By the time Tauranga's Hannah Wells reached the halfway point of the final leg of the Challenge Wanaka Half there was no part of her that thought she would win.

She had completed the first leg of a 1.9km swim and leg 2, which was a 90km bike and was in third place. Once she reached the second transition point the two women in front of her were "pretty much right there".

She was able to move forward in the third and final 21.1km run leg of the event when she and Meredith Kessler of the US were able to overtake the woman who was in first place.

"We went past the girl who was winning at the time, myself and Meredith Kessler, and then we ran toe-to-toe, for like the first 12km of the run we were running together," Wells said.

Advertisement

The run leg takes athletes towards the Lake Wanaka Outlet Track along the lake edge and follows the Clutha River towards Albert Town. At 12.5km in, at Dean's Bank, runners face the sharp uphill of Gunn Rd before heading downhill on Aubrey Rd and continuing the course, which is 25 per cent sealed and 75 per cent gravel.

It was while running the incline she thought a first placing was out of reach.

"Meredith actually got away from me a little bit up that hill, she got like about a 10m gap.

"Honestly about half way up the hill I didn't think I was going to be able to take the win.

"I was really hurting at this point kind of thinking that that might be my day done."

However, once Wells reached the downhill part of the course she was able to re-focus, gain some momentum and find her second wind.

"I managed to kind of pull myself together and actually had a bit more leg speed on the downhill and caught back up to her [Kessler] and kind of just keep that going.

"When I caught back up to her I thought 'oh well maybe I'll keep going' and managed to actually pull ahead of her after that and get a bit of a lead and then I guess, I found my second wind on the last part of the run and managed to take it."

That second wind helped her get home more than one minute ahead of Kessler - a triathlete Wells had been following and admiring for many years, and finish the race in first place with a time of 4hrs 31 minutes and 11 seconds in what she describes as her "best performance so far".

Hannah Wells comes in to win her first Challenge Wanaka against a strong Meredith Kessler and Laura Siddall! 💪

Posted by Challenge Wanaka Triathlon on Friday, 15 February 2019
The 2019 Challenge Wanaka Half women's podium winners, from left, Laura Siddall from the UK in 3rd, Hannah Wells, from Tauranga in 1st and Meredith Kessler, from USA in 2nd. Photo / Getty Images
The 2019 Challenge Wanaka Half women's podium winners, from left, Laura Siddall from the UK in 3rd, Hannah Wells, from Tauranga in 1st and Meredith Kessler, from USA in 2nd. Photo / Getty Images

Kessler finished second with a time of 4:32:19 and in third was Laura Siddall, from the UK, in 4:36:37.

"I was totally surprised when I overtook her [Kessler]. I noticed that she didn't come with me and I guess that was like quite a boost, so I guess that also built me up and gave me the last little bit that I needed to get home to the finish.

"It's definitely my best performance so far, in the toughest field, the other two girls in the podium are incredible athletes, numerous Ironman and Ironman 70.3 victory winners so it was really cool to grab the top spot."

The Challenge Wanaka Half is one of the world's toughest middle distance triathlon courses and is New Zealand's largest triathlon festival and securing a win proves Wells' professional career continues to flourish. She took her first major win in her pro career at home at the Tauranga Half in January.

Next up, Wells has a couple more events to complete before she plans to take a well-deserved break.

"The plan is to probably do one more race in Melbourne in this Australasia summer season."

And at the end of March she will complete a 550km running race from Los Angeles to Las Vegas called The Speed Project as part of a relay team at the end of March. It will be at the end of that she plans to get some rest.

"It's been a long season for me starting in September and I sort of need to allow the body to recover and heal for a little bit."

Tauranga professional athlete, Dr Hannah Wells is all smiles as she is about to be the first woman to finish the 2019 Challenge Wanaka Half. Photo / Getty Images
Tauranga professional athlete, Dr Hannah Wells is all smiles as she is about to be the first woman to finish the 2019 Challenge Wanaka Half. Photo / Getty Images