FORMER Tamworth athlete Michael Harvey was following with interest last weekend’s World Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
Not just because he had his friend and coach over there competing, but also because he’ll be there next year racing himself.
The 26-year old is one of the first to qualify for next year’s event.
He did that by winning his 25-29yrs age division at the Japan Ironman Championships held on the island of Hokkaido.
He finished 16 minutes ahead of his nearest rival, completing the gruelling 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride, 42.2km run course in 9hrs, 59.46mins.
Adding to his delight, it was his first time under 10 hours.
Now he’s got his sights set on the “magic nine mark”.
The progression to ironman came from a background in swimming and athletics.
Growing up he was part of the Little As, and Scully Park and Gunnedah Swimming Clubs, and was a member of the inaugural Northern Inland Academy of Sport swimming squad.
When, after finishing school, he moved down to Melbourne, he became involved with triathlons.
He did his first ironman not that long after.
“I threw myself in the deep end,” he said.
“When I did my first one it was within 11 months of starting triathlon.”
He recalled being battered and bruised, but a few years later he gave it another crack.
That then graduated into a goal to compete at the World Championships, and for the last couple of years now he’s been working towards that.
There are a number of events athletes can qualify through – 30 around the world – but Harvey and his coach thought Japan would be his best shot.
The course suited his strengths.
“It’s one of the hilliest bike rides,” Harvey said.
It’s second for elevation on the circuit.
“Fortunately, and unfortunately, the mountains make it easier for me,” he said.
The plan worked with Harvey leading virtually all the way.
“Coming from a swimming background I got out with a five minute lead on the next competitor,” he said.
“The bike has traditionally been my weakness but I ended up having the fastest leg in my age group.
“I stretched my lead out to 16 minutes and held that during the run.”
Harvey said he’ll do a bit of “racing for fun over the summer” and has a couple of half iron-mans and the Melbourne Ironman on the agenda.
The hard work for Hawaii will then start around March.