TRIATHLON - A “ PRETTY bloody tired” Stephen Sheldrake will lace up his running shoes this weekend aiming to repeat history.
Five years ago Sheldrake went into The Gisborne Herald quarter-marathon as the 2007 men’s 30-34 years world age group triathlon champion . . . and won.
On Sunday he will line up again, this time as the 2012 men’s 35-39yrs world triathlon champion.
Emulating 2007 will be a challenge. Alongside Sheldrake will be Herald quarter-marathon defending champion Tayler Reid, fresh from playing his part in a Gisborne medal double at the world age group triathlon champs in Auckland on Monday.
Sheldrake’s gold over the Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km cycle, 10km run) and Reid’s 16-19 years men’s bronze over the sprint distance (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run) added another chapter to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica-sized history of Gisborne sporting success.
Former ironman professional Sheldrake led his division from start to finish, crossing the line in 2hrs 4mins 48secs. He was sixth fastest overall, beaten only by two runners in the 20-24yrs age group, two in the 25-29 and one in the 30-34.
“I was pretty happy considering I had to work all weekend,” said the 39-year-old.
By work he means his coaching role with Triathlon New Zealand’s under-19 and u23 elite squads, who competed in their world champs races on Saturday and Sunday.
“I was basically on my feet for 12 hours a day,” said Sheldrake. “I was pretty bloody tired by the end of it all.”
Sheldrake’s race plan was as simple as it gets. Get in front in the swim and stay there. All went as intended bar a problem with identifying buoys in the swim.
“I’m colour blind. The far swim buoys were red and I could hardly see them, and I had to call out to the life guards for help. I probably lost about 30-40 seconds.”
With such a large field of various age groups, one of the major challenges is knowing where you are positioned, hence Sheldrake’s game plan of having everyone chasing him.
“You don’t really know where you are. The guy who got second (Andrew Young) is a mate, and I knew he would run quicker but you don’t know where they are as it’s quite a twisty, turning course.”
After ending the cycle still in front, it was a matter of running scared or, as Sheldrake put it, “running like you stole it”.
“Basically everyone’s an enemy.”
Young ate into Sheldrake’s lead but he still finished nearly 1½ minutes adrift.
The world title highlighted a “touch wood” injury-less period.
“That’s unusual for me,” said Sheldrake, who, in recent years has had three operations on a troublesome left knee and one on his back after popping discs when he slipped coming down the Makorori Hill steps. “Running is the one that beats you up. I can’t run too hard two-to-three days in a row.”
You can guarantee, however, he will be going full pace this Sunday, with a mission of “staying closer” to Reid, who beat him by 19 secs last year.
“He’s done very well,” Sheldrake said of Reid’s top-three finish. “He’s got all the right ingredients in regards to swimming, biking and running well. If he has a good summer he could get in the under-19 elite squad . . . he’s definitely one for the future.”
Following Sunday’s 10km run, Sheldrake intends to race as an individual in the 100km Coast Duathlon the following weekend.
His victory in Auckland was all the more impressive in that he was at the older end of his age group, as he was in his 2007 triumph. If he decides to compete at the world age groups in London next year, he will line up in the 40-44yrs division.