Stairway to pain and torture

By David Ogilvie

Jen Fee will carry the Manawatu family name at February's New Zealand Masters in Wanganui because usual fellow competitor, husband Kevin will probably be overseas.

She will have to go through the pain of the Durie Hill stair-racing on her own! Kevin was fourth in 2011, just two seconds from the bronze medal, while Jen was third in the women's event but a fair distance behind winner Christine Volkerling (Hunterville) and second-placed Wanganui climber Amanda Baldwin.

The Durie Hill stair-racing is one of the great events of these Masters Games, featuring a climb of some 300 steps, followed by a quick turnaround at the Durie Hill tower and a torturous dash back down again.

For some reason or other, people keep coming back for it. Jen, who will also do several rather more sensible events during the Games week, tries to explain why.

"I played just basketball at my first Games in 2007 - great atmosphere - even in 30°C plus! Then came 2011 - first time stair-racing. After knee surgery in 2009 and 2010, I decided that the stair race would kill or cure me! My Masters athletics mates and work mates thought I was nuts!

"Knowing my husband does it in just over six minutes I decided to double his time as my goal. Training consisted of the Massey University steps - a series of steps around campus, not many at a time but seven sets minimum in the circuit and the occasional foray to the Manawatu Gorge track which has a serious set of steps on the Woodville side.

"Nearer the date I also made a couple of trips to Wanganui to time myself on the steps, parking at Kowhai Park to walk to the base as a warm up. Hubby runs there and back of course, leaving me to toddle behind!"

Then the serious stuff:

"Race day loomed and the nerves hit - feeling decidedly sick I wondered what I had got myself in to ... after all, who signs up for this for fun?

"And then my 'support crew' came along to laugh and give me crazy eyes! Between organiser Mark Stoneman giving me grief and Francie Bayler (Wanganui hockey and athletics) laughing in support, I literally puffed my way up those steps and back down to finish with jelly legs and a big smile - only to have to help a stray driver push his ute through the lights out of traffic's way!

"What a day. So I'll be back, even though I can't say the training is going well yet - just starting! FMG Stadium steps, here we come."

Jan also took part in athletics in 2011 - "discus and shot, and this time aiming to do a few extra events. So far, apart from stairs, I will try sprinting and jumping events as well as the throws. Hubby is still talking me into the duathlon - not fit enough."

janis one of 338 Manawatu entries up to early this week. Manawatu is the second largest entry from New Zealand zones, behind Wanganui (1125), but ahead of Wellington (304) and Auckland (193).

Now to swimming, and a strong Australian connection.

Local swimmers would have noticed the "Banora Point" name before, and they'll see it again.

Tweed Heads is a good-sized place on the border between Queensland and New South Wales, with the suburb of Banora Point making up a bit more than 15,000 of the population.

The reason they come to Wanganui, and have been before? There is a strong Kiwi influence in the club. Team member David Misson explains.

"Our club was formed in 1988 and is one of the Twin Towns Services Club's auxiliary sports club. We currently have 62 members of which 90 per cent train in the Oasis Heated Pool all year around, and about 50 per cent swim at swim meetings around our regional area. We train three times a week with qualified coaches."

Yep, they're serious!

"There are 12 members attending the Wanganui Masters Games: Del Margetts, Michael Lynch, Dihana Poulsen, David Maynard, Janet Henry, Lyn May(capt), Sue Misson, Allaine Stent, Robyn Hughes, David Misson, Lyn Delle Costa and Barbara Maynard.

"David and Barbara Maynard, along with Allaine Stent, are New Zealanders. We have three more New Zealanders in the club, and that's our link. Each year we have a club trophy between Australia and New Zealand," said Misson.

And now a Canadian (Kiwi-born) golfer.

Canadian entry Malcolm Smith is a Kiwi, who admits he's getting closer to returning to the home he was born in.

The 67-year-old is in the 18-hole individual golf and nothing else - despite a fair history of having a crack at other sports.

He's lived in Vancouver since 1982, but his kids were born in New Zealand - Smith suggests, wryly, that "somehow they think they're Canadian, and they talk funny!".

"I am a Kiwi. I grew up in Otahuhu, went to Auckland Grammar, Auckland University (BSc and BE) and Strathclyde University in Glasgow (PhD).

"I haven't entered any other sports. Over my adult years I've played and participated in a fair bit of sport at a moderate level - squash, skiing, running. I was a founding director of a ski racing club on one of Vancouver's North Shore mountains; and a Little League executive," says Smith.

"My golf started in my 50s because my son played the game at high school. Over the years my handicap's wandered around between nine and 15, depending on how much I play.

"I was in the Wanganui Games two years ago. I entered, because Ian McGowan (Ian and I have been close friends since high school) suggested I might, and I thought 'that'd be fun!' It was. We lost all our money, but it was still fun."

So how about that possible return home?

"My wife and I have been 'sneaking up' on New Zealand over the past decade. Earlier this year we bought a house in Snells Beach (north of Auckland), so in the years ahead it'll be seven months in Vancouver (got to keep working to pay for all this) and five months in Snells (and thank goodness for the internet - which actually makes this lifestyle possible). Not a bad life really.

"Coming back's been like putting on a comfy old cardy - it just feels good. And it's great to back with so many friends from high school and university times."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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