Grant Harding Ironman II: Keener than Ever


Team Harding

Shane Harrison and the Hawke's Bay Multisports Club



Plus Rehab (CHB, Hastings, Taradale, Napier)



Grant Harding Ironman II: Keener than Ever

It is history now that Ironman New Zealand 2012 was cancelled last Saturday.

Civil Defence stepped in and ordered the organisers to make the announcement the day before. While the weather that eventuated wasn't as bad as predicted, there is no doubt carnage would have ensued had any racing taken place.<inline type="photogallery" id="11529" align="outside" embed="yes" />

Forget the water, the cycling would have been diabolical. Some of the wind gusts would have parted competitors from their bikes.

So there could be no complaints about the management of that decision, no matter how disappointing. I did wonder if Sunday was an option, but I am assured by my friend and former Ironman mentor Jeanette Cooper that the half-ironman that took place that day was a miracle in itself and a huge financial burden.

So sad for the rookies and those on fire to "go long", although many will still have earned their world championship (Kona) spots via the half-ironman.

I heard about the cancellation via text, and headed down to the transition area on Tongariro St to make sense of it all.

While there I met Hinerangi Waikai from Kaitaia, who I had dinner with on the Wednesday night. There were tears in her eyes as she spoke about being denied her first Ironman.

I was less troubled. Particularly because the prospect of long hours in bad weather did not thrill me, and I had finally succumbed to a cold. (Everywhere I stayed during Ironman week - at home and at Janet's - someone had a cold.) And I already had my 2010 medal.

To be honest the prospect of the half-ironman did not excite. Had I been by myself there is no doubt I would not have got out of bed. But Janet, my friend James Allen, and my niece Stefanie and boyfriend CJ, who were over from England, coaxed me out of my malaise - not so gently. "You're doing it", was the message. They wanted someone to follow.

It was a cool start to the day. I tried to get up for the swim. I honestly did. But I couldn't. I have a mental block. It is pathetic. I finished close to dead last. I was even beaten by the oldest competitor, 76-year-old Garth Barfoot.

Respect to the amazing Garth, who went on to finish in seven hours 50 minutes and 13 seconds, but it is not like I can't swim faster. Last time I finished 3.8km in 1 hour 14 minutes. This time I swam - if that's what it can be called - two kilometres in close to an hour. In training I have been far superior.

My mind just couldn't make my body go. I didn't want to swim. It was only when I sensed the possibility of missing the 70 minute cutoff that I started two-stroking up the course. That is a major work-on.

That failure unsettled the beginning of my cycle, but I eventually relaxed and was happy to roll through the 90km a few minutes over three hours. It was interesting to note that peletons had formed in groups ahead, making it almost impossible for the technical officials to recognise drafting. I made a mental note to be in those groups in the future rather than battling away in isolation.

My run strategy was simple. Run to each support station, walk through them, run again. That is what I did.

It was indicative of my mental and physical state however that I kept a polyprop on all the way, despite what were relatively warm conditions.

Nevertheless the run was the best part of the day. It was where I saw many Hawke's Bay competitors working their way home. And I saw Hinerangi, who had brushed away the tears and picked herself up as we all had, on her way to a creditable six hour 39 minute 13 second finish.

The support from volunteers and the public was, as per usual, fantastic. Other than challenging oneself, it is what makes Ironman great for the competitors.

IronMaori was everywhere. Malcolm Vernon, Henry Heather and others cheered me on down Tongariro St. Janet mountainbiked up towards Rainbow Pt while I took on the last big hill, sensing correctly that I needed support. Although knowing her, she probably just wanted some exercise.

And soon enough I was heading up the chute - stopping to acknowledge my group as I had planned - before running it in and collecting my medal and towel. A half-marathon in just over two hours was pleasing.

I was tired. A fellow competitor commented to me, that it made her wonder how we could have done twice that distance. I agreed, but knew we would have done it. That was what we were there to do.

Jeanette Cooper popped into the tent and surveyed me. I acknowledged my poor swim, but said I'd take the positive of my first-ever half-ironman. That was good enough for her, and she moved on.

The after-taste was not bitter.

I am more determined than ever to stay fit. Unlike 2010 when I struggled to find further motivation before starting to train for this event, I now want to participate. There is so much to aim for.

My daughter wants to do IronMaori. I am excited at the prospect of helping her. I want to run a decent half-marathon - I've never done one. There is a trail running series in Hawke's Bay, Hawke's Bay Multisports Club events etc etc.

Triathlon now feels like a way of life.

When I phoned my mother she asked me if that was the end of my Ironman fascination. She certainly hoped so. But when I said I would be back in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2022, 2024, 2025, 2027, 2029 and 2030 she began to laugh. I was serious.

I didn't stay in the recovery tent for long. After about 10 minutes slumped on a chair I got up, collected my T-shirt, grabbed a sandwich and joined my group outside for a chat and some photos. When I looked at them later I was struck by how happy everyone was. It is such a positive sport.

Soon after we wandered off. The Ironman that wasn't, in the summer that never was had ended.

Training Programme Week 28 of 28

Day 190          22km Cycle

Day 191          Rest Day

Day 192          1km Swim/8km Run

Day 193          29km Cycle

Day 194          Rest Day

Day 195          Rest Day

Day 196          Ironman New Zealand half-ironman

                        2km Swim: 57 minutes 15 seconds

                        Transition: 7 minutes 24 seconds

                        90km Cycle: 3 hours 8 minutes 27 seconds

                        Transition: 3 minutes 17 seconds

                        21.1km Run: 2 hours 38 seconds

                        Total time: 6 hours 17 minutes 1 second

                        Place: 1050 out of 1417 finishers.

Congratulations to each and every competitor at Ironman New Zealand 2012. You may have been denied by the weather, but getting to the start line is victory in itself. To those of you who have never done an Ironman - I sincerely hope you get the chance to go back in the coming years.


World Triathlon Corporation has offered the opportunity for all competitors to take part in another full Ironman event at a reduced rate. They are currently working through the details of this, and are in contact with a number of races to determine space availability, cost and the process. The details will be outlined in an email to you by the end of next week.  Unfortunately, this will not include Ironman Melbourne. As the race is only two weeks away, the organisers have already finalised all of the logistics and resources required to stage the event, and therefore it is not possible to extend this at this late stage.

Entries for the 2013 Ironman New Zealand were scheduled to open this Friday March 9. However, until the potential alternative race opportunities for 2012 are finalised, entries will not open.


I will add all the results of Hawke's Bay competitors I know of, to this blog in the next 24 hours.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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