We arrived at Lake Taupo on Thursday (the race was on Saturday) the location was breathtaking and was so happy as my accommodation was right opposite the swim start and not far from transition. I could see that they already had the swim markers out on the course and the course was so long that I could not see half of it 😳.
Thursday afternoon I went to do my registration and get my race number, transition bags, and special needs bag. The whole place was pumping with excited athletes and volunteers. I met up with my mate Jason Matthew who was there to do his first Ironman event and we took lots of photos around the event village. On Friday morning I met up with Jason and we did a practice swim. The lake was cold but not as cold as I had expected, although it did bring on wheezing almost like cold-induced asthma. However, the lake was crystal clear and so beautiful to swim in.
I was lucky that one of my Readytotri Triathlon Coaching crew, Nellie had become an Ironman at IronMoari in December and through messenger had introduced me to Norm from Ironmaori. Norm was on his 7th time doing Taupo and offered to drive the bike course with me. His knowledge of the course really was invaluable. From explaining the road surface are made from large chips and not quite compacted down and where best to place yourself on the road to make it a bit easier, to point out all the tight corners, where the aid stations and special needs bags would be placed and of course pointing out heartbreak hill. Thank you Norm it was a pleasure to meet you.
I finally got my bags organized, 2 transition bags and 2 special needs bags – I had been stressing about these bags, looking over them at least 5 times to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, and headed off to transition to rack my bike. As I approached transition the volunteers stopped me for a chat and asked if it was my first time, they then rang bells and started shouting Ironman virgin. One of the volunteers carried my bags and walked me to my spot to rack my bike all the while chatting away, they were just awesome. I always get so intimated going into transition when I look at the super duper bikes around me and mine is a little cheap road bike, with no tri bars. However, the volunteers were just so awesome in their support I did not even look at other bikes
Saturday- Race Day
My race was starting at 8 am but I went down to the Lake to watch Jason start his swim as he started at 7 am. Everyone was pumped up, the music was blasting and then they were off. Before my race started, the music was turned off and we watched the traditional Maori welcome which included the haka, it really was spine-tingling to watch.
It was time for me to get in the water, it was a mass start so everyone was treading water ready to go. The big cannon went off and the race started. I situated myself at the back as I know I am slow so didn’t want to get hit by any of the faster swimmers trying to get past me. Instantly my chest started wheezing again I also noticed that whilst the wetsuit helps with buoyancy, you definitely don’t get the buoyancy of being in salt water. Halfway through, the wind had picked up which made the lake choppy, a couple of times I had to stop as I had coughing fits from swallowing the water. I couldn’t help but think OMG this swim is never ending and was very concerned I wouldn’t make cut off which was 2hr 20 mins. I finished my swim in 2 hrs 5 mins and was ecstatic that I had gotten through in time.
So off I went on my bike – I knew the bike would be tough, it was 180 km and I had only gone up to 130 km in training but Stuart Payne assured me I could do it. I had been practicing using flatbread and humus as nutrition for long bike rides. However, when I got to NZ I couldn’t find any flat bread so thought I would use pita bread instead. The moment I picked up the pita bread it just crumbled and fell away. I knew I had a lot of cliff bars and gels to use but find them a bit sickly after a while. I only carry water on my bike also, any added hydration powder gives me a stomach ache. However I started swopping my water bottle out at every aid station, so at one aid station, I would have Gatorade, and at the next one I would swap it for a water bottle.
The first 45 km were easy but kept telling myself this is too easy ( I knew in the back of my mind it wasn’t going to last. As soon as I hit the halfway mark on the first lap to head back into town it was like cycling through treacle. There was a horrible headwind and it was also very hot. The countryside is beautiful but offers little shade or windbreaks as it’s vast green fields on either side (which Norm had warned me about). By about 70 km my back was breaking, I spent a lot of time wriggling around trying to find some relief for my back and also changing gears to find the most comfortable I could be going into that headwind. As I was getting close to the finish of the first lap all I could think about was quitting.
It was downhill to turn around to the second lap, where all the supporters and volunteers were shouting encouragement, I turned the corner and knew I had just committed to the second lap, no stopping now. I knew I was pushed for time but I had to stop at the special needs bag. I had placed a heat pack in there for my back but because the day was so hot, decided I couldn’t put the heat pack on as I would just overheat. I did apply some Vaseline to the nether regions which worked a treat. On the 2nd lap, I knew I would be struggling to make the cut-off, which was at 6.30 pm (8 hours). A few times I thought I am not going to make it . At the last aid station, I stopped along with another athlete. The guy was packing up and gave us both a real good pep talk about making cut off, off I went thinking yes I am going to do everything I possibly can to make it – finally, I made it with 10 minutes to spare, I was so happy
Stuart has competed in triathlons from Sprint to Ironman distance. As a qualified Triathlon Australia, Australian Athletics Run Coach, and a certified Ironman coach, he is aware of the importance of balancing training with lifestyle, thus complementing other important aspects of an athlete’s life (family, work, study commitments, etc.).
Contact Stuart at email@example.com
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