Race report: Ironman New Zealand 2016

5 March 2016

Taupo, New Zealand

Context my first full Ironman. I did two 70.3s in 2015: Auckland in January, and Port Macquarie in October.

Race aim: to finish. I gave myself 15 hours as a projected time, but that was an estimate on which I could base my nutrition supplies, rather than an aim. I aimed to follow my pace plan.



Gender Rank: 143

Div Rank: 13/52

Overall Rank: 711/1254

Overall Time: 13:00::56
SWIM DETAILS | Division Rank: 3/52

Split Name Distance Split Time Race Time Pace Division Rank Gender Rank Overall Rank
Total 3.9 km 01:03:14 01:03:14 01:38/100m 3 62 320

BIKE DETAILS | Division Rank: 22/52

Split Name Distance Split Time Race Time Pace Division Rank Gender Rank Overall Rank
Total 180.2 km 07:07:37 08:20:14 25.29 kph 22 191 912

RUN DETAILS | Division Rank: 13/52

Split Name Distance Split Time Race Time Pace Division Rank Gender Rank Overall Rank
Total 42.2 km 04:35:49 13:00:56 06:32/km 13 143 711

Transition Details

T1: Swim-to-bike 00:09:23
T2: Bike-to-run 00:04:53

Originally from: http://ap.ironman.com/triathlon/events/asiapac/ironman/new-zealand/results.aspx#ixzz42qzvWu9b


Key things I learned in training

  • Hell week: I can do hard things on my bike
  • Camp: I can ride 188kms. It gets lonely and long and everyone is far ahead of me, and then it gets better.
  • Swim: I’m not built like a swimmer, but I’m efficient. I won both QTS swims. I am a confident swimmer. When I get tired my L push-through goes weak: keep an eye on this.
  • Port Mac: respect the run. Follow the goddam run pace plan. Don’t go so hard on the bike.
  • Ride home from Caloundra: it gets crap and hopeless and I can keep going and it gets better. There is another side.
  • I can run forever at 130bpm.
  • It might feel like I’m going to shit myself, but it’s just gas.


Race experience

IM New ZealandI went into the race feeling as prepared as I could be. I totally enjoyed doing the 20-week Taupo campaign with the Tri-nation IM squad. Yes, they are all stronger cyclists than me, so group rides were always tough. But the experience of working towards a big, hard goal with a good group of people was inspiring and fun. A successful race depends on thorough preparation, so I spent the couple of weeks before the race making lists, booking travel, and making a race plan with Mark.  About ten days from the race I had a few days of feeling stressed: Stephen was sick in bed for several days, I had to manage all the kids on my own, training was sharp and constant, it was the first week of semester, and divorce papers had to be dealt with. As the day of travel finally approached, I calmed down.


We flew to Auckland, stayed at an airport hotel for the night, then picked up our (big!) campervan in the morning and drove to Taupo. We dropped the bike off at the busy local bike shop where I’d booked it in for reassembly. We did admin: I registered and got weighed (53kg! I rarely know my weight, but this is the most it’s been for a long time. Awesome.). A test swim (not too cold) and ride with the squad on Friday morning, then a day of going through more lists, eating eating eating, and trying to rest. 500g of carbs per day on Thursday and Friday, reducing fibre on Friday.


Note for next race morning: take my own pump. I borrowed a couple but couldn’t work them; other people were focussed on their own prep and didn’t want to share. Bless Andrew Hancox for pumping my tires. Bless Stephen for running back to the van for my forgotten water bottles.

The swim

Ironman NZ swimMark advised that I swim with Maree and Andrew, but I wanted to be on my own as I waited for the gun. I stood there in chest-deep water where Mark told me to be: in the front line, close to the shore-side buoy. The usual feeling: everything stripped away, just me and the race in front of me.  Vulnerable and contained. This was my first mass swim start. After the gun went off, it was the expected scrum, but nothing to worry about.  I’ve heard the expression ‘swim over someone,’ and I learned that it’s not just an expression: at one point I actually swam right over a guy. I spent some time working my way diagonally across the pack, towards the buoy line. The thing that surprised me about the swim was that it was a scrum throughout. I had assumed that it would be busy at the start, and that it would spread and thin out as we moved through the distance.  But it didn’t. I spent the whole time dealing with feet and dealing with getting boxed in.

Mands and I (I’m pretty sure it was her) swam side by side from halfway until the end: I knocked her goggles off at the halfway mark; she knocked mine off at about buoy 20. No one I’d rather have knock off my goggles. My goggles fogged up after they came off, but this wasn’t really a problem. One of the things I did in preparation for the race was to think through everything that could happen and to have contingency plans ready for every scenario. This would minimise stress on the course, and minimise my having to think and come up with solutions. I’d already planned that even if I lost my goggles altogether it wouldn’t be a problem in this race because I’d be in fresh water. So I wasn’t bothered. I didn’t sight much because I was always in the pack; I just had a look occasionally to make sure we were on course.  I swam right along the buoy line. Overall, my swim was completely relaxed and easy. I barely noticed that I was swimming. I spent the whole time just focussing on getting around bodies. God, people sure kick when they swim: save your legs people! As per my race plan, it was a good warm-up: steady, relaxed, easy. I totally enjoyed it.

What I’d do differently next time: Next time I’ll position myself in a more aggressive spot on the start line, so that I don’t get stuck behind so many people. This means that I’ll be in the thick of the aggro 40-44 men’s pack at the start, but I can take them. Next time I’ll also position myself better towards the end: I got stuck on the outside of a guy who veered off course as we headed in to shore, and I had to stop and wait for him to go by so that I could get back on course. I’ll do more sighting towards the end so that I can go in clean.



A long one, about 600m. A number of people passed me on the run to T1, but I focussed on staying calm and not spiking my heart rate. I took 9 minutes, even with volunteer assistance.

For next time: how could I get through transition more quickly? Do I need to wear toe socks on the bike, or could I just wear normal ones?

The Bike

And on to the bike: the hard part for me. We’d ridden up the hill going out of town the day before, so I knew it was no big deal. This is where the value of riding up all those ridiculous hills with Mark in training came in: moderate hills don’t worry me anymore. My plan for the ride was to keep my heart rate between 118-127bpm, which is 70-75% of my max bike hr of 169. Mark said that I shouldn’t let my heart rate spike, and that I should try to have an even spilt for the two laps. I settled in for the ride. I set my watch display to show me only heart rate, and time: all I need to know. I don’t want to know my speed, which was going to vary as I maintained my hr, and I don’t want to be watching the kms go slowly by. I just need to know what my hr is, and when I need to take in nutrition. I ate on the half hour for the first hour and a half (one banana, two cookies), to get some solids in for the day. After that, I used a 2 x concentrate of infinit. Infinit in the two bottles on the bike, water in the front bottle. This worked pretty well. I filled up the front bottle at every aid station; it only ran dry once. I picked up another bottle of infinit at special needs, then mixed it with water at the subsequent aid station.

I missed the 50km jacket drop-off, so I shoved my sleeves and my vest in the back of my top for about ¾ of the ride, which was fine. I had one pee stop along the ride, a stop at special needs, and a stop to put water in my third infinit bottle. I had two neurofen at special needs because I had a back-of the neck headache from riding in aero on the rough road surface for so long. And I plugged along at my easy pace. Mark said I should feel good after 45kms, and still fresh at 90, which I did. At about 120, outbound on the second lap, I had a period of negativity. Because I’m one of the earlier ones out of the water, and because I’m slower on the bike, this means that over the course of the ride I was passed by about 600 people. “I’m riding my own race, I’m executing my plan,” was what I told myself, but it does get disheartening as rider after rider whizzes by. I didn’t wish I was them, I didn’t envy them: I accept that this is where my cycling is at at this time. I’m used to this from squad training rides: those rides weren’t just about building stamina and strength, they were also about building my mental ability to deal with the fact that I’m not as strong as others on the bike (yet!). But at that point in the ride, I did feel fed up: fed up with how long the ride was, fed up with not seeing the turnaround, fed up with 120bpm, fed up with being passed by Everyone On The Damn Course, and fed up with bumping along on the rough road surface. I wasn’t in pain or tired, just over it for a while. But I kept going, stuck precisely to my hr target, kept taking on the right amount of water and nutrition. And slowly the kms went by.

Mark predicted that I would pass some people on the long, gradual hill coming back into town, and he was right (as he was with all his race plans and predictions for me: pause to celebrate Mark’s coaching awesomeness). I felt like I was way at the back of the race, but I also felt ready to run. I was a bit bloated, but because I’ve experienced this on a few long training rides, I knew it was just gas and not to be worried about. I farted with confidence. I happily handed my bike off to a volunteer: bike leg done.

The Run

Christy Ironman NZI hadn’t done a run over 25kms in training, so I wondered how the marathon would go. Heading out of transition (after an epic transition pee: hello, all those bottles of water), I felt good: not tired, not hungry, and off the darn bike. My plan for the run was to run at 130bpm, and to walk 30seconds through every aid station (aid stations every 2.5kms). I had planned to do my usual walk of ten steps through each aid station, but Mark said to go for 30 seconds.

I planned to have a gel every half hour. I had six gels with me, and four in my special needs bag. In other races, I’ve gone out way too fast, my legs used to moving at a higher cadence on the bike. So I kept a close eye on my hr for the first few kms. My pace felt, as it always does at 130bpm, ridiculously slow: a plod. But that was my plan, and so I plodded. There were a number of hills on the course: I went up each one at a kind of shuffling gait in order to keep my hr down. But I never stopped running. People were walking up the hills and I chugged by them. People were walking on the flats and I plugged past. I wasn’t keeping track of it at the time, but I passed 9 women from my age group on the run; I passed about 200 people overall.

The energy on the run was excellent: all those locals out watching, the great music coming out of a converted bin, the long line of cheering spectators along the waterfront. Getting to see Stephen and Mark and the whooping tri-nation crew six times gave me a major lift every time. My summary of the run is: straightforward. I just kept moving along. I never felt tired, I never felt negative, I never breathed hard, I never felt like I had to slow down. I just rolled along, slowly passing people, marvelling at the people on their final lap when I was on my first. Admiring Sarah speeding by, giving some love to Andrew struggling on his final lap, seeing Kate looking as serious as I’ve ever seen her, catching sight of Maree, seeing Kris running strong.

My run splits were consistent throughout. In training my run pace at 130bpm is generally 6:10 (I took pace off my watch display when Mark started me running by hr because I couldn’t stand seeing that 6), but in the race it was about 6:25-6:30. This is likely because of some fatigue, and because I walked through the aid stations. 6:30 still seems horrifyingly slow to me as a pace, but what the heck: it worked. I got very bloated by the last lap, my stomach was hard to the touch, but no cramping and no digestive problems: I farted my way through the run along with everyone else out there.

Coming home on the last lap was beautiful: the sun was low over the water, kids were swimming and shouting in the lake in the last light of the warm day, there was a wedding, the tireless volunteers were smiling and I was going to make it. About 5kms out, I thought, “I should speed up a bit, I feel fine, I’m having to slow myself down all the time, I’m going to make it,” but I didn’t want to start decision-making at that point, and I didn’t want to stuff up what had been such a comfortable, smooth run, so I kept on going at 130bpm. Steady, steady. But. One km out, when I passed the tri-nation tent, I knew I didn’t need to hold pace anymore, and I ran. After 12:55 hours of holding back, I opened up and I stopped looking at my watch and I stopped holding back and I ran. I was wide open and I ran. In my mind, I was running like a Kenyan, with long long strides, my chest high, and amazing speed. As the videos show, I looked more like me on a normal slow run, but with a giant smile. Happiness. I ran.  There was Stephen at the finish line, there was the red carpet (finish chute thought: don’t trip on the carpet), there was the last of the day’s sun. And I ran into all of it. I did it. Thirteen hours on the dot. Mike Reilley: “You’re an ironman, Christy.”

I moved quickly through the finishing tent (lost no weight), walked out into the shining loving faces of everyone waiting for their loved ones to emerge, and found Stephen. Who handed me miso soup and V8 juice and who wrapped me in a hug and my warm clothes. I felt great: not spent, not exhausted, nothing sore. I went and found Craig and Anna at the finish line, watched Josh come through, and wandered off with Stephen. I think I talked to Eddie on the phone while we walked; I talked to dad when we got back to the van. Smiling. One of my favourite parts of the race was sitting and having dinner with Stephen about 1.5kms from the end, cheering on the runners coming in in the dark. Some were finishing; some still had another lap to go. We clapped every one, giving back some of the energy people had given me on my run. I’m always far more moved by the athletes at the back of the pack than I am by the thoroughbreds out at the front. Sure, the ones at the front are working hard and achieving incredible times, but it’s the ones at the back who seem the most meaningful, the most beautiful, to me. The ones heading out for another lap at 10:30pm. The ones who are limping. The ones who are still running, 15 hours on. At about 10:30pm I started to feel tired and we drove back to the caravan park, where I fell to sleep to the distant sound of Mike Reilley, calling the last athletes home.


What worked well

  • Following my hr-based race plan
  • Nutrition (although: boating and gas)
  • All my equipment

What I learned

  • I can go for a long long time at a slow and steady pace
  • I need to position myself more aggressively at the beginning of the swim
  • I can probably do the run more quickly


To work on

  • overall fitness (to improve run and bike speed; either being able to sustain a higher hr, or moving at faster speeds at the same hr)
  • Bike strength (this is the big, long project)
  • Core strength (to avoid run slumping and losing force out of my lower back while riding)