On Saturday 7 May (Sunday 8 May NZT), 15 age groupers will represent New Zealand as they compete alongside more than 3,000 athletes in the most iconic single-day endurance event in the world.
Hamilton’s Matt Kerr (30) is the Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand age group course record holder and is hoping to make an impact on his IRONMAN World Championship debut.
“It’s my biggest race to date so far. I haven’t experienced a World Champs before so it’s unknown to me, but I know I’m in for the hardest race yet. There’s no hiding the fact that it’s a pretty brutal course, it’s going to be a long day, a tough and hard day. Excitement lies in that for sure. You put in place the best strategies that you can to overcome those barriers but it’s exciting to get out there and race as best you possibly can on the day,” said Kerr.
“I’m going to do my best and I want to finish as far up the front of the age group field as I can overall. Where I fall in that, ideally, I want to be up the front and I’ll do my best to get as far forward as I possibly can,” he said.
Kerr flew to Utah nearly three weeks ago in preparation for the race and has been training alongside Braden Currie, who will contest the men’s professional IRONMAN World Championship. Kerr says he’s been trying to soak up the wealth of experience Currie has to offer, with the Kiwi pro set to race his fourth World Championship.
“The intention and reason why we spent a good amount of time here before the race is because there’s so many variables, a, it’s my first World Champs and b, there’s quite a lot of variables coming over here with travel, the altitude, acclimatisation, the course as well, so all of those variables were things that could possibly be limited as best as possible by getting over here with a reasonable timeframe to finish off a training block,” he said.
“Braden and I have become sort of informal training partners and it’s working really well. We’re racing completely different races in terms of pro field and age group so that’s certainly different but just being around the way he operates in the build and also his training style has been a huge learning curve and opportunity for me, so it’s been nothing but positive.”
Though he’s taken IRONMAN age group racing by storm by storm in Oceania, Kerr knows he’ll be in for his toughest test yet when he takes on the world’s best in St. George.
“Definitely that unknown compared to the Oceania races we have,” said Kerr. “I’m just preparing myself for a big day, a hard day, especially that last back half of the marathon is where it’s going to be the hardest and the longest with the most suffering, so as I line up it’s just putting into practice everything that I can put into this race and control what I can control and execute what I can execute the best on the day. I think I’m personally responsible for that and to stay in control of that as an athlete is a huge thing and hopefully pays dividends later in the race.”
While Kerr will contest his first IRONMAN World Championship, 47-year-old Megan Arthur is getting ready for her sixth attempt. The Hamilton triathlete is excited to race in St. George.
“I’m pretty excited, St. George has been a bucket list race for me anyway. The scenery looks amazing and my husband’s pretty keen to get to Vegas so it’s a race we wanted to go and do at some stage, so once we got the invite and the ok to travel, it was a pretty easy decision,” said Arthur.
This year is set to be a year like no other for IRONMAN, with the rescheduled 2021 IRONMAN World Championship to be held this Saturday (Sunday NZT) in Utah, ahead of the 2022 Supersapians IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawai’i this October.
St. George becomes the first location to host the event outside of Kona, Hawai’i since its origins in 1978, with the IRONMAN World Championship returning after a two-year COVID-enforced hiatus.
Arthur says she is expecting a different race day experience compared to Kona.
“From what I’ve read I’m expecting a very cold swim, I don’t think it’s above 14 degrees yet so that’s going to be pretty chilly. The weather has been changing over the last couple of weeks, so we were expecting anything between two degrees in the morning up to 30 degrees in the afternoon. It’s looking like we might get about 16 as our low for the day and it could be quite windy, it’s looking like potentially up to 40km/h winds at the moment but it’s going to be dry, so we won’t get the humidity like we get in Kona,” she said.
“I just want to go and have a great race. Firstly I just want to race again, we haven’t had a race for so long so I’m pretty excited to get on the start line. The scenery looks amazing, so I’m picking that the 180kms on the bike is going to go pretty quickly with the scenes that I’ve seen on social media. I just really want to go and enjoy it and soak up that World Champs atmosphere and everyone just getting amongst it.”
Out of the 3,000 athletes racing at the IRONMAN World Championship, only 17 are Kiwis – 15 age group athletes and two pros – and for Arthur, representing New Zealand on the global stage is the highest honour.
“It means everything, it’s an absolute privilege. I don’t take any of my World Championship starts for granted, it takes a lot of hard work and commitment from me and my husband to get to these races, so it’s always an absolute privilege,” said Arthur.
The 2021 IRONMAN World Championship will kick off with a 3.8km ROKA Swim Course, taking place in Sand Hollow Reservoir, followed by a challenging 180km Bike Course that will lead athletes through stunning desert landscapes with 2,248 metres of elevation gain and an unforgettable climb through the Snow Canyon State Park. The 42.2km HOKA Run Course will take athletes on two loops through St. George with 431m of climbing before culminating in an unforgettable finish line experience in the heart of downtown St. George.
Karl is a Sydney based father of 3, a keen home improver and an age group triathlete who races on the M5 Acadamies triathlon team, coached by 'The Croc' Brad Beven. A good life balance is incredibly important! Karl is the co-founder of Trizone, works in the commercial joinery industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.