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Athletes prepare for Half Ironman

Thursday 23 December 2010 | Published in Regional

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Eight Cook Islands athletes will be giving the Christmas eggnog a miss this festive season as they knuckle down to last minute preparation before tackling the Port of Tauranga Half Ironman race on January 8.

The race is the 22nd year of the event which will be staged at Pilot Bay for the 2km swim out toward Papamoa and return for the 90km cycle then along Marine Parade and Ocean Beach Road including two loops of the famous “Mount” being the Mt Maunganui circle track for the final 21km run leg.

The race, considered to be one of New Zealand’s premier triathlon races, was so popular that entries were filled and closed in under one hour when the online booking system opened in June this year.

Close on 800 individuals and 200 teams of two and three persons will be on the start line in the water at Pilot Bay for the race including the eight Cook Islands athletes being Kelly Pick, Vanessa Palmer, Pare Tangata, Melanie Wilson, Rangi Apera, Apii Napa, Taki Anaru and Geoff Stoddart.

Vanessa Palmer is no stranger to the Mt Maunganui event and set her best time of 4:47:30 at last year’s event where she placed 8th overall in the elite women’s division and 14th overall in woman.

Pick raced in her first ever half ironman in January this year and finished in 4:43:28 to place first in her age group, second age grouper overall and 11th woman overall with the remaining nine ahead of her being what are known as elite or professional women athletes.

This year along with Vanessa Palmer, she joins that elite field on the start line and gets a two minute start ahead of the main field so that pro athletes get clear water to start the race.

The men’s field starts next and two minutes behind that wave start is the women’s field. The three wave start is taken into account in the finish times and is designed to make the race fairer for all competitors.

First timers travelling to Mt Maunganui are Pare Tangata who will pair up with Melanie Wilson in a two person team with Tangata undertaking the swim and cycle leg and Wilson taking over for the 21 km run.

Rangi Apera and Apii Napa will tackle the event as individual entries.

They have trained well for several months under coach Vanessa Palmer with many long hours swimming, cycling and running making up the required training.

Although there will be pain and fatigue involved they are confident of finishing in respectable times.

Taki Anaru has not tackled the full event before although he has been part of a team in the Port of Tauranga event.

He is competent at all three disciplines and has done sufficient training to produce a good result.

Geoff Stoddart’s best time in the Tauranga race was 4:44:11 in 2009 when he had 3rd best swim , 5th best cycle and 6th best run in his age category to finish 3rd out of 51 men in his category.

In 2010 he finished in 4 hours 48 minutes and is looking for a similar finish time in next month’s race.

Meanwhile, Roland Neururer, who has raced the Tauranga event earlier this year and finished in 4 hours 52 minutes will race a full 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42km run at the Challenge Wanaka on January 15.

Good luck to all the Cook Islands athletes taking on the Port of Tauranga and Challenge Wanaka races.