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Inspiring words from our first female home for Kiwiman Xtri 2023! Rachel Gamble- Flint

Race day dawned, mild but breezy. Starting the swim at 5 am in the dark was both surreal and a blessing. Too dark to see the eels! 4 laps of Lake Rotomanu and daylight was just breaking as I headed onto the bike course. The wind had picked up into a strong headwind, slowing me down to enjoy the magnificent view of Mt Taranaki as we rode out of town and around the western side of the mountain.

Hitting the long, flat sections of roads, the wind was really gusting. Too much for me to handle on my TT bars and required a full body brace every time there was a gap in the hedge which provided a glimmer of shelter. It was worth it for the tailwind sections though. So fast! The 3 mountain road climbs were epic grinds. Morale on the course was high with each athlete requiring a support vehicle on the road and cheerleaders the whole way around.

I was into T2 just on 2 pm. 193km with 2900m elevation done. There was a 8pm cut off at the trail entrance of the run (37km), in order to be able to complete the high course. Couldn’t afford to mess around too much, but a relief to feel like I had a bit of time to spare. The first 20 odd k’s of the run is flat but over a mixture of beach, rocks, bike path and trails. Very scenic and probably quite traumatising for the many people I encountered who were obliviously out for a Saturday afternoon stroll. I think I was very salt-encrusted and slightly foaming at the mouth by this point.

The real grunt started as we hit Mangorei Road and the relentless road climb. I was so lucky to have @johntpolloc running with me by this point because jeez Louise, this section was a slog! The telephone pole run/ walk tactic was engaged in full force. This was also the nasty point of the race where you know you need to keep eating and drinking but can also think of nothing worse.

We arrived at the trailhead at 7pm. Hallelujah! A compulsory 3 min stand down and medical examination to determine if you were allowed to continue. So good to sit down! In all honesty, I didn’t feel great. The body was fine, but the head was a bit fuzzy.

Luckily I remembered what the day of the week it was, and talked the medics through my emergency kit like a pro (probably because pretty much every race I enter requires an emergency kit!), and John and I were allowed to continue on.

So stoked! It was a clear night and the wind had finally blown itself out. The return walk was a final brutal nail in the coffin. Luckily I was allowed my 5 min trail side nap halfway through. It felt as effective as a 6 hour sleep! Hot soup and the warmest of supporters were waiting back at the carpark. My parents had been an amazing support crew along with John, and the race organisers and all the other competitors were just the most fantastic people.

I finished the day in 16hrs 03mins. 1st lady and 4th overall

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