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Nic Ward - Wanaka 2012 race report

The Amazing, stunning, but ever so challenging- Challenge Wanaka 2012
6th Place
This was my first time racing in the spectacular South Island of New Zealand so Bern and I decided to make a holiday of the journey and took an extra week off work to travel around after the race.  We had an amazing week travelling to Queenstown, the truly mind-blowing Milford Sound, and then down the West Coast to Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers where we did some beautiful walks and chilled out after the race .. 
Wanaka is part of the beautiful Southern Lakes district in New Zealand’s South Island and Challenge Wanaka has a reputation for being one of the most scenic iron distance triathlons in the world, and believe me it certainly exceeds expectations!  Whilst the lake can be between 13-18 degrees, it is so clear that you are not afraid to take a gulp of the water.  The 180km one loop bike course whilst challenging, takes you through the full spectrum of amazing New Zealand scenery – alpine lakes, snow capped mountains, pine forests and beautiful farm lands.  The run is also one of the most scenic in the world.  Around 75 percent of the course is on hard packed trails along Lake Wanaka and the winding River Clutha.  The course is simply stunning, but I would have to say that looks can be deceiving as it was also the hardest iron distance race that I have ever done!
I knew it was going to be a challenging course but the strong winds and bumpy dead roads made it so much more difficult than I had imagined.  It was choppy for the swim and then the wind just built throughout the day and was really full on by the time we were out running. I really admire the slower athletes who pushed through an extremely tough day.
My swim was exactly what I was hoping for.  I didn't get off to a great start but I don't think anyone did as the start gun went off without a warning.  I felt really comfortable though and sat in a small group, coming out of the water with a couple of pro guys and in the lead with Gina Crawford.  I took awhile to get moving on the bike (as with it being 8 degrees I opted to put arm warmers on), so Gina got away up the road.  I was quite cautious not to push things early on 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.  Previous ITU athlete Julia Grant was storming along when she caught me at around 20km into the bike. Tamsyn Hayes and Candice Hammond were riding strong and got up to me at around 50kms.  The girls were working together which was tactically very smart.  I rode with them for a while but dropped off the pace which cost me precious time and was definitely the move which ended my chances for the podium.  I felt like I took the bike quite conservatively until the 110km mark at Cromwell which was where I had been told that the race really starts, as the last 70km of the bike leg is straight into a headwind and some sketchy crosswinds in sections.  Being a 1 loop course it was pretty lonely, so I was lucky to be able to pace off one of the lead age group guys for some of the way back which helped me to keep moving in 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 and a lot of the other Australians.  I hit the run and I was told that I was about 17minutes down off Gina 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 one place 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 to go any harder.  My hat goes off to the Kiwi and German girls who were a very strong force to be up against.  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 so great to see such a strong calibre of girls racing, which made for an exciting women’s race.  There are not many races where you finish 6th female and yet 20th overall, which really shows the depth of the girls. Whilst my day didn’t play out as well as I had hoped, it’s always these tough races that make you stronger and really appreciate the challenge of ironman racing.
Thank you to Victoria Murray-Orr, Felix and the rest of the Challenge family for making both Bern and I feel so welcome in beautiful Wanaka and for putting on such a wonderful event. Thanks to my coaches Chris and Bruce, husband Bern, my family, and all my amazing friends for your continued belief in me.  As always a huge thanks to my incredible sponsors for your continued support: Shimano, Trek, Scody, Nashys Pix, High 5 Sports Nutrition, Blue Seventy, Newton, Oakley, Turramurra Cyclery, Foot Levellers and Dan from DTR Sports Management. 
Looking forward to an exciting 2012!
tay safe and keep smiling,
Nic JNicole Ward
Professional Triathlete


Follow me on Twitter:  twitter.com/nicwardtri

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