Doctor of steel up for Challenge

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Diehard Queenstown multisporter Morne Pienaar reckons ironman races like this weekend’s Challenge get easier every year. 

The 34-year-old Lakes District Hospital doctor tackles his fifth individual Challenge Wanaka iron distance triathlon event on Saturday – and he’s hoping for his best time yet. 

Pienaar’s one of only eight men who have entered the gruelling 3.8km lake swim, 180km bike and marathon run of 42.2km every year since the race’s inception in 2007. 

But the 11-year ironman veteran insists there’s good reason to keep going back for more. 

“As you get older your body actually seems to work a bit better with these longer events,” he says. 

“You build up muscle memory and every year is a build on the previous year so through the last 11 years I’ve managed to constantly improve my times, with not particularly much more training.” 

Pienaar’s got age on his side, too – finish times for 30-35-year-olds are better than those of 20-25-year-olds, he says. 

“My aim is to see how many of these I can do. I’m going to try to do it every year for as long as I can. That’s the 
real challenge.” 

Pienaar prefers Challenge Wanaka to other Ironman franchise races he’s entered in the past because of the event’s more social and relaxed atmosphere. 

“That’s also why I’m back every year to do it again,” he says. 

“We get a big holiday house and have about 10-15 people entering from Queenstown who go over and stay together for about five days.” 

Juggling his busy job as a medical officer with about 20 hours’ training a week, Pienaar’s feeling good in the lead up to the event. 

He’s also roped in several colleagues to enter the Challenge Half individual event or in teams. 

“I’ve convinced them to do the half this year and then they’ll build up to do the full event next year.”