by Charlotte Paul

Belinda Harper has just returned home to Auckland, New Zealand, after becoming age group World Champion at the Ironman World Champs in Hawaii. Her time was the fastest ever in female age group World Champs history. She qualified at her first Ironman in her home country, by winning her age group and finishing 6th female overall. Belinda has been coached by Kristian Manietta for more than a year and a half. We caught up with Belinda for a quick Q&A to share her Kona experiences…

Q: Belinda, Kona was only your second Ironman, and yet your time was faster than any other age group female on the day, or ever before in Kona. Was this a result you imagined? How are you feeling now?

A: The result far exceeded expectations. I was out to give the race my very best, but I never imagined my very best would win the age groups. … in training I concentrated on improving myself and getting the most out of each of Kristians sessions, it wasn’t until Kristian arrived during race week and hinted at a podium finish that I dared to put thought into being competitive.

Now I am feeling very proud, I work hard and it’s great to see it pay off.
Q: You took time off work and had almost a month in Kona before race day to prepare. Did this help you, and would you do it again?

A: Yes, the time in Kona made all the difference, I was able to train on the course and get used to the heat, humidity and winds. When I first arrived I was unable to bike the length of the Queen K on my aerobars due to the winds, after a few weeks I had improved considerably and could even deal with the winds in Hawi. This paid dividends come race day. I plan to do the same next year.

Q: Belinda you were quite nervous in race week, Kona can be a very intimidating place once the hype begins and the circus comes to town. How did you manage those nerves? And did they all just disappear on the start line?

A: I think the week out from race day is the scariest part! The athletes all arrive and they look good, fit strong and fast, and their bikes look even faster! It’s easy to over think things and talk the race to death, but eventually I realised this was getting me nowhere it just zapped my energy. Come race day I calmed down considerably, I reminded myself that I qualified and earned my spot on the start line just like everyone else, and would be dealing with the same hardships throughout the race as everyone else. It’s a fantastic event that’s worth appreciating, you need to be careful as too many nerves can ruin the experience.

 

Q: What was the best part of the day?

A: Well, the swim will always be my favourite leg… but the relief and amazement in seeing the finish line is the best part of the day.

Q: Your race was strong across all three disciplines. You were 2nd female out of the water, 2nd off the bike and then took the lead in the first 10kms of the run. How did you feel out there?

A: It was never easy, I constantly feared I was working too hard and would pay for it later in the day, I was tired and hurting by the end of the bike, I couldn’t wait to get off but at the same time did not want to start running. It took a while to find my running legs but once I got going I felt in control, it took a lot of work but somehow I just knew I could finish. Moving into the lead was a huge buzz, I couldn’t tell what was going on behind me so I had to keep the pressure on in hope to stay in front.

Q: Your TriSpecific coach Kristian got very excited on race day! He even ran down Alii Drive with you in his thongs! Was it cool, or was he just plain embarrassing?

A: Ok, lets first clarify for any non Aussie’s reading, by thongs you mean jandals or ‘flip flops’, I’m sure a few Kiwi’s just fell off their chairs… Kristian cool?… hmm well, he did run down Alii drive with me shouting ‘lead amateur female coming through’… Kristians support leading up to the race and during the race has been amazing, he goes beyond the role of a coach and I very much appreciate it. So he goes a wee bit crazy… he’s passionate, all his athletes get a taste of it.

Q: Tell us what’s next for you.

A: Next I have a summer of racing in NZ, then I return to Kona to defend my title…

Congratulations Belinda on an amazing season. Rewards for your dedication, hard work and commitment. You make TriSpecific very proud.