Iron­man race firmly in sights

Auckland City Harbour News - - SPORT - By LAUREN PRI­EST­LEY

Less than two years ago Arien Hielkema could only dream of com­pet­ing in an Iron­man.

The 27-year-old weighed al­most 100 kilo­grams and was gulp­ing down fast-food meals around his 12-hour shifts at Auck­land Air­port.

He got on to a health­ier path but was knocked off his bike in Fe­bru­ary 2013 and was un­able to walk for six months.

This Satur­day he’ll take part in his first Iron­man in Taupo and he’s steel­ing his nerves for the 3.8 kilo­me­tre swim, 180km bike and full marathon. ‘‘I’ve gone from do­ing noth­ing to jump­ing head-first into this in­sane world.’’

In early 2012 Mr Hielkema weighed 98kg and was feel­ing so tired he was wor­ried he would fall asleep at the wheel driv­ing home from work. He vis­ited a nu­tri­tion­ist and got stuck into a healthy eat­ing plan.

‘‘The weight pretty much just fell off me within three or four months.’’

He started train­ing un­der coach Andrew Mackay and was deep in his pro­gramme when he was knocked off his bike by a car that ran a red light.

The ac­ci­dent left him with a snapped pos­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in his knee, bro­ken bones in his wrist and el­bow and a par­tially dis­lo­cated shoul­der. He wasn’t able to walk for six months.

‘‘I’m a very de­ter­mined per­son so for me to stop train­ing for six months was in­ter­est­ing. I went through bouts of de­pres­sion with that as well.

‘‘It was hard work, so hard, and it just wasn’t fair to have it snatched away.’’

Mr Hielkema got back on his bike in Au­gust and has been train­ing fu­ri­ously to get back to peak con­di­tion.

Work­ing as a Me­dia De­sign School lec­turer is his break from train­ing each day.

He hopes to com­plete the triathlon in 11 hours. The cut off time is 17 hours and ev­ery year a num­ber of ath­letes don’t make it, he says. ‘‘They say the race doesn’t ac­tu­ally start un­til 23 kilo­me­tres into the run. That’s how full-on it is.

‘‘They have this thing called the ‘iron­man shuf­fle’ when your legs are just so tired it’s all you can do. I hope that’s not me.’’

Iron­man New Zealand event di­rec­tor Janette Blyth says any­one can take part given the time, ded­i­ca­tion and train­ing.

There are more than 430 first­time par­tic­i­pants in this year’s event, she says.

‘‘For many it is about achiev­ing this mon­u­men­tal test, tick off a bucket list, and that ex­pe­ri­ence alone can be life-chang­ing. From that point on in their lives they will know they can achieve any­thing.’’

Go to iron­man.com for more in­for­ma­tion.

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