Toughest of battles in New Zealand
AFTER 10 successful finishes at Ironman New Zealand, 2017 was the toughest for Coolum Beach’s Dessie Gourlay.
Strong winds whipped up the swim course and made conditions extremely difficult on the bike.
High attrition numbers attested to the course battles, with many unable to meet the 2hr 20min swim cut-off. More than 180 didn’t finish.
Returning home to New Zealand has always made the event special for Dessie. He has completed two in Auckland, and the past eight straight at Taupo.
His family turned out in force, all wearing a 10-year celebration singlet to honour his efforts.
“That was the hardest of the 10 because of the weather,” he said.
“It was the toughest I have ever done it. It wasn’t like it is in the ocean when it’s rough, the waves were coming from every direction.
“A lot of people drank water on the swim... lucky it was pure New Zealand water.
“After the swim it was survival mode for everyone. There was a tail wind early and it was a false sense of security. As soon as you turned around you realised it was like a tornado behind you.”
Dessie will return again next year, with an aim to complete his 12th Ironman – having also completed Cairns once.
That will put him in line for a legacy spot at the Ironman World Championship in Kona.
“I would like to earn it (in my age group), but if you don’t you take it any way you can,” he said.
There was no rest for Dessie when he returned home, completing the Mooloolaba Triathlon in 2:18:40 (26:58, 1:04:03, 43:01) which saw him 12th in the 45–49 age group.
Meanwhile, former Coolangatta Gold winner Josh Minogue had a bittersweet experience.
Heading to New Zealand full of confidence after being the first age grouper home at Hell of the West, the Ironman challenge proved humbling.
He still finished in an outstanding time of 9:32:12, but missed a Kona slot by one position when he finished fourth in the men’s 30–34 division.
After an solid 50:56 swim where he led the field, the WIN Television sports presenter then faced a hefty challenge on the bike.
“I don’t think I have been more out of depth in a situation,” he said.
“On the first lap on the bike, the wind was hooking at 35km an hour. Because of the hills it was swirling.
“I was in a bit of shock because I wasn’t expecting it. In the days leading up there hadn’t been a breath of wind.
“The second lap was a little bit better. It was a strong head wind but that was what I was expecting. There were times you were with it and then it would smash you in the face.
“I think everyone used a whole lot more energy than they wanted (on the bike). It set a lot of people up for a tough marathon.”
Looking back at the event, Josh was philosophical about the experience and has a new appreciation for the full distance triathlon.
“Ironman is definitely tougher than the Coolangatta Gold or the Kellogg’s series where you get heart rate up but then rest in between races,” he said.
“This is that consistent effort and you go through low periods. That’s the toughest part to fight out of the low periods.
“Halfway through the bike I thought ‘never again’. I’m looking to get some more experience and go again next year.”
Josh Minogue on the marathon at Ironman Zew Zealand.
Coolum’s Dessie Gourlay had strong family support, with everyone wearing commemorative 10-year singlets (pictured right).