Challenge Wanaka 2015 – February 2015

Over the years I have slowly learnt the importance of things like experience, maturity, patience, and even ‘true’ confidence and belief, not the ego driven loud and proud confidence that we sometimes feel we have to show to be ‘confident.’ 
No one single training session or day will determine your rise or full, but instead the big picture is what we must see. 
This was very much the case over the 5 weeks prior to Challenge Wanaka 2015. 
I had a great race up at Auckland 70.3 and my confidence coming off of that race was as high as ever. My training prior to it had been great and I felt as though I couldn’t put a foot wrong. 
Come the time to pick my training up again I noticed that things weren’t quite the same, the spring in my step had gone, the effortless flow on the bike had disappeared, and I needed to use every swim as recovery. Everything will be ok I told myself.
2 weeks out from an Iron-Distance event I do a key bike/run session – 4-5hours on the bike with motor pacing and a 90minute run off the bike with efforts (about race pace). In the past I have generally nailed this session, at least I have before any of my other victories.
This year I was walking on the run at the 50 minute mark and in a pretty bad state.
Everything will be ok…
I talked to a few important people, coach etc, and they all told me “Everything will be ok.”
I put my head down and focused on recovery, kept positive, believed in the work I had done, and focused on the big picture. 
The next thing I knew it was race morning and well, shit, everything better be ok!

We woke to a stunning morning and probably a good 10degrees warmer than last year to keep everyone happy. The forecast was for a sunny day with light winds and a lake temperature sitting around 17/18 degrees, again a good 3-4 degrees warmer than last year.

The plan was the same, swim my pace and focus on saving as much energy for the early stages of the ride. It was pretty much pancake flat, except for a few bumps, which may or may not have been other swimmers. I actually got a little distracted as the sun came up and the mountains in the background started to look like pastel paintings. Pretty bloody cool!
Other than swimming blind in to the sun for the last stretch the swim was rather drama free and it was a great feeling to run up on to the beach feeling like I hadn’t really left much out there… other than my swim cap.


T1 was all about making sure I put my left sock on my left foot and vice versa – we men can struggle at that and so I was pretty chuffed to have done it correctly.

On to the bike and I got my first time splits – Michael Fox was less than 3 minutes down and Braden Currie (Coast 2 Coast champ the week before and crazy man) wasn’t too far behind. 
I had great legs straight away and headed out toward Treble Cone. It wasn’t until the turn-around that I saw how close the entire field was (except for Dougs – Dougal Allan – he wanted a real challenge on the bike). I would say the top 10 were closer to me than 2nd place was last year at that early stage. 
I realised then that I may have been away with the fairies a bit and needed to stop admiring the pastel paintings out on course. I re-focused and got on with the job. Early on I was being hauled in by almost everyone, but I felt like I was riding well and didn’t panic. I had noticed Doug’s about 14 minutes back at the first out and back, and so thought that he had got out of the water 14 minutes back. I praised him for his effort thinking that he had knocked around 5 minutes off of his swim time. Little did I know that he had already ridden 3 minutes in to me in about 25km… 
At the next out and back section around the 80km mark I noticed that the time gaps had begun to open back up again… to most of the field. Courtney Ogden had started to solidify his position near the front and Braden was still riding like a man possessed after just a week’s recovery from his 3rdstraight victory at the C2C and of course, Doug’s, who I thought must have stolen his bike and would continue on to Christchurch and miss the turnaround. At this stage he was no more than 8 minutes behind after 80km – I did my math and realised he was taking 1minute out of me every 10km and I would be seeing him sooner rather than later.
I had good legs at this stage and once again re-focused and drove on. I made the effort to maximise speed where I could and reduce any recovery periods. By the time I hit the 120km mark my lead was down to 3.40. This is where the controlled start probably saved me and I was able to maintain pretty good pace and by the time we got to the 170km mark it was more of a game of cat and mouse and I was a pretty lucky (skilled) mouse and managed to roll in to transition no more than 20seconds ahead of the future 1 hour record holder!


T2 involved a quick chat where I called Doug’s a bastard and asked why he was putting me through such an ordeal. He tried the old mind games trick and said he had burnt a few matches doing it and I shouldn’t be worried. Yeah I bet you burnt some matches, I thought, or did he, should I be worried, or shouldn’t I!?!?

Luckily enough my run legs had come to run. I decided after Dougal’s mind games in the tent that I would run my own pace and not look back. I felt great for the entire first lap and it was reassuring to be slowly pulling away. When I hit the turnaround I knew that I had probably exerted a little too much, even though I was feeling great, and come the 30km mark I started to seize up a bit and slow down. Dougal never let me get comfortable, he kept pushing and raced like a champ to the end.


To go 3 from 3 in Wanaka was such an awesome feeling. I enjoyed this build up a lot more than the previous year. I was more relaxed, confident, and was actually looking forward to racing, and subsequently I felt like I enjoyed the race so much more. 
It was a spectacular day out there and it was cool to see, what seemed like, way more locals out on course soaking it up. Aubrey road is usually the solitude stretch, but this year it was full of people and a couple of hoses for a cool down if you needed it.


Congratulations to Dougal Allan for a sensational race in 2nd place and a new bike course record (4.30 - 12 minutes faster!), and to Courtney Ogden on a super solid and consistent day to finish 3rd. Also great races from Carl Read in 4th and Braden in 5th. 2 gutsy competitors who just love to race. Was great to have you two out there.
To Gina, Laura and Michelle, congratulations also. 6 wins for Gina in Wanaka now, I feel I may never catch her at this rate!


My friends and family out on course were simply epic again. The ‘home town’ advantage is without a doubt a massive boost for me in Wanaka.
A big congratulations to my better half Annabelle Bramwell for nailing the full and finishing faster than me and to her sister and (future) brother-in-law for finishing their first half-distance events. Also to my athletes out there who all nailed their individual races; Heath, Jess, Louise, and to all the other crew out there racing, it is with a lot of pleasure that I can say there are too many of you to name. See you all back next year!

A huge thanks to the race crew for once again putting on a seamless event and to the volunteers who act as some pretty super, super glue and hold it all together.