (Galatea), Kaya Corporaal (Edgecumbe), Jason Cameron (Rotorua), 7.32.14.
2nd Men's Team Relay: Bevan Jefferies (Tauranga), Dennis de Monchy (Tauranga), Rhys Johnston (Auckland), 8.34.55.
1st Men's 50km: Kunaal Rajpal (Tauranga), 5.38.43.
1st Women's 50km: Nicky Dunn (Mount Maunganui) 7.13.56.