Nuzest athlete Anthony Lowes competed in the New Zealand Iron Man (proudly showing off his Nuzest gear), and finished 3rd in his age group! Congratulations Anthony – great effort!
“For me Ironman New Zealand was definitely a tale of 2 halves – a better than expected beginning largely brought undone by 3 mistakes in the last 4 hours but in the end the day had a happy ending so I’m smiling.
It all began in the crystal clear freshwater of Lake Taupo. We were blessed with clear skies and sunshine ever since we arrived on Wednesday and this day was no different. I started front and centre and when the cannon fired it was a couple hundred metres of flat out before looking for some feet to follow. The water was so clear that at one point I looked across to see the guy swimming next to me with a wetsuit and goggles that looked very familiar. My training mate Adam had got off to a flying start as well – he smiled and gave me the thumbs up before we got back to the business of knocking off the swim. Visually the one lap, out and back swim course is a bit daunting with buoys extending one after the next for what seems like forever but I was glad to be feeling good as I rounded the turn at 2km and started to make the long journey back to the swim finish. I had some company around me and was able to follow one guy for most of the return trip until probably 300m to go where I started to feel the pinch and he gradually moved up ahead. The last couple hundred metres I wasn’t feeling at all flash but as I stood and saw 54min on the clock (I was hoping for 56-57min) that feeling quickly disappeared and I tried to take advantage of the 400m run uphill to transition by gaining another few spots.
Onto the bike and almost immediately you are climbing up out of the crater where NZ’s largest lake lies which again gave me opportunity to make some ground as others seem to struggle going up whereas I am at my most comfortable. After 10-15km of up and then down you make a turn onto a flat country road and the next 70 odd km’s are out and back down on the aero bars. I led a group of 4 all the way to the turn around before dropping the pace right off until they came past and I was able to recover to some extent at the back of the group. It became evident that only one other in that group was interested in helping me set the pace whilst the other 2 hid behind us not wishing to come through. At about 80 km the climb back up to Taupo began and feeling good I quickly put 200 odd metres on the group prior to the descent into the town centre. I planned to take it easy and let them rejoin but as we climbed out of town for the second time the gap grew larger and I started to come past other groups up ahead. Back on the flat road I began swapping turns with some Danish guy who was of similar ability and we were making good time until at the bottom of a small rise my race changed with a moments lack of concentration. As he slowed going up hill I was still moving coming down and whilst mucking around in my back pocket for some nutrition I encroached on the 10m no drafting zone. Mistake no. 1. Upon realising I began dropping back when the dreaded buzz of an official on motorbike was heard beside me. My first ever drafting penalty was issued which meant I had to stop for 4 minutes a little bit further up the road. I tried to remain calm as we pedalled on but it felt a lot better to yell some self directed expletives so I let a few of them fly prior to pulling over in the penalty area to serve my time. I knew the worst thing I could do was get back on the bike and try and make up some of the time lost over the last 50km but I did it anyway riding angry for the 40km till the final climb into town. Mistake no. 2. My legs were shot as I hit the hills and I struggled up and over – whereas earlier I was making good ground going uphill now I was barely able to stay in touch with the riders ahead. My vision started going fuzzy and at this point I knew I was in for a long tough marathon.
Off the bike, running shoes on and out onto the final leg I headed. I wasn’t exactly sure where in the field I was placed but expected that it would take a pretty quick run to ensure a good result. After such a tough final hour on the bike I should have backed off my intended pace a little and tried to recover but instead, as I was feeling ok (you always do off the bike initially), I instead sat about 20 odd secs faster per km than my intended pace for the first 6km thinking I was going to be able to maintain this all the way and run through the field. Mistake no. 3. At 6km I went from feeling good to feeling terrible in the space of about 100m – I thought about walking and it didn’t take long to realise I had another 36km to go and that they weren’t going to be at all pretty. I managed to overcome the walking thoughts but still the pace slowed considerably and I struggled big time for the next half an hour or so. Thankfully no one else must have been going any faster as I wasn’t passed and at the end of lap 1 (14km) I actually started to feel better. It was here that NZ triathlon professional and 10 time winner of this race Cameron Brown started to run up behind me (he being on his 3rd lap – me on my 2nd). The crowd lining the streets were all yelling ‘Go Cam’ and I expected him to fly past me at any stage. 10 minutes later they were still cheering him and still he was yet to come past me. Despite feeling pretty horrible this gave me a little confidence and when he finally did come up onto my shoulder we ran side by side for the next 5km or so. I would actually pull away up the hills and he would slowly come back onto my heels on the flats. Finally he started to pull away and I was passed for the only time on the run but he stayed in sight all the way till the end of my 2nd lap which took my mind off the agony below my waist for a while. Starting the last lap my super supporter Natalie was shouting ‘3rd in your age group is just up ahead – yellow cap!’ This I highly doubted but I knew my competition fairly well and when I saw who it was up ahead it was actually quite plausible. It didn’t take long to pick him up and I tried to pretend I was going well as I went past – thankfully he was in even worse shape than me and I had a feeling I wouldn’t be seeing him again. I was now 3rd in my age group with about 12km to go and it was time to grit the teeth, suck up the pain and try and hold off any fast finishers that may have been lurking behind. At this point going through the aid stations were mayhem – grabbing coke then water then coke again, some lollies and a good handful of ice down the pants. Cramps started firing in my hamstrings, my knees were aching and my feet were on fire but with 7km to go I could see Taupo from across the lake and I knew I was going to make it. It was far from pretty but one step at a time the town got closer until finally it was upon me. Rounding the final turn into the finish line the announcer confirmed my 3rd place in the 30-34 age group and all I could manage was a weak punch of the air in celebration – I had qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii – although at that point in time another Ironman was the last thing I ever wanted to do again.
So at the end of the day, in all honesty, I was pretty disappointed with the way the way I executed the back half but proud that I never threw in the towel and very happy with the final outcome. 3 mistakes made the final 4 hours torture – thankfully Taupo and the surrounds are so beautiful and the crowd so plentiful that all the ache and pain was just bearable. Time for a big rest and plenty of recovery, then a month or two of training just for fun followed by 12 weeks training for Hawaii – then I’m taking up fishing!”