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Lake Wanaka Half Ironman - Triathlon

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Total Time = 8h 20m 32s
Overall Rank = 393/407
Age Group = M30-34
Age Group Rank = 27/28
Pre-race routine:

I traveled down to Wanaka early, arriving in town Wednesday for a Saturday race.

Thursday morning I took part in an organised swim the course, finishing in 38 minutes. I was happy with that time and learnt what I needed to about the swim, 1) the water was not as cold as I feared 2) it really is crystal clear (I could see the bottom when 700m + off the shore) and 3) the final leg of the swim back to transition is straight into the rising sun. Much glare and sun strike and very difficult to see where I was going.

After some breakfast I took the bike out for a test ride, to check everything was still working after travel. The bike was ok, but the winds were something chronic. I had a 10km/hr difference heading downwind as I did heading upwind. So I finished the ride praying for light winds on race day.

I finished my test ride at transition, and went straight to the pre race bike checks. My bike and helmet passed with no problems but the girl getting checked before me failed with her helmet. It looked ok as first glance but was so damaged that it was pulled in half and crumpled by the tester... go and check your helmets people!

Spent the afternoon relaxing, we drove over the Crown Range to Queenstown to take the wife out to a nice lunch on the lake front.

Friday, no workouts, just rest. The Athletes briefing was at 1145, so I went to that, then a nice lunch at a lakefront cafe beside the expo, back to the motel to pack the transition bags before returning to the race site to hand in bags and rack the bike.

Saturday morning we woke at about 6am, 2:15 before the scheduled race start. Breakfast was toast with peanut butter and banana, a typical pre workout food for me. and a pre race bottle of water to get through. Drove down to the transition area for final preparations. Bike had a final check, and water bottles placed. Then down to the lake front to watch the full distance start and wait for show time.

Event warmup:

A half Ironman distance at my speed is a long day, I'm here to complete, not race, so I'm quite happy to treat the first 10 minutes of the swim as my warm up. But, the swim was a deep water start, 100m or so off the beach so I had that as a short warmup swim.
  • 35m 39s
  • 1900 meters
  • 01m 53s / 100 meters

The swim was advertised as being crystal clear, and it didn't disappoint.

The half distance was started in 3 waves, male, female and teams. So with around 230 athletes starting at one go it was quite a busy start. I tried to line up to the side, to avoid the scrum but somehow ended up close to the middle. I survived the first 2-300m melee unscathed and worked myself to the outside of the pack to avoid any accidental elbows to the head.

Once settled I just tried to focus on my form, trying to swim efficiently, not quickly to conserve energy for the long day ahead. As always in an OWS, my focus was on keeping my chest down (to make sure my legs were nice and high) and keeping a long stroke, I was almost swimming a catch up drill in my efforts to keep things as smooth as possible.

Of course I had the usual problems navigating around the course as quickly as possible, for example at one point I had a swimmer almost the same pace as me inside me who was swimming off course, away from the buoy, I actually had to stop and let him go ahead so I could continue on course. And there as a bit of pushing and shoving at the first few turns, less so as the race continued and the pack thinned out.

I only started having problems on the final leg back towards transition, into the sun. This time it was my turn to get lost, and I found myself 10-15 meters away from the rest of the pack, inside the course. Fortunately I found my mistake before too long, so a slight change in direction got me back on track without loosing too much ground.

What would you do differently?:

Better navigation on the final leg. Otherwise I don't think I could have done any better. My goal was 40 minutes for the swim, so to be this far under (even accounting for the 100m or so the course seemed to be short) was fantastic.

Without doubt my best swim in a triathlon ever.

Transition 1
  • 07m 57s

Transition was a run of a few hundred meters from the swim exit, grab a swim to bike transition bag, up and over a bridge over the road and into a change tent.

I knew I had had a good swim as there were a lot of transition bags around mine as I grabbed it. a slow jog/walk over the bridge and into the change tent, to find things were very full. Found a spot on the ground and got to work.

Wetsuit off, dried my upper body and tri singlet on (I didn't swim with it as I was worried about being too cold on the bike, I wanted dry clothes) bike shoes and gloves on, wetsuit and goggles back into the transition bag, which was whisked away by a helpful volunteer. Racebelt and sunglasses on on the way to the bike.

Helmet was waiting at the bike, helmet on, and slow jog/walk the bike to the mount line.

What would you do differently?:

Move faster
  • 4h 05m 5s
  • 90 kms
  • 22.03 km/hr

Unfortunately, the swim was where my race peaked.

My expectations for the bike were not good. I am not a particularly strong cyclist at the best of times, and I know I'm not as fit as I wanted to be. I thought, with a good day I may be able to get 3:30 for the ride, but, if things didn't go well I should be able to get around 4 hours without destroying my legs... that was the goal, under bike so I at least have a chance for a respectable run.

The start of the race was an uphill climb out of town the first 5km, and to make it extra fun it was also upwind. Once the first summit had been climbed I decided to push on and try and get my average speed back up to where I wanted it to be. I was hardly racing along but picked things up 4-5km/hr average. Until the turn around just past Glendhu Bay at which point the wind came behind us and I raced back to town.

After flying through town at 35km/hr+ we hit another climb, at this point I knew I had made a mistake, the legs were already letting me know I had pushed too hard. And this was only 35km into a 90km ride! I tried to back off, and take things easy, but the next 15km from Wanaka up to lake Hawea were a bit soul destroying. The course was a mix of hills and false flats, always heading up, and the headwinds were vicious. My average speed for this part of the race was down around 15km/hr.

Once I turned the corner at Hawea however, things started looking up. Apart from 1 long climb (The longest climb of the day) and a terrifying (due to strong crosswinds) descent the 20km from Hawea to Luggate was flat (slight downhill) straight and a strong tail wind. This was easy, fast riding. In the state I was in it wasn't time to put the hammer down however, but time to sit up and cruise (all be it at the highest speeds of the day 35km+)

But of course it was not to last, turning the corner at Luggate brought us back in to the wind. And to the infamous airport hill, so another climb, and another flatish but upwind section. This wasn't as bad as heading to Hawea, but it did hurt.

Coming back into town, about 10km left to ride the day through another curve ball at me. I tried to shift up to the big chain ring, and the derailleur wouldn't go far enough... that's odd I thought, looking down I noticed that the derailleur was moving fine, the chain ring was further away from the bike than it should be. The crank was starting to come loose and was floating around in the bottom bracket. Almost 4000km on my bike and never had a mechanical issue riding, until the bikes first HIM...

Fortunately I have a decent multi tool that lives in the saddle bag so a quick stop to tighten things up then downhill for the last 5km to the finish.

What would you do differently?:


I think I must have swallowed some lake water during the swim, as my stomach was a bit upset for the first half of the ride, so I had no choice but to avoid gels until my stomach settled down, real food always sits better with me.As such I ate far less than I had planned. I got half a banana at each aid station (3) and had the 3 gels I started with, and 6 cliff shot bloks. That's about 650 cal in total. Much less than the 300 cal/hour I was aiming for (would have been 1,200 cal)

In previous long races I've had 1 bottle of powerade, and 1 of water on the ride, as a way of getting extra nutrition in easily. As this race they only had nunn and water at the aid stations I chose to go without any liquid nutrition so I could live off the course. That was a mistake. 150 Cal in a bottle would have helped get come calories into me, especially at the start of the ride.
Transition 2
  • 06m 51s

Walked the bike into transition, racked her by the handlebars. Helmet off and onto the bike, bike shoes off, gloves off, socks and shoes on, stuff everything back into the transition bag, grab the sun visor and off on to the run.

About 10m away from the bike realize that my multi tool, used to fix my mechanical issue on the bike is still in my tri singlet pocket... that's going to be annoying for 21km so back to the bike and leave the tool behind.

Off on my slow shuffle through transition, up and over the bridge again and then start the run.

What would you do differently?:

Be less tired at the end of the bike
  • 3h 24m 58s
  • 21.1 kms
  • 09m 43s  min/km

What to say about the run... well the first is that I use the term 'run' in the loosest sense of the word...

My plan going into the event was to run 3 minutes, walk 30 seconds. As I have been practicing in my training. That plan however, was assuming I had something left in the tank after the ride, which I did not. So as I approached the end of the bike leg I had been thinking about how I was going to approach the run, I knew that my plan wasn't going to work, but I also knew that if I just winged it and went by feel things would go bad. So I started the run on a 2 minute run, 1 minute walk schedule

I hit the bottom of the bridge, and started my jog, 2 minutes running, 1 walking. And I kept that up for 3 cycles, when about 1 and a half km into the half marathon I hit the first small hill and slowed to a walk. It was about this time that it started to rain too. After walking up the short climb I tried another run, this time aiming for a 1 minute run to 1 minute walk plan. But, it was not to be, the legs just didn't want to move.

I'm not sure if it was entirely the empty gas tank, or if I was just not mentally strong enough to push on and force myself to run but at this stage, running was out.

So I took a break, I decided to walk till I was 5km into the run, and then try some running again. From the 5km mark I restarted a run/walk plan, this time tho there was no time goal run the downhill segments, walk the uphill ones. I kept this up for about 25 minutes (about 3km)

The course then entered a 'technical' section, of narrow, twisty, hilly (short hills but constantly going up or down) track, along the Clutha river. I again slowed to a walk, partly because I was worried about tripping and falling if I continued to run (shuffle) but mainly due to fatigue. I continued the walk through this section and back onto the road, with a few very short runs thrown in, but not enough running to qualify as a run/walk.

Once back on tarmac, the course climbed the infamous Gunn Road hill, no prizes for guessing I walked up that. I again had a few short runs on the downhill sections of the road, but predominantly walked until the aid station at 14km, the highest point on the course.

Refueling with water/coke/ and jet plane lollies, and with a nice, downhill section I again started a run/walk. This time I was running 'to that lamppost' or '2 driveways' negotiating with myself as I went. This lasted for the next 3km.

But, as they tended to do on this day my energy levels dropped again, and I had a final long walking segment until I was about a single kilometer from the finish. With the exception of one final short bump to climb about 500m from the end I ran/shuffled my way home.

So finally, after 8 hours and 20 minutes of effort I was done.

What would you do differently?:

I biked too hard.

It wasn't fast, but it was above what my fitness allowed me to do, and still run. With hindsight I should have been 20-30 minutes slower on the bike so that I could run, to my 3:00/0:30 plan for at least the majority of the run. I don't know what I would have been able to run, but I would expect somewhere in the 2:30-3:00 range.

With hindsight I also believe that I didn't push myself hard enough. The run was always going to be bad after that bike. But those long walking periods shouldn't ave happened. If I had been able to get some run intervals into some of those segments I could have dropped quite a bit of time off what I managed.

Post race
Warm down:

No warm down, just go my finishers medal and then into the recovery tent where I enjoyed coke, red bull and subway sandwiches. And of course a sit down.

My wife and her sister, who had been supporting me around the course throughout the day then went and brought the car around to transition, we collected the bike and transition bags, packed up my things and returned to the motel.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Other than general fitness and weighing too much, which are obvious there are 2 main things:

1. Bike fitness. I've spent a lot of the last year running. I haven't spent long enough on the bike, and when I was on the bike I didn't push hard enough. The biggest difference from this HIM to my previous was long rides, I did many 80km+ rides last time, my longest ride this time was 70km. and intervals. I needed 1 or 2 trainer sessions a week to make sure I got the intensity I need into my training. That was very much missing this time around.

2. Mental toughness. Despite burning too many matches on the bike, I still feel I left time out there on the run. I could have had more run intervals during the long walking periods I had. I need to re learn how to suffer.

Event comments:

Best race I've done.
Well organised, lots of volunteers. Beautiful and challenging course. It's a great place to suffer.
I just need to be fitter to have a better time before trying again.
This should be on everyone's bucket list.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2016-01-18 12:00 AM
00:35:39 | 1900 meters | 01m 53s / 100meters
Age Group: 14/28
Overall: 193/407
Performance: Good
Suit: Blue70 Pivot
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Shot
Water temp: 17C / 63F Current: Low
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Average
Waves: Navigation: Average
Rounding: Average
Time: 07:57
Performance: Below average
Cap removal: Below average Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: No
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed: Average
04:05:05 | 90 kms | 22.03 km/hr
Age Group: 27/28
Overall: 377/407
Performance: Bad
Wind: Strong with gusts
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Average Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Average Hills: Bad
Race pace: Too hard Drinks: Just right
Time: 06:51
Overall: Below average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike Bad
Racking bike Average
Shoe and helmet removal Average
03:24:58 | 21.1 kms | 09m 43s  min/km
Age Group: 27/28
Overall: 397/407
Performance: Bad
Keeping cool Average Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %0
Overall: Below average
Mental exertion [1-5] 2
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Ok
Course challenge Too hard
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2016-02-29 6:05 PM

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Auckland, North Island
Subject: Lake Wanaka Half Ironman

2016-03-08 1:54 PM
in reply to: #5169790

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Extreme Veteran
Brisbane, Australia
Gold member
Subject: RE: Lake Wanaka Half Ironman

Great report!

Well done on toughing it out - nothing worse than starting the run leg on cooked legs.  I can imagine the disbelief when realising that the crank was coming loose!

It is a beautiful part of the world to race in (I just raced the Motatapu Off-Road Marathon between Glendhu Bay and Arrowtown last weekend). This race might tempt me for a first HIM in 2017.


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2005-06-29 8:41 AM JohnnyKay
date : September 22, 2009
author : Ali Winslow
comments : 0
Is it realistic to race a sprint and Olympic distance race within 2-3 weeks of one another to gauge my progress before tackling the half Ironman?
date : November 17, 2008
author : mat steinmetz
comments : 7
I just started doing tris this summer and I have two under my belt, both sprints. Is it reasonable to build up for a Oly in early ‘09, with a HIM in Oct of ‘09
date : September 24, 2008
author : Amy Kuitse
comments : 0
I am running Boston in April and Ironman Lake Placid is in July. I have been told that it is ambitious to think about doing an IM so close to a marathon due to the recovery time. Any suggestions?
date : August 21, 2008
author : vm354
comments : 1
How Pilates training helped a wanna-be triathlete realize the goal of completing a half-Ironman, Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island.
date : August 10, 2007
author : Terese Luikens
comments : 0
The first time I ventured into the deep murky green lake and could not see the bottom my muscles tensed and my imagined fears surfaced. What exactly lies beneath?
date : July 30, 2006
comments : 0
If a heart patient can do these things, then so can those of you who haven't been split open like a fish and sewn back together.
date : January 29, 2006
author : sl2302
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I just had a couple of problems, I could count the number of triathlons I had contested at zero. Secondly, I could count on one hand the number of times I had been swimming in the last 17 years.
date : August 30, 2004
author : sherrick
comments : 40
This half Ironman plan covers many weeks of challenging, but attainable training for someone who has some endurance experience, and ideally some Olympic distance races within the past season.