Well this is my first trip across the Tasman to race, but it’s also my first time here as a visitor. New Zealand is awesome, and in just the three-hour ride from Auckland took me through some beautiful country. I arrived a few days early, so I was able to do some light training on the bike and run courses, and I had a swim in the bay as well. The water was crisp, to put it nicely.
The few days before the race, was blue sky and warm. But the day before the race, the cool weather set in and it was overcast and drizzling. They promised better weather on race day, and although the rain wasn’t there, it was cold. While I was setting up my transition area it was blowing pretty good, then about 15 minutes before race start, they called us into the water. I entered the water for a warm-up. Those words do not reflect the pain I experienced as parts of my body submerged below the surface. My body went numb after a few minutes.
I was looking forward to the start, so I could get the blood flowing and hopefully some added warmth. The swim was a small triangular first lap, then onto the beach to run around the BlueSeventy swim flag, then out around a larger triangular loop for the second lap. I was swimming fine, but the course was choppy and pulling us in towards the beach, so you really needed to keep checking, to stay on course. The Kiwis tend to be strong in the swim, so I guess I was happy to come out 13th in 27:45, in this field.
Once I got moving on the bike, I was trying to get some feeling back in my legs. I was still cold and numb from the swim, so it took the first 45 kilometre lap before I was over the swim. By that time, my 2:20 minute deficit out of the water, had grown to 6:20, so I knew I had my work cut out for me. I was riding with a few other Kiwis, but I didn’t know any of them and they weren’t interested in sharing the pace setting, so I pretty much drove the whole way. When I got off the bike, my gap was only 6:40, so I hadn’t added to any damage that I had created in the first half of the race, but I still had a job to do to make it on the podium…
I was in sixth place, and led the group that was riding with me into T2. I think there were about 5 guys behind me, but I was only focussed on the 5 ahead. I made a quick transition and hit the run before the rest of those boys. I got some good support from the crowds, and was able to catch Jamie Whyte around the five kilometre mark. My rhythm felt good, and I was feeling strong.
After a few more kilometres, I caught Kieran Doe as I came around the mountain on the first lap. The last time I saw Kieron, he was hammering it on the bike, with a several minute lead over the chase pack, which included the Bowstead brothers (Mark and James), and Michael Poole. So I wasn’t sure where he faded, but was glad to pass him none-the-less, because I saw him as my biggest threat after Cameron Brown pulled out several days before the race.
On the second lap I was told I was 3:20 down from the leader, but I still didn’t know who that leader was, or if they were going to be “catchable”. But I only had 10 1/2 kilometres to chase down the remaining three guys. I chased down Mark Bowstead around the 14 kilometre mark, but chased the other two in vain because I ran out of road and finished third, 28 seconds behind James Bowstead, and 2:07 minutes behind the winner Michael Poole. I got to hand it to those boys because they hit it hard on the bike, and held their own in the run. I had the fastest run of the day with a 1:14:29 half marathon, so it’s consistent with my last few Half Ironman races at the end of 2009. So all-in-all I think I’ve had a good solid start to 2010, and looking forward to the year, and coming back here in 2011. Great event, and beautiful course.