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.