TRAVEL: Travel is rough. From LAX, it's a 13+ hour flight into Auckland on the North Island. Did you know NZ is comprised of two islands, North and South? Well, it is. We traveled to Auckland on a Monday night and arrived on a Wednesday morning, losing a day for travel. If you can swing business or premium economy -- it's money well spent.
From Auckland, it's a three hour drive to Lake Taupo, the host city of the event. You'll need to rent a car large enough to transport your bike. And be aware that you drive on the "wrong side" of the road while you are in the country.
Taupo is a smallish city, so reserve your hotel ASAP. We stayed at the Reef Resort which was conveniently located on the run course. The hotel was situated between the circle of the run, so runners ran on both the front side and the backside of the hotel, very easy for spectating! It was about 5k from the finish line, and a warm pool and jacuzzi on site, and also had a mini kitchen so you could prepare your pre-race food right in your room.
Swim: Perfect swim in the cool waters of Lake Taupo. This year was the first year they allowed swimmers to finish their swim down the river that leads out of the lake, significantly improving swim times, due to a small current. This venue also allows you to get into the lake for practice any time before race day -- some venues don't allow solo pre-race swimming. It's a ONE LOOP swim, well marked and not too much sun in your eyes on race morning. Two thumbs up from me.
Bike: Two loop bike course that takes you past some of the most beautiful scenery of the area -- farmlands, rolling hills, trees before routing you back to the start line for lap number two. Good course, but seems endless on the second loop due to the pickup of winds and spreading out of participants. Also, the aid stations had run out of Nuun hydration by the middle of lap two, which proved disastrous for me. Be prepared for the false flats and crosswinds of the outbound course, nothing too pitchy, except for the small hill in the first 5 miles of the beginning of the loops, but just lots of steady rollers that went on forever.
Run: HILLY! If you're not training on rolling hills, do yourself a favor and add that into your training plan. This course has rollers and seems to be and endless three-loop course of difficult uphill stretches. If you're a slow runner and will be running in the dark, it gets VERY dark out there. The loops back into town with the supportive crowds will boost your energy as you make your way back out for loops two and three.
Finish: Spectacular finish line, with bleachers and a red carpet to greet you at the end of your long day. Well done, New Zealand! I hope to be back again sooner than later.
This Ironman was expensive, here's why:
1. Airport Travel and seat upgrades
2. Bike disassembled (before I left by a mechanic) then reassembled and broken down by the mechanic in Taupo, then reassembled back in the states. Whew! Pricey!
3. Bike Stowage at the Auckland airport during travel to the South Island
5. Large passenger van rentals in two different islands and GAS!
6. Food -- restaurants and food was very expensive in NZ.
7. Swag -- you gotta get your merch to show people you did the race, right?
8. Excursions. We filled our days with adventure everyday. Here are some of the things we did:
|Maori greets at the Pre-Race Welcome Dinner|
|LDS Stake Center in Hamilton|
|Rotorua Tree Walk|
|Sheep show at the Agridome|
|Waimoto Glow Worm Caves|
|AJ Hackett Bunjy Jumping|
|Wanaka Deep Canyoning|
|Paragliding in Queenstown|