Ex surf champion set for Ironman challenge

By Martin Lang

A key figure in the New Zealand surf lifesaving team's historic world title victory in 1998, the 36-year-old Mount Maunganui mum will be gutsing it out in a different environment at Ironman New Zealand on Saturday, in the biggest challenge of her sporting resurgence.

After winning an individual title along with relay and overall team golds in the 1998 world surf showdown at Orewa, Read had put sport on the backburner following a sole tilt at full ironman distance at Ironman Australia in 2003.

Having let her fitness slide in the intervening years, she got a kick-start two years ago when friends pressed her to do the run section for their team in last year's Tauranga Half, and she hasn't looked back.

Steadily building with a mix of half and full marathons, half ironmans and team entries at such events since tackling the Tauranga Tinman as an individual in 2010, Read has squeezed training in among her responsibilities as a mother of two and job as a community relations officer.

It's far from one-way effort on the domestic front, though. Guiding her training schedule is partner and distance athlete Bron Healey, who has completed four full ironman events and adds invaluable expertise to both her fitness work and mental approach.

"I'm pretty lucky to have Bron coach me. He's done all of my training schedule for the past six months. His programme has allowed me to fit sessions in when I could, without disruption to my work or the kids," Read says.

"It has made the commitment to ironman challenging, but totally achievable."

A former Mount surf club member, she won gold in the individual 100m saving manikin with tube event and was also in New Zealand's victorious 4x50m rescue tube relay line-up at the 1998 worlds. Those performances helped clinch what was only the country's second world team title. A third remains elusive.

"All the surf lifesaving training over the years has definitely helped me take on ironman, especially mentally ... In some ways, surf competition was harder, everything happens so quickly."

One of 36 Western Bay of Plenty entrants in this weekend's Ironman New Zealand, Read's aquatic pedigree should offer a good start in the 3.8km swim, but then comes the 180km two-wheeled ordeal.

"I find the bike quite hard. That's my weakest link, I love swimming and running ... I'll probably jump for joy when I get out of the saddle," Read says wryly.

Her training the weekend before last included a ride to Ohope on Sunday, covering about 95km, followed by a 12km run before supporting Healey in the Ohope Sprint triathlon, where he finished third.

"One of the things Bron has taught me is to shift focus between internal and external.

"I'll be riding down on the bars, concentrating on what I'm doing for 30 minutes, then for five or 10 minutes I'll sit up and look around, enjoy the scenery. Then back into it again.

"That rest is a way to get through your day, you have to stay positive the whole time."

The can-do mindset essential to distance competition is a major gain among the toil and pain, Read says.

Read has packed in a variety of distance events over the past 15 months, including clocking 3h 59m 15s in the Rotorua marathon last April.

"Finish anywhere between 12 and 13 hours and I'll be happy."

Another source of inspiration for Read on Saturday when the lactic acid burns will be raising funds for young Charlie Murray, a happy and active 3-year-old Tauranga girl with cystic fibrosis.


Western BOP's Ironman hopefuls

Mount Maunganui: Jodi Poulter, Stacey Pask*, Grant Seagar, Buddy Meyer.

Katikati: Shayne Nelson.

Tauranga: Sandra Boubee, Hamish Cairns*, Andrew Chappell*, Peter Clark*, Clyve Cousins, Janene Cowles*, Luana Cox, Andy Dixon, Wayne Doughty, Morgan Drysdale*, Nic Gill, Jonno Kingsford, Stuart Lydiard*, Natasha Lydiard, Bruce Lysaght*, Nicky Morehu*, Garry Muzyka*, Riki Ngatai*, Jackie Read, Aaron Rolls*, Jared Smith*, Paul Stott, Mike Stott*, Mark Stride, Jack Thatcher*, Peter Tinholt, Craig Torr, Johan Van Blerk*, Meryl Wanless, Steve Wickham*, Deb Williams* (* First ironman race).Having proved herself a world-class surf lifesaving competitor in her youth, Jackie Read is catching a second wind as an endurance athlete.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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