Challenge Wanaka 2011, Review

wanakaAnalysis3Race Report here

The picture tells it all ! I won my age group. So pleased and achieves two of the goals I originally set at the start of the season when I snapped my tendon. Back then I thought it was going to happen so easily and just under 2 years on I’ve finally managed it. This is going to be a bit of analysis on the race.

Having qualified for Kona at Busselton it allowed me to change my view on this race. Originally with Taupo so important I planned to train right in to this race and just have fun. In fact, originally we’d have being doing Epic Camp so I’d have been pretty tired. The plan instead was to prepare myself to race as well as possible and try out some things I’d got as feedback from Busselton:

  1. Pace the swim and bike more conservatively
  2. Increase calories both before the race and during the bike

In the run up to this race I’d been feeling on and off almost daily. It seemed shaking the efforts at Busselton was proving tricky. Swimming was definitely coming on really well but biking was all over the place culminating in last Sundays ride to Mount Cook where I couldn’t even hang on Jo’s wheel when she was cruising. The following day I rode long and felt 1,000% better. Another big day followed and then I eased off completely and finally a couple of days out from the race started to get really excited, I just felt ready. Running was going to be interesting as I committed to addressing my run technique after Busselton and how long it would take me to progress was unknown. I probably got on better than I’d hoped and quickly progressed from 1 mile run 1 day off sequence. Even so the most I’d run with this new technique was 22.5k and my calves complained for days after. That said I was convinced that the change was for the better and even without the amount of running I’d have liked I was confident it would hold together.


Following Alberts advice I concocted a mix of ~1,500 cals that I managed to force down. I was trying to make it minimally grain based. I squashed 2 bananas with peanut butter, added some muesli, a large helping of strawberry and rhubarb full fat yogurt and then covered it generously with cream. It tasted fantastic Thursday morning when I checked it out, on race morning it tasted slightly less than OK but it went down fine. I had about 1,800 cals of gels and it was a right old mix – 3 x strawberry banana, 2 x tangerine, 2 x apple, 3 x vanilla, 2 x double latte, 5 x tropical crush. Thats what comes of being a hard up triathlete you just mix up what you had … it tasted not so bad especially as it didn’t seem to mix properly so through the ride the main flavour changed. I emptied 3 salt tablets in. I started the ride by munching a mars bar as I went through transition and for the first few KM on the bike.

During the run I took a gel at every aid station bar two which is 12 gels. I drank water till about halfway then had coke and water at each station.


~1,500 cals race breakfast

~2,000 cals during bike

~1,200 cals during run

I also got hydration better than normal … I’m saying better because 10k in to the run I had to stop to pee. I hardly ever have to pee in a race. It made me smile, (sigh of course) and added to my positive thoughts. During the bike at most aid stations I grabbed a bottle took several big swigs and dumped it. I never refilled my speedfill instead I steadily sipped through it getting it finished as I approached T2. The speedfill was perfect for the conditions on the race as I could drink without taking a hand off the bars.

Did this change work. Well it’s the first time I’ve even splitted the run. I also had energy to really push the pace in the second lap and had some of my fastest splits in the final third of the run. Very rare for me and a real pleasure to be racing like that. I’ll cover more on the run later. I didn’t have any stomach upsets so it makes me wonder whether I could be eating even more.


Very pleased with this. I bridged quickly to the pro pack at the start. Sat in for 3/4 of the first lap then went to the front and swam comfortably. I didn’t feel I was working overly hard at any point and was able to easily bilateral breath. I know in a pool if I’m pushing the pace I can’t normally bilateral breath. Given the VERY tough conditions 54 minutes is very pleasing indeed.


I feel I did well to adjust my tactics for the race given the prevailing circumstances. It was clear early on that the wind in the final 70k was going to be absolutely brutal and during that whole section there would be only two stretches (one of about 3k and another of 5k) with the wind on your back. mostly it would be in your face or at best a cross wind. Over doing the first half would cost big time later. With this in mind I left the pros go as they went by they were cranking it to try and bridge up.


I took set my garmin to take splits every 20km which the above graph shows. The power figures are normalised and I was surprised to find my overall normalised power for the ride pretty much the same as Busselton – 242 for a HR of 141. I eased back with the tail wind (80 & 100k above) and get ready for the push into the headwind. This allowed me to push 258 in the worst of the wind without feeling it was killing me. In hindsight it looks like it was a good approach. I had the fastest bike split in my age group but for the first 90km I had the 4th fastest split. I came in to T2 with legs feeling in pretty good shape.



The focus here was to maintain my technique and try and run comfortable for at least the first lap ( 2 lap course). I found myself at sub 5 min / k pace without much effort. I also felt like I was running on different muscles to those I used cycling which is a bit of a first. This improved my state of mind even more as that seemed a really good thing. I felt pretty fresh and was enjoying running. The course is beautiful which I’m sure helps with my running. Along the river the track underlates a lot and I just enjoyed the fun of the sort of roller coaster ride. There was a big hill around the 12 / 13k mark on the run. I should note now that my splits are from a foot pod which over stated the distance by a KM so I was slightly slow than each of these splits and the line up of the splits is slightly off – so the slow split on km 12 in lap one alines with the most of the km 13 one in lap two. The graph gives the right impression of my pace between the two laps. The course was also pretty tough from KM 16 to 18 on each lap with lots of up and down.

Though I suffered most early in the second lap I was able to pick up the pace and my HR after the first 6km. From that point on my HR and KMs splits were more of less higher and faster than the previous lap it was only on the steep uphills where I consciously capped my efforts that this wasn’t the case. What a buzz to be running like this. My splits for the two laps were: 1:51:35 and 1:51:51. Not blistering but given the course and where my running is I was chuffed to bits.

The other great thing was I didn’t get even the sniff of an inkling of cramp in my calves. I can’t even remember the last time that was the case. THis allowed me to push without fear of cramping up. When I crossed the line and Richard Ussher asked to see the soles of my “bad boys” (Vibram FiveFinger Treks) my hamstring twinged with cramp. That seemed to confirm I must have run with far better technique than previously as I’d actually been using my hamstrings.

The big question is why did I run so much better, it certainly wasn’t due to the massive training I’d done in the past six weeks. It seems there are several possibilities:

1.I was just further rest following Busselton and it was down to the work I’d put in prior to that

2.The course was very forgiving

3.My new run technique

4.Better nutrition meant I still had the fuel available to run hard.

My feeling is that the last three all contributed and it was mostly down to the last two. I certainly hope so as Taupo is a tarmac run. It’s really exciting to think if I manage to build up my running with this new technique by then I could run like a dream. If I run like I felt yesterday but seeing 4:30 splits I will be finally cooking on gas again.

Winning my age group has brought up a dilemma though. I got a slot in Roth – this is exactly a week after Ironman Austria. It’s not really a dilemma as I wouldn’t miss the chance to race such an iconic race and it’s one I’d had at the back of my mind for 2012. I may see if I can defer my entry till then but otherwise I will have to have a go at back to back Ironmen !

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