Ironman New Zealand
Whilst the majority of Bedford Harriers were tucked up in bed on Friday night, the population of Lake Taupo was out in force supporting the New Zealand Ironman. This is
one of the oldest Ironman events and has been going for more than 30 years, the last 17 in Taupo. This is a beautiful playground resort on the shores of the second largest
lake in Ocenania. Fortunately for me, the lake was calm as the gun sounded at 7:00 for the swim start. Ironman events in Lake Taupo have suffered from bad weather in recent
years, so despite dire predictions for later in the day, it looked quite promising with a water temperature of 20°C - somewhat warmer than on land.
After what seemed like for ever, I finally emerged from the swim in 1:22:57 (I don't seem to be improving this aspect, despite having lessons and swimming more than ever).
It was the usual long run up to transition, but the route was packed with people cheering us on, so I actually felt pretty excited as I started the bike through the town
and on to the first of four long climbs. Having done so little cycling during the English winter, I had few expectations of a fast time, but the first lap was completed
in 2:16:46 and I was feeling good. And then the wind blew! It had been forecast, but the route is very exposed, and it seemed like most of the next 90km were battling head
or cross winds. Combine that with rough roads, worse even than England, two long climbs and it became harder and harder.
The upshot of it all was a slower time than I had hoped for at half way and legs that could barely swing over the cross bar to dismount. But the one thing I have been doing
plenty of in recent months is running, and I felt OK once I got going. Half the battle with an Ironman is the daunting prospect of running a marathon having just ridden
180km. The mental side is not helped by signs indicating 2km, which means there are still 40.2km to go! However, I am getting used to this now, so I think in terms of laps
and the fact that it will all be over in a few hours. In the end I did my best ever marathon in an Ironman event of 4:12:57; not yet breaking 4 hours, but this course was
a little too hilly for that.
Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated still further, so by the time I finished the rain was lashing down, the wind was howling and many athletes were wearing plastic
ponchos to keep warm. The people I really felt sorry for were those coming in at 14 hours plus who had to face atrocious weather conditions for the finish of the run. But
don't let weather put you off. Taupo is a stunning little town, with loads to do and lots of lovely restaurants and cafés. I was even officially adopted by one such café
(Cafe Replete) just in case they could be of assistance to an overseas visitor. Such is the hospitality of New Zealand.
So if you have a spare 5 minutes I can recommend Ironman New Zealand and Lake Taupo. The flight takes only 32 hours and if you get there a day or two early you won't be
so jet lagged...