GIVING up isn't an option for Brendon Vesty, more so now than ever because he has impressionable young children.
"I have four children I am kind of a role model for," says Vesty after finishing 30th in the 40-44 men's category of the Kellogg's Ironman 70.3 in Taupo last Saturday.
"With the sort of misfortune I had before it's still quite important for me to do it to show them that you shouldn't give up on things," says the 43-year-old director of finance for Stortford Auto Sales in Hastings who was attempting his first Taupo event.
The "misfortune" was a vehicle knocking him down on the way to the well-known Pain Train ride around the Tukituki Valley.
"I was on my way to that and this car just ran into the side of my legs at an intersection. It hit my knee and left a big haematoma on my leg so that really slowed me down," explains the former Hastings Boys' High School pupil.
That reduced him to just a 2.5km run leading in to the Half Ironman.
"I'm a pretty determined character so I wasn't going to give up on doing it even though I wasn't in the best shape."
His son, Karsen, 12, is in the HB Triathlon junior squad and he has daughters Sofia, 10, and Sage, 6, as well as 9-week-old stepson Noah with partner Jessica.
"She [Jessica] is pretty supportive and brings Noah to watch so it's pretty good."
"No matter what life throws at you, you just have to keep going because you'll eventually get there."
Vesty, of Havelock North, thought he had a good decade-long professional career in cycling first in Europe and then with American team Navigators in the final four years before retiring.
"The only thing left for me in cycling now is club events and so I really got bored of the sport, really, and I wanted a change so it was a challenge trying to be good at all three," he says after the 1.9km swim, 90km cycle and 21km run for a respectable time of 5h 15m although his goal was under five hours.
Cycling obviously is a given after the Ramblers Cycling member clawed his way back from 470th in swimming to 80th place.
Running has been testing considering he has shin splints and finding the impact of the ground hard on his joints.
"It's quite different because cycling has no impact so it's about adjusting your shock absorbers so I've had quite a tough build-up with running."
The Taupo event has boosted his confidence to compete in the Bay's inaugural Harbour to Hills Half Ironman in April, assuming his training follows the script.
"I just went to it [Taupo] for the experience so I wasn't trying to win it or anything."
The Harbour to Hills will start with a swim and a bike ride twice around the hilly Tukituki circuit before finishing with a run along Marine Parade.
"It's pretty demanding and tough hilly course [ride] but, hopefully, it's going to suit me like in the old days, although I'm a little heavier now."
Self-coached, Vesty has no qualms about approaching the triathlon community to bounce off ideas.
"Everyone is really helpful and handy with advice."
He caught the triathlon bug while attending the Thanyapura Phuket training camp in Thailand and only just started training in August.
"I'm pretty hooked, I think, and trying to get better at the three disciplines."
"It's nice to know that one day you might get tired of cycling you can work with another muscle group in swimming or running."
Vesty doesn't intend graduating to a full Ironman until March 2018.
"It's a big step up and double the distance. It's quite an eye-opener just doing the half one."
He says the lake in Taupo was magical, considering athletes could see the bottom compared with Pandora Pond, Napier, where he couldn't see anything in sea water.
"A lot of people were saying it was cold but I've been swimming in Pandora for six weeks and that was cold so I thought Taupo was quite pleasant with no chop and ... quite conducive to some decent times," he says, wishing he had a bit more time to train to capitalise on it.
Karen Toulmin, of Napier, was first in the women's 30-34 age group, clocking 4h 55m 09s.
HB Triathlon general manager Mike Bond was third in the men's 50-54 category while former Bay-based Aucklander Amelia Watkinson was third in the professional section trying to chase down winner Meredith Kessler.
Toulmin says she was a bit slower than last year because "maybe I was a bit tired".
The Port of Tauranga half Ironman on January 7 is next on Toulmin's agenda.
"I'll be competing with the elite women," says the mother-of-two who is a sheep/beef farmer in Taihape Rd.