Sam Warriner Prepares for Battle with Jo Lawn and Mirinda Carfrae at Ironman New Zealand

After a sucessful heart operation Sam Warriner is ready to take on the world at Ironman New Zealand, even when that world includes current World Champion Mirinda Carfrae and 7 times IM NZ Champion Jo Lawn.

Trizone caught up with Sam Warriner as she prepared to tackle her first ever Ironman in Taupo this weekend.

Born in Farnham, Surry, England in 1971 Sam came from a swimming background before she made the change to Triathlons. Initially she found her strong swim leg to be a disadvantage, her early Triathlons involved a staggered pool swim, and being such a strong swimmer she headed off with the gun athletes, only to get smashed and discouraged on the bike and run. She soon learnt to ‘fox’ on her swim times so that she could exit the water with athletes of a similar bike/run ability. These are no longer issues for Sam!

Before turning pro Sam completed her Teaching qualifications, and looked set on a career in this field, this was to prove useful when she arrived in New Zealand in 1997 on her O.E. (overseas experience) and needed to get a teaching job to fund her travel plans. During this time she continued to keep fit but didn’t compete in Triathlons. She qualified to race for her adopted country New Zealand at the Olympic Distance World Championships held at Edmonton Canada in 2001, and showed her potential by coming 2nd in her age group.

As she stayed on to watch the elites race she made the decision that she wanted to be a part of that and set her self the goal of qualifying for the elite team at the 2002 Championships in Mexico, which she duly achieved. Having gained her New Zealand residency in 2002 she then went on to represent New Zealand at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and 2006 Commonwealth games where she gained the Silver medal.

The career highlights kept coming and in 2008 Sam won the ITU World cup series overall and represented New Zealand at the Beijing Olympics. After an accident in which she broke ribs and her wrist Sam reevaluated where she was at and decided to make the switch to long course racing, with a view to building up to Kona.

She quickly made her mark at this level winning the Geelong 70.3 in her very first outing at the distance.  Sam continued on this
winning streak in 2008 taking home the Steelhead 70.3.

Sam then won The Port of Tauranga Half Ironman in 2010, beating Jo Lawn by 9 minutes and smashing the course record, she also won in New Orleans, Eagleman, and Racine at the 70.3 distance.

After a couple of disappointing results including coming 4th at the Austin 70.3 Sam began to wonder if her health was ok. Sam was training in the States with Siri Lindley (very much in line with the Brett Sutton school of coaching), the approach was very full on in a camp like environment which Sam describes as ‘like racing every day’.

Around this time Sam started to realize that things were not right with her physically, her heart was pounding, and she was struggling to back up and perform at the levels she would expect.

Sam returned home to New Zealand where she was diagnosed with SVT, which involved a ‘misfiring in her heart every time it reached around 230 beats a minute. On the first of December 2010 she had an operation to correct the condition. Soon after the op she was getting the all clear to start competitive training again. She has since passed all stress tests on her heart, giving her the green light to go as hard as she wants at Taupo.
Four months ago Sam did not think it would be possible for her to be toeing the line at Taupo, she could not even run for 20 minutes, so for her everything that happens is really a bonus. She is not going in with any expectations for the day, but is excited about the prospect and will give it a red hot go.

Learning how to race Ironman has been one of the big motivators for Sam, she describes the key lessons as ‘being tough, trusting yourself, sticking to your plan, not reacting to the other competitors, and being patient on the run’. She has spent a lot of time focusing on nutrition, recording what has been working for her, what does not, and being very precise on the timings.

Although Sam is being very modest about her chances on race day you can expect her to be in the mix. She expects that Jo Lawn, herself and Belinda Harper will take it out strongly on the swim and bike, and try and establish  as much of a lead as possible over World Champion Mirinda Carfrae who all expect to be coming home like a steam train on the run. Also watch out for Kate Bevilaqua who is a proven competitor over this course, and recently won Ironman WA in spectacular fashion.

It is great to see Sam back on track, and she is adding to the most competitive woman’s filed at Taupo for many a year, Jo is a legend over this course, Miranda is World Champion, Kate is the up and comer, and Sam is once again finding her groove “bring it on!