Grant Harding Ironman #25


Grant Harding, who will be participating in Ironman New Zealand 2013, having completed the event in 2010, shares his Ironman life.

There were five Hardings in the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge 160km solo event.

Four of them finished ahead of me. You laugh? So did I.

Without labouring the point, it was a tough day at the office on Saturday. Headwinds on both sides of the course - or was that my imagination? - negated the beautiful overhead conditions. My legs died at the 90km mark, meaning an inability to take advantage of the flatter side of the course - 70km is a long way to ride when you're tired.

Not that such an outcome was entirely surprising. It was the toughest and longest ride of my training to date, and I didn't taper for the event - even running and swimming the day before. Besides I'm not a gifted cyclist.

That said, I was lucky to finish at all.

Somewhere around the 125km mark, a cyclist remounting his bike on the side of the road fell directly into my path.

Taking evasive action, I missed his head by a narrow margin and was forced to steer my bike right out to the middle white line to do so.

The adrenaline must have pumped, because for the first time, in my fifth 160km solo around Taupo, a few km up the road I made it up the notorious Hatepe Hill without stopping.

But as they say, it's not over until it's over.

With less than 200 metres to the finish line, while gunning down Tongariro St at 38km/h (you have to put on a show), a lying-down cyclist charged out from one of the, supposedly controlled pedestrian crossings. The crowd's reaction told of a tragedy about to happen. But no. I steered hard right, he, oblivious to the danger he'd created, kept going to the left of me, and somehow, miraculously, what appeared to be a certain accident was avoided.

So my intense six hours and 16 minutes on the road had served its purpose. I'd finished strong, with no ill-effects.

I got a few comments out on the course - some from Hawke's Bay folk ("we can expect a big write-up in the paper on Monday"), and some from cyclists who recognised my bike set-up as being Ironman-related. The fully aerodynamic helmet, the aerobars are a bit of a give-away.

One sarcastically said: "It would be interesting if the Ironman bike course was on this terrain." To which I replied: "You wouldn't get many entries."

The first 90km of the Cycle Challenge is tough going. Running a marathon off that would not be to the liking of many. One also suggested that the challenge would be more difficult than doing the Ironman. Not at all. The Ironman has three disciplines requiring much training to have any chance of finishing. I got through 160km of cycling - admittedly not quickly - on a slim diet of specific training.

There is an underlying antipathy that comes from cyclists towards triathletes.

Personally I have huge respect for cyclists - they are a tough crew. And the sport always provides an honest day out. But triathlon has its challenges, and its competitors also have my respect.

Editor Andrew Austin asked me during the week if I ever felt like giving up during an event. I told him, "no". The truth is, "yes, often, sometimes often in the same event, but no".

What keeps you going is one of the following. Can I go on? How am I going to get home? How am I going to feel later tonight? It's the self-talk and pride that gets you through (although I once cracked mentally on a swim).

Speaking of pride, I met Terina Parkinson last week. She is a stroke survivor who Hawke's Bay Today did a story on before she took on the Auckland Marathon last month.

Terina introduced herself while serving at the checkout at Napier Pak'n Save. Then as quick as a flash she pulled out her finisher's medal.

It brought a smile to my face, as she told her story. Her knees gave out about 15km from the finish, but she battled through. She found out she could go on, she had to get home. Time was irrelevant. The result was the medal. Earned. Her pride was infectious.

I finished 2664th out of 4198 in the solo on Saturday. For me the 160km banked was the most important fact to emerge from the day.

Now attention turns to Ironmaori. Once again I will not taper into the event. While I rested yesterday, it was due to other duties, time constraints, rather than fatigue. And today I will be back training. I will have one day off before the half-ironman on Saturday. The occasion, the quality training provided by a half-ironman, will be what it's about.

Racing is coming. But not just yet.

The hardening up process has begun.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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