Triathletes conquer gruelling ironman


Nelson triathletes had a big day out at Challenge Wanaka on Saturday battling big distances and strong winds in the 10th edition of the popular long distance triathlon.

It was already going to be a tough day completing either the 112.9km half or 225.8km full Iron-distance race around Lake Wanaka but the wind increased the suffering for all of the 1640 athletes. Big waves rolled through the swim course while the wind made the cycle section an exercise in survival – the only relief was on the run when athletes got some shelter on the walking track on the banks of the Clutha River.

But Nelson athletes rose to the challenge with Eileen Searle continuing her remarkable record at Wanaka by easily winning the F55-59 half distance race in 5hr 25min 48sec to finish 12th women overall. Eileen’s run was especially impressive completing the half marathon in a super-fast 1hr 42min 47sec.

The ageless Peter Gibbs finishing second in his M65-70 age group while Neil Green also had a strong race finishing fifth in the competitive M40-45 age group and 45th overall in 5hr 12min 35sec. Olivia Bird was third in the F25-29 age group and 31st overall in 5hr 4min 4sec.

Former top cyclist Karyn Holland also performed well in her first full iron-distance race, overcoming a nervous start in the 3.8km swim before completing the 180km cycle and 42.6km run to secure third place in her F50-59 age group in a time of 13hr 30min 15sec.

“I’m not a strong swimmer and when I saw how rough the lake was in the morning I was really worried,” Karyn says. “It was so bad I was standing on the shore before the start of the swim in tears – I was that scared.”

But Karen showed plenty of courage to battle her way around the two-lap course before showing speed on the bike and determination on the run. Although Karyn has completed a number of ultra-distance cycle races, she considered the 180km ride around Lake Wanaka was one of the hardest she has ever completed.

“The wind was terrible. It was so strong coming back from Tarras, I was in my smallest gear and only going 10 or 11 kilometres an hour.”

Another Nelson competitor, Simon Bloomberg also completed the full distance race in 11hr 27min 31sec to finish third in the M50-59 age group after a good swim and bike and steady run. Illness and mechanicals forced the withdrawal of Caro Gates, Jude Vincent and Kim Wadell in the full-distance event.

Other Nelson results for the Lake Wanaka Half were: Paul Thornton 5hr 39min 54sec, M55-59, 5; Chris Vincent 5hr 41min 35sec M50-54, 11; Grant Ward 5hr 45min 1sec M40-44, 13; Frances Riley 5hr 54min 39sec F25-29, 10; Simon Kneebone 5hr 57min 43sec, M45-49, 20; Mandy Medcalf-Stephens 6hr 51min 9sec F45-49, 11; Rob Cant 8hr 48min 39sec M50-54, 31; Alan and Vicki Bryson 5hr 32min 29sec in the team’s section.