Race Report: Melissa Hauschlidt Wins Tauranga Half Ironman
Swim 31:16 6th
Bike 2:15:50 1st
Run 1:23:15 1st
I haven't raced in New Zealand since Jan 2014. Actually, that was my one and only triathlon race in NZ and I haven't been back till now. Why? Cos I did a few acrobatic flips off my bike that day back in 2014, landed on my head and ended up in hospital. That put me off heading over the ditch for many years but this weekend I finally conquered my fear and lined up for the 29th running of the Port of Tauranga Half. New Zealand is beautiful in so many ways and this race did not disappoint. Of course, it always makes things even better when you come away with a win to cap it off.
The race is held at Mount Maunganui as part of a multi-day, multi-sport festival packed full of different events. The little town is the perfect little touristy getaway with the main street of buzzing cafes and restaurants flanked by the ocean on one side and the calm waters of Pilot Bay on the other. At the very end of the peninsula sits the Mount like a trophy piece positioned at the perfect point for all to see. The 2km swim is
Just before leaving Australia I put bright yellow Zipp decals onto my Disc wheel. Just a heads up, yellow is faster and combine that with a super 9 Zipp disc, I was out of control on my bike. I tackled a truck, ran up the backside of the official moto when he got caught up in traffic and pulled out in front of me, drifted sideways around a corner and slid into a parked van, dodged several cars as they got caught up in the age group race and I took a detour onto the highway to Auckland when trying to navigate the course at high speed. In hindsight, this is a course that you should know well prior to racing unless you have someone to follow. I did eventually make it back to town in one piece and in the lead with the fastest bike split of 2:15:50.
Out on the run course I was stoked to hear so many people calling my name. Did they all know me? Or was it because I'd handwritten MEL in big block letter on my race bib. That's probably it. I felt good running and had a good lead so I knew I could "enjoy" it. My Homestay hosts were out on course watching so it was a highlight to see them two times each lap. After an out and back section on the road alongside the beach we then had to tackle "The Mount". My lead cyclist pulled off before The Mount so I had a feeling it was about to get exciting. I'd just passed the last aid station before seeing Mount Maunganui but then saw two options - stairs or ramp. I took the ramp. It was longer than the stairs but who wants to run stairs 7km into the run of a half ironman?!? Running around the mount was nice and shady with the beautiful ocean on your right. This made it a little less painful as I tackled the undulating dirt trail. But then I hit the REAL stairs! These weren't just stairs. They were STAIRS! I powered up the first few, jogged up the next few, then... can you still call it a run if you put a bounce in your step? Either those stairs majorly grew in size towards the end or I shrunk cos I was about to start using my hands to climb up those gigantic steps. I looked like my 6month-old nephew trying to climb upstairs.
Lap one down and back into the thick of the crowd. All the awesome spectators definitely recharged me after my stair climb. The second lap I had really extended my lead and surprisingly felt even better second time around. Maybe it was because there were more people on course with the age groupers now starting their first lap. It became a little more congested at aid stations as we had to share the station with competitors heading in both directions. It made for some surging and slowing but I managed to get in enough fluids and eye off all the Moro bars they had to offer.
Running down the finish chute I was happy to get another win under my belt and feel really strong doing it. Congrats to local New Zealanders Teresa Adams and Amelia on second and third placings. Big thanks to the event staff for an amazing experience. I'm glad I made the trip over and look forward to coming back again in the future. Also a huge thank you to my amazing Homestay hosts Denise and Gerald. They were so kind to take in my husband and I for the weekend, give us a bed, run us around, and provide a relaxed and happy environment for us. They even showed us an awesome whirlwind tour of Rotorua for a jam-packed, fun-filled Sunday morning before we had to be back at the airport.