Challenge Wanaka in the Athletes Words

The race has been run, and won. Trizone caught up with some of the top athletes post race to get the inside story on the challenge in Wanaka.

Winner of the men’s event Aaron Farlow was very happy to have to come away with a good result after what he felt was a pretty poor race in Busselton. For the  second year on the trot Wanaka turned on the wind machine for the day, but this did help to keep the temperatures down on the day,and many of the pro’s found conditions quite cool – in fact many opted for arm warmers at the start of the bike leg.

While he was happy with the result Aaron felt it was far from the perfect day for him; “Not everything went to plan…but I managed to make the best of the situation I was left with. In the swim I planned to swim with Kieran and Brian but quickly lost touch with them and just had to minimise my loss.

I didn’t want to go to hard at the start of the bike…(but) was still able to make up a considerable amount of time on the guys up front and put more time into the guys behind. The clamp that holds my extensions onto the basebar cracked after hitting a small bump at 30km then when I got to 85km it totally snapped off and I had to ride the rest of the way juggling a broken extension. The only thing that was keeping it attached was a food basket I had attached between the extensions similar to a bento box. So not everything went perfectly, but I think this helped as I had to mentally compose myself and it gave me another thing to be thinking about.

“I wanted to race my own race and stuck to my pace when I caught the leaders, Kieran rode with me until 150km but was struggling alot. Then with 30km to go I looked back and he was gone. From there I just had to get my nutrition/hydration right and I knew I could stay out in front. It was still a tough marathon over a tough course and strong winds but I ran well and everything fell into place.”

Last years winner Jamie Whyte finished a strong second, but acknowledged that Farlow had the edge in all areas on the day. “I was in a difficult position on the bike, in no mans land between the front group and the chasing group. I rode all 180k solo and managed to hold the time gap to the front pair of Aaron Farlow and Kieran Doe.”

Whyte ran a solid first run lap off the bike, but Aaron was continuing to put time into me. “With 10km to go he had a 6:30 lead over me. I had a good lead on 3rd at that stage so I was able to relax a little knowing 2nd place was  inevitable. Maybe if I swam 40sec quicker, and hit the bike with Aaron things may of panned out better for me. But Aaron really deserved the win, he handed it to us across all 3 discipline.”

Courtney Ogden came into the race not expecting to win, but looking for a good solid performance, his fourth placing should have ticked that box. He reflected that “Challenge Wanaka isn’t the best event to do underdone. It is one of the hardest courses in the world.”

Conditions were quite mild, but it was windy, especially towards the end of the cycle leg. “It wasn’t as bad as last year, but it was still stronger than anywhere else I have experienced. It made for a tough day – for me anyway – others were coping with it just fine.”

“I knew I wasn’t riding anywhere near my best a week out from race day, and that was confirmed when I lost time to the likes of Jamie, Aaron, Kieran and Brian right from the strart of the cycle leg.”

Ogden’s run was solid enough, but due to his lack of cycling fitness he started the run with more fatigue than usual. “I toughed it out though, and am satisfied with the effort and the result. It was the best I could do with what I had on the day. Aaron, Jamie and Kieran raced really well on Saturday, particularly Aaron – he was solo virtually all day – a pure victory you would have to say.”

Aaron puts his improvement from busso down to nutrition, and his improvement from previous years down to a good coach (he now trains with Brett Sutton).

The women’s race was won by Gina Crawford. While she was the pre-race favourite her performance was made all the more impressive by the fact that this was her comeback race after giving birth just six months ago, and she is still breast feeding. Adding to the challenge for her was the disrupted nights, having to get up 3 times a night every night to feed Benji. Gina recognises that six months is quite a short time frame to be back racing an ironman after having a baby…”but with Challenge Wanaka being my favourite race I just wanted to be part of it no matter what the result as long as it was not disruptive to Benji which it wasn’t. He really enjoyed the day too!”

Gina also found the conditions a challenge “The bike was a lot windier than the times I have raced before. So I was glad to come within 10 mins of my bike record. The run was changed at the end to add more length. I think the run used to be short and now it is long maybe 2km longer than previous years.”

Crawford didn’t have a good swim in the choppy water, but was happy to still came out first but not quite with the lead she wanted. “The bike went to plan. I knew I would be alone all day. I only saw 4 men pass me by and it was a long grind into the wind. I had a group of 3 girls a few minutes behind me working hard to catch me but I just managed to hold them off.”

In a reminder that the pro’s also go through the same physical trials and tribulations as the rest of us in an iron distance race Gina said “my run was OK. I had 2 toilet stops unfortunately and a bad patch from around km 26-34 but pulled myself together for the last 8km.”


Australia's Nicole Ward was the 6th pro woman home

Incredibly Gina plans to back up the race at Ironman New Zealand “This will be the 4th time to race Challenge Wanaka / Ironman NZ double so I know what is in store. I need to take a recovery week and then pretty much get straight back into it for a few more weeks. I hope to improve on my Wanaka race. I have learnt a few things that I hope will help me and I think the experience and iron distance race in my legs will help me. I am really determined to win this race, but I will have to run better without having to have toilet stops!!”

With Christie Sym succumbing to injury Nicole Ward carried Australian hopes in the race. She eventually finished sixth female, and twentieth overall. She commented “…(this) was the hardest race that I have ever done. It was an extremely challenging course anyway and the wind made it so much more difficult out there. It was choppy for the swim and then the wind just built throughout the day and was horrendous by the time we were out running. I take my hat off to some of the slower athletes who must have really copped those winds out there!”

Nicole felt local knowledge was an advantage in this race “I took a while to get moving on the bike as I opted to put armwarmers on so Gina got away up the road. I was quite cautious not to push things early as I knew it was going to be a tough long day and was surprised at the pace that some of the other girls were putting into the early stages of the bike to catch me. I honestly thought they would blow up later in the race but they didn’t. A few of the girls were working together which definitely ended up being in their favour. Julia Grant was storming along when she caught me and Tamsyn and Candice were riding strong and working together which was tactically very smart. I rode with them for a while but hit a bad patch after battling along on my own for 60km so I lost them”

“I took the bike quite conservatively until the 110km mark at Cromwell as I had been told that this was when the race really starts as the last 70km is pretty much straight back into a headwind and some sketchy crosswinds in sections. I rode completely solo for most of the ride until the turn and then was able to pace off one of the lead age group guys on the way back which certainly helped me to keep things turning over for those terrible winds! I think the kiwis are a lot more used to that kind of wind and the bumpy dead roads, which really took their toll on me out there. I hit the run and I was told that I was about 17minutes down but I had faith that I had a strong marathon so I was confident I could make up some lost ground. Unfortunately I only picked up Tamsyn on the run with 10km to go as the other girls all ran really strong. That was a slow marathon for me but I just didn’t have anything left in the tank.”

“The conditions did not favour my strengths as I would have preferred a hot day with no wind but that’s NZ for you! It was great to see so many strong girls out there…I think course knowledge is a definite benefit on this type of race and I know I would certainly do some different training if I was to come back here again.”




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