Palmy's pink panther back for 15th ironman

GEORGE HEAGNEY
Last updated 12:00 28/02/2013
Jack McKenzie
ANNA CAMPBELL/Fairfax NZ
WITH BELLS ON: Come Saturday, Jack McKenzie will again be sporting his pink locks during the Taupo Ironman.

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After 13 Taupo Ironmans, 51-year-old Jack McKenzie is showing no signs of slowing down, or losing his trademark pink hairstyle.

The Palmerston North man is competing at the Ironman New Zealand event on Saturday, in what will be his 15th start.

"Last year the weather shortened the race but the year before I did a personal best," he said. "So even after 30 years in the sport I still get faster.

"But you have to understand I was very slow to start with."

Even though he felt prepared and was taking a relaxed approach to the race, he would still be working hard during the event.

"It pretty much becomes run of the mill and therein lies the danger if you underestimate it."

The self-employed web developer said that for some races "it depends whether you wake up on the right side of the bed".

So he will be hoping for sweet dreams in that case, with the 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run no walk in the park.

McKenzie competed at Challenge Wanaka last month and recorded his slowest time in 10 years, but since then has set two personal bests in shorter distance events - a sprint distance in Kinloch and an Olympic distance in Wellington.

"It's pretty much the same," he said. "You get used to it. You get to know what to do and you don't get into a major panic.

"I'm only just packing now. It's [Taupo] a very easy race to do."

McKenzie will again be sporting his dyed pink hair and pink garb for the race, which he wears especially for the long-distance events, and wants to figure out a way to fundraise for breast cancer this way.

His hair isn't pink at the moment but by the time he dives into Lake Taupo, he will have the pink mane again.

"It's become a bit of a trademark. I've raced with it overseas in Australia and Germany."

It originally started as a bit of a laugh when he wore a pink wig during a race about 10 years ago, but is now a regular thing and is the way people recognise him in races.

It is the first time McKenzie has been injury-free in a while, with knee and ankle injuries hampering him in recent times, and he hopes it shows on Saturday.

Racing in the 50-54 age group, he still believes he has plenty of years left competing and said he would keep going until his body couldn't do it any more.

Ironman New Zealand is New Zealand's biggest annual international one-day sporting event, with more than 1500 entries.

Elite professionals will race for prizemoney of US$50,000 and qualifying points, while age-group competitors will also vie for 40 qualifying spots for the world championships in Hawaii.

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- Manawatu Standard

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