I chose Challenge Wanaka to be my first Professional race, It was going to be a tough ask to be super competitive with the experienced international field that turned up, Out of 12 Professional males, there were 2 past winners of this event and 8 other winners of Ironman races! It was going to be a challenging day in the office.
The Weather in Wanaka can decide how hard the day is going to be, from what I have heard – last year the wind and road conditions made this one of the toughest bike courses around and this year was to be no different. The 2-loop run course is 80% off-road trails which makes it a solid marathon on tired legs, Also, if the snow-capped mountains in mid-January were anything to go by , there was a good chance it was going to be a cold start!
Swim – 57mins 46sec
As I awoke on race morning, the sky was clear, and it was nice and crisp.. in other words it was Cold! The lake was 16 degrees and air temp was up to around 12 as we exited the swim, I was happy with my swim in the choppy conditions, sitting comfortably in the 3rd chase group. Coming out of the water in around 14th place and making the most out of the long transition to pass around 5 people as we ran up over the foot bridge from the lakeside to T1.
Bike – 5hrs 16mins
Arms warmers were on for the start of the bike – a fast out and back section that was still in the morning shade. As I made my way back through Wanaka town, the sun was rising and so was the wind speed. This made the trip down to Cromwell slightly easier but I knew the return leg was where it was going to get tough! I was passed early by a couple of fast cyclists and managed to pace of them for the first few hours as we picked off a few of the quicker swimmers. My pace makers were starting to ride away as we turned back for Wanaka, still having 80kms of headwind to contend with! I rode 75kms of the last section solo, my legs had nothing left and had to keep focused for the final hour of the ride , 2 competitors came flying past 5kms before T2. I was a bit worried at how my legs would feel as I about to start an off-road marathon!
Run – 3hrs 5mins
I was pleasantly surprised as I found my running legs rather quickly, I picked off a couple of runners in the first 5 kms and set my sights further up as I was feeling strong, The up and down track had a terrible headwind for the section and 2 short and sharp climbs late in each loop. The hot afternoon temperature was getting to a few of the top runners as I heard that some were fading and a couple had pulled the pin. I came through the 21km mark in 1:28 and was in 9th position overall. I had a few bad patches in the 2nd lap but managed to keep the nutrition in check and finish strong over the last few kms within 1 min of 8th place. Ended up with the 4th quickest run split and was the fastest of the Kiwis!
I’m stoked with my first Professional event and am still improving and learning heaps from every race I do. Thanks to the awesome organisation team down in Wanaka and all the local volunteers and supporters, The whole town gets behind this race.
The weekend before Christmas was the Rotorua Half Ironman.. This is one of my favourite races because of the awesome team who organise it, and also the challenging and enjoyable course – The perfect clean lake, rolling bike course and a varied terrain run! I was interested to see how the body would perform after a hard season overseas and competing in the Hawaii Ironman just 6 weeks prior.
The weather on race morning was nice and calm after a very wet and windy night… It stayed this way for the swim, then we realised that this was the calm before the storm! I had a solid swim in the crystal clear waters of the Blue Lake exiting in 3rd position in a time of 26:39.
There wasnt the usual strong winds around but it was probably one of the wettest bike legs Ive ever done. (At one stage the water level was half way up my 90mm front wheel!) The pace wasnt super fast but kept steady throughout and you had to keep the concentration up, I was happy that I rode strong and came into t2 just behind a group of about 8 guys around 5 mins down on race leader Keiran Doe.. Exiting transition with a bike split just over 2hr 30mins.
The run track around the lake was incredibly muddy, this made for a technical first section and I was happy when we made it out onto the road , I ran strong through the out-and-back gravel section, and when I saw how close the front few guys were, I knew I had to keep the pressure on.. I passed 3rd and 2nd place at the 11km mark just after the totem pole turnaround. Keiran was 5min 30sec ahead and I knew I wouldn’t make this time up on him with only 10kms to go! I kept pushing and managed to pull back about another 40secs on the last lap in the mud and finished 4:50 behind 1st place with a run of 1hr 21mins.
Enough to win me a big soft toy Trophy for 2nd place 🙂
Thanks to Shane Hooks for the great race, it was a good turnout and gets busier and busier every year! A nice cheap entry fee with all proceeds going to the Rotorua Hospice! I will definitely be back next year.
I nearly didn’t race this event as I had entered it before qualifying for Hawaii, and it was less than 2 weeks before the Ironman in Kona. My build up had been going well and I thought a good ‘hit out’ just before the World Championships would work well as I had gone well in Ironman France having raced a half Ironman 2 weeks prior.
We were lucky to have a couple of weeks training on the course before race day so got to know the challenging bike course pretty well. The weather has been so dry and hot.. Central France has just had a heat wave for a few weeks and we had some days well over 40 degrees!
The course included a simple 2km lake swim, a very hilly challenging bike course with awesome scenery, passing through 9 small villages (with some interesting cobbled sections) and a fast 3 loop run course through Aix en Provence town centre and local park.
The Pros lead off and age groupers were supposed to start 5 mins behind. A large group of age groupers false started which was unable to be controlled so the rest of the field had no choice but to get swimming! I managed not to be too far back and worked my way into a small pack of swimmers who were in clear water out to the left, I exited the swim with one of my fastest swim splits in 23:56
Once out on the bike it felt like I was losing time all day as the flying French men were super fast up the climbs, I settled in and kept pushing hard through the tough flat sections and screamed past alot on the long technical descents. I came into T2 clocking a 2:35 split for the bike.
The run felt great straight away and I started making up for lost time on the bike, passing alot of athletes who were fading after the tough ride. I wanted to push hard all the way as this was going to be a good test before the big race in 2 weeks, I ended up with the quickest run for the age group and a P.B of 1:14.
I finished in 4:19 which was good enough for 4th in age, but the main thing was that I was feeling good and strong to attack the Hawaii course.
This was one of my favourite races so far.. Challenge really look after the athletes and put on a great event!
Lake Walschee was perfect conditions for race morning and the swim went well after a physical deep water start.
Swim – 27:05
The 2 loop bike course was fairly quick even tho there was over 900m of climbing, it helped that there were alot of strong German cyclists to pace off. The route went through steep farm land and narrow private lanes which stretched the groups out. It was a crystal clear day and the temperature was a bit cold for the start of the bike, needing arm warmers especially on the descents. By T2 the sun was out and the temperature was up close to 30 degrees for the run.
Bike – 2:23
Onto the run, 3 loops around the scenic lake side trail. Lots to look at and a very vocal crowd helps the run fly by and before I knew it I was coming down the big Challenge finish area with the long red carpet