Monday, March 7, 2011

Wet but wonderful: Ironman New Zealand

It seems that Taupo is a place of extremes when it comes to weather.

Just a month ago, hundreds headed to Taupo to compete in the National Sprint Championships, which where held in temperatures in the mid 30’s, leaving many competitors looking hot and bothered and supporters looking a little pink!

But for Ironman, the weather gods had something else in mind. Rain. Not just drizzly dampness – but torrential, wet to the bone, wish you stayed in bed rain.

For over 1300 competitors this was obviously not the conditions they were hoping for.  But 1249 guttsed it out for an incredible 96.7% finish rate!

But for Sam Warriner, the weather was nothing compared to the challenges she’s faced in the last couple of months – needing surgery to repair a problem with her heart that had her pulse racing at up to 220 beats per minute. But she’s made of tough stuff, and under the guidance of new coach Jon Ackland Sam was ready to take on the challenge. Not only facing her first Ironman on home soil (and only her 2nd attempt at the distance) Sam also had 7 x IMNZ Champion Jo Lawn and 2010 IM World Champion Mirinda Carfrae to contend with, not to mention Kate Bevilaqua who won IMWA in December.

Sam had a strong swim and came out on the heels of fellow blueseventy athlete Maki Nishiuchi, and quickly put distance on Lawn and Carfrae who exited the swim a little over 2mins down. For Lawn and Carfrae, the bike quickly became a frustration with punctures holding both athletes back. Sam came off the bike 8mins ahead of Kate Bevilaqua, with Belinda Harper a further 2mins back. Lawn would need to make up a 13min deficit to catch Sam, and Carfrae had a massive 22mins to make up thanks to her bad luck on the bike. But Carfrae took the challenge and ran a 3.01.06 marathon (the 3rd fastest overall of the day!) which took her into 2nd just over 3 mins behind Sam, with Lawn also running strongly to take 3rd.

We caught up with Sam the following day to find out how she found the race. “I found the last 5km of the run really hard – I was really hurting, but I just kept thinking that I had led the race for 99% of the day and I wasn’t going to lose it in the last 1km!”

The achievement makes her just the 3rd woman to win a World ITU Championship title and an Ironman – something she wasn’t even aware of.

Rather than head off to the US for the next six months, Sam has chosen to remain based in New Zealand with husband Stephen at their home in Whangarei. Sam will be alternating between the US and NZ from now until the end of the northern hemisphere race season. Next up on the race calendar will be the Texas and New Orleans IM 70.3 races. The balance of the season will depend on how she sits on the newly established points table in her goal to qualify for Kona.

While it was the first title for Sam, Cameron Brown secured his 10th win at the event, finishing 10mins clear of Terrenzo Bozzone.

In an emotion filled speech at the awards dinner, Cam commented that making the speech never got any easier, before turning to Bozzone and joking “don’t worry Terrenzo, you’ll get your chance one day”. The pair obviously get along great and Terrenzo played up to the jibes.
IMNZ Title No. 10 for Cam Brown and No.1 for Sam Warriner

The event also marked Mark Reilly’s 100th IM commentary, and the usually talkative voice if Ironman was for once lost for words!

It was also the 100th IM finish for 38yr old Czech IM legend Petr Vabrousek, who finished 7th overall, 27mins down on Brown.

2011 Bonita IMNZ Results:
1. Cameron Brown 8.31.01
2. Terenzo Bozzone 8.41.54
3. Mathias Hecht 8.45.36

1. Samantha Warriner 9.28.24
2. Mirinda Carfrae 9.31.33
3. Joanna Lawn 9.31.53

No comments: