A Beginner’s Guide to IRONMAN New Zealand

The 2016 Kellog’s Nutri Grain IRONMAN New Zealand was another huge success. This was no surprise considering it took place in the breathtakingly beautiful Taupo. It saw the legend Cameron Brown gain his 12th victory. The inspirational Meredith Kessler also won her 5th straight IRONMAN New Zealand title.

Registrations for the 2017 event are now open so sign up for this amazing triathlon now!

Linked Fitness IRONMAN New Zealand

Meredith Kessler – 2016 Female Winner

Finding it difficult to take the plunge and commit to this epic event? We caught up an amateur triathlete who took part, to get the low down on what the event entails. He also shares how he prepared and offers general advice to anyone planning to take part in a triathlon event.

What Does IRONMAN New Zealand Entail?

IRONMAN New Zealand is a challenging triathlon that incorporates swimming, cycling and running into one race. It is a highly intensive race that includes a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a 26.2 mile (42.2 km) run. These activities take place in that order and without a break.

The setting for this event in Taupo is absolutely superb and will not leave you disappointed. The swimming part takes place in an idyllic lake near Taupo. The magnificent countryside and spectacular views are only matched by the difficulty of the Triathlon itself. Steep inclines and sloping hills provided my body with a more than adequate challenge.

To ensure that I was up for the task of competing in IRONMAN New Zealand, I began my grueling preparation routine over 12 months before the event.

Preparation for the Event

My partner was dumbfounded when I regaled her with my glorious decision to enter IRONMAN New Zealand. It was Christmas morning, and the first words out of her mouth were ‘but I can beat you on a bike and in the water’.

I laughed away her reservations, confident in my own ability. However, these same reservations surged back to the fore after I took a look at some of the average times for each leg of the triathlon.

I needed to start training like a professional if I wanted to have any chance of keeping pace with the pack (let alone the front runners). Throughout the year, I pushed my body to its limits. I was regularly running marathon length runs around my local area. At the same time, I made a concerted attempt to increase my swimming fitness and biking pace. With the help of my partner, I managed to reach a half-decent level of triathlon fitness.

However, my preparation was not constrained to purely training. I ransacked my pantry, binning processed foods that wouldn’t suit my energy requirements or body weight aims. I concentrated on cycling complex carbohydrates (such as brown rice) through my weekly diet,. This was balanced with high amounts of water, protein, fruits and vegetables.

I was also very careful to ensure that my body got the recovery it needed. It’s very important to take regular rest days and maintain proper warm up and cool down techniques when training for big events like a triathlon. Even a niggling injury can ruin you on race day.

Finally, after months of preparation I considered myself ready to participate in the opportunity of a lifetime.

Linked Fitness IRONMAN New Zealand

Cameron Brown – 2016 Male Winner

Race Day – Rising to the Challege

As an individual competitor in IRONMAN New Zealand, I was initially concerned with the sheer distance I would be travelling. While I knew my body was capable of traversing each leg of the Triathlon, I did worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the assortment of athletes surrounding me at the starting line.

I began the swimming leg on the outer wing of the group as I dislike swimming while hemmed in by other competitors. The swim passed remarkably quickly and before I knew it, I was pumping my legs astride my bike.

At this stage, I was among the front group but I began to slip back after the effects of my fast swim began to catch up to me. Despite this, I didn’t worry because I knew I could make up lost time in the running leg.

After stumbling up the first hill, I was running my way to a respectable placing at the finish line. After crossing the line, I promptly collapsed. I made sure I had no energy left by the time I crossed that finish line.

Linked Fitness IRONMAN New Zealand

Great view of Lake Taupo

Top Tips for the Best Performance

IRONMAN New Zealand was a steep learning curve for me. Although there are things I will do differently next time, overall, I am pretty happy with my training and performance. My top tips for competing in this event are:

  1. Triathletes often regard the swim as the most difficult and demanding part of a triathlon. It can lead to people expending more energy than they need to. This can tire you out early on and really harm your pace in the running leg. Instead of trying to go fast, focus on smooth movements and moving effortlessly through the water rather than moving at a frenetic pace. If you start to worry, slow down, tread water, breath, and  then keep going. Remember, go at your own pace. Just because there are a lot of people around you, resist the urge to try and go as fast as possible to keep up with better swimmers.
  2. When it comes to the biking leg, I encourage you to train in the garments you plan to ride in. I purchased a new pair of riding pants for the event and discovered that there’s nothing worse than chafing or uncomfortable pants when you are riding 112 miles.
  3. Make sure you remember where your bike is amongst the hundreds of other bikes – this can save you valuable time!
  4. When you ride, ensure you are extending your leg until it is almost straight to maximise your power output.
  5. There is a wealth of information online with entire blogs on the subject of long distance running. However, a couple of basic techniques that stood me in good stead were to keep my head and shoulders straight, and to avoid over-striking. I believe that these simple techniques helped me to evade the most common injuries and setbacks.

Final Word

Participating in IRONMAN New Zealand was not an experience I am ever likely to forget. I got the opportunity to compete against first class athletes, the scenery was incredible, and the thrill I got from pushing my body to the absolute limits of endurance, strength and speed, has awakened a determination in me to continue training.

The level of fitness I have attained is beneficial in many aspects of my life, both professional and personal, and I believe that the challenge of the Nutri Grain Triathlon is only the first of many similar experiences. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a new challenge!

For more information regarding IRONMAN events, check out the official website here

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