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.