About a year ago I agreed to be part of a team doing the Lake Wanaka Half which is a half ironman distance triathlon – 1.9km swim, 90km cycle and a 21km run. Of course a year out anything seems like a good idea : ). To be fair I was going to be the team’s swimmer which given the distances the other team members have to cover is a minor role. I flew into Queenstown early Friday morning – the other six girls were flying in from Auckland at about lunchtime so I decided to go into Queenstown and have a look around. It is such a stunning part of our country and I really enjoyed wandering along Lake Wakatipu and taking in the vistas. I then went back out to the airport to meet the others, we picked up our Jucy hire cars and headed out of town. First stop was lunch in Arrowtown before embarking on our journey over the Crown Range Rd to Wanaka. We went into town to the race headquarters to collect our race packs. There were a number of people in town preparing for the event. Challenge Wanaka which is a full ironman distance race was also happening on the Sunday – 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and a 42km run. Carla had organised our accomodation at a place about 7km out of town called Te Ariki Nui. It was a beautiful house in a gorgeous setting and they had all these sculptures around the property. One of these sculptures who we named Jock gave us a bit of a fright as we pulled up in the cars – he was a larger than life axe wielding man. He was positioned just up to the right of the garage and caught your eye as you pulled up which caused us to look twice to see whether he was real. The couple that own the property, Robyn & Bill Hall are very well known in the NZ fashion scene through their business High Society which includes the labels Catalyst, Obi, Chocolat and Mosaic. Bill then got into deep sea fishing where their boat is also called Te Ariki Nui. Robyn found the four hectare block of land just outside Wanaka on one of her skiing trips where the glass house known as Te Ariki Nui was born. It has 360 degree views taking in Black Peak, the Buchanan mountain range, Mt Maude, Mt Barker, the Cardrona Valley and the Mt Pisa Range. It is a glass house that allows them to live right in the environment. Because the house has lots of glass there is very little wall room for art so that is the reason for all the sculptures around the property. It is a stunning property and we knew we were in for a great weekend despite the small matter of a half ironman hanging over our heads. There is a flock of Alpaca’s in the adjoining paddock so on Saturday morning we went to introduce ourselves. There is a bucket of feed on this side of the paddock so we decided to feed them. They are quite bolshy characters who take to spitting at you if they don’t like what is going on. After the feeding frenzy we left them to it, came back inside, only to turn around and witness Alpaca sex which was very amusing. We actually all they were Llamas so the term ‘llarma twerking” was born.
After all that excitement it was off to town to have a trial swim in the lake in our wetsuits. The wind had got up and the lake was quite choppy – this wasn’t boding well for raceday. We had a bit of fun down on the lake and got acquainted with the water. We then attended the race briefing which was good as I now had a good idea of the swim route which was nowhere near where I thought it was – thank goodness! Saturday afternoon comprised of another yummy lunch and getting the bikes into town to be racked for raceday. Saturday evening was very relaxed and some of us watched the final of Masterchef Australia before an early night. Raceday dawned and it was a stunner. The wind had dropped and it was one of those gorgeous South Island mornings – the lake was a millpond and the sun was shining. I was so happy! Carla and Jan were doing the entire race on their own so they were ready to roll quite early. Sue and I were the team swimmers and we were starting about 20 minutes after the individual competitors at 8.35am. The elite athletes and those doing the full ironman started at 7.15am. We waved Carla and Jan off as they headed into the lake before Sue and I got into our wetsuits and headed into the water to acclimatise. The water was beautiful and so clear. We did a bit of swimming and then slowly made our way out for the deep water start. We decided to hang out at the back and to the right of the pack to avoid getting swam over and kicked in the head as everyone took off. 8.35am arrived and the hooter sounded – we were off. The first leg was the longest and it took a few hundred metres to get my rhythm but once I did I loved every minute. The water felt warm and you could see the bottom. We had sunstrike on the last leg which made it a bit tricky to sight but the last buoy was there before I knew it. I then had to run about 200 metres in my wetsuit to hand the transponder off to Vicky who was doing the cycle leg. My swim time was approximately 41 minutes which I was really pleased with – it was actually over all too quickly. I could now relax. We decided to go back to the house to have showers etc… before heading back to the race zone to cheer the others on. 90km was going to take the girls at least 3 hours so we had a bit of time. We positioned ourselves at the start of the run leg and saw Carla come by – she was looking good. It was then time to head back to the bike area so Renee and Sue who was also doing the run leg for her team could wait for Vicky and Shirley respectively. Vicky and Shirley came in within a few minutes of each other – they did about 3 hours 37 minutes on the cycle leg. The girls then headed off on their run. We saw Jan come in about the same time so cheered her along – this was her first half ironman and she was going well. It was then back to the run finish to wait for Carla to come in. She did a total time of 5 hours and 53 minutes and came third in her age group. She is such a legend. Next in was Renee with a time of 2 hours and 10 minutes for the run leg. Vicky and I ran in with her across the finish line. Our team time was 6 hours and 34 minutes. Sue wasn’t far behind and her and Shirley’s team time was 6 hours and 41 minutes. While we were waiting we saw the leading elite athletes coming in – they had completed the full ironman in times of between 8 hours 37 minutes and 9 hours. Amazing! It had turned out to be a really hot day so it was lovely sitting by the lake enjoying the sunshine. Jan then came in with a time of 7 hours and 36 minutes. She was super proud to have completed her first ever half ironman and rightly so. It was then back to Te Ariki Nui for showers and some celebratory drinks and reflection. We then enjoyed pizza for dinner before an early night – it had been a big day. Monday morning we all headed back over the hill to Queenstown and I waved the girls off back to Auckland. My flight wasn’t until 1.30pm so I parked by The Boatshed Cafe in Frankton and walked along the edge of Lake Wakatipu before heading back to The Boatshed Cafe for lunch – the perfect end to a fabulous weekend in one of my most favourite parts of the world.