The ride of her life

PEDAL POWER: Karaka triathlete Hilary Wicks on her way to winning the amateur Ironman in Kona, Hawaii.
PEDAL POWER: Karaka triathlete Hilary Wicks on her way to winning the amateur Ironman in Kona, Hawaii.

Hawaii's Ironman event is one of the toughest in the world.

The course at Kona is exposed to extreme tradewinds and heat which makes New Zealand's top triathletes quake in their running shoes.

So when amateur triathlete Hilary Wicks from Karaka headed to the event last month she was hoping for an age-group win at best.

She managed more than that - the 35-year-old was the first amateur woman over the finish line.

Mrs Wicks says she was not fazed when she was ninth out of the water after the swim leg which is her weakest.

"The swim doesn't matter so much because it's such a short time," she says.

"You just need to be fit enough that you get out of the water feeling fresh."

She picked up the pace on the 180-kilometre bike ride and by the start of the marathon run just two amateurs were in front of her.

Mrs Wicks overtook her nearest rival at the 14km mark but a low point followed about the 30km mark, she says.

"I really thought ‘this is pretty tough'. My husband was watching and he knows the drill - he was able to shout out, ‘there's a girl in front of you and she looks like she's starting to fall apart'. I knew I could get past her but I also knew the women behind were closing the gap I'd created on the bike.

"It wasn't until I moved into first place that I was really like, ‘wow, I can do this'."

Mrs Wicks overtook the front runner, Australian Kym Jaenke, with just 4km to go and crossed the line in a time of 9 hours 50 minutes.

The gutsy performance was a credit to her disciplined schedule, training for 20 hours a week - including up to seven hours on a Saturday - while working full time as an accountant at Skipper Lay. She gets up at 5am, goes to bed at 8.30pm and watches no TV.

The commitment is huge, she says.

Luckily husband Callum is an Ironman competitor as well and has provided the inspiration for her racing.

She competed in triathlons as a teenager but took a 12-year break before competing in the Coast-to-Coast in her early thirties.

"Then about three years ago I watched my husband do Ironman, and I thought ‘I could do that'. So I did it."

With every box ticked off as an amateur, professional racing beckons.

"But it would only be for a year or two because time isn't on my side for being a professional for a long period of time," she says.

Mrs Wicks was 22 minutes behind the first New Zealand woman to cross the line in Hawaii, professional Gina Crawford, who she says is "a legend".

"It's a big gap to bridge - but I beat quite a few professionals too, which was a great feeling."

Mrs Wicks trains with the Papakura Swimming Club where a fellow Papakura swimmer, Phil Richards, also trains.

He too came first in his category at Kona, the Under-44 CEO division - a category for business executives and chief executives.

The Drury resident is chief executive at smartpayroll. and Smart Business Centre.

Papakura is a "secret training mecca" for a triathlete, he says.

"The swimming pool and [Massey Park] running track facilities are fantastic and there's plenty of wide open and not-so-busy roads to bike on. Whether you want hills or flats, it's all there."

Papakura Courier