The Ironman triathlon is for me one the very pinnacles of sporting achievement, with a remarkable level of training and dedication required to be able to even think about participating. Many people regard the marathon as a good measure of excellent fitness, but the triathlon takes this onto another level altogether, with the 26.2 mile marathon distance run preceded by a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bicycle ride!
I've always liked the idea of participating in a triathlon and still harbour ambitions of taking part one day, but I think I would have to build up to it gradually, perhaps by starting the with half-distance 70.3 version - I have managed a half-marathon before and cycled over relatively long distances so it's only really the swim part that would put me off - if it was in a pool I would be OK, but the added effort required to get across choppy open waters is pretty intimidating I have to admit.
In terms of location, then the New Zealand Ironman has to be one of the best to choose (it is actually the second oldest in the world) with the backdrop provided by the beautifully scenic Great Lake Taupo, a 238 square mile expanse of water located on the north island. It is a popular region for sporting events, with cycling a particular favourite, and the ironman weekend always brings out decent crowds of spectators to cheer on the competitors. February is of course still summer time in New Zealand, so the weather is usually pretty decent for the event, although the athletes will be hoping for cooler temperatures.
The elite athletes get underway at 6.45am, with the rest of the groups starting at 7am. The official race end time is midnight.
The race starts outside the Taupo Yacht Club in the waters of Lake Taupo, where the water temperature is usually expected to be around 19 degrees celsius.
After the swim is completed there is then a 400m run to the transition area to get onto bikes for the cycle stage. The bike ride is over 2 laps of a relatively flat course. The main route is down Broadlands Road, onto Centennial Drive then Spa Road, Motutaiko Street, Tamamutu Street and Tongariro Street.
The run course is also mainly flat, taking you back onto Tongariro Street from the transition area, then covering Lake Terrace, Rainbow Drive, Wharewaka Road, Kohatu Parade, Teti Street, Heeni Road and Pukenamu Road.
There are course maps available for all 3 stages of the Ironman on the official site:
The online coverage of Ironman events has improved significantly over the last few years, with more and more options becoming available. The official Ironman site provides a wide range of coverage, including commentary and video streaming:
You can also keep up with all the race latest with live real time online text commentary here:
There is also extensive coverage of past events on Youtube, including plenty of user-uploaded videos which help give a real feel for what the event is like:
If you're in New Zealand for the triathlon and planning on spending some time around the picturesque Lake Taupo area then you can check out availability and make online reservations for local hotels here.
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