Monday, March 2, 2015

Challenge Wanaka Race Report

I have learned that there will always be something that doesn't go right pre-race. Lately my "something" is getting sick. I need to figure out how to fly across the country without picking up a bug. Similar to Challenge Weymouth, I arrived in Wanaka and promptly got a fever/cough for 4 days. Pre-race I wavered between thinking I would get well and being certain there was no way I'd even start the race. By Saturday my fever finally went away and I figured I would give the race a shot.

Race morning was calm (trust me, this is not always the case in Wanaka!) and I was happy to get in a short warm up in my Zoot wetsuit.

Pro swim start.
I managed to find some feet and decided they were a good place to stay. On the second lap the feet I was on lost the feet in front of them and surprisingly I was able to swim around and jump on the next person's feet. I guess my nine years of swimming masters has finally made me a not-so-horrible swimmer! Other than being blinded by the sun near the exit and swimming some zig-zags, then finally asking a kayaker where I needed to swim, I was quite happy to exit the water in 59 minutes.

The Challenge Wanaka bike course is constantly up and down. From the start I didn't feel good and figured I just needed to be patient. At mile 30 I realized it was going to be a long day touring Wanaka by bike, as it felt like I was at mile 70 already. And touring was exactly what I was doing - I was going backwards and "racing" was happening ahead of me. My bad patch on the bike lasted from about mile 2-90. When I completed the first loop it took all my willpower not to pull into transition and call it a day. I felt awful. Probably the only reason I didn't quit was because I had been so very excited about the run course. Pre-race I had only seen a small section of the single-track trails and it looked fun. I figured I didn't fly all the way to New Zealand to not even get to experience the Challenge Wanaka run! I came off the bike in 10th after a long 5:45 (thankfully scenic!) time spent on the bike.

Pretty quickly into the run I felt good. The trails were amazing and I was in my element. If I could only always race hilly trail courses I would. I wish I had photos from the single-track trail that runs through the trees and along the river. It's gorgeous. Somewhere in this section I was sure I was running too fast, but I didn't care. I had just spent a miserable amount of time on my bike and I was in the last paying pro place, so had absolutely nothing to lose. Plus I was having fun running fast.

The marathon seemed to go by quickly and before I knew it I was starting my second loop. I was scared of bonking so at each aid station I stopped for two cups of Coke. I figured it would be sad to run my way back through the field only to implode due to calorie deficit late in the race. I never did run out of energy and thankfully felt strong even in the later stages of the run.

This is the moment in the finish chute when I learned I was in 5th place. I had no idea what place I was in, but hearing I was 5th made me very happy.

I ran a 3:28 to finish 5th in 10:18.

The day ended nothing how I thought it would, in a good way of course. Challenge Wanaka is probably the most scenic ironman distance race I've ever done. It's not a fast course, but it is amazingly beautiful.

Sue & Chris – You were AMAZING hosts - thank you for great meals and friendship! 
Zoot - fast Alii shoes, flexible wetsuits, awesome training and racing apparel.  
Microscope World - my other great job.
Profile Design - fast TwentyFour wheels, aero bars and hydration. I love the Aero HC system.
Powerbar - gels, hydration and recovery for ultimate performance.
Nytro - my local (but they sell all over the world!) bike shop with all things racing/training.
Extreme Endurance - thanks for helping me race, recover and repeat!
Rudy Project - great helmets and sunglasses, awesome colors!
Bont - best cycling shoes around.

Next up is Wildflower.


krystyna47 said...

Haha that last leg on the swim is blinding... if you come back next year, you need to know to swim for the edge of Mt Iron, and then once you pass the big twin trees on your right, the buoy should be maybe 100m away. Otherwise, holy crap, it's impossible!!

Jeff Gross said...

Wow, thanks for sharing. Felt like I was there. What a great come from behind, and fighting through the urge to stop was inspiring.
Jeff Gross

The Hippie Triathlete said...

I can't wait to hear more in person! Sounds like an amazing adventure.