Well, after some time to sit back and muse over the events of Taupo,
here is my report on the race. Obviously, it is seen through my eyes, so
the actual events may not always be how my brain cells remember them to
have been! The mind is an amazing thing and an Ironman teaches you a lot
about what is in yours. In my case, I think this is scary!
RACE WEEK DIARY
Monday, 1 March
Greetings from Taupo (pronounced toe-paw)! My wife Fiona and I spent the
whole trip on the bus down from Auckland yesterday trying to understand
what our driver was saying, but locals tell us "toe-paw" is how you say
the name of the place where Ironman is held. Go figure! But, then again,
this country is really called "Aoteoroa" so can we really be surprised?
Taupo is bigger than we expected it to be. The double-decker bus tour to
see "all of town" is advertised to take 15 minutes - we thought it would
take only five!
Initial observations of NZ and Taupo:
1. When you come out of Auckland customs through the doors to the public
area, they have seating for the crowd in a semi-circle much like you
would expect at a concert, complete with a large screen above your head.
We felt obliged to put on a show for the locals when we came out. Very
2. If the word "Quality" appears in the name of your hotel, it is
probably because that's what they lack in the rest of the establishment.
Our overnight stay in Auckland proved this.
3. In Taupo, the lake is **much** warmer than expected. It is swimmable
with no wetsuit if required. The water is clean (I voluntarily drank
several mouthfuls during the swim event yesterday) and not very deep.
4. Wind chop could be a factor in the swim leg. Even at 7am this morning
the water was not "flat" so the swim could be harder than I would like.
5. The organisers need to do something urgently about navigation in the
water. They had half a dozen small pink buoys in the water about every
200m which you could not see at all. The first buoy was 300m from the
start and you could not even see that one when you began swimming. The
event winner yesterday even said they could not find their way. At one
stage about 2.5km in to the swim a group of six of us stopped and had a
discussion about just where the ***y heck we should be heading! This
needs to improve drastically.
6. This is the only place in the world where swimming with a helmet is
recommended, lest you become target practice for the "hole in one" golf
crew hitting towards their pontoon about 100m from shore. But, with the
water so clean, at least you can see the balls on the bottom (as well as
the old tyres, drink cans, etc.)
7. Finally, every athlete I have seen here looks at least 5 times as fit
and 10 times as fast as I feel. This can be very intimidating,
especially as they all speak German (even the Japanese).
8. The race commentator "Reevesy" is amusing but needs to brush up on
his geography. As he said about me when I finished the swim event, "Paul
Milson from Switzerland ... no, Austria ..."
Today was spent getting the bike fixed and certified and riding over the
I can tell you, from an Aussie's perspective, the run is *not* flat.
Undulating is a fair description as the course rolls up and down most of
the way. But for your average Kiwi who goes "***ing" in the mountains
I guess this is flat.
This should provide some variety for running muscles and so I look
forward to it. But, it is exposed, very exposed. Not much shelter from
sun and wind out there so that will be challenging in itself.
I am now thinking that perhaps I should have left my Spinergy wheels at
home. I rode them yesterday and can say I was almost blown clear off the
road several times. Admittedly, I rode across the wind, where the bike
leg seems - more or less - to go up and down into it. But, maybe a
normal spoked front wheel would be useful?
Also, the roads are good (better than Forster) but they are still
country roads. That is, with a SoftRide and dual "spongy" Spinergy
wheels I still felt plenty of road vibes.
I am looking forward to running over the course tomorrow, then taking it
easy for a few days.
Tuesday, 2 March
Tuesday morning and it is still windy! Locals (the girl at the mini golf
course over the road from our motel) tell me this is unusual and
normally the lake is like glass and the air still until 11am. It has
just changed this week!
Today was probably my last real day of training. The wind was up to its
(usual) tricks and it really blew.
In the morning I decided to ride the greater part of the bike course,
about 45-50km all up. The roads on the bike course are, in fact, very
good, much better than State Highway 1 which I rode on the yesterday.
The course can be described as "round-about" in that the first 15km has
lots of turns, some of which just seem designed to take you down a hill
so you can ride back up it on another road (did Bicycle Victoria design
There are no real big hills, just plenty of undulates, and with the wind
at your back on the way out I was "cruising" at 60kph. Needless to say
when I turned around it was a different story altogether! I caught up
with some French dudes (I said "wind", they said "yes", I said "hard"
they said "yes" ... you get the idea) and rode into the wind part way
with them. Needless to say the bike will be hard when (not if) the wind
Later in the day Fiona and I visited the local swimming baths. This is a
great new complex with four pools. The main lap pool is warm (26 deg.
C), the bigger recreation pool is hot (37 deg C!) and the mineral baths
are f***** boiling (42 deg C)! Did about 500m in sprints here. Was
knackered and so relaxed after that.
At 6pm I went for a run over 10km of the run course. The undulating
nature of this is great for variety, but the wind again made it hard. A
finish here will be truly deserved.
Finally, Orca wetsuits have set up shop in the front lawn of a hotel
here and are selling their full suits for NZ$325 (about $120 off), they
even let you have a trial swim first. They also showed me a neat way to
get your foot into a wetsuit - put it in a plastic bag first!
Wednesday, 3 March
Day four for Fiona and I here in Taupo and it is t-day (or Tourist day)
as we were finally off to do the touristy things - visit the boiling mud
pools, Huka Falls, etc. Just the sort of thing to take a wandering mind
off the race. What race??
We had never realised that the geysers and mud pools around here were so
active - and dangerous! Each day new steam vents pop up and within weeks
they have transformed via an explosion into a full on steam blowing, mud
The explosions take out tourists (and locals) on a regular basis. It is
fair dinkum dangerous and we were glad to escape with our lives intact.
We also visited the nearby "Hidden Valley" (which is not so hidden as
there are plenty of signs pointing the way) and saw more mud pools,
geysers, etc etc.
For the athlete about town (such as myself) there was not much on. The
expo opened this morning and so we had a look there. Not much to entice
a souvenir buyer - we just bought a t-shirt.
At night there was the OneList gathering at the Holy Cow. The best thing
for us was the $5 pasta and salad (simply the best value in all NZ).
Our North American friends got the mood going with an Ironman Canada
video but, apart from meeting "Billy Tri" while we were at the bar I did
not get to meet any others I knew. But Fiona and I had a great time and
slept with full bellies!
Thursday, 4 March
It is race day minus two, time to relax, relax and more relax.
This morning I registered for the race. They even have a weigh-in for
the athletes here, I was looking around for Don King and Mike Tyson, but
could not see them - perhaps they weighed in somewhere else?
I now walk about town with a neon yellow wrist tag. This clearly
indicates to everyone who the nutcases are. I know how convicts must
feel! The race kit contained the usual bags for this and that as well as
sponsors product. I cannot wait to try that "creamed rice" - mmmm,
This afternoon we had the parade of nations. Thankfully it started out
the front of our motel and so we did not move outside until it was ready
to go. The sign-carriers for Australia were a couple of school kids (Ros
and Shelley) who gave us a history lesson. In short - Taupo is short for
"Taupo-Nui-A-Tia" which means "Great Cloak of Tia" and Tia is the bloke
(Maori Chief, actually) who first came here and took over!
After the usual boring speeches from mayors, politicians, etc it was on
to the carbo loading. Mmmm ... food! Something I am good at. We feasted
on the usual fare of rice (normal and creamed), vegetables, pasta,
potatoes and tomato soup (which my wife Fiona told me after I had
finished it was actually the sauce for the pasta!) Care factor, it was
For desert we had more creamed rice (it is possible to get sick of this
stuff) and cake, all washed down with loads of Powerade. We even got to
take some extras for later on!
The commentator (I swear this must be his first time at doing it) was
all fired up, delivering introductions for athletes that even their
parents could not write. Trouble was, none of them (the top racers) were
there and so we all went home at 9pm to the sound of rain on the
The weather is looking average for Saturday. A large low pressure front
is on it's way from Australia and looks like arriving on the weekend. If
we are lucky there will be no rain and if we are even luckier there will
be no wind. But, quite frankly, it looks like we may get a mixed bag on
race day. Oh well, whatever comes, comes.
Friday, 5 March
With less than 20 hours to go before race start things are certainly
starting to get on the other side of edgy now.
This morning I went for a swim at 7.30am. Andy Burmas was there as was
Nick (Media Mogul) Munting, who piked on the swim, and stood on the
beach chatting to anyone who would listen. The ducks are very ...
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