‘Race day’ race report: Team M&M do Sovereign Triathlon Wanaka

Team M&MToday was meant to be the alternative day for the Big Ruby swim. Sadly it was also cancelled. Why is this sad, I’m not doing it after all? Because I knew that meant that it was windy down at the lake for the triathlon also!

I did find quite a few things amusing this weekend. In the camp site the woman in a tent nearby was obviously doing it. She had a bike in the back of her car, and I heard her talking to another in the toilets, about who was here, who was not, naming names and so on. Hahah I thought. That used to be me. It seemed strange to be outside it all.

I had the race bag all ready, I have done this many times. Why was I getting stressed the day before? It wasn’t a race, not for me anyway!?! I thought about it, I have actually only done one triathlon EVER IN MY LIFE that was just for fun. After just my first race, it was suggested to me that I could qualify for GB. So it immediately became very serious. This was going to be a whole new triathlon experience – ‘just for fun’. I will have to remind myself of that A LOT today, it turns out.

I’m not sure why I thought I had to get up at 6:30am for a 9:20am start just a 2 min drive away. Mark looked baffled and left me to it.

This is not a race Mel.

2 minutes to check the bike, 5 minutes to sort out my essential equipment into a string bag, what did you need all the time for, Mel!?

So we also had time to decamp as well before still arriving at transition with plenty of time to spare.

Again 3-4 minutes to set up transition and we were away. Time to spare. Hmm!


Lake WanakaThe swim was a 2 lap clockwise triangle, with one point far away from shore, and two close to shore. the wind was coming in in the direction from the lake meaning the first to second buoy was a side wind and the second to third a head wind. The waves were huge. I have to say, possibly the windest conditions I have ever been out in.

The teams wave was small, unlike the mens and women’s individual waves that went before! The hooter blew without a warning and we were off. Oh, we have stared have we! I set off swimming my usual bilateral breathing pattern but very quickly felt sea sick in the swell (which is more unusual for me). I swiftly changed to breathing one side, the shore side, and felt much better. It was a right armed battle to head straight to the buoy, some people were being washed ashore and ended up standing up. When I got to the buoy, there were already people bailing out. Wow.

I turned to head out to the furthest most buoy and that’s when it really hit me how tough this was going to be. The waves and swell were either hitting me like a smack in the face, lifting me up suddenly like I was on a roller coaster, or throwing me under as they washed right over me. Jeeez!! The woman to the right of me started doing back stroke, shouting loudly that this was much easier. the one just in front was breast stroking already.

Thank goodness the water wasn’t cold as well! A tropical 16 degrees for Lake Wanaka!

I stopped to breast stroke and have a think. How was I going to tackle this?! There must be a way. I couldn’t ‘surf’ the waves and let them lift me like I did in Auckland, They were too big and there were too many white caps. I couldn’t breast stroke, that’s dumb, plus that would kill my knee. I decided to battle on, breathing to the left just, dipping my head and right ear into the water first to attempt to use it as a break for the waves, so they didn’t always get be face on. This seemed to work nicely and I left back stroke woman and breast stroke woman behind. I couldn’t avoid all the face plants, and there was only one time that I could sight and actually see the buoy above the waves, right after I was hit by one! With this method working well, I got to the next turn in a relatively straight line.

During my struggles along this leg, a man on a jet ski hoofed along, stopped nearby and started shouting. I stopped to ask him what he was shouting. ‘One lap only’ he said, ‘one lap’. That’s crazy, I thought, how can they change their minds while the race is underway!!? I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I felt sure I would get confirmation elsehwere if it was true.

When I got to the last turn, almost back to the start / finish, I stood up looking for an indication. Did I stop, or carry on? There was no one nearby to ask. Jety ski man was now miles away. Ahead of me I could see swimmers continue on to a second lap, behind me I could see swimmers getting out. Who knows! I made an executive decision to carry on. This was most likely going to be my only swim in Lake Wanaka ahead of Challenge Wanaka, so I was going to make the most of it.

The thing is, the wind was whipping up even more. The second turn buoy had now been washed up onto the beach. Now what!!? The swimmers ahead were climbing out, walking round it and diving back in. OK, I’ll do that also. This is mad!!

Seond lap, same as the first!! Head on waves smashing into me, ear down, look left and hope for the best. I was a lot more exhausted than normal when I finally reached the exit of the swim.

Lessons learned: 

  • How to deal with massive waves, if its this windy on race day next time! 
  • The shoreline isn’t a steep descent like it is round at Ruby island, so keep swimming way further towards the beach than you think, till your hand touches ground. 
  • It’s not actually as cold as I feared
  • I may not actually get an ‘easy swim’ if its like this again, thats ok, I can do it.
  • I need to practice swimming with the ‘gimp hat’ as my husband so delicately calls it (neoprene swim cap) in case they make it compulsory also 


TransitionI had already driven the road a couple of times. Hubby considered it to be ‘ok’ but I wasn’t too sure. I was immediately reminded that I have not in fact done a swim-bike transition for over 2 years. Erm, where have the legs gone?! As soon as you have your feet in the shoes, you’re heading up hill. Nice, thank you Wanaka.

I imagined the out leg of this course to be worse and it was. It is pretty much mostly up, for 20km. Some of the hills, although short, are actually quite vicious. I haven’t felt like I could climb off and walk faster for quite some time. That isn’t helped by the fact that I now live in flatter than flat Southland!

The headwind was brutal. I had to ride close to the left side of the centre lane to ensure that I didn’t actually get blown off the course. I definitely felt like a foreigner out here amongst the kiwi mountain goats scampering past with their deep rims!

Remember Mel, this isn’t a race!

The scenery is simply stunning. It was awe inspiring cycling in such beautiful surroundings, if I could ignore the fact that I felt close to breaking point a few times! I was thankful for the turn around point, that is for sure (and the fact that I wasn’t last, because at the speed I was going, that was entirely possible!)

I have to say, the return leg was a lot more pleasant! The wind did change direction though, meaning that a few times, I actually had to cycle DOWN HILL. That’s not fair!

The route takes in a road around the side of the lake, through Glendhu bay (a very popular camp site area) and out almost to the ski fields and back.

I think, on reflection, I should have taken the road bike. I am much more used to riding that these days, rather than the much more aero TT bike position. Back ache city when I got back to town!

As I descended the last hill back to town, I took the feet out of the shoes well in time, difficult to negotiate with a stiff side wind, and executed an almost perfect dismount, to the amazement of the marshalls! Not something you expect for someone close to the back of the field!

Lessons learned:

  • I did no training at all for this race, and only entered it ad hoc last week. therefore I did well, and have some kind of base fitness. 
  • Without specific bike speed training I cannot expect to be fast. This is not my current focus, swimming is my focus! 
  • It was nice to actually enjoy it, without putting myself under pressure for results, times and ranking positions. 


I felt bad, making Mark wait so long, but he said it was to his advantage, he paced his run perfectly as he had planned, and came in within a minute of his target time.

Nice work team M&M. 

finish photoIt’s an odd place to be though, at the ‘pleasure only’ end of the field!

It continued to feel off in the local pub where we stopped for lunch, and two triathletes sat down with their family for lunch also, speakin about their race the whole time. That used to be me also!! They had both won age group South island champs medals in the race too, which they were showing off.

Its ok, I am a current South Island champion too. in single sculls rowing!








One Comment on “‘Race day’ race report: Team M&M do Sovereign Triathlon Wanaka

  1. Pingback: Wanaka weekend | Journey to New Zealand

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