Who is this Jo? Where does she come from? 2014 Tarawera Ultra organiser and others
Story by Roger Childs, top and bottom photos by Ian Linning
35 year old Jo Johansen works at Stirling Sports in Coastlands. However, when she not in the shop much of her time is spent on the roads, tracks and hills of the Kapiti Coast. In the first four months of 2014 she became a world class ultra-distance athlete.
She won three of New Zealand’s toughest off-road long distance events including the Tarawera Ultra, where she beat an international field. So the big plan for May was to take on Australia and the world’s best in the 100km North Face event in the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately, she didn’t even make it to the first checkpoint. Now she’s on the comeback.
The rise of a remarkable athlete
Jo has had a meteoric rise as a competitive runner. In March 2013 she joined the Kapiti Running and Tri Club and steadily improved her performances. In July 2013 she was placed 6th in the Wellington Cross Country Championships, but by October she was winning races.
From October 2013 to March this year she won
~ The Koputaroa Half Marathon outright
~ The Korokoro Half Marathon outright
~ The Hutt Valley River Trails 6okm women’s section
~ The Tarawera Ultra 67km women’s section (Photo alongside.)
~ The Hillary Ultra 80km women’s section.
The big breakthrough was in the Tarawera Ultra which is part of the world circuit of long distance events. She came in from under the radar and the common reaction to her 9 minute win over a world class field was Who is this Jo? Where does she come from? (See http://kapitiindependentnews.net.nz/johannsen-beats-world-class-field/)
Two weeks later in the first running of the Hillary Ultra on Auckland’s west coast she was first woman by over 72 minutes! (See http://kapitiindependentnews.net.nz/jo-johansen-wins-the-hillary-ultra/ )
Disaster on the North Face
Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle tissue that leads to the release of muscle fiber contents into the blood. These substances are harmful to the kidney and often cause kidney damage. US National Library of Medicine
Jo headed for New South Wales confident she could do well in the strongest field she had faced so far. The North Face 100 is probably the toughest ultra running event in Australasia. It starts and finishes at Katoomba on the eastern edge of the Blue Mountains and the roller–coaster course has over 3000m of climb.
Friends and supporters went online to follow Jo’s progress in the race, which was expected to take her about 11 hours. They were mystified when her name didn’t feature in the first checkpoint (10.5km) times. Perhaps she had lost her transponder? But she hadn’t even got to the first check point.
It was a serious case of rhabdomyolysis = muscle breakdown. Jo was very sick in Katoomba Hospital instead of climbing up and down the eastern slopes of the Blue Mountains.
By her own admission she had been
- pushing her body too hard
- not taking rest days
- not heeding the advice of running friends
- not being careful about nutrition and keeping up her fuel and liquid intake.
The comeback trail
Jo Johansen is now back out on the tracks and hills, a little older and a lot wiser. What is she doing that‘s different from before North Face?
~ cutting back my training distances
~ learning to relax
~ assessing the pain
~ listening to my body.
Jo feels she’s is in good shape to run the 61,2km Waihi Ultra in the Karangahake Gorge on Saturday: October 11.
From there, the plan is to run the South Island’s most famous off-road event in December, the 60km Kepler Challenge, known as the jewel in NZ’s mountain running calendar.
Then, all being wel,l in the first half of 2015
~ The Hutt River Trails
~ The Tararua Crossing
~ The Tarawera Ultra
~ The North Face 100
And possibly throw in a new one!
The Buffalo Stampede Ultra SkyMarathon course takes runners on a tough 75.4km challenge taking in the unique scenery of the amazing Mt Buffalo in Victoria’s Alpine country. Event website
It’s a bold programme, but first things first: Waihi.
(KIN will keep readers posted on Jo’s progress.)