Aloha e Scottish Harriers!

In this article, Tricia Sloan continues telling the stories of the Scottish Women’s M50s. A few weeks ago, the team took first, third, and fourth places at the Needle Relay. But this story is about their exploits at a slightly longer event.

Competing in the Ironman World Championship is a far cry from training and racing with Scottish Harriers over winter, apart from the Wellington wind perhaps! The race involves a 3.8km open-water swim in the tropical waters of Kailua-Kona Bay, a 180km bike ride across the Hawaiian lava desert, and a marathon run along the coast of the Big Island—all in temperatures well north of 30 degrees. 

Despite the enormity of this challenge, or maybe because of it, qualifying for ‘Kona’ is not easy. So it may surprise you to know that the current Scottish Harriers MW50 contingent contains no fewer than four Kona qualifiers! With an Ironman pedigree that strong, our Masters women 50+ are a force to be reckoned with.

Michele Allison (65) is Wellington’s Kona queen. Michele says that in 2006, after running more than sixty marathons, ‘I was getting bored with running and wanted a new challenge.’ Roll on 14 years and Michele has qualified for Kona five times (2006, 2010, 2015, 2017, 2020). Her fastest race was in 2006, but her best achievement came in 2017 when she grabbed third place and her first ‘Kona Bowl’.

Michele tempted her sister, the legendary Bernie Portenski, into the triathlon lark in 2015. When she was 65, Bernie qualified for Kona at her first Ironman in Taupō and joined Michele for the race on the Big Island the same year. Bernie completed the race in 16 hours to take sixth place in her age group, despite already being sick with cancer. Very sadly we lost Bernie to cancer in 2017.

Another regular Scottish Harrier, Helen Bradford (50) competed at Kona in 2015 alongside Michele and Bernie. She qualified again this year but turned down her place, saying: ‘Kona is a great experience but one visit to a medical tent for heat exhaustion is probably enough!’ 

Kona is a great experience but one visit to a medical tent for heat exhaustion is probably enough!

Tanya Lavington (56) and Anna Guy (52) are newer members of Scottish. Tanya qualified for Kona in 2019 after winning her age group at the Taupō qualifying event. She says that running with Scottish helped her prepare for the world championship: ‘I did the 3 Peaks Series over the winter and thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie and challenge of the longer distances. At the Bays Relay I found that running in a team really spurred me on and I gained so much from the wealth of running experience at Scottish.’

Anna is Scottish Harriers’ latest Kona qualifier. After a nail-biting wait to learn her final place, Anna picked up a slot following her first Ironman race in Taupō in March. That was the penultimate race that Ironman held before the world shut down to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. For only the second time in its 42-year history, the Ironman World Championship won’t be held in October. 

Makani ‘olu’olu e kai malie, we’ll see Anna and Michele at the Kona start line in October 2021 and more Scottish women Ironman talent in the coming years.