Wednesday 11 January 2012 | Published in Regional
Last Saturday eight local triathletes lined up in the Port of Tauranga Half Ironman race.
The race consists of a 2km swim, a 90km cycle and a 21km run.
The event doubles as the New Zealand Long Distance National Championships and attracts most of New Zealands top triathletes including multiple New Zealand Ironman winners Cameron Brown and Joanna Lawn.
It is a huge event logistically with 865 individuals and 157 three person teams competing.
Geoff Stoddart, Apii Napa, Pare Tangata, Taki Anaru and Jacob Pynenburg entered in the individual race while Debbie Moore, Katherine Reid and an Auckland friend entered the teams race, with Richard Vinsen cycling the 90 km leg for another team.
The weather in the days leading into the race were cold and wet making acclimatisation difficult.
For the individuals entered, the race was the culmination of four months of training up to 15 hours a week, including 5.45am swim training sessions and 90km cycles on the weekends. The race itself represents a significant financial commitment for some with entry fees near $300, plus travel and accommodation.
Race day dawned overcast and cool perfect racing conditions, but not so good for the Cook Islands supporters who turned out in force and shivered for the next 7 hours.
The swim start was staggered with elite athletes given a 2 minute start on the age group men with the age group women 2 minutes later and finally team swimmers a half an hour later. 865 swimmers in the water made for a spectacular start and the swim leg is usually quite physical with plenty of body contact as swimmers jostle for clear water.
To add to the drama, a cruise ship docked next to the start line as the race began.
For first timers, the swim can be intimidating. First out of the water was Geoff Stoddart in 36.05 minutes closely followed by Taki Anaru 36.59 then Apii Napa 40.58, Jacob Pynenburg 46.33 and Pare Tangata 52.46.
The 90km cycle was two loops out to Papamoa and back.
The roads are fantastic and speeds of up to 50km per hour were achieved by the top cyclists. Not one dog was spotted during either the cycle or the run a nice change from Rarotonga where they present a significant safety hazard.
Geoff Stoddart completed the cycle in a cracking 2 hours 27 minutes, Anaru 2.45, Pynenburg 3.08, Napa 3.03 and Tangata 3.29.
The final run was a 21km half marathon mostly on flat roads but with a dreaded strength sapping run around the undulating base of Mt Maunganui. After 3 to 4 hours swimming and cycling, the final 21km run challenges the mental and physical toughness of all athletes.
The Cooks supporters lined the home straight cheering each athlete as they passed on the double loop course.
First home was Geoff Stoddart in 4 hours 56 minutes followed by Taki Anaru in a personal best time of 5.28, Jacob Pynenburg 6.20, Apii Napa 6.21 and Pare Tangata 7.06.
The local team consisting of Debbie Moore and Katherine Reid completed the course in 6.13.
For iron distance first timers Jacob Pynenburg and Pare Tangata, completing the race was a significant milestone in their athletic careers.
These races are not called iron distance races for nothing. They are tough gruelling endurance events that test mind and body. It is not for the faint hearted.
Pynenburg, having just turned 18, was the youngest competitor in the race and was second in his age group overall.
For Tangata racing in the 45-49 age group, completing her first iron distance race was a significant achievement of which she can be rightly proud.
While a little down on his 2011 time, Geoff Stoddart still finished fourth in his age group.
He is now on his way to Wanaka to compete in the New Zealand leg of the international Challenge ironman brand of races and will race the same distances of 2km swim, 90km cycle and 21 km run next weekend .
The athletes were assisted by the vocal support of friends, families and spouses around the course.
It was a cold and towards the end, wet day for them all.
A big thanks goes out to those supporters.
The athletes appreciated the support and await news of the whereabouts of the cost subsidy from the Olympic movement entrusted to CISNOC as agent of the International Olympic movement which was misappropriated by CISNOC. - CITAI