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Ironman New Zealand - Triathlon

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Taupo, North Island
22C / 72F
Total Time = 16h 48m 55s
Overall Rank = 1000/1270
Age Group = M30-35
Age Group Rank = 90/100
Pre-race routine:

I'm going to begin on Monday, at the start of race week.

Monday and Tuesday were normal days at home, I did a 20 minute easy run Monday, and a 30 minute easy run Tuesday.

Wednesday was the start of my time off work, and also travelling day to Taupo. My wife had a physio appointment in the morning, so I took advantage of the free time to do a 60 minute swim in the local lap pool. (Swimming at 8am, instead of before or after work is awesome, so many empty lanes to choose from!) Following my swim and breakfast we made our way down to Taupo.

After checking into the hotel we went and drove the bike course, and overall I was a bit relieved. Other than the climb out of town the hills didn't seem to scary, and despite its fearsome reputation the road surface wasn't too bad, it wasn't pancake smooth but definitely not as rough as Wanaka from last year. After getting back to the hotel I put the bike together, and headed off for a 30 minute ride from the hotel up the climb to the top of the hill. By then it was getting a bit late so back to the hotel for a shower and off into town to find a restaurant for dinner.

Thursday morning was a swim on the race course. Unfortunately due to the danger of flying golf balls from the 'hole in one' raft I had to start about half way down the course. Swimming in the lake that day was fantastic. It was millpond flat, and visibility was amazing, I could see the bottom the whole swim, it was almost like swimming in a pool. After breakfast it was off to the race venue and get checked in, which took about an hour of standing in line. After getting the race pack, and a bit of merchandise, We drove the run course (at least the parts on the road) before the afternoon was spent resting before heading out again for dinner.

Friday morning I wanted to give everything a bit of a shake out, to make sure the legs were still working and that there where no technical/mechanical issues. A 15 minute swim in the lake (again perfect conditions) was followed by a 15 minute ride up and down part of the run course and a 10 minute run on the course. All good so time to pack up my things and head off to rack my bike and hand in the race packs. Checking all my things in went smoothly, and a volunteer walked me through transition so I would have some idea where to go. After that it was back to the hotel, legs up and rest for the rest of the day. Until dinner with my parents and inlaws, who were all coming down to support me. Dinner dragged on a bit too long, and I was latter to bed than I had planned. But no biggie as there wasn't going to be much sleeping that night.

I woke at 430am on race day, ate 2 PB and Honey sandwiches and started drinking a bottle of electrolytes. The support team and I drove into town and found a park reasonably close to the race site, and I headed off to transition to pump up tires and put my nutrition and bottles onto the bike. By this stage I was in my own little world, trying to focus and prepare myself mentally for the long day ahead, I wasn't feeling negative about things, but walking through town in silence that morning a voice in my head started saying 'Dead man, walking the green mile'

After sorting things in transition we headed down to the swim start and got into my wet suit. I had a gel about 20 min before the race start, before joining the queue to get over the timing mat and onto the course.
Event warmup:

I never intended to do a warmup swim. I knew I was heading into a heck of a long day, so was happy to treat the first few hundred meters of the swim as warmup. I found a spot about chest deep in the water towards the back and outside of the pack, happy to let the quick guys get away.

Waiting for the cannon I looked back at the shoreline, and the size of the crowd brought the shear magnitude of what was about to happen back to me. I'm not a particularly emotional guy, but i admit I did have a bit of a moment looking at that crowd, then the 1200+ swimmers around me, 'OMG, this is the effing Ironman' As I composed myself then cannon fired, the already rough lake turned rougher with thrashing arms and we were off.
  • 1h 25m 59s
  • 3800 meters
  • 02m 16s / 100 meters

The week building up to IMNZ had been beautiful, calm weather. As I said above my training swims in the lake were like swimming in a pool.

The day before the race the wind started to build. Come race day and it was brutal. When the 12 time winner of IMNZ says it was the hardest swim in 19 years he's done, you know it was tough.

I started well, I got into my rhythm quickly. The westerly wind was coming over our right shoulder for the first part of the swim, so although the waters were rough I didn't find it too bad. I also prefer breathing to my left, so was turning away from the waves to breath which helped. I had a few issues with other swimmers trying to occupy the same piece of water as I was, but mostly just plugged along. Drafting was good for the most part. It seemed that I had managed to seed myself in about the perfect place, although I was overtaking some I was about the same speed as the majority of swimmers around me, so we all helped suck each other along.

I wasn't using a GPS for the swim, as I was worried about battery life so was saving it for the run. But at the first turning buoy I checked my watch, 35 minutes gone very happy with my pace. Unfortunately this was where the day started getting hard.

After the first turn we were aiming directly away from the beach, and directly into the waves. Honestly, I felt like I made no progress here, launching out the back of the waves, being thrown around it felt like all I could do was hold ground and not be driven back, it was like trying to swim at a surf beach. I did note however that compared to the swimmers around me I was holding my own. Finally got to the 2nd turning buoy, only 50m away and turned right to head back towards the start.

This time however, the waves were coming from my left and ahead, so the going was much tougher. I made a few mistakes on this part of the swim, I noticed that the weather was pushing most of the swimmers inshore from the buoys so they were having to swim back out to get around each buoy. I tried to avoid that mistake and swim straight, but I over compensated and ended up too far off shore, almost on my own so lost any drafting and ending up swimming further than needed. I also swallowed (what seemed like) a lot of lake water. Not so much that I was in any danger on the swim or anything, but enough that it would effect my stomach for a long portion of the bike.

Eventually I reached the final turning buoy and was able to aim at the swim exit. For this final 200m the waves were coming from almost behind, so this was the most enjoyable part of the swim. Once my hands started touching the bottom I stood, and waded out of the water, through the exit gate and into the crowd. 1 hour 25 minutes after the start, but 15 minutes slower on the 2nd half than the first.
What would you do differently?:

Overall I was happy with my swim. Conditions were brutal and I felt that I did the best I could manage. The only change I would make was better navigation on the 2nd half of the swim, I'm not sure how much extra distance I swam but I'm sure it made a difference. Also by ending up on my own I lost any drafting, so would have probably been better to swim a little further but stay in the pack.
Transition 1
  • 11m 19s

Transition 1 begins with a 400m 'run' from the swim exit to the change tents. And for the first 200m of that it's going through what seemed like a massive crowd cheering you on. The energy of the crowd made me jog until I hit the stairs, and then walked the rest of the way.

Once in the tent a volunteer grabbed me and directed me to some empty space. For the first time in a Triathlon I was running a full change of clothes. Wetsuit off (assisted over the feet by my volunteer) swimming trunks off, a quick towel off, bib shorts on, cycling jersey on (again assisted by my volunteer) arm warmers on (more assistance) bike shoes, and gloves on. And then all my stuff whisked away. I grabbed a half a banana at the aid station tent on the way to the bike, walked to the mount line and then on my way.
What would you do differently?:

Doing a full clothing change is not fast. If I had been worried about my overall time I would have stuck to 1 tri kit for the whole day. I would also have applied more lube, I seemed fine at the time, and all through the ride, but with hindsight I needed more.
  • 8h 16m 42s
  • 180 kms
  • 21.74 km/hr

My plan for the bike was to take it nice and easy, take advantage of any downwind/down hill sections, drop down the gears and spin up hills and generally maintain a nice consistent, but not too hard pace. From my training I was expecting to average 22-24km/hr for a 7:30 - 8:00 hour ride.

I started the bike feeling a bit less than ideal, my stomach was churning a bit due to the amount of lake Taupo I had swallowed during the swim. The ride started with a nice easy few km along the lake front before the first climb up the Napier Taupo rd, that I had practiced on Wednesday. Changed down the gears and spun up the hill nice and slow, but easy. At the top of the climb I got another reminder that things could go wrong, there was a cyclist lying on the ground surrounded by volunteers and ambulance staff. Less than 10km into the bike and his ironman was over.

Over the top of the hill the strong winds which had made the swim so tough became my friend and I was blown along quite fast. I was using the cateye cycle computer, not a gps, so can't replay the ride. But from km 10-20 I would have been up around 40km/hr the whole time. Flying along.

I slowed through the aid stations, replacing water and electrolyte bottles at alternating aid stations. I was drinking every 10 minutes, and eating 100cal (either gel or shot bloks) every 30. On top of that I grabbed a banana at most of the early aid stations.

The first 1/4 of the ride was great, of course I got overtaken by far more cyclists than I over took, but that is normal as swimming is by far my strongest discipline. My stomach had settled and I arrived at the turn around at an average speed of almost 28km/hr. Flying. And well ahead of schedule. With hindsight , I was too fast on this part of the course, I should have backed off and conserved my energy some more as the next 45km were back into the wind, which was still pumping.

The best way to describe the ride back to Taupo is tough. The strong headwinds combined with a not too steep, but consistent climb back to the top of the hill was just damn hard, resulting in a 19km/hr 2nd half of lap 1. I continued to get overtaken by stronger cyclists who don't know how to swim, but I did seem to be in a similarly paced group of 3 or 4 who were insight of each other most of the time. Getting to the top of the hill was a massive relief, it was still upwind back into town, but being downhill I was able to give my legs some rest. My stomach was also beginning to suffer again. Which was a surprise, I've never had issues in the HIM's i've done, but some combination of all the sugar from gels, and bananas wasn't agreeing with me, and I started thinking I may need to make a technical stop, for the first time in a triathlon.

After zooming around town for a 2nd time I saw my family for the first time since starting the ride on the Napier Taupo hill climb, getting the support was quite a pick me up. Almost at the top of the hill was the special needs and I stopped to get the PB and honey sandwich I had prepared. I was hoping that some real food would help settle my insides down. I grabbed half the sandwich and headed off on my 2nd loop.

I'd like to think that I learnt from the first loop, and backed off a bit on the down wind part of the loop, or maybe I was just slower because I was fatigued. I continued to pick up fresh bottles and nutrition from the aid stations, but every gel/shot blok I had I felt a rumbling in my stomach. I knew I was going to have to stop but decided to wait until an aid station on the way back, I wanted to let my legs get their rest during the harder half of the lap, not the easier.

At the 2nd time around the turn my family was there again, cheering and just generally making lots of noise. It was nice to see them, but I knew how hard the last 45km of the ride was going to be.

The ride back to Taupo was pretty soul destroying, very slow, very very hard. I spent most of the ride with a group of similarly paced athletes, overtaking and being overtaken every few minutes. So it's not like I was the only one suffering but this was one of the hardest parts of the race for me. At some points I was seriously doubting my ability to finish before the bike cut off.

I stopped at an aid station for a technical stop, about half way back. I'm not going to go into details, but not much happened... i'd spent the last 3 hours feeling like i needed it, then nothing. Anyway after a few minutes stopped I was off again, this time with a new group of 4 or 5 cyclists to trade places on the way back.

As we were the tail end of the race the aid stations were starting to run out, so instead of picking up at pace whilst riding past I had to stop at a table at the last 2 aid stations to pick up some food. On the plus side tho, they had chocolate, and at the last stop, bottles of coke. (also known as nectar of the gods)

Finally I got to the top of the hill for the final time. I had less than 10km to go, downhill, and plenty of time till the bike cut off, and I knew I was going to make it. Such a feeling of relief. Picking up the pace, and resting the legs on the descent into town was fantastic, and shortly before 5pm I rolled into T2. Over the loud speaker I heard Mike Reilly calling me in "and finishing the bike we have Andrew Lee, 32 from Auckland. Andrew you WILL be an ironman today" That was quite a pick up.
Transition 2
  • 06m 57s

The changing tent was a lot emptier than in T1 for some reason...

Again I ran a full change of clothing, into tri shorts and singlet, shoes and socks, race belt on, grab my arm warmers out of my cycling jersey before the volunteer whisked it all away. A 2nd volunteer gave be a full, cold, water bottle whilst I was changing. That was a nice touch and I finished it between T2 and aid station 1.

On the exit to transition I had 2 more volunteers put sunscreen on my shoulders, neck etc. Which was great, much better than doing it yourself.

And I was out on the run at 5:01. Just missing my pre race target of 5 at the latest. But considering the conditions not too bad.
What would you do differently?:

I would have re lubed as well as re suns screened.

Otherwise happy.
  • 6h 47m 58s
  • 42.2 kms
  • 09m 40s  min/km

In my pre race planning, I had said I wanted to be running no later than 5pm. As that leaves 7 hours to do the marathon, meaning that it could be walked at 10 min/km, Despite all the struggles with the wind on the bike and the swim, I started running at 5:01pm. So I had 3 x 14km laps to do in 7 hours, that's 2:20 a lap, or 1:10 to each turn around. I can do that.

I had been negotiating with myself towards the end of the bike how to approach the run. I was tired, my legs felt terrible so I had decided to walk the first lap, and see how it went, firstly how long it took, and secondly how I felt after. So that's exactly what I did.

And, it started surprisingly well. with the first few kilometers coming in at a faster pace than 9min/km. Through the aid stations I was a little slower of course, as I took water/electrolytes and coke. I saw my noisy family again as I passed our hotel, about half way to the turn around, and was very happy to reach the first turn in about 1:05. 5 minutes ahead of the 1:10 I would need to average to get to the finish by midnight. The return was much of the same, a painful, but pleasant walk in the sun. Heading back to town the course left the road and followed a path along the lake front for much of the way. That was flatter, and a little more scenic, which was nice.

During this part of the 'run' I found myself overtaking the same people multiple times. There were quite a few fast guys on their 2nd or 3rd lap doing the run walk thing, and they would run off into the distance and 20 minutes later I overtook again as their walking portions were much slower than what I was managing. That was a great boost for me, reinforcing that I was better to be walking than trying to run, and totally burning myself out. I got back to the end of lap 1 after another hour and 5 minutes, putting me about 10 minutes of schedule for an 11:59 finish. So, I thought things were going well so I decided to keep up with the walking plan.

Unsurprisingly the 2nd lap was more of a struggle than the first. Almost immediately on the lap I found myself starting to slow down. I was able to push and keep my pace ahead of schedule, but it was becoming much harder too keep the pace up. I continued to take water and coke at the aid stations, and the occasional shot blok/orange wedge. I reached the turn around for the 2nd time about 1:08 after starting lap 2. Still gaining time on my schedule, but starting to struggle. Also, by completng the 1st half of the marathon I was going into new, unknown territory, as I had never run/walked longer than 21.1km before.

The next part of the run, back to town was when the wheels really started to wobble. I was really slowing down by this stage, the whole way back I never managed to get a kilometer faster than my 10 min goal, so I was losing time on my schedule. And the hurt was starting to go from annoying/bad to horrible/excruciating. Other than the aches and pains in my muscles/joints, I had a sore back after the ride, and something unpleasant was starting to happen in my shoes. The balls of my feet were really hurting, like standing on hundreds of little knives every step.

In the end it only took 1:11 to get back to the end of lap 2, so it was the first time I was losing time on my schedule. But the more worrying thing is I was really starting to slow. The end of that lap was much slower than the first. At least that's what it seemed like. At this stage of the day I was getting quite fatigued, and was struggling with the mental arithmetic to work out how I was doing, and what was still required. Looking back at the GPS, I wasn't slowing down as much as I thought I was, but at the time I was getting very worried about the cut off. I didn't think I was going to make it.

After a debate with myself for the last 2 or 3 km of lap 2 I unleashed my secret weapon. I stopped walking at the turn around, and started to run. (ok, shuffle) Initially I ran the downhill sections, and at the start of lap 3, I did my 3rd fastest km of the day. It was hurting, but I was gaining on the 10 min/km ghost runner I needed to beat.

I knew that If I tried to run too far I risked completely blowing out, and ending up in a really slow walk, that would have left short at midnight. So I went back to what I had trained with, and started a specific run walk. I thought running for 2 or 3 minutes straight might be too much, so I decided to count. Run 20 steps, walk 50 steps (counting on the left leg only) I also think that counting steps helped keep me focused, and in the moment.

Passing my family again I told them that I was slowing down, and wasn't sure I'd make it. They told me that I was looking good, and had plenty of time at the speeds I was going. I didn't believe them and said I wasn't sure, but I wasn't stopping either I would finish, or be pulled off the course. They could tell I was hurting, at my wife and father in law drove ahead of me so I ran past them twice more in the next half hour, encouraging me to keep going.

Going past the last aid station on the way out, they told us we had 45 minutes to get to the turn around to beat the mid point cut off, and encouraged us to hurry. Now, looking back that's 2km in 45 minutes. So even at my slow pace I was not in any danger of missing, but at the time it really stressed me out. I upped the run walk ratio to 20 steps running, 30 walking. Approaching to final turn around was where the special needs tent was, and I planned to change my socks to help my hurting feet. Unfortunately it was all closed up. Now I don't know if that as always going to be the case, and I was supposed to stop on lap 2. But that was tough. I also started asking volunteers, where the cut off was. I had 20 minutes or so to spare, but for some reason that wasn't registering, I was just terrified of getting a tap on the shoulder and told 'you're done'

On the final leg to the finish I tried to keep up with the 20:30 step run:walk, but I kept losing focus and losing count of the walking parts. So I did walk a lot more than planned. When I went past my familys camp for the final time, they told me I was at km 38, so only 4 to go and over 55 minutes to do it in. So I was going to make it. I still didn't believe I was safe tho.

My dad walked with me for a little way, keeping me company as there were not many athletes still out, so I was mostly on my own. Just before the 40km marker someone called out 'it's 11:23, you've got this' what I heard was '23 to go, you've got this' so again, got stressed about how far to go in the time left, when I realized it was actually 35 minutes to go, not 25, and less than 2km left it was a massive relief. I still had a few run intervals, but it was mainly walking from this point.

Coming back into town for the last time there was amazing support, from the fire fighters standing on the side of the road 'we told you we'd still be here for you next lap' to the drunk tourists in the bars cheering wildly every time someone went past.

I hit the fenced off part of the run course, there was about 600m to go. To finish I had to run past the finishing area on the road, before doing a 180 degree turn coming onto the reserve and down the finish chute. As I ran past the chute, before turning I looked through the trees and saw the lights, and the crowd, heard Mike Reilly calling people home and thought to myself that this really is a pretty big thing, and I was about to do it. Coming around the corner, I took a moment to compose myself, sped up into a jog/shuffle and headed for home.

Coming down the finish chute, I high fived everyone with a hand hanging out (which seemed like a lot) and looked for my family, once I found them I went over, made sure all my supporters got a high 5, and stopped to give my wife a kiss. I wouldn't have made it that far without her, so she's earned in.

Across the line, heard the words, "Andrew you are an Ironman" and done.
What would you do differently?:

Other than being lighter, fitter and faster I don't know what else I could have done. I think if I ran earlier there was a very good chance of doing the final lap at 12-13min/km and not finishing. So I wouldn't change a thing.

On 2nd thoughts I would. More lube, and would have got my spare socks on lap 2 when special needs was still open.
Post race
Warm down:

I got a finishers medal put over my head, got my towel and walked through to medical. I suppose I had kept well hydrated as I only lost 1kg from the weigh in. So I was released, and let into the finishers area. I didn't spend much time there, I just wanted to go see my family, so a couple of glasses of chocolate milk, a sit and bit of quiet reflection, I was out of there.

Hugs all round from the family and back to the hotel. And man, now the adrenaline had stopped pumping did I feel the pain. I almost couldn't walk, through a combination of sore joints/muscles, and what would turn out to be a massive blister on the ball of my right foot. Honestly, with how hard it was to move only 15 minutes after finishing, I have no idea how I finished.

Back at the hotel I had a coke, and a cold beer before off to bed. For what was a surprisingly poor nights sleep.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Being overweight and undertrained

Event comments:

Great race. Big crowds, and well organised.
Tough but fair course.
And if you want to do an Ironman in NZ, this is the only show in town.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2017-03-06 12:00 AM
01:25:59 | 3800 meters | 02m 16s / 100meters
Age Group: 69/100
Overall: 575/1270
Performance: Average
Suit: Blue70 Pivot
Course: Parallel to the lakefront for 1775m, turn right for 50m, turn right for another 1775 back down the lake turn right for 200m into the finish.
Start type: Deep Water Plus:
Water temp: 21C / 70F Current: High
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Average
Breathing: Average Drafting: Average
Waves: Bad Navigation: Below average
Rounding: Average
Time: 11:19
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Average Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Yes Run with bike: No
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed: Average
08:16:42 | 180 kms | 21.74 km/hr
Age Group: 91/100
Overall: 975/1270
46 km 46 km 1:38:51 3:16:09 27.92 km/h 88 km 42 km 2:10:05 5:26:14 19.37 km/h 138 km 50 km 1:59:52 7:26:06 25.03 km/h 180 km 42 km 2:27:54 9:54:00 17.04 km/h
Wind: Headwind with gusts
Course: Through town and along the lake front, climb up the Napier Taupo road to Broadlands road, downhill along Broadlands road then 25km flat to turn around at Reporoa. Back along Brodlands road to the top of the hill, then decent into Taupo. Repeat.
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Good Cornering: Good
Gear changes: Good Hills: Average
Race pace: Too hard Drinks: Just right
Time: 06:57
Overall: Good
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
06:47:58 | 42.2 kms | 09m 40s  min/km
Age Group: 90/100
Overall: 1000/1270
Performance: Average
Course: The Ironman website says: The run course is a three-lap 42.2km (26mile) course leading athletes through town three times. Athletes can take in the flat lakefront scenery to Wharewaka Point and return. The word "flat" is misleading.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Too much
Post race
Weight change: %-0.8%
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2017-03-08 9:00 PM

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Auckland, North Island
Subject: Ironman New Zealand

2017-03-10 10:59 AM
in reply to: #5215459

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Subject: RE: Ironman New Zealand
Great report and well done!
2017-03-10 11:02 AM
in reply to: #5215459

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Houston, Texas
Subject: RE: Ironman New Zealand

Congrats!  Very cool to have Mike Reilly call your name coming off the bike AND when you finished the race to truly become an Ironman!

Isn't the human body amazing?  So interesting how when you have a very important goal that you absolutely must reach what kinds of things your body will allow you to do....and then once the goal has been achieved, it all catches up and in a matter of minutes you can hardly move! 

2017-03-13 8:45 AM
in reply to: ligersandtions

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DeLand, Florida
Subject: RE: Ironman New Zealand

Congrats Andrew!!!!  Well done and awesome race report.  Got a little choked up there at the end...

2017-03-15 2:25 PM
in reply to: #5215459

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Subject: RE: Ironman New Zealand
Congrats on your drive and tenacity to get through the race. I really enjoyed reading your RR and regardless of your finishing time, I garner motivation from it. There are plenty of "dark times" during IM, and you overcame all of it.

Glad you enjoyed the moment, and the only goal of your first IM is to finish....unless you are vying for a Kona spot.

Congrats again.
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