Home and Away

Posted by Nicky Donbavand on March 10, 2012 0 Comments


This is a very long race report.  Go and grab a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit.  The long preamble is quite important to give a sense of race day but we won't be offended if you skim read this bit ;o)

Seven years ago while on our honeymoon Alan and I drove through a very wet and windy Taupo on route to Napier.  It looked beautiful, even in the rain.  Once we found out IM New Zealand was held there, it was a bit of a done deal that we'd come back and have a go.  Three years ago Penny made the trip out to do it for her inaugural IM.  She raved about it, so with Alan retiring from real work and both of us having significant birthdays this year.  It was a done deal.

Training was intermittent over the winter to say the least and it wasn't without some nerves we packed and headed out to NZ for a long overdue holiday. The plan was to base ourselves in Taupo and familiarise ourselves with the route, taking in the opportunity to bike a few more miles before race day.

We unpacked and reassembled the bikes.  It didn't take long to realise I had no idea how to put the gear shifter back on so we popped them in the back of the car and pootled down to Taupo centre in search of a local bike shop.  We came across 'Top Gear' cycles.


It looked friendly enough, had enough bling in the front window and enough kids with baggy shorts and big calves to convince us they knew what they were doing.  It took the mechanic all of about 30 seconds to assemble everything and check over the gearing and they dispatched us on our way with a cheerful wave.  We would soon be on first name terms with all of the staff, and they would be naming their first born after us in honour of the amount of time and money we would spend there.

The next morning we put the pedals on and went out for a recce of the run course.  After about four miles my right foot slipped out of the pedal.  Very bizarre.  So I clipped back in and the same thing happened again.  The third time, I heard a clunk and left the pedal on the floor.  Not having a pedal on your bike makes it much more difficult to ride.  Carefully unclipping the left, with the pedal retrieved I started the long slog back up the hill to the camp site.


Looking at the crank arm I could see lots of metal filings, my heart sank.  I had a horrible feeling this could be expensive.  This was confirmed back at Top Gear when we looked at the options which were basically either lots of glue to hold the pedal in or a new crank.  Two days later, crank all fixed, pedal inserted correctly Alan and I headed out to have a look at the bike course.  The right pedal kept unclipping on every upstroke.  It made it very difficult to ride so we turned left back done the hill into Taupo and back to Top Gear.  A quick look at the cleats showed they had been completely worn away.  What should have been an easy two minute job turned into half an hour of sweat and toil with a hack saw.  There was no way the old cleat was coming off.  A new set of shoes later and off we went again.  We did a partial of the out and back course following a route back into town and up the only real hill back to the camp site. 

Half way up the hill I heard a massive BANG and felt the rear wheel deflate.  FFS!  The tyre was completely shredded, as was I by that point.  On our trip to Top Gear this time we asked them to remove whatever voodoo curse they had inflicted on us then replaced both tyres with Kevlar specials.

The next day my credit card disappeared.  I can only assume it left in disgust after being abused for the week.  Frantic calls to Halifax cancelled the card but since I failed all of their security questions they refused to send me out another.  I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that someone was trying to tell me something.  After this, I refused to go back out on Piri until race day.  If anything exploded then, so be it.  

The weather in Taupo had been an interesting mix of glorious and terrible.  


The Saturday before race day was torrential rain and strong winds.  Without a hint of irony we discussed with relief that it wasn't on that day.  A couple of days later we started weather watch in ernest.  It didn't look good.  The news was reporting the possibility of a 'weather bomb' exploding on the Saturday.  A low front travelling in with strong winds and heavy rain.


In Taupo itself, the Ironman bandwagon started.  Each day brought more erections to the Ironman village and more bling and Lycra combinations.  Its astounding how many people wandered around Taupo dressed head to foot in Lycra and no sign of a bike.  But there you go, each to his own I suppose.


As the weather forecast got progressively worse the more nervous we got.  The rumours around town were that they would cancel the swim and make it into a bike/run but all would be told at the pasta party and briefing.

They made a great effort at the party to get everyone into the mood.  With an impressive display from a Maori tribe and the voice of Ironman Mike Reilly telling everyone inspiring stories, but something wasn't quite right.  The worried, resigned faces of the organising committee and underlying tension of the announcement they would make put a bit of a dampener on the whole thing.

The race committee went through the motions until eventually the race director stood up to make an announcement.  Waving a sheet of paper issued from the met office the room suddenly became absolutely still.

With heavy sighs, the following announcement was made.  Heavy winds with gusts of up to 100km/hour and torrential rain were expected to start on Friday night through to Saturday.  Contingency plans were in place with options of either dropping the swim altogether or shortening the swim course.  There would be further briefing the next day at 4pm.  If it was not possible to hold the bike, there would be no race.  The possibility of holding it on the Sunday was discounted due to lack of volunteers, and people travelling to the race who then had to go home on the Sunday.

4pm the next day we we ushered back into the hall for the interim meeting.  It was apparent from the grim face of the race director it wasn't good news.

Waving another piece of paper the information from the met office was that the storm was forecast to be worse than they initially expected.  With gusts of up to 140km/h expected it was not safe to swim or cycle.  The army and emergency services were on standby to assist the region in what they expected to be one of the worst storms in Taupos history.  There was to be no Ironman race on Saturday.  Boos quickly started from the back of the hall.  Idiots, I'm not sure what they expected them to do.

She held up her hand and continued.  They were hoping to be able to put on a 70.3 on the Sunday.  They had managed to get road closures at short notice and a significant number of volunteers had made themselves available for Sunday.  There would be a race assuming the weather would not wreck Taupo in the meantime.  Then we were told to go and get our bikes as they had to close down transition overnight.  I've never seen so many people run so fast to go and rescue their pride and joy.  Outside the wind had got up and rain had already started to fall.


In the end the storm hit south of the island.  The winds were really bad here and I think we were all pretty grateful the race was postponed.  Taupo had a very strange feeling to it all day.  Transition itself looked very empty and forlorn and there was a huge sense of waiting.

That days briefing, at 4pm confirmed the 70.3.  With some amendments to the route they would attempt to keep it as close to the original as possible.


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