Kiwi athlete Braden Currie has run his way onto the podium at the Cairns Airport Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns today, clocking his fastest ever marathon time and qualifying for the 2017 World Ironman Championships in Kona.
In what was only his second-ever tilt at the Ironman format, the Red Bull endurance athlete was third but still broke the course record time of 8hours:15mins.03secs by just under 8 minutes, amongst a stellar field of triathletes.
“All in all I’m stoked. I had two goals going into this race – one was to qualify for Kona [in October] and the other was to win, so I achieved one of them,” Currie says.
THE RECENTLY-CROWNED IRONMAN NEW ZEALAND CHAMPION RAN HOME HARD IN 8:07:46, CLOSE BEHIND TASMANIAN JOE GAMBLES (8:04:03), WHO ALSO HAD A STORMING MARATHON BUT COULD NOT CLOSE THE GAP TO BRISBANE-BASED, FORMER ITU STAR JOSH AMBERGER (8:02:17).
Well-known for his fast-paced feet, Currie proved he is just getting speedier, as he beat his previous personal best marathon time of 2:48:23 achieved at Ironman NZ last month by 27secs, to clock 2:47:56.
The Cairns event ambassador, Ironman 70.3 World Champion Tim Reed, reckons most brains have a suffer point, but not Currie’s. He chuckled after hearing that description but Currie is the first to admit he went to some dark places, while battling to hold onto his third place.
“It’s a really tough place to go to when the fatigue starts getting you and you need some more nutrition because your body is breaking down in a way and your legs start giving out,” Currie says.
His special needs bag stashed at an aid station at the halfway point on the run, proved to be his race-saver. He ate an energy gel, took on some magnesium and electrolyte drink, then smashed down a can of Red Bull.”
“The special needs bag was my only chance of coming back and it worked. That’s one important thing I have learnt during my racing career, that you can go to those tough places but still come back,” Wanaka-based Currie says.
THE DAY STARTED UNDER CLOUD COVER AND WAS NOT AS HUMID AS EXPECTED WHEN THE PRO MEN’S FIELD RAN INTO THE SEA. FOR A MAN WHO HAS NEVER HAD A SWIMMING LESSON IN HIS LIFE, CURRIE’S EXIT TIME OF 49MINS:45SECS WAS IMPRESSIVE. HE TRAILED THE EARLY LEADERS AMBERGER AND AUSTRALIAN CLAYTON FETTELL BY 2MINS:30SECS AND SET OFF IN A STRONG CHASE PACK ON THE 180KM BIKE RIDE.
At the 82km mark, Fettell and Amberger were joined by fellow Aussie Cameron Wurf and the three riders had four minutes on Currie’s bunch, which included Gambles, defending champion Tim van Berkel, Kiwi Mark Bowstead, current Ironman Australia champion David Dellow and Aussie Michael Fox.
Currie says he “wasn’t feeling that great on the bike” but hung in there working as much as possible with the bunch – although riders must retain a 12m gap and not draft.
“We lost maybe a bit more time than we were hoping but we thought there was a chance we could run them down,” Currie says.
Conditions remained very still with no wind as he transitioned onto the 42.2km run in sixth place, 10mins:59secs behind Amberger. By 13km Currie had moved quickly up into third. He briefly relinquished his podium spot to van Berkel at around the halfway mark but the gritty Kiwi soon snatched it back and was holding second place.
At about the 35km mark Gambles powered past him, in what was part of a well-controlled race strategy.
“I just couldn’t hang onto him. I put a surge on for the last 3km because I thought I might be able to pull him back in but I couldn’t today,” Currie says.
Red Bull endurance athlete Braden Currie, of Wanaka, runs home to third place in today’s Cairns Airport Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns. PHOTO CREDIT: DELLY CARR.
He was pleased with his performance after what was a relatively short training block following some time off and was looking forward to seeing what he could do in Hawaii with some more dedicated training time over the next three months.