The XTERRA Rotorua Festival will celebrate its 10th birthday in style next weekend.
At the inaugural event in 2002, 900 people took part.
Since then 18,000 people have taken to the stunning trails around the beautiful Blue Lakes area in Rotorua.
It now attracts people from throughout the world and organisers are expecting more than 2500 entrants this year, each taking part in a walk, run, mountainbike or off-road triathlon.
The Paymark-sponsored festival is one of the biggest multisport events in the world and is part of the XTERRA Global Tour which has events in 17 countries.
Representatives from seven countries are expected at this year's event in Rotorua, including some of the world's best athletes to compete for the New Zealand title and their share in the $10,000 prize purse.
The international visitors are always delighted with the scenery that greets them in Rotorua.
"The Blue Lakes are a perfect setting for this event with the beautiful trail that runs around the lake and also the stunning tracks in the surrounding forest," says event spokeswoman Nicola Carter.
"The New Zealand XTERRA race is known as one of the most, if not the most, scenic events on the calendar and a must do for all enthusiasts."
In the past decade, the series has proved an important event for New Zealand multisport athletes growing in experience and confidence.
The triathlon event option is also a national championship and qualifying race for the world championship held in Hawaii every October.
Over the 10 years of XTERRA New Zealand there have been 237 representatives travel to the world triathlon championships.
This has produced 16 world age-group champions. And in 2005 Hamish Carter won the professional race at the world championships.
Some high-calibre athletes are preparing for a battle in Rotorua.
Ben Allen, of Australia, is returning after finishing fourth at last year's event.
He comes with international experience after a fifth place in Switzerland in 2010 and 36th at last year's world triathlon championships.
Like many entrants, Allen is making it a family day out. His Australian girlfriend, Jacqui Slack, is also taking a place in the pro field.
Slack won the British title last year and was fourth in Italy's event.
Renata Bucher, of Switzerland, will turn up as one of the top seeds with a very impressive fourth place at last year's world triathlon championships and is a four-time European champion.
Taking on the internationals will be some of New Zealand's best.
In the men's field, Mark Leishman, of Rotorua, and Hamilton's Scott Thorne with be flying the Kiwi flag, each hoping they can fly it the highest by the end of the day.
Thorne finished second to Richard Ussher last year. Leishman was third with Allan less than a minute behind.
The top three seeded men this year are all expecting a tight tussle once again. Leishman, who is known as "Cabin", is on his way back from a serious arm injury.
"It has been a long and testing recovery," said Leishman. "I am happy to be progressing in the right direction and feeling good."
Locals will also have a professional female to cheer, with Leishman's partner, Nic Leary, of Rotorua, the No1 Kiwi contender.
This is a comeback year for Leary after exploding on to the scene in 2009 as one of New Zealand's most exciting mountainbiking prospects.
She has been absent from the national scene for most of the past 15 months battling illness and injury.
In a stellar two-year period, she emerged to win multiple mountainbiking titles, as well as two XTERRA New Zealand championships.
She will be hoping her comeback period is complete in April with another New Zealand title to her name.
"I'm coming good at the right time," she said. "I missed a lot of training over summer and it's been a race against time to regain strength. I'm certainly not 100 per cent, but I am feeling good again on the MTB and for me that is key."
Leishman and Leary love the XTERRA series for different reasons.
"It offers a unique off road experience that is hard to beat," said Leishman. "A grimace of hurt is soon a grin."
"It has a really special atmosphere," added Leary. "There are so many events in New Zealand but there are few events that do such a great job of bringing together so many people from so many different walks of life and sporting backgrounds into such a positive event experience."
While the professionals are out there battling themselves and each other for the title, there will be thousands of others taking part in what is an awesome day out.
The chance to rub shoulders with some of the elite from home and overseas is another special aspect.
"All of the triathletes start at the same time, so everyone from your first-time triathlete, weekend warrior and the professionals are on the start line together.
"It is also a very casual and fun atmosphere so there is lots of time afterwards to relax by the lake and catch up with old friends or chat with the elite guys and girls."
XTERRA is about everyone living a little more, getting out there and giving it a go. There is an event option for all ages and abilities, including an 11km or 21km walk or run, a 29km mountain bike as well as a team or individual triathlon.By Peter Thornton