It’s not called “Challenge” for nothing ! I drove the cycle course & ran a short bit of the run & cycled some of it. I knew the crowd support would be totally different from Taupo and (thought I) was prepared for this. The day dawned windy and the two lap swim was choppy. There was an organised swim on the course the previous Wednesday which I did. This provided an opportunity to note landmarks to sight off. I had a great swim on the Wednesday and on race day I did a personal best for this distance by a minimum of 5mins. Out of the water, there was a short run up over a make-shift foot bridge to transition.
The hills on the cycle course were much more fun than the long stretches to and from Cromwell. Looking up from the aero bars, there was just vastness. I’ve never complained about the ride to Reporoa and back in Taupo IM. At least you have landmarks to lock onto. The mountains behind Lake Wanaka looked like dots in the distance. I was on target when I reached Cromwell. However at around 110km the real work began. Headwind. 70km of head/side head wind back to Wanaka. I saw a few people stopped roadside stretching out cramped muscles. I didn’t get off my bike until the dismount line. Supporters were few and far between. There were a couple of cars I noticed that must have been following someone near me, however I didn’t see a familiar face until the 150km mark. Support from the volunteers at the drink stations every 20km was most welcome. The last 30km of the cycle was a real mental challenge.
The wind didn’t let up on the run course either. Dust & grit from the gravel track around the lake blew into my eyes, but luckily didn’t do any ‘damage’. The run was pretty isolated as there was only one small stretch where you passed runners coming back. Once again the volunteers at the aid stations were really supportive. Aid stations were placed every 3kms. About 10km into the run I was assigned a mountain bike buddy who stayed with me until the end. I knew the tail enders would be assigned a buddy, so I expected this. We hit it off really well. He was extremely supportive and encouraging. The run had lots of different surfaces & gradients. I was warned not to try and run up Gunn Road as it “will destroy you”. I think the elites even chose to walk this one. Back out onto the road, Wellington Tri Club members surfaced & gave me a heap of support. Around this time I was dealing with a lot of mental challenges. I’ve never had so many low moments in an event. Physically I was in the best shape ever, so there was no reason to stop. However I forgot all my mantras, lost my reasoning & would have happily called it a day with a swim PB etc etc… I was going to make a decision at the halfway point, but felt (mentally) really good then, so I picked up my headlamp from my special needs bag and carried on. I always enjoy running in the dark & although this was no exception, I knew I was going to be outside the official cut off time. Fellow triathletes made sure I continued on and probably deep down, that’s what I really wanted to do at the end of the day. On the last lap, at the highest elevation on the run, we heard the fireworks display start down at the waterfront signalling 17 hours since the start gun. That was tough. Another 53 minutes and I crossed the finish line – managing a good sprint up to and down the finish shute. It was all a bit surreal & I was so dosed up with caffeine that I didn’t need/get much sleep the next 48 hours !
The Challenge people are lenient with their late finishers and both me and Garth Barfoot (75 years young), who finished after me received a shiny gold finishers medal and our finishers t-shirt.
Challenge – tough, honest and definitely mentally challenging
The following day I had minimal stiffness/muscle soreness, no blisters and no sore toenails. I felt the best of the 3 iron distances I have done so far.
Stats: 36 individual women (excluding elites) finished the Challenge and 148 men (excluding elites)
3.8km swim = 1:45:10 PB
T1 = 0:09:28
180km cycle = 8:32:02 (an hour slower than Taupo IM)
T2 = 0:11:12
42km run = 7:15:22 (over an hour slower than Taupo IM)
Total time= 17:53:17
4th in age group which was a ten year band. Often they are 5 year bands.
I drove around 2200km on my lone journey down to Wanaka & back and enjoyed every minute of it. Caught up with family and friends on the way.
I have a team triathlon & 2 standard distance triathlons left for the season. Then it will be time to focus on the next big goal, February 2013.