Wow, what an incredible day. Despite the proclamation by full distance winner Jamie Whyte that this was the hardest bike leg he has ever encountered due to the phenomenal head wind; it was still an amazing day to experience. By the time I ran back to the finish line, I had missed John Gordon running in to finish the half with his Yohei sumo suit dressed employees flanking him to cross the finish line and win the 50-59 year age division. Luckily, I was in time to catch the Racers Edge team runner, Jess Simson, sprint across leading the team to an impressive 3rd place finish in the mixed category and 6th place overall out of 132 teams! We are all extremely proud of our team and how they managed to battle through what even the pro athletes thought to be a challenging race, and finish strong.
After the leaders came in from the half, we all took a little lunch break waiting for the iron distance athletes to make their way towards the finish line after over 9 hours of competition. We returned around 3:00pm to see local hero Simone Maier rounding the half run mark and starting on the second lap of the 42.2k run. It wasn’t long before we heard the helicopter – the same helicopter that powered up at 6:30am that morning to begin its mission to follow the leader around the whole course and provide up to date information for the commentators to pass on to the spectators (otherwise what would they talk about for over 15 hours on the mic??).
As Jamie Whyte drew close to rounding the last corner, the already buzzing street came alive with anticipation. Balconies were packed, the once speckled stadium seats were overflowing, and we had to throw elbows to maintain our spot on the barricade by the finish line. The sound that followed Jamie down the straight away was like a roaring wave ascending toward us. By the time we could lean out far enough to actually see him, the sound was astonishing. Everyone in Wanaka was cheering, clapping and banging those strange blow up tubes together to encourage him over the threshold of
the finish line. The onslaught of cameras and media waiting to capture the moment was tremendous, and they erupted into melody of flashes the moment he grasped the finish line tape and proudly paraded it in the air.
The most amazing part of Jamie Whytes inspiring 9:03:53 finish was not just that he was a good 4 minutes ahead of second place, but the fact that he was able to give a very coherent and well spoken interview within moments of finishing! You’d think he would need a few minutes to, I don’t know, catch his breath!? But this man embodied the essence of the endurance athlete and was answering questions without even a heavy breath…amazing.
To top my astonishment, an hour and a half later, Simone Maier reappeared in the straight away towards the finish line. This put things into perspective – how long would it take you to run 21.1k? Let alone after an iron length swim, the hardest bike leg ever, and a half marathon. Yet here she was just an hour and a half after we watched her round the half way mark closing in on the finish line as the second place female. The Wanaka crowd loved this, especially as the commentators reported that she was last seen in third and closing in on the second place spot. I think the roar was equal if not greater than the output for first place as she jogged down the straight away surrounded by the green balloon runners that escorted the athletes to the finish line. I was inspired.
The last athlete finished with a time of 17:25:53 – that is seventeen and a half hours of constant exercise. All day other onlookers were saying that it takes a special breed of people to compete in an event like this, and after watching it from the sidelines; I think that’s an understatement. The time, dedication and determination that is devoted to this sport, let alone the fact that you have to invest money into three different disciplines, would be enough to detour the majority of people. But these competitors have persevered and invested their heart, blood and soul into, for some of them, just crossing that finish line. This kind of courage is to be admired, and while I may never be able to truly understand what these people have gone through, I respect the hell out of them for doing it. Racers Edge is proud to be the official bike leg sponsor of this event, and I am just honored to have been in Wanaka to experience it.
It was beautiful calm sunny days leading up to the big Challenge Wanaka event; but at 6:30am this morning the overcast skies and strong wind gusts were beginning to settle in. But this didn’t detour the spectators from flocking in droves to watch this prestigious triathlon. I couldn’t believe how busy the town was at 7 o’clock in the morning! There was over a half hour wait for coffee in any café, and the streets and lake front were packed with eager onlookers. The atmosphere was contagious and you couldn’t help but get sucked into the vibe of admiration for these incredible endurance athletes.
The full iron distance competitors were already in the water when we arrived, and we had to push through the crowd to get a good view of the hundreds of swim caps bobbing in the choppy
Wanaka lake. We watched at the transition area as they jogged out of the icy cold lake stripping as they grabbed their bags and made a speedy journey up and over the bridge to mount their bikes for the 180k ride. Next came the Lake Wanaka Half athletes then the teams quick on their heels and even overtaking despite their later start time.
There is no way to convey the intensity and determination that these athletes were exuding as they transitioned into their next discipline. Also the age range is astounding! There is a team with the collective age of 207 competing in the full distance race, now that is impressive. There was also a small boy who came into Racers Edge for his bike check, but when the staff member tried to explain that they didn’t need stickers for the
junior event, he proudly explained that he was competing in the
Challenge event…at 15! Keep an eye on that one.
While we are only mid way through this race, I have to say that this has been an incredibly motivating experience thus far and am so proud that the Racers Edge team is doing so well! Charles Cochrane has just come in from the bike leg leading the team to a current 5th place standing, and Jess Simson is on the run hoping to maintain if not better that spot. The wind is definitely picking up and there have been rumors that the Lake Hawea elbow turn is yielding a few casualties – not a good day to have those disk wheels!
I just got word that Jess is nearing the finish line! Stay tuned for a full update and results for this incredible event, because I gotta get back out there and watch! =)
This was the kind of day that everyone dreams about when they think of a summer in Wanaka. No wind, not a cloud in the sky, beautifully warm but not too hot – absolutely perfect. We set out towards the Aspiring National Park on a mission to hike up the Matukituki Valley to the historic Aspiring hut and back again.
After passing Treble Cone ski resort, we hit the gravel road that may have needed a bit of a re-grade, but the pot holes made the 30 minute drive a lot more interesting! We passed every type of livestock found in New Zealand, from your normal sheep and cows to reindeer and venison…well deer at this point. We admired the amazing waterfalls sprouting out from nowhere, and survived several swollen fords that threatened unsuccessfully to trap our little Toyota station wagon.
Finally, the road came to a dead end and we gaped at the absolutely packed Raspberry Flat parking lot – not a space in sight! We couldn’t understand how such a remote location could harvest so many people, but we learned that this trail head serviced many tramps and huts, including the Rob Roy Glacier hike and several other huts beyond Aspiring. Like any good group of girls, we made our own parking space in the middle of the lot and got geared up for our mission.
The sign said the walk would take 2 hours to get to the hut; however, as we were not weighed down with heavy packs and hiking boots, it only took us 1.5. We did stop a lot on the way for a few pictures of the meandering cows and sheep along the trail, and were all relieved that our Icebreaker Merino tops (and Nature undergarments) were much more breathable then the sheep’s unshorn coats. We also attempted to leap across the many creeks and streams along the way, but eventually we gave up and just trudged through the middle of them – practicing safe river crossing techniques of course.
We also stopped to admire the Leon Bridge built be the Phease family in honour of their son who was lost in a tragic tramping accident farther up the Matukituki Valley.
Just around the corner from the newly constructed bridge is a privately owned hut that can be very misleading from farther up the valley – we thought we it was the real hut! Once we passed the private hut, it was just another 20 minutes through some squishy swamp land and towards the gorgeous Dart Glacier and then we arrived at the newly renovated Aspiring Hut.
The facility was amazing with a new bathroom block, beautiful remodelled stone bunk and an
absolutely breath taking view. After a quick snack and rest in the shade, we were off again back down the valley towards Wanaka. The hike didn’t feel the same at all going back as all the scenery was dramatically different from the new angle and we spotted hidden waterfalls that had eluded us on our initial journey. We also found the perfect swimming hole in the fast moving Matukituki River, which had an ideal jumping rock into the refreshing aqua coloured pool. We vowed to come back and try it out.
After debating riding a cow, deciding against the idea, and instead attempting to pet a sheep, we arrived back at Raspberry Flat in just over 1.5 hours from the hut. We were all surprised as the walk back felt much faster than the hike in, but were relieved to take off our soaking wet shoes and socks and to see that the once packed lot was now virtually empty. We were also relieved to have all been wearing the odourless Icebreaker for the hour car ride back to Wanaka.
Overall, we felt this 3-4 hour hike was a great way to spend a beautiful summer day. It was casual yet still a great workout and we look forward to having a two day excursion next time to hike out to the French Ridge Hut and have a swim in the hidden pool…what a rough life!