Queenstowner Bridget Goldman has come a long way since finishing second-to-last in her first-ever triathlon five years ago.
This weekend the 34-year-old amateur will be among more than 400 superfit competitors taking on the body-killing Challenge Wanaka.
Goldman is one of at least a dozen Wakatipu weekend warriors footing it with the best, including 20 pros.
The big race is recognised as the world’s most scenic iron-distance triathlon and sees competitors swim 3.8km, cycle 180km and then run a marathon 42.2km – 226km in total.
“I’m apprehensive and excited at the same time,” legal office manager Goldman says.
“This is my first iron-distance event. I expect the second half to be the toughest part, there’s definitely a big mental component with this distance along with the physical.” Goldman has been training up to 18 hours a week, following a programme by coach Brendon Downey including open-water swimming in Lake Wakatipu and Lake Hayes, together with repeated bike climbs to conquer the Crown Range.
Taking up triathlons in 2008, Goldman came second-to-last in her first, the Lake Dunstan Triathlon.
“I thought ‘right, that’s it, I don’t want to be second-to-last ever again’ so I began training,” she says.
“Basically I got hooked. It’s addictive.
“Maybe it’s the endorphins or the whole healthy lifestyle.
“I can see how people can take it to the extreme but that’s not really me – I’m just out there to have a good time.
“I have an idea of a time but my goal for this one is just to get over the finish line,” Goldman says.
One competitor who will be watching the clock is two-time world champion and 12-time Ironman champion Aussie Chris “Macca” McCormack.
Racing his first Challenge Wanaka, McCormack is widely regarded as the sport’s most successful triathlete after breaking the eight-hour barrier four times.
McCormack says: “I’m heading to Wanaka for a win and a new course record.”
The current record is Richard Ussher’s 2010 time of 8hrs 34min 41sec.
Race director Victoria Murray-Orr says: “Given Chris McCormack has four world titles to his name, the course record could go.
“He’s pretty much as good as it gets in long-course triathlons.”
Defending champion and fellow Australian Aaron Farlow and 2011 champion Jamie Whyte of New Zealand will also be in contention.
Reigning women’s champion and four-time Challenge Wanaka winner Gina Crawford of NZ will also be back to defend her title, taking on Australia’s Kate Bevilaqua and the USA’s Kim Loeffer.
Murray-Orr says there’s a really good feeling in Wanaka about the event.