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These two Iconic races are the longest running Ironman events down this end of the world, with each of them having had their 30th anniversaries within the last couple of years – there is a lot of history and that is why they have such a great turnout of competitors and spectators come race day! They both have very passionate communities with locals who embrace the event and show massive support on the day!
The swim courses couldn’t be more different – Taupo with the crisp crystal clear lake and straight forward course, to Port Macquarie’s warm murky salt water zigzagging its way through the yachts and with an interesting mid swim exit climb up over some stairs and a weir – but the bike and run have a lot of similarities – a rough rolling bike course and a multi-lap flat run with a few short hills. This year both of the Professional fields were stacked full of very quick guys and multiple Ironman Champions, as the Asia Pacific Champs at Melbourne had been cancelled – these were the 2 races that were the next closest in the schedule and location wise.
Below is a brief rundown of how both of these races went and the progression in my training and racing over the last season!
I have made great gains in my swim over the last year and was looking forward to positioning myself right in the mix, rather than chasing from the word go! – this showed through with a personal best swim of 48:30 and I was comfortable leading out the chase pack.
You always know you are in good company and setting up a solid race when you are no further than 50m away from the legend himself Cam Brown for the first 4.5hrs of the race! We worked bloody hard in the first 45 kms and managed to bridge right up to the guys at the front of the race who had exited the water a few minutes ahead of us. The ride was another personal best for me – clocking 4hr 32mins. Just shy of a 40km/hr average on those Taupo roads is quick going by any ones standards – Unless your name is Dougal Allen who posted an impressive new bike course record of 4hr 22mins!
Getting off the bike after the big effort for 180kms, I was pleased to still be able to execute a well paced marathon of 3hr 3mins and run my way in to 9th place with a time of 8hrs 28mins.
The recovery after a big race is now getting better and quicker after each one – I think the body is now used to backing up the big training blocks and the Ironman race day isn’t too much of a shock to the system. The week after Ironman New Zealand was spent in Rarotonga for our honeymoon and was such good timing to enjoy some downtime in the sun and nice food!
Ironman Port Macquarie was next on the cards and training ramped right back up to get ready for this one.
I knew the swim pace at the front of this race was going to be furious as the level and depth of top notch swimmers even out did the one’s at Taupo. Once again – after the initial 500m max sprint, I had found myself at the front of the first chase pack and was quite comfortable and happy to lead the way through the inlet and canal swim. Sighting was very important and I stuck to my line and this helped pick up a couple of others who had drifted off the back of the fish up the front. Exiting in 46:50, this was a new PB although was still 2:30 back from the front of the race – showing how important the swim in an Ironman race is.
I had made the decision to ride slightly less aggressive than at Taupo, as the 2nd lap of the bike is where guys really feel the pinch as the wind picks up and the rough roads start to take their toll. I managed to negative split the 2nd lap of the bike by 20seconds although in hindsight I probably should have attacked the first lap a bit harder. Off the bike in 4hr 45mins but this was a bit too far back to make decent inroads to the guys heading on to the run.
Posting one of the quickest marathons of the day – 3rs flat – was enough to bridge up and pass a few guys, but I didn’t execute the run I know I am capable of. I crossed the line in 6th place in a time of 8hrs 36mins
This season has given me a lot more confidence. Each and every race has stepped up and the consistent improvement is still heading in the right direction. Each discipline is even across the board and now I am only a small percentage off the front of some big races and am looking forward to challenging the podium in the upcoming events as I continue to build and lay down the blocks in the long term plan. I am still learning at each and every race and now feel like I can RACE the full 8.5hrs right at threshold, and will keep pushing the boundaries – its exciting to see how far the body, and MIND can go!
A massive thanks must go out to my team of sponsors and supporters! Every one of you make a huge difference and keep me striving to perform week in and week out – and to my athletes that I coach, I am still learning something each race to give back the knowledge and experience that I have absorbed through out the last 22 Ironman races.
Embrace the winter of training – Consistency is key!
P.S – fire me a message if you want to talk about some coaching options – now is the perfect time to get committed for the summer season…. not 2 weeks before it starts 🙂
Leading into this race, everything just seemed to be clicking.. Consistently ticking off all my sessions and a great 2 week trip in Australia for a training camp – the body was feeling great. Not only the body but more importantly also the mind! After my disappointing DNS at Port Mac with food poisoning, I was super determined to kick off this new season with a bang.
Arriving in Penticton after a long travel day, my amazing homestay Kelly picked me up from the airport and helped me to settle in to the awesome little town, showing me the sights and setting me up with a great place to stay. The week before any race is such an important time and having this relaxed atmosphere was really helping me prepare the best I could. It was nice to be able to prepare all my own meals and to do exactly what I needed to be ready come race day! Another Pro athlete Elmar and his partner Jen were also staying with us, they were great to hang out with, had alot of experience racing here and were also super helpful leading into the race.
Arriving 8 days before the race allowed me to get over my jet lag and gave me enough time to have a good look over the course.. The 3.8km swim was in the crystal clear warm waters of Okanagan lake, the iconic one-loop 180km bike took you out through the scenic terrain including the vineyards, lakes and mountain passes before you ran the 42.2km one-loop marathon out and back along Skaha lake finishing straight down Main street packed with supporters.
My coach Allan Pitman had wanted me to have a really easy taper week and go in feeling ‘fresh’! Usually when you back the training right off, the body can start to feel lethargic – although this time was different. I think because my mindset was very positive going into this race I didn’t allow any negative thoughts in and just went with the flow. Allan had wanted me to be confident and focused, all his last email had said was ‘time to lay it on the line’ .
Race morning dawned and the glassy lake looked inviting.. 1hr prior to the starters gun an announcement was made that the Pro’s wouldn’t be allowed to wear wetsuits as the lake was over the 23deg cut-off. Alot of the field were freaking out as a non-wetsuit lake swim makes it alot tougher and exposes some of the weaker swimmers who gain the added buoyancy that a wetsuit provides. I wasn’t phased , but didn’t have a swimskin with me.. (in the 31 previous races here it had always been a wetsuit swim) so decided that I would tape up the rear pockets on my trisuit and that would be fine. 10 mins before the start an age-group lady overhead me talking to Elmar about the swim skin issue and offered me hers. Tried it on and felt great, and rushed down to the start for a quick warm up. The water felt surprisingly cold but that soon changed as the gun went off, and I was hanging onto the front pack of 4 guys, I had a great start and was tucked in behind a couple of ex-itu guys leading the way. At around the 1km mark I slightly lost touch with the group and couldn’t quite close the gap back down – so ended up swimming entirely solo back in to the beach – 2.5mins down on the top 4 but still 3mins ahead of the whole 2nd pack. Was a nice swim but could feel the extra energy used without the assistance of the wetsuit, I came out in 5th place in 56min. Happy with that as the swim was around 200m long, and I was well ahead of some guys who would usually be up with me.
For the first 40kms of the bike my legs just wouldn’t seem to fire, a few guys rode up and went past – I had to let them go and concentrate on my race. The course is fairly flat and fast for the first 65km and I was joined by my home-stay mate Elmar and he was riding well – we pushed on before we got into the first of many hills – Richter Pass. It was here that the group of 4 behind us bridged up , and the 6 of us would stay together until the special needs station at the 120km mark. Myself and another athlete Matt Lawrence had a small 15sec gap at this stage and this was the decisive point in the race.. I could ride with theses guys back to transition or I can ‘lay it on the line’ and aim to break away and limit the time that the top group of 6 were gaining before the run starts. Matt was keen and we paced it out for the next 10km and got out of sight. I was feeling much better and heading up Yellow lake climb Matt was dropping off. I was committed now and kept the power on for the charge back to T2. Such a fun, fast descent topping out at just over 90km/h and getting back to transition on the quest to improve on my 7th place position.
The first section of the run course is a 2km out and back along the lake side, the top 6 guys had already completed that section before I ran out of transition so I knew that I was at least 8mins down off the bike. This was confirmed as i ran by some spectators who said there was a group of 3 guys 9mins ahead and then the others were further up. Time to ‘lay it on the line’ and start chasing. The 18km of road out to the turn around had an awesome scenic view but today also had a nice strong head wind to contend with. It was a quiet empty road out there but I was getting heaps of encouragement from the spectators and a few time splits which were coming down consistently.. This kept the motivation high especially when I got to see the guys ahead and how they were looking – Jeff Symonds ran past looking strong way out in front then the other 5 guys were evenly spread, and each one behind was looking a little worse for wear, the heat and wind was taking its toll. I passed 2 guys at the turn around and moved into 5th place. More time splits came and 4th place was 6 minutes ahead, I was still feeling great and just kept the steady pace on and was easily closing the gap through the hilly section. At this stage I was already happy as a ‘top 5 ‘ finish would be my best result so far, and was content to just be careful and made sure I got to the finish.. That thought lasted for all of 20 seconds and my effort increased as I hunted down the man in 4th place.
The wind had shifted round and some how was a headwind again, in a strange way I was happy as I knew I was running stronger than the guys ahead and they would be hurting more than I was.. I moved up into 4th place at around 30kms and got another time check at 34km – still 4mins up to Andrew Russell – 8 kms and 4mins.. not very likely but still pressed on. The last long uphill section before you get back into town drags on a bit, although catching a glimpse of Andrew up in the distance helped the intense leg pain ease and I once again upped the pace. A podium finish was becoming more of a reality as I edged closer and closer and finally made the pass with under 1.5km to go. I didn’t look back and pushed hard right to the line just as it was ticking over 8hrs 50mins. A personal best and also 2nd quickest marathon of the day with a 2:57:00.
I was blown away by all the support from family and friends back home – during, and after the race. Larisa’s updates were much appreciated as the time difference in NZ wasn’t ideal ! It makes a huge difference and you can really draw on that when you approach tough times throughout the race.
The perfect trip away for me, great weather, awesome race course, got to meet so many cool people, my first podium result over the Iron-distance and received my biggest pay check so far! What a way to kick off the 2014 / 2015 Season. Exciting times ahead!
Orchard Gold Berries, Endura Sports Nutrition, Orca, Saucony, Forge Personal Training, Rocktape, Smith Optics, Timex, Compressport, Schwalbe and Ministry of Swimming
Taupo is such an awesome place to be for Ironman week, the community really gets behind the event and it had an extra special feel this year as Ironman New Zealand was celebrating the 30th anniversary of the race. Because it was such a big year, this attracted the strongest field that Taupo has ever seen including 25 Male pro’s with over 11 past Ironman champions, 2 Olympians and most of NZ’s top Ironman competitors! It was going to be a great race and I was looking forward to testing myself against some top-class athletes.
You couldn’t have asked for better weather come race morning, crisp clear sky’s and a warm calm lake greeted us as the sun rose, cold conditions on the first lap of the bike with a light wind that built over the day making the return bike leg a little more challenging. By the afternoon the sun was out but the nice breeze kept the temperature fairly cool for the run.
The cannon fired and the washing machine started, I had an average start and ended up getting spat out to the far left of the pack, and struggled to get into my groove for the first 400m or so. I regathered myself and got back into a nice rhythm swimming the remainder of the swim just behind the 2nd pack with Brodie Madgewick. Exiting in 51 mins I was quite pleased as it had felt quite slow. Quick run up to T1 , arm warmers on and out onto the bike in 11th.
swim split – 51 mins
The first hour or so on the road was a bit chilly, you really looked forward to the sunny bits in between the trees and could feel the day slowly heating up on the way out to Reporoa. A pack of 8-10 guys had formed as we made the first turn at 45kms, but only a couple of guys would come to the front and do any work! This was how it played out for the first 4hrs.. So after towing the group around for 120km I decided that I was going to push on into the last uphill section and make the others work a bit more coming into T2. This worked well as the group was down to 3 as we arrived back in town. I was happy to sit on the front for most of the day as I could keep to my goal pace and power and arrived in T2 feeling much better than last year having ridden a nice consistent power over the entire 180kms.
bike split – 5:04
photo credit : Speed Theory
Exiting out onto the run with Johan Borg, we ran together for the first 20kms feeling great. We had bridged the gap up to Petr Vabrusek and ran together for the next few kms. He surged and I dropped back first and noticed at the turn that Johan was starting to slow aswell. After I picked up my special needs bag – my energy had picked up a level and my run form started to improve again. I finished strong over the last 10kms, picked off Johan and pushed through into the Top-10 by the finish. The new run course is great, and running back along the lake-shore path is a nice change and keeps it interesting.
run split – 3:03
photo credit : First off the bike.com
Finish Time – 9:05
It was an impressive display put on by Marko Albert to take the win and was great to see Cameron Brown storming home and showing that he is still on top of his game!
I am very pleased with my Top-10 result and was the 4th Kiwi home in this world-class field. It was great to have so much support from family and friends all along the course, I think the spectators were spread out alot more on the run course this year which makes a huge difference, no spots to hide and keeps the motivation strong all day! Awesome volunteers and aid-stations made for a issue-free race.
A huge congrats to Larisa for her 7th place finish on her Professional debut, I bet alot of the girls will have taken notice and will be keeping a closer eye on her now!
My 13th Ironman completed, now time to sit down and plan out the big year ahead – exciting times!
Thanks to my sponsors for their support this season :
Orchard Gold – Tri n Run – Saucony – Endura
Smith Optics – Rock Tape – Ministry of Swimming
The Swim Clinic – PRV – Schwalbe – Timex
With only 2 weekends between my last Ironman race and this one, I was really interested (and a bit scared) to see how my body would handle another Ironman! Being one of the first races of the 2014 season, there was a fairly large field of over 30 males Pros on the start line.
My legs had recovered well, and with a smart training plan between races I was confident of pulling off another solid one. My coach had me on a fairly light work load, with some good interval sessions at race pace just to remind the body that it wasn’t time for the usual ‘post ironman’ wind down time!
The race plan was to go into it with ‘nothing to lose’ and not to follow ‘power’ ‘HR’ or ‘pace’. Racing by ‘feel’ can sometimes bring a better result as you haven’t set any pre-determined limits before the event has even started. (Racing by ‘feel’ can also bring on the most spectacular explosions too! haha)
The swim is one-lap in Lake Monona right out the front of the Monona terrace in down-town Madison, It is an awesome place for spectators and they are lined all the way up the 3-level spiral entrance to the transition-carpark.
The bike starts on a rolling course out to the 2 x 65km hilly loops through the rural Dane County, then back to the lake front and up to the top of the 3 level carpark to T2
The challenging run heads out over various terrain including concrete, tarseal, gravel and dirt paths, and you even get to run a loop inside Camp Randall – Badger stadium on the spongy astroturf – twice!
The transitions here are the most interesting and awesome I have come across, after running up the ‘Helix’ you enter the Terrace building and run along the carpet hallway into a big conference room which is transformed into T1, and same for T2, just run in reverse, you get to ride right up to the door and dump your bike off like Valet parking.
Quick run-down of how my day played out:
Swim: Choppiest and warmest lake I have ever swum in, fairly chaotic start but managed to settle into the 2nd group along the first turn. The long back stretch was really lumpy and the guys I were swimming with were heading all over the show, I just stuck to my line and concentrated on sighting every 10 or so strokes to stay in a straight line, This worked well and I caught a couple of front pack stragglers by the last buoy before shore.
56mins – one of my slower swims but happy in those conditions and only 3 mins from the first out of the water.
Bike: A large group formed quite early on and the pace felt fairly comfortable so I decided to stick with them for the first section and then re-assess. I had a decision made for me by one of the Marshalls tho.. First yellow card I have ever got. This means I had to stop at the next penalty tent, write down my name and some details, sign a form and then go again.. About 45seconds worth but this is an age while you are watching the group ride away through the hills. (my ‘penalty’ was for riding on the wrong side of a cone on a 2-lane corner, a volunteer directed me that way, but there is no use arguing!) Back on the course and I had some new motivation.. Catch that group! I rode hard and powered the up hills and around 15kms later I had clawed my way back on, we were still only 100km into the ride but I was feeling strong and I could tell that the pace of the group had dropped a bit. So it was head-down and battle the headwinds back to T2 solo – a good move as I put around 5mins into the group and never saw any of them again..
4hrs 58mins – Best power output I have ridden on a very honest course.. Hills..Wind..Rough roads.. All good fun
Run : Straight out of T2 (I had the quickest transition of the day) there is an awesome wall of spectators lining the Capitol square screaming and cheering, the first section is mostly downhill and with the incredible support the pace was on! I passed a group of 3 guys early on and was up into 6th place at km 14. I got some time splits at 21km.. 1hr 26mins but still over 7mins seperating me and 5th place. Decision time again! Run steady and controlled and be happy with 6th or have a crack at Top-5.. Easy choice! Hammer down!! I managed to get to within 2mins but that would be as close as I would get. Struggled home over the last 5k, ended up getting passed by 2 guys on the last hill section and took 8th place.
2hrs 59mins – Really happy with my effort and still ran a P.B on a super tough run course on the back of a solid ride!
Should definitely be race to add into your schedule if you like a challenging event on a spectacular course with a great community of supporters!
It was a great day out for me, a big confidence boost knowing that I can back up some big races and that all the hard work is paying off.. A few easy weeks now before a renewed focus and plan is put in place for the NZ summer season!
Thanks again to my sponsors for all their support :
Orchard Gold berries, Endura sports nutrition, Saucony, Tri’n’Run, G2 Personal training, Rocktape, Smith Optics, Timex, Compressport, Schwalbe and Sugoi.
On July 8th Larisa and I flew out of Auckland headed towards the USA for 3 months of training and racing. We are lucky enough to have a base in Madison, Wisconsin staying with Larisa’s cousin Julia who has been kind enough to have us to stay – thanks Julia! We arrived into Madison after 30hours of flying via Rarotonga and Los Angeles. There were a few dramas along the way with delays and baggage not fitting in the car but it’s funny how everything always just works out nicely when you stay calm and trust that things happen for a reason 🙂 Larisa’s cousin picked us up at 1am local time with a rental van (big enough to fit all our bags/bikes!) and drove us to her apartment where we are basing ourselves for the next few months. The apartment is a perfect little setup for us; great kitchen, big fridge and a coffee machine! It’s so close to everything we need, walking distance to the Wholefoods food market and Target, 500m to the local outdoor pool, 10min ride away from wide open rolling country side and 1km away from the lake with endless running trails and dirt tracks! The apartment complex also has its own Bbq area and outdoor pool – great for recovery days!
The first week here was a heat wave in Madison, upwards of 35 degrees and 80%+ humidity most days – a bit of a shock to the system but great for training and mental toughness! It made my 29km birthday run a good challenge! We had a couple of solid weeks training in Madison before our first race at Racine 70.3. There was no tapering for this one – we were both using the race as part of the build-up for our bigger Ironman races later in the season. We were lucky enough to stay with a great home stay family who were an awesome support to us on race week – including a tour of the bike course and some fantastic meals. They also came out to cheer us on during the race and made for a really enjoyable day. Thanks Kruse family! We were happy with how the day went, it is always good to test out a few things and find out where you are at. The race gave us an extra dose of confidence for what is to come and also a few things to focus on in the next block of training.
We are back in Madison after Racine and have been lucky to meet heaps of great people. We have been going along to a Friday morning swim in a private quarry lake with one of the local tri-clubs – it’s a beautiful lake to swim in – so clean and fresh and great to get in some open water swimming training! At one of the swim sessions we were introduced to Will Smith – a kiwi triathlete who has been living here for a few years. We spent last weekend out at his place and joined him and a few other local pros for some awesome riding and trail running. It’s a fantastic place to train in the summer and it looks like a fun place to train in the winter too – they turn the trails into snow-shoeing runs through the forest!
Next up for me is Ironman Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Canada on August 18th. This is my main race for the season over here and it is a good opportunity to earn more points towards a starting spot in the Mens Pro Field at the World Champs in Hawaii. It is the North-American Championship race so has a 4000 point value – that makes it a high scoring points race attracting a solid field of Male Pros. The course looks stunning and suits my strengths – I can’t wait!! It has a nice fresh water lake swim – hilly 2-loop bike course and an awesome run with a large portion of it on off-road trails.. Larisa has already qualified for Hawaii and wont be racing here. She will be using the trip to Canada to make the most of some riding and run training in the mountains! (and to give me extra support – and a hurry-up – on race day!)
The climate and terrain in Madison has been perfect for our training, and having a bit more time for recovery and all the little extra things is really benefiting us. The town is full of like-minded active people with training facilities all over the place, the University of Wisconsin has a large amount of rowing, running and swimming competitors so there are always people out early every morning which is good to see!
A big couple of weeks training is ahead of us now before we fly up to Canada. We have been lucky enough to be partnered with another homestay for race week and it sounds like they have a private lake to swim in. We look forward to meeting another great family and it will be one more cool experience to add to the trip so far. I hope everyone back home in NZ is having a great time as winter embarks and that all your trainig is going to plan! We will touch base again before the race in Quebec!