If you’re thinking about tackling this event or just generally interested the aim of this read is to provide an insight into the journey and the event itself. Hopefully, I’ll leave you with a clue about this incredible event. Maybe even one or two takeaways that’ll help you get through this extremely, satisfying stretched out triathlon.
Little event background
An Ironman is the mammoth challenge of completing a 3.8km swim followed by an 180km bike then finishing with a 42.2km marathon. The challenge was born in the 70’s in Hawaii by a group of Navy seals trying to discover the ultimate athlete. With minimal gear and a ridiculous amount of drive, a group of 15 set off (pictured below) and 12 made it across the finish line. This accidently attracted attention from a roaming reporter covering a Hawaiian golf tournament and it exploded from there, it the following years hundreds of athletes from around the world migrated to Hawai to take on the Ironman event.
Where I started:
I started this journey with minimal knowledge on what it involves to compete in this event. To top it off, no triathlon experience what so ever. This definitely helped me commit early on as naively jumped into it without overthinking. This ridiculous decision inspired by a Vice documentary and watching a multi-sport race after a day on the Mt Ruapehu. Led to me researching the world of Ironman and becoming more and more inspired the deeper I got. The challenge motivated me as well as the athletes who took part in it.
Months go past and my training goes through highs and lows but overall the endurance base was building well. My perception of distance started stretching out and I’d be training longer and longer. Although this was a timely process I think it’s key to keep pushing but in small increments! I learnt this after getting carried away on big sessions early on and poorly recovering. I began testing this out when it came to working on flowing through the bike to run change up. For a start I was just ticking off the odd small jog after a ride then slowly built this to push further and further over weeks/months. Then a few months down the track I’d hit a 10+ km run after a big ride. I’d reflect on the session and couldn’t believe what the early little sets did. From here I think getting a plan sorted really helped me. I just started chipping away at it, I think it’s key not to stress about missing training’s or shortening them every now and then. Inconsistency was always a fight although I managed to get a set routine around work dialled in the last 6 or so months. I knew the more consistent I could get these sessions the better I was going to feel when the event comes along.
Some prep I never did but could help you if you’re considering lining up one of these events.
- Line up a half IM 3 months out to gauge where you at in a competitive environment
- Professional bike fit, get the most out of your bike position on any bike!
- Join a tri club or some group along those lines
Helpful things I did do
- Experimented with nutrition to find optimal gels, food for me
- Crammed in 1-2 strength/core sessions a week
- Yoga session 1-2 a week (saves injuries)
- Asked for tips/advice from a range of people
- Gamify training (Strava, compete against your buddies a bit of motivation)
The build up for the New Zealand Ironman event is next to nothing early registration is required which results in Taupo being swarmed by athletes and supporters from Thursday. This led to a lot of hype around the event and race. I made my way into rego at 12ish picked up my race pack and soaked in the event vibes, checking out the expo and everything else that was happening. The welcome function was fun with a high level of energy to get all the athletes excited about race day with it being two days out.
I woke up at 04:30 smashed a stacked plate of bacon/eggs/baked beans chased with a coffee (first drop off caffeine in 2 weeks) this got me firing and ready to make my way into town. I arrived at a busy transition area with everyone sorting the last of the race gear out. After that was all organised I made my way down to the beach where there was an unbelievable atmosphere at the start line. We’re talking 1300 Athletes swarming the start area in a small bay. This later led to chaos when the cannon went off (picture below of swim start). It goes and everyone starts slashing their way down the long course. The swim went a lot smoother than what I was preparing for I kept it simple and focused on long strokes trying to be consistent. Another thing that helped was drafting any feet I could that were going in the right direction. I came out of the water to see 1:05 on the clock which I was stoked with.
Post swim I quickly threw on my cycling gear and escaped transition. I was now off for the two 90km laps up and back from Reporoa. The bike went super well for the first 45km. I arrived in Reporoa a little shocked after seeing the time and came to the realisation that I had gotten a little carried away with the tail wind. The following 45km was a grind, heading back into Taupo with a head wind wasn’t ideal but was expected. I pushed through it and rolled through town around the crowd and back out again. The second lap was the same story amplified 10x. Although I did take it a bit easier on the way out and I knew what was ahead. Made it back to that dreaded turn around in Reporoa and faced the final 45km. This was a good feeling but quickly pushed aside by the headwind which kept me on my toes right through to transition.
The run was a mixed bag for me, although the run started positive. I think this was largely due to me trying to get as far away from my bike as I could. As I ran down the main st of Taupo I was blown over by the energy all over the course. Thousands of spectators were getting behind all of the athletes. I was excepting it as several people told me the atmosphere was unreal but the reality still blew me away. All this support definitely helped me keep moving. The tough stretch for me was 22 through to 25km, I lost my rhythm and the big day was taking its toll on my body. I managed to kick this or at least temporarily removed it from my mind and carried on to run more consistently in the following km’s. Nearing the end was awesome, the crowd towards the finish was unreal, some friends ran the last stretch with me. Then I lined up the finishing chute and enjoyed easily one of the most satisfying moments of my life!
Race day tips
- Stay super well hydrated (Taking fluid every 15 for me worked well)
- Enjoy the crowd
- Take your time in transition
- Stretch out your support crew around the course I had pockets of people I knew scattered around the course which was awesome to keep the energy levels up, rather than bumping into your friends/family every 2 hours
- Find rhythm in each part of the race and focus on being consistent
The event as a whole blew me away with all the passion everyone involved had. The volunteering crew were rad with a team of over 2000 volunteers they made the day run seamlessly and the event as comfortable as possible for a long painful day of exercising. The energy on the course was something I’ll never forget. Overall I couldn’t recommend the event more, it’s a hell of an experience to be a part of.