Jonathan Simpson (48, left) and Mark Smoothy (51), who have
both competed in every Challenge Wanaka, will compete in
their 40th long-distance triathlon at Wanaka today when the
swim leg starts at 6.30am. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Among the many athletic achievements at today's Challenge
Wanaka, crossing the finish line will mark a bigger milestone
than most for Jonathan Simpson and Mark Smoothy, who hope to
complete their 40th long-distance triathlon.
The pair are part of a group of seven men who have competed
in all the individual full-distance Challenge Wanaka
''They kind of make a bit of a fuss about us,'' Mr Smoothy,
of Brisbane, said.
He and former Dunedin man Mr Simpson, who lives on the
Sunshine Coast, have both finished 39 Challenge, Ironman and
other long-distance triathlons worldwide since 1990 and 1995,
''To get to 40 is like, where did that come from? What insane
person does that?'' Mr Smoothy said.
Yet the men have no plans to call it quits, with Mr Smoothy's
sights set on at least 10 more.
''As long as I can still finish by the cut-off times, I'll
Mr Simpson said while his body allowed him, he, too, would
continue racing. Mr Smoothy's love of the sport is partly
about ''chasing that elusive perfect race'', which he had
experienced just three times.
The thrill of simply finishing was unbeatable, Mr Simpson
''I think no matter how bad a day, how long you take, coming
up that finish chute ... the crowds cheering you on, it's
like an adrenaline rush.''
Challenge Wanaka rates among the best events for the men, who
compete in an average of three long-distance triathlons a
''You come here and you feel like you're with family,'' Mr
''The local people, you see them set up in their front yards.
They'll have a barbecue or a beer and they'll be out there
for six or seven hours cheering people on. It's just lovely
things like that that make this event special.''
Wanaka provided one of the toughest courses in the world:
''You don't come here for a PB.''
Mr Simpson has had 51 starts in long-distance triathlons.
Among his DNF [did not finish] efforts are two Challenge
Wanaka races - one he attempted with gout in his foot, the
other when he came off his bike at 90kmh and ended up in
Mr Smoothy has been in more than 300 triathlons and his one
DNF at a race in China ''shattered'' him: ''But I went back
the following year and finished it.''
He hopes to finish today in under 12 hours - his fastest time
to date is 10hr 21min.
Mr Simpson's personal best is 12hr 55min and he is aiming for
under 15 hours.