I have seen every Cameron Brown finish of the last four years. That is how long I have been a happy volunteer at IMNZ
It was great to volunteer again for Ironman NZ, something that I do every year. I am usually in Transition (T1) with Robyn Orchard's Team, but then I am also all over the place. I am always there on Friday for Bike racking. It is great to welcome back multiple Taupo IM men and women. Then you get to meet the virgin Ironman, in for the very first taste of the ultimate race at the this great location.
Over the years I have accumulated a number of friends that also compete. Many have been to Samoa to do our Events. Volunteering is a chance to catch up with many of them. I now have fine tuned the art of doing my work at T1 and being at the right place at the right time to catch a pic of the many friends I was following.
Ironman this year had very tough conditions. The wind picked up during the night which stirred the mighty lake. The swim was rough and slow for the non-swimmers. The wind then stayed around for the bulk of the 180km ride. The ride out to Reporoa a third faster than the return leg. There was not going to be any PBs today because of the wind. Up above, it was blue skies all day.
It was great to see Cameron Brown (Samoa Warrior 2013) run a great race. I am right there handing out race backs with all the wonderful volunteers as the athletes come streaming through. I saw Cam, and he was well over 5 minutes behind in the swim. It was great to see him in at second place after running the best marathon of the day at 2:42:29. I managed to have a chat with Cam afterwards. Given another 2kms he might have caught up with first time winner Braden Currie. I saw Braden come in to win in a flash of speed. He was in control of his race.
I also caught up with Graham O'Grady (Samoa Warrior 2013, 14) who unfortunately blew out in the bike leg. Always nice chatting with GOG. Then there was Stephen Farrell who has been to Samoa several times to compete with us. Steve won his Age Group, 55-59. He's amazing.
Then there is the group of Samoan athletes from around the world and NZ that competed including our very own Darren Young from Samoa who was chasing his second full Ironman. He did nicely at 12:16:00. Just ahead of Darren, Karen Rasmussen crossed the line at 12:14:00 and her brother Lee who lives in PNG finished in 13:02:41. Michael Stowers completed his 11th Taupo IM 4 minutes shy of midnight. I saw him off the bike and he was spent. But he's done it before, he was always going to finish. Managed to catch Mose Saseve at the finish line after crossing for his virgin IM 14:08:31.
There were two representatives from American Samoa. Patrick McEntire was on his first IM. He started with us in Apia, coming across from Pago Pago back in February 2016 to compete in his first Olympic Distance. Then in July he completed the Samoa Warrior Race Half Iron distance, and in October finished the Sau'ai Giants' TRIATHLON 3/4 IM on Savaii in 10hrs 52mins. In Taupo, he completed his first FULL IM in 14:32:18. This is a great story. Richard Birgander is a Swede who came to Samoa to compete in the Sau'ai Savaii Giants TRI last year. He completed his second IM hand in hand with his mate Patrick.
The standout performance for me was from Abby Armstrong who was doing her first IM. She had only competed in one triathlon before Taupo. Yes, I hear you say! Not only that, Abby swam the Apolima Strait with us a year ago. She's the Women's Record holder for Apolima Strait 6hrs 30mins. Here she was lining up for her first IM.
She smashed the swim in 1:02:17 and rode 6:10:48 in the bike. That was impressive. Something had to give and it was in the run that things slowed down for her. Her marathon time of 5:14:47 is in itself impressive. Abby finished 11th in her AGR in 12:37:14.
Abby is returning to Samoa for the Apolima Strait swim next month. This time in a team with mum Jo. There is a lot of energy in that little frame.
Virgin Ironmen no more - Mose Saseve of Auckland and Patrick McEntire of American Samoa
The other brilliant performance was from Anna Dungey (Tour of Samoa 2016). Anna was the only athlete I spoke to who did a Taupo PB in those conditions. Well done Anna.
I also caught up with Katherine Reardon (Samoa Swim Series 2014). She was second female overall in the Half Ironman.
And there was a heartbreak story. My best mate Paul Glenn was on to his 10th Taupo IM. He had done a lot of preparation for the race, at the same time he needed everything to be equal for him to have a chance of getting in before midnight. The wind and three flat tyres did not help. He was 10mins from cut off in the swim at T1, and missed the bike cut off by 1 minute. He was the first off the bike after the cut off. I was part of this support crew with his wife Robin, and good friend Katheren Leitner. We all had an emotional time in the big Tent accepting the fact his race was over. Paul will be back next year.
After the race, I drove late in the night back to Auckland to catch my flight back to Samoa on Sunday arriving home at 5am. I will be back in Taupo next year at T1, and Racking bikes on Friday before the race.