The 100th Scorching Event incorporating the inaugural Wellington Scorcher Half Ironman:
It’s not often that an event being run for the first time immediately achieves iconic status. However, the “Scorcher half” – the first half ironman triathlon to take place in the capital since the early 1990s, undoubtedly secured that moniker. It formed the centrepiece of the 100th Scorching event (the Scorching events series has been running for 13 years) run by Daryl Bloomfield and his team from Fedude Sports on Sunday 24 January. The event was totally sold out, with all 200 places in the half having been filled a few weeks ago, and 200 spots in the other races having been filled too. The event took place on a typically blustery Wellington day.
The sea swim was two laps of a 1km loop from Scorching Bay. The buoys were a long way from the beach, and out in the channel the water was pretty rough, making it a testing time for the less confident open water swimmers amongst us, with the waves making it difficult to see the buoys, and providing an unwelcome opportunity to swallow lots of sea water! On the outward leg we had to swim over a lot of seaweed, which was quite disconcerting.
The 90km cycle route consisted of two laps along the south coast and then up happy Valley Road to Brooklyn and back, with an extra loop added at the end of each lap from Scorching bay north to Massey Point and back, to make up for the late loss of Houghton Bay hill, originally slated to be part of the route but pulled the day before because of recent road resurfacing. The Nor’westers made things brutal, with the normally easy climb up Happy Valley being a dreadful slog against the headwind (this was about the hardest I can ever remember that climb being in the 100 or so times I’ve climbed it) and much of the rest of the course being subject to crosswinds and vicious headwinds. It’s not really news that the Northerly blows hard in Wellington and makes cycling tough at times, but there was something about racing 90km in those conditions, even with the removal of the steep climb up from Houghton Bay, that took things to a new level of pain and discomfort for most of us!
Then the half marathon run, and what a run. Daryl surpassed himself with this one, with a predominantly off road and exceptionally hilly two-lap route over the hills of the Miramar peninsular, some of which involved tracks on private land opened up to the public especially for the event, along with some awesome trail running down the mountain biking tracks which drop away from Mount Crawford. There were tremendous views at various parts of the route. There were even a few sets of steps to overcome at the end of the 10.5km lap. Many accomplished triathletes and runners were reduced to walking significant sections. It was simply a brilliant run course, but brutally hard after those first two disciplines. Added fun was provided by the Barwicks and Gaskins who were spectating at the Mount Crawford prison aid station, and watching bemusedly and providing encouragement as a succession of exhausted people appeared in view after the long slog up from Shelley Bay!
The overall times that people achieved for the event made it very clear that this is the toughest half ironman event in the country, with only two people getting under 5 hours – the overall winner was 2008 Olympic triathlete and now full-time coach Shane Reed, who went round in 4.52. Most people were an hour or more slower than they would be on fast courses such as the Port of Tauranga half. As Daryl himself said afterwards: “In equal measure participants were cursing and celebrating the course. I think we have put together a course that will be memorable for all who took part today, and something others will hear about and add to their list to experience. When you get comments that it was the first run course that they have ever walked parts of in their 20+ years of racing and they enjoyed the challenge, there must be something good with it.”
None of that stopped a flying Valentino Luna Hernandez who after an excellent swim and solid bike, screamed round the run course in the fastest time of the day (an outstanding 1.37) to pick up 3rd overall in 5.07. Matt O’Connor, like Valentino preparing for the Tarawera Ultra 100k next month, blitzed the bike leg in 2.44 then hung tough on the run (2.03) for a 5.27, just outside the top 10 overall. Hooman Bahreini was another Scottish member to flourish on the run course, picking up lots of places with his 1.50 (the 8th quickest individual run on the day) to finish in 5.42. Just ahead of him James Turner slogged through the run in a little over two hours for a 5.41. There was a fine battle a bit further back between two chatterboxes, Paul Rodway and Karen Ward, finishing in 7.01 and 7.04 respectively. A number of other Scottish members were in teams: Bridget Clark (in her Supergirl outfit), Tricia Sloan, Helen Bradford and the Anderson twins.
Nearly everyone who finished had a glazed faraway look in their eyes! Of course there were other events too. Firstly a tough “long course” quarter ironman, consisting of one lap each of the half ironman course routes (1k swim, 45k bike, 10.5 k “run”). Andy Ford’s 2.39 (47 minute run) got him a top 5 spot and Claire Jennings finished in 3.36. Todd Maddock grabbed 3rd overall in the medium triathlon (500m swim, 20.6km bike, 5km run) in 1.11 with Becky Hawthorne producing a solid 1.24. And the Palmers (John and Maryanne) and Ian Stronach competed over various duathlon courses. We’ll leave the final comment to race organiser Daryl who said: “my goal was to create an event which was memorable and unique – something that showcased both the coast and hills of Wellington. We did that today. We gave them an honest, great course that hurt just a little. It was a special day”.