IMNZ 2019, Sarah Meyer

IMNZ 2019 Race Report- Sarah Jane Meyer

Saturday 2nd March 2019


Swim: 1h 07min 19sec
T1 5min 41sec
Bike: 7h 22min 49sec
T2 3min 44sec
Run: 4h 26min 12sec
Finish: 13h 05min 44sec


12 months ago I was on an Ironman high. I had just finished IMNZ (2018). In that 
race, I exceeded all my expectations. I got a PB and absolutely loved (nearly) the
whole day! I had sworn in the long weeks and rides leading up to it that I just
wanted to do one more Ironman, this was my last one, but when a week later I
won an entry into the 2019 race, it was an obvious answer. I didn’t enter straight
away (wary of the post Ironman high..) but from then, was thinking about how I
could use the 12 months strategically to build up to the race, have time to work
on some of my weaknesses and all the other things in my life that could wait
while I did this again.

Some of the plans and goals I made for the 12 months were to get serious about
having a periodised training program, maintain my cycling over winter, do some
strategic races (i.e. a hilly marathon), and to actually do some core (a recurring
theme when I set goals!). In reality, I did maintain at least some cycling and
building up to the big rides again was much easier this time. I did the City to Surf
marathon in August and was doing hills training in preparation for that. I did get
a gym membership, but probably didn’t use it enough for it to be effective, and I
didn’t do any core (surprise, surprise...)

There were also a few things in my life that couldn’t/ didn’t wait while I
prioritised Ironman. My dissertation, to finish my masters, was due the week
before the race, and I started a new job, which demanded some attention at the
start of the year. Of course, there was also the festive season, and an engagement
to celebrate, thrown in there to add to the challenge! I wouldn’t have it any other
way but it’s probably not something I want to repeat. I am always really mindful
that doing sport and races like this is a choice, and that I’m very lucky to be able
to do everything I do, but Ironman really wasn’t my one and only focus during
the lead up, as I might have hoped it could be 12 months ago!

As I said, I maintained some level of fitness over winter, trying to ride regularly
and training for the City to Surf marathon. This build up was a bit interrupted by
getting sick a few times, but all in all things were going smoothly.

I started my Ironman program’ 20 weeks out and had a really consistent
schedule. I did base it on last years training, as that had worked for me.
It was:
- 3 sessions of each discipline per week
- Swim: 174km total, an average of 8700m/week
- Ride: 4158km total, average 207km/week
- Run: 801km total, average 40km/week
- Average hours/ week was 16

My biggest weeks were 4-8 weeks out with ~320km riding and ~65km running,
22 hours total. I remember one really tough ride. I was coming along the beach
about 140km into the ride into a fierce headwind, and felt like I was moving
about 10km/h. By far my toughest run was 25km from home to the beach, into a
headwind the whole way. It was my first longer one, my pace was 6.08min/km
and I was stroppy! I forgot about that pretty quickly when Adrian proposed
afterwards though. He’s set the bar pretty high and a choc milk doesn’t quite cut
it as a reward after tough sessions anymore.

Things do become relative, and each race these km and hours seem like less of a
big deal. I was feeling like I hadn’t done as much as last year, but on reflection on
my programs, I had done pretty much the same, and was probably more
consistent this time around. When I look at my notes from training, boredom
features heavily in the last few weeks, I was pretty ready to go come race week!
Goals wise, I was hopeful to better last years’ time. If everything went perfectly I
wondered if I might get under 12 hours, but knew that was a pretty lofty goal. My
race plan was simple- remember to try hard for the whole swim (don’t settle into
a relaxing pace), spend as much time down on the TT bars in the ride and eat
regularly, and break the run into 6x 7km sections, walking only through aid

We travelled a little closer to race day this year (Wednesday) and chose to travel
‘overnight’ and head straight down to Taupo when we arrived early morning.
Luckily my chauffeur was up to the job and that all went well (even if he was
minus one nights sleep). We headed straight to registration when we arrived
and I stood in line for 2 hours to check in. Sitting for 13 hours on a plane, 4 hours
in a car, standing on the spot for 2 hours and missing meals (because we hadn’t
expected check in to take so bloody long!) wasn’t really the preparation I had in
mind two days out from a big race. Safe to say I wasn’t as excited by the check in
process as I have been in the past, especially when I jumped on the scales to
weight in and ‘race weight’ didn’t exactly flash up (about 3kg heavier than I was
expecting. Great.).

On Thursday afternoon I spent 15mins getting in to the lake (dodging hot
geothermal stones, duck poo, and sharp rocks) to swim for 10mins and decide
that was enough. Friday morning I went for a ride with Chad and a 2km run. It
was cold on the bike and I was second-guessing my decision not to bring toe
warmers but other than that was expecting good conditions. On Friday afternoon
I chilled out on the couch- a real highlight was reading Alberto’s race report from
his Olympic distance race! I also read my old race reports to get my ‘head in the

I had stuffed spuds for dinner and early to bed on Friday night. I slept pretty well
and got up to my 4am alarm. I was still pretty relaxed before the race, we met up
with Chad at the start and got a good spot to watch the amazing lakeside, sunrise
Haka! I left getting into my wetsuit quite late, prioritising staying warm over a
warm up. I said goodbye to Adrian for the day & Chad & I got in about 10mins
before the start to find the water was much warmer than the land!

Swim: 1h 07min 19sec

I made my way forward at the start as I remembered last year starting quite far
back and getting stuck behind people. I only did a little bit of a warm up- get my
arms moving & the wetsuit comfy. By the time I found my position there wasn’t
long to wait for the start, and I was just ready to get going, trying to remind
myself I was meant to enjoy it!

The canon firing was a good way to get my HR up & we were off.
I went out fairly hard and tried to find a good position. It was pretty rough out
there (people wise, the water was flat). I was in with a whole mix of people, some
I had to swim around and others coming over the top of me so it was hard to find
a rhythm. I hoped it might settle down after the first 500m but there were still
heaps of people so I went a little wider from the buoys. It’s a straight out and
back so I figured it wouldn’t cost me much time at all. My garmin later showed I
swam 3740m - so happy with that decision! It was a little more settled wider
from the buoys and I managed to set into a rhythm for the rest of the lap out.
I kept narrow around the end turn around buoys and fought some people off to
get a good line heading back. For pretty much the whole way back there was
someone on my toes. They were literally tickling them every stroke, so it was a
great mental challenge for me to tolerate that & just worry about myself. It was
only when I stopped to fix my goggles after someone stuck a frogkick into my
right temple and knocked them off that I lost my shadow about 400m from the

The last 200 metres is lovely with a current pulling you into the boat ramp so I
enjoyed that. I was happy to get out and see 1.07 on my watch. 1 min faster than
last year- so far so good.

T1 5min 41sec

I ran the 500m, up the stairs into transition, getting my googles/ caps off and
wetsuit to waist height. I had chosen to wear my cycling jersey as there wasn’t
much of a chance of getting too hot, and I could use the extra sun protection and
pockets. I also put on gloves with the plan to take them off when (/if) I warmed
up. I did try to keep moving through transition as last year I was disappointed
with how long I took so was happy to shave 1 min 40sec off!



Bike: 7h 22min 49sec

Out on the bike my first priority was warming up. I was glad for my gloves and
tried to work up the first 10km of hills. I remembered last year the first 40km
being really tough so I was pleased that it was flying by this year. I was feeling
great & my splits were very exciting. I knew I probably had a bit of a tailwind, but
couldn’t really feel it so on that first lap to Reporoa I was pretty chuffed with
myself. Perhaps the carryover of fitness from last year was really paying
dividends now.

About 5 metres after the turnaround I realised that wasn’t so and started
working into a nasty headwind. The next 45km was really tricky. I tried to spend
as much time as I could on my TT bars, but the wind was gusty and changing
direction so I was often up trying to be as stable as possible. I was finding it hard
to eat/ drink as I wanted two hands on the bars most of the time and was
working hard. I stopped for a toilet break at about 70km and struggled the rest of
the way back into town (90km, halfway).

Mum and Dad and Adrian were cheering as I headed up the hill on my way out
again. At that’s stage I was nearly in tears, I did not want to deal with another lap
like that but tried to comfort myself with the fact that I would have a tailwind to
help for at least a little while.

Surprise number 2 of the ride, no tailwind in the second lap! The wind had
turned so there was a crosswind and I slowed even more on that 3rd 45km. Wind
really is my worst enemy, I don’t manage it well and I’m forever worried about it
blowing me off my bike. I realised there was nothing I could do about it, and tried
to talk myself around a little. I had done some really windy training rides in this
build up as well as last year’s so knew I could ride 180km in these conditions. I
took it 5km at a time and managed to get out to the turn around again.
The conditions were the same for the last quarter of the ride, mostly a gusty
crosswind, with an occasional headwind. It was pretty lonely out there but there
was one girl who I kept seeing. She was easily moving much quicker than me and
passed me a number of times, but I couldn’t figure out how I kept ending up in
front of her. I finally saw her stop at an aid station. She must have been spending
5mins at each one!

It was at this stage of the race I started to get worried about my run. I hadn’t
been expecting to spend seven and a half hours and so much energy on the bike. I
also hadn’t managed to eat all of my food because I was worried about being
blown off my bike so knew that was a risk of affecting me later. Again, I tried to
remind myself that this is how long my training ride have been taking, in similar
conditions so I was prepared, and could only do my best.

I finally got back into town and resisted telling Adrian to put my bike on gumtree
when I saw him at transition. It never seems as tough when you look back on it,
but it wasn’t a happy seven and a half hours. I know this is my weak leg and that
windy conditions really didn’t suit me but I still get frustrated by it. It’s been a
little reassuring to hear everyone else commenting on how hard it was after the
race and it certainly sounds like I wasn’t the only one who was suffering. It’s
hard to stomach that the pro men set a new bike race record in 4h 12mins

T2 3min 44sec

I just wanted to get out on the run. Given the ride, I was starting to wonder if my
finish time might look more like 15 hours, and was feeling bad for my family
watching, it was such a long day for them. My PB goal would require a 3.45
marathon, which I had done in City to Surf in August. Not impossible, but I wasn’t
sure what to expect after the ride and I didn’t really have the interest or
motivation to fight back at that stage so was just going to see what happened and
run to feel.

Run: 4h 26min 12sec

It’s always such a relief for me to be off the bike and I started off feeling ok. My
5min 09sec split for the first km suggests I was trying to get as far away from my
bike as quickly as possible!

The run is 7km out and back three times. My memory was that the 3km closest
to town is busy and goes quickly, but the back half is a quiet, hilly, struggle.
I was pleasantly surprised then to get to the turn around fairly comfortably. I
was making a special effort to get my gels in and drink at the aid stations but
they weren’t going down that well. I sort of gave up on that on the second lap
when my stomach started to protest and just ate to feel as well. I think I only
managed one packet of chews, plus coke during the marathon but wasn’t too
worried, that’s how I train and have done plenty of other races on that much fuel.
By the second lap I was a little more settled and feeling more optimistic. I was
walking through aid stations, but other than that running consistently and
mostly passing people. Mum and Dad and Adrian were popping up cheering me
on (between our accommodation and the pub), and I was keeping an eye out to
cheer for Chad as well. The third lap came around and I started doing some
maths, knowing my finish time would be close to 13h and wondering if I could
get under that. I couldn’t really do any more though and just focussed on each
km. When I had about 3km to go, Dad had talked the group they were standing
with into a ‘Sarah! Sarah! Sarah!’ chant which got a smile out of me and a some
girls I passed a couple of hundred meters up the road commented how popular I
was- thanks Team Sarah!

I didn’t have much in me for a sprint finish, but enjoyed the red carpet and finish
line atmosphere! Thank god it was done!

Had you told me before the race I would finish in 13h 5min I think I would have
been pretty disappointed, it wasn’t the time I was aiming for. Now though, I’m
not disappointed at all. My swim and transitions were faster than last year
(which I wanted to improve on), and my run only 4mins slower. The bike was a
blow out, but it was tough conditions and I always knew that could make a big
difference over that distance. I was really proud to hold it together on the run
after that ride and finished knowing I did my best. I was probably a good chance
of giving up on the run at that stage and walking a whole lot, but I know I would
have been disappointed had I done that.

Unlike other races, I’ve finished this one with no plans or ‘what I want to
improve on’s’. I’m ready for a break, but haven’t quite put my bike up for sale
yet... I’ll see how I feel in a couple of month’s time and maybe work on my core
strength in the meantime.