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.