*** Many thanks to Takamasa Makita for this great race report ***

The preamble to the race report is a little long, so please bear with me.

It's taken me a while to write this report… partly since I was recovering, not from the race but, from a cold (more on this and other Excuses later), jet lag and a wedding hangover after coming back from the Land of the Long Cloud. Plus, I also wanted to wait before I completed the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon (ADIT) yesterday, which started off this triathlon "craze" for me. I also cannot deny I was made to eat humble pie in my second IM, and have finally plucked up the courage to look back on the race, to re-live the pain with pride and contemplation.

ADIT, where it all started…

4 years ago, 2010 ADIT (short) was the first long-ish distance triathlon race I had done. I could not swim free style then (some say I still can't), so doggy-paddled the 1.5 km, somehow cycled the 100km on a bike rented from Wolfis, sore butt, and grimaced all the way on the 10km run, blisters. Despite the pain, I was hooked. Pain is momentary, pride forever, was the slogan at ADIT this year.

In 2011, back at ADIT and due to the heat, had my first DNF… it so happened that race day 11 March 2011 was the day of the Northern Japan Earthquake and when I dejectedly returned to my car, I found so many missed calls and messages on my mobile from concerned friends and colleagues. That night, after speaking to my parents to check on relatives and watching the devastating footage of the Tsunami, I decided DNF is such a small thing, when so many lives were lost, and that I must be grateful for every day and live to the max. Slight jump in logic/thinking may be, but I signed up for Ironman NZ for 2012.

2011-2, trained too hard without really an idea of how, what and where, got injured, couldn’t do NZ IM.

2012-3, trained more sensibly with the TriPirates and TriDubai, completed Ironman Melbourne in March 2013. If anybody is interested in the report from that race, you can find it here. However, a precautionary DNS for ADIT 2013, as I was nursing a foot injury, which was a tough call but had to be sensible before IM Melbourne.

Why NZ IM?

It was in Melbourne last year, that Hugh and Kerri, dear Kiwi friends who used to live in Dubai, flew from Auckland to support me. I cannot say how much this meant to me. After I crossed the finish line and enjoying a few ales, they informed me they were getting married in March 2014. Great news, I would love to be there yes… but.. they said, I had to do NZ IM with them, which is a week before their wedding.

Hahaha, I had to laugh, downing my beer as and I had just finished a 13 hour race, and despite the shortened swim I knew I would be in a world of pain for a few weeks. And the preparation for an IM? Again? No way…..

But, you know what? Next morning, I had signed up. It was also unfinished business for me, as I could not race NZ IM back in 2012 due to injury as stated above.

Training 2013-4

August 2013, I'd put on 10kg since Melbourne! How did that happen, beers and pies??

So began my training, which was loosely based on the program I had used for the past two seasons, with the main training sessions with TriPirates or TriDubai (Tuesday/Wednesday/Saturday morning swim and Friday morning bike).

Individually, there would be at least one, or more bike/brick session during the week, two to three runs, two to three pool sessions. For the pool sessions, I am very grateful for Tyrone Sinnamon as we put in hours and hours at the pool at his place. We even did the Bosphorous 7km swim together back in July 2013, highly recommended!

There was a big scare back in September, when I played football in Salzburg (as part of a wedding festivity…) where I injured my knee and could not move for a few weeks, let alone race the 70.3 a few days later. Diagnosed with damaged medial ligaments, the doctor recommended surgery…. Now, I had a similar injury to my other knee 15 years ago, which was healed with acupuncture and it was to be the same again this time round. Intensive treatment and rehabilitation followed.

By November, I could run again and took part in a 25km trail race in Hong Kong. The doctor gave me the thumbs up to train and race in IM NZ, but with caution. No more football, rugby, tennis or anything that requires a sideway movement! I incorporated yoga into the training to increase my woeful flexibility, ouch.

Overall, in terms of training, I should have had a more structured program and a little more science to my training. Not being a number or data person, I've binned even the basic heart monitor…. perhaps I will dig it up this summer. I also missed some of the "hard" sessions – the Hatta and Jebel Jais climbs, the Coast to Coast rides, which would have given me more hours on the bike and toughened me up mentally, but oh well, there is only so much time! Did swim 8.5km in a pool, when Hasan did 10km now that was fun, kind of…  PBs in 10km, half marathon, though I hadn't done a triathlon race since Mauritius end of November, I could feel I was stepping up a level (and thankfully the weight dropped!)

Dubai to Auckland to Taupo

is a long way… so be prepared should you decide to go. Currently, there are no direct flights to NZ, so you go via somewhere to Auckland. Then from Auckland to Taupo is another 3 to 3.5 hours of driving. I was doing some calculations, and figured that this may be one of the furthest Ironman races you could travel to from Dubai!

However, New Zealand is an awesome country, and it's a shame I only had limited time in the North Island. I will surely return with more time on my hand, and also to visit the South Island. I had never been to New Zealand before, and since I had played rugby all the way through school, university and up until a few years ago I always thought when I go it would be a rugby tour, rugby world cup, or some other rugby related trip. Well, not a hint of rugby ball in sight except for a couple of guys on the run course on race day who were throwing the ball around so I had to call for it, caught the pop and delivered a perfect (?) spin pass back to them.

Taupo for race week is tri-central. Everyone you see is running, cycling or swimming in the beautiful lake. The weather can change very quickly and so it proved that it was howling wind until 2am race morning but when the sun came up and race was about to start it had died down.

In the build up to the race, and as part of my taper (?) I had included some non-tri/sporty events. Santana, Rolling Stones concerts etc. These outings, combined with few weeks of hard work meant my immune system took a hit …. So by the time I arrived in Taupo I had a runny nose, irritating cough and early symptoms of a cold.  I raided the pharmacy and several boxes of medicine were consumed that week, all to no avail (Excuse 1).

Race Day

Race morning was clear and beautiful, temperature just right. So weather conditions couldn’t have been better. Just a shame I was the one under the weather…

1. Swim

0649_03085The canon went off and off we went, 1700 or so of us, in the 30th year of NZ IM. Lake Taupo is so clear and transparent, visibility was amazing. I'm not the strongest of swimmers so I always position myself on one flank towards the back and I found my rhythm easy enough, without being bashed about too much.  It was a beautiful swim.

But with my nose completely blocked from the cold, it was pretty tough going (Excuse 2). Add to the fact, that fresh water means less buoyancy (Excuse 3)…. The one loop swim of 1.8km out, 200m across 1.8km back felt very very long. I came out of the water 10-15 minutes slower that what I had been aiming for.

T1 - Lynette had warned me T1 is long, and I had done a dry run the previous day. 400ms or so, and the last bit up hill, but being a sprint athlete this was my distance (?) so I overtook a good 20 to 30 in T1. On with Roy's bike top, suncream etc etc and I was away on the bike.

2. Bike

0649_12887The bike is a two loop of 90km from Taupo to Reporoa, with a gentle downhill and tail wind on the way out. Now, from the previous sentence, you would realise that coming back would be, yes, gentle uphill and head wind! So it was, that the second loop proved to be very draining and with the continuous cough cough, I could feel my energy being sapped away far faster than I had anticipated. I apologise for the gory details, but you know you are in trouble when your spit contains very dry phlegm and blood (EXcuse 4)… hmm, ok, forget about finishing time conserve energy, focus on cadence and nutrition. 3:10 for the first 90km, was followed by a much slower 3:35 on the second lap. Real shame, as I was pretty confident of getting closer to the 6 hour or below mark… Next time!

Oh, one incident which could have ended up quite nasty – I had a profile rear mount which carries two bottles. I'd discussed with Hugh (who was a car mechanic, so knows a thing or two about these things) and we had concluded that there must be a design flaw as the weight of the two bottles meant there was too much weight on the bolts. Sure enough, even though I had securely tightened the bolts pre-race, with the uneven cycling surface at Taupo the rear profile flew off like a boomerang about 100km in, almost taking me out along with several cyclists behind me. I had to stop, retrieve one bottle and one CO2 cannister and had to discard the broken rear profile on the road side… The road surface in the UAE is just wonderful, I thought so cycling ADIT yesterday, so a warning if you are doing Taupo or anywhere where the road isn’t smooth, secure everything extra tight!

T2 - People, as in IM finishers, always say when you come off the bike you and your legs must feel fresh. Well, of course, you have a full marathon to run! One year ago in Melbourne, in T2 I knew I would complete the race as I did indeed feel fresh and remembered this "saying", which gave me the confidence I could finish. This time round… there was some serious doubt, I knew I was pretty spent already, do I have 42.2km in my legs? All this flashed through my mind in the few minutes I was in T2, shoes on, sun visor on and I was out on the run.

3. Run

0649_23448Three laps. The run course is actually awesome, along the lake, with changing scenery every 2 kms and full on support all the way through. The volunteers were so enthusiastic, and there were some cute Japanese girls at the aid stations who would cheer me on in Japanese. However, in my state of delirium and pain, nothing was registering (sorry Craig Jordan, I could not emulate your antics in your IM race!). All I could think of was, one step, one metre, one kilometre, one lap. Painfully slow and slower, but putting on the best smile since I believe the harder it is the more one should smile, I snailed my way to the finish line. 0649_35775

The sun went down, and the temperature dropped. Ok, so won't finish within 13 hours or at sunset as I had planned, put on the plastic poncho as the wind was really getting chilly. Lap 2 done, Lap 3… one step, one metre, one kilometre. Then there it was, the finish line, just under 15 hours. 2 hours slower than Melbourne, but finished… a little Haka before the Finish Line and I was an Ironman, again…





So, a common cold almost took me down, I persevered. I had probably peaked two/three weeks beforehand and come race week/day, was run down. Perhaps over-confident that I had done one before… so the finishing time was unsatisfactory but it was a victory of a different kind. A week later, at Hugh and Kerri's wedding in Auckland I really did party! And ADIT yesterday, I improved my previous time by a good 30 minutes, so I am getting faster and stronger J

I will go back to Taupo to race again, perhaps not in the next few years, but I will.

There are just too many people to thank for another year of hard training and fun races – congrats Hugh and Kerri, thank you all and everyone of you for your support, camaraderie and encouragement. Right, when's my next race?

video highlights

Here’s a video with the highlights of the race.

2014 Kellogg's Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand Highlights from IRONMAN New Zealand on Vimeo.