Sunday, 16 January 2011

challenge wanaka report


phew - what a challenge. that's my IM distance race count up to 15 and has to be the toughest yet! Wensleydale 2008 came to mind, but this was twice the length so tops it!! Having a spot of bother publishing my website - will have it updated, hopefully with some pics, in a few days...after our vacation around the tourist attractions of this wonderful part of teh world. steven won his age group - and an entry to Challenge Roth - so we're celebrating :o)


challenge wanaka in the glorious southern lake land of south island new zealand, has a contingency plan in case of weather conditions making the swim unsafe. in the briefing, race director assured us that only a 'howling north westerly wind' could mean conditions were this. wednesday through to friday we'd been treated to the best weather - clear, calm, sunny and warm. However at some point during teh early hours of saturday the nor-westerly started, whining - and though not at full blown 'howl', 5am race morning saw trees bent double and flags flapping violently in the winds blowing over the lake, which for the first time in our visit was not glass flat, but had significant chop. It was going to be a tough day.

lake wanaka is surrounded by mountains and glaciers and has a reputation for being very very cold even in the height of a kiwi summer. temperatures this week have varied a surprising amount - from pretty cold to quite fresh -but certainly nothing of the compulsory neoprene hats at race directors discretion and gloves and booties of previous years. because of the sudden change in weather I opted to swim in my neooprene cap. strangely - the water temperature had risen - not quite enough to overheat, but i was certainly toasty in it. anyway, brain freeze was one less 'challenge' that wanaka would be throwing at us today. But it had plenty more in store for us!

The bike course is composed of 3 sections - the first 35km out and back towards Treble Cone takes you out on steeply undulating roads paved with coarse chip. All too easy to blast your legs on all those steep rises on keen fresh legs, so I'm careful to lighten my gearing and use the small chainring. i'm struggling to get myself moving this morning so holding myself back doesn't seem to be an issue. return through town and then its out on the second segment - a loop through Albert Town and Lake Hawea. More short steep and frequent hills, rough chip and some shocking cross winds as we pass Lake Hawea. I've ridden this loop a few times in the week and do quite enjoy it, though not so much in the strong winds blowing my front wheel about and feeling inexplicably below par. A relatively small field has spread out pretty well by this point and there are few people around to pace off. i'm glad i have my powertap, but right now it;s just telling me i could ride harder. just about the end of this loop, on yet another steep climb, I'm passed by a familiar age grouper who I train with in Christchurch. I'm surprised that she was behind me being a better pool swimmer than I am, and this changes my state of mind somewhat. Knowing that she's a strong rider and would love to beat a pro, I fire up to stick with her.
The final and longest section of the course was unknown territory to me, around Lake Dunstan to Cromwell. Cromwell is the lowest and farthest point on the course, and with a ripping tail wind we race the next 40km keeping one another in sight and pushing each other along. My legs start to feel good working and I'm having fun. I know that we'll pay for this wind assistance with long slog back up the other side of the lake into the headwind, and try to get as much nutrition in me whilst I can. The cross winds have made it difficult to eat or drink much so far. At the 110km mark we turn, and it really is as hideous as i'd anticipated. The roughest roads i've ridden on, long gradual incline and wind so strong that it's literally difficult to make progress. Dropping into my smallest gear and spinning feverishly it's a case of head down and keep an eye on those ahead. My age-group pal and a couple of male age groupers who've been around for the last hour or so got a little way up the road now and I work hard to regain contact, but for all the efforts i put into the wind they're still apparently receding into the distance. For some reason my powertap starts playing up ( shoulda changed those batteries!) - so no speedo, power or anything just heartrate and perceived efforts and inner voices . keeping it at moderate level and my thoughts away from packing in. i tell myself that no one is enjoying this -no one is passing me and actually it does appear that after a while i'm gaining ground on and then passing those ahead of me. I still feel pretty strong despite being trapped in my personal version of hell! But of course i know that it's not eternal - it will end eventually so just keep plugging away at those pedals and there's progress. Some pretty fierce gusting cross winds and a few final hills just to seal this bike course in the memory as the toughest in all of my own triathlon experience - and i do tend to go for the tough bike courses!

I'd been looking forward to the run even more than usual- it's mostly off-road and follows the lake and river walkway on a 21km loop. I love to run trails and feel that this terrain plays to my strength. Starting my first lap with the lead male helped me keep good pace and it was fun to exchange a few words with his bike escort and receive some great encouragement form his support crew. About 17km into the first lap I passed Belinda Harper for 4th place, which really encouraged me. I did not realize at the time that she'd suffered a bike crash, loosing the lead, and was not about to give chase, so fear of being re-passed kept me moving. The wonderful scenery, enthusiastic support from the locals and many friends who were here taking part in the events of the weekend ( there had been a half distance and team relay races too), and the wonderful feeling of getting through a very trying day despite not being on my best form, got me through the nasty steep hills on the course with a smile on my face.

Challenge Wanaka was a wonderful experience - a beautiful location, an intimate feel to a superbly organized race with an honest and challenging course.

www.joannacarritt.co.uk

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