Ironman New Zealand, Taupo – My Race Report

That is Ironman number three complete!  It was tough, it was hard, there where moments I didn’t think I would finish, moments where I felt great, but in the end, like 1100 other athletes I found a way and got it done!

FINISH LINE PHOTO / VIDEO

So to save you some time here is the results:

Let’s start with a review of my week, it started with a Tuesday morning flight from Brisbane to Auckland on the very comfortable Emirates A380!  The kids were typically excited about the journey and now almost enjoyed the check in & customs process!  Once we landed at Auckland and were disembarking a lovely stewardess asked the kids if they would like to see the cockpit and before any hesitation Master 5 (number 3) was clambering up the stairs to join the crew.  The Emirates crew were fantastic with the kids, handing over their hats to make the experience even more authentic and we ended up being the last to disembark, but it was totally worth it!

We had a short 1 night stay in Auckland, with Tri Travel picking us up from the airport the next day to travel by bus to Taupo on Wednesday morning.  I had complete a brief check of the bike at the airport but was pretty keen to get it set up and confirm it had traveled with out any damage, but this had to wait until we arrived in Taupo.  There were 24 people on the Tri Travel tour and the main reason we booked this, was because we were traveling with the kids and thought it would make life a little less stressful!  We were right, they dropped us at our hotel, took us shopping, transported us around all week, reviewing the course, arranged the wetsuit dipping, ensuring we did everything an athlete needs in the lead up to an Ironman in the most efficient manner possible.  Shane was absolutely amazing, his insight into the course, ability to have as treated like AWA or VIP at all the functions was brilliant!

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So the days leading into the race were perfect.  Weather was great and I managed to do a full reconnaissance of the swim, bike & run course.  I ran with the Tri-travel crew on the Wednesday afternoon covering a little over 5km of the course, I did part of the swim course on the Thursday morning with Ian and the Tri Travel crew, then Ian & I rode part of the course on Thursday afternoon.  All activities can be view on Strava:

IMNZ Course recon 1 – part of the run course

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IMNZ Course recon 2 – part of the swim course

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IMNZ Course recon 3 – part of the bike course

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As you can see from the above photos the weather in the lead up and following race day was spectacular, however on race day it turned sour (more on this later)!  Friday was bike racking day and transition bad drop off.  Ian & I rolled down on our bike with our transition bags packed and ready to go!    All that was left now is to relax and be ready to race in the morning.

I woke up at about midnight to the sound of howling wind buffering our unit, I spent the rest of the night tossing & turning praying for the wind to die down!  I got out of bed at 4am and to my dismay the wind was still blowing!  I had my standard breakfast of french toast (eggy bread) with banana and honey (no maple syrup this time)!  I showered (an old habit I have before every race), suited up, put my race tattoo on and double-check I had everything to set up my bike in transition.

Tri Travel had arranged a bus to pick us up and drop us down to the transition area, it was a little chilly, but not too bad, however the wind was blowing straight off the lake and was very fresh!  I met up with Ian in transition area, borrowed his track pump we both worked together to double-check each other’s set up!  Confident we had done everything we could in transition, we followed the 400m green synthetic grass lined track down to the swim start with Monique ready to take our excess clothing back to the hotel.

We arrived in plenty of time, but unfortunately found ourselves on the wrong side of the access chute to see the traditional Maori water blessing ceremony.  We caught glimpses and these guys were anything but friendly, they rode in on a traditional boat and run ashore shouting and jumping, it looked a lot like a Haka to me!  Following the blessing the pro field were allowed into the water for their warm up and given 5 min to the start of their race.  I used this time to put on my wetsuit.  When the cannon went off for the pro-men, it was super loud and frightened the bejesus out of us!  We were standing adjacent (about 15m away from) the cannon without even realising until it went off!  1 Minute later the pro-women were away and it was out time to enter the water and wait the 15min to our start.  This is what all the training was for!

Swim Leg:

I swam  total distance of 3.856km, almost perfect, my sighting was a struggle but looking back at my data, I seemed to stay pretty close to the course.  My neck and back paid for this in the days after the race, being particularly sore from having to spot so regularly!  Trying to find the next buoy took at least 3 or 4 head lifts to confirm wheather I was heading in the right direction.  Breathing to the shore was the safest bet to avoid taking in too much water.  Meaning on the way out I was breathing on my left and on the way back on my right.  The lake being fresh water at least tasted OK, no salty mouth!  The buoys are all numbered 1 to 24 and they are relatively evenly spaced, and at about buoy 18 I had enough.  I floated vertical in the water adjusted my goggles, checked the time with huge disappointment realised a sub 1 hour swim was out of the question, put my head back down and splodged (best word I could think of to describe what I did) past the final 6 buoys, to exit the water in 1 hour and 5 minutes.  I think the following photo captures my feeling when I looked at my time when I exited the water.  Thank Monique for capturing the moment perfectly!

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In transition I moved on pretty quickly, with a bit of banter with my helpers, to put on the arm warmers or not?  In the end I put on both my gloves and light arm warmers then it was time to head out on the bike, to see how bad this wind was going to be.

My vital statistics in the water:

  • Avg Pace: 1:41min/100m (
  • Avg Heart Rate: 154/min (max 162)
  • Avg Strokes: 38spm (max: 49)

Bike leg:

As you head out of transition you have a nice gentle 3/5km downhill section to really get the blood pumping.  Feeling amazing the first left is into Napier Street 1.7km uphill section that maxes out at about 8%, a tasty challenge early on the ride!   From here you have a few gentle rollers before my favorite part of the course starting at the Motor Race Track and downhill for about 10km!  On the first lap I felt amazing and kept telling myself to ride the wave, cause it’s going to get tough somewhere!  Little did I realise just how tough and how quickly it was going to happen.  It wasn’t until the turnaround in Reporoa the strength of the wind really hit home.  This section of the course is flat, but very open, it was previously a pine tree farm, but has since been cleared for cattle & dairy-farming.  Which means it very open and now wind affected.  I battled into the headwind and up the hill all the way back to the race track, hoping for some respite, but it didn’t come.  Turning right and heading back into Taupo was at least downhill but still into the headwind.

Lap 2 was identical, maybe the winds had gotten stronger, it was hard to tell while on course.  I had given up all hopes of a fast bike split after the first lap.  This became a battle of survival, trying to keep the heart rate low and the speed (& cadence) up.  My vital stats for the 180km were:

  • Ave heart rate: 142 (max 161)
  • Ave speed: 31.8km/hr (max 74.2km/hr)
  • Avg cadence: 77rev/min (max 176)
  • Elevation gain: 958m

To give you some idea on Lap 1 I did my best 5km segment in 5min 30 sec, at an average speed 55.0km/hr, on the same 5km segment on the way back to Taupo I did 14min 55sec, average speed of 20.1km/hr.  On Lap 2 I did my best 5km segment in 5min 32sec, average speed of 54.4km/hr the same segment on the way back to Taupo I did 15min 18sec, average speed of 19.6km/hr.

Roughly a 35km/hr and nearly 10 minute difference between the downhill tail wind and the uphill headwind sections!  Brutal was an understatement.

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Coming back into Taupo for the last time the along Spa Road, which remains open to traffic with just a line of witches hats about 1.0m off the kerb to protect the athletes.  While the volunteers and traffic control were amazing at the intersection adjacent the Taupo Events Center I very nearly got taken out by a car turning left in front of me.  Some quick breaking and a few expletives later we sorted our way around each other and I finished the bike with plenty of adrenaline pumping through my system!

Dismounting the bike and actually having to wheel my bike up a very short little ramp into transition, the catchers were waiting.  Into the transition tent and more banter with the helpers.  Running cap, race number on, more sun cream and I was ready to tackle the marathon.

Run Leg:

It’s a 3 lap run, similar to my first Ironman in Carin’s back in 2015.  So I tried to tackle it with a similar mindset.  First lap was all about high cadence and riding the wave off the bike, relaxing the legs and running as tall as possible.  There is a few short sharp little hills on this course, that serve to break up your stride length, longer on the down hills and shorter on the uphill.  I adopted a walk through each aid station to ensure I got plenty of fluid on board and was trying to eat regularly.  The on-course nutrition of Cliff Gels & Blocks served me well on the first lap.

On the 2nd lap I was struggling to run between aid stations and added in a few extra walks.  This was a low and I wasn’t handling it well!  I struggled up the hills, I was cramping on the down hills, nothing I ate or drank seemed to help.  I knew Ian was not far in front of me and I did have thoughts of catching him at some point, but during the 2nd lap was not confident.  As I ran past Mel & my support crew toward the end of the 2nd lap, a penny dropped that my fluid intake had no carbs, all the electrolytes I could have but no carbs!  So I switched to drinking coke.  It wasn’t my golden egg, but by hell I felt a lot better during the 3rd and final lap of the run!  The battle from aid station to aid station continued, occasionally I wouldn’t make it & had to stop early to walk for a few steps.  A quick slap of the thighs and I would recommence the trudge toward the finish.

IMG_9296Lap 1 – feeling ok, but starting to count the matches burned on the bike!IMG_9433Lap 2 – the face says it all, the hurt locker!IMG_5652IMG_5655IMG_56583rd Lap – These are my favorite photos of the day, running with my mate Ian!

Ok so it was a bit cruel to run with Ian, I was within 2km of finishing & Ian still had a lap (and a bit) to complete, but as a show of his true grit & determination he was still running!  It was a real buzz to run beside my training partner for a couple of km toward the end and I think (hope) he enjoyed it also!  I left Ian at his turnaround and I headed a little further on, before turning into the finishing chute!  Searching for my family, looking left & right?  Finally spotted them on the right fence screaming loudly, I did a shoulder check and gave high fives and kisses then headed to the finish line to hear those famous words Mike Riley say for every finisher ‘YOU ARE AN IRONMAN’!

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My run vital stats for the 42.2km marathon were:

  • Avg pace: 6:04/km
  • Avg Heart Rate: 144/min
  • Stride Length: 1.03m
  • Run Cadence: 161/min (max 202)
  • Vertical Ratio: 8.7%
  • Vertical Oscillation: 8.9cm
  • Ground Contact Balance 49.9%/50.1%

Medal around my neck, towel across my shoulders, into recovery I went, step 1 was a weigh in.  At registration I weighed 71.5 following the Ironman I was 67.4, however the lady behind the counter freaked and asked me to come back and step on the scales again!  Hang on I feel fine, whats up, apparently my before weight had been written down as 79.5, she thought I had lost over 10kg during the race!  Haha, crisis averted onto find the chocolate milk and ice cream, I had to find 4kgs!  I had a quick massage and some finisher photos with my family before heading out to the finish chute to see Ian cross the line!

I am full of admiration for the effort Ian had to put in to get to this finish line, his preparation was anything but ideal, but he push his body to places I have never been and together we get to hang the same finishers medal on out mantel at home!  All in all, it was an epic day, perhaps not my desired result, but there are a heap of positives I can take from a result like this!  The conditions on this day meant making the finish line was the real result.  Massive kudos to all 1100 odd athletes that made the finish line on March 4th 2017, it was a killer day out there and the medal was well-earned!

My Data:

Ironman New Zealand 2017 – Swim Leg (Strava data)

Ironman New Zealand 2017 – Bike Leg (Strava data)

Ironman New Zealand 2017 – Run Leg (Strava data)

Ironman New Zealand 2017 – Multisport (Garmin Connect Data)

So after reliving that I have to take a quick moment to thank a few people.  Firstly my super amazing wife, without who none of this would be possible, her strength during my training and on race day is truly inspirational.  You are always on my mind and my driving force when things get tough, like they did today!  To my family, you 3 kids keep us busy and I am forever grateful for the gift each of you is and what you bring into my life,  I can only strive & hope that I live up to be the father and dad you deserve to have!  To my training partner Ian your support is unwavering, I am eternally grateful for the friendship we have formed over these years and hope we can continue this journey well into the future, outlive our competitors and perhaps 1 day be doing this on the big island!  Ian’s wife Monique, your constant support, letting Ian out to play, is appreciated.  On race day your support to my family is a constant source of comfort, knowing Mel is not doing it alone!   To everyone that has followed my journey via Facebook, Instagram, Strava, Garmin and this blog, thank you it doesn’t go un-noticed!

Other activities:

My kids completed the fun run on the Friday, getting the privilege of having Mike Reilly on the microphone and call them all home!

We visited Huka Falls, although I missed the hot springs (somehow)!

We them went on a holiday to the South Island for a recovery week!

IMG_3688Christchurch, Antarctic Center & travelling to Wanaka.IMG_4201Horse Riding at Cardrona, an old Gold Rush town.IMG_4256.JPGHiking near Wanaka to Diamond Lake and enjoying a lookout picnic.IMG_4389.JPGIMG_4390.JPGThe Blue Pool on the road to the Hasst Past.

So with about 8 weeks till my next Ironman in Port Macquarie, I will need to manage the fatigue levels well and start turning the legs over again very gently very soon.  With such a tight turn around I will be monitoring my numbers very carefully and watching my nutrition super closely!  Trying to do everything in my power to be fit, healthy and ready to race IMOZ super hard and fast!

If you’re not active at the moment & need some inspiration, follow me on Strava, Instagram and like my facebook page and let’s get back out there swim, bike or running.   Make sure you subscribe so you never miss a blog post from me!  The biggest regret we can have in life is to not TRI!

TriathleteTed on Strava

TriathleteTed on Instagram

Triathlete Ted on Facebook

Till next time build consistency, keep smiling and live to Tri!

3 thoughts on “Ironman New Zealand, Taupo – My Race Report

  1. great recap buddy. it was great meeting you out there. feel free to checkout my port mac race report on alicespringsathlete.wordpress.com. also, work on that cadence! i race around 87 on the bike but 77 into that wind and hill would be a grind and might have taken away from you on the run. your run cadence is also a bit low but would be impacted from the walking. work on increasing to 90 goal but i am still stuck at around 80. short quick feet. good luck in port mac!

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