The first Ironman of 2019 is done and dusted, and although it was a small field it was packed with top athletes which made for an exciting day of racing. I had a solid build up, I have often put a huge emphasis on the NZ season of racing, which has seen me be a bit worn out by September. So this year I am trying to taper my efforts a bit more with the international season in mind. That being said I am still happy with my performances in the NZ season. I placed 4th at the very competitive Taupo 70.3 and got a world champs slot. Then I moved on to the national half Ironman champs, where I placed 3rd - even with an unfortunate penalty on the bike. And finally, Ironman NZ rounded out the summer where I placed 6th in a time of 8.25, which is my best on that course.
How did the race day unfold?
With the quality of the field I knew the pace would be on from the gun. It was an interesting start. Dylan McNeice is one of the best triathlon swimmers in the world and he likes to start away from the pack, so he started 50m to the left of the buoy line, but in the end all the other guys like Braden Currie, Terenzo, Mike Phillips, Tim Reed all went and started with him. I backed my speed and chose to start on the buoy line to swim the shortest distance. Well after about 400m we all came together anyway so that didn’t make too much difference. Except Dylan did pull away just before that.
After the convergence of the two packs the swim was pretty uneventful, Dylan extended his lead to 1min 14sec out the water to our group of 6 (Braden, Terenzo, Mike, Tim, Simon and Myself). It’s always a long run to T1 in IMNZ and it feels like a sprint. On to the bike I was at the back of the pack, which is where I wanted to be with the goal of being a bit conservative on the first lap. But going up the Napier Taupo hill I thought Simon was dropping the wheel so I went to take him and then realised he wasn’t and had to pass the whole group, which was pretty hard and a mistake by myself. After that things settled down a bit for about 30km. Then Andrew Starykowicz came flying past. Terenzo and Braden tried to go with him but couldn’t, which isn’t surprising since he went on to smash the record by 7mins. Once I realised Terenzo and Braden hadn’t connected with Starky I tried to make a move to catch them. But after a solid 10min chase at power numbers which were too high I settled back down to a sensible pace. Dylan came around at that point and made a joke saying why are we chasing Starky, which was a good point. At that point there was a group of Dylan, Tim , Mike and me. We worked well together until Mike went to the front up the hill back in to town and put too much power down that we could not go with him. I think just before that Dylan had had his first mechanical. So through town it was down to Tim and I. By the second lap up Napier Taupo Rd, Mark Burton had caught and passed us. The next whole lap Tim and I traded turns and ticked the bike off.
Now only a marathon to go. I was looking forward to it! I have really been enjoying running in my new shoe sponsor HOKA ONE ONE. I’ve found they have looked after the legs well especially on the long runs, so a marathon on hard pavement was going to be a great test. It took me about 6km to find my run legs but once they came around I ran well. Tim Reed had got most of his 3min lead in that first section, then we stayed about 3min apart for the rest of the run. It was tough but I felt strong throughout and put together a 2.54 which is my equal best marathon and it gave me an overall time of 8.25. I ended up 6th which I am proud of. The guys in front are truly world class and I will keep working as hard as I can to get up to them.
Next up for me is Ironman Australia Port Macquarie which I have good memories from last year so I will build on this performance and step it up another level.
Thanks for reading! Mark Bowstead.