Ironmaori: Early nights the norm for Fabish

By Shane Hurndell

Guitar parties are almost a thing of the past for Robin Fabish and his whanau.

Like thousands of Maori throughout the country the Fabish whanau's lifestyle has been transformed by the Ironmaori bug.

"These days when whanau come to stay we have early nights and the next morning we're either running or cycling together and having intellectual conversations as we prepare for the next triathlon," Fabish says.

For 43-year-old Te Aute College deputy principal Fabish, the next triathlon is Saturday's Ironmaori half ironman, a 2km swim, 90km cycle and 21.1km run event in Napier. It will be his fourth Ironmaori and second as an individual.

This weekend's event will have special significance for Fabish. His wife Sharron is doing the same individual event for the first time and all three of their children, 14-year-old Te Aorewa, 11-year-old Tiaki and 10-year-old Kamoe, will each compete in one of three junior events.

In addition 12 students from Te Aute College will tackle one of the junior events on Friday, the 500m swim, 14km cycle and 3km run.

"Our students are keen to transfer their positive experiences gained from training for Ironmaori into the classroom and on to the rugby field next year," Fabish says.

"Thanks to Heather [event director Heather Skipworth] and her husband Wayne we are an Ironmaori Kura."

Te Aute College principal Piripi Blake did the Ironmaori quarter ironman earlier this month.

"There aren't many secondary school principals in the country who can be found training alongside their students. When I go for a run down on the school fields one or two boys will join me and by the time we're getting near the end of the run we could have up to eight boys running and chatting as we clock up some more kilometres," Fabish says.

He singled out Raniera Reriti as one student who has the potential to make triathlon his main summer sport - an ideal fitness base for rugby.

Fabish has lost 15kg during the four years he has been doing triathlons. Last year he completed the Ironmaori in 7hrs20m and having completed the Auckland half ironman in 6hrs59m this year, Fabish will aim to go under seven hours on Saturday.

Surprisingly, his family haven't offered him any incentives.

"Just personal satisfaction. I feel proud when my kids are proud of me," Fabish says.

"It's neat being able to train as a family and for the kids to see their Mum and Dad's commitment to health."

Fabish trains up to 11 hours each week and follows programmes written by his coach Ken McLaren. He is grateful for the support from Tony Harding and his crew at Cranked Cycles and Triathlon.

"They are there for the right reasons ... not just to make money. They get a buzz out of seeing big blokes like me become slimmer."

In keeping with the Ironmaori edict, Saturday's triathlon is smoke, drug and alcohol-free.

While the focus is on the promotion of health and well-being among Maori and Pacific Island people, it is open to everyone.

It began in 2009 with 300 competitors, lured 600 starters in 2010, and mushroomed to 1500 last year.

According to organiser George Mackey, whose wife Missy is also a co-founder, this year's field of 2740 sold out in a gob-smacking seven minutes online.

"The event is bigger than Taupo's annual Ironman," Mackey says.

Event director Heather Skipworth has been amazed by the spirit of whanau training for Saturday's event.

"What has really amazed me is the spirit of our people - seeing whanau out there I don't even know, but I know they're training for Ironmaori - it makes me want to run into the corner and have a little cry."

Motorists using Pandora Rd, Meeanee Quay, the SH2B Expressway and Prebensen Drive in Napier are being advised to expect slight delays during Saturday's event.

Speed restrictions, stop-go signals and lane diversions will take place at certain points. Motorists are asked to exercise extra care and patience in these areas, particularly on Pandora Rd and at the Expressway-Prebensen Drive roundabout. Similar care should be exercised on Friday when Ironmaori junior events are staged.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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