Tables turned on athlete’s rescuer
What goes around comes around for multisporters
It’s not everyday you can return the favour for someone who helped you in your time of need. But for personal trainer Gwen Henry, of Lake Hawea, volunteering at Challenge Wanaka meant she could give something back to Wanaka paramedic Rod Walker. Two weeks before the 2010 race Miss Henry had been training for the Lake Wanaka Half and crashed into a car on her bike. Mr Walker arrived in an ambulance to assist her and she was airlifted to Dunedin Hospital suffering muscle and ligament damage to her arm. She decided to compete in the endurance triathlon after being released from hospital despite the crash. ‘‘I probably shouldn’t have done it.’’ Not completely recovered from her injuries, on painkillers and riding an unknown bike, she became dehydrated. She almost completed the race but become disoriented by a banner 50 metres from the finish line and thought it was the end. ‘‘I was totally out-of-it. I was pretty much comatose at the finish line,’’ Miss Henry said. She was unable to finish the course and needed to be treated by ambulance staff, once again by Mr Walker. She has competed in the event several times since then but this year she decided to be a volunteer. ‘‘I thought I should give something back since I had done it so many times,’’ she said. It was her job to run with the second to last person competing in the full length race, a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run To her surprise, Mr Walker was in that position and she was delighted to be able to run with him for the final 21.1km to the finish line. Mr Walker said he always wanted to do an iron race and after years of working at the event he decided to enter last year and again this year. However, before Miss Henry joined him on the run he was going to give up. ‘‘I was having a mental debate with myself. I was going to give up. I’d had enough,’’ Mr Walker. But with Miss Henry by his side he decided to carry on. ‘‘She was all bright and chirpy,’’ he said. During the run together Mr Walker was able to overtake four people. He managed to finish the race at 11.20pm, 10 minutes before the cut off time, but unfortunately recorded a ‘did not finish’ because his swim time was over the cut off. He praised Miss Henry for helping him finish the course and said without her to push him along he was unsure if he would have made it. He was considering doing the challenge again. ‘‘It’s unfinished business for me,’’ he said. Miss Henry said she was considering doing the full triathlon after being inspired by Mr Walker.
Helping hand: Wanaka paramedic Rod Walker and Lake Hawea personal trainer Gwen Henry have now helped each other during Challenge Wanaka.