I had raced a lot in Wanaka over the years in the short course draft legal race, which used to be held the night before Challenge Wanaka. I always saw the athletes out all day on the Sunday and thought they were all mad. A few years later standing on the start line of my debut full iron distance race, I was wondering how I got here and nervous for a long day ahead.
I took the lead early on in the swim and made my way around the 3.8km with a group of 5-6 guys. I was conscious not to push hard but just to stay at the front and out of trouble. I exited the water in the lead in just over 50mins.
Everyone warned me to be patient and not to lead the race, especially with the likes of Luke Mckenzie in the mix. I rode steady until Luke Bell and Luke Mckenzie made it to the front of the race at around 60km in. Luke Mckenzie would try to drop us on all the climbs, I was happy to let him go and ride my own pace, but Luke Bell was on him like glue. I often got left behind on the uphills and caught back up over the flatter sections. Whilst the cat and mouse was going on Dougal Allan (2016 champion) had caught us at 135km and gone straight past. The gap got out to a minute very quickly and I knew I needed to up the pace as Dougal was very fit and would run a solid marathon. Somehow I left the two Lukes behind in the last 40km, getting to transition 2.5mins behind Dougal and 4mins infront of Luke Bell, 7mins to Luke Mckenzie. My legs were completely toast and I didn't know if I would make it through a marathon.
Wanaka Bike: 312W avg, 4:32min
I approached the run conservatively and the gap to Dougal was remaining the same. I decided to start to lift the pace at around the 12km mark, but I was only pulled back around 10seconds over 5km. I went through halfway in 1:26, and the gap to third was growing. I tried again to lift the pace at 25km but by this stage the distance had really caught up with me and it went from trying to win to trying to make it to the finish. It was a huge relief to come down the finish chute in 2nd place, 5mins behind Dougal and 10mins infront of Luke Bell.
8hours32mins, a few mins under Richard Usshers course record from 2010. However Dougal was the strongest on the day. A successful Iron- Distance debut and a lot of learnings for my next attempt.